Now that I’m a grown up I’ve gone and got my own official domain name! So if you still want to keep up with my (hopefully more frequent from now on!) blogposts, check out my new website: amyliz.co.uk!
I wrote yesterday about why I will be going on Slutwalk on June 11th in London, hopefully with lots of people from the RHUL Feminist Society, even though we may all be hungover from celebrating the end of term the night before. But I wanted to think a bit about why Slutwalk has taken off so massively, and is more appealing to many young women (and people of all ages, sizes, colours, creeds, genders) than Reclaim the Night
It’s a reinvigoration for a start. Feminism seems to be picking up speed again, or at least that’s how I see it from my limited point of view, and many more young women are getting involved. The youth of the UK has been politicised by the student protests of next year, and suddenly everyone has an opinion on politics in a way that they just didn’t before. Again, from where I stand. Correct me if I’m wrong. I went to a lecture at Royal Holloway last week, an interview by Professor Edith Hall with Professor Judith Hawley, and they spoke briefly about how feminists today are beginning to question the movement and how they can fit into it, how we can move forward. Reclaim the Night was exciting and new and innovative for feminists of the generation before my own, and it can become disheartening to march every year on the same march with the same message and yet feel like nothing has changed. I think yearly marches of whatever type are prone to that same feeling simply by that very nature. Those that are spontaneous and new create media attention and seem like they can make that difference in a way that those which are happening every year cannot. This is not to say that Reclaim the Night is not powerful and empowering, but I can understand why people are finding Slutwalk more appealing from this angle.
It could simply be the use of the word ‘slut’. It is something that I can imagine young women not being worried about being associated with. It is much cooler to be a slut (especially if you are calling yourself one, rather than being called one by others) than to be a prude. That is not to say that young women would truly like it if they were slut shamed in the cruel way that too often occurs, but it sort of symbolises fun, wanting to have a good time, not stuck up, all things that young women want to be associated with. And all things that are not traditionally associated with feminism. As mentioned yesterday, Slutwalk was not started by feminists and although feminists have gotten involved in a big way it is not purely a feminist march. And the problem with the ugly lesbian in dungarees stereotype is that it does put off many young women who don’t want to be associated with those things, because to be so is to be ostracised from society. That is not to say that it is a bad thing to be an ‘ugly’ lesbian in dungarees, but if you are not one then there is no reason why you would want people to assume that about you. The use of the word slut makes it seem cool, however terrible that may be, to be going on this march. The dress code is certainly a chance to have fun. And whilst women may want to protest victim blaming and restrictions placed on women, they also have to live in the world which expects them to be feminine and pretty. Give them a break.
Maybe it’s international sisterhood. Perhaps it is the wide range of people in the wide range of places that has made this march so exciting to so many. To be connected to women around the world in this way is certainly powerful and that strength that comes from standing together in such a visible way feels like it may make more difference than the various individual, similar but unconnected marches which happen worldwide at the moment. Going on the London Slutwalk means you follow women in Toronto, Chicago, LA, Boston and Paris to name but a few. You add your voice to an already huge milieu of people around the world, and that can be an inspiring and motivating thought.
I suspect publicity has something to do with it too. It is not that people don’t know about Reclaim the Night, but often it is only known about in feminist circles. The kind of women who would already by looking for a march to go on will research things like Reclaim the Night. There is often some media coverage after the event, but little before. This is not that those organising Reclaim the Night are failing to publicise, simply that no one could have expected the massive international publicity that Slutwalk has been afforded. You don’t have to be a feminist looking out for these kinds of stories to notice it, because it’s everywhere. And that means that women who may not have considered marching on an issue like this before have been encouraged to join in, simply because of the magnitude of the coverage in all media formats.
I don’t have the answer as to why Slutwalk has taken off in a way that Reclaim the Night didn’t, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
My twitter feed, geekily stuffed as it is with feminist tweeters, has been over-run the last couple of weeks with posts about the widespread phenomenon that is Slutwalk. You won’t need me to tell you what it is, no doubt, so prolific has the coverage been, but just in case Slutwalk is an anti-rape march started after a police officer in Toronto made the comment that women shouldn’t dress like sluts if they don’t want to get raped, causing outrage in women everywhere. The decision was made that enough is enough; we’re sick of victim blaming culture, sick of the low conviction rates for rape and sexual assault and sick of this all too prevalent attitude. And so women (and their various allies) in Toronto took to the streets to make their message heard, and were quickly followed by women (and their various allies) in other cities across the world. The London Slutwalk is scheduled for Saturday 11th June and I am really looking forward to it.
