In reading the reaction to the Slutwalk blog posts and news coverage, I feel like there might be a little bit of a message gap in the Slutwalk movement. I'm going to try to bridge that here by addressing some of the most common objections and misunderstandings that seemed to come up.
What is the message of Slutwalk?
The message of Slutwalk is that SOMEONE BEING A SLUT DOES NOT EXCUSE SHAMING, HARASSMENT, OR SEXUAL ASSAULT.
In other words, if you see someone looking or acting like oh my god such a slut, you let her go on her merry way. You have no more right to abuse, mock, harass, or assault her than you do any other person. And if a slut is abused or assaulted, she did not want it and did not deserve it, and the people victimizing her are every bit as guilty as if they did it to a non-slut.
Isn't being a slut a bad thing?
Nope! If we understand "slut" to mean "someone (usually a woman) who dresses sexy, acts sexual, and/or has a lot of sex," there's absolutely no harm done. "Slut" only became an insult because our culture is completely screwed up about sex, so instead of dealing with it head-on, we assigned it such a tremendous emotional load that instead of saying "Slut is bad because X," we could just say "SLUT!" and have people feel bad from that alone, no logical rationale required.
Having sex without freely given consent, sex that involves dishonesty or manipulation, sex that spreads diseases or causes unwanted pregnancies--these are bad things. But none of them is inherent to being a "slut." A slut who does their slutting safely, honestly, and consensually is enjoying and sharing pleasure and joy.
Are you encouraging women to act like sluts?
Nope! We're just saying it's an acceptable option.
Lots of people at the Slutwalk were dressed very modestly, and I personally know that some of them were monogamous or celibate. Absolutely nobody was telling these people that they needed to be sluttier to fit in. Slutwalk is not an event to recruit sluts, but to defend sluts.
But isn't it safer for women to dress modestly?
Yeah. That's the problem.
Actually, there aren't any statistics on clothing and sexual assault, but there doesn't seem to be much connection. Sexual assault isn't a matter of "she aroused me so much I just couldn't stand it;" it's an act of deliberate violence. The majority of assaults are committed by people who already know the victims. Often the assaults take place at home. Speaking anecdotally from three years of experience as an EMT and an ER worker, most of the sexual assault victims I've seen were wearing jeans, sweatpants, pajamas, even hijab. (Or little footie pajamas with Elmo on them.)
However, women who are perceived as sluts are more subject to catcalling, harassment, and social shunning as they go about their lives. They're also more likely to be blamed and less likely to be protected or get justice if they're assaulted. These are real risks, but they're risks that suck and we want to get rid of them, because there's nothing wrong with being a slut.
So if you don't want to be harassed for sluttiness, why not just put on some pants already?
1. The problem is on the harassers' end, not ours. Our sluttiness harms no one and ought to be our right.
2. What if we did? It would go one of two ways. Either some women would still be in short skirts and they'd have even bigger targets painted on their backs, or all women would start wearing pants... and then the harassment would focus on women whose pants were deemed too tight, or too colorful, or too low-cut, or whatever. In a crowd of prudes, people would still go after whoever seemed "sluttiest" relatively--you can see this happening in schools with uniform codes, where the slightest variation in girls' shoes or the way they wear their uniform sweater can make the difference between "cool" and "nerd"... and "slut."
Without attacking the root cause--people thinking that sluttiness is bad and that it's okay to harass sluts and ignore violence against them--no change that the "sluts" themselves make can ever be enough.
Aren't you just putting on skimpy clothes for attention?
What, you want protestors not to try and get attention? "Oh, don't mind us, we're just having an eensy little protest over here, we'll be very quiet."
We're drawing attention to our cause, not just to our bodies, and if you're capable of listening to the words a skimpily-dressed woman says (you can do it, little buddy!), this will rapidly become clear.
A lot of the Slutwalk women are fat and ugly, haw haw!
Obviously this isn't a "question," and anyone saying this has a few years to go before they're worthy of any response beyond "ssshhh, grownups are talking."
The frustrating thing about this response is that it's not a response; it's just a random, lazy attempt to make people feel bad. The only reasons to do this are:
1. You're such an emotional child that you think making someone feel bad means you "beat" them at some sort of "game," and you just want to be the biggest winner possible!
2. You think that it is okay to harass sluts or that people who assault sluts should go free, but you can't support this logically and/or you don't have the courage to spell it out, so you just lash out with a generic insult.
If you have any other questions/objections (either that you have or that you've heard), post them in the comments; I'll add interesting ones to the post.