Slutwalk Sydney 2011

I’m a little weary of all the (purposeful?) misunderstanding surrounding Slutwalk, so I won’t launch into a full explanation here. If you’d like a bit more background, you could start worse places than this article.

Instead of something comprehensive, I’ll just outline the story of why I attended.

It was late last summer and I was walking back to Town Hall Station on my own after a night out. It was only around 11:30pm. I was wearing a short summer dress and (what I will never again refer to as) ‘fuck-me boots’ – knee high black ones with a respectable heel. I’d just crossed at the lights on George Street.

A young man, obviously rather drunk, was sitting on the low stone wall outside the Town Hall, half-lying in the bushes behind him, with a couple of his buddies standing next to him. As I hurried past on my way to the station entrance, Drunk Guy slurred out to me:

“Hey sexy, want to suck on my dick?”

There are a number of things that are disturbing about this scenario. The easiest to spot is Drunk Guy’s erroneous assumption that anybody would find him in any way attractive in the state he was in.

Did he assume that I was a prostitute? Did he assume I’d be so flabbergasted by his Manly Manliness that I would swoon into the bushes with him screaming “take me, take me now”?

We can know that he assumed at least one thing – that it was okay, in his world, to speak to a person like that because of their gender.

Was it because of what I was wearing? Maybe. (Does that make it my problem? Um, no.)

But, thinking about it afterwards, his behaviour wasn’t the thing that disturbed me the most about this incident.

The most disturbing thing?

I kept walking.

I just put my head down and kept walking.

Because it’s not like it took me by surprise. Because that’s just The Way Things Are. Because those kind of comments are so normalised that we barely even bat an eyelid unless we stop, really stop and think about them and what they imply.

I realise that this one tiny incident doesn’t in any way compare to the horrific experiences of women who have actually been raped. But it’s part of the cultural atmosphere that allows it to happen, and allows people to get away with victim-blaming when it does.

And that, folks, is why I attended Slutwalk. It was a really good crowd, and it was great to see the number of men who participated in the march as well.

I went to the SMH website to see what their Slutwalk coverage was like, and look what’s in the headlines this evening:

City attack: Woman sexually assaulted in Sydney Street.

Feminism is not finished. A small part of me was deeply relieved that the article didn’t mention anything about what the woman was wearing.

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18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chris
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 00:35:05

    Guys like that give the good guys a bad name. I’m glad there was a healthy continent of male supporters for the walk, because I think it’s a very important cause. Wish I could have taken part.

    Reply

  2. G-O
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 18:39:18

    I’m sorry, but I just can not take you or the slut walks seriously, especially when you tell stories like that to justify it. You were out on the town in a black dress and “fuck-me boots” – I read this as you were dressed provocatively as is your right. You got exactly what you were seeking to get, the attention of men (why else would you call boots “fuck me boots” and why else would you ware them). It just so happened that in this case the man who’s attention you received was not the man you desired.

    Reply

  3. Jen
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 23:36:19

    *points to the above comment*

    Everybody learn from this. This is a perfect demonstration of the problem.

    I did not say I was dressed “provocatively”. I said I was wearing a short summer dress (not a black dress – please read more closely – although I’m not sure why ‘black dress’ would scream ‘sex’), and boots that are sometimes referred to as “fuck-me boots.” (You are aware that boots can’t actually talk or provoke, right? That ‘fuck-me boots’ is a nickname for an item of clothing, not a direct request to any random person with a penis who happens to be nearby?)

    Wearing a summer dress, in summer time, is not sexual provocation. It is not an excuse for men to treat women like objects. Wow, I can’t believe that this even requires an explanation.

    “You got exactly what you were seeking to get, the attention of men.”

    Don’t you dare pretend to tell me what I was seeking. Don’t put your assumptions (or anything else) into my mouth without my consent. Moral of the story, yo.

