The idea of the slutwalk, that most postmodern and reactionary of protest movements, is absolutely indefatigably right: women have the right to dress and act however they wish, and there is never a circumstance when it is acceptable for a woman to be attacked. As one placard has it “No always means No, no matter how often I say Yes’
That having been said, it does seem to me that the officer responsible for making the observation which ostensibly spawned the movement was essentially coming at the wrong angle to the right conclusion: mitigation of risk is a viable is distasteful principle which we all live by.
For instance, when I approach a pedestrian crossing and the walk signal is showing, I still check for oncoming traffic, because I cannot obviate the possibility that someone will be driving like a fool. It is never okay for a driver to hit a pedestrian when the traffic light is red, but my application of a precautionary glance has saved my life more than once.
Further, in mixed or polite company I don’t bring up politics. I have no intention of offending people unnecessarily, and the precautionary approach prevents someone from going crazy at me, since this is essentially what I’m good at achieving in political discussions. The fact that this fundamentally restricts my freedom of speech is of course distasteful, but it’s a step I need to take for a greater good.
I am completely aware that these examples are not comparable to the circumstances of rape being blamed on an assumed promiscuity of the victim – but the ire directed against someone who stupidly misdirected his advice is unwarranted and unjust. The classic example of a sitcom father not allowing his daughter to go out ‘underdressed’ reveals a truth familiar to us all: men tend to want to get laid and some will use charm, cajolery, coercion and force to achieve that end – we can’t mitigate against that and it’s practically impossible to prevent it in any complex given circumstance.
The fact that the man at the start of the whole slutwalk saga was giving personal self defence training is instructive – the people in the room knew that rape and mugging are real and extant threats to women. They also knew that there are strategies to prevent it and mitigate the risk. Why deny the obvious fact that men select conquests, consensually or not, on the basis of a sexuality and potential promiscuity implied by the dress and appearance? It’s a fucking horrible fact, but it appears to be true.
It is perhaps fortunate that the officer responsible for the comments did misspeak -the welcome re-emergence of a popular personally and politically conscious branch of a feminist movement seeking to establish a strong and understandable message of personal empowerment and resistance of rape couldn’t have come at a better time.