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40 responses to “Don’t accept the premise”

  1. tigtog

    The response to those who want to force women into one specific role is not to spend a month focussing on another specific one.

    Agreed – the word “slut” is about so much more than just promiscuity or overt sexiness. It’s the power of the word as a gender-policing tool, supposed to separate “nice” women form “nasty” women, and the activism needs to centre on refusing to accept it as a meaningful slur, that needs to be addressed from many directions, not only from the point of view of raunch culture.

  2. jumpy

    At last men have started to raise awareness of prostrate cancer and other mens health issues with MOVEMBER ( men DO have a shorter life expectancy than women, partly because of these issues) and its hijacked!!!.
    There are 11 other months to chose from.

  3. conrad

    “It’s about the fact that a man can be dirty or sexually promiscuous and generally society gives it no extra significance.”

    I think this untrue (and it’s also essentially irrelevant to your main argument as far as I can tell). Just look at what happened to Bill Clinton. I would think that on a continuum, the group that people care the least about in terms of promiscuousness are gay males.

  4. tigtog

    P.S. because many women are simply not comfortable, for themselves, with joining in/performing raunch culture, even though they accept that some/many other women find it liberating and fun. Many of those women went to SlutWalks – how many of them are going to feel that Hovember addresses anything meaningful about the way that “slut” is employed against them?

  5. jumpy

    “””It’s about the fact that a man can be dirty or sexually promiscuous and generally society gives it no extra significance”””

    Tiger Woods may also disagree.

    As for the word ” slut ” , I find it mainly used as derogatory term by women,And by young men as a good thing.

  6. Anna Winter

    Conrad, I agree to some extent. It is perhaps more accurate to say that it is generally true of most (straight, white) men, but certainly its more true of men than of women, which is the main point.

  7. tigtog

    The opprobrium heaped on both Clinton and Woods was to do them engaging in *extramarital* hanky panky. That’s very different from a *single* man being a “player” or “man-slut”, which is generally an ironic term of approbration, not an actual slur.

  8. Anna Winter

    Jumpy, none of that is the point of the post and I’m not interested in having this thread focus on your simplistic interpretation.

  9. derrida derider

    The trouble with having a protest movement that “encompasses diverse aims” – that is, is utterly inchoate about just what it’s trying to achieve – is that while it may make the diverse protesters feel good (which may be OK as far as it goes – we all need to feel validated) it won’t actually, err, achieve anything choate.

    And I think this shows in Anna’s post. Anna, if the slutwalk magically achieved its aims, what actually would it change?

  10. Anna Winter

    Well, I’m not accepting your “magical” premise 😉 But in my view the aim is to show that slut is meaningless as an insult, and to show the stupidity of believing it can cause assault.

  11. John D

    In Darwinian terms a woman will be more successful (have more descendants) if her sons play up and her daughter in laws only have children by their sons. So an older woman has a lot riding on getting her sons married to the sort of woman who is likely to be faithful as well as keeping an eagle eye on their son’s wives. (Given that, for many traditional societies it is the women who go to live with their in-laws it is relatively easy for the sons mother to have some control over daughter-in-laws.)

    Older women don’t have the physical power to stop daughters in law playing up so they are dependent on the power of language. Language that allows the reporting of misdeeds. Language that allows old women to discuss the subtleties of young women’s behavior and language that uses toxic words and concepts of good and evil to pressure young women into behaving.

    I think that this issue had a bearing on the development of menopause, language and concepts of good and evil. It should be no surprise that the the bible claims that it was the woman who first acquired the “knowledge of good and evil” nor that the fig leave was the first response to this new concept.

  12. Tim Macknay

    John D, do you have any evidence that the ‘Darwinian’ analysis is relevant or useful to contemporary society? Or to human societies in general, for that matter?

  13. John D

    Tim: Darwinian speculation is sometimes useful for helping us “understand” where behaviors have come from and why they persist. This doesn’t mean that behaviors that made sense in a hunter gatherer society are still relevant.