    Reply

  4. G-O
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 07:33:15

    Then you are ignorant that how you dress effects how people look at you. Yes, I am aware the boots can not talk, but boots and other items of apparel can provoke. The reason it is called dressing provocatively is because it provokes a response. No, of course dressing provocatively is not requesting passers by to fuck you, I never made this assertion, I only said that dressing provocatively is asking passers by to pay more attention towards you then they might if you were not dressed so, there is a huge difference.

    The point I am trying to make is this. You have boots that you yourself have labeled as “fuck me boots”. By giving them this label you consciously or unconsciously acknowledge that these boots will derive more attention then other footwear. If you choose to ware items of clothing that increase your attractiveness, it will increase the amount of attention you receive and some of that attention will be from people who’s attention you do not desire.

    Sorry about the “black dress”. Between reading your article and typing my comment, I must have remembered incorrectly.

    Oh, and thank you for insinuating that I am a rapist.

    Reply

  5. Daniel
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 09:49:47

    I’m with Jen on this one, even if you’re wearing something that you know will attract more attention, doesn’t mean you deserve *that* kind of attention. Personally I think that even if they’re wearing nothing but a necklace that saying in plain English “Fuck Me!”, at least have the courtesy to buy the lady a drink and make some small talk before propositioning her. As Chris said, these guys are making our whole gender look bad.
    (Guys, chivalry and feminism don’t have to be mutually exclusive, we can still be gentlemen!)

    Reply

  6. Jen
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 09:56:37

    “Then you are ignorant that how you dress effects how people look at you.”

    No, I’m not. This post wasn’t about how people ‘looked’ at me. It was about their actions. Other peoples’ actions are not my responsibility.

    “thank you for insinuating that I am a rapist.”

    No, I didn’t. Well, the pun about “putting [things] in my mouth without my consent” may have been a bit rude, and I apologise. But I was talking about words and ideas ;). You don’t have to keep trying to tell me what I think. I actually have my own brain that functions quite well, thanks all the same.

    Reply

  7. G-O
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 16:44:24

    Daniel: Your first statement is broken logic. Behavior that attracts attention will gain attention, Behavior that attracts attention can not control the type of attention it will attract.

    Chivalry and feminism are mutually exclusive. Chivalry pedestalizes women thus elevating their worth while at the same time removing their responsibility, agency and autonomy. One of the founding intents of feminism was to grant agency and autonomy and (desirable) responsibility to women. You can continue to champion yourself as a white knight and swoop in to defend this poor lass and her augments against this handsome scalawag or you can realize these 3 things. 1. If you haven’t been paying attention to the movies, the bad guy is the protagonist now. 2. Women like Jen are capable of stating their own position and defending them. 3. That the word knight comes from the old english word cniht meaning boy, manservant. A knight is a servant to the master he serves and in romantic chivalry the master is the woman and it is hard for her to develop mutual love and respect with the servant.

    Jen: While I would never hold anyone culpable for the actions of another, responsibility in human interactions can not be so simplified to fully acquit yourself from this, to do so would be to commit a fallacy of the single cause. If intentionally or unintentionally you entice a reaction, you bare some portion of responsibility for said action, though no responsibility for the form of the action.

    Applying this to your story: By choosing to ware clothing that attracts extra attention you elevate the probability that someone will react to you. Therefore, you are in some measure responsible that any reaction took place. However, for choosing to respond in the form of rudely propositioning you is entirely the responsibility of the drunk guy.

    Reply

  8. Jen
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 17:57:37

    I’ll leave the comments on chivalry for Dan to handle. 😉

    G-O, I do understand what you’re saying, but I don’t like the use of the word responsibility. I understand how no choice is made in a vacuum, and wearing revealing clothing makes it more likely for straight men’s (and gay women’s, let’s not forgot) eyes to be drawn to me. However, in this context ‘responsibility’ starts to sound disturbingly like ‘moral compulsion’. I can -influence- the extent to which men look at me (but not their actions), yes: that doesn’t mean that I have a -responsibility- to do so.

    That was kind of a major point of Slutwalk, actually.

