Why I Support SlutWalk – Jessica Lee

This is from SlutWalk supporter Jessica Lee.

I’m a married, suburban housewife, and mother to two children, and I support slutwalk. I support slutwalk because…

I want my daughter to be able to assertively tell strangers that approach her that she doesn’t want to talk to them, without having to weigh up whether that might cost her safety. I want her to grow up in a world where she can decide how to use her body.

I want my son to know that he should never judge the value of a women by how many penises (or whatever else) she’s put in her mouth in her lifetime. I want him to grow up in a world where it’s not assumed that he just can’t help but rape someone if they’re wearing a particular outfit.

I don’t want my children to grow up being told how their bodies are allowed to be sexy; that a pair of heels a certain height, cleavage a certain depth, means that they should expect to be violently assaulted. That even something as completely non sexual as breastfeeding a baby should be done in a certain way because using our bodies is somehow seen to lower our value as people.

I want my children to grow up knowing that they are valued and loved, and that rape is never ok.

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A story of slut shaming

The following story was submitted by a friend of SlutWalk Melbourne who, for reasons which will become obvious, wishes to remain anonymous. It’s a reminder of how destructive a negative attitude towards female sexuality can be, how slut shaming can have a disastrous impact on women’s lives, and that such behaviour is not confined to street-side cat callers – or even to men.

Trigger warning: slut shaming

When I tell people that The Age wrote an article about me, they look at me expectantly, eager to find out what it could be about. “I wrote some dirty jokes on Twitter”, I say, and they look at me incredulously, waiting for more. But that’s it, really. I wrote some dirty jokes on Twitter, so the newspaper decided to write a humiliating and shaming article about me.

On the Tuesday of the week of publication, I was called into the principal’s office. Someone had printed off a sub-tweet I wrote about my colleague and slipped it under his door. I was devastated. Please understand here, I’d gone to some lengths to keep my Twitter account off-the-radar. I didn’t use my name; I didn’t mention the name of my workplace; I didn’t add colleagues, save for one who I trusted, and I didn’t have colleagues on Facebook. I deleted the tweet immediately, along with any tweets I thought might be offensive and made my account private.

On the Friday, I was pulled out of my class, again, to talk to the principal. He informed me that a journalist had called him, asking about the school’s policy on social media. At first he was unsure how to respond, expecting that it was a general inquiry. Then he was asked specifically about me. He sternly expressed to the journalist that he shouldn’t pursue the matter further as it was a case of mental wellbeing.

He assured me that it wouldn’t go ahead. I went out that night to get my mind off the situation when I got a call from my husband, telling me that the journalist had emailed him about me. How had the journalist even gotten his work email address, especially when I never mentioned his last name or where he worked? On Sunday, the story was published – “Explicit Tweeter Quits Classroom”. It included where I worked, my picture (admittedly with my face blurred out), how I was in ‘trouble’ at work and included ‘expert’ opinion that I’d behaved inappropriately. For the record, my school supported me as best they could. I called the Victorian Institute of Teaching and they assured me I could not be fired as I’d done nothing against the code of ethics. But I was humiliated. Ashamed. Alone. Vulnerable. Weak. I stayed in bed all day and cried. I hurt myself and had suicidal thoughts. And constantly, the question at the forefront of my mind was ‘why?’

Leading up to the article, I was struggling. At work, I put myself into a situation working with someone of a very different personality type and we clashed. I was reported for bullying, when in fact I’d felt like I’d been bullied for the previous months. I was never a high flyer, but my reputation took a beating. I found it hard to function. When a student complained that my style of teaching wasn’t to their liking, there wasn’t a conversation about my difficulty in coping, it was just about my inadequacy. When enough people tell you you’re not good enough, you start think that maybe it’s true. My grandfather died and I was asked not to take any time off work. I got married and anyone who has had to plan a wedding can probably relate to how stressful that can be. I went to hospital and was asked to only take two days of sick leave. I was crumbling. I went to Twitter as an outlet to escape.

The thing most people don’t understand about me is that me joking around isn’t just for fun; it’s actually very important. Making people laugh, making light of a situation is a coping mechanism for me. People who have been victims of bullying might understand it; if you make fun of yourself before they can, you can protect yourself.  I joke about death because my brother and sister died. I joke about sex because, like so many women I’ve encountered, I’ve experienced sexual abuse. I joke about being a loser, because after being bullied all throughout school and my work life, that’s how I feel.

