Saturday, May 28, 2011

My SlutWalk, Melbourne 2011

Yesterday I was one a few thousand people (according to The Age and my own eyes, or a few hundred if you believe the Herald Sun) that attended the Melbourne SlutWalk.

I am not a feminist. I am not a mysoginist. I am not a pervert. I am not a (hardcore/regular) activist (yet).

I am a male. I am in my 20s. I am easily aroused.

I have a number of close female friends, and that doesn't mean I want to have sex with them.

It would actually make my life easier if women did wear something that indicated straight up they're 'up for it' with me, because I sure as hell can't figure them out much of the time. But they don't. And that would probably really be quite a boring world. Nervous, uncertain flirting is all part of this sometimes tense, but mostly fun, social engagement between men and women.

Women have the right to express their sexuality. Currently that right is somewhat suppressed or demonised in a number of ways. Just because some men are more overt in their 'appreciation' of such displays does not mean the onus is on women to alter their behaviour in order to receive the respect they deserve.

Sexualisation in the media is an issue, yes. Using sex to sell, even buying into the sell, is very different to genuine expression of sexuality in a way in which you are comfortable.

I have friends who have been raped and have lingering emotional issues that may stay with them and colour their sexual experiences for the rest of their lives.

And, unfortunately, yes if you walk around the streets of any public space dressed in a way that emphasises your sexuality you are more likely to recieve attention, much of it unwanted.

But as much of the commercial media has failed to recognise this week (not least the Bolt/Morell media family), that is not the essential issue being debated here.

SlutWalk is about shifting harmful attitudes that shouldn't be accepted as just how it is. If some of the critics could have just engaged in the real issue - rather than focusing on the use of the word 'slut' or the potential consequences of what a women chooses to wear (as if they are a just 'the way it is and must always be') - then the discussion would be a truly construcutive one, with plenty of room for debate and varying opinion.

That said, other than the predictable suspects, the walk has received a suprising amount of positive - or at least, neutral - coverage, including in today's Age.

It wasn't as powerful an atmosphere as the SLAM rally - which took over the streets of Melbourne in February last year and was hands-down the most energising and inspiring rally I've attended - but it didn't need to be. Overall SlutWalk pushed a positive message against a largely cynical media, and the event had a really good, fun community vibe. It's harder to ignore or criticise people when they're smiling at you.

Having been initially concerned about the perceptions of a young, virile man attending on his own, I was actually surprised by the number of men. I saw a tweet lamenting a persistent reporting of how many men attended as if this was a pre-requisite for legitimacy. I think the attendance of men yesterday was important. It may be somewhat shallow reasoning, playing a media game, but the fact it was such a diverse crowd with people of all ages, sexualities, genders showed proved in imagery that this was not some stereotypically 'angry feminist' rally, but a community coming together to push for positive attitude change.

And some wonderful images there are. How could you dismiss such a delightful bunch of people as just the 'angry mob'?

I'm not a supporter of the feminists involved in SlutWalk, I'm part of the group calling for a change in attitude. So perhaps I am a feminist. The label is not important, the message is.

If people just stopped acting like dickheads then we'd all be able to have a little more fun in the ways we feel comfortable.


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