Criticism of the slutwalk – Besharmi Morcha

On comments and other dialogue around the slutwalk think this is a misguided movement. Never mind that it spread like wildfire around the world because people saw its significance. “misguided” is an incredibly patronizing way to describe what essentially amounts to a difference of opinion. It is quite unrealistic as well, to assume that people who have devoted significant amounts of time thinking about the protest, its impact, its need, its origin, its name….. are somehow stupider than you, because you have decided. This is not a voice of wisdom, and it polarizes a dialogue, where the core need for greater dignity is actually not disputed at all. I hope people are better able to verbalize specifics, so that we all gain from the thoughts and conversations generated.

The assumptions that there will be women in various stages of nudity is something I find really strange. But even if it were true, clothes used AS a protest certainly cannot be called daily wear. I cannot imagine how people think that their world is going to be flooded with women flaunting skimpily dressed bodies and invading their space. Really, this is the realm of wishful thinking. Where are these women going to come from? Who are these women going to be who will overnight change their fear for safety to become provoking?

There are those fixated on what the walk is not. For example, it does not do anything for the minorities. Or that the Dantewada women gain nothing from this. Or vicious contempt that it is a “middle-class” thing of no use to the poor. I’d like to respond that middle-class women are people too. They have every right to protest something that is an issue for them. It is not their responsibility to protest every injustice against women ever in this country. As far as I know, the slutwalk is extremely inclusive of gender, caste, class, age, etc. I accept that some women from minority communities or repressed lower class/caste communities may not feel comfortable attending. The critics miss the point. The protest is still useful for a massive number of women, and the social change it aims for helps all women in the society, not just those who walked. If the streets become safer, even a little, even lower class women who did not feel comfortable attending the walk are safer.

The other thing is about villages and small towns where the protest doesn’t reach. I think this is flat out wrong. Thoughts percolate. Delhi took the initiative, now there are noises in Mumbai about a slutwalk. Soon other cities may follow. If big cities do it, in a couple of years, larger towns may think of organizing their own, and so on. The other difference is that the big cities also are houses of media, which is a very big factor in influencing thought. If the media in the cities finds value in evolving attitudes toward women, those attitudes are going to reach in different forms to homes across the country – through the kind of stories of films, language used in soap operas, sensitivity shown in news reporting, coverage of the walks, debates and discussions on TV…. the possibilities are endless. It is futile to expect a switch be thrown that updates the entire country in one shot, and it is futile to say it will have no impact just because other areas are not directly addressed. We, as a country are connected. Thoughts travel.

The protest is that women DON’T need to be provoking to be¬†objectified¬†and abused, and the comments certainly seem to be illustrating the point. I am yet to find a single supporter of the slutwalk saying that the streets should be filled with near naked women. It is a tribute to the nudity obsessed mind that a stray mention in the variety of clothes possible has been made into the uniform, or that of all the hundreds of pictures of slutwalks around the world, the only ones being reacted to are ones with skimpily dressed women.

I have written extensively in support of the walk and I remain convinced that no matter what the result, it is still a step ahead. I am not a feminist. I am a believer that hidden dysfunctional dynamics in our society need to be brought on the table for change to happen – for men, women, kids, politics, terrorism, education, police, healthcare…. anything. Wrong doings thrive out of sight. I don’t see this as a “women’s issue” at all. I see this as a big social concern – an increasingly unsafe, judgmental and intolerant environment. And women may be its most common victims, but the decay ranges from politics to education. The questioning of the right to pass judgments is going to create awareness on judgments in other areas too (a guess based on my study of people, not data)

About the name, I think the name needs to be one used as a judgment. This is a protest, not a popularity contest. If naari shakti variety names were reality, the protest would not be needed at all. If calling to naari shakti type attitudes were effective, the protest wouldn’t be needed either. We have been tossing rhetoric about women’s power for ages. Everything should have been sorted, no? No. It takes all kinds of messages to reach all kinds of people. The protest takes the reality happening in streets, trains, buses, homes, markets, offices, colleges…. and places it firmly in public view. Look. this is happening.

There is no one format that says, “Look, this is how you should protest, and no other”. For those stuck on the idea of nudity and it creating a dangerous world seriously need to read up on the twelve Manupuri activists defiantly stripped naked to protest rapes by the Indian Army. Yes. Totally naked, on the street. According to your logic, Manipur would be the rape capital of India. Not true. Statistics show that that one protest was more effective than anything else done so far. And yes, for those who don’t know, Manipur IS in India. This is not an imported “neo-feminist farce”.

The discomfort is natural when a massive bluff is called. the bluff that women are respected, when they are not. There is similar discomfort around other massive calls to face reality. I see it as a good sign, because the message is reaching, even if it isn’t understood yet.