Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slutwalk, anyone??

This appeared in 'The Week'. It has generated a mixed response. Surprisingly, several well-educated, well-travelled young women feel as strongly as I do about the meaninglessness of it all. What is the primary objective? How does it help the cause of women? If it's just some silly, harmless stunt by a group of young things who 'want to make a difference' - well, whatever it takes, honey. But let's not delude ourselves that Slutwalks will change the world . Or men...
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Slutwalk? No thanks!

Come on, ladies… strut your stuff by all means. But don’t downgrade yourself in the bargain. What is all this rubbish about slutwalking your way to feminist heaven? Get real. Get a life. To start with, these kind of cheap stunts serve no purpose other than to titillate Page 3 paps. Besides, it’s such a ‘me too’, depressingly ‘wannabe’ thing to do. Why not come up with something truly original – like the path- breaking ‘pink chaddi’ campaign? Why react to some dumb Canadian cop’s sexist comment? By doing so, aren’t women the world over giving him unwarranted importance and attention? Seen in our cultural context, the idea of a multi-city Slutwalk is an absolute no-no - even if the intentions behind the move are to shock and awe the men of this country. The only response to such a gimmick is likely to be the exact reverse of what was intended. Men will leer, peer, gawk and lech. It certainly won’t make them stop dead in their tracks to review their mindsets. My main problem with this approach is the actual degradation of women implicit in the word ‘slut’. If we fall for this ruse en masse and start addressing ourselves with such a nasty putdown, chances are not just men but other women too will jump down our throats and say, “The bitch asked for it.”
The power of imagery and words is such. Self-deprecation works in progressive environments. Self-mockery is a potent tool, but only in countries where literacy levels are high enough, and the audience sufficiently educated to know the difference between taunting perpetrators of violence, and playing up to a stereotype. Some of the images of Slutwalks coming in from around the world, look more like send-ups – exhibitionistic chicks flashing their goods for the cameras. When a busty female scrawls a ‘Look, but don’t touch’ message across her ample bosom which is on full view, what is the average joe meant to make of this display? In India, a woman parading in the streets clad in a decollete bra ,will be labeled a ‘besharam aurat’. Her reputation will be in shreds for evermore, and if single, her chances of finding a ‘respectable’ boy will plummet instantly. As for the state of her parents – aiiyyyo – they may be forced to go into permanent hiding. But far more important than such a fallout, it’s the counter productivity of the act that bothers me. Defiance is one thing – and I am all for it. But plain stupidity, quite another. The argument that today’s woman is free to dress as she pleases, get sloshed at bars, use language any which way she chooses … well, in theory, it’s a great argument. Does it work? Naaah. Not even for her – the bold, brave and beautiful one who wants to break rules and conquer prejudice overnight.
There is also the reverse argument which involves mens’ freedoms. Of course, we are used to the sight of men peeing by the roadside in broad daylight, or exposing themselves in public places ( notoriously, on trains). But what if male colleagues in the work place decided to let it all hang out and challenged women not to complain?What about hanging out at a popular bar and finding topless men asserting their right to knock off that damn shirt in the heat? Or if men wore signs on their crotches during a protest rally that warned women to keep off the turf? Imagine a male boss turning up in a bulge-popping pair of skinny jeans on a casual Friday, his shirt buttons undone upto his navel? Trust me, some prissy women would feel offended enough to file a complaint. It goes back to the old , ‘what’s good for the goose…’ theory. Rape and other acts of sexual violence against women ( and men, too…. excuse me!) , must be condemned and fought all the way. But I am just not convinced Slutwalking is the answer to resolve an age old battle. Dressing to provoke a reaction from the opposite sex is as ancient as the hills. It’s all a part of the mating game and existed way before the era of sexual politics came into the picture. Whether it’s a scantily clad woman at a wedding or a man dressed in a cod piece at a formal event, the same rules apply. The definition of appropriate gear is timeless and has nothing to do with changing fashion trends. However, the decision to dress in skimpy attire with little regard for the cultural context, is a matter of individual choice. By all means bare all if that’s what you want. It is your right to dress as you please. But do so and bear the responsibilities and consequences of that decision as well.
Remember, just as there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s no free show either!

