In January a Toronto Police Officer was giving a talk at the Osgoode Hall Law School about campus safety. He recommended that women help themselves to stay safe by dressing appropriately. His exact words were: "Don't dress like a slut."
Feminist everywhere got up in arms! How dare he blame the victim!
I don't see it at all as blaming the victim. It's just common sense and sounds like a fatherly piece of advice to me.
Now, of course, no one deserves to be a victim of sexual violence, regardless of what they are wearing. But is it not just common sense to not put oneself in a vulnerable position? Apparently not.
The feminist reaction to all this? Organize a "Slut Walk." This is a protest in which Toronto activists marched to the police department and "reclaimed the word slut." (I'm really puzzled about the whole "reclaiming" part. Did it belong to women to begin with that we have to own it and get it back? No thanks.)
Inspired by the SlutWalk in Toronto, which was held in April, now Western Washingtonians have organized their own SlutWalk to be held in Seattle in June. According their Facebook page, "...this event isn't just for women, and isn't just for women dressed as sluts. We want all Sluts AND Allies there-- dress as you please, whether it's a corset and fishnets or sweatpants and a t-shirt. Because victim-blaming affects people of all genders, and no matter what you're wearing, you don't deserve to be targeted for it."
(People of "all genders"? How many genders are there?)
At best this is misdirected rage. At worst it continues the objectification of women by encouraging women to treat their bodies disrespectfully and then expect others to respect it.
Yes, misdirected. I think we should all protest car stereo theft by leaving our cars in bad neighborhoods, with the doors unlocked and our valuables in plain sight. In fact, lets leave the keys in the ignition, too. Remember, no one deserves to have their stuff robbed. Right? In a perfect world we could all leave our doors unlocked and never use caution. But, this isn't a perfect world. And not everyone has good intentions. It only makes sense to protect what is valuable from those with the worst intentions. And what could be more valuable than a woman's virtue?
Instead of raging against the police officer who recommended we all cover up our boobies and backsides, why aren't we getting angrier at a culture and society that objectifies women? Shall we not get mad at the porn industry and those that protect it, knowing full well, that the unending stream of "adult media" contributes to the problem? Shall we not get mad at advertisers who digitally enhance women in order to arouse the viewers? Get mad. But, get mad at the right thing(s).
However, I fear these SlutWalk protests do a lot more than just misdirect our rage. They perpetuate the perception that women's bodies are made for viewing, for lusting after, and that women can use their bodies to whatever advantages or disadvantages they want without consequence. It's freedom of expression and she has full right to it. But, the police officer's freedom of expression in expressing the view that women should be careful is out of place. Apparently, some freedom of expression is to be protected and lauded and some expressions are not.
The answer to sexual violence is not for women to show more skin and for men to just get over it. How naive is that? You don't increase the value and protection of something by making it readily available and cheap. You increase the value and protection of something by making it a hidden treasure, a rarity, special and expensive. Think about it......what would people be more in a rage over: graffiti and the defacement of a billboard off the 405 freeway or graffiti and the defacement of the Mona Lisa? Both are private property and neither deserve the vandalism. However, The answer is obvious. The first is cheap and common and easy to come by and you see it everyday on your commute. The second is precious, one-of-a-kind, and greatly protected and secure.
In teaching my daughter to stick up for herself, to speak up for herself, to protect herself and to value herself--knowing who she is and what she's about--I'm also teaching her to not leave the house without some decorum. I want her to dress as if she knows that her body is the precious container of her precious soul.
Can we not be feminists WITH common sense? To be one do we have to take a complete leave of the other?