Posted on 09 August 2011.
In the lecture “What’s Wrong and What’s Right with Contemporary Feminism?” Philosophy Professor Christina Hoff Sommers makes a distinction between equity feminism and “gender feminism” calling the latter, “victim feminism.” She describes Equity Feminism as the classical liberalism that inspired the First Wave of feminism in the 19th century. What she refers to as “victim feminism” is, according to her, the type of feminism that adheres to the sex/gender system and defines it as a “complex process whereby bi-sexual infants are transformed into male and female gender personalities, the one destined to command, the other to obey.”
She does not agree with the latter view and even complains that, “The dominant philosophy of today’s women’s movement is not equity feminism–but “victim feminism.”
According to her, “Victim feminists don’t want to hear about the ways in which women have succeeded. They want to focus on and often invent new ways and perspectives in which women can be regarded as oppressed and subordinated to men.”
Ms. Sommers connects the “gender feminist” perspective with how Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues was written. She says, “What I want to point out to you is the play’s deeper gender feminist message. It is all about exposing the ravages of patriarchy and the evils of all things masculine. The play is poisonously anti-male. There are no admirable males in the Monologues–-the play presents a rogues’ gallery of male brutes, sadists, child-molesters, genital mutilators, gang rapists and hateful little boys.”
She criticizes both the play and gender feminism saying, “Here is the problem with the play and with the gender feminist philosophy that informs it: Most men are not brutes. They are not oppressors. Yes, there are some contemptible Neanderthals among us, and I have no sympathy for them whatsoever. But to confuse them with the ethical majority of men is blatantly sexist. Yet again and again, we find that contemporary feminists take the worst case example of pathological masculinity and treat it as the male norm.”
"They want to focus on and often invent new ways and perspectives in which women can be regarded as oppressed and subordinated to men."
Equal Rights or Special Rights?
The SlutWalk movement, in my opinion, is an extension of what Ms. Sommers called “victim feminism.” I’m sure, by now, you’ve heard about SlutWalks since a few articles on it have been written by several of my colleagues. It’s this movement which is supposed to deconstruct patriarchy’s negative caricature stereotype of sexually liberal, sex-positive women (since patriarchy, allegedly, implies that only prostitutes can enjoy sex with multiple-partners) but ends up reinforcing it by walking the streets dressed up like, well, prostitutes – thereby inadvertently isolating the idea of “a woman who enjoys sexual freedom” with the image of – provocative clothing.
Some would argue that these provocative clothes are worn as costumes to make fun of the patriarchal stereotype. But at the end of the day it’s called a SlutWalk; it’s a pride march for a sexually liberated lifestyle and a sexually liberated identity and even in jest, the association between sexualized images and sexual liberty might imply that only women who have the audacity to dress like this enjoy sex.
Personally, I have nothing against women who dress provocatively. Ultimately, women are supposed to be able to wear what they want. In fact, it is completely legal for women to wear what they want. There is no law which prevents women from wearing revealing clothing. My problem with the SlutWalk is that these women want a privilege or an assurance that extends beyond legal permission.
There’s a claim that women should not be judged for what they wear, and that people should not respond negatively (by calling them sluts) or respond positively (by approaching them, or staring at them at length [I think the exact term was “to ogle”], or by whistling) to what they wear. In other words, they want to be able to wear what they want, without you being able to say what you want about what they wear. They are, in my opinion, asking for “special” rights, not equal rights.
According to Brendan O’Neill, in his article, “These are the most anti-social sluts on earth,” “The SlutWalk organiser says that one of the ‘main messages’ of her campaign is that ‘a woman’s appearance is not a sexual invitation’. But it is. When women wear revealing gear in a pub or a nightclub, they are definitely issuing a sexual invitation. And why shouldn’t they? They want to pull, get off, cop off or whatever the crazy kids call it these days. It is part and parcel of the perfectly normal, perfectly healthy interaction of the sexes that women dress attractively and men respond in kind, by making a comment, offering to buy a drink, attempting one of those apparently criminal come-ons.”
