Tag Archives: Jessica Valenti

What are slut-walks and how do they relate to feminism and marriage?

Feminism and slut walks
Feminism and slut walks

Consider this Washington Post article by a prominent feminist named Jessica Valenti, entitled “SlutWalks and the future of feminism“.


More than 40 years after feminists tossed their bras and high heels into a trash can at the 1968 Miss America pageant — kicking off the bra-burning myth that will never die — some young women are taking to the streets to protest sexual assault, wearing not much more than what their foremothers once dubbed “objects of female oppression” in marches called SlutWalks.

It’s a controversial name, which is in part why the organizers picked it. It’s also why many of the SlutWalk protesters are wearing so little (though some are sweatpants-clad, too). Thousands of women — and men — are demonstrating to fight the idea that what women wear, what they drink or how they behave can make them a target for rape. SlutWalks started with a local march organized by five women in Toronto and have gone viral, with events planned in more than 75 cities in countries from the United States and Canada to Sweden and South Africa. In just a few months, SlutWalks have become the most successful feminist action of the past 20 years.

In a feminist movement that is often fighting simply to hold ground, SlutWalks stand out as a reminder of feminism’s more grass-roots past and point to what the future could look like.

The marches are mostly organized by younger women who don’t apologize for their in-your-face tactics, making the events much more effective in garnering media attention and participant interest than the actions of well-established (and better funded) feminist organizations. And while not every feminist may agree with the messaging of SlutWalks, the protests have translated online enthusiasm into in-person action in a way that hasn’t been done before in feminism on this scale.

[…]Nineteen year-old Miranda Mammen, who participated in SlutWalk at Stanford University, says the idea of “sluttiness” resonates with younger women in part because they are more likely than their older counterparts to be called sluts. “It’s also loud, angry, sexy in a way that going to a community activist meeting often isn’t,” she says.

Emily May, the 30-year-old executive director of Hollaback, an organization that battles street harassment, plans to participate in SlutWalk in New York City in August. “Nonprofit mainstays like conferences, funding and strategic planning are essential to maintaining change — but they don’t ignite change,” she says. “It’s easy to forget that change starts with anger, and that history has always been made by badasses.”

Unlike protests put on by mainstream national women’s organizations, which are carefully planned and fundraised for — even the signs are bulk-printed ahead of time — SlutWalks have cropped up organically, in city after city, fueled by the raw emotional and political energy of young women. And that’s the real reason SlutWalks have struck me as the future of feminism. Not because an entire generation of women will organize under the word “slut” or because these marches will completely eradicate the damaging tendency of law enforcement and the media to blame sexual assault victims (though I think they’ll certainly put a dent in it). But the success of SlutWalks does herald a new day in feminist organizing. One when women’s anger begins online but takes to the street, when a local step makes global waves and when one feminist action can spark debate, controversy and activism that will have lasting effects on the movement.

I am not sure that slut walks are the right way for women to prepare themselves for marriage and children. It seems natural to me that women should aspire to life-long love and commitment – being protected and provided for by a man who is enchanted by them and values them as a helper and companion. To me, slut-walks are not a step on the way to lifelong love and parenting, because behaving selfishly and immodestly doesn’t attract marriage-minded men. Men don’t want wives who are irresponsible and immodest – they want wives who can assess risks, respect others and to take responsibility for their own decisions.

Dressing provocatively doesn’t excuse evil predatorial men if they take that as an offer to commit crimes. But dressing immodestly does say to a good marriage-minded man that he should avoid that woman as a candidate spouse. That’s why people dress professionally and conservatively at work, too – to set the tone for respectful interactions about things that matter, and to not distract the other person or lower the level of discussion. It’s a courtesy to others that helps them to focus on work-related things instead of being distracted by non-work-related things.

Women should also welcome men who say to them “that behavior is unwise and self-destructive”, because giving a woman constructive guidance in a gentle way is a form of caring – just like telling someone that not exercising may be bad for their health. Telling someone the truth about something dangerous that they should avoid is a way of caring for them. When I talk to fatherless women, they tell me that they did stupid things they regret because “no one cared what I did”. So if a man says “don’t do that, it’s wrong”, it is a way of showing that he does care. “Don’t drink alcohol when you’re driving, it’s wrong”.

If a woman wants to communicate to a man that she is worth marrying, then she should try to try to get him to focus on her personality and her intelligence – the things that last after getting old and wrinkly. Just like if she were going to a job interview and wanted to talk about her academic qualifications and her work experience. Women should say to a man “I am strong and dependable and caring” not “look at me! I’m fun and easy!”. Marriage-minded men want an intelligent and encouraging helper, not fun. Marriage isn’t about fun – it’s a lot of work. If either person says “It’s my body, I’ll do what I want” then that is a red flag that shows they are not ready for the conflict resolution and compromising that marriage requires. It would not be good, for example, if a husband just decided to stop working one day and said “it’s my body, I’ll do what I want”. Marriage isn’t like that – the whole point of it is to do what’s best for others.

I am a man who has very definite ideas about what I want from a woman. I have things that I need her to do if we were to get married. I need her to be able to raise children who know that God exists, and know what he is like. I need her to be able to steer them into fields that are important for the Christian life. I need her to be able to make them excel in those fields. I need her to be able to debate with them and make sure that they are able to withstand intellectual challenges and moral challenges that they will face. I need her to understand men, and male responsibilities, and to help me to flourish in my roles as protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader. And I need her to have an influence on the people in our church and the people we invite into our home. Are young women ready to handle the moral obligations that are central to relationships with men and children? Are young women ready to encourage men and children to be more virtuous? Are young women ready to accept men as the moral and spiritual leader in the home?

When I read these prominent feminists, and how much of an influence they have on young women, I do not think that feminism as it is expressed today is helping to develop the kind of woman who is equal to challenges of marriage and parenting. I have made excellent decisions in my life around my education and finances. I am chaste and have a well-developed defensible Christian worldview – a worldview that my wife could count on. I am offering life-long married love, and I’ve got the references and the accomplishments to prove that I can do what is expected of me. What I am asking in return is for women to be mindful of the moral and spiritual needs of men and children, and to prepare their character for life-long married love and parenting. Marriage and parenting requires self-sacrifice, restraint and discipline. Where is self-sacrifice, restraint and discipline in these slut-walks? Can a woman “do what she wants” in a marriage when there are men and children who are depending on her to meet their needs?

Disclaimer: Men who are convicted of rape should receive the death penalty, in my opinion. Nothing in this post should be taken as excusing men who rape.

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