Yet Another Post About Slutwalk (As If You Haven’t Had Enough Already)

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

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Live-Blogging Eurovision 2011 – The Final

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.
Right, I am going to have to concede victory to my exhaustion and leave you now. I know it’s only ten minutes left but I have just almost knocked myself out by falling asleep!
Thank you to my lovely blogging buddy Amy who will be keeping up to date on her twitter I imagine.
Once again we do not win. But once again we all have a good time and see some awesome hats. A victory all round if you ask me. Which you didn’t.

Live-Blogging Eurovision 2011 – Part 4

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?

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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…

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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.

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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.


Live-Blogging Eurovision 2011 – Part 3

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?

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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.

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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.


Live-Blogging Eurovision 2011 – Part 2

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.

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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.

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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. 


Live-Blogging Eurovision 2011 – Part 1

I can’t believe that I’ve got a blog old enough to be doing an annual blogging event. This year my partner in crime is sadly across the country but you can keep up with her comments here. She actually knows stuff about music so her coverage will probably be better.

I remember that girl being more gothy last year. Lena is it? They love her!

Anyway, my lasagne is getting cold and my Pimms is getting warm so I’m going to dive right in with Bosnia and Herzegovina

(Amy’s covered the first country Finland here. I wonder if Paradise is that guy’s real name. Also awwwwww! )

I think I’d like to go to Dusseldorf. It looks like fun. I also think Herzegovina is a great name for a cat.

So onto Dino Merlin and ‘Love in Rewind’.

Love love love that jacket. And her hair.

You can never go wrong with a tambourine involved, if you ask me. Except she’s not really making the most of it. Not like that guy with the guitar/ukelele style thing.

If all the music in Bosnia is like this I’ll bet they’re all walking round with a spring in their step. Unfortunately Bosnian history suggests that isn’t the case.

That was lovely 🙂

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Check out Amy’s coverage of Denmark and their rip off of Jedward’s hair here.

So Lithuania for me. Evelina Sasenko with C’est La Vie.

Ooohhh, Graham Norton says it’s Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-stylee. I’m excited…

He was right! It’s a bit Wicked or Les Mis. This is a good thing, if you ask me. I love a rousing chorus. And a smoke machine.

I love the camera work on Eurovision. It’s all over the shop, kind of makes me feel dizzy but it keeps me on my toes.

Okay this girl is rocking my world with the sign language. Reminds me of ‘Imagine’ in Glee when people do that!

Could have had a slightly more emotional ending and a belted out final note a la Mercedes in Glee. But I like it 🙂 Can you tell I’m in a positive mood? It’s because I’m wearing pyjamas.

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And now you’re expecting me to become negative because it’s my turn to blog and I’ve got Ireland and Jedward. But it’s not their fault that people are buying their singles? It’s the British public’s fault, so I will not hate. Just as I refuse to hate on Beiber or Rebecca Black, despite their less than … and Graham Norton says I’ll end up smiling.

(Check out Amy’s comments on the retro-pop sensation that was Hungary. Feel like I’ve heard that song before)

Gaga-stylee. Awesome jackets. They need the big hair to balance out the massive shoulders.

It’s very Eurovision. I feel like Jedward were born for this role. And they’re fulfilling it very well! I’m nodding my head along in a ridiculous way, which is a good sign.


Review: Bossypants

So I’m a Tina Fey fan girl. Aren’t we all? Bossypants, her comedy memoir, is a recent addition to my bookshelf, and a very welcome one at that.

[Photo Source]

But not everyone has been quite so enthusiastic. There seems to have been a lot of criticism that Fey doesn’t go into sexism in comedy writing/performing enough, that she glosses over the real issues at stake. But Fey is not a professional feminist. She is not Jessica Valenti, she is Tina Fey. She writes comedy, and this book is no different. And for a comedy memoir it’s pretty damn feminist.

