#Slutwalk will not show our daughters how to get respect


Women around the world are participating in #slutwalk to reclaim the “derogatory” word and the right to dress however they wish, whenever they wish.

These women are incensed by a Canadian policeman who candidly opined that women should not to dress like sluts if they want to avoid being the victims of sexual assault.

These women have accused the policeman of being a misogynist and a proponent of the victim-as-perpetrator excuse for rape.

Perhaps they are right on both counts. But in fabricating a mildly controversial PR stunt that advocates the celebration of being a “slut”, these women are grievously wrong in encouraging others to dress in a sexually provocative manner whenever they want.

To do so is a grave disservice to all women, particularly young women, who are striving to be seen and treated as equal and capable in relationships, social settings, learning places and the workforce.

Before I am misunderstood, let me say up front that there is no excuse for rape. Not ever. No woman or man, regardless of their dress, demeanour or behaviour, should be subjected to sexual activity against their will and there is no justification for doing so.

The rightful denial of “sluttishness” as an excuse for sexual assault (which more often than not is an act of dominance rather than sexuality) does not however shield a provocatively dressed woman from a litany of other negative responses from those who observe her.

Some will see her as sexually aggressive or promiscuous, while others will conclude she has no self-respect. The worst judgement of all will be that she is a bimbo with no capacity for rational or analytical thought. Perhaps these responses would be elicited regardless of the woman’s attire, but they undoubtedly would be amplified and reinforced by sexually suggestive clothing.

Is this prejudice acceptable? No of course it’s not. But it exists in pretty much every part of our society – the very places where our sisters, daughters and female friends live, learn and work.

But holding a public march to celebrate the very nature of sluttishness is simply counterproductive.

Pseudo shock tactics like this do nothing to promote an understanding and acceptance that women who choose to dress in a feminine and attractive manner are also smart and capable and must be treated with respect.

The sad truth is that a woman shouldn’t dress like a slut if she wants to be taken seriously or treated as an equal.

Protesting against unacceptable justifications for rape is one thing; teaching our daughters how to get respect in their relationships and workplaces is another thing altogether.

The #slutwalk may achieve the first but it will undermine the latter. Perhaps the sluts need to take a good long look at themselves.

If you’d like to hear a radio interview I did with @CarolDuncan on this post, just follow this link

23 responses to #Slutwalk will not show our daughters how to get respect

  1. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, and a seriously misdirected campaign, in my book.
    Women should without question be free to wear what they choose, however they should understand the implications of their choice. If you’re going to put your tits or arse on display you forgo the right not to be ogled.
    Regardless of what you’re wearing, you have the right to feel safe.

    Unfortunately there is a gap between the ideal and reality. Within that gap women make themselves targets unnecessarily. In doing so they not only put themselves at risk, but also dignified men who would seek to protect them.

    It is a selfish and naive mindset that aligns itself with the prospect of tragedy.

  2. De_Rigueur

    Hi Drag0nista, this old chestnut. It’s hard when everyone wants their cake and you know the rest. It’s either we agree on the definition and social values of #Slut; dresses or behaving in a suggestive or inappropriate fashion and except what this symbolises. Or be in denial and say no amount of temptation can be an excuse to read it wrong. I think both sexes should take responsibility for their actions and GROW UP. De_Rigueur

  3. del_detriment

    This is being portrayed by the media (eager for titillating headlines) as a celebration of sluttiness, but that misses the point entirely. I mean, yes, a woman should be free to ‘behave like a slut’ and advertise that she’s available for consensual sex, without having it taken as an open invitation to rape. Rape victims are not responsible for rape – rapists are responsible for rape. That’s what this is about.

    But it’s also about unpacking and questioning what the word actually means. You said it yourself in this post. A woman who dresses in a certain way is assumed to be sexually aggressive or promiscuous – and with that assumption comes the belief that she’s also brainless, incapable and lacks self respect. She is then treated accordingly.

