Misogyny – Alive and Well

by | May 30, 2011 | Little Issues, Little Soapbox | 12 comments

Photo: Ken Irwin[Photo Source]

Much has been written about the Slut Walks that have been taking place across the globe. If you've missed the hype, the movement was sparked when a Canadian policeman addressed a group of female  students advising them not to dress like sluts in order to avoid being assaulted.

Fact – the cop was a fuckwit. But that's not really in contention.

But the Slut Walk movement has caused much division – and between women themselves.

Much of the criticism centres around the way women are choosing to dress for the walks. Fishnets, short skirts, lingerie as outerwear – you know, things a slut would wear.

Of the various articles I've read, the critics warn of the perpetuation of raunch culture, that the irony of dressing like a 'slut' will be lost on the neanderthals who actually believe women who dress suggestively are asking for it.

Yep, definitely valid arguments.

But then, Nicole Brady writes in The Age that maybe being careful about what we wear is not such a bad idea.

Okay, now I'm annoyed.

Her argument is that in a social utopia, women should be able to wear whatever they like but that we are not living in a social utopia. Therefore, women should take precautionary measures.

This reminds me of the day I discovered Gretel Killeen was a massive fuckhead. Way before Big Brother, she was often on the panel of Beauty and The Beast. Usually, I found her to be intelligent and funny. On this particular occasion, she made a remark which went something like, "We all know what men are like so women need to use their brains and be careful what they wear".

Ummmm, really?

The message, as far as I could see, was that men were held hostage to their base desires and could therefore, not be held accountable for their actions. 

This perception is so dangerous and while society still perpetuates this on any level, we continue to raise little misogynists.

Look, I get what Nicole and Gretel were saying. Women need to be responsible for their own safety. Yes. It's nothing I wouldn't tell my own daughter. But what's missing is the accompanying message for the guys. Why must the onus always end up with women? How about also highlighting the need to change the frightening mindset of many males?

Does wearing revealing clothing send a message? Sure. And is that message often intentional? Most definitely. If I wear a sexy dress, I am inviting the world to notice that I'm sexy, to find me attractive. That's a human desire. But 'sexy' is not code for 'wants to have sex' (as B can well attest). 

As the mother of two sons, I will be making certain that they know the difference. There will be no talk of sluts in this household or judging a girl's 'type' by what she chooses to wear.

Do I think women should behave in ways that can help keep them safe? Of course. And would I recommend not going to a nightclub naked? Well, yeah. But I can't help but feel that when men read this kind of thing, it plays right into an already warped perception that they can not truly be held responsible for how they react to a woman in tight clothing. "We're blokes, afterall!"  

I reject the idea that men have a harder time suppressing the demands of their hormones than women. I know decent, wonderful men who would never misread the signs, who would tuck a drunk girl into bed and then sleep on the couch. 

And yet, the concept of the 'slut' still persists in society. I would like to see this concept obliterated but not because I think it will stop women being raped. It won't. Rape is about power and whether a woman is a slut or not has little bearing on her being assaulted. The concept of the slut DOES have the ability to devalue a woman in a man's (or a woman's) eyes and to me, that is the real issue. A woman perceived to be a slut can be subjected to disrespect, unwanted advances, harassment or ridicule. And if this perception arises based solely on what she wears, then something is seriously amiss.   

The Slut Walks may not be the solution but I applaud the organisers for bringing the issue to light. Misogyny is alive and well – what the fuck are we going to do about it?   

Hello friends

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I’m Angie!  I mum. I write. I wife. My husband would say this is the correct order.  He’s so neeeedy. I live with my family in Melbourne, Australia, where I complain about the weather for 90% of the year – but I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Except maybe in Lake Como, waving to my neighbours George and Amal each morning.

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12 Comments

  1. melbo

    Agree with you totally. This is the only sane rational way to look at the whole issue.

    My brain is addled at the moment so can’t comment further but I really like what you wrote.

    Reply
  2. Jane

    Great article Angie. Totally agree with you.

    Reply
  3. E

    I had a huge long discussion about this with Husband, obviously he didn’t pay attention because he was too busy ogling my boozies…… I agree – where we can only change our own behaviour and not that of others, the message should be put out to men about being responsible for their actions and self control. Hell you don’t see me ripping the head from the shoulders of the patronising male petrol attendant when I have PMT…..

    Reply
  4. Angie @ The Little Mumma

    Thanks, Mel.

    I don’t propose to have a better idea – but anything that gets people talking about this issue serves a purpose, surely?

    Reply
  5. Al Hardie

    I am a male, that lives in a society and town full of (for want of a better word) Neanderthals, i find it completely disgraceful that in this day and age women are still being objectified as sluts, everywhere i turn i see “blokes” acting as if a woman is a mere play thing with no dignity or respect afforded to the simple fact that they are human beings. It saddens my heart to know that the mindset of some Australian males thinks this way.
    We all have a story as to why we are in the place we are in at this moment of time, some would seem mundane others exciting and yet again some horrific and sad, yet one fundamental point belies each and every persons tale and that is we all feel pain, from which, we all choose to express this pain in a multitude of ways. Some in dress others in music and even others in the pursuit of money and power, these expressions do not make one better than another, if anything they prove in my mind that we are all equal and deserve at least a second thought as to why we are expressing our selves in this way. How interesting we are as social creatures.
    So next time guys and girls you reach for the slut title, remember these woman are just like you and we are all looking for compassion and understanding, in order to bring some semblance of substance to an existence that is meaningless without the love of another to share it with.

    Reply
  6. Angie @ The Little Mumma

    Thank you for your thoughtful post, Al. It’s great to have a male perspective.

