Friday, 25 May 2012

NO MEANS NO

Lately, as I'm sure you've all noticed, the weather has been glorious! Now I love a bit of sunshine, even if it has only arrived right in the middle of my exams (when the park is beckoning it makes it so much harder to learn key words, gah!) and, of course, a blue sky is the best excuse to crack out the shorts.

Unfortunately, shorts often equal one of my pet peeves: women and girls being judged on what they look like. Even more unfortunate is the fact that a lot of women are blamed for what they wear in the event of sexual assault; we live in a society where women are taught not to get raped as opposed to the perpetrator being told not to rape. This makes me sad not just because I am a super sassy feminist , but generally as a woman. I want to be able to wear whatever I want, and only worry about whether it looks decent on me, not that I might become a rape victim on my way home.

This is why I am such a fan of Slutwalk, an alternative form of protest march where women dress in their most revealing outfits, a reaction to the advice given to women by Constable Micheal Sanguinetti in Toronto that they should 'avoid dressing like sluts' in order to avoid assault. Since then there have been marches by women of all backgrounds across the world who want to reinforce the message that no means no. There was a Slutwalk march last year in Bristol that unfortunately I was unable to attend, but one of my favorite bloggers Mel Reeve (most commonly known as the the lovey lady with miles of sass who runs lobandwidth) did and she let me quiz her so we could all find out a little more about Slutwalk and what it means to be a feminist in the 21st Century.

Mel (left) at Slutwalk, 


How did you first hear about Slutwalk and what made you want to get involved?

I think it was on tumblr. Most of the blogs I follow are either feminist ones, or run by feminists, so when the whole thing in America began I saw a lot of photographs of the American Slutwalks and some really interesting posts. I wanted to get involved because I think it’s really important that rape and sexual assault victims are not treated as though it’s their fault, the statistics around convictions for these crimes are appalling, and the general legal attitude seems to be just as awful. We have a huge problem with rape culture in our society, it’s perfectly acceptable to be told not to wear something for your own safety and that makes me mostly so angry I can hardly speak, but also very sad because often it comes from ignorance. I also feel the Slutwalks challenge the way sexually active women are perceived, which is often very negatively. The Slutwalks have also done a lot about how consent is not discussed enough; it’s very important to make people realise that when someone says no, or indicates that they do not want this, it means no, regardless of the situation. 





What do you think Slutwalk represents?


The belief that how you dress should not be used against you, and the importance of consent.
You participated in the Slutwalk march in Bristol last year, what did you make of the experience?It was a really amazing and affirming day. To be in the company of likeminded people who are confident and proud of their beliefs is a great feeling, and whilst there were slightly less people than I had expected (partly due to the weather I think), it still felt great to express a belief so publicly. If I ever feel a bit down about how feminism is perceived etc, it’s great to remember that I walked down a main road in Bristol shouting “yes means yes and no means no” with friends and total strangers, who all felt the same way.






Slutwalk is an American concept, but do you think its message is something that's appropriate for girls and women across the globe?


Absolutely, I think the problems the UK and America has had with rape convictions are widespread, and the great thing about living in a world where the Internet is so widely available, is that almost anyone could see a photo from a Slutwalk, or read about it. I like to think that any young woman would find that inspiring and it might help them to feel more in control of themselves. I know that finding the Slutwalks (and feminism in general) helped me with a lot of issues that I think most young women are likely to go through.





 
You write about feminism in your blog Really Cool Women and women who are inspirational not just for looking conventionally pretty. How important would you say feminism is for young women today, do you think what it means to be a feminist has changed, would you even use that term to describe your views?


Firstly, I would say that yes, I am absolutely, 100% a feminist. People seem to be scared of that term and that saddens me. It means that you want equality, simple as that, and whilst there’s a whole load of other things important to being a feminist, that is at the root of them all. I guess feminism has changed, I’m no expert on its history by any means, but as the more obvious fights have been mostly successful, we have to approach things differently. The issues feminism is needed for now are subtler, and I know that many people think there isn’t even a need for it, which is clearly not true if you look at things even purely from a statistical point of view, and it becomes even more obvious if you speak to women about their experiences. Feminism is exactly what young women need, what young men need, and what people of any gender identification need - even though it can be hard to realise the reality of the world we live in. Also I should emphasise that reallycoolwomen aims to redress the balance of an industry that seems to place far too much weight on things like appearance, but that’s not to say that women should feel ashamed of, or unable to be, attractive and successful. I think that’s something that often happens when people try to behave fairly, they go to the other end of the scale and I feel that no one should be professionally criticised for their appearance, positively or negatively.






And finally, who would you say is the woman who most inspires you and why?


That’s a tough one, I’m going to cheat and choose a few. I think Caitlin Moran is hugely inspiring, her book ‘How To Be A Woman’ has made feminism accessible, fun and something that more people are interested in. I think she’s helped create a whole new generation and ‘type’ of feminist and I really admire her. But I’ve also got to mention Louise Brealey (she summed things up pretty neatly when she said: “I think Page 3, Nuts and Zoo are bullshit. I don’t wax my pubic hair off. I don’t think working in a titty bar getting fivers shoved up your bum is empowering. And I’m bored of pictures of women in their smalls on buses with fuck-me mouths.”), and I also find Tavi Gevinson really inspiring, she’s probably the coolest person ever.



Thank-you very much Mel! xoxox


For more information about Slutwalk I would definitely recommend you check out their UK website
I would highly recommend you all track Mel using the internet on her TwitterTumblr and Blogspot and of course Really Cool Women.
Mel also has a wonderful radio show every Thursday from 8-9 p.m. which is well worth a listen!

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