I’ve got to say I don’t like the word and I never have. I don’t use it. I try not to speak about people that way. I hate the double standard. I don’t like the word’s very sound. Yet here I am, planning on joining the Slutwalk in the city on June 13 in the name of my right to walk around without attracting abusive comments or sexual violence.
But for me the Slutwalk movement is not about declaring oneself a slut - rather it is saying, it doesn’t matter what women wear or do or say or go or how they dance or who they talk to or when they talk to them or what they’ve been drinking or how much, there is a certain section of society who is always going to feel it’s ok to pass comment on them in the street, to grab an arse at the bar or just, you know, hey, I figured she was up for it in those clothes. Because for some people all women are sluts, one way or another.
Oh, I hear you cry, but dignity invites respect and if you dress “appropriately” (and what is that, might I ask?) you’ll avoid unwanted attention. And in response to that, I ask, what planet do you people live on? The last time I was called a “slut” in Sydney I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I was walking down Oxford Street and a gentleman inquired if I would be interested in having sexual relations with him. I ignored him and strolled on, only to hear “Fuck you, slut” yelled at my head. Clearly whorish behaviour, I know. I guess I should have been wearing a muumuu and a headscarf.
If you want to take an even clearer example of the uselessness of the term “appropriate dress” when it comes to commentary on women’s dress and unwanted attention, how’s this:
A few years ago, I was an English teacher in Jakarta. I lived in a respectable lower middle class neighbourhood, and walked down to the main road every morning to catch a cab to school. I was highly aware that I was in a foreign country, in a culture that was not my own with far more conservative standards of dress - and I was teaching small children. One day (as I walked past the local mosque, no less - I hope Allah saw you, you creep), wearing my schoolteacher best, a black skirt that went to mid calf, and a white blouse that covered my shoulders and my upper arms (an outfit carefully selected to mimic the Jakartan office girls I saw around me, and in fact purchased at the local mall) a man rode past me on a motorbike, slowed as he reached me, leaned over and grabbed my right breast, before driving off. I looked down to see the dirty handprint smeared across my shirt as evidence.
I am lucky that this is really the worst thing that has ever happened to me, a drive-by groping. But I have friends who have been raped and assaulted. The suggestion that any of them are “sluts” (god that term! She sleeps around so she deserves it. She doesn’t sleep around enough, she wants it. She should sleep around more, I deserve the right to comment on her body) is ludicrous. They were not asking for it. But they were treated that way by those men. Just like the man on the bike thought he had the right to grope me and the men who scream “slut” and “bitch” at women who refuse their advances think they’re ok to do so.
Oh I know. You don’t condone rape. But you think women need to take responsibility for some of what happens to them, there are standards, you know, if you want respsect… really? Tell me how I stop the man screaming at me on the street. Tell me how to stop the guy on the bike groping me. Tell me how to stop the dude at the bar grabbing my arse.
The Slutwalk is so named not because all women are sluts but because that’s how we get treated, because being a woman, with her own sexuality and desires and inclination to dress however the hell she wants is apparently a threat. I know you don’t think that way, dear reader. But someone you know does.
What am I going to wear to the Slutwalk? A pair of jeans, my Docs, my favourite t-shirt with the glow-in-the-dark monsters, and a sign that says “This is what I was wearing last time someone called me a slut”.