Rod MacKenzie
Rod MacKenzie

Me hitting on ‘Slutwalks’

The Oriental woman strolling casually in front of me was wearing the smallest skirt clinging to her hips that I have ever seen. Without even trying (scouts’ honour, cross my heart) I could actually see the crotch area of her fishnet stockings and the lower part of her cheeks. The horizontal clefts in her bottom cheekily switched from left to right as she strolled along. Her figure was to die for. She was walking with a female friend, also lovely, though a little more “decently” dressed. Or should I write, more appropriately dressed? More disappointingly dressed? Or dressed like a “slut”? Which term is more — or less — correct?

At any rate, I must have looked like the village idiot as I walked behind them, grinning and shaking my head, in awe and disbelief that she could be so scantily clad in public. In amazement — certainly not disgust. Oh, I observed the “prostitute” stereotype as it flashed through my mind, conditioned by decades of trying not to interpret women through a patriarchal sensibility. But surely these two ladies, especially the one in fishnet stockings, were prostitutes. Heaven knows, China is rife with them. Or rich with them. Should it be rich or rife? Or thick with them? Perhaps glorified by them? Stippled? These ladies don’t care a fig, let me assure you, and though it is illegal, women in this country can be pretty brazen about their trade. Is brazen the “correct” word? Should I say, open? Honest? Utterly and sweetly candid? You tell me. With all my questions so far any reader can see my diffidence about writing about the Slutwalk phenomenon. My ambivalent response to the campaign. I very nearly did not publish this piece but am willing to risk it.

I have to admire the flourish of Slutwalk carnivals taking place throughout the world. I vehemently oppose the abuse of women and the patriarchal system that victimises women. As often argued, if Slutwalk didn’t have that name it wouldn’t have the fame. The word “slut”, to me, is the worst epithet to hurl at a woman. I could never use it. “Slut”: the sound like the grating clash of two train carriages ramming into each other to make them lock together, an image of raw, animal sex. Or rape. The word slut is so dehumanising. But the slutwalkers insist on using it and, yes, I get the carnivalesque theme. After all, carnivals, like versions of the mardis gras, or the Mexican Day of the Dead and Halloween celebrations teach us to “befriend our shadow side”, that which we fear, find repugnant and often deny. Our destructive nature. If that which is socially unacceptable (sluts) is befriended, it is transformed. It is owned and therefore, hey presto, to use that ugh, intellectual term, the word slut is deconstructed. I get all that but I am still so uncomfortable with the word slut and do not feel slutwalks will transform women, or rather, the way women are often viewed or treated.

Many of the women in slutwalks dress brazenly, or well, as they would have it, I suppose, sluttishly. Again I get the message and have to agree that the way women dress has nothing to do with being rape victims. After all, children and the elderly also get victimised and horribly abused. But sorry, I regret to inform the slutwalkers (or should that be I am pleased to announce, slutwalkers?), men still notice the merchandise. Merchandise: now I am “objectifying women”. Should I rather write, “men still celebrate women’s beauty”? Write sonnets? To put that in perspective, I sometimes still have women admire me, whistle or show their appreciation in some way. Well, if that’s objectifying me then bring it on, honey. I love it. And I have no pretensions about my appearance, a bald bloke aged 48, stocky, who just enjoys it when he gets noticed a few times. Sigh, it is a long time since I had my bottom pinched or slapped by some anonymous gal at a party. I miss that. The problem is that when a woman is touched or stared at in this way it is more likely to be seen as abuse. So as a man I can “afford” to be flippant. I therefore apologise about what I have just said about having my bottom proudly pinched (though I thoroughly enjoyed those occasions) and the description of the woman in fishnet stockings (though I couldn’t help noticing and admiring). One thing is for certain: the Slutwalk phenomenon has got me examining all my values though I still cannot buy into the name. I therefore apologise for the title of this blog, though like all the women and men who did Slutwalk, I also just want to poke a bit of fun… whilst realizing this is a very serious issue. I apologise for sounding anti-feminist … though as Fiona Snyckers and others have perhaps indicated, the Slutwalk phenomenon is a kind of non- or anti- “establishment” or intellectual feminism. Wow, yeah. This is an ambivalent piece.

To move on. A friend of mine, in his seventies, told me the following anecdote about his father in a recent email: “My father was in his mid seventies; my mother was on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in France. I phoned him just to say “hello”. Asking what he was doing, he said he was watching the pub across the road where he saw a bunch of good-looking ladies. I told him politely that he was too old for that upon which he said: ‘If you are like me, it will never go away from you'”.

“Me being three weeks away from 75, I remember his words almost daily. I have met a new flame in my life. She lives in … but will move in with me sometime. I got her approval and she decided to join me with all her 64 years. The golden oldies.”

I just love tender anecdotes like that. The one above conjoins the image of “perving/appraising/noticing” with the very human need to have a partner, regardless of one’s age. One of the most wonderful sights for me is seeing an elderly couple walking together hand in hand (I am nearly fifty and still love holding Marion’s hand). This image of hands, and the kind of anecdote I have just quoted, are such a far remove from slutwalks. Can the two be reconciled? I don’t know.

But the image of holding hands obtains. Imagine having “hand walks”. Cities world wide devoted to an annual day or two of people in pairs holding hands, preferably holding a hand of the member of the opposite sex, walking (perhaps in silence) down city streets for a few kilometres. The power of that image of thousands of pairs of people walking holding hands will do a lot more to generate respect for women, for how we as men should conduct ourselves in our relationship with women. But it would probably come across to some as wuss, touchy feely.

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