So I read this article about the “SlutWalk” phenomenon today in the Sydney Morning Herald. I wasn’t going to blog about the whole SlutWalk thing, because my thoughts are complicated and the issue deserves some fairly nuanced treatment and I really don’t have a day to spare writing a complicated, nuanced blog post right now. Besides, there are other people already doing a good job of it and I’m sure you all know how to google.
But I read the article because someone tweeted it and then — stupidly — I started to read the comments. Here’s a selection of some the more offensive examples of what is clearly a major theme among the commenters:
“My dear old mother used to say: “They that lack respect for themselves and throw themsleves away, get treaded upon”. Smart lady my old mother.” (posted by: The Beak)
“But it is funny, isn’t it, how for the most part men don’t feel the irresistible urge to frolic around in public in skimpy clothing.” (posted by: Lee McSwain)
“Fine, dress like a slut. It’s a liberal democracy. But don’t expect to be taken seriously like women who don’t dress like sluts.” (posted by: Jason Decliner)
“Sure express yourself, but take care for how some men are wired, and may express themselves, if provoked. Give their nature as much respect as you give your own.” (posted by: AuDasign1)
“What is also ironically not acknowledged is that those who do dress provocatively are also often into power, the projection of sexual power. Unfortunately those who live by the sword sometimes die by the sword. So many of these comments take me back to Wimminism 101. What a nostalgia trip!” (posted by: adamjc)
I’m still not intending to write a lengthy post about the whole SlutWalk thing. (Seriously, I do not have the time.) But here’s the thought that always pops in my brain whenever I read tired old comments like those above: surely men should feel insulted almost as much as women.
I mean, seriously, guys. I don’t have a penis, I’ve never had a penis, and I don’t expect to acquire a penis anytime soon. But if I did have a penis and was essentially being told that — because of said penis — all it took to provoke me into committing a sexual assault against another person was a pair of tight pants or a short skirt or six inch heels or — gasp! — a flash of cleavage, that in fact I wouldn’t be able to control myself in the face of such titillation, I’d be feeling pretty fucking pissed off right now.
And what I really can’t understand is why it is so often men who make such comments. Not exclusively, sure, there are always women eager to tout the “just can’t help themselves” line as well, but it comes with such casual regularity from men as to baffle the mind. Or, at least, my mind. When I come across a derogatory generalisation regarding my gender, it makes me furious. (You might have noticed.) And this generalisation is surely one of the vilest.
You are a man. You cannot control yourself. You are a slave to your base desires. You are not to be trusted. You are not safe. That thing in your pants? It’s a loaded weapon utterly beyond your ability to command. You are not a man — you are a threat to be avoided, appeased and guarded against.
It’s just awful. And it certainly doesn’t describe any of the men I’ve known and loved in my life. (It doesn’t even describe any of the men I’ve known and loathed.) Yet I’ve heard some of the men I’ve loved spout similar, if sometimes diluted, sentiments to those found in the comments section of the SMH article and this I do not understand. You are tarring your own gender. You do not get a Get Out of Jail Free card. You do not get to be the self-proclaimed golden exception to the vile rule. Think better. Expect better. Demand better.
Yes, this a feminist issue. But, like so many other feminist issues, it’s not just about women.
And that’s my vague non-post about whole SlutWalk thing.