    Why does society judge a woman’s entire character on whether or not she’s sexually active? Why is her worth as a person inextricably linked to her sexuality?

    When we reinforce the idea that the only woman worthy of respect is a chaste one – and that’s exactly what condemning ‘sluts’ does – it affects ALL women in all sorts of ways, from sexual enjoyment and body image, to gaining employment. It’s not enough to simply say that stigma exists and we should learn how to operate within it. It needs to stop.

    SlutWalk doesn’t just say “I screw around and I’m proud of it”. It says “I have the right to wear a female body in public and engage in consensual sex (or choose NOT to) without fear of violence or judgement or discrimination”. And I think that DOES send a message that these women are smart and capable and worthy of respect.

  4. I loathe that word. And I don’t think it empowers anyone to attempt to claim that word and make it somehow less derogatory or threatening to the dignity of a woman. This is a nearly impossible campaign to explain to people who would just think it’s a stunt campaign for women and/or legitimising the use of the word.

  5. Brett

    Hi Dragonista,

    It is times like these where your real name would be nice but I understand you believe it would beva threat to your employment.

    Anyway, I long ago gave up on trying to suggest to female members of my own family that clothing that promotes the sexual parts of the female body were not likely to be all that useful in non sexual activities. I never seemed to override the accusation that I or men in general were trying to control what women wear.

    I therefore figured women, or at least those in my family, would have to work it out for themselves. It seemed clear to me my female family were excited by the danger of it all. A bit like boys and fast cars. I figured I had to wait for the influential women in my family to manage considered advice and leadership to the younger females. Just like the older males had to encourage a sensible approach to driving to the younger boys, while also providing an opportunity for them to take risk in a more controlled environment.

    I can’t help but feel that the old idea of debutante balls was an opportunity for young girls to take a risk with their sexuality in a controlled environment. Down right scary for some, a non event for others.

    I guess if I had a point it would be that you older women need to work this out, because like abortion it is pretty much out of the control of men and most of us can’t even approach the subject without gnashing of teeth by those around.

    Good luck.

  6. Ben

    You could not buy the kind of attention this movement is attracting. But if it has anything to do with victim-blaming why isn’t the spotlight being used to highlight the the  suggestion ‘women who don’t want to be raped shouldn’t dress like sluts’ is not just discriminatory, it’s fallacious. Research tends to indicate that those who engage in predatory conduct select ‘weak’ targets – a label unlikely to be given to someone who exudes the self-confidence that is so regularly associated with provocative attire. I’m perplexed as to why an a-priori argument is being mounted here when a dualist approach would have a greater impact (let’s face it, you’re never going to convince anyone with a Southern Cross tattoo of anything a-priori). Which brings me to my point: The discussion around SlutWalk has become quite confused. Is it about victim-blaming? Or is it about a woman’s right to be a slut? Is there an associated right not to be a slut? Is there a risk of devaluing women who aren’t sexually promiscuous or don’t feel confident dressing as sluts in all of this? I don’t know. 

    To this point I’ve been an ardent supporter. I still will, but I’m beginning to think that if the goal is to stop victim-blaming there may have been a better approach.

  7. Emma

    I think that the points you have made are true, which is why I am so ardently pro-slutwalk.
    The fact that I get strange looks when I borrow books about politics or history from the library, because I am conventionally attractive and wearing denim shorts, makes slutwalk important to me.
    The fact that I am well-endowed in the chest region means there is not a shirt I can wear that will make me look ‘modestly dressed’, so slutwalk is important to me.
    The fact that my sisters (who are similarly-endowed) and I have not been able to wear a singlet without being obviously and continually ogled since the age of about 14, makes slutwalk important to me.
    The fact that women who take their rapists to court are still asked, what they were wearing, how much they had had to drink, and how many sexual partners they have had, makes slutwalk important to me.

    So I understand your points, and I know there is no victim-blaming or slut-shaming within them, but I still disagree with them, because I don’t think that the clothes I wear or the way I look should have an affect on the respect people have for me.