    And you’re right, the label ‘slut’ is a way for us to reduce the worth of the woman being labeled and treat them accordingly.

    Reply
  7. Acey

    I am posting this piece on behalf of my friend who would like to remain anonymous but not silent.

    So much of the publicity, “public debate”/all out slamming and criticism surrounding the Slut Walk has thoroughly pissed me off. It’s taken up until today to finally unpack the media coverage and come to terms with ‘why’ it shits me so much, and unfortunately it’s not something I’m comfortable blogging about publicly.

    While I missed the main proceedings of the Melbourne Slut Walk on Saturday, I deliberately went along dressed in a pair of blue jeans, a plain black slim-fitted T-shirt and a jacket.

    A) because it was freakin freezing in Melbourne on Saturday.
    and more importantly;
    B)B) because 10 years later, it was the closest outfit I own to the one I wore the night I was assaulted.

    Criticisms like those published by The Age – and the comments they attract – all suggest or blatantly lay responsibility in our hands/blame at our feet when it comes to how we dress -and the “attention” we attract.

    They argue that movements like Slut Walk are dangerous for promoting an impossible utopia to young girls, or worse that women are conniving and/or evil for dressing provocatively and then demanding freedom from “unwanted attention”. Ultimately this adds to the concept or social perception, that only sluts – who invite such attention – could ever be subjected to such abuse.

    This upsets me, not only because of the cultural misogyny it feeds, engrains and re-legitimises, but it upsets me because it continues to ignore and silence victims of assault who do not seem to fit into some stereotypical, yet crucially imaginary “slut” mould.

    What happens to Little-Miss-Sweet-Sixteen-Never-Been-Kissed who leaves the house with Daddy’s mobile phone in her purse (just in case), stays sober among her (mostly) drunken girl friends, wearing a season appropriate outfit, and having arranged to be collected by her parents at a pre-determined time?

    Apparently – if many of these articles are to be believed, Little-Miss-Sweet-Sixteen should have nothing to worry about. Little-Miss-Sweet-Sixteen couldn’t possibly be seen as a likely target due to her good old, common sense attitude ***.

    How fucking narrow-minded and pathetic these archaic attitudes are, infuriates me beyond words.

    The bottom line is, that I could have gone out that night wearing white stretch pants and a tube top like my friends, I could have gone out in tracksuit pants, or I could have gone out dressed like a punk – it wouldn’t have mattered – THE CLOTHES I WORE DIDN’T RAPE ME – AN INDEPENDENT PERSON, PRESUMABLY CAPABLE OF ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS DID.

    I spent the better part of the last decade trying to work out where and how I could have fucked up, and blaming myself for ALLOWING this to happen to me – despite KNOWING that I’d done nothing wrong – despite the level of critical insight I’d always carried proudly, having grown up in such a pervasive culture still sunk in – all be it unconsciously.

    ***NOTE; Little-Miss-Sweet-Sixteen never dressed like this to specifically avoid a certain type of attention, she just dressed for comfort***

    I know that with Melbourne’s Slut Walk over and gone, and of all the stories out there, mine being but a drop in the ocean – hopefully with the rise of sites such as Hollaback and Stop Street Harassment – AND the first International Anti Street Harassment Day being observed earlier this year, Reclaim The Night marches and now SLUTWALK – enough little droplets can help to change the tide.

    Reply
  8. Madeleine

    A fantastic post, Angie. I can’t adequately express my thoughts on this, but just want to say that I agree 100%. Yes, it’s important to be aware of ‘potential’ signals that we might be sending, but let’s not overlook the fact that men have a brain of their own, and to say that they can’t help themselves is actually a major insult to the most of them.

    Why should the onus be completely on women to avoid being assaulted? Otherwise, we may as well all start wearing burqas – isn’t that the purpose for burqas? Because men ‘can’t help themselves when faced with an attractive woman, flesh on display?’ But like you said, the way we dress actually has nothing to do with it, because it’s all about power.

    I’ve never consciously realised until now that I’ve disliked the word ‘slut’, and I realise it’s not a word that I use – at least not since high school, when it was a new word that got tossed around, tested out, like so many new words do. But as an adult, no, I can’t recall ever using it to describe someone. It also bothers me that there’s no such equivalent word for men. The double standards of this world mean there’s no such concept. A man who sleeps around? No labels there, just a lot of hi-fives from their mates.

    Thank god for mummas like yourself, raising boys to one day be men who will treat women with the respect they deserve. I know I’m very grateful for the ideals my own MIL helped to instill in my husband (but also, I give him his own credit for the respectful attitude he has towards women).

    Sorry for the mini-blog! I actually deleted a lot more to whittle this down. Guess I had more to say than I thought…

    Reply
  9. Angie @ The Little Mumma

    Okay, next time, I want YOU to write the piece for me.

    Whoever you are, thank you. For sharing your story, for putting into words so eloquently all that I feel and wanted to say.

    This is a complex issue and I had so many competing threads that I wanted to include that I started to confuse myself. In the end, I stuck with the basic points just so that I could post something.

    But your story has moved me and made me even more resolute that change must happen so that the daughters of the future CAN believe that even though a utopia may never exist, that they deserve one and it is their absolute right to fight for it.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  10. Angie @ The Little Mumma

    Thank you, Mad.

    I wish you had not deleted. But I did the same in writing this. So, so much I wanted to say but time dictating that if I wanted to post something before midnight, I had to condense and stick to the main points.

    Part of the purpose of SLUTWALK is to reclaim the word slut but I have to say, I don’t want it back. I hate it and I feel like it irredeemable. I understand the aim but I don’t want it.

    And the only way to make a meaningful change is one son (and daughter) at a time.

    Reply

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