Tag Archive | "SlutWalk"

On Humans and Clothing

There have been a series of very interesting opinions expressed on the matter here at the FF website:

Why I Will Not Walk Like a Slut


Sluttier than Thou (Part 1)


Symmetry of opposites

The first thing to note – actually noted by my wife Delia, rational biologist extraordinaire – is that both authorsare allies in actively fighting for the rights and freedoms of all human beings.

And then there is a fantastic symmetry of opposites in Marguerite’s and Liz’s articles. I love symmetry and opposites are just another form of symmetry, so let’s see if I can explain it in words (rather than with an equation or a table):

  • Marguerite argues that people need to keep in mind how others will see them when choosing their clothes, and then fails to foresee how others will be distuberd vis-a-vis of her ideas.
  • Liz is vehement about expressing herself freely and in absolute – uncompromising – terms, while at the same time wishes for educated compassion from others when discussing sexual assault.


Conclusion one: both authors are on the same side and both end up doing with “words” the opposite of what they say should be done with “clothes”.


The lacking in humans’ clothes

Then, I think that none of the articles develops enough what I think is a crucial point about the animals wearing the clothes: those great apes we call humans.

Inside each human animal there is a rational being who performs and appreciates art, strives for democracy, uses the scientific method, and respects fellow humans regardless of their peculiarities. Most of these are recently acquired notions, the oldest – art? – being a few tens of thousands years old.

And then there is an instinctive being, driven by the reptilian part of the brain, acting without further, or even much, consideration. It pays no heed to the words, but to the way they are spoken or the stance of that uttering them. It makes decisions in a split second without further thought. Instinct is a reliable tool, honed by millions of years of evolution.

I am not going to say that one is better than the other. In fact, much to the contrary. Both serve humans very faithfully and reliably. When they do so in agreement, we’re in luck. But it is not uncommon that they give contradicting opinions regarding the same situation.

I think that that is the case regarding attire. So let’s remove the clothes off of this, so to speak.

Is it just clothes they're selling?

Wearing clothes is a human invention. Most of the time it hinders me: ingrown hairs, sweaty discomfort, you name it; I am sure everyone, at one time or the other has wished they could just drop part or all of their clothes, especially in tropical environments. But as many human inventions, clothing also serves a very clear purpose, especially for those who ventured to inhabit the colder habitats in this planet. For those people removing clothes is folly, as – without shelter – damage to the body ensues quickly.


Another aspect of clothing is bedizening (yes, I scoured the dictionary for that one). Since long that the more you wear, the shinier you wear, and the more unique you wear, the more important you purport to be. The traditional example is jewelry, but it applies broadly to material goods, from iGadgets, to motor-vehicles, to dwellings, and including clothes. What humans wear is part of what they own, which is part of how they show – and gauge! – their social status in human society.

Finally, and more to the slutty point, clothing covers the most often sexualized body parts. Swollen penises or erect nipples can be tell-tale signs of – not necessarily conscious – interest in engaging in sexual activity. Clothing keeps those reptilian reactions or conscious thoughts tucked away from the view of others. Most of the time, anyway. But then, it is not a surprise that sex-workers that roam the streets entice clients into engaging their services by exposing as much as they can their sex-related body parts. Or that push-up bras for lasses, and bum enhancers for lads, are a hit.

So, clothing is an expression of an individual’s intelectual, artistic or social freedom. It protects you from the cold, the wind and the sun. But clothing is also a means to get attention given its role in keeping sexualized body parts out of sight.

And herein lies the problem as I see it: it is not only that clothes have multiple roles for those wearing them, they can also be perceived in a plethora of ways by whoever sees what the wearer allows them to see. And it is not just clothes: it’s body language, intonation, scent, you name it (because I don’t know more). So you end up with many combinations of wearer intent and viewer interpretation. When the wearer is not being sexual, but the viewer interprets it that way, violation of the wearer’s rights can ensue.

Horny rabbit wanting to get laid or scared duck running away?

This is not an excuse for the viewer not to think about how they act on what they perceive. Rape is rape; as soon as one party says it is over it should be over there and then. Period.

Think “job interview” for a moment. This does not even need concern your attire for the interview (although every advice out there mentions clothing, right?).

