Melanie Phillips

13 June 2011

These 'Slut Walks' prove feminism is now irrelevant to most women's lives

Published in: Daily Mail

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Emmeline Pankhurst must be revolving in her grave. At the weekend, various cities around Britain hosted demonstrations by thousands of young women dressed — or to be more accurate, half-dressed — as sex objects, all supposedly in the cause  of ‘feminism’.

Hold on a minute, you say — wasn’t feminism supposed to be a revolt against treating women as sex objects?

Indeed — but the ostensible aim of these ‘Slut Walks’ was to negate the impact of any judgments upon women for how they may flaunt their bodies in public — by deliberately dressing in the most sexually provocative manner possible.

These in-your-face parades started in response to a Canadian police officer who, in a talk about public safety, suggested that if women didn’t want to invite sexual assaults they should avoid dressing like ‘sluts’.

Cue a tsunami of ludicrously over-the-top protests that this officer had effectively blamed women for their own rapes.

Such an inflation of well-meaning, if incautious, advice into a thought-crime against half the human race triggered an international explosion of self-indulgent and absurd posturing.

Dozens of Slut Walks have now taken place, of which the weekend marches around Britain were but the latest example.

These narcissistic stunts are yet another frivolous distraction by those who take advantage of the unprecedented freedoms won by others as they wrap themselves in the mantle of victim.

It’s absurd that they cannot see the contradictions in what they are doing. For even though they demand that women should not be judged by what they are wearing, such a judgment is precisely what dressing as ‘sluts’ requires the watching world to make.

And the absurdity is deepened by their insistence that clothing — or its absence — has no effect on other people.

By this logic, if a woman walked down the street naked except for a thong and a pair of stilettos, this should be assumed to have no effect whatever upon men.

Of course, sexual assaults take place against women who are dressed perfectly conventionally. But it is wrong to say that therefore there is no such thing as provocative dressing.

Indeed, the reaction of men leering at these silly girls as they paraded their exposed flesh demonstrated all too predictably the supreme fatuousness of their assertions.

Clothing, like all social conventions, carries meaning. Modest and immodest dress tells us that the wearers have very different attitudes towards sexuality.

Of course, no one dresses in order to be raped. But a girl who barely covers her behind with a pelmet skirt and exposes acres of cleavage is sending out a signal that she wants to be leered at or fantasised about.

Wearing revealing clothing signals that she regards her body as a kind of advertising hoarding for her sexuality. It demonstrates that her sexuality is not a private matter, and most certainly is not restricted to a loving relationship — nor indeed to any kind of relationship.

To disclaim any connection between such signalling and opportunistic sexual responses by men is simply ridiculous. And to claim that stating this obvious connection is to hold that women deserve to be raped is a startling denial of reality, logic and common sense.

Of course, any man who sexually assaults a woman is to blame for his own behaviour. But the issue arising from women’s clothing is not blame, but prudence.

After all, if you walk across a motorway and get knocked down by a car, or if you leave your house unlocked and it is burgled, no one would say you ‘deserve’ to be killed or burgled. But a reasonable person would surely say that it was reckless to cross the motorway or leave your house unlocked. In other words, you must take some responsibility for what happened to you.

On BBC1’s Question Time last week, Germaine Greer turned stomachs with her remark that little girls flirt with their fathers when kissing them goodnight

The insistence that women’s behaviour never contributes to any harm that may befall them is profoundly anti-feminist — and indeed, anti-human. This is because it robs women of that responsibility for their own actions which lies at the heart of what it is to be a human being.

And it betrays feminism in other ways, too. The feminist pioneers battled to obtain political representation, equality in education and the workplace and in other areas of public life.

These truly heroic struggles against real, tangible discrimination are belittled and mocked by the vacuous, self-indulgent and self-defeating posturing of Slut Walks.

But there’s an even deeper betrayal. For those pioneering feminists believed that women represented moral values superior to those of men. If women ended up merely behaving like men, they argued, that would negate everything they were fighting for.

Alas, this is precisely what has happened. By claiming that degraded behaviour empowers women, these Slut Walkers are turning back the feminist clock. If women claim to be sluts, that’s how they will be seen.

We live in a society which has degraded the whole notion of human sexuality. It has voided it of spirituality or love, and turned it instead into little more than a heartless and even predatory means of self-gratification.

And modern feminism has been a powerful factor in that dismal process.

On BBC1’s Question Time last week, Germaine Greer turned stomachs with her remark that little girls flirt with their fathers when kissing them goodnight.

Once, feminists sought to protect children from being sexualised. Today, modern feminism’s erstwhile high priestess poisons the innocence of childhood and the love between fathers and daughters by casting even the expression of pure family affection as a sexual act.

Feminism surely takes up such absurd or offensive positions because it is past its sell-by date. The great causes which animated it have been won. It now has as much purchase on reality as the grin on the face of the Cheshire Cat which continued long after the cat itself disappeared.

This strange after-life seems to be reflected in a new book by writer Caitlin Moran, called How To Be A Woman. From the extracts published at the weekend, however, it seems that the author finds her own answer by concluding that it is irrelevant. Women today can do pretty well anything they want, she observes, and she has come to understand that all she really wants to be is ‘just a productive, honest, courteously treated human’.

Such a tough-minded, witty and unsentimental approach has earned some grudging praise from Germaine Greer —  grudging in that Greer claims to have said all this before.

But what Greer actually did was lash feminism to the mast of the sexual revolution. And so she more than anyone else turned it into a carrier for the degradation of society we now see all around us — the porno-paedophile culture; girls emulating the worst of male behaviour in drunkenness, violence and loveless sexual activity; and the disposal of unborn children as if they are of no more value than an unwanted appendix, an attitude which has led directly to the erosion of innate respect for life and the brutalisation of an entire culture.

What happens to women is mostly the result of the choices we freely make — choices which feminism’s successes have made more difficult.

But modern feminism holds that women can do exactly what they want free of responsibility for their choices.

This is why they insist on continuing to cast women as powerless victims — which is precisely what Slut Walks does.

And that is why Slut Walks, Germaine Greer and the rest of the modern feminist movement are now simply irrelevant to most women’s lives.

 

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography

Books

  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

Contact Melanie

Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT

Contact Melanie