Monday, July 25, 2011

She of Delicate Nature and Fierce Feminism

Now, it appears that SlutWalks are all the rage.

The Matron knows that some of her readers may not be up to speed with this latest feminist trend (mass demonstrations involving scanty dress). Go ahead and google "SlutWalk." She knows that there are dishes waiting, a work memo to write, and children who need baths or sedatives. Set your troubles aside, friends, and familiarize yourselves with the SlutWalk.

Now, these demonstrations are a reclamation of sorts. Women are attempting to 'take back' or 'reclaim' the word 'slut,' just as some feminists have done for the 'c' word and African Americans for the N-word. There is no end to debate about people without a history of traditional power reclaiming language once used to oppress and demean them.

The Matron cannot address the use of the 'n' word. She is of the school that, as a white person, this is a word she will never utter. As for the 'c' word, yours truly was raised in a household where the body was to be hidden as much as possible and any bodily functions? Denied. If there was a part that couldn't been seen through a Communion Viel, well, God didn't make that body part. Satan did. So there goes her ability to reclaim the 'c' word. Thanks, Mom.

But this new venture -- not only reclaiming language -- but embodying language and acting it out, holds new philosophical questions that the 'n' and 'c' words don't. You can't change the color of your skin or your female anatomy, but you can change your clothing. But that's precisely the point for the feminists involved in the SlutWalks. This is a choice. As one protester put it, she should be able to skip the underwear while wearing a skirt or sport a thong in public and not get raped.

Naturally, the Matron would agree with her on all points, wishing she herself were young and svelte enough to pull off a public thong, even.

Now, the Matron has enough semiotics bubbling about in her to understand that a word (any word, but let's say the 'n' word or the 'c' word or the other word in question) signifies a meaning. The precise meaning is in the hands of the person receiving the word. A feminist hears 'slut' and she emancipation rings through her ears; a sexist hears the word and a vision of moral collapse comes to mind.

Keeping the comparison going (makes you want to take that sedative yourself instead of giving it to the five year old, hmmm?), she wonders what would happen if thousands of people turned out to embody -- to create street theater about -- the 'n' and 'c' words. Just how would that scene play out? What would dressing, acting and parading about as embodying those words mean? Is it possible?

It's one thing to reclaim language but quite another to purposefully create one's self in an image that already exists in our culture -- a negative, even dangerous image. Yes, the negativity and danger are the very things that our feminists sisters are challenging -- laughing at, even.

"You can't get me!"

Ah, but they can.

Rape, isn't about clothing. Rape is about power, humiliation, violence and control. Male, female, straight or gay, we are each potential victims of sexual abuse. Nuns get raped. So do small boys.

So . . . perhaps she's still swamped in her preadolescent psyche where the body wasn't to be stripped and teased and presented. But, still. Embodying the very stereotype where the culture historically places its eyes on rape only keeps those eyes directed on the slut, the whore, the vamp. The Matron thinks that feminism shouldn't hone in with laser sharp focus precisely where our eyes have gone before, but in the dark areas of our psyches, homes and streets where the real problem -- and victims -- live.

Written in a record 15 minutes but she thinks the reasoning reflects years of wisdom. Maybe.


Anonymous said...

I heard of this about a month ago and I'm pretty uncomfortable with it. What was wrong with "Take Back the Night?" And I'd like to add, as a mom of 3 sons, encouraging women to dress even trampier really doesn't do much to advance the cause of gender equality OR address the issues of the objectification of women.

My feminist instincts are rather rankled by the entire business.

thefirecat said...

Yeah, I've never known what to do about a slut walk. Because that's only such a small, small part of the point. In point of fact, one of the most likely outfits for a rape victim to wear was OVERALLS. Apparently, they make a good handle. And it isn't just sluts who get raped. So what the hell?

Which is beside the point. I see what they're attempting, but I'm never sure if I agree with it. Not to align myself too overmuch with Camille Paglia, either, but....

Le sigh.

LIndaSueA said...

I too am troubled by this phenomenon - the NY Times Magazine has a very interesting essay on this topic in the latest issue. The problem is translation - I doubt very much people who see the walk are going to get the irony of the apparel or the "reclaiming" aspect - I think they will see women dressing like sluts plain & simple. My old 1970's feminism is also ruffled by this choice.

Laura said...

The mere IDEA of a "slut walk" annoys me...mostly because dressing however one wishes will neither guarantee assault nor will it protect and individual from assault. Claiming "you can't get me" is childish and ridiculous, and I've found that only those who honestly believe the police will protect them no matter what will use that sort of line. Yes, honey, they can and will get you if they want.

Situational awareness and the willingness to protect oneself at all times, however? THAT is the armor more women need to embrace. Instead of saying "you can't get me," I wish more women would say "I won't LET you get me" (and follow that up with training in self defense).

MJ said...

Slutwalk organizers should learn from at least a century of experience learned in the arts: when we attend a symphony concert, we usually see the orchestra's musicians wearing all black or black pants with white shirts so that the audience focuses on the music being played.

When we protest, we should act similarly. Hear our voices, don't focus on what we are wearing.