The fulcrum is that as long as you do not show that you are what the hiring party thinks or feels that they need, you’re screwed. What they think or feel that they need. Not what they need or who you are. It does not matter who you are or if you are what they need. They must be convinced that you are what they think they need. I know it is over-elaborate, but it is to the point: your identity is also what other animals perceive of it (as long as you share your habitat with them). Generalization: those need not even be just humans animals; for any animal you share your enviroment with, you are what they perceive.

So, I am not an expert in human animals (my trade is fundamental particles,) but one thing never ceases to fascinate me: that all of this thinking happens inside the same human brains. Gotta love those human brains! (Both the rational and reptilian bits.)


Conclusion two: things are not just what we make them look like, but also what others want or can see in us.

Posted in Personal, Politics, SocietyComments (2)

Sluttier than Thou (Part 2)

Read part 1 of “Sluttier than Thou”

“Aimed at those who were sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality….”

SlutWalk Manifesto

Mythbusting Sluts

The SlutWalk is not about daring men not to feel sexually attracted to women whose fashion sense can induce sexual desire. One of the points of the movement is to dare a patriarchal society to create an environment that accommodates and respects women’s desire to look however they want in spite of other people’s sexual desire.

Photo Credit: asteroidz (deviantART)

Furthermore, the SlutWalk wants to call out the use of “slut,” not merely for describing women in “revealing” clothing, but for implying an insensitive assumption that if a girl was sexually victimized, it must’ve been because she dressed like so.

To reiterate the argument, the appalling logic behind “risk management” by clothing perpetuates the myth that women experience sexual violence because they’ve managed to provoke — deliberately or otherwise — uncontrollable sexual desire for them in their sexual predators.

Although the SlutWalk was not about rape per se, I want to take this opportunity to identify instances of rape that remotely concern the sexual appeal victims exude.

  • Rape in rigidly hierarchical systems and cultures: military rape, prison rape, and clerical rape
  • Corrective rape: against LGBT to cure their supposed “gender disorder”
  • War rape a.k.a. “spoils of war” as in the case of comfort women during the World War II
  • Genocidal rape: sexuality as a symbol of reproductive potential and continuity of an ethnic community

A slut by any other name would still be as slutty.

Germain Greer, in her article on the SlutWalk, gave her readers a fascinating history of the word:

Historically, the primary attribute of a slut is not promiscuity but dirt. The word denotes a ‘woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern.’ A now obsolete meaning connects it with a kitchen maid, whose life was lived in soot and grease. […] The corner she left unswept was the slut corner; the fluff that collected under the furniture was a slut ball.”

Greer isn’t sure how dirty eventually became associated with promiscuity, but the relation between the two can be found in various expressions. “Dirty mind” suggests promiscuous thinking, while “dirty jokes” describe promiscuous jokes.

Perhaps it began with a similar relation — the link between cleanliness and virginity. (Well, not so much “clean” as “immaculate,” which came from a Latin word meaning “not stained” or “spotless.”)

Anthropologists using a functionalist perspective to explain the value of virginity would point that some cultures — most probably, the patriarchal ones — might value a woman’s virginity because her sexual inexperience assures her future husband that the child in her womb doesn’t belong to any other man.

Patriarchal cultures usually don’t allow the woman to be stained by any one else but her husband, and marriage is the ritual that sanctions the staining of the woman. I’d also think that virginity is a much more important issue in women than men, since the failure of men to remain chaste doesn’t carry the risk of bearing a child, a burden to the resources of a group of individuals.

Western history, which had a long struggle with Judeo-Christian sexual repression, valued virginity in the same way. As I was looking up the definition of “immaculate” in the Oxford Dictionary — a term used to describe the conception of Jesus Christ by Mary — late Middle English actually used the term in the sense of “free from moral stain.”

It turns out, not only are slut shamers conforming to patriarchal logic, they’re also conforming to Judeo-Christian conservatism.

The Scarlet Letter

This is why the word “slut” needs to be reclaimed: it needs to be reclaimed from originators of its derogatory connotation.

Promiscuity need not be interpreted as a negative behavior.