  14. skepticlawyer

    Germaine Greer has a point, especially in Britain: the word is often used to indicate poor hygiene. These days, the ‘poor hygiene’ association is extended to men, sometimes with tragic results:


    Two emergency services workers used cleanliness (of a man’s house) as a proxy for his moral worth, to determine whether or not he should be ‘rescued’.

  15. terangeree

    I recall reading somewhere that “slut” comes from the word “slatternly” which meant ‘an untidy person’.

  16. Tim Macknay

    Tim: Darwinian speculation is sometimes useful for helping us “understand” where behaviors have come from and why they persist. This doesn’t mean that behaviors that made sense in a hunter gatherer society are still relevant.

    John D, thanks for acknowledging that that type of sociobiological musing is pure speculation. Thanks also for acknowledging, via the scare quotes, that it’s dubious whether such speculation actually promotes understanding.

    The problem with sociobiological speculation that there’s no evidence that it’s true for hunter-gather societies any more than it is for modern society – it’s angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff. It also seems to have the unfortunate, and somewhat suspicous, characteristic of promoting reactionary social norms.

  17. Tim Macknay

    Argh, just ignore my last John D, which sounds passive-aggressive now that I’m reading it, as well as drifting off-topic. I’ve been working all day, and evolutionary psychology gets my goat for some reason. Sorry ’bout that.

  18. Fran Barlow

    Terangeree said:

    I recall reading somewhere that “slut” comes from the word “slatternly” which meant ‘an untidy person’.

    True and Chaucer even used it to describe an untidy male — “why is thy lord so slutish?”

    There’s something of a tradtion in English of using words starting with sl for negative things — slither, slovenly (which is related to some Dutch and Germanic words that went onto refer to those of loose morals), slither, slimy, slack, slick, slip, sloppy, slob etc … Slob — commonly used for men shows up in the same Dutch and German cognates for slut.

    Interestingly, Samuel Pepys Diary has the following entry:

    Our little girl Susan is a most admirable slut, and pleases us mightily

    A reference which may suggest no more than an exuberant child.

    IIRC, old rags contrived ad hoc by domestic servants for cleaning tasks were called “sluts”. Interestingly, there are also usages in which it is the term for a female dog. Hmmm

  19. Fran Barlow

    oops Mods: … close blockquote tag after “mightily”



  20. conrad

    “The opprobrium heaped on both Clinton and Woods was to do them engaging in *extramarital* hanky panky”

    If I (or my sister) told my parents I had 10 partners in the last year, I’m sure they’d both be appalled (and if I was an African, no doubt it would simply reinforce the monkey-stereotype some people have). In any case, and as someone that happens to think slutwalk is a good idea (even if it doesn’t produce immediate outcomes), I think the issue is that one group gets especially bad treatment and I don’t see the problem with protesting against that — but nor do I see the point of focusing on the diffence between groups. This is like saying one group is fine and another group is not, and so therefore we should worry about the group that is fine not having any problems. We should be happy one group is fine and try and fix the problems that the other experiences. If this happens to involve the modification of the attitudes of one group (or in fact probably both groups), this is a separate question to whether there is a difference between groups.

  21. Tyro Rex

    John D, you could turn around your statement by saying that in ‘Darwinian’ terms a woman will be more successful if her many *daughters* have as many children as possible by a large selection of fathers (i.e. genetic diversity). Why focus only on what her *sons* procreate?

  22. su

    Conrad the US has a completely different, toxic political culture in which personal foibles of any kind are exploited to the full by political opponents. Here in Australia the extramarital affairs of Shorten and Combet didn’t even make the headlines, let alone form the basis of a political campaign against them. Nobody blinked an eye. On the other hand Gillard’s marital status has been the source of innuendo, her decision not to have children has been seen as a personal failing that automatically makes her untrustworthy and incapable of making reasonable judgements in certain policy areas etc etc.

  23. anthony

    When I saw that the Perth SlutWalk was going to be sponsored by Sexpo,

    sous la experience public, le capital!

