• Wed, Jul 20 2011

New York Times Wags Finger At SlutWalk For Being Too Slutty

A piece written by Rebecca Traister for The New York Times Magazine called “Ladies, We Have A Problem” (sub headline: “Clumsy Young Feminists”) hit the Internet today. In it, Traister criticizes the SlutWalk, an event put on by various feminist groups to protest the idea that women are inviting sexual assault if they dress too slutty (and that, by extension, said assault is their fault and not, you know, the fault of the person who assaulted them). Missing the point by several football fields, she basically says that women should not dress slutty to try to prove a point, because nobody takes people who dress slutty seriously. Least of all her!

Via The New York Times:

I understand that SlutWalkers want to drain the s-word of its misogynistic venom and correct the idea it conveys: that a woman who takes a variety of sexual partners or who presents herself in an alluring way is somehow morally bankrupt and asking to be hit on, assaulted or raped. Not coincidentally, it is a word that was used to discredit [Anita] Hill by one of her (since repentant) denigrators, David Brock, who called her “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.”

To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women. Scantily clad marching seems weirdly blind to the race, class and body-image issues that usually (rightly) obsess young feminists and seems inhospitable to scads of women who, for various reasons, might not feel it logical or comfortable to express their revulsion at victim-blaming by donning bustiers. So while the mission of SlutWalks is crucial, the package is confusing and leaves young feminists open to the very kinds of attacks they are battling.

Okay, first of all, has she ever been to a SlutWalk? People are encouraged to wear whatever they feel comfortable in; in fact, bustiers seem to be in the minority. Many women choose to wear what they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted; these clothes range from normal, modest outfits to more risque get-ups. This drives home the point that rapists do not solely target women who are dressed “slutty;” to tell women (as that Toronto cop did) that they can keep from getting raped merely by covering up is not only stupid, but dangerous.

Second, let’s un-pack this bit: I understand that SlutWalkers want to drain the s-word of its misogynistic venom and correct the idea it conveys: that a woman who takes a variety of sexual partners or who presents herself in an alluring way is somehow morally bankrupt and asking to be hit on, assaulted or raped…To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women.

Translation: I understand that SlutWalkers want to protest being judged for how they dress or who they have sex with, and they are right to do so. But to do so while dressed in slutty clothing is just inviting judgment. For instance, look at me, an ostensible ally, JUDGING THEM RIGHT NOW.

Basically, she agrees in theory that women shouldn’t be judged for how they look, but when it comes time to put her money where her mouth is, she fails miserably. Or, as The Awl’s Choire Sicha put it:

“…So while the mission of SlutWalks is crucial, the package is confusing and leaves young feminists open to the very kinds of attacks they are battling.” Wait, but yes? Because the point is… people treat people who “look like sluts” badly! The point is to confront hostility at difference, not to use this occasion to enforce hostility at difference.

Then, there’s her assertion that by defiantly wearing revealing clothing in a protest of the common societal notion that women who dress a certain way are somehow less than human, they are doing exactly what society expects of them. This is obviously complete fucking nonsense. Society does not expect sluts to assert their personhood. It expects them to change their behavior, or accept the consequences. To participate in SlutWalk is to say you will do neither.

I’d go on, but honestly, I don’t want to waste any more time thinking about Rebecca Traister’s pearl-clutching bullshit and the damage it does to the feminist movement when its alleged members participate in the same slut-shaming thought processes as the patriarchy. If you agree with me, perhaps you’d like to leave a piece of your mind in the article’s comments section or write a letter to the editor. Also, check out the SlutWalk website for information how you can get involved in activities going on in your area.

I doff my top to you, Rebecca Traister. May your subjective anti-slut feelings someday stop interfering with your brain’s ability to reason.

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  • Eileen

    Is she trying to be ironic?

    • Lexie

      Hipster journalism.

  • Jen Dziura

    “Pearl-clutching bullshit”! Ha. Thanks for this.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Jen, your pearls look lovely, today.

      I would just like to point out that you can wear pearls and clutch them and be a total slut.

      Stop it with your judgements.

  • Fabel

    God, I read the whole article & I don’t even know what her point is. She condemns McClelland’s essay (about violent sex helping to manage her PTSD) as being “imprecise”, but her own article could be described the same way. She doesn’t think women should dress slutty to protest the idea that provocative clothing invites rape– but then she describes all these instances that make her look foolish for thinking that. Was she trying to appeal to those people who DID judge the women in Slutwalk by pretending to be on their side?

  • Fabel

    Or is that giving her too much credit?

  • Pol

    Ooof. Between this and the crap article by Melissa Farley, the Times is a total fail lately.

  • Geraldine

    “pearl-clutching bullshit” = best line ever.

  • Mandy

    I travel from the US to the Middle East quite a bit. I have this “cover-up” discussion with my male colleagues all the time. Covering up with a burqa or what have you does nothing to protect you. My guy friends even stated that it makes you even more tempting, because they’re more curious as to whats underneath. The more you cover up, the more “mysterious” they said the women were. So this is complete bullsh*t that women need to cover up to be thought of less sexually.

    • Jamie Peck

      Thank you for this comment. Seriously.

  • Kingston

    Jen, you are my hero.
    btw: sluts wear pearls and modest outfits too (they keep it classy)!

  • Shaun

    I think that Traister has a valid, albeit somewhat confused point. How many men turn up at slutwalks to ogle the women on display? Does this undermine the point or emphasize it? I honestly don’t know,but it does underline the difficulty involved in “reclaiming” certain behaviours and modes of dressing.