Greer said it best:

“If women are to overthrow the tyranny of perpetual cleansing, we have to be able to say: ‘Yes, I am a slut. […] I could be without sexual fantasies… – pure as the untrodden snow – but I’m not. I’m a slut and proud.’ The rejection by women of compulsory cleansing of mind, body, and soul is a necessary pre-condition of liberation.”

Reclaiming a word with heavy historical baggage will be a long and arduous struggle. But we have to start somewhere.

1. Diluting derogatory effect. Reclamation of a word begins with overuse. The principle is simple enough: have many people use it and have these people use it to describe the same things but of lesser degree — in fact, use it as casually as possible. Eventually, speakers will adapt to using the word for these lesser purposes.

People may not agree with me, but I think the overuse of the word “bitch” has managed to dilute its derogatory effect. Being called a bitch in the nineties is not the same as being called a “bitch” in 2010s, especially when you have people who greet their friends with, “What’s up, bitches?”

Pioneering a word’s dilution requires a steadfast spirit of resistance and a conviction in the ethics of reclaiming it. It is a purposeful exercise in political incorrectness. You must be willing to take the risk of offending people.

Conversely, cultural (and even legal) restrictions to the use of a word regulates who gets to say it and how it is applied, thus preserving not only the definition of the word but the weight it bears as a derogatory, sacrosanct, or heinous term.

When it comes to the word “slut,” do we want to preserve the patriarchal (and even religious) intent to offend women who are promiscuous?

Well, I don’t.

God forbid, an LGBT slut. (Photo Credit: CEJoly on deviantART)

2. Reconditioning (female) response from shame to pride. Overusing the word “slut” will be useless if women don’t develop the courage to embrace the possibility that promiscuity can be empowering. No word is objectively offensive, and any word can be tailored to offend as any speaker can desire.

The objective to offend will fall flat on its face if the one being addressed is not insulted. I’m a slut, and I’m loving it.

It won’t always be the case that being called a slut won’t hurt. People are missing the point if they treat the issue of reconditioning responses as a goal rather than as sustained practice. Treat each situation as a challenge to respond with pride instead of shame. If you can summon pride most of the time, you’ve personally reclaimed “slut” from your offenders. If most women have managed the same transformation, they have, as political subjects, reclaimed “slut” from male chauvinists, misogynists, and sexists.

Ultimately, if the larger cultural community has managed the same transformation, its culture bearers have, as historical subjects, reclaimed “slut” from their patriarchal traditions of thought and language.

To reclaim or not to reclaim? The freedom to use and reclaim symbols should be exercised with caution and discernment. I don’t want to put out rules on when to reclaim or not, because there will always be exceptions to these rules. Instead, I want to cite examples and give my opinions on why I think certain strategies are ethically valuable or not.

“Nigger” is arguably stuck in a phase of reclamation where it’s typically okay for African-Americans to address themselves and each other colloquially as that, but it’s ethically revulsive for everyone else to address members of the cultural group as so. I can’t say whether it will come to a point where African-Americans will spurn its use for anyone and everyone or whether even out-groups will be in a comfortable cultural condition to use it.

This is one of those words where I believe it’s better that nobody — and I mean, nobody — should be comfortable about using it, because I cannot possibly conceive of a positive reinterpretation of slavery, a human relation historically associated with the word “nigger.” It’s just wrong, and nobody should ever be treated as one.

A problem I see with the in-group/out-group dichotomy the word creates is its inability to engage all political and cultural stakeholders in addressing a deeply violent history of oppression.

Although it’s not a word, the swastika benefits from the current restrictions placed on how it’s used. There is no positive reinterpretation of ethnic cleansing. The word “Nazi,” on the other hand, has lost its general ability to incite “moral horror” because so many people compare every single thing to being a “Nazi.” (Read: feminazi) It’s a tired metaphor, but maybe it shouldn’t be.

For something culturally relatable, I finally want to talk about “overseas Filipino worker” (OFW). I think this is a label that Filipinos should rid from their vocabulary altogether, so they can replace it with expatriate. OFW is a modification of the term “overseas contract worker,” which carried notions of contractual/temporary workers engaged in unskilled or manual labor, and it is a half-hearted attempt to lessen the discrimination Filipino expatriates experience whether they are at home or abroad.