But it seems that not everyone is excited as me, and there has been a lot of discussion amongst feminists, big and small, about whether the term ‘Slutwalk’ is appropriate and whether it should be supported by feminists and feminist organisations. I can’t add anything to the extensive discussion that hasn’t been said before, but I just want to reiterate a few of the points that I think are most important. Firstly, it is important to note that this movement was not started by women who identify as ‘feminist’. Victim blaming is a cause close to many feminists’ hearts but these were women not involved with feminist politics at the time, whether they do now or not I couldn’t tell you. This was also a snap reaction to a particular comment made, the word ‘slut’ was not chosen at random. And lastly, this march is *not* about reclaiming the word slut so can everyone please stop going on about whether it is even appropriate to reclaim it?
Some women may have chosen to use this march to reclaim the word slut for their personal use, but that is not what this is about. This is about victim blaming, about society calling all women sluts and then using that as an excuse to rape them. And, as anyone at Royal Holloway who has seen the campaign can tell you, there is *never* an excuse to rape anyone. Not if they are drunk, not if they are wearing a short skirt, not nothing. And rapists know this. Almost all rapists are perfectly aware that they have not got the consent of the person they are raping, that there is no excuse for their behaviour. That is why the average rapists rapes six times. Not because they are not aware of what they are doing, but because they don’t care. Rape is a crime, just like stealing and murdering and drunk driving. And everyone who does those crimes knows what they are doing, right? The difference is in the way that everyone else deals with rape. It’s not the rapists who excuse themselves because of short skirts and intoxication and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, because women are just sluts who want it anyway; they just use those excuses because they can. Because the world lets them, and agrees with them that it’s really the woman’s fault for getting raped, not the rapist’s for raping. And what kind of messed up logic is that, right?
The fact that I even have to write this makes me feel angry. That people have not got it into their heads yet that rape is not the victim’s fault. And that is why I will march in Slutwalk, proudly, for all the women who have been accused of a crime that was committed against them, not by them. Hoping that people will educate themselves about rape myths when they hear about it; because of course it is not the person in the bushes that you have to fear when it comes to rape, but the man walking you home to ‘protect’ you, the boyfriend or the friend or the ex or even the brother or father.
That is not to say that the term slut is unproblematic, it is a word that has been used to oppress women for centuries. In fact, it used to not be tied to sex at all, but was a word to describe someone who kept an untidy house. How scandalous. But it is a word used to describe women who do not fit into the standard model of femininity, who defies social expectations of what a woman should be. And whilst it may have been used in a negative way, I think that is worth reclaiming even if that is not the point of the march. I am happy to be a slut, if that means I don’t do what I’m told, if I speak up when I’m supposed to be quiet, or don’t act as ladylike as people would want me to, if I have sex because I enjoy it, not in trade for marriage and babies, if it means that I am not fitting into patriarchal restrictions of what I can and should want to be. Jaclyn Friedman’s keynote speech at Slutwalk Boston was on this topic exactly, and she can say it better than I ever can.
There are arguments on every side of this debate, on whether it is worth reclaiming the word slut or whether we should start using new sex-positive terms to describe women’s sexuality, to distance ourselves from the oppression that this word has caused. But I want to be clear that Louise Bagshawe’s argument on Newsnight (arguing against the amazing Zoe Margolis, who will always be my hero) is not one that fits into this debate. The idea that this march is promoting promiscuity is absurd, she has misunderstood the point entirely, this is not what Slutwalk is about. But I also want to be clear that even if promoting promiscuity was Slutwalk’s aim, that would not necessarily be a bad thing. It wouldn’t be as powerful message, and wouldn’t mobilise women in the same numbers as have turned out to protest against victim blaming, but promiscuity is not the self-destructive behaviour that she claims it to be. It is not for everyone, to be sure, but people like Louise Bagshawe are the reason why Slutwalk is still necessary, in this apparently civilised country in these apparently modern times. To start telling women what behaviour is and isn’t appropriate is just one step away from telling them that it is their fault they got raped.
