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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Zombie Feminism and Prudish SlutWalkers

Trivializing rape.

Feminism is dead, and yet it lumbers forward in high-heeled shoes and cleavage-heaving costumes.

SlutWalk is a worldwide phenomenon in which women parade through the streets in “slutty” clothes. It began as a backlash against a Toronto policeman who publicly declared that women should minimize the risk of rape by not “dressing like sluts.”

The most obvious message of SlutWalk is credible. Women should be able to dress as they want without being raped or blamed for violence against them. But the raw politics and hypocrisy surrounding SlutWalk expose mainstream feminism as an exhausted movement that continues to have influence only because it has been institutionalized into laws and academia. As a result the underlying messages have quickly overwhelmed the explicit theme.

Do Not Respond

One message: It is fabulous for women to publicly flaunt their sexuality but an intolerable offense if men respond nonviolently. Wolf-whistles are taken as an attack. Disapproving or overly approving comments from men are an assault. But isn’t provoking a response the entire purpose of wearing fishnet stockings topped by a leather bustier?

Another message, as pointed out by Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail: “Slutwalks are what you get when graduate students in feminist studies run out of things to do.”  In other words, SlutWalks are an expression of privileged women who mistake a costume party for a political cause. While Iranian women fight for the right to pursue an education, North American feminists fight to reclaim pride in the word “slut.” SlutWalk is an extreme expression of mainstream feminism’s political impoverishment.

Yet SlutWalkers proclaim they are performing a political service by protesting the trivialization of rape. Nonsense. They are using the ill-considered words of one ignorant policeman as a reason to throw a street party.

I do not begrudge anyone having a good time but as a woman who has experienced rape, I object to the political agenda being attached to a costume party. I object to the posters and attitudes that vilify men as predators. I do so because I was attacked by one man, not by mankind, and when I was helped, it was by men. I object to the notion that women do not bear any responsibility for controlling their circumstances, such as attire. I object to rape being trivialized by associating it with sluttiness and making it part of a celebration.

Not Trivialized

Moreover, SlutWalk’s basis premise is flatly wrong. It is difficult to imagine a cause that is less trivialized by society than “preventing rape” and other sexual offenses against women. For example, the definition of sexual assault has been expanded to include verbal abuse and intimidating gestures. The legal standards by which rape is judged have also been watered down. Recently, the Department of Education imposed the weak “preponderance of the evidence” standard on the adjudication of on-campus charges of sexual offense, including rape.

Nevertheless, organizations such as the American Association of University Women (AAUW) stir the dying embers of controversy by making inflated claims. For example, in its report “Drawing the Line” (pdf), the AAUW claims that 62 percent of female students have been sexually harassed. The AAUW arrives at this high statistic by defining sexual harassment in an extraordinarily loose manner. First on the list of indicators is: “sexual comments, jokes, gestures, or looks.” Using this standard it is amazing that 100 percent of the female students did not report harassment.

The AAUW makes other amazing claims that go virtually uncontested: for example, “95% of [sexual] attacks are unreported.” By their very nature “unreported” crimes cannot be counted or quantified. And yet such claims are blithely repeated and used to promote policies such as the aforementioned lowering of rape adjudication standards within academia.

Such statistics are generated in a politically correct environment, so they often receive uncritical acceptance. Academia has been oriented toward gender feminism for decades, and the idea of “the predatory male” has been institutionalized within university policies.

“Mechanism outlasts policy.” The phrase refers to the tendency of ideas and ideology to outlive the circumstances that gave them birth. They survive through being embedded into laws and policies that continue in an automatic fashion.

Gender feminism in America is now a movement reduced to SlutWalks and tenured professors.

  • Wendy McElroy is the author of over a dozen books on individualist feminism and libertarian history. Her upcoming book, "The Satoshi Revolution," applies the concepts of classical liberalism to cryptocurrency. She has been published by such diverse venues as Penn State to Penthouse, FEE to Marie Claire.