I cringe at the term OFW also because of the tendency of politicians to valorize “OFWs” and thus legitimize their martyrdom. I don’t want people to suffer for the economic progress of the “motherland,” especially when it’s run by pricks like the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. Why can’t people just earn a living without having to give up their human rights or have we forgotten this as a viable option? Expatriate, however, is “politically neutral” when it comes to the relationship between being a working migrant and a hero for the country. The sooner the national government realizes that they are not heroes but individuals needing protection from discrimination, exploitation, and state violence, the sooner they might realize that local employment opportunities need to be improved, especially outside Metro Manila.

Grassroots Slut

The most reasonable argument I’ve heard against reclaiming “slut” is the one put forward by Gail Dines and Wendy J. Murphy:

“The term slut is so deeply rooted in the patriarchal “madonna/whore” view of women’s sexuality that it is beyond redemption. […] Women need to find ways to create their own authentic sexuality, outside of male-defined terms like slut.”

I like their article because it is the only criticism I’ve read which is conscious of mainstream media or pop culture’s hypersexualization of women:

“These students have grown up in a culture in which hypersexualized images of young women are commonplace and where hardcore porn is the major form of sex education for young men.”

Supporting the SlutWalk shouldn’t mean that we’re forcing women to be promiscuous or to express openly their sexual identities. We’re saying instead that if they wanted to have those rights, we’d be there to fight for an environment that accommodates these desires. No judgments.

But in the age of global capitalism, patriarchal logic, as reworked by media and pop culture, has insidiously found its way back into the minds and hearts of unwitting women who’ve grown weary of feminist struggles for equality.

In an age where people are made to think that the right to consume is a fundamental human right, women are made to think that if they have the right to buy whatever they want to look however they want, they’re free and equal to men.

I admit. Women now consume more images of hypersexualized and hyperfeminine women, and the overwhelming exposure of these images to the exclusion of, well, other types and subjectivities of women promotes a narrow sense of femininity and womanhood to people, especially children*.

Think of the children.

The trouble with contemporary culture is that more women are exposing their bodies precisely because they want to be sexualized by men. Women want to be dirty, because it pleases men to become so. And if they want it, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s girl power. It’s Girls Gone Wild. In this way, being a “slut” ends up reproducing the patriarchal logic we set out to diminish.

But the great thing about the SlutWalk is the fact that it’s a grassroots gender and sexual movement. Unlike mainstream media which tends to privilege only particular types of women to put on a “slut” identity, the SlutWalk opened the opportunity to women to put on a “slut” identity no matter how they looked**.

Finally, the desire to expose the body is not about patronizing patriarchal logic; it’s to ridicule it. It’s to shame those who gaze with misogynistic eyes at women who expose their bodies. It’s to cause discomfort in those who might unconsciously still cling to patriarchal myths about women’s desires and sexuality.

The feminist struggle is fought on many fronts. As women struggle against cultures that force them to dress up, they struggle against cultures that force them to undress. Because of this, I cannot hold one movement responsible for resolving all the problems women face.

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


Image of “I ♥ Sluts” from Wikipedia

*, ** (From “Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls“) – “Healthy sexuality is an important component of both physical and mental health, fosters intimacy, bonding, and shared pleasure, and involves mutual respect between consenting partners (Satcher, 2001; Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States [SIECUS], 2004). In contrast, sexualization occurs when:

  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy
  • a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.
We propose that the sexualization of girls occurs within three interrelated spheres:
  • The contribution by society—that is, the cultural1 norms, expectations, and values that are communicated in myriad ways, including through the media. A culture can be infused with sexualized representations of girls and women, suggesting that such sexualization is good and normal.
  • An interpersonal contribution—Girls can be treated as, and encouraged to be, sexual objects by family, peers, and others.
  • Self-sexualization—Girls may treat and experience themselves as sexual objects (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997; McKinley & Hyde, 1996). If girls learn that sexualized behavior and appearance are approved of and rewarded by society and by the people (e.g., peers) whose opinions matter most to them, they are likely to internalize these standards, thus engaging in self-sexualization. 

