Slutwalking is stupid

Now I realise I’m courting extreme feminist abuse by this post, but so be it.

Australian popular culture always seems to follow North American examples no matter how silly e.g. “gangsta rap”.  So I suppose it was inevitable that the phenomenon of the “slutwalk” would rapidly be emulated here, mostly by young women with little or no feminist consciousness for more substantive issues like equal pay.

Apparently the “slutwalk” movement arose after a Toronto police officer dared to suggest that dressing in a “sluttish” manner on the streets, especially late at night, might not be a really great idea.  Many young women reacted with outrage and began street demos where they dressed in “slutty” outfits.  I guess it has some kinship with the “Reclaim the Night” demos that have become an annual event in Australia, or the public reaction to Muslim cleric Sheikh Hilaly’s remarks about scantily dressed women as “uncovered meat” (who, implicitly, were courting rape).

However, I can’t help questioning the commonsense rationality of “slutwalking”.  Certainly the proposition that the primary responsibility for curbing aggressive responses to women who may be dressed in a highly sexualised way rests with the blokes exhibiting those aggressive responses is undeniably true.

Conversely, however, does it make sense to deliberately and unnecessarily behave in a way that a predictable proportion of aggressive, testosterone-driven males with poor impulse control will treat as an open invitation for a root?  How does “slutwalking” differ in substance from the hypothetical example of a middle class person of either gender parading around the streets of a notoriously poor and violent inner city suburb displaying their iPod, iPhone, iPad and a wallet obviously stuffed with money?  For a police officer to suggest that this might be unwise behaviour isn’t in any sense condoning the actions of the thieves who will almost certainly proceed to commit an opportunistic mugging.  It’s just commonsense advice.  “Slutwalking” isn’t a courageous political act, it’s just mindless, imitative, populist stupidity.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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murph the surf.
murph the surf.
13 years ago

Oh dear – and you didn’t dare include a photo either!

Pedro
Pedro
13 years ago

You’re getting old Ken. But seriously, how is it different to going to Cronulla beach in a burka?

Tel
Tel
13 years ago

Such protest would count for little unless the girls got themselves wasted on cheap bourbon first. I mean we have rights in this country, and there’s no point putting those rights to the test unless you put them all the way to the test. I completely support the freedom for all citizens to wear as much or as little as they like, and to drink as little or as much as might suit them.

Should any troublemaker attempt to molest or harm any woman under such a situation it is the absolute duty of the state and the police, to take a clear statement (presuming there are survivors) and put the matter into a database where it can wait to be investigated without fear or favour. I pay a fair bit of protection money to the state, and I expect that protection to apply to all citizens on an equal basis.

In the computing industry we learnt the hard way what happens when you try to build idiot-proof systems.

Fyodor
13 years ago

What Murph said. 1.5 stars, Margaret.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
13 years ago

it is the absolute duty of the state and the police, to take a clear statement (presuming there are survivors) and put the matter into a database where it can wait to be investigated without fear or favour.””

Well yes. But leaving aside the tongue in cheek element, that isn’t the point. Is there anything wrong in principle or practice with a police officer giving public advice that young women who dress scantily when out at night on their own are putting themselves at risk? It doesn’t mean the police would fail to investigate any resulting sexual assault without fear or favour, just that they’re exercising a public function of advising people not to behave in a needlessly risky fashion. In the best of all possible worlds we would not have any sleazebags likely to commit opportunistic rapes in such situations, but we don’t live in the best of all possible worlds.

Of course it would be otherwise if the police were in the habit of warning women not to go out dressed scantily while making no effort to warn young men prone to commit sexual assaults, but that isn’t the case. Indeed it’s mostly that which differentiates this situation from Sheikh Hilaly. He clearly believes/d that it’s all the woman’s fault (including morally) and that the bloke should not be blamed. OTOH the Toronto cop wasn’t suggesting that women were morally at fault nor was he condoning the potential rapist’s actions in any way, he was just suggesting that it was needlessly risk-taking behaviour on the woman’s part. That is clearly the case, and the entire “slutwalking” phenomenon now seems to have entrenched/expanded such silly behaviour as if it was a meaningful political act.

conrad
conrad
13 years ago

Ken,

I think you have it from the wrong angle — I think the slutwalk here is really an awareness campaign against victim blaming rather than a particular protest against the police officer. If you look up the various research on victim blaming, you’ll find it’s very prevalent amongst both males and females. Given this, I don’t mind it, and I don’t mind reclaim the night either for that matter.

