The team at SlutWalk Melbourne often get asked a variety of questions about why we’re involved with the movement. These questions can range from “why is it called SlutWalk?”, through to “what do you hope to achieve by marching down a main street in Melbourne?”. We thought we’d take the time to tackle some of these questions in a series of blog posts, with responses from a range of different team members.
What does SlutWalk mean in a particularly Australian sense?
Kat – For me, it really hits home in terms of the drinking culture. Periodically we’ll get these articles that essentially say ‘I’m not slut-shaming you, but maybe you shouldn’t have drank as much’, which is so backwards. We never tell men to curb their alcohol intake, but women are told to be constantly vigilant. Obviously I’m not saying binge drinking is cool. Instead that, if you’re the kind of guy who looses sight of boundaries after a few drinks, you’re the one who should put the beer down.
Where does SlutWalk fit in with rape culture? Is the issue of rape culture coming to the fore a little more, and if so, how does the event educate people further?
Hayley – Rape culture refers to not just the act of sexual violence itself, but the underlying SS and VB beliefs and attitudes that enable and legitimate sexual violence at such an alarming rate in our society. I believe SlutWalk has successfully opened up space in our broader culture for these issues to be discussed together, and I think it is necessary to discuss them together. It was likely through SlutWalk or related coverage/discussions that many people first heard certain attitudes and behaviours labelled as ‘victim-blaming’ or ‘slut-shaming’, when they may have previously seemed common-sense, mundane or harmless. SlutWalk teaches us that these attitudes aren’t benign at all and hopefully, this knowledge gives people the tools and the confidence to call out and challenge VB and SS when they witness it – whether on the street, in the media, on the internet, or from someone they know and love.
What has been your experience of the event?
Jessamy – Having been a consistent attendee at SW since its inception, I can reel off almost endless cliches that can describe my experience (chief amongst these are words like “uplifting” and “inspiring”). But the truth is, the experience of being in amongst a SW march is like nothing I’ve felt before. Being surrounded by like-minded determined people who are shouting and yelling to draw awareness to an issue was something truly special for me. It was the first time I realised that I was (to use another cliched word) “empowered”. I was powerful, and I could make a difference. My presence in that march added to other people’s presence; my voice added to other voices; my support added to other people’s support. I felt that I could help make a difference – and that’s why I keep coming back.
What message do you think SlutWalk sends to Australian women who believe they don’t need feminism?
Fury – Let’s start off making a distinction here. Your phrasing is very specific and I think this needs to be addressed. Feminism isn’t about being self serving.
I say this as a white person who recognises that particularly in Feminist circles, white, cis women seem to feel entitled to dominate and dictate conversations that focus on their own agendas. That’s just not cutting it.
There will be no movement to dismantling it if Feminism stays racist, classist, ableist, cissexist etc. We will just be perpetuating the very thing that we are trying to dismantle.
So what message do I think SlutWalk sends to Australian women who believe they don’t need feminism? Nothing, probably.
I would love to think that people who think Feminism isn’t needed in the world sees this march and thinks “oh wow – look at those liberated babes reclaiming their bodies, the streets, their voices” but if they see us marching they’re probably just going the be hacked off.
That saying, if a friend or a colleague or someone they respect starts talking about the movement then maybe it will start the ball rolling. That’s definitely something the movement has done. It’s started a touchstone of reference around core issues to do with consent and expectations around women’s behaviour that people, when they’re ready, can start their research.