For individual women, findings across several studies indicate associations between exposure to female beauty ideals and disordered eating attitudes and symptoms, such that greater exposure to thin-ideal media has been associated with higher levels of dieting, exercising, and disordered eating symptomatology (e.g., Abramson & Valene, 1991; Harrison, 2000; Hofschire & Greenberg, 2001; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw, & Stein, 1994;Thomsen,Weber, & Brown, 2002).

Indeed, a recent meta-analysis testing links between media exposure and women’s behavior and beliefs related to eating reported a small (d = .29) but statistically reliable effect of media exposure across 8 experimental and 12 correlational studies (Grabe,Ward, & Hyde, 2008).


Liz studied anthropology, international relations, philosophy, and French. She quit graduate school (for now) to pursue journalism. She still maintains that she isn’t a feminist, but watch out for more posts on gender issues in the coming weeks.

Posted in SocietyComments (11)

Sluttier than Thou (Part 1)

Read part 2 of “Sluttier than Thou”

“Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

— Constable Michael Sanguinetti (Toronto Police Officer), 24 January 2011

Fuck me

I don’t count myself a feminist, but I felt a strange flurry of indignation, bewilderment, and despair some might accord to a feminist sensibility as I processed my response to certain reasons and logic used to justify (1) the “practicality” of the above quotation as if it does not imply the prevalence of a problematic patriarchal vocabulary and (2) condemnations of the slut walks as if their participants use the term “slut” merely for shock value.

To some, that makes me a silly feminist. To me, that simply makes me someone who’s fighting for a free world where sluts, prudes, and everyone in between and beyond, can live in harmony.

I have never been sexually assaulted, although I’ve loved, known, and met women who have survived such incidents. I am writing this because I wish people would handle this topic not only with critical reflection but with educated compassion.

Along came a slut scantily clad woman.

Language matters. Culture matters.

There is a problem with the fact that the Canadian police officer used the term “slut” to describe revealing clothing instead of calling a spade a spade. You’re probably thinking that’s nitpicking compared to the larger issue of “he shouldn’t be blaming the victim in the first place.” I agree.

But the fact that he used a derogatory identifier and equated it with a fashion sense that was never even universally associated with promiscuous women implies that those who do not cover themselves enough are typically or should be judged negatively.

I’m not denying that “sluts” have dressed to provoke sexualization. Those assuming that defenders of slut walks are unaware of this end up emphasising a point that no one even contests. And in pressing that point, the ethical and political implications of language fly over their heads.

Did you know majority of expatriate Filipinos – to be accurate, undocumented female migrants – are unskilled laborers? They typically end up as domestic workers, too.

The banality of that link led Greek linguists to define Filipina as “domestic worker” in a dictionary. (Note: It was not the Oxford Dictionary.)

Not only Filipinos, but anyone with half a brain, thought that was sloppy, appalling research for an educational tool and non-fiction reference. It’s not true that all Filipinas are domestic workers and all domestic workers are Filipinas. If you dig deeper, you can’t help but think that it ends up implying that all Filipinas are unskilled laborers — unskilled. While there is dignity to hard, manual labor, the association can become offensive because it makes invisible the chance that there might be skilled, professional migrant Filipinas.

Ethically, there is a problem when you use inaccurate language, which is the problem of “dress like sluts” and “Filipineza. Noun. […] 2. A domestic worker.”

Politically, there is an issue of power, because you have to ask, “Who defines Filipina?” and “Who passes judgment on scantily clad women as the promiscuous type who looks like she will enjoy, not scorn, sexual advances that are not explicity solicited?”

On another note, disregarding the culture (read: context) in which the statement was made leads one to create double standards.

Suddenly, it’s practical to believe that women who pair tight semi-sheer tank tops that follow even the shape of their nipples with pekpek shorts are inviting to be sexually victimized. But that’s because it happened in Canada.

Transplant that statement, “[W]omen should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” to Taliban Afghanistan circa 1990s. A police officer would probably be referring to a girl whose burqa is one inch too short to cover her ankles. In relatively more moderate Muslim cultures, a police officer would probably be referring to a girl dawning the glory of her sensuously wavy locks instead of wrapping it in a scarf.

Then, play a little with the statement to produce, “Women should avoid looking like sluts in order not to be victimized,” and transplant that to Cameroon.