  24. jules

    “But now they have announced “HOVEMBER – a month dedicated to promoting the true aims of SlutWalk” and I now I want to say no.”

    Fair enough too.

    How is anything about the word “Ho” worth reclaiming? It if you are “my ho” that means you are basically my slave and I use you as a commodity to generate profit. You as a person don’t matter, your needs and wants don’t matter and you are disposable. When you don’t bring the bucks in I’ll go oppress someone else with physical and verbal/emotional violence and leave you to your own devices.

    Unlike the word slut, the word ho defines a type of relationship. Its not a term that conveys disapproval of how someone else acts. It conveys ownership of another person. A ho has a pimp. Anyone ever met a pimp? Calling yourself a ho isn’t gonna suddenly reverse the power dynamics of that situation the way taking a word someone else uses for disapproval and owning it yourself does.

    Not all sex workers are in this position, sure, but some are and still will be when December starts. Even in Australia. Hovember won’t stop the trafficking and abuse of people who can’t walk away.

  25. Sam Bauers

    I’m wondering how it’s acceptable that Sexpo can be a sponsor of SlutWalk. Isn’t the porn industry (besides a few exceptions) a part of the problem?

  26. Paul Burns

    I like being a pedant so I’ll stick with GG’s take. And I;m cynical enough to think it won’t make much difference unless they can get some sensational media coverage. Re the connection with Movember – I’ve always been of the belief the majority of the Australian populace can walk and chew gum at the same time, so it won’t make the slightest bit of difference to either campaign. And, whatever happens, at the end of it all there will be a few women round feeling good or better about themselves and that can only be a plus.

  27. desipis

    I’m wondering how it’s acceptable that Sexpo can be a sponsor of SlutWalk. Isn’t the porn industry (besides a few exceptions) a part of the problem?

    I see sexpo as an ideal sponsor of the sluwalk. Those in the sex industry are constantly fighting to be treated as equals (or even just as humans) and not have their sex work counted against them in other areas of life. I also assume that those working in the industry would rather serve a demand generally focused on a respectful sexuality than one that focuses on a negative sexuality.

  28. John D

    Tim/Tyro: Some time ago I got interested in the “why menopause?” question. It is an interesting mental exercise. Part of what I objected to was the orthodoxy that says “it is a female issue therefore the answer must have something to do with women.” As a result the most favored theory was the “grandmother hypothesis” which says that there are Darwinian advantages that arise if women stop having babies well before the end of their life and spend the latter part of their life helping younger, related women raise more children successfully. This may provide part of the explanation but the problem is that it doesn’t depend on things that are unique to humans.
    On the other hand, if you ask “how could menopause help sons produce more dependents?” you come up with something along the lines of what I said @11.
    The interesting thing is that this is a theory that only really makes sense for a species for which “there have been times and places for which the survival of women and their children depend on sharing the results of the hunting of the men. It is also a theory that depends on a complex language, conceptual thinking and makes more sense for a technological species.
    Tim, the theory is based on what I know of traditional Aboriginal society. Of course there is no guarantee that this is a good model of what hunter gathering societies where like at the time menopause kicked in.
    Tyro: If women leave their clan to live with their in-laws at a quite young age mothers are not going to be there to help when their daughters start having babies. It is the relationship between female in-laws that counts.

  29. John D

    Back on topic there has certainly been significant changes in attitudes what is generally “acceptable” behavior of both women and men. To a large extent this has involved an expansion of acceptability. However, it has also seen the adoption of a more critical attitude to male root rats and sleazebags who exploited the double standard. Think of what happened to the David Jones as a result of unacceptable behavior of its CEO. Think of the introduction of sexual harassment rules etc.
    As part of any assessment of the slutwalks it is worth considering the progress that has been made re gay issues. It would have been easy to predict that activities like the gay mardi gras would be counter productive. Yet, in retrospect, they seem to have become part of the process of overcoming prejudice and getting people to have another think about their attitudes. Ditto for slutwalks.