    Your use of the word “aquit” is particularly off-putting in this instance, since it’s such a legal-sounding term. (If you don’t “hold anyone culpable for the actions of another”, I clearly have nothing to ‘aquit’ myself from in the first place. I’m not guilty of anything). And it’s obviously ridiculous that women in rape cases get asked what they were wearing when the rape occurred. I don’t believe that women have any responsibility in rape situations. No one should believe that, and I hope that you don’t either.

    “If intentionally or unintentionally you entice a reaction, you bare some portion of responsibility for said action, though no responsibility for the form of the action.” – So when peoples’ houses are robbed, it’s partly their fault for owning a house? I’m sure that would make a convincing legal defence. 😉

    Reply

  9. theoreticalideology
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 23:33:25

    Ok … My two cents here. I think that the main purpose of Slut Walk and blogs like this were to address the common myth that a what a woman wears induces or provokes a man to want to rape her. This is false. According to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre “In 70% of sexual assaults the offender is a family member, friend or someone the victim goes to work or school with. Of the remaining 30% of assaults the offender is usually someone the victim meets in a social situation or goes out on a date with. Most sexual assaults occur in the victim or perpetrators home, car or workplace. Sexual assault by a stranger accounts for less than 1% of sexual violence and the incidence of stranger attack in a dark place is even lower.” (From the Myths and Facts sheet here: http://www.nswrapecrisis.com.au/Factsheets/Myths_and_Facts.pdf). What underlies this myth is the belief that it is acceptable to view a woman as less than human based on her choice of clothing and that a woman invites this view. I’ve seen (and recieved) and heard stories from friends of catcalls and inappropriate remarks and suggestions when wearing clothing that is not ‘provakative’ such behavior is not acceptable then nor is it at any other time.

    Speaking of the law (as Jen was), the only defence to rape is that consent to sex was given freely and volunteraly by someone who had the CAPACITY to give that consent. A person does not have the capacity to consent if they are unconcious, asleep, under 16 or otherwise mentally unable to understand what is involved, or fearful of what will happen if they don’t consent. (Crimes Act 1900 NSW s61HA) Now I know that seems to be pretty obvious but sadly there seems to be some confusion about this.

    Reply

  10. moonmanmad
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 03:15:27

    I’m not going to address the appropriateness of the Slut Walk, since that doesn’t appear to be the main issue here—though I will say that I’m one of those unpopular people who thinks that the word “slut” is and will always be an insult, even if you use it to describe yourself. I honestly can’t see how describing yourself as a slut—even in a playful way—can further your cause.

    I think the issue here is the wearing of “provocative” clothing and the consequences of same. It’s already been established, and I think we can all agree, that the penchant for some men to respond to “provocative” clothing with actions running the gamut from rude comments to forcible rape is not acceptable. So, what, then, is the issue? It’s the question implied but not yet expressed by G-O (who is clearly an intelligent man, so I wonder why he keeps spelling the word “wear” wrong?), which is, “What else did you expect?” Granted, you have the right to expect to not be accosted in any way because of how you were dressed, but that’s a precept set down by law and social custom; it’s not the reality of the world we live in. It should be, but it’s not. If you dress like a slut and/or attend a public event in which you label yourself one, then some men will treat you like one. As you said yourself: “Because it’s not like it took me by surprise. Because that’s just The Way Things Are.” In a better world this wouldn’t be true, but we don’t live in a better world. And I doubt that we ever will.

    Reply

  11. Daniel
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 14:27:53

    @G-O: Chivalry goes beyond just the treatment of women, it describes the behaviour of someone when dealing with all people. While it is commonly used in the context of defending women, it is much broader than that; a chivalrous person will defend anyone they believe needs it, regardless of gender. However, I’m not so much defending Jen (who is perfectly capable of doing this herself), but the ideas she is presenting.

    I can certainly see that there are areas of chivalry and feminism that clash, but neither is black and white, and the two concepts can certainly coexist. Jeanne d’Arc was for all intents and purposes a knight (even if she was never formally knighted), which with chivalry essentially being the behaviour of a knight, makes her a famous chivalrous woman. If a woman can be famous for such chivalry in a time when sexism was so strong, I fail to see equality killing chivalry.

