Sunday, 7 August 2011


There's been a Slutwalk in my home town. It bothered me quite a bit, but I couldn't lay my finger on what it was that bothered me, considering I quite agree with the people organising the thing with the issues: blaming the raped woman for the rape is just sick, and yeah, no means no and yes means yes - that's the way it should go. Period.

The presentation bothered me, especially the "slut" bit. I'm not one to shirk from four-letter words, so I kinda suspect it wasn't that - yet the choice of word in the name left me feeling that this is not for me and I'd just feel wrong participating. Not wrong in the sense of morally wrong, wrong against the organisers, but wrong in the sense that I'd wrong against myself, against who I am by marching with these people. My feeling is not universal, not even amongst Finnish (trans) women, but I know I'm not alone, either.

Finally, I found this excellent bit of thinking (read the comments, too, they're full of win also), and the bits finally clicked into place. I found this bit especially pertinent to my thinking:

"Therefore, the word slut has not been used to discipline (shame) us into chaste moral categories, as we have largely been understood to be unable to practice “normal” and “chaste” sexuality anyway."

As if "slut" was somehow a unifying experience. It's not. I've personally been told I'm a pervert. I've been called a tranny. I've been called sick, mentally ill, deluded, twisted, mad, sexually deviant. There's bunches of books naturalising all of that, too, from respectable publishers. The minority I find myself in is more often than not depicted in the media and literature as hypersexual obsessive-compulsives hell bent on plastic surgery, sexy clothing, high heels and makeup (you want examples? Go see Skip the Makeup). I've been told that I can't possibly be a woman, no matter what the evidence to the contrary. And obviously, if I dare raise my voice against this, I must be either a pathetic loonie or an evil liar.  Nice options, those. 

But I haven't been called a slut, and I think that's 'cos that would've implied I'm a woman, and that was something the cisarchy was hell bent on not doing, ever. And besides, "slut" doesn't quite carry the institutional power like slapping a diagnosis does, or the power that lies in the hands of the magistrate who gets to decide whether you'll be classified as a female or a male. And in a perverse way, calling me slut back then would have been an improvement over what was before. Sure it's an "improvement" in the sense that instead of taking your both legs they're just going to take your arm, but that's what it felt like and no, I'm not over it yet.

It's not just men who've called me those things, either - women, including some self-styled feminists, have done more than their fair share of it, too (for examples in English, just go look up Sheila Jeffreys, Julie Bindel, Mary Daly and Germaine Greer. Nice, (white) middle-class people who wish people like me could be mandated out of existence). I don't feel safe with a random bunch of feminists. It's just as likely that there's some cissexist people around, and I'm not at all confident on the rest of the cis feminists' ability to call out the cissexist behaviour in their midst - my experience has been one of "oh just suck it up, they're all right otherwise". Err, right. I'm quite sure your attitude towards racism is just as dismissive.

Finally, there's the issue of dressing how you like. I'd just like to point out, that I had precisely no chance in hell of dressing in gender-appropriate clothes anywhere I liked until i was in my late 20s. Sexy or not. And this was policed not just by some moral-majoritarians, but by practically everyone. And that's one right I'd be ready to march for - the right of everyone and anyone to dress how they please, without ridicule, discrimination or oppression. But this is so far from the practice of a slutwalk that no, it just doesn't feel the right place for such a statement. If words and actions are at odds with each other, actions win for me every time.

The organisers do say that you don't have to own up to the word "slut" (in Finnish, sorry), but I think that's begging the question - if you march under such a well-publicised banner, how the heck are other people to know you don't, personally, own up to it? 

The practice of Slutwalk and the brand of feminism that goes with it just doesn't cut it with me. It's far too lightweight in my opinion, and doesn't do much to advance any of the pertinent issues - in fact, it just seems like a general call of young cis women to be able to dress as they like without having to fear rape or getting victimised for their dress or behaviour. It's a valid point, but to me personally it feels like arguing about the floorplan when the foundation's all rotten.