A feminist outpost in the desert.
Tomorrow is SlutWalk Las Vegas, the local grassroots event modeled after the similarly named Slut Walks that have been happening across North America since earlier this year.
Here’s the background: SlutWalk originated in Toronto in April as a march in response to the recommendation by police officers that if young women wanted to avoid sexual assault and harassment, they should avoid dressing like a “slut.” Oh boy. Sadly, this kind of misogynistic thinking — even amongst police and law makers, who should have training to know better — is all too common. Remember the “denim defense” rape case in Italy in which a woman’s rapist got off because the court ruled that the woman couldn’t have been raped because her jeans were so tight she would have had to help get them off? (Because rapists never ask a victim to do anything to help them, right?) So, Toronto organizers got to work and had a very successful march in which thousands took it to the streets. Right on! Since then the SlutWalk campaign has gained a lot of steam and events are cropping up all over Canada and the U.S.
SlutWalk Las Vegas is being organized by locals Gabrielle Amato and Tara Brosnan, who were talking about it at a SURJ (Students Uniting for Reproductive Justice) meeting. The event is tomorrow night at 7 pm at the Erotic Heritage Museum.
As I’ve written in the past, I feel conflicted about SlutWalk. (And I’m not the only one.) In some cities, the event has looked more like a celebration of dressing provocatively rather than staying on message. But from what I have read about Amato and Brosnan, I am keeping an open mind about what can happen here in Sin City:
It has more to do with the way that our culture constructs and understands victims in terms of sexual assault. We live in a culture that is very eager to blame the victim, and when a woman gets assaulted, people are very eager to say, “Well, she should’ve have been out that late; she shouldn’t have been wearing what she was wearing; she shouldn’t have gone to that party; she shouldn’t have had as many beers as she had,” instead of saying, “Wow, she was assaulted. That’s awful. We should catch that guy.” Yes, there are policy problems, but it’s ultimately about changing the general attitude in our culture and the way that we perceive those who have been victimized in sexual crimes.
Likewise, the event site for SlutWalk Las Vegas gives me hope that this will not be mindless titillation, but an action with a message. From the organizers:
First off, we are definitely NOT asking our supporters to dress ‘slutty’ or provocatively at all. Dress ANY way you are comfortable… Whether that’s in pasties & thigh-highs or a turtleneck & overalls, we don’t care. Come as you are …All of us at SlutWalk have first-hand knowledge about the shame and blame put upon survivors of sexualized assault and/or those who are open with their sexual identities. We’ve either felt the sting of it ourselves, or have seen people we love survive it. All of us realized the hypocrisy of trying to fit into a very narrow standard of how we live our lives, and how we present or express ourselves sexually. …
Whatever you wear, whatever your story, survivor or ally, we hope you will join us.
Another reason why I have felt a little reserved about SlutWalk is there is a part of it that feels like it is not for me. Even though I know all are welcome. And, certainly, anyone can be the victim of sexual violence. But there is a part of me that feels like this is a young woman’s rally, not a middle-aged, married-in-the-suburbs with a kid rally. I haven’t been called a slut in a long, long time. So a part of me just feels like this is an event for the next generation of feminists. (Are they the Fourth Wave, or do they call themselves something else?) I look at the photo of the event organizers, Tara and Gabrielle, in that CityLife article (link above) and I think they look so young! I mean, good for them! I am so glad that the next generation of feminists are stepping up and I fully support that. But, I also can’t help wondering if I represent their target audience. Then my husband reminded me that we all need cross-generational support of the grassroots organizing we do. He’s right!
And it’s not like there is an age limit to being called a slut or, worse, being the victim of sexual violence. Maybe I don’t worry about being called a slut. But that doesn’t mean that it’s okay that it happens to people. Shaming women (and men) about their bodies, their sexuality, their desires, their behavior — it’s not okay. Sexual violence is not okay. And if that’s what SlutWalk is ultimately about, I can get my butt out there and show some feminist solidarity.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one in comfortable cotton basics (with baby food stains) and sensible shoes.