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".
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?