by Prof. Janni Aragon on May 11, 2011
Can I just say that the debates about the veracity of Slutwalk on the WMST-L have really hurt my feminist heart. The Women’s Studies Listserv has several thousand subscribers and the subscribers vary from those in Women’s Studies or other disciplines. You don’t have to be an academic to be on the list and lots of activists and writers subscribe. The WMST-L provides a beacon of feminist information sharing and dare I say networking. Occasionally a debate will transpire on the list among some of the list members. Once again we have a round of back and forth where the debate is not so much about stopping violence against women, but instead is about semantics and feminist politics. Who has the right to say that they are the most feminist?! Using pornographic languages is apparently problematic and defeats the purpose of the walks. And, the salvos go back and forth.
This is a great example of how some academic feminist ideology not only turns off the mainstream from ideas, but also causes major fissures among the various feminist camps. Now, I’m not so pollyannish to expect us to all get along. What I don’t like, though, is how it appears that the debates become mired in certain conversations that smell of generational bullshit and one-upwomanship on who owns the most feminist politics. Don’t get me started about how these conversations at times don’t offer an analysis that remembers class, race, sexuality and ability, but that would really complicate things, right?
Can’t we agree that the Police Officer should not have blamed the woman for her dress? He should have not said that she should not dress like a slut. For information about this Toronto situation see: http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/ And, can we agree that he should have kept his mouth shut or perhaps condemned the assailant. Yes, bring men into this discussion. Don’t rape women!
Then, the response with the Slutwalks in Toronto, Victoria and elsewhere was really about reclaiming the word and explaining to the public—don’t rape women. Stop violence against women. You say slut to demean women, well fuck you, we’re taking this word back! We’re going to go out in the public space and use this word and bellow a resounding, no. How is this not empowering? Well, the word is heternormative, demeaning, sexualizes women, and is an example of porn culture. Yes, but the point is that Slutwalk is reclaiming this word—empowering women to say, “Guess what—rape is never acceptable.”
There is power in words. Words are signifiers. We know this. However, we also know that we can take back words and refashion them and say that these words don’t hurt us anymore. Slutwalk is getting press around the globe and when more people talk about curbing violence against women this is a win for feminisms.
But, the debate about this term being problematic is really beside the point in my opinion. I’m sure Inga Muscio is smiling about these debates and thinking back about the flak she got with her first book. But, that my friends, is another blog post.