A SYTYCB entry
Note: The following is a retrospective on SlutWalk, slated to be delivered to attendees of the anniversary of our city’s SlutWalk. They were written prior to Rep. Todd Akin’s accidental publicisation of his party’s “sluts deserve rape” values.
Thank goodness the anti-women lobby in the U.S. has finally disposed of its dog whistles.
Ten years ago the opposition used to speak in coded language about how their attacks on women’s sexual equality were about “protecting women” from themselves, promoting “a culture of life” – because everyone knows that without guidance from wise, misogynist politicians, women just aren’t smart enough to make personal decisions about their own sexuality. Today the opposition has dispensed with its dog whistles entirely, and taken to openly smearing women who dare to exercise control over their health and reproductive rights as sluts and threats to the moral foundation of America. (They’ve also said pretty rude things about the LGBT community, but… one thing at a time.)
Back in 2011, a police officer speaking at a Toronto law school attempted to lecture students on how not dressing like sluts would somehow cause people to assault them less. Back in 2011, the word “slut” was used primarily to attack women who sleep with more than one partner in their lifetimes, or who choose to be sexual instead of just sexy. Fast-forward to 2012, where “slut” has entered the political discourse as a way to attack anyone – from Georgetown law students testifying for equal insurance coverage, to Planned Parenthood patients being smeared as “hookers” on Fox News – who dare to stand up for their rights as human beings.
For years the anti-women lobby pretended their attacks on gender equality were really about looking out for women’s best interests… by forcing them back into their “proper” role as submissive housewives. Now, with the Tea Party extremists in control of Capitol Hill, the misogynists have come out of their closet to proclaim with crystal clarity their motivation for attacking women’s right – namely that they hate women who dare to have sex for themselves without being punished with pregnancy or STIs. In the words of Rick Santorum, America’s economic woes aren’t due to corporate corruption or the destruction of America’s middleclass. It’s because “you can’t have a strong economy” if people don’t live “good, moral” lives, if women keep “undermining the traditional family” by being career-driven sluts who use contraception, instead of surrendering themselves to their husbands’ authority.
That a presidential candidate was able to run a serious campaign on an anti-birth control platform should be a lesson to all of us about the importance of speaking out, even for something as ostensibly mainstream as the right to our own bodies. Over 99 percent of sexually active women have used birth control in their lifetimes – and as usual, sadists like Santorum side with the 1 percent.
In a way, it’s no surprise this decade echoes the anti-women backlash of the 1980s. Many of you remember that period as the era when the GOP went from supporting to condemning the Equal Rights Amendment, when politicians attacked working women for causing “America’s decline as a world power,” when grassroots misogynists were driven to such a fury by women having access to lifesaving abortion healthcare that they murdered women’s health providers in their own clinics.
On the bright side though, it was a more honest time, when anti-women politicians openly voiced their opposition to criminalising marital rape, and religious leaders publicly opposed legislation to stop domestic violence. The 1990s was when the anti-women lobby realised unrestrained misogyny was bad publicity, and repackaged itself under the guise of wanting to protect women. And for decades, the ruse worked.
Not until the Tea Party took power in 2010 did the opposition finally dispense with its coded words and revert to their true selves. Now we see senators in Wisconsin proposing laws to label single parenthood as “child abuse”, half of Capitol Hill opposed to reauthorising the Violence Against Women Act, and pundits on Fox News attacking women veterans for demanding justice after supposedly being “raped too much.”
But you know what? Maybe the U.S. media are starting to understand. For decades they’ve attempted to frame attacks on women as being about “religious freedom,” “limited government” or “protecting the unborn.” Now that the opposition has dropped its mask, the media see anti-choice prosecutors across America twisting domestic violence laws intended to protect pregnant women, and using them to prosecute women who’ve had miscarriages. They see religious extremists in North Carolina celebrating their success at restricting women’s access to lifesaving contraception, after claiming in public that this was about “religious freedom.” They see nurses in New Jersey refusing to even touch abortion patients or walk them out the clinic after recovery, claiming that being around these sluts violates their consciences.
These attacks reflect a transparent belief among misogynist legislators – that women who dare to have sex for themselves, rather than as breeders for their husbands, deserve to die.
That is why we need SlutWalk – and you. You are the key to fighting these assaults on basic human decency. We cannot afford another Michigan election, where the anti-women lobby won because, for the first time in state history, men voted just as frequently as women – and they voted for misogyny. Had women voted as frequently as they historically have, we would have won – but in this political climate, we need more than a majority to counter the vocal, extremist and violent minority that seeks to punish women who believe in being judged not by what they do between their legs but by their dreams and achievements.
That means pushing friends and neighbours from passive supporters to active advocates, until our society reaches a point where attacking birth control is considered socially unconscionable, where rape apologists are given the same respect as white supremacists, where opposition to human equality is considered political suicide. The opposition played its hand by dropping its dog whistles and broadcasting its misogyny for the entire country to see. Now it’s time to play our hand. Will SlutWalk be a one-time event or a conscious daily struggle to you? The choice is yours. SlutWalk’s future is in your hands.
To my friend Allison – for keeping me afloat when the burnout creeps in.