Incurious and Unread (aka Dave)
Incurious and Unread (aka Dave)
13 years ago

“Following a spate of robberies, a police spokesman recommended that iPhones should not be used outside the home after dark.”

What would the response be to that, do you think, Ken?

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
13 years ago

I always find these things fascinating because of the unspoken but apparently universally accepted ‘stylised facts’ about the relations between the sexes:

– men are more desperate than woman and thus have the role of having to chase desirable women.
– women play the role of attractor and it is well-understood that their dress is a signal to men, both of their wish to be chased and (in expectation) their willingness to entertain ‘bids’ from men.
– it is up to social norms (self-restraint) and the legal enforcement of social norms (police) to ensure that, no matter how desperate they are, men must achieve their wishes via consensual means.

If you reflect on it, this ‘game’ is interesting from an economic theory point of view in that it will always be optimal for both sides to push the envelope of the possibility set, i.e. there will be a race on the female side to be more daring and race on the male side to skirt on the border of the social norms. I believe the former is called being hot and the latter is called being cool.

As to the role of the police, I can understand that from their point of view they want to have at least temptation as possible because that makes their work easier (this includes the temptation for robbery and cannibalism), but in this particular case there is no real possibility of taking away the temptation. All that can be done on the side of individual women is that vary the degree to which they raise the desires of men. The aggregate desire is more or less a constant. Hence in that sense the statement by the police officer is naive and the slutwalk women are right that as a group they are best served by an absolute protection. Individual women might manipulate the probability of male agression, but as a group?

Incurious and Unread (aka Dave)
Incurious and Unread (aka Dave)
13 years ago

Who said anything about “dark alleys”? If a policeman had said, “women should avoid isolated, dark alleys late at night” I can’t imagine anybody getting upset.

Hannibal Lecter, dark alleys… . You must realise how weak your case is if you have to resort to these extreme hypotheticals rather than the matter in question.

Leinad
Leinad
13 years ago

Re: “gangsta rap”

Early one mornin’ while makin’ the rounds
I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down
I went right home and I went to bed
I stuck that lovin’ .44 beneath my head

– ‘Cocaine Blues’ MC Ca$h,

desipis
13 years ago

Ken,

My view is that it depends quite a bit on how the (allegedly) offending comment is phrased. The only actual quote I can find in this instance is from the slutwalk website and it’s unclear how accurate it is. Ths quote is: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

To me this comment isn’t ‘victim blaming’, however I can see how one might interpret it in that way. The problem comes from two inferences that can be read into the comment (or at least would be compatable with the comment). First that “avoid[ing] dressing like sluts” is somehow a complete protection from being victimised. Second is that “dressing like sluts” is an essential part of all victimisation. It’s these inferences, rather than any comment about risk, that could be interpreted as ‘victim blaming’ through implying that women are in control (and hence at fault) of their victimisation. I think it’s quite unfair to assert that the police officer was implying these things though (absent a clear pattern of behaviour by that officer to suggest otherwise).

While someone who is advocating for victims and attempting to raise awareness of an apparent acceptance of these ideas, might view this as a case useful to their cause, a ‘slutwalk’ is going to lack the required nuace to deal with the issue. The ‘slutwalk’ completed misses that identifying such risks is useful in combatting future victimisation. It might be a good idea to encourage police organisations to clearly frame their advice as risk information and avoid any possible inferences about value judgements. If a perceived culture of victim blaming material contributes to the psychological harm of victims then it might be worth taking action to remove that perception.