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I found that pink chaddhi campaign meaningless too. Come on did those bastards really deserved our underwear?

Latha said...

I can't agree with you more.
Having said that, we should appreciate the way Delhi women ..er...rather ladies behaved during the so called slut walks. Neither their dress nor their placards were condemnable. There was a world of difference between them & the sluts (sorry, but how else to address them ?) in Sydney, Britain, US etc. The sadness in their face was telling. Congratulation, Delhi. Here's the website:

http://cupidspeaks.com/slutwalk-in-delhi-fight-against-rapes/

चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

Oh! ladies are hurt by some unknown canadian cops sexist remarks! God save their sensitivity :)

Pooja Rathore said...

iam not for slut walk it will not help the cause they are fighting for.women opting for slut walk must read your post it makes sense(plain common sense) , The last line of the post says it all... "just as there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s no free show either!" a word to wise is sufficient!

Droopy Rose said...

Couldn't agree with you more Shobhaa. "Showing concern" and "showing off" are just 2 different things and it's to be clearly noticed by Slut-walk in Delhi. Bravo!

The unsure ascetic said...

saw you on TV debating with a couple of juvenile wannabes.. why do u even agree to talk to these kids?? this confused generation !!!! We really need to be better travellers to get to know the real western culture..

avidblogger said...

I so agree with you Shobhaa.You are spot on with this issue. Slut walking is no answer to fight rape. If at all, it will only provoke some more frustrated souls gawking away. Dress well and sensibly.

jay-me said...

Wow!Love this piece, it certainly generates thoughts...I was actually okay with the idea of slutwalking but with me not having to participate...with your views i realize my hesitation to participate is because i cant fully accept the cause...it leads to no end.

Divya Virmani said...

Totally agree with you on this one... Slutwalking is just not the answer in any way possible. It's enough that women face rape/sexual assualt...let's not ignite this problem by taking it off completely and giving it a name of 'good cause'... Bullshit!

Jyostna said...

I completely agree with u. there r many better ways to condemn the atrocities rather than this kind of exhibition

Harman said...

I agree with you shobha...its utter nonsense!

goodluck said...

Exhibitionism.

Mehak said...

you've said it all! though I agree with the first comment by Anonymous that the pink chaddi campaign too was somewhat pointless.

Arjun said...

Actually, this is the age of image enhancement, more so in the times of social networking. Every one's out to prove themselves uniquely. The coming of age of the oppressed lot and strong upsurge of women liberation has been gaining momentum in different ways and forms for quite some time now. Even though the slutwalk is an imported form of expression happening in India, look around and you'll see much of the changes for good or for bad has some or large shades of western influences to it. So chill, and enjoy, while the mind goes berserk, the extremities of expression without digging too deep into the logic and the reasoning behind it.

Ambika said...

I agree whole-heartedly with you on this piece. Pink chaddi too was pointless. The Ram Sene head became an overnight sensation, a headline hunter. Let's not give all these people too much of publicity. Ignore them and they will come to heel

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Trisha said...

Beg to disagree. I am a 27 year old girl raised in Mumbai and educated in the U.S with three degrees under my belt (I hope that qualifies me as being well educated in your books, Ms. De) and think that this is truly path breaking, the underlying message behind "Slutwalk" is worth screaming atop rooftops for.

I love how you always are on the right side of all things female empowerment related, but very disappointed that you are taking the supposed moral high ground on this issue. Women need not dress skimpily to be part of this campaign, it's just that those choose to should not bear the ire or disgraceful behavior of men.