Why did you do it? How was this newsworthy? Yeah, I wrote that I had sex an hour before I was teaching… because I wrote it before school. And whose fucking business is it if I have sex anyway? I never wrote anything inappropriate about my students, just myself. How was this ‘in the public interest’? Another journalist, Amy Gray, took interest in my story and wrote her own piece, “Public interest: apparently it’s now everything”, researching the ways in which The Age article breached their own code of conduct and the Media Alliance Code of Ethics. There were so many complaints from people on Twitter that The Age removed the image of me, but by then the damage was already done. How many other pink-haired teachers that worked at the same school had decided to take a year off? The students worked it out and spread the word quickly.

I found out a couple of months after publication that the person who got the ball rolling was actually a then-friend of my husband. She decided to mess with me and felt shaming me was the right way to do it. I would’ve thought that a ‘reputable’ newspaper such as The Age might have wanted to check the motivations of their sources to really decide whether their stories were actually newsworthy. I guess not. Since the article came out, I’ve spiralled further into depression. I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and continue to behave in self-destructive patterns. It’s caused so much tension in my relationship as I pushed everyone away that my very new marriage has all but fallen apart.

I can’t face a classroom again and I’ve had to essentially restart my life. Maybe all of this would have happened anyway, but it would have been nice to have been my own decision. I live near the school at which I worked, but I have to time my grocery shopping so that I don’t end up bumping into students, who still, nearly a year later, recognise me and want to talk to me about it. I’ve been told by people to “just get over it”. I really wish I could.

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I Support SlutWalk Because…

We’re inviting supporters of SlutWalk to tell us why in a simple and visual way that’s easy to understand and easy to share. A member of the SlutWalk Melbourne organising team, Karen Pickering, demonstrates.




This took about a minute and clearly expresses why SlutWalk matters personally. You can make your own starting with I Support SlutWalk Because… and help us spread the word that we walk this Saturday 31 August at midday at the State Library, standing with survivors against the victim blaming and slut shaming that harms us all, but especially women.

You can post them to us at slutwalkmelbourne@gmail.com, on the Facebook event, or on Twitter with the hashtag #WhyISupportSlutWalk

You’re the best!

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SlutWalk in context – PM Newton

PM NewtonSlutWalk Melbourne has supporters all over the country and one of our most esteemed friends is the brilliant Sydney crime writer, PM Newton. She wrote this for us to put SlutWalk in the context of other fights for women’s rights.

There’s this picture that occasionally does the rounds on the internet. It features an older woman, grey haired, dressed in a conservative high- necked long-sleeved shirt and long skirt and she’s carrying a sign that says “I cannot believe I still have to protest this shit.” You’ve probably seen it.

An elderly woman holds a sign: I cannot believe I still have to protest this shit.

I’m not sure what the original protest was, the women is carrying a small American flag so the possibilities are sadly numerous, and I’m not sure whether she was the originator of the phrase, or just carrying it forward but those words are appearing on more and more signs.

I’m not surprised it’s caught on. “I cannot believe I still have to protest this shit”  expresses, succinctly, the bafflement and rage of many women as the rights fought for over decades, and seemingly established – such as the right to control fertility – are either under siege, or being actively rolled back.

There’s a sorrowful weariness to that sign. Really? We’re here again? Having the same conversations again? Pointing out what we’d thought we made clear years ago? How long are we going to have to do this? WHY DON’T YOU GET IT?

Sometimes it feels like women have been carrying signs and marching behind banners of various kinds and in support of various causes forever. There’s been “Votes for Women” and “Reclaim the Night” and “Equal pay for equal work” and “Save Our Sons” and now “Slutwalk.”

The signs change. The women holding them change. The language changes. The basic issues don’t.

As I wade through my fifties I find myself more and more drawn to that sign held by that elderly woman in America. And, when you think about it, that’s a bit sad.

So, when a bunch of young women, unweary and unbowed, come along armed not only with a new vocabulary but with new energy to bring to the fight it’s a cause for celebration. The women who will be taking to the streets this weekend are part of the fight for rights we already thought we had and the fight for rights we haven’t yet managed to obtain. If you want to know more then I suggest read Emily Maguire’s beautifully articulate enunciation of why the word slut, with all its power to shock and indeed to alienate, is a word that feminists might want to reclaim.

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Why I Support SlutWalk – Andrew P Street

Andrew P StreetAndrew P Street is a music writer and broadcaster. A contributing editor at Time Out Australia, his work also appears regularly in Rolling Stone, GQ, The Big Issue, Cosmos, the Sunday Telegraph, TheVine, Daily Life and more. He also has weekly segments on ABC Radio in Sydney, Canberra and Darwin.

I can’t remember ever having not having considered myself a feminist, but there is a very specific reason why I support SlutWalk so passionately. And it is because, like pretty much all men who haven’t had it specifically pointed out to them, I had an embarrassingly huge blind spot about personal safety. And that blind spot is this: I can take it for granted pretty much all the time, because I am a man; and my girlfriend can’t, because she is not. And that is laughably, ridiculously, obviously unjust.

