Of Slutwalks, Strauss-Kahns and Schwarzeneggers.

As I posted earlier this week, Dominque Strauss-Kahn’s alleged sexual assault sparked some weirdly sexist reporting. It seemed worse to me because, in amongst all the drama about SRI in Victorian schools, the other big thing amongst my Twitter brigade is the upcoming Melbourne Slutwalk.

I’ve mainly observed the debate on this one because I’m a bit conflicted. Like the other crusade going on this week, different people view the point of the walk differently. The media has focussed on grabbing anyone who’s willing to take a provocative photograph, with the subject claiming that the march is all about freedom to express their sexuality any way they choose, thus reclaiming and/or subverting the abusive term.
The media, again, was taking an angle that perpetuated the misogyny that SlutWalk is trying to condemn. I read some great articles that went to the heart of the problem – it’s not so much about the freedom for women to express sexuality as it is about being able to function in society without some lunkhead calling you a slut.
Clementine Ford asked for examples, via Twitter (@clementine_ford). Some of them were utterly breath-taking. A woman and her female companions (including her mother) were abused by male St Kilda fans for supporting Collingwood, calling them sluts for simply being women and barracking for the opposing sportsball team. I don’t even think these morons even knew just how stupid they were being, which I think makes it even worse, because they’ve obviously disconnected from the power that our culture has assigned the word.
And while we’re on St Kilda, let’s advance an idea – if the club had an all-woman team and the roles were reversed in the ‘St Kilda Schoolgirl’ scandal, who would have been called a slut on the internet? Yep, that’s right, the woman player, not the schoolboy. He’d have been named as an effin’ legend for bagging the football slut.
I will, just once, agree with Catherine Deveny when she said that slut is a judgemental term and that a woman’s sexuality is her own business and not open for public comment, regardless of her sexual history or future.
The media have hounded the alleged victim of Strauss Kahn this week. What makes the hounding even worse is that the woman is reported to be a Muslim. If she was attacked (I am just being careful here, by the way, not taking sides), this may have repercussions for her far beyond the trauma of the actual attack itself, yet the media are there on her doorstep, harrassing her despite being attacked, at work, while apparently wearing a hijab. If Strauss Kahn did it, he couldn’t pick a victim with more to lose. That’s not to say any other woman had less to lose, but it’s possible Strauss-Kahn’s victim will have even greater trauma to deal with.
The mother of Schwarzenegger’s ‘love child’ (I prefer ‘unequal power relationship child’) has had her image splashed across international media simply because she’d had sex with the former Governor of California (well, before he was Governor). It’s none of our business and all it does is expose her to ridicule and identifies her to potential nutbag attackers. Nice one media. We’d never know who she was if she hadn’t slept with a rock-ape who happened to be rich and famous.
Jump to the other side of the Atlantic and there’s a been a stink about UK Justice Minister Ken Clarke’s so-called date rape gaffe. I don’t really know what he was trying to say, but I think he should have said something like this.
‘No matter where you stand on rape, it is a very, very serious offence. Rape is the worst betrayal of another person’s physical and emotional integrity. The context of the rape is immaterial – it’s rape. However…’
And here’s the tricky bit. Before you get to the end of however, the cry goes up. Stay with me.
‘However – rape with violence, coercion, the involvement of drugs or in company must be punished even more severely because the person who does this must be made to pay for the additional trauma caused by these factors.’ If rape were a crime committed mostly against men, one imagines that there would not even have been a debate to begin with.
So the thread here is clear – the power men wield. The aim of Slutwalk has been mis-reported and sexed-up by sections of the media in order to create a raunchy feel instead of the real and stated intent – to be able to walk the streets without being judged a slut just because you don’t respond in a way that a male feels you should or may be dressed outside of the boundaries set by that particular person. The media used its power and most importantly, its power over women, to knock the balance in favour of a story they feel will generate the most clicks and tutting commentary. Slutwalk’s aim, to me, is so utterly fundamental just like the reason it has to be had is fundamental – the power relationships in our culture are inherently unequal, making women fair game.
I hope Slutwalk achieves this aim and the media doesn’t behave like a bunch of schoolboys with a belly full of Red Bull and vodka.
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