    • Pirra

      My sentiments exactly. Well said Emma. Thanks for responding with the decorum I was trying to summon. (Everything I was going to say sounded like I was on the attack, which wasn’t my intention. So thanks for getting it right and now all I have to do is put up my hand and say…yeah what she said.)

  8. Meg

    I am seconding Emma and Pirra. I have friends who did not report their rape to the police for fear of being blamed for it. Rape would be hard enough to report, without the implication that the crime was somehow your fault because of how you dress.

    “Is this prejudice acceptable? No of course it’s not.”

    Slutwalk is all about how it isn’t acceptable. Not everyone will be there to reclaim the word. Some will, some won’t, and that’s fine. As Clembastow said, it’s about people, men or women, versus victim-blaming. You can rock up in tracky daks instead of fishnets and still be making a point – assault happens no matter what women are wearing.

    There’s no causality established. In fact causality could go in the other direction. That is to say: rapists use slut shaming as an excuse to get away with their behaviour.

    For example, today’s MSM reported that a 51 yo man, after plying an 11 yr old girl with alcohol, said that *she* initiated sexual contact. That kind of reasoning doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from a society steeped in the idea that rape can be truly prevented, that the victim can always do something to stop it, that it can always be their fault somehow, that they’re asking for disrespect. Even if they’re 11 years old. And the reasoning applies disproportionately to women.

    “But it exists in pretty much every part of our society – the very places where our sisters, daughters and female friends live, learn and work.”

    So instead of accepting the status quo, as conservatives are wont to do, it’s time to get people talking about it and rethinking their prejudice. Restricting the agencies of individuals who are most likely to be affected by a crime is simply not the answer, especially when there’s no causal link between their behaviour (dressing sluttily) and the crime, as Ben said above.

    By the way, I don’t agree with SlutWalk as the best name for the event, and if I attended I wouldn’t be trying to ‘reclaim’ the word, but I can’t see a plain vanilla name getting people thinking about it half as much as it has now.

    • Janine

      I concur with Pirra, Emma and Meg.

      D, you have sadly missed the point and added to the hyperbole in the media re ‘slut’. Your argument has bought into the efforts of the mainstream to (wittingly or through sensationalism) derail the discussion around the very real issue – blaming women for the crimes of men.

      You state ‘Women around the world are participating in #slutwalk to reclaim the “derogatory” word and the right to dress however they wish, whenever they wish.” Have you even read the mission of Slutwalk? Or, are you getting your info from the telecrap? It lead-in reads: “Sluts and Allies taking a united stand against slut shaming and victim blaming”. Subtle, I know; but very different.

      Your focus is all wrong. Definitions are important. Try scratching the surface, and you might find what you are looking for to write an accurate and informative post if you want to add to the debate.

  9. David Johnston

    While reading this the TV news reports about the terrible mistreatment of women in the middle east. Women are treated as instigators of their own abuse. This kind of insanity is based in stupid ignorance about human nature, sex, relationships and emotions.
    The tragedy of misinformation by religious groups adds to the mistreatment of women.
    If some cop makes a dumb remark, why should women think that a dumb response is clever? I’d hope that intelligent discussion via radio, TV and internet would help to promote womens rights and the many issues confronting feminism.
    Pacifists who resort to violence would be criticised. Women reclaiming “slut” as a way to promote female freedoms are misguided in my male opinion.
    Thanks to all women who are working to advance understanding.

