18 04 2012

I’ve been coming across this issue on the Net and newspapers for quite a while now. Lots of discussions and heated arguments are being made on this and as I went through them, the issue seemed more and more intriguing.

As per my understanding, the term ‘Slutwalk’ was coined in Canada last year, where a police officer had commented that women could avoid sexual assaults by not dressing like sluts. Agitated women immediately held protest walks with attention grabbing title ‘slutwalk’ in Canada and then US. Marches in many other countries followed, including India. The issue gained instant popularity and controversy owing to its title and people all over the world indulged in discussing the issue. And incidentally, a similar kind of comment was made in India recently by two prominent people – a DGP and also a state minister. This ensued similar outrage in India.

When I first encountered this issue and read through various articles, I was convinced that slutwalk makes much sense. I even endorsed the need for it and tried to defend it in my arguments with people  both offline and online. But as I thought about it more and more and read different perceptions of people, I’m not so sure right now.

Basically, there are two different opinions about it:

  • Those comments make perfect sense and women should be careful about their dressing so as not to invite trouble. People who believe so argue that doing so doesn’t take away the blame from the offender or rapist. It merely advises women to be more careful. Analogies are also brought in, comparing women with revealing or provocative clothes to people exposing Rolex watch and full wallet in a dark alley, both  cases drawing unwanted attention resulting in possible crime.
  • Such comments take the onus of responsibility away from the offender and unfairly blames the victims.

I believe that the society (media, people at large, general collective psyche) by blaming the victim for rape is not considering rape as a serious offence unless severe physical injury is done. When the first question in a rape case is about the dress or morals of the victim, the rapist doesn’t feel guilty..

Some argue that talking about victim’s dressing doesn’t slight the offence. But I feel that that is not so. The prevalent notion is present no where in the spoken or written word, but still one can feel its vibe undercurrent if one cares.

Kalpana Sharma, in her article, states that “The current approach shall only result in giving potential rapists the signal that they are excused from all responsibility since it is for the victims to take care of themselves and ensure that they do not get raped.”

While I agree that not all rapes are done as a consequence of dressing provocatively ( as is evident by rapes of minors, old women, burqa clad women and the like), being the weaker sex (unable to defend oneself at times of sexual assault), women better be on the safer side.

But here comes the question – what does one mean by dressing provocatively? It’s highly subjective and may be the buqra covering from head to toe is the only plausible solution. Not that it would guarantee no rape or sexual assault incidents, but may be in that case, the blame will be shifted from the victims and rightly be placed on the perpetrators. But is it happening that way in the countries which impose burqa on its women?

The fact that rape happens even in cases where no provocation in any manner is involved, isn’t a very reasonable and logical argument for dressing less modestly, in my opinion.  But I feel the reason why the proponents of slutwalk make this point is not because they encourage women to be careless and invite trouble but because, all this dressing issue has deeper  implications and nuances.

An  interesting and stimulating discussion on Facebook reveals much about the opposing views: 

In particular, I felt that the following made much sense:

“Rape obviously, is much more violent, and a much greater degree of malice and ill intentions attributed to it. Why does that amount of malice get generated? Why does such an evil intent get formed so easily? It’s because of the psychology of rape, that it is permissible. The psychological causes of robbery and mugging can be easily traced, the cause of sexual assault, not so. It is only something that happens so easily because of the permissiveness attached to the concept of rape. Once men understand that it is NEVER okay to rape, then the issue of precautions does not arise. 

 “We’re still talking about whether it is right or wrong to look primarily at the people sexually assaulting other people, instead of the people being assaulted. This prevention approach ALWAYS takes focus away from rapists. It has been doing so for years. Which is one of the reasons we need to switch lenses. FIRST look at why that man felt he could/why he wanted to force himself on someone and what you can do to change that. Then look at ways of helping women fight back while everyone works to make this an easier place to live in. Don’t ever say that it was her responsibility to ensure that she wasn’t sexually assaulted, because it isn’t. It is our responsibility as a society to bring kids up not to think that women are objects to penetrate and dominate at will, but people you never touch without consent. You know why I think no one even talks about why men rape? Because its something everyone takes for granted as a regular part of our lives. Women get raped, its a fact of life, so all you can do is prevent it from happening to you. That won’t cut it, sorry. For as long as people’s reaction is “who asked her to get into a dangerous profession/drive her car late at night/wear skimpy clothes/drink at a bar” I have a problem. Call it what you want.” 

“What we rebel against is the idea, that women, because they are women, should somehow be expected to be on red alert all the time. Say that, and you are effectively saying that such men, are who they are, live with it. We cannot accept that. More importantly, we cannot allow that excuse for anyone. Maybe, on our own, we can choose to be more careful. But when we say it’s a responsibility, we’re offering a way out for those responsible for enforcing the rules. We’re splitting responsibility, and allowing a host of stupid notions to enter, and that is dangerous. Can we choose to be careful? Yes. Is it our bounden duty to be? No. It’s a fine distinction.

It is also a well known statistic that most sexual assaults happen not from strangers but from men in and around the family or social circle. And almost always, rape is not an impulsive act, it is usually planned well ahead. And in most cases, rape is more about power and domination rather than about sex. Quoting Kalpana Sharma again, “Those who commit such acts do not do it out of any form of compulsion or sudden provocation caused by the victim’s attire, but are in fact, motivated by their own perverse thought process. This thought process is bolstered by societal sanction and acceptance of sexual assault as routine, especially against “immoral” women. ”

Coming to the analogy to mugging, say some valuables are stolen as a result of “provocatively” flashing them. The thief here and the rapist – are they treated the same way by the society in terms of blame put on them ( and not in terms of the seriousness of the offence, of which obviously the one committed by latter is  graver)?

But on the face of it, it’s sad and unfortunate that the victim has to prove her innocence (by not having dressed provocatively or not being with loose morals) before the offender can take the blame.

A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view.

HENRIK IBSEN, From Ibsen’s Workshop 




4 responses

24 04 2012

“But on the face of it, it’s sad and unfortunate that the victim has to prove her innocence (by not having dressed provocatively or not being with loose morals) before the offender can take the blame”

Thats was the most disgusting part of the whole situation and a shame on humanity.

I can’t agree more with all the bold italicized quotes in this post. They meet this issue head on.

P.S: “women better be on the safer side.”
I hope, by the above sentence, you mean women should carry a leathal weapon wherever they go. (Don’t be alarmed, I understood what you meant)

24 04 2012

I meant “lethal”. Excuse me.

25 04 2012

Ha! Yeah, carrying pepper spray wouldn’t hurt. Being physically vulnerable, it makes sense to be on guard and be prepared.

22 04 2015
My Choice | Peek Inside My Mind

[…] reminds me of the ‘Slutwalk‘ movement. The actual point they want to make is lost on many amid all the shock the […]

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