To finish, here’s a roundup of links about Slutwalk for your reading pleasure, on both sides of the argument. You know where I stand, so now see where everyone else is at:
The F-Word: Slutwalk London
Feministing: Slutwalk – to march or not to march
Feministing: A few words about reclaiming “slut”
Pandagon/Amanda Marcotte: Sluts, Walking: A FAQ Sheet
I thought you might like to know that I used the voting time to get an ice lolly. And to turn off my netbook charger, it’s important to save the planet people so that we can continue to enjoy such beauty as the Eurovision song contest.
I am literally on the edge of my seat. So that I don’t get Fruit Pastille lolly drips on my pyjamas. And according to Stefan we are reaching the climax. Oo-er.
Oh, I wasn’t the only one to mention the Berlin Wall tonight. Not surprised, but nice to know I wasn’t being tasteless.
I think Graham’s right when he says ‘relatively high standard of songs’. I’ve had a good time, I don’t know about you.
Anyway, here’s a quick fire round up of the voting:
- Russia loves UK and Moldova! I like you crazy Russian Ali G.
- OMG Bulgaria gave us 12 points! We might not fail miserably this year!
- Could the Netherlands lady be any more stereotypical?
- Italy love Moldova too! And UK! Takes us to no 1! I love that the countries which vote for us also vote for Moldova. That gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.
- Looks like the wind machine worked well for Azerbaijan. And Greece are more popular than I thought they would be…
- Woo Jedward are moving up! Also I feel a bit Regina George in Mean Girls right now. ‘The better not win; we like, invented them, you know?’
- Is this the best we’ve ever done? I suspect so. I wonder how one gets to be the Eurovision representative to read out the votes? That would be a cool way to spend a Saturday
- I can’t even Ukraine? I’m going back over the notes to remember now… Oh yeah, the wanky sand people
- We’re nothing if not predictable.
- This bit always drags. Also none of my predictions are coming true and I hate not being right.
- Not anything to do with Eurovision but I’m also looking at belts and you can buy a sparkly harness in the name of fashion? I’m not usually one to cringe at weird trends, but that is just odd.
- They’re all singing now? That’s not what you’re employed for…
- Can you tell I’m starting to lag. I’m becoming negative. That is because my pyjamas cannot save me from the after effects of a 12 hour day at work.
- And we’re not winning anymore. I hate not winning just like I hate not being right.
- The interviews are the most awkward bits.
- I’m glad Italian Buble is doing better now.
I think we have our first wind machine *and* falling sparkles with Azerbaijan. Amy is having a crisis of confidence in her cultural references over at The Afterword. But she is a very smart lady and should not feel bad for not knowing about High School Musical.
I just realised I haven’t finished my lasagne and it really is cold now. Sad times. I’ll have to go and get an ice lolly in a minute instead. But you’re not here for the minutae of my life. You’re here for my opinion on Slovenia. Or maybe you stumbled here by accident; I apologise if so.
My flatmate in first year Laura always went on about how much she loves Slovenia as a country. Let’s see how their music measures up.
Dramatic piano music. Sparkly fringed dress paired with strange leather gloves. Got a ‘No Scrubs’ feel to it. Makes me want to do one of those sassy head wiggles/finger points.
Also why do so many of these countries speak English better than many actual English people. Without much of an accent?
So we had some lovely Jack-Johnson-style sounds from Iceland. They would do well with this song in the UK charts IMO. And Amy likes it too!
Right, so I’m on to Spain. My sister is visiting there in a few weeks, I am very jealous. I might go for tapas next week but it’s not the same.
Lucia Perez is singing ‘They Can’t Take The Fun Away From Me’. And it *is* very fun! The guys shimmying in the background make it *extra* fun! Again with the children’s TV presenter thing.
It’s interesting that Spain has such a colourful background and yet ex-Eastern bloc countries have lots of black. There’s got to be some pointless academic theory to throw at that. And that’s my favourite kind of academic theory.
On a not unrelated note, I want to go on holiday…
Ukraine appeals to my pretentious side by incorporating sand art. Amy likes the outfits.
A 60s throwback from the Serbian Nina. Her outfit is *very* Twiggy. I love it. I bought some white/cream tights earlier in the year but I always feel stupid wearing them. But this is persuading me back to them.
The background swirls are trippy. They’re making my eyes hurt. But they are the colours of my future kitchen.
Upbeat and catchy, but not a winner.
Georgia takes their cues from Evanescence and tries to induce epileptic fits. Amy gets the last word at the Afterword; go check out her predictions!
