So, the SlutWalk is coming to the UK – on the 4th of June. This is a cause with which I could not agree more – women marching to draw attention to the disgustingly wrong culture of blame that surrounds the issue of rape. The original ‘SlutWalk’ was sparked off by a Canadian police officer who suggested that women avoid ‘dressing like sluts’ if they did not want to be victimised. This is only the tiny tip of the iceberg when it comes to the horrific truth – the shockingly low conviction rate when it comes to rape, the huge percentage of victims who do not report attacks due to fear and shame; the fact that, as a culture, I believe we seem to be taking retrograde steps rather than rectifying these wrongs (e.g., porn becoming more rather than less acceptable, the lads’ mag culture that just won’t go away, the fact that it suddenly seems to be OK to use the word ‘rape’ as a casual joke).
The facts are as basic as this. Rapists cause rape. Women’s style of dress or behaviour – do not. Rape happened way before the miniskirt was invented.
For these reasons, the SlutWalk is a brilliant thing.
However – and I hate for such an important issue to be internally divisive – I do have a problem with the name. I see the relevance, and that the shock factor gives it that bit of extra punch that’s sometimes necessary. But it makes me uncomfortable.
There is also talk that the purpose of this is to ‘reclaim’ the word – to give it positive attributes, to make it mean a confident and sexually liberated person. I’m not even sure that I like the idea of this, either. ‘Claiming it back’ is a dubious rationale – need I say, see the genius ‘Clerks 2’ for evidence of this (I’m not kidding!)? Kathleen Hanna tried it back in the early 90s – provoking rather than titillating by daubing ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ in red lipstick on her naked stomach. The intention was good, but it became yet another weapon to chuck at the riot grrl backlash.
I do not want to be called a slut, much less put the label on myself. I do not want the word or the concept to exist. I do not want it to become another word that it’s acceptable to chuck around because the meaning has become blurred. It’s like that great film says (OK, Tina Fey in ‘Mean Girls’) – ‘if you call each other sluts and whores, it just makes it OK for guys to call you sluts and whores’.
Mostly, I’m just happy that a march for an important cause is happening. I won’t be joining in, but if you want to I will applaud you.