I’ve also seen less justifiable arguments from the more radical elements of feminism. One is that any acknowledgement that women dressing a certain way can drive men to certain behaviour normalises and thus increases that behaviour. Another is that informing women about such risks is a method of controlling their behaviour in a way that contributes to the patriarchy and thus doing so is wrong.

Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson
13 years ago

Hello ken

A lot depends on a point of fact: are women who dress like ‘sluts’ more likely to be attacked? This is a common assumption, I know, but I would be interested to see the evidence.

I remember listening to a program (on Radio National? I can’t recall) in which men who had been convicted of assaults on women in public spaces were asked how they chose their victims. Provocative dress did not come into it. The typical target was a woman who was alone, was small in stature, did not display physically confident behaviour (standing tall and walking purposefully is a good way to stay safe) and had long hair in a ponytail.

Chris

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[…] Parish was quick to condemn slutwalks, but on reflection, I basically think he is wrong and the sluts are right. No offense intended to […]

lauredhel
13 years ago

You know, I really live for the day when men will stop comparing my vagina to their wallets, mobile phones, and cars. Sadly, I don’t think it is going to come anytime soon.

And Ken? I wholly support your right to “deliberately” walk around in muscle shirts and arseless chaps without getting raped and scolded for it.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

I don’t believe I have ever even thought to compare anyone’s vagina to any of the listed items, or really any of my possessions at all.

Is there some deeper meaning that I am too simple-minded to get?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
13 years ago

I think Paul Frijters nails it quite well in this passage of his post:

“One might counter by saying that a police officer might reasonably suggest to the baker that he should take due care in not abandoning his shop while his bread is on display, and that parents should not leave their kids unattended with males they do not trust. In the contest of dresses that would be a statement of the type ‘when you look desirable but are not seeking sexual advances, take care not to be alone in dark alleys or alone and drunk around men you do not trust’. That is the type of sensible advice any mother and father (I have 2 daughters nearing that age) would give their offspring. They would not tell the baker to stop advertising bread and for kids to stop going to school and to church.”

If the Toronto police officer gave nuanced advice of the sort Paul exemplifies above (i.e. that one’s dress is one of numerous potential risk factors that may make one more vulnerable to sexual assault depending on the combination of circumstances) then that is perfectly sensible and even necessary advice for which he should not have been criticised. OTOH if all he said was “if you dress like a slut you might get raped” or words to that effect then he deserves the criticism he has received. The thing is, none of the media or blog coverage that I’ve seen details the context of the police officer’s remarks, so none of us is in fact in a position to comment in any meaningful sense.

Oh, and lauredhel, I most certainly would not resent someone advising me that I would be unwise to walk around in muscle shirts and arseless chaps in Oxford Street, Sydney on my own late at night, especially when a bit inebriated, if I didn’t want to receive (perhaps aggressive) sexual advances from blokes. That is, dress is a risk factor and there’s nothing wrong with pointing that out, at least to young people some of whom might not have considered the facts carefully before. It’s one thing to make political points about basic human rights and freedoms and double standards, but it doesn’t necessarily help an individual who has been raped and traumatised for life by some scumbag because the people who could have helped them with some practical advice abour risk management are too afraid to give it for fear of being demonised by thoughtless feminist ideologues.

lauredhel
13 years ago

“[…] dress is a risk factor […]”

Show your work.

lauredhel
13 years ago

“it doesn’t necessarily help an individual who has been raped and traumatised for life by some scumbag because the people who could have helped them with some practical advice abour risk management are too afraid to give it for fear of being demonised by thoughtless feminist ideologues.”

Ken, us girls start being told as toddlers to “close our legs” lest we inflame male passions, to not hang upside down on the monkey bars, and it only escalates from there. You really think we don’t _know_? You think we were never warned? You think we haven’t spent our entire lives looking over our shoulders, arranging our keys between our knuckles, crossing the street when someone walks too close behind, examining every.single.interaction and excursion we ever have for rape potential? And then getting assaulted and raped by “trusted” men, by teachers, by boyfriends, by husbands, in school uniforms, in doctors’ offices, on crowded buses in broad daylight, in trackie pants, while making out? You get to lecture us on what it’s like when you’ve lived your entire life like this.

