Thursday, October 6, 2011

SlutWalk NYC

This weekend I participated in SlutWalk NYC, my hometown's version of the feminist protest that has been sweeping North America and the world. It began, as I understand, in Toronto earlier this year when an ignorant cop made the latest in a long line of comments about a rape victim's provocative clothing. Feminists marched in Toronto in their slinkiest garments to drive home the very obvious fact that just because a woman is perceived to be a slut doesn't justify rape.

I don't own a red dress, so I went in boy-slut clothes -- jeans and a leather vest, like the cover of a gay pulp erotica novel. (I'm also considering this as a Halloween costume, we'll see...) We marched from Union Square, down Broadway, crosstown on St. Mark's Place, down Second Avenue, then took 3rd Street back to Lafayette and returned to Union Square for a rally -- which was sadly rained out, though only after some delightful performances by girl punk bands and at least one very powerful poetry reading.

There's been a lot of debate about whether SlutWalk is a legitimately empowering feminist protest, or whether it perpetuates a sexualized image of women that our culture would be better off without. I think SlutWalk is a great event and I'd like to see it continue for a long time. First of all, it's one of the few feminist protests out there that actually stands in solidarity with sexual women. I understand why feminism wants to move away from sexy images of women that encourages objectification, but when feminists shun women who dress in provocative ways and embrace their sexual power they are essentially saying that those women don't deserve respect, even from other women, which plays into the idea that they are the "kind of girl" who it's all right to rape. Secondly, the image of SlutWalk is a fantastic one -- angry, proud women taking a stand against rape in skimpy outfits is a fabulous contrast. The casual male passerby will definitely get an eyefull, but the image he sees will be sexy, empowered women who are angry about sexual violence and insisting on respect. Events like this steal sexy imagery from the realm of male fantasy and connect it to real women. It has often been said that rape prevention education needs to stop focusing on teaching women how not to get raped and start focusing on teaching men not to rape women. SlutWalk successfully does that, and I hope it will continue for years to come.