I know I said I wouldn’t be going to The Festival of Dangerous Ideas, but my very kind friend Michelle shouted me to join her at two sessions.
The first one was Sleeping with the Enemy: Collaborating with Corporations by Mike Daisy - about how we are all complicit with the rise and power of inhumane corporations and should be fighting a war of resistance against then by socially shunning anyone who works for one. He also does a monologue about Apple and Steve Jobs and factory workers in China.
He had me from the start when he said we were hypocrites - there will be no dangerous ideas for the comfortable middle classes at our lovely Opera House.
And then there was.
The session, All Women Are Sluts.
The panel consisted of: Clem Bastow, writer, broadcaster and music critic based in Melbourne; Samah Hadid is a young human rights advocate and 2010 Australian Youth Representative to the UN; and Catherine Lumby, author, public commentator and Director of Journalism and Media Research at UNSW.
It was chaired by Ann Mossop.
The members of the panel all agreed with each other. They embraced the word 'Slut’, saying, we’re all sluts now; lets empty the word of its power, lets claim it for ourselves (as minorities have done with the word nigger, or queer or dyke), yet were appalled on hearing a teenage girl in the audience say that girls in her school call each other sluts as a way of bullying each other. So, does the word have power or not?
What is the point of having a panel where everyone agrees? The points raised by people in the audience we more interesting than the panelists’.
Sorry, I will not embrace my ‘sluthood’. I think you are all misguided.
What was not covered was how this may affect children. If the word is embraced as something that is a positive thing for women’s identity, does that mean we are happy for children to call each other sluts? No. No-one told the girl she should say, ‘yes I’m a slut and proud of it.’
Samah Hadid said that a rape victim had told her she had recovered because she can embrace the term slut. It is hard to believe.
I’m as against slut shaming and victim blaming as the next feminist, but embracing the word slut is leading us in the wrong direction. Slutwalk did get a conversation started. It has brought younger women into a feminist protest. But it hasn’t been well thought through.
What about women in developing nations who are forced into the sex trade? Would they be happy to identify as sluts? Does slutwalk help them? I don’t see the UN Women calling for more Slutwalks.
And what was it with bagging Reclaim the Night? It has the same message that women should be able to walk down the street at night wearing whatever they like and not be raped. It is a message to men to not rape. Why is that event now not OK? Is it not considered cool by younger feminists? They want something more edgy?
And what is it with bagging out Gail Dines? There is more to the arguments around porn than ‘porn can be fun’ or ‘feminists make porn’. Raunch culture/porn/slut-shaming/rape culture all intersect.
In the advertisement for the new film, Crazy Stupid Love, a male character says something like. ‘The war of the sexes is over. We won when women started doing poledancing for fitness.’ I feel that slutwalk is like that. It shows we’ve given up. It’s not that we’ve lost. We’ve given it away. Why can’t we protest to be respected, but do it in a way that respects ourselves, our children, and women all over the world as well?
I won’t be campaigning for the right for my children to be called sluts. The word should die from disuse. As should any other word that demeans women - bitch, cunt, strumpet, slag, scrubber etc
Slutwalk runs counter to other feminist work. I hope this year’s event will be the last.
So, I’m asking; can we workshop the ideas a little more please, so that the movement doesn’t damage women or children?
Proud Hoydens Take Back the Night, perhaps? Or Take Back the Fucking Night?
I've sent emails to Clem Bastow and Samah Hadid asking if Slutwalk is helpful to children or women in developing countries.