Part 1 of 2: These two blog posts provide two different reactions to Rebecca Traister’s New York Times piece, Ladies We Have a Problem, about the anti-victim-blaming rallies in Canada & the US known as SlutWalks. If you’ve heard any of the public discourse surrounding SlutWalks – from local TV stations, to blogs, personal Facebook pages and radio – you know that among people of all backgrounds, the reactions are mixed. That’s also true of two fantastic FMF activists, Caitlin Smith & Madeline Montgomery.
Guest Post by: Caitlin Smith, President, Kutztown University Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance
On July 20, the New York Times, which I read daily and love (most of the time), ran a piece by Rebecca Traister entitled “Ladies, We Have a Problem.” The piece discussed the newest act of feminist rallies known around the nation as SlutWalks. Traister explains her opinions on SlutWalks and her “irritation” about participants “stripping down to skivvies and calling ourselves sluts.” Although at first I too had some reservations about SlutWalks, I feel as though they have done more good than harm and decided that I should voice my “irritation” about this piece and how I feel about SlutWalks. What better place to do that than with the organization that has fully supported my feminist ways and allowed me to embrace the term feminist – the Feminist Majority Foundation Choices Campus Program. So… deep breath in… here we go.
First off, I would like to send huge props out to the fabulous individuals who started these SlutWalks. Not only are you giving voice to the thousands, maybe even millions of individuals who are victims and survivors to rape, sexual harassment, misogyny, male chauvinism, street harassment, etc, BUT these events give participants a chance to voice their feelings, dress as they please and provide a safe space to say that victim blaming is not cool. So, to you, I say rock on and thank you.
Secondly, I would like to address some of the things that Traister brings up in her piece. Traister talks about Anita Hill’s case against Clarence Thomas, which absolutely opened the door for women to be able to speak out against power injustices. However, I feel as though Ms. Traister is saying that SlutWalks are closing that door a little bit because now we are donning our “hot pants.” On the contrary, SlutWalks are keeping that door open AND opening a window for conversations to occur. This is just the next step in speaking out against power injustices. SlutWalks are allowing people to step out and speak out. They are giving people a chance to say that it does not matter what we wear, rape is still occurring in our society at alarming rates. For Traister to say that this is “less of a victory” for us is extremely disheartening. SlutWalks are opening conversations about victim blaming and the rape culture that is engulfing our society today. They are giving college campuses a chance to host an event and directly speak out against the epidemics that are happening on their campus: 1. rape and 2. the victim blaming that comes up after the fact. It also is giving survivors of rape, such as myself, to speak out on the injustice that was taken on their body by reclaiming it for themselves and showing that we should be able to wear whatever we please, walk the streets and still be safe.
The New York Times article also discusses incidents of victim blaming that have occurred recently in the media. Traister references the assault of Laura Logan, the 11 year old Texas girl who was gang raped, and the women who have been assaulted by Dominique Straus-Kahn. All of these cases have produced massive amounts of victim blaming that I myself have had a hard time reading. It does not matter what these women were wearing, how much makeup they had on or who they associated with in the past. Our culture is looking at what the victim did to deserve (ouch) these attacks and not the bigger picture, why these men are raping and sexually assaulting. Instead of victim blaming our society needs to spend the time educating about sexual assault and rape. They need to tackle the problem head on instead of detouring around and waiting until something happens. We need to stop supporting rape culture.
As a college student, the most infuriating thing that I have seen is the institutionalized victim blaming that occurs on my campus. After a rape, public safety sends out a police report stating what has happened, where it happened and what students should do to protect themselves. Excuse me? What students should do to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted? How about we discuss the fact that there are individuals on this campus that think it is their right to rape someone when they are walking home or sitting in their dorm? Let’s tackle the bigger issue here people.
And that is exactly what SlutWalks are attempting to do. By speaking out against victim blaming, SlutWalks are showing that it is not okay to rape and it is not acceptable to blame someone for being raped. Rape is the most invasive violation that can happen to someone and now the media, the number one source of information, is going to say well, she should not have been wearing that/drinking too much/whatever ridiculous excuse they decide to create. No wonder 60% of sexual assaults and rapes are not reported to police (Source: RAINN)!
We need to support victims of these heinous crimes, not denounce them and say it was their fault! SlutWalks are finally beginning that conversation in the mainstream media. They are showing that it is not a victim’s fault that they were raped. So, I guess I am struggling to see where this is doing more harm than good. A bunch of liberated men and women saying it is not okay to rape and further more not okay to blame someone who was raped. Sounds like a darn good rally to me. Until we can rid our society and, for that matter, the world of rape, we as individuals need to continue to speak out against it.
So, in response to this article I would like to thank Traister for writing it. Not only are SlutWalks getting the media attention that we deserve and wanted, but it is sparking the conversations that need to happen. Victim blaming is not okay. Rape is not okay. It needs to stop. Once again SlutWalk creators – rock on. You are exposing the media for its wrongdoings and helping victims take a step toward accepting the title of survivor. You are showing us that it was not our fault for what has happened to us and putting the blame back on the people it needs to be put on, the rapists. So get your signs ready, don your hot pants and meet me at the next SlutWalk! Philadelphia, here I come! Hotpants and all.