Thursday, June 16, 2011

Slut Walk

Feminism: Organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

SlutWalk first started in Toronto.

In January of 2011 Toronto police constable Michael Sanguinetti was invited to New York University to lecture to a group of young co-ed’s about safety and personal security. During the class Sanguinetti told the students who had gathered that: "Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."

Local feminists Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis were outraged: Sanguinetti's blame the victim mentality infuriated them along with the insinuation that women who are sexually assaulted are somehow responsible for their own rape. True, neither Barnett or Jarvis were at the event where Sanguinetti made his comment, but this didn’t stop them from deciding to do something about it. Sanguinetti and the Toronto police department apologized, but Barnett and Jarvis still weren't satisfied, and a week later both they and three of their friends organized a five woman march - or SlutWalk, to protest victim blaming, sexual profiling, and to reclaim the word “slut”.

A Facebook page was created, and via Twitter a social movement was born. SlutWalk didn’t have the "official" support of NOW (National Organization of Women) or other major feminist organizations, but that hardly mattered. The movement went viral and within weeks dozens of protests were organized throughout the United States and Canada, including Australia and South Africa. Although the movement started small, some marches have already gathered thousands of protesters, many of whom dress in corsets, stiletto high heels and fish net stockings in an effort to attract attention. For the first time in twenty years the feminist movement was no longer on the defensive. SlutWalk had given feminism a much needed shot of adrenaline.

In 1999 I was a part time substitute teacher who had recently completed my MA in U.S. history, but with no job prospects I’d leap at any chance to earn a little extra cash. I was contacted by Barbara Drake, editor of the Peoria Journal Star, who was on an assignment for the paper to interview famous people who had grown up in Peoria, Illinois. Drake was going to be in Washington D.C. to interview Betty Friedan, author of the Feminine Mystique and the official founder of the post World War II feminist movement. Drake informed me that my job was to make sure the tape cassettes ran smoothly and ensure the interview wasn’t interrupted – Friedan had a reputation for being difficult and Drake didn’t want anything to break up the flow of the interview. After Richard Pryor, Friedan was probably the 2nd most famous person to ever hail from Peoria, a city with just over 100,000 people surrounded by farmland in the heart of the Mid-West. I was curious to meet Friedan, who for me wasn’t so much a person but a piece of living history, for over 40 years a woman endlessly referenced in text books and articles by scholars and academics. Just as you can’t talk about the Theory of Evolution without invoking Darwin, or discuss the Communist Manifesto without referencing Marx, you can’t have any legitimate understanding of modern Feminism without discussing Betty Friedan.

And I was going to get to meet her!

Although Friedan was an intellectual and an activist who had successfully founded NOW and staged a victorious campaign to help legalize abortion, increase women’s wages and fight for paid maternity leave, Drake was more interested in interviewing her about her childhood and what it was like to grow up in Peoria. In other words, it was a “fluff” piece; Drake wasn’t interested in being adversarial, all she wanted to know was what it was like to have been born and raised in Peoria. The interview, if you’re interested, can be accessed here:

Located in North West D.C., Friedan’s apartment was decorated in awards and honorary plaques, including a political cartoon of her dressed as a 19th century maid sweeping away playboy bunnies and Hugh Hefner, the caption reading: SWEEPING OUT THE TRASH! Friedan herself was frail but her mind was still sharp, eyes glittering in a weathered face. I set up the tape recorders as Drake introduced herself, asking Friedan questions about her childhood and what it was like to attend school in Peoria in the 1930’s.

At one point Friedan’s phone rang, disrupting the interview. I looked at Drake, afraid to ask if I should answer it. “Damn it! Friedan snapped, “Isn’t someone going to get that!” I nearly leapt out of my chair, scrambling to reach the phone which was in the kitchen, but as I grabbed for the receiver the caller hung up. “That’s it, this interview is over!” Friedan exploded as she pounded her couch in fury. “I can’t believe you didn’t get that for me!”

Drake and I tried to hide our astonishment, but Drake recovered quickly, calming Friedan down. After several minutes of coaxing, Friedan relented and allowed Drake to finish the interview. But something had changed; Friedan was angrier now, more sullen, more bitter. No matter how easy the question, Friedan’s remarks become more biting and cynical. She was angry at younger women for not appreciating what they have, for all that she and other feminists fought for. She was enraged at NOW for turning feminism into a gender issue and steering it away from equality, “Normal women don’t want to be associated with a group of lesbians.” Friedan fumed about masculine culture and its unfair standards of beauty; she complained about ageism, sexism, and the glass ceiling which no matter how hard women push against it, always seems to remain just out of reach.

She was a revolutionary, and like Patrick Henry after the American Revolution had found herself put out to pasture. Friedan’s victory for women’s rights was so complete that her brand of feminism is passé, even the most die hard misogynist would have a difficult time arguing that women should get paid less than men for doing the same work. Certainly there is still sexism, but the basic privileges that Friedan wanted have been obtained. To survive as a movement, feminism had to change, veering further and further to the left until it entered the territory of the absurd. Early feminists objected to being portrayed as sexual objects, campaigned hard against the abuse of sex workers; they burned bras and pornography and refused to wear nylons, heels, use hair products or cosmetics.