    Reply

  12. G-O
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 15:49:22

    Jen: Your house metaphor is perfect. The home owners are not legally responsible if their home is robbed, but they do have the personal responsibility to keep it locked. What’s wrong with a police officer to tell home owners to keep their doors locked? Because essentially that is the statement that was made the the officer in Toronto that started this whole slutwalk thing.

    And that is what these slutwalks are about, a world wide protest over a statement of advice (worded poorly grated) that college women should be responsible to themselves in what they choose to wear to lower their risk of being a target of sexual assault. Is there no better cause to protest?

    Theo: The data sheet you linked to references another data sheet that lists only sexual assault against children and I don’t see how that relates to what the slutwalks are about.

    Moon: I’ve always been horrid at spelling, if it weren’t for spell check….thank God for spell check.

    Dan: You can have mutual respect and show courtesy for the people you meet w/o having to put them on a pedestal. Also, Jeanne D’Arc was burned at the stake for, amongst other reason, dressing and acting like a man.

    Reply

  13. Jen
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 18:05:59

    House metaphor: Lol. Do you know anything about rape culture? Women are not houses. Women are not objects. I raised the ‘house’ metaphor just to see if you’d fall into that trap (I’m sneaky and manipulative like that… sorry.)

    You can’t ‘lock’ a body like you do a house, unless you’re suggesting chastity belts. (And even they can be broken. Really, the only way women could truly “protect” themselves would be to erase themselves from physical existence. Or get a sex change so that they were no longer women.)

    Women don’t get raped because of what clothing they wear. Women wearing burqas in third world countries still get raped. Nuns get raped. Old grandmas and pre-pubescent children get raped. (Men get raped.) The idea that ‘covering up’ can prevent rape is dangerous misinformation. As theo stated, rape is hardly EVER a case of a random stranger down a dark alleyway being overcome with sudden lust at the tiniest hint of cleavage. Rape is about power, not sex.

    Also, Slutwalk was sparked by the policeman’s comment – that doesn’t mean that the protest was “about” that one comment. Slutwalk was about rape culture and victim-blaming.

    TL;DR: I do not have a “personal responsibility” to prevent myself from being raped. Men have a personal responsibility not to rape women. I will repeat that as often as I have to.

    Reply

  14. G-O
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 10:33:23

    She’s a brink, da da da daaa daaa daa, House
    she’s mighty mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out.

    I’m going to ignore you reducing my argument to chastity belts and sex changes in order to set yourself up a strawman.

    “Women don’t get raped because of what clothing they wear.” Unsubstantiated.
    I think I have made my argument clear that what a women wears increases her risk of being a target of rape.

    What groups get’s raped doesn’t matter in the context of the augment unless it can be proven that how they dress can be linked to their risk of being raped.

    “The idea that ‘covering up’ can prevent rape is dangerous misinformation.”
    1st. This is an argument from adverse consequences (fear tactic).
    2nd, How is this dangerous? Even if my standpoint is wrong but women are still advices to “cover up”, it will not lead to more rapes and therefore will not put anyone in any increased risk of being raped.

    “Rape is about power, not sex.” Another simplified statement and one I don’t agree with. Just because rape is about power doesn’t mean it can’t also be about sex.

    Arguing against personal responsibility ad nauseam will not make it valid.

    Reply

  15. Jen
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 11:21:10

    You know, you could have just answered “No, I know absolutely nothing about rape culture” rather than publicly embarrassing yourself. Ouch.

    Reply

  16. G-O
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 17:36:25

    Rape culture, the feminist delusion that the western world not only condones but supports rape to the point where rape is an epidemic, even though evidence points to the contrary.

    Reply

  17. Jen
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 18:39:51

    Lol. You’re a troll. Bored now.

    Reply

  18. Trackback: Slutwalks are Dumb « Facets of Reality

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