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Friday, May 06, 2011

Slut Walk

Apparently, the movement started in Toronto late last month.

A young student at York University was sexually assaulted. A police officer told the female university students there to "avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized".

A "Slut Walk" was organized at the university campus in Toronto in April to protest and fight 'slut shaming' - a common response to sexual assault and rape.

It is based on the false conception that if a girl or young woman is considered 'slutty' then sexual violence against her is not taken seriously.

Jaclyn Friedman, feminist co-editor of "Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape," reports that, after a woman is raped, "What gets said is 'Oh, she wanted it, and then she regretted it after' or 'Well, what'd she expected to happen if she went back to his room?'. Removing that shame is a huge part of combating sexual violence."

There will be a 'Slut Walk' in Boston tomorrow, May 7th starting at noon at Government Center and ending at Boston Commons.

It's all the buzz here in the metro-Boston area.

According to Friedman, "It's not about saying we should all identify as sluts all the time. It's a political act of solidarity. We are standing with women who have been accused of sluthood and told that it makes the violence to them not matter."

I don't know.

I mean, I understand.

I'll say this much: It's one sure-fire way in this still very Roman Catholic town to get media attention.

I have written several blogs about my alarm concerning the growing culture of rape in this country and the world - from the sexual assault of Lara Logan to the increase of the harassment, sexual assault and rape of U.S. military women serving in combat areas around the world.

The Episcopal Women's Caucus, which I am privileged to serve as Convener, wrote an open letter to The Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church about our concern. 

You can find their responses to our letter on the Episcopal Women's Caucus web page.

On one level, I'm really glad that someone is calling attention to this violent backlash of sexism and misogyny in our current cultural climate.

I also understand the thinking and the logic of 'taking slut back' as a way to blunt the power of the word.

I'm just not convinced that re-appropriating pejoratives like 'slut' or 'bitch' works in the same way it has for some people of color, or the way LGBT people are moving away from the 'Alphabet Soup' of descriptors - which seems to add another letter every time I turn around - to just plain 'Queer'.

Or, maybe it's too soon to tell.

I think it's much more effective to say, "Stop using that word." Or, "Do not use that word around me," directly to the offender.

Then again, perhaps this is a short term solution to a problem of long-standing which really doesn't address the power some people get from calling a woman a 'slut' or a 'bitch' - or, the shame a woman feels when she's judged to be a 'slut' because of the way she dresses or 'bitch' because of the assertive way she behaves.

It's springtime in Boston. Young men are walking around Harvard Square or Boston Common in thin T-shirts or no shirts and low-cut jeans. They are considered 'sexy' or 'hunks'.

Young women are walking around in short-shorts and halter-tops or tank-top shirts - with or without bras - and they are considered 'sluts'.

Frankly, I don't much care for either 'fashion statement'.

I'm especially disconcerted when I walk around the close at EDS or find myself in the library or refectory and bump into a young, female Lesley University student who doesn't look like she could be a day over 15 years old, whose hair is purple or striped with neon green streaks, looking completely disheveled, and is attired in what can only be described as a state of half-undress.

I remind myself that she's doing what kids at that age are supposed to be doing. She's rebelling against her 'family values' in a place where Mom and Dad can't see.

She's 'finding herself'.

I just wish she didn't feel the need to walk around half naked in order to make that discovery.

I don't find it 'sexy' at all. I don't think I ever did. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, I think it's just rude. And, disrespectful of herself - and others.

There was a hearing late last month at Boston City Hall which addressed the problem of sexual assaults taking place on the multitude of college campuses here in the Greater Metropolitan Boston Area.

Fewer than five percent of rapes and attempted rapes on campus are reported, according to a study released in February 2010 by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit journalism organization. One in five college women are victims of rape or attempted rape by graduation, according to the same study, but school-provided data rarely reflect this.
The probe reveals that students found “responsible” for alleged sexual assaults on campuses often face little or no punishment, while their victims’ lives are frequently turned upside down. Many times, victims drop out of school, while students found culpable go on to graduate. Administrators believe the sanctions administered by the college judicial system are a thoughtful and effective way to hold abusive students accountable, but the Center’s investigation has discovered that “responsible” findings rarely lead to tough punishment like expulsion — even in cases involving alleged repeat offenders.
At the Boston City Hall hearing, Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley disclosed that she was sexually assaulted as a BU undergrad, while recently elected Councilor Tito Jackson said his biological mother was a victim of sexual assault by two strangers.