  30. Chris in Perth

    Slutwalk began when a group of young women in Canada were told by a police officer that they shouldn’t dress in a provocative manner because they would risk being raped. Slutwalk was a protest against that idea. A woman should be able to express her sexuality – whatever it is – without fearing that she will be assaulted.

    The best one-line summary I’ve read of what Slutwalk stands for was “No, you can’t rape sluts either”. For me, that about sums it up. Being a slut (meaning a promiscuous woman) is in itself a valid lifestyle or personality type, and people who fall into that category are no more deserving of rape or disrespect than any other. From that point of view, the sponsoring by Sexpo makes sense, and is valid.

    Oh, and the word “slut” only took on its modern meaning quite recently (the quote from Pepes Fran gave above refers to a servant girl who was a hard worker). Until the early 60’s it was possible for women to refer to themselves as sluts in magazine articles while meaning only that their housecleaning was slack. In other words, it became a sexual pejorative only once the sexual revolution started. The political/social intent is obvious.

  31. Russell

    Chris in Perth – the OED gives examples of the use of slut as a ‘woman of low or loose character’ going back hundreds of years. It describes Pepys use of the word as ‘playful’.

    Which is why I question your claim that : “Being a slut (meaning a promiscuous woman) is in itself a valid lifestyle or personality type”. If people use the word slut to describe character, as well as behaviour – ‘a woman of low character’ – they’re not likely to consider it a valid lifestyle or personality type.

  32. Chris in Perth

    I see your point Anna, and I think this goes to the heart of why the Slutwalk concept has caused so much discussion. Does it stand for “no one should be called a slut” or “I’m proudly a slut, and we’re equally worthy of respect”. I think that the original intent was the latter.

    Whether it *should* be about that is of course a more vexed question! Is it more productive to advocate for no longer having such a category, or for accepting and re-evaluating that category? I confess I can see arguments for both sides.

  33. tigtog

    I think this goes to the heart of why the Slutwalk concept has caused so much discussion. Does it stand for “no one should be called a slut” or “I’m proudly a slut, and we’re equally worthy of respect”. I think that the original intent was the latter.

    That wasn’t what I saw as the original intent. What I saw as the original intent was “Calling me a slut is just you being a judgemental arse. I don’t deserve to be raped just because someone decides I’m a slut.”

    I’ve been called a slut while wearing no make-up, hair scraped back and daggy, sweaty jogging gear. The word is about far more than women choosing to dress in skimpy clothes.

  34. tigtog

    P.S. I’ve been *sexually assaulted* (police report on the record and all) while wearing even more skin-covering gear than the above, on a riverside walk just this winter. It was a minor assault, and I successfully defended myself, but the sexual intent was clear. The man in question was a multiple assailant who was eventually arrested – none of the women he attacked were being “proudly a slut” while they went for a bit of exercise in riverland parks.

    Women are sexually assaulted while wearing all sorts of clothing, even burkas. It’s just a lie, pure and simple, to suggest that simply avoiding skimpy clothes is sufficient defence against rapists.

    One does not have to be dressed like a “ho” to be treated like a “slut”. My own experience with being labeled a ‘slut’ while being conventionally dressed is why I feel marginalised by a “Hovember” event.

  35. John D

    There are clearly many cases where someone sexually assaults or propositions someone in the full knowledge that what they are doing is unwelcome.
    On the other hand I can think of some sexual harassment cases that I have had to deal with where social incompetence appeared to be a significant part of the problem. Social incompetence in the sense that the perpetrator misreads the situation and/or lacks the skills to check what is going to be acceptable behaviour without being offensive.
    Social incompetence can also be a problem if the victim doesn’t realize what is going on soon enough and/or lacks the skills to deal with a situation before it becomes a crisis. Both of these issues can be a particular problem when the people involved come from different subcultures.
    I am not sure how to deal with social incompetence. I guess the messages are treat people with respect, understand that dress and behavior don’t always mean what you think they mean and don’t assume that just because someone accepts certain behaviour from some people doesn’t mean that this behaviour will be acceptable from you.