Protest in High Heels

The protest movement known as Slutwalking, in which women march through cities dressed (supposedly) sexily, has arrived in the UK. It hasn’t met with universal approval. A couple of unreconstructed second wave feminists denounced it in The Guardian, and on the train yesterday I overheard a group of young women complaining about how awful it is. We are a bit stuffy in this country. And I guess it has to be selective protest activity. I am way too old and fat for such things.

The point of protests, however, is to get people to think, and if they do they might produce something like Nilanjana Roy has written. She notes that the movement started after a policeman in Toronto suggested that women could protect themselves better by not dressing provocatively. Nilanjana wondered what the world would be like if the same things were said about men. For example:

According to police experts, women should be careful around men in tight jeans. Men in tight jeans are showcasing their sexuality and drawing attention to the power of their libido. Women should also be careful around men in loose jeans. Men in loose jeans have something to conceal, and may either be covering up an excess of sexuality or compensating for feelings of inadequacy.

Yes, it is daft, but no more daft than what gets said about how women dress. Read the whole thing, it is quite amusing, and it makes the point rather better than an actual slutwalk, I think.

I noticed the post when one of my Indian Twitter followers re-tweeted a link to it. Nilanjana’s original tweet read:

There’s no male word for slut, is there? Brief rant: if we discussed men the way we talk about women

Followed by a link to the post. I re-tweeted it, and guess what happened? The ladies will have probably got it immediately. A man tweeted back to inform me that I was wrong.

Really, I don’t care much whether there’s a male word for slut or not. I wanted people to read Nilanjana’s post. Also I don’t think the guy had a clue what he had just done. He was just following that age-old instinct that says, “If a woman says something, you should correct her, because she’s bound to be wrong and we don’t want her getting ideas above her station.” That’s not a conscious thought. It is something that men seem to just do on autopilot. Maybe something like a Slutwalk will shock them out of it. But not if the point of the protest gets lots amidst a storm of complaints about how it is anti-feminist to dress sexily.

7 thoughts on “Protest in High Heels

  1. I’m afraid you appear to have been infected by the Daily Mail’s description of the SlutWalk. Provocative, sexy dressing is not an essential part of it, though some people will choose to do so. Whether we do or not, it doesn’t matter – women will still be thought of derogatorily whether they choose to wear a bikini or a burka. And that’s the point.

    Lindsay Beyerstein puts it far more articulately than I can.

  2. I really assumption that women only dress sexily for men’s consumption is more antifeminist than wearing a thong.

    I have no proper feminist credentials (aka I haven’t read theory, iirc) but that idea seems pretty reasonable to me.


    Of course, you aren’t going to see me out there in a miniskirt, but I’m at the place now where I realize that’s more about me and my gendering than a statement about women as a whole.

  3. Re Kari

    ” Bah to ‘old and fat’. We are mature and elegant.”

    \m/ Mod up!

    Heck, I’d squire those ladies out if I could wear a tux. ( :
    Hmm. Although I suppose that would undo the point of the protest . . . .

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