Monday, 6 June 2011

If Man Must Whistle, 'Sluts' Must Walk

About a week ago, walking back from dinner at a friends house ten minutes away from my own, two guys, hoods up, sauntering down the street on bikes took to wolf-whistling me as I passed. It was a threat, NOT a compliment. At 5ft2.5 (yes, the half inch is vital) and weighing a slight 7st2, walking alone at 11.30pm down a quiet street, it scared me. I was not dressed provocatively, but I hope 'nicely' and 'stylishly' (of course)! This one act made me feel vulnerable. Was it my fault for being female and apparently attractive? No. It was theirs.

THAT IS THE POINT OF SLUTWALK as I see it. This is not "belittling rape" as Brendan O'Neill's article suggested, with the frankly revoltingly crass title of 'These are the most anti-social sluts on earth'. Excuse us, Mr O'Neill for wanting to feel safe in the streets. Excuse us for feeling threatened when we attract the advances of men while we mind our own business walking home.

My example is tame and represents the tip of the iceberg of the casual approach to what would be considered sexual harassment in any formal setting. In a civilized society, is it too much to ask that the male gender behave respectfully towards women they find attractive? Must we stay quiet and tolerate this, frankly, atavistic approach to gender relations that shows no respect for the woman involved? It is not far from the chest-beating and leg-cocking of those beasts whom man banishes to the cage for their inability to behave as humans see fit.

I also loathe the suggestions that this desire for slut-blaming to end means that we must be prudes who hate sex, men, and that this is all down to PMS or some other ovary-induce ridiculousness. This approach is horrifyingly Victorian and has no place in 21st century gender discourse.

What's more, Mr O'Neill seems to have missed the glaringly rational point that 'context is king'. Flirting in a bar, or being provocative in a club is not the same as blaming a 'sluttish' woman for her rapists crime. There seem to me to be obvious boundaries in this discussion of what's appropriate. I'm sure Mr O'Neill knows as well as anyone when it is appropriate to 'come on' to someone, and yet, for finding that same bahaviour unacceptable at times when we feel vulnerable (eg, walking at night etc) we must be 'antisocial sluts'.

If I am a slut, Mr O'Neill for expecting more from 'civilized' man, then you are an ignoramus for not setting higher standards for your gender.

No comments: