By Luke Buckley
Women of Oxford! Do you think that you are intelligent? Do you think that you are free? Do you think that you have a place and a purpose in a world that has begun to move beyond the rigid socio-sexual divisions of old? Beyond a time when women were defined solely by their position in a gendered division of labour; a time when women were sexual beings whose looks gave them place and whose ovaries gave them purpose?
Believe this myth all you like, because the Slut Walk is in town, and it is here to remind you that no matter what you achieve or how brilliant you are, you are always a victim, and in the eyes of men, you are always a slut.
No other feature matters… Your wit, your charm, your finesse, your intellect, your presence, your confidence, or your personality writ large. What the Slut Walk tells us – with dodgy statistics and fiery rhetoric – is that none of this matters. You are a woman. And being a woman means that you are a sexual object. Being a woman means that you are a potential victim. Being a woman means that you are a potential slut.
Far from reclaiming the streets or fighting a campaign against victim blaming, the Slut Walk materialises and hardens the symbolic division between men and women, recasting sexual submission as an over-arching modality of life, because whilst men can support the march, they can never be a slut.
It is an articulation of that most perverse feminism, in which all dreams of equality and emancipation are exchanged for a hyper sexualised world, where the only source of honour, power or respect for women is sex, which they are encouraged to dangle tantalisingly in front of the men in whose image they are created.
This is the most powerful illusion: that to utilise your sex is empowering, when it is in fact a tragic submission; a last gasp resignation to Otherhood in which the self is stripped of everything that makes it unique and all that is left is a perverse caricature of the sexual mores of men and a pithy residue of your choice and personality, gauged in the evaluative gaze of drooling men by the colour of your tights or the size of your heel.
It is as if the greatest achievement on the horizon of women is to become like Rinsers; masquerading their aggrandised sexuality in exchange for luxury goods to satisfy their petty, consumerist desires.
Oh how the misogynists must laugh! Not only have they convinced women that emancipation consists of self sexual degradation (win!), but that they must buy things to achieve this; fishnet stockings and Jimmy Choos (double win!!). And they like to receive gifts too? What better pretence for introduction (triple win!!!). Such is the nature of our Monstrous Liberation.
If only we had listened to Barthes, long ago, we might remember that the reproductive capacity of women – their sex – is the lynchpin of patriarchy, and that unlike other aspects, it is not something that the patriarchs will allow to be disturbed. And so the slut walk tells us: Women. You can go to Oxford. Just never forget that somewhere, and to someone, you are a slut.
“Love, work, write, be business-women or women of letters, but always remember that man exists, and that you are not made like him; your order is free on condition that it depends on his; your freedom is a luxury, it is possible only if you first acknowledge the obligations of your nature” (Barthes – Mythologies)