"A 1991 study by the Council for Prostitution Alternatives, in Portland, Oregon, documented that 78 percent of 55 prostituted women reported being raped an average of 16 times annually by their pimps and 33 times a year by johns."
Prostitution and Rape
SlutWalks claim that there is no correlation between sexy clothing and rape. Research proves that there isn’t, so I have to agree. There is no proven correlation between sexy clothing and rape, but how about sexy clothing and cat calls? How about plunging necklines and ogles? How about promiscuity and rape?
Quoting Paul Elam, in his article “SlutWalks: Stupidity in a Tube Top”, “Here is the basic, undeniable truth: Dressing like a slut doesn’t lead to rape; being a slut most certainly does. Like it or not, PC or not, slut friendly or not, promiscuity does lead to the enhanced likelihood of rape. As even the most obtuse rape advocate will acknowledge, most rapes of women happen from known assailants, often potential or previous sexual partners.”
But that is not entirely why I don’t like SlutWalks. Men and women can live as promiscuously or as prudishly as they want as long as they are aware of the risks they are taking.
I’m not saying that a person is at fault for being raped. What I’m saying is that certain lifestyles have certain risks. A prostitute definitely has a higher chance of being raped than a housewife, because the environment of a sex worker constantly exposes them to the possibility of sexual assault. Here are a few statistics about prostitution and rape.
Proud to be a Pokpok?
"Pokpok Pride Shirts"
Speaking of professional sluts, one thing don’t understand about SlutWalks is their use of the term slut. Why do they want to re-claim the word slut?
Quoting Jill Psmith, in her blog post “Toronto Activists Take Back the Slut”, “This notion of re-appropriating ’slut’ suggests that women, possibly in some happier time, had previously a-ppropriated it for our own benefit. But in no wise was there ever a culture in which women’s solidarity compelled us to define ourselves by the number of men we’ve pronged and how closely we conformed to pornographic dress codes when we did it. When you’re standing up against your own oppression as a member of the sex class, it is problematic and of questionable revolutionary efficacy to stamp yourself and your comrades-in-arms with the mark of the oppressor. In other words, calling yourself a slut, in the middle of a flippin’ patriarchy, can only have the effect, as Germaine Greer noted, of reinforcing men’s sense of their own superiority.”
Megan Murphy, in her article “We’re sluts, not feminists. Wherein my relationship with Slutwalk gets rocky” has another take on the word slut. She says, “I also ‘grapple with the word slut.’ This word, as I have mentioned, has been used in a myriad of ways to hurt me. I have been called a slut for having sex, for not having sex, and for being coerced into sex. I have been called a slut by partners, by friends, and by acquaintances. I wish that this word did not hold the power it does. I wish that it had not been used to hurt and abuse me. But it has. There is no erasing that. Regardless of whether or not I decide to redefine the word. It continues to be used in this way. And so I still “grapple” with the word, “slut.” While some may have decided to reclaim it or redefine it for their own personal empowerment, I’m afraid that this does not change my experiences.”
In my opinion, we should remember that “slut” is a Western word. It is not as loaded or offensive to the fe/male Filipino consciousness as, say, the word, “pokpok.” The word “slut,” when contextualized in local culture, already has a positive implication. The word “slut” implies a higher economic class. The promiscuous elite are called “sluts,” but promiscuous women from a lower class are called “popoks” and “putas.” “Slut” for Filipina women is not as offensive as it is for Western women. It is easy for non-native English speakers to think how reclaiming the word “slut” is a good idea because the trauma and pain associated with the word is dissociated and detached from them.
How about trying to reclaim local slurs? The word “pokpok” is an accurate translation of the word “slut.” But would you support a movement called the “PokpokWalk?” How about the “Puta Pride March?” Would you be able to say, “Pokpok ako!” or “I support puta pride!” with the same enthusiasm as “I’m proud to be a slut?”
But that’s not my main problem with SlutWalks. As far as I’m concerned, women can call themselves whatever term they want if they find these terms empowering. The main problem I have with SlutWalks is the SlutWalk’s problem with me.
