Slut Walk: The Neo-Feminist’s Dilemma

Germaine Greer wrote the Walk manifesto, so lector caveo. (I have a feeling that’s not the right formulation, but I’ll deal with that another day.)

The Slut Walks began some weeks ago in Toronto after a police officer who was teaching a self-defense class said, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.” That line has been used by men and women (likely more women than men) probably since the first rape – “Her bear skin revealed too much bare skin.” “That toga was just too tight,” etc. etc. A related article at the bottom of the page has the headline “Half of women blame the victims of assault.”

Even more fascinating were the teasers to the right of Greer’s article. “Liz Hurley’s tips for looking good.” And the ad to the right of that was some Manolos that looked like what Carrie would wear on a date with Mr. Big – at least for the first three or four minutes.

Of course a woman’s clothing should not determine whether she is assaulted. Anyone who has spent any time in any part of the criminal justice system knows that rape is not about sex, it’s about power. I  truly don’t believe that most rapists pick their targets on the basis of clothing, but the cop was right. Why offer temptation?

I totally get the outrage of women who say – I’ll dress however I want. Hell, in the past few days which have felt like the inner circles of Hell, I’ve wished that it was acceptable to appear in public sans clothes. But then I’d burn my thighs on the leather car seats. Never mind. And there are ways to dress “cool” without exposing a whole lot o’ skin. As my cousin Anna observed, a breezy dress – just above knee length — is far cooler than a pair of tight shorts and a halter top.

The Greybeards, as they would be called in Toronto and the UK, say that women should not waste their time with sluttiness but should condemn violence. Ms. Greer opines that liberation begins as people are “set to prance the streets of dozens of cities in underwear and fetish gear for weeks to come.” Don’t we normally call that Halloween?

She also dismisses the idea that “slut” is to feminism what the N word is to AA liberation. I must say I agree with her on that score. Calling someone the N word depends entirely on context – sort of like that line from The Virginian which was published back when no one could print “son of bitch.” But the response was totally appropriate: “When you call me that, smile.” That works for s.o.b., and the N word (in whatever language, one uses – I’m talkin’ to you, Larry and Sal!) Conversely, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Hey, slut!” and mean it as a term of affection.

Greer traces the history of the word, which implies dirt, not promiscuity. Interestingly an obscure definition of the word was female dog. I still dive under the bed to pick up the mounds of dust, cat fur, and Liz hair that gather there because my mother said that my great-aunt called the stuff that accumulated there “slut’s wool.” I prefer to think of it as killer dust bunnies. As for the rest of the cleaning, I keep the bathrooms and the kitchens as germ-free as humanly possible, but live with the advice, “You don’t have to eat off  the kitchen floor.” Nor should you want to.

As for the slut walks, many of the folks who are showing off their bodies probably shouldn’t but I’m not going to stop them.

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2 Responses to “Slut Walk: The Neo-Feminist’s Dilemma”

  1. laura krueger Says:

    “TAKING SLUT BACK”:the meaning of the word IS changing. young girls prefer to be called a slut rather than a bitch. is this better? I don’t know. when I was at highschool, if they started calling you a slut, you could forget it. not one guy would ask you to go out. this has changed, I think. I even found a brand of t-shirts using the word slut, and not in the negative way: http://slutshirt.spreadshirt.com/ is it better? I don’t know. but it IS changing.

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