Cameroon is where mothers, grandmothers, or older sisters subject their pubescent (grand)daughters or younger sisters to breast ironing to stunt the growth of their breasts because of this prevailing belief that buxom women invite rape.

How slutty is slutty?

I invite people from all walks of life to answer that question.

Personally, I notice that plunging necklines don’t look “slutty” on me because I’m flat chested. (And I wonder if anyone from the Freethinkers think Tin dresses like a slut.)

I also wonder whether Muslim women who get raped for not wearing the veil as prescribed by their communities made the men in their neighborhoods uncontrollably horny or whether they raped them to prove the point that “‘sluts’ invite rape” – in other words, to regulate and enforce cultural norms on gendered prudence through sexual violence (i.e., “to put ‘sluts’ in their place”).

“Dress like a slut” assumes that always and in all cases, the purpose of dressing in such a way that many people in your culture might perceive as incomplete is to effect sexual desire, or, worse, to communicate sexual availability – like a bulging red baboon butt.

I wear sleeveless and shorts when it’s 30 degrees outside so men can ogle me? I’d like to trim my burqa not because I want to avoid tripping over it but because I want to distract men with my pasty ankles?

If I dress like this…

…it’s only possible that I’m dressing for myself.

But if I dress like this…

…I must be dressing up for men (and men alone).

That infintely insults me.

Women, when they dress up fabulously or to feel good about themselves, regardless of the level of “sluttiness” that ensemble entails, cannot possibly conceive of doing it for themselves. Again, this is where people miss the point by pressing the fact that “[there are] women [who] sometimes do it to get noticed or to be desired.” Nobody contests that.

To harp on that possibility to the exclusion of a woman’s autonomy is classic patriarchal logic. Worst of all, to harp on that possibility to the exclusion of non-sexual or gender-unrelated desires to bare flesh screams “maniac” and “perv.”

Why can’t skin and curves be sensual instead of sexual? Why can’t skin and curves be seen through non-sexual and non-gendered lenses? I would like to think that we are more than just our sexual and gender identities.

The Myth of the Rapist-magnet

The most horrific reasoning, by far, is how victimized women in skimpy outfits share the blame with their sexual predators for the sexual assault. I thought that reasoning died ages ago considering “we’re in a post-feminist era.” (read: sarcasm)

Research has shown that more reliable predictors of sexual harassment and rape victimization are the following: FIRST, indicators of vulnerability such as age (i.e., children and the elderly), a timid disposition, and a timid appearance (e.g., hair length) and SECOND, position of authority (e.g., subordination).

Interestingly, “slut dressing” might be an indicator of being in control and of dominance. I’m inclined to believe that because it takes guts and, perhaps, a sense of individuality to defy social norms, even those that govern something as seemingly inconsequential as clothing.

But since we’ve agreed that it’s possible (though not always the case) for a woman to be sexually assaulted because of appearance (not necessarily as an enactment of sexual desire), do we jump the gun by prescribing to women to dress “prudently” – whatever that means – to control the “risk” of attracting sexual predators?

Sexual Risk-Aversion Clothing

“Dress up if you know what’s good for you.” It’s a practical solution, perhaps, but it flies in the face of research. This is not fair. You can prescribe to a woman what to wear and claim it has neither deliberate nor inadvertent patriarchal pretensions despite it being a poor predictor of rape and sexual harassment?

By that logic, a rational person should consistently tell a woman to do the following to avoid sexual victimization altogether: “Cut you hair.” “Don’t act timid.” “Don’t be a secretary.” “Don’t be a student.” “Don’t be young.” “Don’t grow too old. Once you reach 50, it’s best that you die.” These pieces of advice respond better to reliable predictors of rape.

In a twisted sense of analogy, dressing up prudently is compared to the following scenarios: (1) Being robbed after you “leave your front door unlocked.” “You turned yourself into an easier target because of your actions – and you have to take the rap for that.” (2) Shutting up and not exercising your freedom of speech for fear of libel or, if you will be offending people who might physically injure you, for fear of death.

I hope we all agree in principle that be it rape, theft, or death, nobody deserves these things on the mere basis of –insert rape predictor of choice–, leaving the front door unlocked, and speaking out.

