Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don't tell us how to dress, tell men not to rape!

An exuberant group of people paraded through the streets of Amsterdam this weekend to promote freedom of expression. The first Dutch Slutwalk made a fun statement on why people shouldn’t be judged by their outfit. Later this month it’s India’s turn to show how tolerant they are when Delhi hosts its first Slutwalk.
The Canadian policeman who told college girls to avoid dressing ‘like a slut’ could have never foreseen the effect his words would have. His speech was meant to educate girls on how to protect themselves from rape attacks. Instead women all over the world are now educating men about how they want to be treated in public.
It started in Toronto; women outraged by the remarks took to the streets to show their “slutty” side.  The Slutwalks are now held all over the globe to demonstrate that a skin-revealing dress doesn’t mean ‘yes’.   After Toronto, Melbourne and Amsterdam, Delhi is next on the calendar.
With the phenomenon spreading worldwide each city has adapted the concept to its own social concerns.  In Amsterdam this weekend, for example, the rally was much more about gender equality.
Organiser Mirjam van Heugten: “Amsterdam is known for its tolerant spirit, but in some ways it’s a false idea of tolerance. When two women holding hands walk down the street it is okay. But when they’re clearly a gay couple, because one dresses more feminine and the other dresses more masculine, they get stared at.”
As a lesbian herself, Ms Van Heugten knows what she is talking about. She has experienced it firsthand, even during the media campaign for the Amsterdam Slutwalk.
“This morning I was interviewed on national radio about the event. This very macho male presenter called me a frustrated dyke for organising it! To me it shows that even in the Netherlands a Slutwalk is still necessary.”
Unlike Amsterdam, India is infamously known for not being so tolerant to women. In many assault and harassment cases the motives of the girls are questioned rather than the perpetrators’ actions. Why was she out at night? Why was she wearing a western-style party dress? These are all questions that shouldn’t matter. But they are being asked over and over again, by the media, the public and government officials.
Nisha Susan is the woman behind the very popular Facebook group for ‘Pub-going, loose and forward women’. This initiative, which was set up last year, has a similar angle on the issue of harassment as the Slutwalks have.
“We wanted to reclaim the words that are used to address women in a derogatory way” says Nisha Susan.
Nisha’s group is responsible for the Pink Chaddi campaign. Hundreds of pink panties from women all over India were sent to the headquarters of a Hindu nationalist party, in reaction to an incident in Mangalore. A group of girls were attacked there in a bar by men from the Sri Ram Sena party. The Pink Chaddi campaign was a fun and harmless way to address the issue. It turned out to be an incredible effective tool, because it succeeded in getting a lot of media attention.
This now talk on the popular social network site of organising India’s first Slutwalk in Delhi on the 25th of June.
Nisha Susan: “Women in Delhi are very politically active but I’m not sure how big a success a Slutwalk would be. No matter how many people show up, we have to keep doing this. Because you never know how many women are being influenced.”
The reactions in India to the Slutwalks taking place all over the world have been divided. Some say that the walks are too typically western and that Indian women wouldn’t be able to relate to the word ‘slut’. The Hindi language doesn’t seem to have a good translation for subtle promiscuity. Others feel that India needs a SlutWalk even more than western countries do.
Whether there is such a thing as western or eastern feminism, women coming together to fight for a common cause can never be a bad thing.

Day Opening - June 8