SlutWalkers say it loud and proud on April 3
Canadian blamers have just hipped me to SlutWalk. Thanks, Canadian blamers! On April 3rd, Toronto anti-rape activists will be protesting the reification by law enforcement of the bogus cultural construct “slut.” The protest march was ignited by this remark, recently uttered by Toronto cop Michael Sanguinetti as he addressed a class of law school students:
“Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
Michael Sanguinetti has apparently been reading those helpful rape-avoidance email forwards that counsel weak, defenseless women on how not to convey the message that we want men to rape us. He knows that men’s behavior is totally our responsibility! In a twisted dude-centric culture that sees nothing amiss in defining women as the receptacles for dudely incontinence, it is unsurprising that the Michael Sanguinettis of the world should also conclude that when men behave accordingly, it is women’s fault.
In addition to calling bullshit on the Toronto police for perpetuating a misogynist myth — they’re literally marching to the police headquarters’ front door — SlutWalk is going to try to do that thing that many an activist group has tried — and failed — to do for a while now, which is to reclaim a debasing epithet.
Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.
They’re not joking around, either. They’ve got SLUT buttons for the SlutWalkers to wear. This is what a slut looks like, etc.
I couldn’t call myself a spinster aunt if I didn’t offer a critical analysis of the SlutWalk concept, so here goes.
The spinster aunt must question, as an objective for any kind of walk, slut- or otherwise, the necessity of “re-appropriating” a sexist slur. My concerns are several, but time is short, so here is a quick summary:
Does changing the context of the word change the word? It might, but only so long as that context persists. Context is how Dave Chapelle could nigger it up on his TV show for laughs, but in the mainstream ‘nigger’ is bleeped out or re-issued as “the N-word,” confirming its status as one of the most offensive words in the English language.
In an attempt to disenvenom the word ’slut’, SlutWalkers can slut it up for their SlutWalk, wearing, as Toronto Sun columnist Heather Mallick says, “whatever it is that people wear as they go about their lives not asking to be raped,” but once the march is over, ‘Hey, I’m a slut!’ is unlikely to have the desired consciousness-raising effect. The sex class will still exist.
This notion of re-appropriating ’slut’ suggests that women, possibly in some happier time, had previously a-ppropriated it for our own benefit. But in no wise was there ever a culture in which women’s solidarity compelled us to define ourselves by the number of men we’ve pronged and how closely we conformed to pornographic dress codes when we did it. When you’re standing up against your own oppression as a member of the sex class, it is problematic and of questionable revolutionary efficacy to stamp yourself and your comrades-in-arms with the mark of the oppressor.
In other words, calling yourself a slut, in the middle of a flippin’ patriarchy, can only have the effect, as Germaine Greer noted, of reinforcing men’s sense of their own superiority.* If you’ll permit a personal anecdote:
I confirmed this firsthand when, at the apex of the Riot Grrl “movement,” I, too scrawled ’slut’ on an undershirt and wore it at gigs with my all-girl punk band. Was our audience a bunch of feminists shouting “you go, girl!”? Ha! If only. Even now the memory burns. Our audience was, in fact, a bunch of straight dudes. Leering, drunk straight dudes who saw a woman on stage with the word ’slut’ smeared across her chest and did not say to themselves, “Wow, I should really re-think the meaning of the word ’slut’ and reflect on my male privilege.” What they said to themselves (and, come to think of it, to me) was, “Slut, eh? Shit, I’d hit that.”
It turns out that ’slut’ isn’t just an adjective. It’s a character. A fictional character, beloved of patriarchal culture, who encrapulates eons of virgin/whore-fueled misogyny, and was invented to absolve violent dudes of rape behavior. Sluts are women deemed by the angry dude-mob to have so ineptly handled the duties of femininity that they must be shamed, mocked, and of course, fucked in perpetuity.
By which I mean, you may say “patayto” and I, “patahto,” but in the end it might be more advantageous to dismantle the slut rather than claim it. “Everyone’s a slut” just doesn’t have the same oomph as “nobody’s a slut.”
None of which is to say that Savage Death Island doesn’t wish SlutWalk the greatest possible success. Here’s hoping the Toronto police department responds with something more potent than the usual lip-service about “sensitivity training.” Nothing would tickle the spinster boob scars more than if The Slut were to disappear altogether from the cultural narrative.
By the way — speaking of rape-prevention email forwards — I can’t resist reprinting this satirical re-gendered version, originally sent in by a blamer in 2009 and gently adapted for Savage Death Island by me.
Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work
1. Don’t put drugs in women’s drinks.
2. When you see a woman walking by herself, leave her alone.
3. If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to rape her.
4. If you are in a lift and a woman gets in, don’t rape her.
5. When you encounter a woman who is asleep, the safest course of action is to not rape her.
6. Never creep into a woman’s home through an unlocked door or window, or spring out at her from between parked cars, or rape her.
7. When you lurk in bushes and doorways with criminal intentions, always wear bright clothing, wave a flashlight, or play “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” by the Raveonettes on a boombox really loud, so women in the vicinity will know where to aim their flamethrowers.
8. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If it is inconvenient for you to stop yourself from raping women, ask a trusted friend to accompany you when lurking in shadows.
9. Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to rape a woman, you can hand the whistle to your buddy, so s/he can blow it to call for help.
10. Give your buddy a revolver, so that when indifferent passers-by either ignore the rape whistle, or gather round to enjoy the spectacle, s/he can pistol-whip you.
11. Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. When asking a woman out on a date, don’t pretend that you are interested in her as a person; tell her straight up that you expect to be raping her later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the woman may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape her.
In other words, the best way to prevent rape is to not rape anybody.
* Greer, Germaine. The Whole Woman (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1999) 198.
- Citizens of the Poconos, unite against slutty teen rape victims!
- I got yer rape prevention email forward right here
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