SlutWalk – Not Radical, Not Helpful?

•May 12, 2011 • 15 Comments

This ever-awkward event describes its motive as demonstrating ‘the radical notion that nobody deserves to be raped.’ To disagree with this sentiment would put you on the dark side of evil, but is SlutWalk actually challenging anything, or merely causing further divide and alienation from feminism?

Reading their  facebook  description is, to be honest, baffling. Whilst on the one side I militantly support the resisting of blame culture on women (labelling women the perpetrators and fuelling sympathy for rapists), I feel uncomfortable with the closing line in particular. ‘…come along feeling beautiful, ready to show the world that WE ARE PROUD!’ Pride? Is this encouraging us to feel ‘proud to be “sluts”’ and what does this actually mean? There is surely a distinction to be made between ‘reclaiming’ the word to be meaningless, and no longer venomously used; and celebrating it to be something we aspire to be. This is not to say we condemn promiscuity by rejecting language used to intimidate us; but slut and promiscuity are not synonymous. We should be taking to the streets celebrating our diversity and our beauty in all shapes and quirks.

SlutWalk Toronto posted; ‘use it to empower themselves and others might hate the word… all positions are just fine in the fight to support individual consensual choices of identity, appearance, sexuality and it[‘s] fight against victim-blaming and slut-shaming.’ It appears to me that SlutWalk is of the ‘choice feminist’ persuasion. We choose to be pole dancers earning coppers, while a gang of businessmen cop a feel. We are empowered by our sexual ferocity and lack of emotional attachment. Our liberation glistens in the expensive whips and dildos that lie in the hetero-normative Ann Summers. We reclaim ‘sluttery’ and reject those frigid old feminists that once were; and remain over sensitive.

Yet many of us want to demonstrate against blame culture without having ‘slut’ shouted in our face by friend and foe. As ‘delphyne’ states on the F-Word response ; ‘Calling yourself a slut doesn’t remove the stigma of the word though, it just gives haters permission to call women sluts and marginalises women who don’t want to be called sluts to an even greater degree…you left her out.’

The BCS alone reported in 2005 that 45% women in the UK had experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking. But will those affected join SlutWalk? Is there not some comic element for the middle classes to have an excuse to ‘dress up’ for the day? Some women on that march will no doubt be called ‘slut’ that very same evening by perhaps a passer-by, their partner, a trafficker, a punter, a bully – and now, apparently, their friends on the march. It is frankly indisputable that ‘slut’ has some of the most violent connotations possible – and for many women.

I feel SlutWalk seems to perpetuate the thinking that rape is an outlet to channel sexual frustration (by such actions as 2 protestors on the Toronto march shout ‘keep it in your pants, fool!’). Rape is a tool to bully, violate, oppress and inflict severe physical and mental agony on their victims. It is a deeply rooted hatred, and not merely a man who can’t help himself when he sees a short skirt. This common misconception is not only demeaning to those who are attacked, but it is also incredibly patronising to men depicting them as sex obsessed, mindless animals. I feel this is an imperative part of our fight to end violence against women. We should be continually speaking out about the real face of rape, and its haunting familiarity.

As ‘Bizzie Lizzie’ points out on the event wall; ’50 women an hour, raped in the Congo. Is there a slutty fashion going on there?’ I suspect BL is trying to show that SlutWalk ignores the real roots and causes of violence against women. As many have noted, SlutWalk seems quick to distance itself from the ever-stigmatising label of ‘feminist’. This leaves me with little confidence in the politics behind the march and further convinced of the depth of this as a shallow media stunt, and an opportunity to use taboo words.

Isn’t SlutWalk’s message somehow ‘yes I’m a sexual commodity but you can only look and not touch’? When researching imagery and looking into SlutWalk websites and pages, it seems they are naively promoting the sexualisation of women and girls. I must agree with Meghan Murphy’s article   “I’m afraid that I can’t see how the mudflaps girl presents a challenge to sexist imagery and discourse around women and female sexuality. Why, exactly, does feminism have to be ‘sexy’ in order for it to be supported? Well, the answer, of course, is so that it is palatable to men and to people who don’t much wish to challenge dominant ideology or to look at the roots of patriarchy. So that it doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable. And now a space has been created where it is not only acceptable, but progressive(!) for men to call women sluts.” One need only do a brief youtube search to see protestors in Toronto insisting they are “not angry”, and focussing on “sexual confidence”; even uploading videos entitled ‘we love our shameless sluts’. Well I say – if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.

Despite my grievances with the march, it has become very well known and has sparked some interesting debate. It is also completely correct in stating that nobody deserves to be raped. I only hope the protestors look beyond ‘sluttery’ and join the feminist fight for the emancipation of women. I highly doubt that there would be so much hype around these demonstrations without ‘slut’, but unfortunately I still don’t believe it will birth new feminist activists, if anything it divides us in our support or opposition to ‘slut’. Annual demonstrations such as Reclaim the Night barely receive a fraction of such media attention.

Ultimately, it is good to facilitate discussion surrounding women’s rights. I do not think, however, that SlutWalk has been particularly successful at this; as we have spent more time on semantics than breaking patriarchy. The liberation of women will take more than the reclaiming of a vicious word and we must recognise that misogyny is deeper rooted in this society. To return to the initial ‘radical notion that nobody deserves to be raped’, we must remember also, ‘Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.’ Not sluts.

Arrested at 16

•May 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

An account of a 16 year old student arrested at the royal wedding:

“I was first challenged by police down the road from Soho square, who stopped and searched me under section 60 which i believe is a terrorist act which I had the right to remain anonymous throughout and after the search, which I was not allowed.
After I was searched, they took my oyster card and searched me using the details on the ID. They also said if I did not comply I would be arrested.They didn’t give me a search slip.

When we arrived at Soho square we were talking to press, joining in the activities etc, and police stormed the area with plain clothed officers, so me and my friend see it as a chance to leave – so we went out a back exit. But we were stopped and searched by four men, and because I had a V for vendetta mask in my backpack (nothing else) they detained me in Marble Arch police station and let me go me 3 hours after arriving because they didn’t have enough on me to actually charge me so they let me go.
My mask was confiscated and all my details where taken.

The police were very controlling and intimidating, It was pretty much comply or we arrest you, even though they were hinting at the fact I would be arrested no matter what. I wasn’t put in a cell, I was left in the back of a police van while the coppers watched the royal wedding on their ipod.”

He was also able to video  the arrest of another young boy.

A Response to AWL

•May 1, 2011 • 1 Comment

In response to;

Continue reading ‘A Response to AWL’

I Recognise Your Brutality

•May 1, 2011 • 2 Comments

“Oi. I recognise you.” Actually, I recognised you too. I instantly remembered your face as one of those who stormed Trafalgar Square, and hospitalised my friends. You had attempted to arrest me whilst my arms bruised with baton beatings. I recognised your provocative attitude and nasty sarcasm. Now I recognise your brutality in your second attempt to silence me.

Around 10.30am a small group of socialist and anarchist activists met outside Charing Cross station. We did not come to practice our patriotism. Nor to watch two strangers marry from an institution that has brought us nothing but a bank holiday (and I spent most of that in cuffs). We came to exercise our imperative right to demonstrate.

Although nearly every organisation and political group disappointingly dismissed protesting at the royal wedding; I thought it was an important opportunity to show solidarity to those who had their freedom stolen in the build up to the wedding, under pre-emptive arrests, for thought crime. It was a time to respond to the police threats and ‘security clampdown’ by refusing to be bullied out of fighting for our cause, and not to rejoice alongside monarchists as though this marriage was the single most important event of our generation.

The arresting and charging of our comrades cannot be forgotten by encouraging us to fork out for royal wedding mugs, flags, condoms or any other materialistic junk. Giving us an excuse to get pissed in the middle of the day does not overshadow the memories of brain haemorrhages, house raids, horse charging and tyrannical ‘snatch squads’.

As we were such a small group, we decided we were likely to be quite ineffective as protestors, and so decided to head to the Republic street party. We stood about smoking and generally chatting – not protesting. We caught the attention of the British Transport Police who called their mates to come and search us under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994. This legislation permits police to search individuals should they suspect a possibility of serious violence. It is somewhat shocking that this should spout from finding some homemade placards in a bin bag.

They asked some of us for our details; failing to inform individuals that this information is not compulsory unless under arrest. We had one megaphone between us which was confiscated, and the police categorized one bicycle helmet as ‘climbing gear’. Nobody was carrying anything illicit.

All of a sudden we saw riot police charging at us, and within seconds we were kettled by 34 police from the Territorial Support Group. I fail to see the necessity of restricting the movement of 10 people barely carrying more than a sandwich and a packet of tobacco. We were then arrested at 11.38am.

I was arrested for breach of peace – not merely the prevention of. I was not read my rights and had to specifically ask for the identity of my oppressor. I was forced to provide my details although I had not done anything illegal and my intentions were merely to attend a street party.

We were loaded onto an unmarked coach – clearly to hide us from on-lookers, and to reinforce the illusion that the police are our protectors and friends. We were driven all the way out of London, to Sutton Police Station. Some of us were put into cells; still with no charge (and all belongings taken) and the rest of us remained cuffed in the yard. We were not told what exactly would happen with us, and the police said to expect to spend the evening in the cells until the ‘threat of breach of peace’ had ceased. We were handcuffed for around 4 hours, not allowed to use the toilet and at no point offered any water. Meanwhile our officers enjoyed cigarettes while I repeatedly asked for my cuffs to be loosened as they were so tight, it looked like I had self harmed.

There was no official de-arresting but we were eventually all released after checking to see we were not ‘wanted’, and free to head for a well deserved pint. To make things as inconvenient as possible, we were not even allowed to use the station toilet once released.

Clearly this was not a pleasant experience but I refuse to let this deter me from protesting and challenging the State. We must continue to act – there will never be enough cells to cage us all. We must show solidarity and support for all individuals arrested as Charlie Veitch, Alfie Meadows, Chris Knight. We must endeavour to propel our movement because the alternative is unacceptable.