These are the kinds of stories that will, ultimately I believe, call attention to the problem and begin to bring about changes to the law and law enforcement that will  not only keep young women safe, but begin to send out the message that 'No' means 'no'.

And, 'Yes' means 'yes'.

And, 'Stop' means 'stop'.

And, 'I changed my mind because I got scared' means 'I changed my mind because I got scared'.

A woman is not responsible for the reaction she evokes in men.

Men are responsible for how they handle their 'natural inclinations and impulses'.

Well, real men take responsibility for themselves.

And, real women take responsibility for their sexuality, as well.

Either way, the Boston Slut Walk will take place tomorrow at noon.

I'm trying to convince myself not to go.

There will be speeches and workshops after the March. Authors Friedman and Valenti will be there along with other professionals who work in the arena of sexual assault, violence and rape.

According to the Boston Slutwalk 2011 Web Page:
Workshops will take place at Encuentro 5, 33 Harrison Ave, 5th floor, Chinatown. The building has a small step in the entry way and an elevator. All workshops are free.

The Power of Language by Kali at 3PM to 3:30PM
Partner Violence by Network La Red at 4PM to 4:30PM
Men’s Role in Preventing Rape & Sexual Assault by Northeastern Sport in Society at 4:30PM to 5PM
SlutStyles (on polyamory and non-monogamy) by Honey from Poly Boston at 5PM to 5:30PM
It looks interesting, doesn't it?

However, I'm expecting our youngest daughter and her husband to visit this weekend. They're arriving sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday is Mother's Day.

Hmmm . . . I remember when 'mother' wasn't half a word.

Language has power - enormous power - to shape attitudes and inform behavior.

I hope you will do whatever you can, wherever you are, to bring attention to this aspect of sexual assault and rape in particular and sexual assault and rape in general.

We need to stop all forms of violence - including verbal violence -  against women.

Now.

13 comments:

LELANDA LEE said...

Elizabeth,

Your thoughtful comments in your blog and on the HoBD list always give me pause for reflection. This post inspired me to blog about clothing choices, sluts, respect and offense on my own blog at http://bit.ly/mGP5FE. Thank you for always being out in front with your wise thoughts and inspiring others to share their thoughts, too.

Lelanda

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I loved your blog, Lelanda and what you had to say about respectful vs. disrespectful. I'm happier, still, that this conversation is being taken as serious as it is.

it's margaret said...

If your family were not arriving tomorrow, I'd say --go, go and be the priest among them. They need someone who Knows.

Have a blessed Mother's Day dear sister

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

She's not arriving until late afternoon. I'm going. For a little while, anyway.

JCF said...

"Slut Walk" sounds like this century's permutation on "Take Back the Night". You GO Grrls!

Garp said...

This might interest you.

http://garplives.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-slutwalk-is-exercise-in-stupidity.html

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Garp - Thank you for the link. I've read the piece and have come to this conclusion: The author's arrogance is breathtaking.

chesha said...

You said:

We need to stop all forms of violence - including verbal violence - against women.

Now.

Amen. It saddens me to see that young people feel the need to claim a term that is steeped in violence, rather than exercising creativity to replace the term with more humanizing phrases. However, I admire the zeal in this movement. I found your site doing research for my own, and linked this page in my post. http://cheshainmotion.blogspot.com/2011/05/case-of-emphasis-on-wrong-syllable.html

I look forward to reading more, now that I found your blog!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey there Chesha. Glad we found each other. You obviously have great taste in blog templates ;~). I'll be interested to follow future posts on your blog.

Garp said...

Elizabeth,

Your comment is disappointing; it strikes me as an ad hominem remark rather than a civil engagement with the ideas expressed.

Best.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Not ad hominum. Just honest. I will not engage with this author's arrogance.

themethatisme said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/07/marching-with-the-slutwalkers

Guardian newspaper article today I though you may be interested to read...

Sucheta said...

It's not about violence... it's about the injustice of it. I agree abt removing the shame part coming from one of the 'honour killing' cultures where even today victims commit suicide to avoid societal ostracisation. i myself lost my job bcos my attention was so occupied writing a piece on this issue (it came out to be 9,000 words) and have lost out on 'friendships' because i walk at night, so to speak, whenever i ought to. anyways, my respects.