I haven’t written much here about what will probably be Osgoode’s biggest media moment of the year. Slutwalk is a big deal, and the genesis of the idea was something that happened right here. I did, of course, write about it a little bit (click here for “What not to wear”), but then Slutwalk took on a life of it’s own, rather unconnected to York or Osgoode. Now Slutwalk is big enough to be “controversial” – and the main controversy does not seem to be about violence against women or whether and how “society” blames women for sexual violence perpetrated against them. Nope – the media seems most interested in this (as Brenda Cossman put it on twitter) as a visual feast and a “catfight”. Is Slutwalk feminist? Pit no against yes, and stand back!
Oh well, here’s a set of links for your consideration, but let me make a minor intervention first – my own position is that I have no doubt that Slutwalk has feminist potential. I think that our questions ought to be around how that potential could be realised and perhaps more importantly, is it being realised. Is participating in Slutwalk bringing more women to feminist activism? Are existing organizations gaining members through Slutwalk? Is Slutwalk strengthening women’s groups in their advocacy with police forces? Or, are women participating in Slutwalk and denying that they are feminists? Do women who are walking see Slutwalk as a way to claim “I can wear what I want” – a fundamentally individualist claim – or do they understand/does Slutwalk encourage the conception that this is an issue which women can/should confront together. Are women who participate truly deconstructing the word slut, or are they reclaiming that word but hanging on to the ideas which animate the misogynistic use of the word (ie., just because I’m wearing this doesn’t mean I’m a slut – but her, that girl, she’s a slut because….”). Are women who are walking recognizing differential vulnerabilities to sexual assault and supporting women who are the most vulnerable? Has this helped mobilize action around sexual assault on campus – does it get back to the original inception at all?
I don’t think that this debate can be about being the feminism police at some kind of grand scale, but I think down in the details there are important questions to be asking and conclusions can be drawn from the answers.
OK, so the round up – in the form of the tweets I’ve put out linking to various things.
It’s a really short roundup, I’m hoping people will contribute the best things they’ve read in the comments.
A critical take at The F Word (“We’re Sluts, Not Feminists: Wherein my relationship with Slutwalk gets rocky):
The organizers speak:
Our Dean’s thoughts (yes, the Dean. I imagine him typing “slut” and my mind boggles. Reclaiming!?)
Margaret Wente (not a favourite of mine…) of the Globe and Mail enters the fray (she gets lots of mileage out of this – denigrating university students, immigrant communities, naive feminists, the media….) but she raises a good question about the nature of the media coverage. So another question: how do the organizers deal with media interest in Slutwalk(s)? Simply because the media can’t be controlled isn’t a good enough reason to condemn the organizers. But it’s something to think about in terms of strategy.
Here’s a debate on TVOntario’s the Agenda (three American women, Heather Jarvis, one of the Slutwalk organizers, and Kate McPherson, a York University Professor from history & women’s studies).
If you want more Gail Dines and Heather Jarvis, or prefer radio, here they are on Q,