It’s written almost like a series of sketches, with breaks in the story for amusing bits, such as her responses to some Internet trolls. This is not a warts-and-all kind of story, there’s no tragic confession and Fey barely mentions her family and her husband. This isn’t sordid scandal. I was disappointed only by the lack of ‘Mean Girls’ based stories, as that was the moment I discovered Fey’s brilliance and remains one of my favourite bits of her work.

My favourite bit was the last chapter. That was where I felt the comedy mask slipped a bit, and the neurotic worrying about where to go from here reminded me of pretty much any woman I’ve ever spoken to. The stress of being torn between what you want, not knowing what you want, wanting to do what other people want and expect from you, not knowing what they want, feeling obligated and confused is probably something that everyone can relate to. Or maybe I’m just neurotic. But to me this really summed up what it’s like to ‘have it all’.

This whole book seems to be about ‘having it all’, trying to work and be a mum and a wife and a friend and keep it all together. And what I liked was that it was possible for Fey to discuss all the difficulties of juggling so much, but that it didn’t come out as a treatise on working mothers as a whole. Her vulnerability, her ‘triannual’ sobfest in her office doesn’t make her a bad mum or a bad employee/r, it just makes her human. Like all of us are. It is possible to have it all, you just have to try not to expect too much from yourself.

It is inspiring to someone like me to read about someone as successful as Tina Fey’s problems and compare them to my own anxieties and insecurities, but to realise that it is not a barrier to success. This is a feminist book because whilst Tina may not want to go and march and make a noise about the sexism she has experienced, she demonstrates perfectly that you can be a woman and be successful in a fast-paced industry. This is a feminist book, although you might not notice if you’re not already a feminist. She addresses sexism, she addresses double standards and the unrealistic expectations put upon women. And whilst she maybe doesn’t deal with them in quite the way that feminists would like, the very inclusion of them is surely as much as we can expect from someone whose job is not to break down the patriarchy, but to make fun of it, and of everything else.

I have been thinking a lot recently. as you may have noticed (or not, since not many people read this blog…), about the realities of being a feminist. About how it’s hard to be one, how you face conflicting viewpoints on how to behave – torn between following the feminist part of you, who knows what’s going on, and the part of you who’s been socially conditioned to behave against those feminist principles. To me this story about a feminist photo-shoot and the use of Photoshop sums up nicely exactly what I’ve been thinking about:

If you’re going to expend energy being mad about Photoshop, you’ll also have to be mad about earrings. No one’s ears are that sparkly! They shouldn’t have to be! You’ll have to get mad about oil paintings – those people didn’t really look like that! I for one am furious that people are allowed to turn sideways in photographs! Why can’t we accept a woman’s full width? I won’t rest until people are only allowed to be photographed facing front under a flourescent light…

Some people say it’s a feminist issue. I agree, because the best Photoshop job I ever got was for a feminist magazine called ‘Bust’ in 2004. 

It was a low-budget shoot in the back of their downtown office. There was no free coffee bar or wind machine, just a bunch of intelligent women with a sense of humour. 

I looked at the two paltry lights they had set up and turned to the editors. “We’re all feminists here, but you’re gonna use Photoship right?” “Oh, yeah,” they replied instantly. Feminists do the best Photoshop because they leave the meat on your bones. They don’t change your size or your skin color. They leave in your disgusting knuckles, but they might take your some armpit stubble. Not because they’re denying its existence, but because they understand that it’s okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light. — Tina Fey, Bossypants 

To me, that’s the reality of feminism. Whilst we fight the good fight, we still have to live in the world we’re fighting against. And so it’s okay to sometimes concede a little to the patriarchal ways of doing things. We can’t expect everyone to be superwoman and not to care about superficial things. And that’s kind of what this book is like, Fey still has to sell copies and keep up her image, and so she slips in some feminism rather than making it all about that. So I leave you with that thought, and encourage you to buy the book, if only to make you look ridiculous trying to laugh silently on a long train journey…