Tel
Tel
13 years ago

I really live for the day when men will stop comparing my vagina to their wallets, mobile phones, and cars. Sadly, I don’t think it is going to come anytime soon.

I was scanning the comments out of order and when I hit that I became consumed with figuring out which previous comment this statement was an answer to, but it’s a puzzle I’m unable to solve.

And Ken? I wholly support your right to “deliberately” walk around in muscle shirts and arseless chaps without getting raped and scolded for it.

A while back we all agreed to keep quiet about what happened that night, I swear I deleted all the photos.

Seriously though, I admit that I do lock my door when I leave the house, and I’ve worked a lot of jobs but never ever have a bunch of police come rushing in to help me out doing my work. Just doesn’t seem to happen, can’t think why.

Mind you, I did live for many years with a rather slack approach to household security and I never had a problem… until someone slipped in and robbed the place. Needless to say, at the time I had nothing worth stealing and nothing of mine was stolen. However, a woman who was living with me lost some jewelery that once belonged to her grandmother, and had great sentimental value but probably only so-so resale value. She was very hurt by that so now, I lock the door every day.

Thing is, I know what a secure building looks like, and I know that my house never will be that. When I got the “Kevin Rudd” up-top, the guy literally walked straight in through the roof tiles, faster than it takes me to open the front door. That’s how I knew for sure this guy was good to do the job.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out how their wallet… errr vagina… fits into this story ;-)

I stuck that lovin’ .44 beneath my head

Small arms are the great equalizer.

They also devalue the state/police protection product offering, and encourage police unions to ask for higher wages. Anyhoe, I’m off to do a google image search on “hiding a nine under a G string”. Full report on that, later tonight.

Don Arthur
13 years ago

Ken – Would you be offended if someone told you that the best way to avoid being demonised by thoughtless feminist ideologues was to stop making misogynistic comments?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
13 years ago

Don

I don’t know whether the police officer made mysoginistic comments because the context has not been published to the best of my knowledge. If you’re suggesting that my own comments are mysogynistic, however, then I utterly reject any such suggestion i.e. it would be difficult if not impossible to overstate the extent to whcih I would be offended if that’s what you mean.

Don Arthur
13 years ago

Ken – The word ‘misogynistic’ signals a judgment about a person’s behaviour.

‘Slut’ is also a judgmental word.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

Lauredhel, my daughter, fwiw, is going to grow up learning self-defence and how to shoot a small reliable pistol.

desipis
13 years ago

lauredhel@21,

Who exactly is the ‘we’ you are referring to in your comment? Are you claiming your perspective is that of all women?

Is it possible that some women haven’t had the same education or upbringing as you?

Is it possible that some women have different values to you and would adjust their behaviour due to awareness of such risks?

Is it possible that a cautionary authority figure could provide a balance to a sexualised risk taking subculture imposed through peer pressure?

desipis
13 years ago

Show your work.

Given we have a police officer (presumably) with experience in the subject, shouldn’t it be up to those attacking the comments to “show their work”?

Don Arthur
13 years ago

we can’t know what judgment it was reasonable/sensible to make about the policeman’s words unless we actually know what they were in their context.

Right. Who knows, maybe he was trying to parody unacceptable attitudes to women (doing a bit of play acting). And in that case you might say his behaviour was imprudent rather than morally reprehensible.

In which case you can imagine a colleague saying to him:

“I know what you meant mate, but everyone knows how risky it is to say things like around a bunch of university feminists.”

“So you’re saying I should shut up and stop complaining?”

“Yup. You had it coming.”

So the question is: Can the officer complain that this treatment is unfair without being hypocritical?

***

Of course, the outrage and the slutwalks aren’t directed against this particular police officer. Even if it turned out he was quoted out of context, the slutwalks wouldn’t have been canceled. The comments were just a trigger.

When a person in authority makes a comment like that, what many people hear is “Women can’t expect to be treated with respect if they go out in public wearing make up and revealing clothes.”

