Slutwalk?

Feminist Fightback hosted a discussion to begin to think through some of the complex issues raised by Slutwalk.

We found the discussion a useful starting point in thinking about questions of race, class and sexuality.

See below for notes of people’s comments at the meeting…

Inclusivity?

[callout title=]”Why do some people feel excluded from Slutwalk? – it’s about saying that rape is never ok, an issue across all genders, sexual orientations etc… Maybe because I’m a white middle class female that I don’t get this?”[/callout]

[callout title=] “My initial reaction was very positive – I heard about it through queer networks. Seen as queer and trans friendly (in contrast to ‘reclaim the night’). Then I rethought in class and race terms – more problematic.” [/callout]

[callout title=] ” I find the word slut alienating – it is a gendered, sexist word. Who gets called slut, and why? How could that affect who feels comfortable attending under this banner.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “‘Slutwalk’ is a problematic name because there are certain categories of people who have been historically seen as sexually promiscuous – women of colour, working class women.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Slutwalk – an upbeat/ fun movement. The demographic involved feels able to pick up the label and become that image, because they can step out of it. This resonates with the class issue. For some women, this is not a label you can pick up and put down, so ‘Slutwalk’ is a much more serious space to be working in. What does ‘dressing up’ in this label mean for other women, especially in terms of class identity?” [/callout]

[callout title=] “I have felt uncomfortable/ alienated by this term, not because I have been labelled as a slut, but because I have felt under pressure to assume a female identity that is more sexual.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Discussing the ‘inclusivity’ of the movement maybe not the best way to approach Slutwalk – it was never representing more than white middle class feminism when it started. Asking people to join in with ‘their’ feminism instead of looking to how people want to represent themselves is problematic.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Problem with ideas about inclusivity are found throughout nearly all aspects of feminism in London. The demonstration shouldn’t be a closed space – discussion should aim to work out how to open this up (rather than condemning slutwalk) – and therefore address issues affecting the whole of feminism.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Hijabs, hoodies and hotpants bloc – wear whatever you like, you don’t have to dress a certain way.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Inclusivity is a poor way of framing this question, intersectionality is better.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “There are 2 ways of thinking about inclusivity – model of tolerance, ignoring structural inequalities, and structural inclusivity. Because it was borne out of particular circumstances, maybe Slutwalk cannot be structurally inclusive. This does not have to be a stumbling block to moving forward – can still be constructively engaged with: how to structure groups so these issues do not arise in the future? People setting up slutwalks are people who were not engaged in feminism before – big time to start getting the ball rolling on these kinds of issues.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Useful to think of this as a starting point. I don’t agree that it’s a set of specific circumstances. A powerful critique comes from the black feminist blogger saying that ‘we never trusted the police in the first place’. Still, slutwalk seems to have caught hold of a positive, powerful, real thing that people feel – a good way for the feminist movement to take this issue on. We need to emphasise that we can dress in whatever way we like. We should celebrate it and welcome critiques, trying to build an anti-racist movement that understands class.[/callout]

Positively reclaiming our sexuality?

[callout title=] “From the discussion on the Moral Maze (radio programme), one of the organisers seemed to take inspiration from the past, esp 1990s: riot grrls (subverting other language); the debate about pornography and anti-pornography; alternative erotica, women reclaiming this – from a feminist perspective. Women involved in this felt tremendously liberated, with political confidence. But the banner of ‘slutwalk’ is off-putting – it doesn’t convey anything to people?” [/callout]

[callout title=] “1990s women reclaiming their sexuality didn’t go anywhere for me and was a bit utopian. Partly because the feminist movement is very fragmented. Maybe this is the start of something.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Skirting around the idea about whether there is a good idea in an overtly sexualised form of feminist radicalism?” [/callout]

[callout title=] “My instinct was not to go on the march. I feel conflicted. I don’t like the word and feel there is a problem with a demo that is about what you should wear – people should wear what they want! Danger is that it could reinforce a stereotypical way in which women demonstrate their sexuality (which excludes, and is alienating – not to make a judgement on people who are not). Women being sexual are policed as well as celebrated. Website – ‘wear what you want’, but media picks up on certain images. I will be going on slutwalk, but I will be wearing what I usually where. I hope this space will be open, but I wonder.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Radical, sexual feminism. Issue of sexuality linked to sexual violence is difficult.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Slutwalk is one event, so we cannot expect it to be everything, but core message is a good thing. Issue of why it’s effective at engaging very young women. Very young women are very sexually objectified (compared with older women) – area of pressure, sharp issues for young women, different issues for someone who is older? We all get so screwed up by society’s expectations of expected sexual behaviour. It’s not going to change the world on its own, but can be exciting and interesting for women and men.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Some people can and some people can’t positively reclaim their sexuality?” [/callout]

[callout title=] “The anti-slutwalk response was as judgemental in terms of judging what women wear and what women do – e.g. being opposed to wearing short skirts/ high heels. Feminists shouldn’t be policing what women wear ” [/callout]

Language?