My favourites are Moldova, Italy and Iceland. I know, I blaspheme by not saying UK. I also didn’t watch the Royal Wedding. *gasp*
My monies on Lithuania, Germany or Russia (it’s the R-Patz vibe). And I say this with no understanding of the European politics which influences voting.
On a not unrelated note, I wish I had some wine.
Amy’s observations about Switzerland are here. Loved that red sparkly dress. Can I get away with that for graduation?
Right, so I get to discuss Blue representing the UK. And their song is called I Can.
They’re no worse than anyone else that has represented us recently. But it makes me sad that I band I used to make up dances to in my best friend’s conservatory (using the tiles as guides for awesome dance moves!) has now sunk so low. But sadly it’s not 2001 anymore; times are hard and we’ve all got to take jobs that we’re over-qualified for.
They need more space between the ‘I’ and the ‘Can’ in the background. Oh and how I have missed Lee Ryan’s ridiculously high pitched voice. Apparently he’s been boasting about this gig in taxis across London to unimpressed/not bothered taxi drivers. Bit of insider gossip for you there.
I have also missed their matching-ish outfits so reminiscent of bands in my teens. What is with Duncan’s scarf though?And why are they all not wearing shirts under their jackets/waistcoats?
The song is very typical Blue though. Which is good if only for nostaligia’s sake. I wonder if they will properly get back together?
I am going to Moldova on my next holiday. Their hats have persuaded me. Check out what Amy thought here. Also I understand if this whole Amy/Amy thing is getting confusing for you!
We’re back with Lena from Germany. Back to her gothy ways. I bet she’s the German Cheryl Cole. They have the same hair. I wish I could do my eye make up like that without smudging it all over my face.
Bit of a fetish vibe to those outfits. Maybe she’s been taking tips from Sweden.
This isn’t as good as last year, but she still seems pretty popular. Will probably be in the top few I reckon.
Romania was very upbeat. I like people who want to change the world. It makes me worry less about having to do it myself. Also he had awesome stripy trousers. Eric’s opining on Romania as a stand in here.
So here’s Nadine with ‘The Secret is Love’ from Austria. What is with all these young people writing songs and being on Eurovision. I know it’s not the best gig ever but it makes me feel bad for doing nothing with my life. The beginning sounds a bit plagarised from ‘I Will Always Love You’ though. Or maybe that’s just all ballads sounding the same to me.
Okay, I just dropped off for a minute there. Totally wasn’t paying attention. It’s like Leona Lewis, very beautiful and talented but a little dull.
Sweden is determined to be popular; see what Amy has to say over at The Afterword (also why can I never come up with smart blog names like that. I’m going to employ her as my marketing person).
Estonia’s outfits make me so happy. So this is Getter Jaani with Rockerfeller Street. And it’s already reminding me of Avenue Q. How can people hate on the cheesiness of Eurovision when it brings me so much joy?
They know that the name Rockerfeller is more commonly associated with New York than London? What’s with the London Eye in the background?
This is very tween-pop/children’s TV/acid trip gone wrong.
Eep. Amy’s comments about the intensity that was Greece are here.
So Russia’s a big country. Should have lots of talent to choose from. And they’ve given us Alexej – a wannabe Robert Pattison/Danny from Grease.
Apparently he’s worked with the producer who worked on ‘Poker Face’.
Synchronised dancing JLS would be proud of. They’d be a good Eurovision entry, incidentally.
This is supposed to be a love song, but I’d be more likely to bolt than to swoon if he came near me.
Amy takes on the bookie’s favourite France here. Coincidentally, also my least favourite. But also sounds like it’s from Les Mis. Fitting.
Oooo I get to do Italy. They’ve not been in it for 14 years? They must be worse than us! So we’ve got Raphael Gualazzi and Folia D’Amore/Madness in Love
Jazzy pastiche? Those two words were born to go together.
OMG this is awesome! It’s like Italian swing music. And everyone knows I love swing. It’s the Italian Buble!
And my language skills are terrible but to me it sounds like he’s singing in French. I’m showing my ignorance here.
Brass instruments played like that make me melt. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I wish I had followed in Lisa Simpson’s wise footsteps and played the saxophone to make our similarities that much more acute. But that is off-topic…
I take back what I said about being worse than us. This is my favourite so far. Even if there has been no neon or glitter.