Awhile ago one of my grade school friends joined a group on Facebook called SlutWalk. At first I was taken aback so I clicked on it. (Right, isn't that everyone's reaction to something that shocks them: look more?)
Upon clicking and reading more I learned that it was a march or initiative to stop victim blaming in rape cases. Like, 'she deserved it, you should have seen what she was wearing.' Or, 'She was sooo drunk, she was asking for it.' Those kinds of defenses or excuses.
No one, no one, deserves to be sexually assaulted no matter how drunk they got or how scantily clad they were.
I remember a few years ago walking around in Santa Barbara while they were having Rape Awareness month, there were purple flags hung from street lights depicting the very downtrodden face of a woman. I remember thinking that this was backwards. Rape is not a women's issue, we are not the one's raping.
My husband and I tithe to a camp called Deerfoot Lodge, it's an all boys camp. At first I bridled at the thought of supporting an all boys camp, shouldn't we support an all girls camp? To create strong women? I am not sure exactly how Deerfoot does this, but all the young men that I have met that come out of that camp are genuine, respectful, and kind. The type of men that I would be happy to send my daughter on a date with. So I acquiesced and we donate to them. (And the camp means a lot to my husband, so it's really more about that.)
After reading Packaging Girlhood and seeing trailers for Miss Representation I have realised how de-sensitized I had become to sexual images of women in the media. They have affected my own personal self-esteem less and less over the years because as I have grown stronger and become a mother the worth of my body can no longer be measured in the perkiness of my breasts. (Don't get me started the western over-sexualization of the breast.) But to read that book and read some of the statistics that Miss Representation puts forth shocked me. I know that women are still treated poorly and depicted poorly but to see what's really all out there it makes you realize how far we still have to go.
I remember driving down the street in Nairobi and seeing a poster of Mariah Carey with half of her chest bulging out of the top of her dress. What was this for, an album, or just titillation? The ad was for cable television. I remember thinking, 'No wonder they hate us.' Here in a more conservative society to have the depiction of a white woman as pure sex object gives the wrong idea about our culture and white women in general. Did you know that the majority of porn consumed world wide depicts caucasian women? Think about what that does for aid workers and missionaries.
Now, one might argue that we need to put it away. I can't say that I disagree. I have taken a turn towards the more modest in the past few years. One sunny summer day I was on my way to the beach, I parked my car and walked across the street wearing only my board shorts and bikini top. I looked up to see a homeless man leering at me. Oops. That's right girls, if you hang it out there everyone can see it, not just the cute ones. Also now that I am married it's really not for anyone else to see.
With the passing of Halloween I have heard so many people question why this holiday has just turned itself into an excuse for women to dress like whores. One year I dressed as a sexy devil, I wore a short red skirt, a tight long sleeve red shirt, horns, fishnets, and black high heeled boots. The friend that I borrowed the mini skirt from told me that she was surprised that I would dress that way, I seemed to have too much respect for myself. About halfway through the night I changed into jeans and took off the horns. Seems I did.
Why is it that women's issues have been so often dropped in the lap of women? Sometimes I feel like I'm shrieking into the void, demanding respect that so many aren't willing to give. But for every women like me, who changed into jeans there are one or two more willing to take them off.
Here's another problem, like in the civil rights movement white people had to say that black people deserved their rights, now men have to say that women deserve to be respected. I know plenty of men that think that and act accordingly, unfortunately I think of them as amazing or above the norm, rather than normal.
Here's the thing we all need each other. Women need men and men need women. Sexism has always been a bit lost on me, don't you want to support and love the people who are bearing and, most likely, raising your children? So I'll walk down my side of the street, I will focus on education over appearance, I will spend more time reading and less time shopping, I will no longer dress as a sexy devil. I am asking to men to walk on their side of the street, to look away from demeaning images, to not consume porn, and to respect us as a whole.