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Column: Dispatch with Janice Shaw Crouse
The latest desperate bid for attention by publicity-starved feminists is to sponsor SlutWalks—events at which scantily clad women take to the streets en masse to claim their "right" to dress and behave however they want or to go anywhere at any time without the risk of being sexually assaulted or deemed to be streetwalkers.
Granted, the feminists have gotten a lot of mileage out of their attempt to displace the romance of Valentine's Day with their crude and brassy V-Day performances (in case you've been living under a rock, the "V" is shorthand for The Vagina Monologues) but if anything illustrates just how outrageous and passé the movement has become, it is the feminists' delusional attempt to take back the term "slut." They propose somehow to make the point that, even if what they wear, their drunken state, or their presence alone in a very dangerous place might indicate their willingness to participate in a sexual free-for-all, women should not be subject to lewd propositions or be at risk of being raped.
The SlutWalks are the only indication in recent decades that the feminist movement has any life left at all. The first SlutWalk was held in Toronto and quickly swept to close to 100 cities around the world. The demonstrations are an opportunity for young women to parade around dressed like sluts as a protest against a law enforcement officer who obliquely warned coeds against dressing like sluts because it might increase the odds of being raped. Both students and the press went ballistic and claimed that the officer was going back to the days of "blaming the victim."
Students quickly rose to the cause, and more than 3,000 marched in the streets of Toronto carrying signs: "My dress is not a yes," "Slut Pride," and "Don't Blame the Victim." It should be noted that the hapless officer apologized publicly for his insensitivity and tried to explain that he was trying to warn young women of dangers, not blaming them for some men's criminal and violent behaviors. His apology went largely unnoticed and disregarded.
Inapt Feminist Goals
The demonstrators are following the old feminist mantra to be "in your face" about "women's rights." Feminists came to prominence in part because they were willing to do anything to get attention, no matter how outrageous. The SlutWalks are following in that tradition—controversy gets more attention than town-hall meetings and walking the halls of Congress to lobby members. The 24-year-old head of Hollaback (a New York organization that recommends a "bad-ass" response to street harassment) reminds women that it is easy to forget that change starts with anger. She adds, "History has always been made by bad asses."
The SlutWalks are encouraging feminists to think that this so-called "grass-roots movement" will revive the feminist movement. I think they err in thinking very many young women aspire to be viewed as sluts. The inconsistency of "reclaiming" the word slut is similar to the incongruity of feminists wanting to claim "sex worker" status for prostitutes. Most women caught in sexual slavery (about 85 percent) want out; they do not want their victim status whitewashed with some respectable new title.
Gail Dines, the anti-pornography scholar and activist, views the SlutWalks as another way of "pornifying" and over-sexualizing our culture. I couldn't agree more.
The Need for Prudence
Obviously, nothing justifies one person viciously attacking another person, whether that person is dressed provocatively or wearing a burqa. Yes, women should be safe from violence and sexual assaults, but "should" is not always the real world. In the real world, there are places that simply are not safe, there are things that any person who wants to remain safe should not do, and there are places they should not go. Doing those things or being in those places does not justify an attack, but it is foolish to deny the risks involved (often for men as well as for women).
We also know that rape is typically—according to the experts—a crime of anger, not a crime of passion. Following that logic, a woman's dress is just one factor in a whole list that includes where she is and how she behaves. A rapist is not a normal person acting out enflamed sexual desire, and who can predict just what will set off that deranged person—including provocative clothing?
Young women should be aware that certain places are hangouts for those types of problem men, and any wise young lady should avoid as much as possible situations where she has no protection and is vulnerable to attack. Furthermore, all women should be aware that many such crazies exist and sometimes they appear normal—even attractive. A good case in point is Joran van der Sloot, who is suspected in Natalee Holloway's disappearance. Because psychotics' anger can be triggered by heaven knows what—even by innocent behaviors—awareness, prudent caution, and wisdom are necessary.
The high-volume indignation of feminists may attract the press and intimidate public officials, but it will have no deterrent effect on the twisted souls of predators watching for an opportunity to strike. No number of women marching in the streets demanding the right to act however they please will ever do away with the risks that arise from the evil of which the human heart is capable. Moreover, let us be clear that—as the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed 17 young men, clearly shows—evil stalks the vulnerable, male and female alike. It is not blaming the victim to teach youths clearly what they can do to avoid putting themselves in harm's way. •
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