Psychological aspects of slutwalk – how does it work?




Imagine this scenario.

An colleague in office has anger management issues. He’s a great guy. Doesn’t mean any harm, but he ends up hurting a lot of people who are on the receiving end. He alienates clients, he offends other employees, he leaves housekeeping in tears. He believes that is his style of speaking and refuses to change just because people can’t take it.

One day, a large group of employees decide enough is enough, and make a presentation about effects of verbal abuse in the work place. It is not addressed to him, but it is a convincing affirmation of the right of employees to work without being attacked at whim. It describes the losses the organization faces in terms of productivity, organizational well-being, victimization and reputation.

What do you think happens after this? Do aggressive people become more conscious of their actions and their unpopularity? Do people find it easier to ask this person to behave when they feel hurt? Do people find it easier to speak up in aid of someone being attacked? Do people find it easier to establish norms of acceptable communication? Or do things remain as usual?

If you have a choice to empower or disempower that presentation, is it useful to debate the futility of challenging such people? Do the victims deserve that amplified voice?

My bet is that even if the presentation is addressed to no one specific, aggressive people in the office get the message that their actions are not acceptable. The massive opinions in disagreement of their attitude are visible indisputably. There is a trigger for re-evaluation of actions – which some may or may not take.

Another aspect is that with such powerful statement being made, people find it easier to ask abusers to back off if they get aggressive. With the problem established as a group problem, onlookers feel inclined to intervene and ask for appropriate behaviour rather than mind their own business – it is their organization that is being degraded – no longer a matter between two people. There is less hesitation to risk being the bad guy and confronting or filing a complaint. And the management, being made aware of the mood of a large section of the organization is less able to ignore the matter or play favorites.

This doesn’t happen because this is a company. It happens because this is how human beings are. If a threat is not directly relevant to us, we don’t take risks in challenging it. Witness the different responses to Irom Sharmila’s ten year fast against Army atrocities in the northeast, and Anna Hazare’s war on corruption. For society to change in its tolerance of inappropriate behaviour, its members need to see that this is a degradation of society happening and damaging to them, not an incident limited to two people and irrelevant to them.

It isn’t even about supporting the movement. It is simply being exposed to the protest. It  doesn’t matter if I say “think of a pineapple” or “don’t think of a pineapple”. You think of a pineapple anyway.

That is why these protests are powerful enough to spread like wildfire around the world. They are life affirming, they are empowering, they are liberating. They have an impact on the awareness of people.

If you have heard them, if you have seen them, the next time you see someone harassing a woman, you recognize it. Even if you thought the protest was stupid, you clearly see that what is happening is wrong and your strong opinions in the interest of society and women make you want to do something about it. The chances of someone challenging the abuse rise considerably the more people who have debated the walk or seen it are around.

The chances become considerably higher that the victim is able to raise assistance from those around. At the same time, there is less of a feeling of impunity in an attacker who has seen his actions solidly condemned in public space. I think there is a good chance this makes the city at least a little safer for women.

This is why I invite even critics to be there to watch, even if they will not join.

The other thing is it creates awareness of projections (and I recommend that several slogans be designed with this in mind) and challenges false assumptions. A projection is when as a child your mother forced you to wear a sweater even if you were hot from playing, because she was sitting on the park bench and feeling cold. It was not your reality. It was hers. Similarly, a man with lust on his brain sees women as sexual objects whether they are flaunting their sexuality or not. There is a lot of data to support this.

What is shameless about a confident woman? The only thing wrong with her is that she is way out of legitimate reach of the lustful person making the comment. She isn’t going to take bullshit, she is unlikely to be quiet and allow her space to be invaded, so she is cheap! In other words, sour grapes – “I could easily have her, but she’s not worth it”.

If clothes or provocative behaviour were the cause of rapes or harassment of women, there would be none in conservative societies where revealing clothing is out of the question. This is far from reality. It isn’t about revealing clothes being an invitation – a truth most women know and every controlling person likes to deny, because that invalidates their control.

Also there are other “proofs” – kids, men, old people being raped, harassed, abused. Here are some nightmares for you.

