June 14 2011
IWF in the News: SlutWalking Misses the Point of Women's Liberation
Weinergate has overshadowed another sex scandal that in normal times would have grabbed headlines with its high titillation and controversy factors. The feminist left has launched a new movement known as "SlutWalk" in an attempt to advance the principle that no matter what women wear - or how they behave - rape is never OK.
SlutWalk was born in the wake of an unfortunate incident at Toronto's York University, in which a police officer giving a sexual assault information session told students that if women wanted to avoid rape they shouldn't dress like "sluts." This insensitive bit of advice launched spontaneous protests that have morphed into a global SlutWalk movement. Today, scantily clad women - dressed only in underwear, lingerie, super-mini skirts and boots, or other such "slutty" outfits - are marching through cities to spread the message that "no means no" - no matter how provocative a woman's attire.
In a recent article for The Washington Post, self-identified "feminist evangelist" Jessica Valenti defended the grassroots effort, led mostly by young women rather than established, national feminist organizations. She claimed SlutWalk actually coheres with many of the core values held by traditional feminists. "The idea that women's clothing has some bearing on whether they will be raped," Valenti writes, "is a dangerous myth feminists have tried to debunk for decades."
I agree. Sex must be consensual, and men shouldn't assume anything - even about scantily clad women. And certainly, no means no.
Conservative commentators - including several of my IWF colleagues - have weighed in on the movement, usually offering some practical advice for women: Just because rape is illegal and not socially acceptable, it doesn't mean certain behavior might not put women at a "higher risk of assault." In short, if women dress like sluts, they might be putting themselves into dangerous situations - whether we like it or not.
But SlutWalk is repulsive not simply because it's misguided.
Women shouldn't dress like "sluts" not only because it's foolish, but more importantly, because it undermines so many of the educational and professional accomplishments women have made in recent decades and redirects the conversation back to women's bodies.
I thought the women's liberation movement wanted to draw attention away from women's bodies, to their minds and their ambitions. Isn't that the reason modern feminists have spent so many years undermining femininity, courtship and even marriage? According to leaders like Gloria Steinem, these institutions are simply a modern form of societal imprisonment that forced women to focus entirely on their bodies and their role as mothers and wives rather than their intellect and value in the workplace.
Yet in all the marching and screaming, this contradiction appears to have eluded the women of SlutWalk. And in many ways, the effort has become almost a parody of itself. Instead of women burning bras, now young feminists are carrying signs that read, "Slut and Proud" or "Sluts Say Yes."
Really? Are the participants so young that they don't even recognize the irony - or just stupidity - in all of this? This supposed provocative effort is just the opposite of what the second wave of feminism claims to be all about.
Sabrina L. Schaeffer is a senior fellow at the Independent Women's Forum and managing partner of Evolving Strategies.