Now I should make clear that I was aware of all this in an abstract sense, but it wasn’t something that I ever really thought about in practical everyday terms. Because I don’t have to. Because I’m a guy.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that this unforgivably obvious point was made immediate and personal to me.

My then-girlfriend and I had both been out at different gigs in Sydney one night, and were both heading back to the flat we shared close to the city at around 1am. I walked home from the venue, drunk, with headphones on. She caught a taxi.

We both got home at around the same time and I made some mild joke about her splashing out on fancy cabs while I was schlepping around the city on foot, and she told me – in a very matter-of-fact way, without an ounce of rancour – that yes, she always caught a taxi home because last time she walked along our well-lit main road in a very pleasant inner-city suburb at one in the morning, a guy tried to chase her down and she ended up hiding in the bushes outside the library until he stopped looking for her. And that’s why, no matter how broke she is, she always makes sure that there is a $20 note secure in her wallet so she is never, ever in that position again.

I can’t tell you how astonished I was. Or how angry. Or how ashamed.

The last time I felt my own physical safety was at risk I was maybe 12 – maybe. I’m a solid guy. I look like I’m more trouble than any hassle would be worth. But when I asked my best friend about what my girlfriend had told me, she said much the same thing.

And when I asked my sisters about it, they all said much the same thing.

And when I asked my female colleagues about it, they all said much the same thing.

And when I spoke to my male friends about it, they all looked at me like I’d just told them that women need to take pills every morning to avoid being liquefied by the sun.

Even with my oh-so-feminist principles, the reality of the daily experience of most of the people closest to me didn’t even cross my mind until I was in my goddamn 30s and someone I loved told me – like it was the most natural thing in the world – that every single time she leaves her own house she checks for her phone, wallet, keys, and the $20 note that might save her from getting raped and killed.

And until all of the people I love can all be as blithe about moving around their own city as I can be, I will passionately support SlutWalk.

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Why I Support SlutWalk – Emily Maguire

Emily MaguireEmily Maguire is an award-winning author of novels and non-fiction, including Princesses and Pornstars: Sex + Power + Identity and its young adult counterpart, Your Skirt’s Too Short: Sex, Power, Choice. Emily was a speaker at the 2012 Melbourne SlutWalk; this piece is an adaptation of her speech.

We all know by now the origins of Slutwalk, about the comments of one ignorant police officer on the other side of the world. But that one police officer isn’t why I support Slutwalk.

I support Slutwalk – because of all the others. All the others who say what he said, who think as he seems to. I support it not because of one comment but because of thousands of comments. Not because of one distant police officer but because of entire justice systems. Not because of one ill-considered piece of advice but because of the avalanche of advice women receive – have always received – telling us how not to get raped.

This advice – god, so much advice on how to avoid being raped. Don’t walk home alone and if you must then carry your keys as a weapon and wear running shoes and don’t wear your hair in a ponytail as it makes you easy to grab. Seriously. Don’t go out alone and if you must don’t wear short shorts or short skirts or midriff tops or tight pants. Don’t get drunk, don’t talk to men you don’t know and don’t flirt with those you do unless you mean it. And seriously, I’m saying this for your own good: re-think your outfit. Those boots send messages.

Me, I’ve been hearing this stuff since primary school. It’s often well meaning, I accept that. It comes from a place of concern. But it’s bullshit. I don’t just mean I don’t like it, I mean it’s actually demonstrably wrong.

We all grow up being taught to pre-empt rape attempts, to second-guess the motivations of the men around us, to protect ourselves. Always protect ourselves. We get it. We live it. We do all that shit. And we still get raped.  We get raped sober and drunk. We get raped when we’re out and when we’re at home. We get raped wearing short skirts and wearing burqas, wearing school uniforms and wearing pyjamas. We get raped by men we know and by men we don’t. We follow all of the rules in that stupid email forward purporting to be from some sex crimes expert or we follow none of them and it makes no difference.

And then, and then, when we have failed –  despite doing everything or nothing – to prevent our rapes we are forced to fight for the right to even accurately describe what it is that has happened. Legitimate rape, forcible rape, genuine rape, rape rape: which was it?

Come on, you say you were attacked, but did the man know he was attacking you? What did you do to communicate your discomfort with being attacked? Did you fight back? Did you fight back hard enough? Let’s talk about your clothes again: the message of those boots…and also, you’d been drinking, right? I’m not saying it’s your fault, but you need to take some responsiblity…

No. Listen, I’m all about taking responsibility for your actions. You know, if you get rotten drunk and trip over the gutter and vomit all over your dress and lose your handbag, you have only yourself to blame. Suck it up. But rape is not a consequence of getting drunk. It’s a consequence of a man deciding to rape someone.