How far we’ve come; from the glory days where millions of activists marched for the Equal Rights Amendment, now handfuls of thousands march for the right to reclaim the word “slut.” Known as third wave feminism, post-modern feminists no longer abhor lingerie; they relish in it, and are completely unapologetic about what they wear or how they should behave. Like libertarians who claim they have no fiscal or social responsibility to anyone, post-feminists feel they shouldn’t be held accountable for how they dress; they are women who insist they not be sexually objectified even if they dress like sex objects. They demand the right to wear whatever they want wherever they want whenever they want without being labeled, insisting that their clothing, or lack of it, should have no effect on the viewer – but then wear sexy apparel that deliberately incites the viewer into labeling them “sluts.”

There is a SlutWalk being held at West Hollywood Park just off of Santa Monica , in an area of the city typically referred to as “Boy’s Town.” Boys Town is tasteful, full of trendy restaurants that serve delightful servings of what a friend of mine refers to as “gay-cuisine.” It’s a Saturday afternoon, and there are perhaps two hundred people in attendance, the majority of whom are young women holding signs and shouting slogans while a handful of men chant along half-heartedly.

“No matter what I wear or how I wear it!” a woman at the mike shouts.


“2, 4. 6, 8, stop the violence stop the rape!”


“Not the church, not the state, women must control their fate!”


“Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, but no means no!”


Most of the women are dressed in sweats and jeans, but a handful wear bras and fishnet stockings, including a cougar in a black latex corset with thigh high boots. Other girls wear black T-shirts with the word SLUT emboldened across them: I would stare but most of them don’t have bodies worth staring at. A pasty skinned rape survivor takes to the podium and speaks about surviving rape; a feminist professor in blue shorts, knee high black socks and hiking boots informs the crowd two women are sexually assaulted every minute in the United States. I do a quick calculation and estimate that’s roughly a million American women every year.

While a few in the crowd appear to be true believers, the majority look like they’re attending just to be a “part” of an event. For them, SlutWalk might as well be Halloween, it’s an excuse to dress up like “sluts” and party. One full figured alternative girl in a black T-shirt wearing fifties rimmed glasses informs a news crew that at least for her, it’s all about reclaiming the word “slut” and making it good again, similar to what “stud” means for men.

If you want to see SlutwWalks around the world, click below:

I should stay, but truthfully, I’m bored. After the speeches there is going to be a march around the streets of Hollywood, culminating at the gayest Hamburger joint in West Hollywood, Hamburger Mary's. Normally I’d stay, but something about the combination of feminist dogma and unattractive women wanting to dress slutty acts like a repellent bug spray, and after fifteen minutes I find myself beating a hasty exit. The next speaker drones on about the patriarchy and how it must be overthrown if women are ever to be free from the reign of men, the crowd claps appropriately - I wonder how many of these young women are attending for "college" credit. No one misses me, and I'm glad I'm ignored - by nature of my gender and skin color I symbolize the "dominant-patriarchy" and there is no place for me here.

Post Modern Feminism isn't about gender equality, it's a hate group.

Not even 6 years past Friedan’s death, and the feminist movement which she started has become an almost unrecognizable parody of itself, a mockery of the values she fought to change. As long as post modern feminism continues to bash men and promote women as victims, is it any wonder why so few women want to identify themselves as feminists?

Perhaps all social movements are destined to become corrupted; would Jesus even remotely recognize the religion Christianity has become? Ancient Christians identified themselves through drawings of fish, the cross was not a holy symbol, but an image of pain and terror until it was co-opted by the Catholic church in the 11th century. Whereas Jesus was outspoken against usury and the excesses of the wealthy, Calvinism actively cherishes the pursuit of wealth as an act of divine grace.

Today, more women attend college and earn college degrees then men, while the wage gap has shrunk and almost disappeared. Divorce and abortions, which at one time were virtually unobtainable, are now everyday rights. Each year, more women enter the male dominated fields of law, medicine and science; the most popular candidate in the Republican party is ironically, a woman. (True she's not "officially" running and she is an idiot, but she draws massive crowds.)

But instead of continuing to push for equal rights, modern feminists tell women they should be proud to dress like "sluts". Instead of being embarrassed for dressing like a skank, they should "own" it, flaunt it, and actively parade their sexuality in open public space. Instead of promoting individual responsibility, the message of SlutWalk seems to be that you're free to act however you want and if something "bad" happens to you, well that's the fault of the man who assaults you.

If men were to organize a "PimpWalk," dressed in ghetto fabulous street wear in an effort to promote soliciting prostitutes to live off their earnings and reclaim the word "pimp", would anyone take a PimpWalk seriously? That feminists would have to resort to shock tactics to garner attention does not bode well for the future of the movement - perhaps feminism, having accomplished what it initially set out to do, is past its due date and should be tossed into the ideological trash bin. It's one thing to promote awareness, rape is a horrific crime, but its another to do it while wearing bunny ears and lingerie as it reduces sexual assault to the level of a surrealist joke.

And yet SlutWalk resonates, especially with younger women. Friedan was right, younger women don't appreciate the sacrifices that earlier generations made. SlutWalk isn't a protest movement, it's a costume party, a chance to be simultaneously risque and yet be socially "aware". The majority of these girls aren't protesting for social change, they're protesting to get attention. They want the privileges of equality, but not the responsibilities. Just because you can dress like a "slut," doesn't mean you should.

Feminist – An opinionated woman with a strong dislike of men: see Feminazi