The Daily Mail (UK) Misses the Entire Point of Slutwalks
There’s an article floating around on Facebook today from the Daily Mail UK and the title alone shows that they don’t get it: Thousands of scantily-clad women to march in London as ‘SlutWalk’ protest reaches UK.
The entire point of Slutwalks is to protest against the notion that the most important factor when it comes to sexual assault is how a woman is dressed. (Note- I know that more men are assaulted than is generally recognized, but it’s almost unheard of for them to be blamed for their choice of clothing.) The responsibility of sexual assault is always on the person who commits it, if we leave aside the people with genuine compulsions that are beyond their control.
Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine a man who sees a woman dressed in a short skirt or tight shirt. Does he have control over his actions, even if he’s aroused? Sure! He chooses to not grab her then and there. Maybe it’s because it’s a public place, or there are witnesses, or he has to go to work. The fact is, he can make the choice to assault her or not. When we place the responsibility for sexual assault on women, we actually disempower men (as well as women) because we take away men’s agency and ability to choose how to act. If tight clothes truly caused rape, no man would be able to resist, even on the bus or in a hospital or any other setting. In reality, men choose how to respond and we need to remember that.
We live in a society that focuses endlessly on what women look like. Think about the incessant nitpicking, critiques, and shaming of women on the red carpet for their clothes, hair, makeup, or bodies. Think about how often amazingly intelligent women are described physically before any mention of their skills or accomplishments. Think about how many magazine headlines focus on a woman’s weight gain or loss, rather than any other aspect of her life. So it’s not a surprise that the Daily Mail would choose the title they did or include lines like:
Thousands of women are to take to the streets of London in revealing outfits next month as the global SlutWalk phenomenon reaches Britain.
A 3,000-strong crowd marched through Toronto, a further 2,000 took to the streets of Boston, some women marching in their underwear with ‘slut’ scrawled on their skin.
A member of the Boston Facebook group, [name removed because I don’t know how she feels about having been named], attended the Boston event dressed in a pink jacket and fishnet stockings.
And four of the five photos they selected focused on women in skimpy clothing, despite the fact that many of the Slutwalk participants were wearing clothes that weren’t out of the ordinary at all- you can see many of them in the backgrounds. Focusing on what the women were wearing (and ignoring the presence of men, even though there were plenty of them) is exactly the problem that Slutwalks are trying to address.
So while I’m glad to see that Slutwalks are going global and the word is getting out, this article was unsurprisingly disappointing. We deserve better than this.