"That coffee cup icon is actually a secret symbol for rape."
Rape Myths and Misandry
See, I am not a rapist. But misandry is inherent in many of their arguments. One argument suggests that, “Instead of teaching women how to dress, maybe we should teach men how not to rape women.” The name Dr. Kathleen Young is mentioned from time to time and her very insightful article about how rape could be prevented is making its rounds. Here’s an excerpt from her article, “How to Prevent Rape”:
Instead of further curtailing women’s freedom, how about:
If a woman is not yet a woman, but a child, don’t rape her.
If your girlfriend or wife is not in the mood, don’t rape her.
If your step-daughter is watching tv, don’t rape her.
If you break into a house and find a woman there, don’t rape her.
If your friend thinks it’s okay to rape someone, tell him it’s not, and that he’s not your friend.
If your “friend” tells you he raped someone, report him to the police.
If your frat-brother or another guy at the party tells you there’s an unconscious woman upstairs and
It’s your turn, don’t rape her, call the police and tell the guy he’s a rapist.
Tell your sons, god-sons, nephews, grandsons, sons of friends it’s not okay to rape someone.
Brilliant! Did you notice how there was no mention of women? It was as if all forms of rape and victimization are exclusively committed by men.
As what Ms. Sommers mentioned in her lecture, “Yet again and again, we find that contemporary feminists take the worst case example of pathological masculinity and treat it as the male norm.” The suggestion that men should be taught how NOT to rape women and how NOT to victimize women is sexist. It implies that rape and victimization is normative behavior in men, and that rape is an exclusively male activity.
Well, according to the article, “When the Rapist is a She”, it’s not just a guy thing.
Male and female rapists are bad people. They know that rape is wrong and they don’t give a shit that it’s wrong. Blaming incidents of sexual victimization on male ignorance is sexist and wrong.
SlutWalkers suggest that men should be taught how NOT to victimize and rape women. Maybe we should include mandatory academic lectures, for boys, in all private and public schools about the merits of NOT raping women, because telling a rapist not to rape a person will definitely stop him or her from doing so.
Once again, quoting Paul Elam, “Their world is one of fantasy, where we can prevent female rape simply by telling men not to rape women. Imagine that, all along we have been dealing with an education problem. Men don’t know that it is bad to commit rape, so we just need to tell them.”
Yes, SlutWalks are also, and primarily, a celebration and an affirmation of a woman’s freedom to dress as she wants, but it is also a big “Fuck You” to men. The Slut-Walks are not exclusively pro-woman (an articulation of a woman’s place in society), but are also somewhat anti-man, in that it postulates a man’s tendency to gaze or approach a woman on account of what she’s wearing as an intentionally malicious and inherently intrusive act. SlutWalks call male sexual bravado (and by bravado I mean gazing at and approaching women, not rape) sexual victimization while they themselves are wearing sexually audacious clothing. This is not about gender equality. There is an attempt to empower female sexuality, while weakening male sexuality. This is about a sexual power reversal.
The SlutWalk is a march by women, for women. Men can participate in these events as “supporters,” but it has been established that this is for women. Ultimately, this is a protest about women being abused, women being restricted, and women being shamed as sluts. It is female-centric and it ignores masculine issues when men are just as easily abused, restricted, and shamed in patriarchal societies.
A study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that "the belief that it is impossible for males to respond sexually when subjected to sexual molestation by women is contradicted" and it also corroborated "previous research indicating that male sex response can occur in a variety of emotional states, including anger and terror."
Rape, Abuse and Suppression in Men
The article “The Rape of Men” discusses the serious issue of male rape victims. According to a rape survivor, “There are certain things you just don’t believe can happen to a man, you get me? But I know now that sexual violence against men is a huge problem. Everybody has heard the women’s stories. But nobody has heard the men’s.”
