Wednesday, 18 May 2011

SlutWalk: The Media's Song and the Feminists' Dance

The SlutWalk debate may have been doomed from the start, but that hasn't stopped people from talking about it, endlessly. By "doomed" I mean this: it's circular, it's unsolvable and above all, it's boring. I've been trying to write down my thoughts on it, but I struggle to find an agle interesting enough to hold my attention.

I don't like circular, pointless arguments. In this case, they seem to go like this:
"It's good because it's raising awareness on victim blaming"
"It's bad because forchrissake, you are referring to yourselves as sluts"
You can argue back and forth between these two points, and never ever arrive at a resolution. So really, why bother? It drains people's energy and makes a mockery of the potential that political ideas have.

I tried to resist mentally engaging with the SlutWalk debate because of that. But it got to the point where things turned nasty. I began to feel alienated from the feminist movement. Suddenly what we thought to be "right" didn't matter, because there was "Big Media" in the picture, and of course we have to please them.

Now, I like compromising as much as the next radical dissident (HA!), but what I don't like is being called names, being accused of "not getting it", being told that I must accept it because, unlike many feminists' protests and marches campaigning against boring things like violence against women, this one actually caught on.

Since I'm no Machiavellian and don't happen to think that "the end justifies the means", I've had to go and read and think and write, just to put my mind at ease.

First and foremost, the feminists who get it. Feminist Frequency (who happens to have the best header I've seen so far on a feminist website) has a handy link of all the feminist critiques of SlutWalk. Make sure you check out Megan's posts on The F Word, because she's awesome: "We're Sluts, Not Feminists", Her response to SlutWalk holding a fundraiser in a stripclub, and her last Coverage of criticism.

And now, for some rambled thoughts...

The Media's Song and the Feminists' Dance

This SlutWalk thing? It's dancing to the media's tune. The media loves nothing more than to create controversy and outrage, especially if it leads to internal conflict. It keeps people talking because there is no resolution to the conflict, and it creates fanatics like nothing else, people who will swear by on the “no” or on the “yes” and defend themselves to death.

SlutWalk may not be a success in feminism, but it surely is a success in marketing.
Here’s why.
Most people with five wits will be outraged by the idea of a slut walk, because people are outraged at the idea of sluts, and more so at the idea of anyone wanting to identify with the word. So, appealing to the pseudo-moralistic feelings of the population, SlutWalk is something people would be willing to oppose.
But hang on a minute! You can’t oppose this, because the intentions behind the slutwalk are actually good. Most people with five wits will be outraged by the idea of victim blaming, and will be willing to support any campaign against it.
There you have it, the recipe for internal conflict. And the media loves endless internal conflict because it keeps everyone outraged, confused and, above all, talking.
The media is mostly made of controversy. This SlutWalk dealio became so popular precisely because it is made of controversy. And the media loves dressing up something which society deems morally wrong with layers of acceptability. It gives things an “edgier” look. It’s not the “old slut”, this is the new thing.
Meet the new thing, same as the old thing.

All this reminds me of this article I’ve read on the subject of padded bras for young girls. The author, a young feminist, clearly wanted to give her piece a “controversial” take, for the heck of it. So while most people in society with any pretence of morality would argue that padded bras for young girls are “wrong”, this feminist tried to argue that, no, they are “right”. She was clutching at straws to make her point, arguing that girls have a sexuality and whatnot, but it didn’t matter, because it kept the comments rolling in. A feminist? Arguing in favour of this consumerist monstrosity? W00T?

Truth is the first thing sacrificed in the name of profit, and nothing shows this better than the media. Arguing against the very few moral “noes” that society has left is a sure way to create controversy and become famous and wealthy. It’s been a long time since advertisers discovered the power of causing outrage to sell stuff. This is the same thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mary, you are amazing. Carry on!