And you know, if you commit a crime while you’re drunk – if you decide to drive home or you get in a fight and beat someone up – drunk or not, you’re responsible for that. But being raped is not a crime; raping someone is. In no other situation do we hear the victim being told to take responsibility for the criminal’s actions. Only rape victims are told to look to themselves to mitigate the crimes of the person who has violated them. To find in themselves their attacker’s salvation.

Telling women we’re responsible for rape doesn’t keep us safe; it just keeps us scared. It also lets rapists know that they can get away with their crime as long as they pick the right victim – one who ‘makes herself vulnerable’ by refusing to live according to the edicts of a rape-tolerant society. That’s why I support Slutwalk.

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SlutWalk Melbourne returns on August 31st!

Prepare to walk, roll, holler or stomp with us through the streets of Melbourne, because it is still never okay to blame the victim.

Slutwalk is an inclusive movement. Whatever your gender identification or age, whether you’re singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children or friends, we ask you to join us in demanding respect for all.

For more information, check out the SlutWalk Melbourne 2013 page, or the SlutWalk Melbourne 2013 event on Facebook.

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SlutWalk Melbourne is on-line

Check back soon for updates!

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A reflection from SlutWalk Melbourne supporter: Anna Spargo-Ryan (Trigger Warning)

Triggers: sexual assault

When I sat down to write this, I thought, “I’ve never been raped. No one has ever had sex with me against my will. If anything, I have to plead with them. What can I add?” But then it occurred to me that the act of penetrative sex isn’t the only way that women and men are sexually assaulted, and that there is nothing to be gained by trivialising these other types of abuse.

At 18, I had my first real job in an office. My manager was in his mid-30s and I thought he was to die for. His girlfriend worked in the same department as us, but I flirted with him over the printer and hoped that one day I’d be invited out for work drinks. It was a few weeks before someone else asked me to tag along to a bar up the road, where spirits were three dollars and happy hour lasted till 10.

I wore a Fiorucci t-shirt with “I Wanna Bone” printed on it because how hot is that? and I threw back the clear liquid like water. My group of workmates gradually dissipated and I found myself alone in a booth with this man. I immediately realised this wasn’t my plan, that I wasn’t that girl, that his girlfriend had been by his side moments earlier.

But he had already forced himself on me, wrapped his leg around mine, pulled my hands behind his back.

“Come back to my place,” he slurred. “I’ll show you what I can do with my tongue and a red frog.”

The thought of it brought what might have been litres of alcohol into my throat. “No, get fucked.”

“I’ll buy you a new outfit on the way in tomorrow, so no one knows where you’ve been all night.” He was purring as though what he was suggesting was a delicious tryst, a night of unmatched passion. “You know you want it.”

Seconds or maybe hours later I felt his hand inside my skirt, inside my lacy knickers. Then his other hand was under my now shameful t-shirt and I felt waves of nausea and panic and anger at myself for sitting in such a very dark corner but my reflexes were so dulled that I did and said nothing. It wasn’t until I felt his erection pressed against my thigh that I turned to meet his hot gaze and vomited in his lap. That was my escape.

The next morning I called in sick and never returned. It didn’t feel right to tell them why. After all, I wore the t-shirt.

Anna Spargo-Ryan is a writer, social media strategist and supporter of SlutWalk Melbourne. You can find her @annaspargoryan on Twitter.

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Why I March On SlutWalk – Ben McKenzie

In the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey survey, more than half of the nearly 7,000 women surveyed had experienced physical or sexual assault, but less than 16% had reported it. One of the major, consistent reasons cited for not reporting was shame or embarrassment.

You may not think you know anyone who’s experienced sexual assault, but odds are, you do. If she – and it will almost certainly be a woman – told you, what would you think? Would you wonder what she was wearing? Whether she flirted with or kissed the perpetrator? Whether she was drunk? Whether she’s a slut? If you ask any of these questions, what you’re really asking is: was it her fault?

It wasn’t. It never is. No-one should ever think it was. That’s why I march on SlutWalk.

Think about the flip-side for a moment: to argue that it is a woman’s fault she is sexually assaulted because of what she wears or does is to argue that the man – and it will almost certainly be a man – couldn’t help himself. That he has no free will. That all men – boyfriends, husbands, friends – are a rebuffed advance away from committing rape.

We’re not. Men who rape make the choice to do so, and they do it in part because they’ve internalised the message that it’s not their fault; because they know that shame and embarrassment will help them get away with it.

Rapists are to blame for rape. Society needs to tell them so. That’s why I march on SlutWalk.

Ben McKenzie is a SlutWalk organiser, and will be speaking at SlutWalk Melbourne 2012 this Saturday 1st September.

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