But being compelled (by someone or by circumstance) to bolt the front door is ethically unproblematic because the advice does not trample on a fundamental human right and the advice does not discriminate selectively on the rights of homeowners regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, or income bracket. Old or young; LGBT, QIA, hetero-male or hetero-female; rich or poor, you all have to lock your front doors.

On the other hand, advising someone to dress up prudently, not promiscuously, to avoid sexual assault only makes sense to women? If a man dressed up “promiscuously” would he court sexual assault? It’s a questionable double standard because it implies that circumstances are created in such a way that men are allowed more flexibility in expressing themselves compared to women. This human condition should compel people to be calling for equality in expressive flexibilities and access to a safe environment instead.

Withholding the freedom of speech, however, is a trickier situation. I would encourage people to speak out in spite of the risks if they lived in a totalitarian regime, since a sovereign ruler is only as strong as its constituents. A ruler without constituents is not a ruler, and that is the fundamental idea of resistance: to imply that nobody wants to be subject of this despot’s exercise of power.

In some cases, perhaps, it might be better to shut up than die, although I would rather people constantly reevaluate the weight of their criticisms, convictions, intellect, and hope against the weight of bare biological life. Is it better to die on your feet than to live on your knees?

But if you really want sensible advice on how not to be physically compromised or violated, here are my pieces of advice for you: (1) Don’t accept drinks from strangers. (2) If you plan to get drunk or stoned, make sure you have a responsible and trustworthy friend who is willing to stay sober and take care of you until you get home and get tucked under your bed. (3) Learn self-defense.

Old or young; LGBT, QIA, hetero-male or hetero-female; rich or poor – anyone would do well to avoid accepting drinks from strangers, have a responsible, trustworthy, and sober friend, and learn self-defense.

But in an effort to save that argument for “dressing prudently” I hear this:

“It’s just clothing. It’s just costume. Identities can be changed. It’s superficial.”

Honestly, fashion is a tricky subject, because it brings along with it issues of consumerism and capitalism. Controlling for those issues, however, reveals how shortsighted the quoted rebuttal is.

I will admit that outward physical appearances invite discrimination.

Being black. Being Asian. Being Middle Eastern. Being Latino.

Those things, you cannot change. These are not costumes, but these are identities.

Being transgendered. Being butch.

Costume, you can change. But these are identities.

Walk, walk, fashion baby, work it, move that bitch crazy.

A “biologically destined male” dressing up as female invites a full menu of physical assault and psychological bullying. And this has been the reasoning of companies when they refuse to hire or promote anyone LGBT. The management puts up a pretense of concern, which, to them, legitimizes restricting the employment opportunities of gender nonconformists.

Miss Sass Rogando Sasot had a scathing rebuttal for this human resource practice. Limiting the opportunities of LGBT effectively holds them responsible for the discrimination they are facing. But the problem is discrimination, not their identities. You should be fixing the problem, not their identities, because there is nothing wrong with who they are.

MAYBE… it’s equally practical to advise trannies to dress like men from nine to five, Monday to Friday whenever they go to the office.

Frank also had a brilliant rebuttal to this: The HR department is already doing to the individual the act (discrimination) that they’ve been warning her/him about.

Yes, I’m also a silly LGBT ally.

You know what’s silly? Not feminism. It’s silly to think that there is even truth to “you won’t get raped in some places… if you do or don’t dress like a ‘slut.’”

Date rape. A girl likes a guy, but she’s not ready to put out yet. Nevertheless, she’s interested in him and she’d like him to think that she’s beautiful and attractive on top of interesting and smart. Wearing a little black dress with stiletto heels does not mean she is ready to be taken home.

I’ve even heard of this classist claim that you wouldn’t get sexually assaulted if you’re skimpily dressed in a high-end bar, but you would get sexually assaulted in a ghetto.

But the truth is, you can be sexually assaulted anywhere no matter what you’re wearing, regardless of whom you’re with. (Hell, even your husband can rape you.) It’s not your fault you ended up in the same place as that asshole. It’s not your fault that asshole touched you even if you told him to stop. It’s not your fault you attracted that asshole because you’re beautiful and sexy and that you enjoy being beautiful and sexy so that makes you even sexier.