Yet, the first question a victim fields is often “What were you wearing?”. This is further victimizing by protectors who instead of supporting heap blame. Then there are family, friends and random society who think less of a victim for being attacked. It is as thought they unconsciously fear helplessness may be contagious and condemn what they fear. A woman is powerless to defend herself against the weight of collective judgments.

There is unconscious acceptance of criminal behaviour and defending it from those who would challenge it. A classic example is saying that a person flaunting valuables will get robbed and a woman flaunting her physical beauty will get raped. Forget rape, this person doesn’t realize that he seems to be saying that it is natural for a person to get robbed because his belongings were visible! The criticism isn’t actually supporting crime, it their own shame that they didn’t fight it. Therefore, they say it is futile and recommend their response as ideal, because otherwise that is a reminder of their own submission or failure to challenge wrongs (read projection, again).

Another part of this is our own attitudes toward sexuality. Whom do you speak with, meet, return with, what time, etc is something you must hide or defend to remain respectable. Have an affair, and you must marry – people dating are socially the same as people engaged in most of India. Dating many people at once? Cheap! Slut! Whore! What was courtship has evolved into an ownership claim. You’d think its easier on the man, but they get labeled “users” if they simply change their mind about a girl they were dating and womanizers if they date more than one person.

Judgmental and controlling attitudes. In this women and men are equal victims of other women and men who appoint themselves moral police. Be it parents or random street romeos who think a woman seen going out with more than one boy is fair game to approach and she MUST accept their attentions. Because a woman is not a person, but a public object with everyone’s opinion on her considered more valid than her own. Her having a preference on who to interact with is absurd to abusers.

It makes for an extremely dysfunctional and depressing society in terms of living.

A slutwalk creates a space to examine all these inequities and create space for breaking through oppressive social narratives holding many people hostage.

The slutwalk is creating vital debates, triggering  thought, forcing new considerations and challenging dysfunctional and hurtful assumptions. It challenges the status quo that is not working. This helps a society become more thinking, more tolerant and also more intelligent, because freedom is a state of being, not subject. Thinking openly about one thing makes it likely people think openly about more things and increasingly arrive at better thought out understandings.

But one of the greatest achievements of the slutwalk is that it says things individual victims cannot assert. It gives them the freedom to speak out and make it clear that they were victimized for something that was not their fault. It gives them the freedom to say this openly and aloud without fear of being silenced. It makes people feel less victimized and more heard. And it is not only about women. Not at all. Anyone with a wish to live larger than allowed has hit this wall and often fallen back hurt. Others broke through and are scarred for life.

If nothing else, for this alone, it would be worth it to gift women, men, children, old people, alternative sexualities and other assorted people who have known helplessness and violations this day of being able to live free under the sky and be heard and be respected for who they are.

It would be a healing of us all.

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About the Author

Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

4 Comments on "Psychological aspects of slutwalk – how does it work?"

  1. I approve of the point that this article makes. But I question whether the slutwalk anywhere was about creating the space for this discussion to happen. I feel that the slutwalk was basically a display of brazenness and in-your-face attitude by women who like to dress “boldly”. It was a one-finger salute to society by women who are fond of saying 4-letter words — nothing less and nothing more.

    Intellectualizing, rationalizing and justifying a one-finger salute is unnecessary, I feel. The salute makes its own statement that is loud and clear.

    Regards,
    Krish

  2. Disclaimer:
    All characters appearing in this humor article or story are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
    I have written, titled and edited the following humor that I had read from the dairies of Osho in the year 1995.
    Since, we have been debating on issues related to sex, men and women; I thought this is the appropriate time to share the same.
    And the moral: I leave that to the readers to comment.
     