    • Jamie Peck

      I would be incredibly surprised if men turned up purely to ogle the SlutWalkers. Then again, maybe those are the kinds of men who need to be hit over the head with the SlutWalk’s message the most.

  • Suzanne

    While I definitely don’t think women should be judged because they sometimes don’t wear much, I do think women do a disservice to themselves and are being disingenuous when they consistently wear super-revealing things. Despite what the author of this post says, that “society thinks women that dress a certain way are less than human”, society very obviously also pressures women to present themselves like that, more than they pressure them to be all chaste, I think. Unless you live in a very small town, perhaps. So I can totally understand the NYT’s point, and I think that the Gloss, in all the sex-positivity that characterizes their brand of feminism, sometimes make waaay too much out of the one aspect of society’s expectations of women (that they be docile and not too sexual) and TOTALLY IGNORE the other side of the coin (that many feminists of a certain wave can sometimes propagate) that teaches women that their power lies most valuably in the way they look, and that discourages them from doing ANYTHING that can be construed as sexually prudish or cold.

    I don’t hang out with people that this is an issue with, but in society in general and among my friends, I find this form of pressure to be waaaay more prevalent (victim-blaming in rape cases excepted) than any vestigial expectation that women be modestly dressed and not overtly sexual.

    • Jamie Peck

      “(victim-blaming in rape cases excepted)”

      Victim blaming in rape cases is a PRIMARY REASON the SlutWalk exists.

      “I do think women do a disservice to themselves and are being disingenuous when they consistently wear super-revealing things”

      I think you do women a disservice when you judge them for dressing in whatever they feel good wearing, and also when you assume you know their reasons for wearing it.

      “society very obviously also pressures women to present themselves like that, more than they pressure them to be all chaste”

      Society actually pressures them to do both. The ol’ virgin/whore dichotomy. But society also says that IF a woman chooses “whore,” she will also probably be punished with rape or murder at some point. The SW exists to dispute all of this and put the blame for rape back on the rapists.

      “and TOTALLY IGNORE the other side of the coin (that many feminists of a certain wave can sometimes propagate) that teaches women that their power lies most valuably in the way they look, and that discourages them from doing ANYTHING that can be construed as sexually prudish or cold. ”

      Actually, “feminists of a certain wave” believe women’s value is NOT primarily in their sexuality (or, for that matter, their purity), and that they should do whatever makes them happy, whether that’s celibacy until marriage, or fucking every hot guy that catches their eye. A person who does the former is no more or less of a valuable human being than a person who does the latter.

    • Jamie Peck

      Further required reading: I Think I Just Figured Out SlutWalk
      http://titsandsass.com/?p=2377

  • Nico

    the below article really hit me hard and I think organizers need to educate themselves a little more.

    http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/an-open-letter-from-black-women-to-the-slutwalk/

  • Kara Lee

    I fully endorse SlutWalk and I believe that article was merely expression of opinion and isn’t everyone entitled to that? She said what she thought in a respectable manner! You say it’s wrong for her to judge and then you go and judge her?

  • Rotten Johnny

    Feminism was more relevant before. Anyone who claims to be a feminist should know the 3 waves of feminism. Today, most of it is bullshit.

    I can’t name how many restaurants only hire females to wait tables. A man can do the same job. I call this sexism. What does a feminist call it? Feminism?

    How many men get custody of the children after a divorce? If you’re Canadian, how many of you feminists agree that Karla Homolka should ride people’s tax dollars and have the government’s full protection and confidentiality, send her to the Caribbean–see ya, have a nice life–instead of having her fucking rot in prison like that piece of shit, Paul Bernardo? They should have both rotted. She helped rape and murder her own baby sister. Is that sense of justice patriarchal? Fuck that.

    Also, I have some female friends, some of whom are very dear to me, who have endured some terrible suffering at the hand of a man, and they think the Slut Walk is fucking stupid. I’ll agree that everyone who says it doesn’t matter what you wear is right. But honestly, if you think that histrionically bearing your fucking tits in the street, subject to god-knows-who in the crowd, that if some rapist may see it they’d have some life-changing experience that corrects their mental illness, rather than be provoked and aroused more, then you don’t understand the fundamentals of human attraction or that people who rape are too fucked up for this to work. They wouldn’t possibly give a shit. Seriously. Let’s see a bunch of delicious Big Mac’s march down the street to protest in front of a bunch of compulsive over-eaters, chanting, “Don’t eat me! Don’t eat me!” and suddenly they’ll get the point and get skinny. That’s the stupid fucking logic this is. Even lay people understand this. No one on earth can be that fucking oblivious that they don’t know that even regular men rubber-neck when they drive by a short skirt walking down the sidewalk. With a rapist, how could you flaunting your shit possibly make anything better?

    And seriously, if you aren’t wearing that skanky shit for any sexual attention whatsoever, tell us all why you DO wear shorts up to your fucking eyeballs? Why isn’t it the overweight or “unattractive” people that are the main wearers of it? Because if it has nothing to do with image, why do you rarely EVER see “fat” people dress like this? And finally, what does it do for JUST you? “Oh, it’s because I feel good about myself.” Do you feel good about the way you look because you enjoy looking at yourself and you’re a narcissist or because someone else likes looking at you and you’re a narcissist? Is it both? That’s a serious fucking question, and temperature outside isn’t the answer because men aren’t wearing shit that short.

    Hate away, “feminists”. Hate away.