SLUT WALK, & THE ROLE OF THE WRITER

“A man’s mind is a jungle of horror”

– wonderful Man Booker Prize Winner Howard Jacobson, making me LAUGH OUT LOUD on Q&A.

Anyone who watched this weeks glorious, politician-free episode of Q&A on ABC TV would have heard a very interesting conversation around porn, male attitudes towards women, and feminism (as a feminist, I was intrigued). This particularly lengthy discussion focused on porn and it’s effects on society and male sexuality, with a passionate exchange between feminist anti-porn campaigner Professor Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, and a different kind of feminist Leslie Cannold, ethicist and author of The Book of Rachael. Whilst I agreed with Leslie’s stance of being against wowser outrage and the degradation of men, I actually thought both women had good points to make on this issue. Gail Dines did however argue at some point that women are not consumers of porn, which is frankly untrue. There’s no doubt that pornography has and is having an enormous effect on the culture, people’s attitudes and expectations of sex. This is possible because women do consume porn, either on their own volition, or because their partners do (I’m speaking generally not personally here. Whether I do or not is frankly none of your business). Moreover there are so many different kinds of porn. So I did question while watching the episode how much of what Gail stated was hyperbolic.

A member of the audience closed the pornography discussion with a question about personal responsibility, suggesting that holding the porn industry responsible for sexual violence against women is like saying that women who wear short skirts are asking to be raped.

Which brings me to the Slut Walk rally.

Originally conceived in Toronto, Canada, as a response to an ignorant comment made by a Police Officer to a university safety forum and then spread on social media (he suggested that women could avoid sexual assault by not dressing in a provocative manner… i.e. like “sluts”), other Slut Walk rallies have been held and are being planned, to protest against the attitude of victim-blaming and shaming that still persists in some corners of our society.

Upon receiving invitation I decided to tentatively support the underlying concept for three simple reasons:

1)   No matter what you wear or don’t wear, no one should feel they have the right to abuse or violate your body. PERIOD.

2)   The emphasis of the attitude of victim blaming is that a woman is responsible for not getting raped by dressing in an “appropriate” or modest fashion. We in the West criticise and judge other cultures who hold woman to be the vessels of shame. If we insist on doing so, we should not tolerate similar notions in our own society.  and

3)   I’ve always been annoyed at WOMEN in particular who use the term “slut” in a serious way to denigrate other women. Female competition is one root cause of this, and it disturbs me to no end. I’m therefore quite comfortable with the idea of reclaiming the word slut or de-stigmatising it.

Certainly there are situations that a person can get into that increase the likelihood that they will become a victim of sexual assault – this is an imperfect world. We all take precautions to ensure our own personal safety in a variety of scenarios and against all kinds of threats. But I think it’s important that we continually and vigilantly affirm that a person’s attire or sexual history is never a cause of or invitation to be violated.

I really don’t think we can say that enough.

Slut Walk certainly has its detractors though. And one of them is Professor Gail Dines.

Currently touring the country to promote her aforementioned book, Gail has argued that the name and concept of the rally reinforces stereotypes and plays into the hands of raunch culture – in essence, men (she says generally) want women to be sluts, and women – young women – are buying into it (perhaps without even knowing it):

“Young women today have two choices,” she said, “to be f—able or invisible. If the only choice is to be hypersexual, you cannot call it a meaningful choice. In the US, even women who read the news, even politicians have to be [sexy].”

She also argues that the people who hold the attitudes that have inspired the rallies don’t get the irony of its title.

I can appreciate her comments, and unlike some women I know in my age group, I do have respect for feminists of previous generations (I’d like to note that Gail took to task the women above who asked the final discussion question for apparently not appreciating the feminist movement, after she said “Why then aren’t you working on all of the factors[causing violence against women] and focussing only on pornography?” Gail responded: “There’s a wonderful feminist movement who is working on all of those things. I’m one person but I’m part of this glorious movement that changed the world, by the way, for you. You are here today thanks to the feminist movement so, yes, we are doing that.” Touche, madam).

Nonetheless, I still support the underlying spirit of the rallies.  For the reasons stated above.

Slut Walk in Melbourne (which I will probably not be attending – health, life is in the shitter right now) is due to take place this Saturday at 1pm at the State Library of Victoria.

Now, it would be great to see a similar rally in support of women with intellectual disabilities who are sexually assaulted in disturbing numbers at the hands of supposed caregivers… and see how many of my fellow sluts show up…

POST SCRIPT: This is a challenging and excellent critique of Slut Walk by The Referral, in two parts:

Not In My Name: Part I

Not In My Name: Part II (WARNING: she discusses her own experience of being raped).

———-

On a different note, I would like to thank the woman in the Q&A audience who asked this question:

“As authors, what responsibility do you think lies at the feet of the purveyors of popular culture to preserve and contribute to the health and moral fabric of our society?”

My favourite response, from Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham:

“My responsibility, and it is the single responsibility but an enormous one, is to write as deeply and completely as I can about what it’s like to be a person who is not you…

….I think part of what the novelist is here to do is to remind us that everybody is the hero of his or her own story. Part of what we’re here to do is to promote the empathy that is inevitable from somebody who reads enough fiction to go deeply enough into the lives of other people, which renders that reader, I like to think, much less likely to think it’s a good idea to bomb the fuck out of some other country. So it is inherently moral in that way.”

Word, Michael.

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3 Comments on “SLUT WALK, & THE ROLE OF THE WRITER”

  1. Madam Schmindo says:

    I wish I could attend the Slut Walk. It’d be a great place to pick up (what?)

    Also pffft to women not watching porn. How does raising that as an argument even help? It just reinforces the idea that women with an open mind about all aspects of sex are somehow less virtuous. Eff that.

    I do, however, object to the lack of quality porn for us gay ladies. Someone fill the gap in this market, thank you kindly.

  2. Tolai Meri says:

    One of my favourite of your posts, P! Thank you for your always insightful – and at times, challenging – mental prods for us step up. xo

  3. deb says:

    Indeed. you have expressed my thoughts about the slutwalk exactly.and I may be there…depending on png wantoks meeting, feminist conf and slutwalk (oh, yes, and i do have children!) and marking! Richard Aedy did a great sluttish interview on lifematters on radio national about a week ago and I was convinced. reclaim the word. and I’ll be wearing my daggy old jeans and t shirt. like usual! as to micheal cunningham. fuck. brilliant. bring it on.
    not to mention you…you can not only string a word or two together so it makes sense and is a pleasure to read…you write about such interesing stuff. hang in there woman, you are a wonder! and i think inherently moral in that way! xx


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