    Title  – It could happen to you !
    In the year 1946, Elizabeth II the Queen of England, decided to get married. She was in look out for a faithful man who would least react to women enticements and control his libido. Age no bar.   So, she ran a worldwide campaign advertising her requirement. There were millions of applicants and they were shortlisted, shortlisted and shortlisted based on written questionnaires etc. The process took months. Men were put into different theory tasks and 10 of them were qualified and shortlisted and were to undergo a final physical task that would involve a libido test with the Queen herself.
    Men were stripped and would go to her private bedroom and a sexual environment was created like increased room temperatures, nude paintings all over the wall and were made to drink aphrodisiac juices and naked women creeping over their bodies. And lastly the Queen herself would walk in and give a strip tease. The first nine men fail the test because it just grew bigger for them and out of their control and few even came.  The Queen was very upset and had given hopes before the last of the ten finalist stepped in. He was old and an innocent Indian man. He had a very familiar face and the Queen was quick to recognize him. He was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was put into the same task, Gandhi stripped. Drank a jar of aphrodisiac juice, naked women creeping all over his body and finally the Queen doing the strip tease dance till she lay exhausted and Gandhi least reacted, he and his externals were absolutely normal.  The Queen busted out with relief and excitement went running down the corridors announcing the discovery of her Mr.Right and soon a fat Royal wedding was planned. The Queen married Gandhi in summer of 1946. Their first night bliss was planned at The Windsor Castle, the Queen was drained out following supervising and hosting the elaborate Royal dinner. She was in no mood for sex; she was so tired that she slipped into the bed with her wedding dress on. In spite of being aware of the situation, Gandhi undressed, he scanned the fully attired Queen from head to toe and his tool grew to an amazing size. He could not wait to seize the opportunity to take the first step.  Astonished was the Queen, she asked Gandhi ‘  Tell me my sweetheart, you were as cold as a dead fish during that libido test done on you, but today you have shocked me with your animal instinct, can you explain?’ Very naively in a soft spoken voice Gandhi replied ‘Well, last time I forgot my glasses’.
    Gandhi was thrown out the very next moment and deported to India, their marriage was annulled and in the year 1947, the Queen married The Duke of Edinburg and lived happily ever after. 
    Disclaimer:
    All characters appearing in this article or story are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

  3. Disclaimer:
    All characters appearing in this humor article or story are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
    I have written, titled and edited the following humor that I had read from the dairies of Osho in the year 1995.
    Since, we have been debating on issues related to sex, men and women; I thought this is the appropriate time to share the same.
    And the moral: I leave that to the readers to comment.
     
    Title  – It could happen to you !
    In the year 1946, Elizabeth II the Queen of England, decided to get married. She was in look out for a faithful man who would least react to women enticements and control his libido. Age no bar.   So, she ran a worldwide campaign advertising her requirement. There were millions of applicants and they were shortlisted, shortlisted and shortlisted based on written questionnaires etc. The process took months. Men were put into different theory tasks and 10 of them were qualified and shortlisted and were to undergo a final physical task that would involve a libido test with the Queen herself.
    Men were stripped and would go to her private bedroom and a sexual environment was created like increased room temperatures, nude paintings all over the wall and were made to drink aphrodisiac juices and naked women creeping over their bodies. And lastly the Queen herself would walk in and give a strip tease. The first nine men fail the test because it just grew bigger for them and out of their control and few even came.  The Queen was very upset and had given hopes before the last of the ten finalist stepped in. He was old and an innocent Indian man. He had a very familiar face and the Queen was quick to recognize him. He was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was put into the same task, Gandhi stripped. Drank a jar of aphrodisiac juice, naked women creeping all over his body and finally the Queen doing the strip tease dance till she lay exhausted and Gandhi least reacted, he and his externals were absolutely normal.  The Queen busted out with relief and excitement went running down the corridors announcing the discovery of her Mr.Right and soon a fat Royal wedding was planned. The Queen married Gandhi in summer of 1946. Their first night bliss was planned at The Windsor Castle, the Queen was drained out following supervising and hosting the elaborate Royal dinner. She was in no mood for sex; she was so tired that she slipped into the bed with her wedding dress on. In spite of being aware of the situation, Gandhi undressed, he scanned the fully attired Queen from head to toe and his tool grew to an amazing size. He could not wait to seize the opportunity to take the first step.  Astonished was the Queen, she asked Gandhi ‘  Tell me my sweetheart, you were as cold as a dead fish during that libido test done on you, but today you have shocked me with your animal instinct, can you explain?’ Very naively in a soft spoken voice Gandhi replied ‘Well, last time I forgot my glasses’.
    Gandhi was thrown out the very next moment and deported to India, their marriage was annulled and in the year 1947, the Queen married The Duke of Edinburg and lived happily ever after. 
    Disclaimer:
    All characters appearing in this article or story are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

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