And the protesters response is “Women should be treated with respect regardless of how they dress.”

That’s what I think the slutwalks are about. Women are insisting that they should be treated with respect.

Anna Winter
13 years ago

But it mtakes a world of difference whether they were uttered in isolation or as part of a much more complex, nuanced message which canvassed a range of social and situational factors that may contribute to risk of sexual assault and that can be managed.

It really doesn’t, Ken.

Fyodor
13 years ago

That’s what I think the slutwalks are about. Women are insisting that they should be treated with respect.

Is that what the slutwalks are about? I admit I was confused about the objective.

Now that sluts are walking free, we can all relax, comfortable in the knowledge that, due to their walk down the street amongst a group of like-minded placarding sloganists, these women have won the respect that is their due from all those blokes who were otherwise going to judge them for dressing sluttily.

Job well done.

Now onto harsher punishment for parole violators world peace.

Per ardua ad astra.

Tel
Tel
13 years ago

That’s what I think the slutwalks are about. Women are insisting that they should be treated with respect.

There are two sides to being treated with respect, it’s one of those things you very rarely get by just insisting.

Don Arthur
13 years ago

Tel – By respect I mean not being leered at, insulted, groped or assaulted just because your female, in a public place and dressed a certain way.

Is this something individual women are supposed to earn?

Tel
Tel
13 years ago

In an ideal world, all people would be entitled to go about their business without interference and associate only with those others that they voluntarily choose to associate with.

Peter Patton
Peter Patton
13 years ago

Many young women reacted with outrage and began street demos where they dressed in “slutty” outfits. I guess it has some kinship with the “Reclaim the Night” demos that have become an annual event in Australia, or the public reaction to Muslim cleric Sheikh Hilaly’s remarks about scantily dressed women as “uncovered meat” (who, implicitly, were courting rape).

Of course these white-bread bourgie chicks do not move in the same circles of those chicks, who dress like sluts, coz they are sluts, proudly so. Unlike the vile “offended” and “outrage” little miss Vanillas who had it all sussed by 2nd year Gender Studies, Hot-blooded, sluttish fucks of the century, do not dress sluttishly just on Mardi Gras night, they do it calculatedly. Oh amd pssst to Miss 23 majoring in Gender Studies, the real slut does it doing so knowing it maxes the odds of her fucking a Bulldog tonight at Bankstown Leagues.

Sans zip.

As she pulls up her nickerless jeans, she tells her fuck-stick du jour to call her. If she’s got time, she’ll teach me how to master the game, taking Melbourne sluts by storm. 50 penises in 50 carparks in 50 days. What a gal!

The Born Slut fumbles for her revolver. Her contempt at the Rock Chopping and Presbyterian bus loads of girls from MLC, and Monte Saint Angelo, dressing like sluts for night, hiring mini buses to confront the misogyny and patriarchy with their “message sending’ “We’re slut” badges is palpable.

I’ve always loved sluts. My sluts consider it so bedint that these Slut Goddesses in training, like the sloppy young things airin’ it out in men’s dunnies across Melbourne clubs and pubs to be such amateurs.

As one of my favorite sluts – a now 40 year old women, who once bragged she was a life-support system for a cunt, bragged only last week: “I’ve had 4 abortions already this year, what’s the best these wannabe will go home as dry as they left.

Poor dears.

Anna Winter
13 years ago

My belated response.

Anna Winter
13 years ago

It really isn’t until you can respond to those annoying questions about proof. Walking in front of a car is not like wearing a skimpy outfit. The policeman’s “advice” was like suggesting that you wearing bright coloured clothes while being a pedestrian may compel drivers to hit you with their car.

Anna Winter
13 years ago

I think you’ll find it was a different female that made those other comments, Ken. There are more than one of us. /snark

You’re still avoiding the whole question of whether or not it’s true that skimpy outfits increase risk of assault, even though the entire question of whether it’s victim-blaming or prudent advice hinges on it.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
13 years ago

Anna

For reasons of lack of time I unwisely relied on increasingly fallible memory and failed to look back up the thread before posting the comment to see who said what. When dealing with commenters happy to take every point however cheap/spurious, that is especially unwise. /snark.

