June 14 2011
I'm a single woman in my twenties, and sometimes in pursuit of a social life I follow my peers to bars or dance clubs late at night to have a good time. I have a lot of confidence in my body, and I like to wear clothes that make me look attractive.
Nothing too weird, right? There are a lot of girls who fall into this category with me: young, single, and dressing to get a compliment.
I went to school at the University of North Carolina and every fall without fail this debate returned to campus: Should young women who wear scanty costumes on Halloween be surprised when they are subjected to sexual harassment?
(Hat tip to my grandmother Heath for the vocabulary word "scanty.")
Sure, there's something ugly and unfair about blaming the victim when it comes to any kind of crime or abuse. "She asked for it" is not only an outdated attitude, it's a heartless attitude. "She" might be asking for attention, but she's not asking for abuse. If this isn't common knowledge, it obviously should be. No one asks to be raped.
So to combat this "blame the victim" mentality, Feminists everywhere (and I mean everywhere) are organizing events called "Slutwalks" where the idea is to wear ridiculous clothing (or whatever you want I suppose) and get together in protest. The creators of the event have taken a lot of heat over the name - which I think is deserved. A lot of reasonable women who support the freedom to dress as you please will be turned off by the word "slut." I don't want to be associated with that word!
Where's a girl to turn? What am I to do? I can't oppose "Slutwalk" because I don't endorse "blaming the victim," but I don't want to participate either, because I'm not a slut, don't want to dress like a slut or promote slutty-ness, and certainly don't believe in "slut pride" or anything like that.
This is the awkward position that modern-day Feminists put people in. Many American women (of all ages) are pro-family, pro-monogamy, and anti-slut. It's not good for men or women to be careless in their sexual choices. It's unfortunate and unfair that our society continues to hold a double standard for the two genders and that "slut" is a term rarely applied to a promiscuous man, but reserved for sexually liberal women. And I don't think it's right to demonize women, regardless of the choices they make, but I also don't think that it's appropriate to celebrate those bad choices. After all, this isn't just about clothes - this is about a culture that encourages women to approach sex casually (like Sabrina wrote about today). And we know that casual sex tends to have significant consequences for women, who are more likely than men to contract STDs and to suffer from depression as a result of casual affairs.
Rather than support behavior among women that encourages them to "act like men" in their conquests, we should encourage people of both sexes to be more respectful to themselves and each other. This might reduce the catcalls aimed at risqué outfits, but it would also make women less likely to want to wear them.