Slutwalk: Moving Against Intolerance and Toward Education

Slutwalk, the movement that decided to make the world aware that women are not supposed to be judged by their dressing style and victims of sexual assault should not be blamed for their attacks. The police officer who sparked the movement has said in front of York university students that if women want to avoid being sexually assaulted, they should dress more appropriately. His words implied that women are responsible to being raped because of the way they dress; this opinion does not only reflect that particular individual’s views but rather the views that are held by the general society. The view in society that women that dress provocatively are “asking for it” couldn’t be farther from the statistics which show that the appearance of the women does not affect whether a rapist would attack. “Whether we blame victims by calling them “sluts” (who thus asked to be raped), or by calling them “frigid” (who thus secretly want to be overpowered), the problem is that we’re blaming them for their own victimization no matter what they do” (Dines and Murphy 2011:2). Rape is not a sexual crime but rather a power dynamic crime in which the attacker wants to feel powerful over the victim. The movement wants to shift police’s focus from possible victims to possible attackers.  Society should move from teaching women on how not to get raped but rather teach not to rape. It is highly important that police will shift their attention from blaming the victim to blaming the attacker; it is already an unreported crime. Blaming the victims will only deter many other victims from going to the police and reporting their attack. As a society we have the responsibility to take care of innocent victims and consider their needs before we care about the perpetrators.

Rape and the fear of rape have been understood by numerous feminists as an ideological weapon used by men to subordinate women. By asserting dominance and fear through rape, perpetrators and victim-blamers are securing a patriarchal system where women are systematically oppressed by men.  Historically looking rape was a crime that a man committed a crime against another man, the well being of the women was not considered. “Rape was once a property crime. Under patriarchal law, the victim was the husband or father, who suffered a loss of value when his wife or daughter was sexually violated” (Koehler 2012). Rape is means to maintain the patriarchy order in society. The assumption, therefore, that a man is “owed” sex or “should” be having sex because he is a man serves to contribute to the problem of sexual violence in society today.

According to Foucault (2009), the government uses different tools to control the population. The state works through social institutions in order to gain control of a population that self-discipline itself. Using these methods, the state operates not through a simple, top-down power structure, but rather through institutions that attempt to create the norm of what is acceptable in society and ultimately causing the population to be the police. Disciplinary power is the mechanism of power which regulates the behavior of individuals in the social body; this is done by regulating people’s activities and behaviors through self-discipline. Women are encouraged to behave in a certain way to avoid being raped, the threat of rape is constant on the women’s mind and it heavily impacts the daily life of all women in society. The constant threat of rape for women encourages them to behave in a certain way and alter their ways. These restrictive bodily acts (not dressing in certain ways, avoiding certain public locales) promoted through the media and society’s institutions (Campbell 2005). As citizens living in a one liberalism society, women are conceived as active, rational, autonomous subjects that are increasingly expected to act in a certain manner, taking responsibility for managing their safety.  This kind of thoughts is what causes many people in society believe that victims of sexual assault bring it on themselves.

The concept of Foucault Responsibilization is instrumental in understanding the ways in which moral responsibility is constructed in the public realm and how the safety of the women is her own responsibility which is conducted through her behaviour and actions. As discussed earlier the way a women is dressed does not affect whether she will be assaulted yet society still forces women to dress more conservative through constantly reminding them that they are responsible for their safety and that they will be blamed for their attack if they are dressed proactively because they did not take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Rose (2000) has argued that the current crime control stresses the need for individuals to take more responsibilities of their own safety either through target-hardening or through community prevention programs, which all reinforces the concept of the Responsibilization of women to her own security. The problem is that women are expected to live in a society that expects men to act violently and abuse them sexually.  In this system, the fear alone is enough to limit women’s freedom. These fears are reinforced when a woman is harassed on the street or hears about an assault. No matter what women wear or where they go. Rape is caused by men who decide to force themselves upon women and as long as society continues to blame the victims, the threat of rape will continue to control women.