On the point you claim I’m avoiding, it’s essentially the same argument that tobacco advertisers make: our advertising doesn’t really attract people who wouldn’t commit this behaviour anyway, at most it might influence them to change brands.

No doubt that too is an imperfect analogy, but the point it’s intended to make is that signalling behaviour is designed to send particular signals. Almost undeniably the signals are received by at least some males (after all that is at least a significant part of the signaller’s purpose), unfortunately including some who the sender did not wish to attract and who may may exhibit extreme violent tendencies and a lack of concern for the existence or otherwise of actual consent subsequent to the initial signalling behaviour. Since all of these consequences are entirely predictable but nevertheless apparently not obvious to quite a few young women who engage in such signalling behaviour (at least in my own subjective and current parental experience), my basic and indeed sole concern is that the slutwalking “movement” may serve to deter the conveying of desirable risk management information in the future.

Anna Winter
13 years ago

No doubt that too is an imperfect analogy, but the point it’s intended to make is that signalling behaviour is designed to send particular signals.

But you haven’t addressed the question of how slutty clothes might be more powerful than a “No” uttered by the woman. Beautifully packaged cigarettes probably make people more likely to want to buy them, but if the shopkeeper tells you that packet is my personal stash, it isn’t for sale, and so you steal it, is that because the manufacturers took a risk in making their product so desirable?

lauredhel
13 years ago

Aha, Ken, at 42 I have realised where you’re going completely, utterly wrong. You seem to think that rape is sex.

Women _may_ dress in a way you or other might label “slutty” when they are considering having sex. (Or they may do it because of the various reasons tigtog has outlined so thoroughly and clearly on the LP thread, like being in the possession of large breasts.) They may do this because they want to have sex with a particular person, or because they wish to look nice for that particular person, or because they are looking for someone to have sex with, or because they’re going out with their friends and they’ve dressed up nicely together for fun, or for a huge panoply of other reasons.

What women are not saying (and I do not like the “advertising” comparison, because, as I have tried to say over and over and over, women are not commodities) is “I would like to be violently attacked and raped”.

Rape isn’t sex. Get that sorted, and the rest will follow.

desipis
13 years ago

You’re still avoiding the whole question of whether or not it’s true that skimpy outfits increase risk of assault, even though the entire question of whether it’s victim-blaming or prudent advice hinges on it.

Isn’t that sort of the point though? Shouldn’t we wait until we have evidence before we condemn those attempting to raise awareness of what they perceive to be a real risk?

Anna Winter
13 years ago

Should young women who haven’t internalised that message be denied extra opportunities to learn it except for overwhelmingly strong reasons?

Learn what, though? That sharks like bright colours?

Basically what you’re arguing is that slutty outfits say to some men that the wearer wants to have sex with anyone and everyone, and even crying “no!” may not be enough to override that message. It’s an extraordinary claim that needs some evidence. Otherwise it’s all just moral panic and focussing on fixing an imaginary cause, while the actual cause – rapists who don’t care about the word “no” – gets sidelined.

Don Arthur
13 years ago

Anna – I disagree with Ken about this but I think you could interpret his arguments a bit more charitably.

Of course lauredhel is right to insist: “What women are not saying … is “I would like to be violently attacked and raped”. It’s not reasonable to claim that men are confused about this.

I think Ken confused the issue when he referred to men treating women’s choice of clothing as an “open invitation”. But maybe his argument doesn’t hinge on the attackers forming any idea at all about what their victims want or don’t want.

Is Ken saying bulls look at a flapping red cape and think “that man wants me to gore him”?

Here’s hypothetical: If you lived in a community where a significant number of men looked at a women who wore revealing clothes and thought “that woman deserves to be raped”. Imagine also that the community’s legal authorities reinforced this view by failing to prosecute offenders. If a woman was visiting such a community, would it be wrong to advise her on how to dress?

I shouldn’t have to say this but I will. I don’t think anyone deserves to be raped. Ever.