  10. Tim Bradshaw

    Your argument here essentially boils down to “Society looks down on women who dress or behave in a slutty nanner. While this is sad, it’s vitally important to reinforce this social norm.”
    I think you’ve missed the point. Yes, our (still very patriarchal) society looks down on wonen who dress or act a certain way. Yes, for a woman to get respect she is expected to be modest, demure and avoid promiscuity. Yes, we allow men to be brash, provocative and to play the field. Those are current social norms. That doesn’t mean they are right.
    It should not matter in the slightest how a woman chooses to dress or act, nor should it matter if she has had one sexual partner or five hundred. She is still a person, who should be respected as such. The people who look at a woman and say “Look at her, she’s asking for it” aren’t just rapists or mysoginist men. It’s an attitude that many hold, even if they don’t give it voice.
    SlutWalk isn’t going to change society overnight, no one thinks that. The point isn’t to make the vocal, “the bitch was gagging for it” types suddenly reevaluate their lives. It’s to get as many people as possible involved in the hope that next time you silently brand that stranger on the street a “slut” you remember that she is a mother, sister, daughter, wife, girlfriend, best friend, neighbor. And then maybe take a look at your own values.

  11. […] echoing Drag0nista’s thoughts. I’m aware of that. She addresses many of these issues, and I make it a point not to argue with […]

  12. DaftGiraffe

    I said some stuff on Twitter, and I made some comments on Kim Raplin’s posts….

    But I was thinking… in some ways ‘slutty’ attire DOES make stranger rape more likely. I was brought up in a lower class background, and I was taught that if someone tries to attack you, you immobilise them if you can, and you run away.
    THAT is why you don’t wear a short little skirt, high heels and a barely-boob-constraining bustier top if you’re going out at night. Because if someone does attack you, you haven’t got a hope of striking them in a way that will at least make them pause, or getting away quickly.
    When I was in highschool (particularly after a couple of really bad rape and murder incidents in my local area), the emphasis was on teaching us girls how to defend ourselves if we must, but also how to party safe. What is #SlutWalk teaching the highschool girls of today?? “Dress like a street walking prostitute when you go out to the nightclub. No one will rape you because they shouldn’t.”
    REALLY SMART.

    • Ummm have you seen the way ‘street walking prostitutes’ dress? they dress in jeans and sneakers so they can run. please do not put down a group of already marginalised people in order to make your ill informed point!!!

  13. This is yet another bad idea coming from North America. Yes I know it was triggered from America Junior, but do Australians need to follow like lemmings? That cop gave good advice, just as they tell homosexuals not to loiter at public toilets (hello George Michael), for their own safety. Unfortunately in democracy`s the chronically stupid have the right to free speech and shout down common sense. Giving good safety advice does not condone crime, which I suspect the cop would have to do under policy `drilled` into them. The policy would probably be similar to cops in Australia where they `have lines` or `stay on message` not a personal opinion. I hate the word too.

  14. I guess my question to you would be this you said, “Is this prejudice acceptable? No of course it’s not.”

    Then why are you accepting it?

    And, furthermore, is there a way that you might come to understand why SlutWalk and those who support it have decided to take a stance against this prejudice? After all, prejudices and stereotypes about women CAN be shifted. How would you propose doing things differently?

    For the record, SlutWalk doesn’t encourage suggestive dressing, their statement is simply “I don’t deserve to get raped just because you’ve interpreted my clothing to mean something you have chosen it to mean”. Besides, a person’s propensity towards “sluttiness” is COMPLETELY subjective. How in the world could we police every woman to determine how “slutty” she is dressing? Who exactly makes the grand decision that her clothing is slutty but another is not?

    ~Sadie Smythe

    ~Sadie Smythe

  15. the point is……… WHO EXACTLY IS A SLUT? WHAT EXACTLY DOES A SLUT WEAR? I am a slut, but i wear jeans and and hoodies, but i enjoy sex and lots of it. there is not such separation between sluts and non sluts. call me a slut and you call every woman a slut. The word slut is used to control us. It is just a word. It is a fake word. And it has so much power, everyone jumping up and down about the ‘slutwalks’ is proof of its power. Not once in ay of the slut walk promotions does it tell people how to dress, at the slut walks themselves, people dressed in all sorts of attire. Again i ask of you – what does a slut wear exactly????!!!!!!

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