As a recent Latin American Slutwalker, and as a Feminist in general, I am witnessing a very welcomed worldwide debate on a certain kind of “advice” regarding rape prevention or, as some have phrased in a laughable euphemism, “risk-management”.
Many feminists have wrote articles which helped me understand different views on what the fight is really about. It also helped me to attend the Slutwalk held in my city, and see with my own eyes what happened there.
I would like to share with you my own vision now.
Since few people could have summarized such ancient lore so efficiently, I will take hand of Constable Sanguinetti’s words: “women should avoid dressing like sluts.”
An alternate approach was provided by Emily Yoffe recently: “don’t get drunk.”
These statements are problematic for several reasons.
But the main reason, which also happens to be the simplest, is that they go absolutely against everything we know about rape.
The so-called advice is a myth, and its main effect is to shame women’s choices and silence rape survivors.
But this time I’d like to focus on a particular consequence of buying into the myth’s logic.
Sustaining such an advice as “don’t dress like a slut” or “don’t go out and get drunk” implies that each woman is all alone against a world of rapists. It presumes each woman has to care for herself alone. It implies there’s no possible collective effort women can make to prevent rape.
In essence, it’s pretending the only possible strategy to actually improve a woman’s chances against a rapist -that is, bonding with other women- is not even worth mentioning. It keeps the focus on a woman’s personal choices, and ignores the possibility of women acting together.
But we are not alone. Slutwalk convinced me of this.
I believe it is vital for us to understand it: organized action is our key to protecting ourselves.
Slutwalk, as a global movement has showed how quickly word and action can spread. Protests swept the world because we all felt it had something very important to do with us. But there’s no need for a global action to take place for us women to start acting in our everyday lives.
We need to re create our bonds with other women, which cultural stereotypes strive to reduce to a competence for male attention.
We need to create spaces with other women where we all feel comfortable for sharing our stories, our feelings, our company.
We need to produce real advice to protect ourselves and others, and make it viral to beat long standing myths.
Regarding this last point, I recently came across a list of 13 characteristics of a date rapist. It isn’t perfect, of course, and I’m sure there are more and better hints to be collected. But there’s one thing about this list that beats the shit out of “don’t be a slut”:
It addresses the real things women should be paying attention to.
Since rape is about the rapist’s behaviour, that’s what our talk should be about.
I think this list must be shared by all who know the importance it bears. It is our responsibility.
I also think we should use this list as a conversation starter with our children, and with anyone we are able to. We need to make posters and paintings and songs about this list, or about any real advice we come up with. We need to recall this list when our friends talk to us about their relationships.
We need to spread the word that rapists are rarely strangers in an alley, and almost always an acquaintance.
We need to shift the spotlight from victims to predators by warning each other about them and their behaviour.
Would date rapists get a date so easily if women were fully aware of tiny, early behaviours that signal to a sexual aggressor?
Would acquaintance rapists get away so easily if the most common idea of rape was accurate (you know, for a change)?
These are obvious questions, but we cannot address them if we’re stuck at “don’t be a slut” and “don’t drink”.
And that’s exactly the point of this kind of advice.
It’s not meant to protect women, it’s meant to shut down the conversation and shame women for their behavior.
It doesn’t make women safe, it makes stereotypes safe. It makes men’s privilege safe. It makes women’s internalized misogyny safe. It makes rapists safe.
It takes a long time to erradicate stereotypes from society, and this is especially true for gender stereotypes.
But Slutwalk did break the silence.
We realised we’re all caught in the same shitstorm, however big or small our share happens to be. We were able to look at each other, and talk to each other, and see each other and ourselves in a new light. And we realised we’re not alone.
We found out we aren’t crazy bitches after all, but damned sane bitches.
And when we’re together, the hunter becomes the hunted. We might not be able to stop rapists just yet, but now we have the knowledge and we support each other. We’re out to get them, and it’s not going to take much longer either.
Want to know why I’m so sure?
Because their most powerful weapon was to keep us silent and isolated. That is the aim of slut-shaming and victim-blaming. And it’s broken now. It’s broken all over the world and all over the internet as well.
It may still be alive, but its days are counted.
Because whatever they say, whatever they do, however viciously they fight, they can’t hide us from each other anymore.