It still OK if men lech, but they have NO RIGHT TO TOUCH without the female's permission! Period. And any right minded male or female would agree with that, educated, traveled or not.

ocean's sparkle said...

you are right; this a rather rebellious stand or form of action. We cannot change the mindset of men with "slut walk". It can bring attention to the issue, but not solve the poblem. The issue with our country is we have moral polices for the wrong reasons, but do not have proper security & police protection where its needed most! action must be taken- but in more meaningful ways.

anki said...

well, more importantly Indian women have not yet achieved proper equal social status, or are some where near it as the women in the other developed nations have achieved,there is honor killing, female infanticide domestic violence etc still in practice .. the fundamental rights of women are violated in this country.. and at such a place if we talk about apprehensions of dress code, well then we are mocking ourselves, aren't we!
lets make a fuss about issues that matter..REALLYYY!!!

james said...

I agree with you too. A comparison can be made with the recent usage of a pejorative term "queer" to mean gay. Here too there is the same convoluted thinking that we are supposed to appreciate! Why the media in India have taken up this ridiculous term is baffling. It is used by some fringe elements and is not an acceptable term in the gay community.

FrankieGoesToHyderabad said...

No, I disagree. Slutwalk was good because it was a rare - sadly -occasion when the issue of men's general belief in India, that it's their natural privilege to do whatever they want to women, was challenged. And it was diluted by women denigrating it. That allowed men to dismiss it as 'women can't even agree among themselves'. And look at the kind of vapid statements made by your Comment-ers here - tut-tutting away while men continue their violence. Who will actually speak out against men denigrating and harming women, especially those poor ones who have the least protection? Shame.

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Rups said...

I totally agree with your post on slutwalk..
If one has to do something do it with an agenda protection of sex workers or violence against women...What is the outcome we are looking at after a slut walk.. calling it besharmi morcha shall not indianize it or give it a purpose.... but yes people do a lots of things just for the heck of it and we indians arent behind in that

*Aham* said...

you give me a whole new perspective to the slut walk. I am associated with a group of people planning/wanting one in bombay. but after reading your post, i think i should revisit the plan and rework it in such a way that we have the event, but also dont end up doing something something that would rather demean the issue.

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oceanblue said...

some females have that oomph factor they cant hide in any clothes.. and it gets to male heads infectiously which ideally should just charm them..so by asking the right to bare, they want to take their competition to high levels may be as baring adds to the oomph like an attractive wrapper to a chocolate. no doubt marketing is the need of this era. but better decide where to draw the line for yourself..

Honey Sangha said...

This is a social commentary here. You might be curious about a personal commentary. I am the mother of a "slutwalker" and here is my take:

http://confessionsofanambitiousmother.blogspot.com/2011/09/slutwalk-bangalore.html

Aqseer said...

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/article2507625.ece

Aqseer said...

This- http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=122442794528383 is what it does. It sets a ball rolling. It started in Toronto and now its a worldwide movement. And its not stopping at a walk. The last link was to a story in today's Hindu covering the discussion SlutWalk Bangalore's organizers are having today with NGOs to put together a strong, relevant campaign. As for whether the word slut can be reclaimed, there are strong arguments for and against, but that doesn't take away from the substance of the campaign and is not a valid reason to dismiss the entire endeavour out of hand.

Aqseer said...

I am now practically spamming your comments section, for which I apologize, but I wish you and other people who are so sceptical about SlutWalks would take a minute to visit our Facebook pages and take a look at what this movement has made possible. People are talking about sexual harassment, asking questions, sharing great articles, ironing attitudes out. Its really quite fantastic. And I'm sorry that you're missing out. To a criticism that I know will emerge - 1) this movement is not restricted only to the web or to "just" a walk. People would know this if they bothered to find out more. 2) But even if it was, people on social media sites are very much part of the target audience here. Not all of these people are above victim blaming. A lot of them might be confused about their own attitudes towards female sexuality and harassment/rape. EVEN IF this was "just" a virtual movement or "just" a walk, it is still relevant. It is still making a difference.

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