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...
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!