No Need To Get Your Knickers in a Twist
by Kirsten Han
I don’t know what I’ll be doing the day SlutWalkSG is happening. I may be working, I may not. But if I can, I’ll be at SlutWalk SG.
Before I go any further, please read this, taken from the official website (there are many people who appear to be confused about what SlutWalk is all about, which makes many discussions/debates pointless because everyone’s talking at cross-purposes):
We seek to:
- - Challenge the sentiment that it is acceptable to live in a victim-blaming society as we do, where we are taught “don’t get raped,” instead of “don’t rape.”
- - Emphasize that no means no, yes means yes, and that only our words can consent for us — not our bodies or our clothes, and regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or for work.
- - Fight the stereotypes and myths of sexual assault (e.g. men jumping out of bushes) and supporting a better understanding of why sexual violence happens (not limited to physical violence), supporting victims and survivors.
- - Create an understanding that sexual assault affects all genders, while acknowledging the fact that it disproportionately affects women.
- - Create a network of safe spaces for survivors of sexual assault to seek solace and empowerment.
- - Reclaim the right to express our sexuality without fear by critically examining the value system imposed upon the word ‘slut’. One does not need to identify as a ‘slut’ to be part of SlutWalk — our ultimate goal is not to reclaim the word, instead we are reclaiming the right to express our sexuality without fear.
It is also important to emphasise that SlutWalk is not demanding that people identify as ‘sluts’, or that they show up dressed in skimpy/slutty outfits. In fact, the website also states:
SlutWalk Singapore is asking you to COME AS YOU ARE — whether in t-shirt and jeans, in fishnets, in a sari, in a jacket, or in a tudung. No matter how you visually identify, we are welcoming ALL those who feel that prevailing attitudes as to why sexual assault happens need to change. We believe in the simple concept that everyone deserves to be respected for who they are.
Comments about SlutWalk
As to be expected, SlutWalk has generated rather heated debate in Singapore, and there are many, many people who object to it for various reasons. I respect that some people have their personal reasons for not wishing to support SlutWalk, and that’s fine. No one is saying that everyone in Singapore has to participate in this event, or start promoting the message if you don’t wish to.
However, it just gets annoying when people’s opposition to SlutWalk stem from ignorance or close-mindedness, or when these people resort to hurling abuse at the organisers and supporters of SlutWalk.
I managed to extract quite a number of posts from just one thread on SlutWalk on The Online Citizens’ Facebook page, and just felt like I should put my thoughts and responses down in one place.
Ah, this old chestnut. It crops up in pretty much every civil rights campaign in Singapore that I’ve seen. I’ve blogged about this argument here, and feel that it applies to this situation too.
Organising an event such as SlutWalk (not to mention all the fringe events around it) is not easy. It takes up a lot of time, energy, money and grief. I don’t know them personally, but I can guarantee you that SlutWalk’s organisers actually do have better things to do than “copy” foreign movements just to “look cool”. For crying out loud, just look at all the abuse they’ve been getting! Do you really think they are doing this just because they haven’t got anything better to do during the weekend?
SlutWalk’s message of expressing one’s sexuality without fear and being against victim-blaming is not just “Western liberal shit”. It is also about respect for fellow human beings, and not heaping more hurt and shame on to existing pain. This is not about culture. It’s about treating a fellow human decently.
“We don’t need SlutWalk, we’re fine, we don’t have this problem.”
Really? Is there no rape in Singapore at all? Do people not judge others according to the way they choose to express their sexuality? It is not just about the law or the Women’s Charter: it is about social mindsets and how we as a community perceive or reject others.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Look at what she’s wearing! She’s just asking for trouble.” Or have you ever heard people talking about a woman who has had a number of boyfriends as if she somehow has loose morals, or is dirty? Have you ever been taught that it is up to the girl to reject sex because men are all out for only one thing and if a girl has sex with a boy she loses her “virtue”?
These things may not have been said with the specific intent of slut-shaming or victim-blaming, but they betray a prevailing mindset that women should be harshly judged for owning their sexuality. This paradigm seems to assume that men are allowed to go out there and have sex and be excused because “that’s just how they are”, while women should keep that sex drive under wraps or be labelled as trash.
Guess what? This mindset exists in Singapore. It exists everywhere, which is why women all over the world have been able to identify with the SlutWalk message.
And to prove that it exists in Singapore, take a look at some of the comments listed in this post: The Big SlutWalk Singapore Trolling Wankfest of Doom.
Thankfully, there are Singaporean men who have come forward to counter the SlutWalk-bashing slut-shaming men:
Why I support SlutWalk
In Toronto in February 2011 Constable Michael Sanguinetti, speaking at a York University safety forum, said that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimised.”
I have two objections to this:
1. The claim that the way you dress gets you raped is a gross-simplification. If that were true, what about the women who were modestly dressed – or even in burqas – who get raped? On top of that, this statement also doesn’t take in other variables, the most important being the rapist’s action of raping you.
2. His statement betrays a view that “sluts” (probably defined as women who wear revealing clothes or women who are visibly sexually available) deserve to get raped, so much so that you would have brought your rape upon yourself just by looking like one.
Do I wear skimpy clothes? Not usually (although I suppose that would depend on your definition of skimpy). Do I identify as a slut? No. But I do not accept that a woman’s sexual history gives us the right to dehumanise, objectify and judge her.
And at the end of the day, that is what SlutWalk is about. Support it or don’t support it; there’s no need to get your knickers in a twist.
Kirsten Han is a multi-tasker (writing, blogging, videoing) and social media junkie interested in human rights issues. She also likes to travel, take photographs and — above all else — tell stories. She’s spent far too many years living with internalized slut-shaming, and she’s had enough.