[callout title=] “Did anyone self-identify as a slut before this movement?” [/callout]

[callout title=] “There is some elasticity about use of term slut – different dress codes. Office wear?” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Biggest thing I feel about it is the language issue. The word is always received passively by someone. This doesn’t seem to be a good way to broaden the way in which people express their sexuality – it misses what words mean to different people. Imagery doesn’t marry up with the aims of my feminism.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “I don’t think the media would have taken this on if the name hadn’t been there. As a rape survivor, I am really heartened to hear people talk about this – usually it is a taboo subject. Slutwalk has galvanised people to challenge societal acceptance of guidance to ‘stay safe, watch what you wear’ etc. The name ‘slutwalk’ is a double-edged sword – has power because it is controversial.” [/callout]

Organising?

[callout title=] “Is too much pressure being put on slutwalk? It shouldn’t be made to be the biggest thing ever.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Slutwalk does not refer to themselves as feminists. It gets more people involved in the feminist movement – the idea that we should not be controlled by our sexuality. But, is it giving us another pigeonhole, rather than breaking it down all together.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Organised by very young women. Catching people’s imaginations. Why has this managed to capture people’s attention?” [/callout]

[callout title=] “We should bear in mind that mainstream media is going to pick up on certain images. We all agree with the politics of what they’re trying to achieve. We should draw attention to what is problematic about slutwalk, but be aware not to come across as elitist in critique from the perspective of academic feminisms.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Hostility towards enterprise is because people say ‘well the media has taken it up’. Since when did a radical movement ever expect the media to be nice to it? Because the media has been picking it up, people think it must be unfeminist/ not a good idea. The groundwork laid by feminist movement – e.g. ‘reclaim the night’, has allowed younger feminists to take off with this. This is the start of something.[callout title=] ”

[callout title=] “90% of sexual abuse comes from friends/ family members. What about addressing what happens in private places?” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Appearances, such as a working class hairstyle can lead people to call you a slut. This can lead one to try and get a more middle class look to escape this attention. White middle class feminists appear to have it made- they are instantly respectable, though this is an oppression in itself.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Young people pick up on slut walk, because its easier to identify as a slut than a feminist for young people. Not all women will identify as feminists, because feminism is defined by the needs of white women- still up until today. Feminism is institutionally racist, so slut walk is, just like society.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Many interested in feminist ideas, not many interested in building a feminist movement right now. Slut as a word used within personal relationships, as much as on the street.” [/callout]

What do we feel about the strategy of slut walk, and for the movement generally?

[callout title=] “Is it the beginning of something?”[/callout]

[callout title=] “Can it build a consciousness beyond its original aims? How far is this movement from understanding that inviting the police to a public meeting is deeply problematic for many communities.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “The take off for the next wave of feminism has been slow. You can’t tell what the break through moment is going to be. The oversexualisation of younger women especially is very hard to contend with for feminists. Domestic violence figures for younger women have recently sky rocketed, its very sad. Let’s think of inventive slogans for placards and do consciousness raising for the day.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Younger sisters seem to love this event! Why is the expression of her sexuality so far out of her control in her opinion? Her female friends are trying to find ways to express themselves, and are being called out by male and female friends for being sluts. This mainstream view of sexual freedom doesn’t seem so different to the one that wasn’t so liberated.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Let’s do an action during the event. If we’re going to be at the action, what message do we want to give out? Feminist self defence classes etc.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Naked bike ride needs feminism, if people are interested. The usual shock of not usual womens bodies, body hair etc.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Is slut walk going to address the fact that it is only catering for middle class women? Essex girl is a slut, from a working class background etc, the term is raced and classed. Some women are not going to report rape to the police no matter what they wear etc- because it’s a privilege to feel like the police will take you seriously. These problems have been in feminism for a long time, see bell hooks, it needs to stop excusing itself as not catering for everyone and start to look at ways it can apply to others.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Reflections on words like power and control. The mass media is a form of control, similar to the word slut, it’s not worth reclaiming. It doesn’t matter whether the media show up or not, it will misrepresent.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Slutwalk is not a feminist group or movement. It can’t acknowledge what it’s doing as a feminist movement or to a feminist movement. It’s about stopping rape culture in its tracks. Stopping the word rape being a joke, stopping the idea that rape is womens fault. It’s not ok to rape, it’s not ok to victim blame. At its heart it only wants to stop those two things. The words are semantics. This is a grass roots movement, with its own momentum. When the daily mail says it’s not ok to blame a woman for being raped, then the world will be a different place, we need the mass movement. The movment tell people how to think and react. This is how people will start thinking differently, not by small rooms of people saying they have problems with wording.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Slut walk as an idea is too simple, it would be preferable to have a movement with nuances, but of course this movement has momentum, so it must be engaged with. How do we engage with it? Many of us feel uncomfortable with it, but we need to confront these debates head-on. The good thing is we are talking about things we as feminists haven’t talked about in a long time. Let’s go and highlight our critiques.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Slutwalk is organised by highschool students, first year university students etc. there is no central committee, if we are going to slut walk then we are slut walk.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “Rape does happen to some women more than other. Rape doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it is a feminist issue.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “A simple idea could be a really good idea. Some women are sexually invisible, and disabled women feel that- although they are also often abused.” [/callout]

[callout title=] “What practical points are there- what are we doing on the march?” [/callout]