In Praise of SlutWalk

Ladies, do we have a problem? We kind of… do. Rebecca Traister weighs in on SlutWalk.

I wanted to love SlutWalks, the viral protest movement that began this spring after a Toronto police officer told a group of college women that if they hoped to escape sexual assault, they should avoid dressing like “sluts.” In angry response, young women (and men) have marched in more than 70 cities around the world, often dressed in bras, halter tops and garter belts.

But at a moment when questions of sex and power, blame and credibility, and gender and justice are so ubiquitous and so urgent, I have mostly felt irritation that stripping down to skivvies and calling ourselves sluts is passing for keen retort.

You’re allowed to feel/think however you like about these demonstrations! But the last thing I want from the New York Times magazine is this kind of criticism — the “I support this thing but it makes me uncomfortable and here’s why but well I guess it’s necessary except, eesh” thing. And also? Are there really marches composed of mainly women, often dressed in underwear?

And… so what if they were? Traister’s real concern is this:

To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women. Scantily clad marching seems weirdly blind to the race, class and body-image issues that usually (rightly) obsess young feminists and seems inhospitable to scads of women who, for various reasons, might not feel it logical or comfortable to express their revulsion at victim-blaming by donning bustiers. So while the mission of SlutWalks is crucial, the package is confusing and leaves young feminists open to the very kinds of attacks they are battling.

Wait, but yes? Because the point is… people treat people who “look like sluts” badly! The point is to confront hostility at difference, not to use this occasion to enforce hostility at difference.

Anyway! This lady showed up in Seattle in tassels and a graduation cap! Some people wore some pretty crazy things!

And then…

Slutwalk Seattle

Slutwalk Manchester.

Slutwalk London

Slutwalk Ottawa

But I’d say this photo, by David Jackmanson, taken in Australia, is plenty rebuttal to those cringing.

Just a couple more things?

The web headline “Clumsy Young Feminists” is… really not working for me. And then?

[Lara] Logan was herself trashed as an attention monger and for dressing in a manner that invited assault. A young woman who pressed rape charges against two New York City police officers could not be believed, in part, because she was drunk. When an 11-year-old Texas girl was allegedly gang-raped by 19 men, The New York Times ran a story quoting neighbors saying that she habitually wore makeup and dressed in clothes more appropriate for a 20-year-old. The maid who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape has been discredited for being a liar, and The New York Post claimed she was a prostitute. The young French woman who is pressing charges of attempted rape against Strauss-Kahn — an event she has recounted in a novel — has been painted as an unreliable narrator, young, overdramatic and unstable.

None of us can know the veracity of any of these women’s claims.

I’m pretty sure we have videotape of the Lara Logan assault? And I’m pretty sure we don’t want to get into the “veracity” of the 11-year-old’s claim? But in case you really do, it’s recorded on a cell phone video.