Here are some surprising statistics I got from Paul Elam’s article, “SlutWalks: Stupidity in a Tube Top”:
* 2.1% of men reported forced vaginal sex compared to 1.6% of women in a relationship in the previous year. From: Predictors of Sexual Coersion.
*94% of sexually abused youth in correctional facilities reported being abused by female staff. From: Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities, 2008-09.
* Among inmates reporting staff sexual misconduct, ~ 65% reported a female aggressor. From: Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2008 – 09.
* 50% of homeless youth reported being sexually abused by a female. From: It’s Not What You Think: Sexually Exploited Youth in British Columbia.
It is extremely hard for men to come out and say that they’ve been victimized or raped because a patriarchal society implies that it is a rarity and highly unlikely for men to get raped by other men or by women. Movements such as the SlutWalk reinforce a false premise that only women get raped and only men do the raping. It makes it harder for men to say that they were raped because no one would believe them. Men can be raped, abused, and restricted. Patriarchy claims male victims too.
Images taken from:
Equal Rights or Special Rights?: http://www.google.com.ph/imgres?q=feminism+parody&um=1&hl=tl&rlz=1C1CHMC_enPH399PH399&biw=1024&bih=462&tbm=isch&tbnid=buNZmBGvzJzrSM:&imgrefurl=http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/postfeminism/Theorizing-Feminism-and-Postmodernity.html&docid=Wlp-TqS6Bj-HkM&w=394&h=400&ei=EhhBToSKO-edmQXq_523CQ&zoom=1
Prostitution and Rape: http://www.google.com.ph/imgres?q=prostitution+philippines&um=1&hl=tl&rlz=1C1CHMC_enPH399PH399&biw=1024&bih=462&tbm=isch&tbnid=E-mi0N35zVWglM:&imgrefurl=http://www.worldmission.ph/FEBRUARY06/Women%252520battle.htm&docid=mw5BtkFNUl_IqM&w=360&h=310&ei=HxJBToX2B4GYmQWfwI20CQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=258&vpy=157&dur=784&hovh=208&hovw=242&tx=195&ty=130&page=1&tbnh=163&tbnw=188&start=0&ndsp=9&ved=1t:429,r:5,s:0
Proud to be a Pokpok?: http://www.google.com.ph/imgres?q=pokpok+shirt&um=1&hl=tl&sa=N&rlz=1C1CHMC_enPH399PH399&biw=1024&bih=462&tbm=isch&tbnid=q1x5B2QsB5Ww4M:&imgrefurl=http://www.zazzle.com/pinay_pokpok_womens_shirt-235293338868380487&docid=CNaVyJVNkv2brM&w=400&h=400&ei=nRVBTtW9G4H-mAXTyeHNCQ&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=180&page=1&tbnh=163&tbnw=180&start=0&ndsp=8&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0&tx=79&ty=56
Rape Myths and Misandry: http://www.google.com.ph/imgres?q=radical+feminism+parody&um=1&hl=tl&sa=N&rlz=1C1CHMC_enPH399PH399&biw=1024&bih=462&tbm=isch&tbnid=IVofjBTBwDfrIM:&imgrefurl=http://masculineheart.blogspot.com/2010/06/robert-cribb-case-for-mens-studies.html&docid=Kd7YZP0c4TTskM&w=500&h=404&ei=9RVBTsr7JZD5mAXAwOi9CQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=381&vpy=107&dur=444&hovh=135&hovw=172&tx=76&ty=64&page=4&tbnh=135&tbnw=172&start=25&ndsp=8&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:25
Rape, Abuse, and Suppression in Men: http://www.google.com.ph/imgres?q=rape+of+men&um=1&hl=tl&rlz=1C1CHMC_enPH399PH399&biw=1024&bih=462&tbm=isch&tbnid=NdJMYYmfUiajCM:&imgrefurl=http://www.afghanforums.com/showthread.php%253F23064-The-Rape-of-Men-a-Must-read!!!!/page2&docid=ow2u8MOGQ82MtM&w=455&h=256&ei=MhlBTtXBHsjXmAXO5d2xCQ&zoom=1