Citation List

Campbell, Alex. 2005. “Keeping the ‘Lady’ Safe: the Regulation of Femininity Through Crime Prevention Literature”. The University of New England. Journal of Critical Criminology. 13: 119–140.

Dines, Gail and Wendy Murphy. 2011. “SlutWalk is not sexual liberation”. The Guardian. May 8. Retrieved on December 8, 2012. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/08/slutwalk-not-sexual-liberation).

Foucault, Michel. 2009. Security, Territory, Population, Lectures at the College de France, 1977-1978. New York: Picador. Pp 333-358.

Koehler, Robert. “Rape, Patriarchy and the Bomb”. Huffington Post. August 23,2012. Retrieved on February 19,2013. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-koehler/rape-patriarchy-and-the-b_b_1825060.html)

Millar, Sarah. “Police officer’s remarks at York inspire ‘SlutWalk”. Toronto Star, March 17, 2011. Retrieved on February  17, 2013 (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/03/17/police_officers_remarks_at_york_inspire_slutwalk.html)

Rose, Nikolas. 2000. “Government and Control.” British Journal of Criminology 40:321-39.

Thomas, Nicki. “Sluts’ march against sexual assault stereotypes”. Toronto Star. April 3, 2011. Retrieved on February 17, 2013. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/04/03/sluts_march_against_sexual_assault_stereotypes.html

Yuen, Jenny.2012. “SlutWalk Marches on in Toronto”. Toronto Sun. Published on May 25, 2012. Retrieved on Dec 25, 2012(http://www.torontosun.com/2012/05/25/slutwalk-marches-on)

Wente, Margaret. 2011. “ Embrace Your Inner Slut? Um, Maybe Not”. The Globe and Mail. Published on May 12, 2011. Retrieved on January 3rd, 2013. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/embrace-your-inner-slut-um-maybe-not/article624631)

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3 comments

  1. i found this piece to be very interesting as it touches upon various issues that are present in the neo-liberal society in which we live. The article considers patriarchy, techniques of government and state control and crime prevention strategy of responsibilization. Responsibilization as a crime prevention strategy is a technique that the government uses to take the onus off systemic issues that are financially draining and time consuming and puts it onto the individual to protect themselves which in turn contributes to the market place society we live in as products are then sold to “prevent” crime and “protect” yourself. It is sad that the ideologies of the capitalistic society in which we live take precedent over the safety and well being of the citizens in the society. The blaming a woman who has been a victim of rape for the that happening to her and implying that it is the woman’s responsibility not to “lead on” or “tease” the man is sickening. And to make it worse that this belief and ignorance was shared on such a large level from a person in authority is reflective of what the state deems priority.

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  2. Hi, Lizbr
    Rape is ongoing issue throughout in all of our societies, as you stated in your analysis “Rape is not a sexual crime but rather a power dynamic crime in which the attacker wants to feel powerful over the victim”. Rape is about the portrayal of who is in power, which is related to patriarchy. The society expects rape to take place because men apparently are unable to control themselves if they see a female dressed in invoking attire. Thus, the responsibility is shifted towards the victim that they should be able to govern themselves by covering up themselves. One thing that you did not touch upon in your analysis is that even if the victims file a complaint in the police about rape cases, they tables are usually turned against them. The questions that are imposed while investigating for the rape case, the victim would be usually asked, what kind of clothes she was wearing at the time, what time of the day or night it was and so on and so forth. In a way the police investigation judges the character of the victim, to see in a way if she was ‘asking for it”. Overall interesting and informative analysis.

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  3. I really enjoyed your article. The issue of rape is a universal problem, where it’s not the last and first time we will see cases regarding it, unfortunately. You highlighted issues of governmentality, fear, security, and patriarchy very tastefully. I learned that women are “expected” to act in a way that conforms to the ideals of men, but when men issue a violent act against the women, it is “understood” that it is the woman’s fault because she didn’t “govern” herself properly. This re-enforces stereotypes, norms, and primitive values of the female. The issue of rape is definitely a patriarchal problem, and hopefully will decrease with time as awareness in society is instilled. This is a great article, and I learned a lot.

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