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An issue that deserved some solid feminism

Here's what I think about SlutWalk:

A police officer in Toronto spoke to a group of university students and in the course of his talk, he told them that if they don't want to be raped, they shouldn't dress like sluts.

This outraged the students who know that rape is a crime of violence and power and it has nothing to do with how anyone dresses. Women of all ages, of all shapes, sizes and colours, blondes, redheads, women with grey hair, women tall and short, women with physical or mental disabilities -- all can be targeted for rape.

Women who work as teachers, lawyers, dancers, mothers, doctors, sex workers, architects, waitresses, nurses, secretaries, chambermaids -- all can be targeted for rape.

So the original idea for the SlutWalk was that a whole bunch of women, dressed as they would be in their varied daily lives, should get together and make a public display of women in the world who are at risk of being raped: that is, all women, no matter what they're wearing.

It was a good idea and a clever idea and -- whether it was intended to be or not -- it was a feminist action.

As time went on, I began to see other random news about the SlutWalks. I read one person who said she supported the walk because she believes in consensual sex -- and lots of it.  The mainstream media -- surprise surprise -- focused on those who seemed to take the SlutWalk as a dare or at least an invitation to dress the way that police officer might have been picturing when he made his ill-advised comment. Which kind of misses the point, doesn't it?

I saw that there were people who would rather be called a slut than a feminist and who thought it would be good to "reclaim" the word slut. Pardon? Reclaim it from where? We have reclaimed such words as spinster and hag and crone. These are treasured words of feminist strength and nobility that were lost during centuries of women's oppression.

And slut? It's always been a word that demeans and diminishes and punishes women who step outside the patriarchal boundary of acceptable sexual behaviour. It doesn't really belong in the pantheon of reclaimed feminist words.

What's happened here, in short, is that this issue has lost its focus and it has now flung itself upon its horse and is riding madly off in all directions.*

I try not to be doctrinaire but I think this whole action would have been much more effective if it had been based on a solid feminist foundation. And it's an issue that deserved it too.


*As Stephen Leacock might put it.

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