No. It’s not your fault he’s an asshole.

It’s his fault he’s an asshole.

Stay tuned for “Sluttier than Thou” (part 2) where I begin to address the politics of language and protest movements on the issue of slut walks. Coming on Friday.

Posted in SocietyComments (5)

Why I Will Not Walk Like a Sl*t

Disclaimer: The asterisk in the title was used in order for this post to come out on our Facebook pages. Just to make it clear, I’m as much of a pottymouth as the next person. Kepyas kepyas kepyas.

“Slut” is a derogatory term, and it should stay that way. This is coming from someone who dry heaves at the term “making love,” and made casual sex her sport of choice when she was single. No matter how comfortable I am with the idea of mindless sex and its pursuit, I believe that there is a difference between being in full control of one’s sexuality, and just being plain promiscuous.

SlutWalk - "Why I will not walk like a slut" by Marguerite de Leon
Walk like a slut

A group of female activists inToronto, however, have started a pride march of sorts dubbed the “SlutWalk” last June. It was sparked when a local police officer suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” to avoid sexual harassment. In protest, these women have taken to the streets in an effort to redefine slut-dom, with many of them donning tacky, skimpy clothing and daring men not to ogle or wolf-whistle. The movement has become so popular that SlutWalks have been held across the world ever since, including in uber-traditional, harassment-heavy New Delhi.

I am totally for women speaking out not only against harassment, but also in support of their right to be open about their love for sex, whether mindless or meaningful. What I find very weak about these women’s concept, however, is their dependence on the image of a scantily-clad slut to further such a well-intentioned cause.

SlutWalk - "Why I will not walk like a slut" by Marguerite de Leon
Who you callin’ hot mama?

If you go out on the street in a low-cut blouse, hot pants, and heels, and then feel bad that people are staring at you, you should probably reassess your situation. What other reason is there for women to wear revealing clothing other than to attract attention? “To make me feel good about myself and/or my body” may be a valid sentiment, but  the fact remains that at the very root of your feeling good about yourself and/or your body via clothing is your being found sexually attractive by others.

Why bother wearing something revealing if sexual attractiveness is not the message you’re willing to convey? For the love of fashion, you say? Most skimpy haute couture wasn’t meant for the commute to work in the first place. Heterosexual men are predisposed to like boobs and legs and butts, and if you feel offended that your halter top/micro-mini/low-rise jeans has garnered you unwarranted attention, then it would be best for you to sit down and read up on biology and gender studies before heading out again.

SlutWalk - "Why I will not walk like a slut" by Marguerite de Leon
Frankness and foresight

The odd wolf-whistle or two, of course, is absolutely nothing compared to rape, and the best way for any individual to avoid it is to avoid vulnerable situations. Marching the streets in a bikini and waving a placard that reads “This is NOT my I WANT YOU face!” is not going to keep some depraved schmuck from taking advantage of you.

Instead, try lucid communication. On a night out, for instance, not only should you verbally make your intentions with your date clear, but also look and act that way you want to be treated. Want sex on the first date? Go for it – drop as many double entendres as you deem necessary. Want to play it slow or show that you’re not interested? Then stop trying to spill your cleavage onto your plate and laughing at every other thing your date says. Better yet, for either case, just say what you feel. “I like you. Want to come up to my apartment for a drink?” “I like you. Maybe we can have dinner again this week. When are you free?” “You’re very nice, but I don’t think we’re a good fit. I should go on ahead. I hope you understand.”

At the end of the day, however, anyone, regardless of what they’re wearing, can become a victim of rape. There are bad people out there, and they will not listen to what you tell them. The key to eradicating such a horrid crime is more about advancing an intelligent, empathetic, and conscientious society and less about pitting men against women through the Pussy Power Patrol.

So, if you want to redefine how men and women interact with one another, don’t parade yourself in your panties and dare people not to stare at you. Don’t try to alleviate the perils of mixed signals with even more mixed signals. Just quit the ambiguous bullshit, period.

Click here for a follow-up to this piece. 

(Images from IBTimes, TnT Magazine, Lisa VanDyke, and The Guardian)

Posted in Personal, SocietyComments (52)