Coco Khan: Missing the Point of Slutwalk Entirely

I wasn’t going to write anymore about Slutwalk this week; especially after Slutwalk London came out on the side of rape apologists. Then, in the it never rains, but pours construction of life, I came across this piece of nincompoopery in the Huffington Post. Yes, Coco Khan claims to be aware of the criticisms surrounding Slutwalk and chose to attend in spite of her misgivings. But, I’m struggling to see how one can claim to be aware of the criticisms and support of Slutwalk and then write this: 

I didn’t stay long, I was too angry, hurt and disappointed – it’s the same feeling as watching your underdog football team (Feminism FC) get all the way to cup finals and then crash and burn because they still hadn’t ironed out that formation problem from Round 1. It was the liberal and constant use of the word ‘victim’ that infuriated me, it was the speeches that assumed Assange did it, like a speech the year before assumed DSK did too. 

It was the insipid use of facts such as ‘93% of rapists get away with it’ as though every single man accused was guilty. Feminism isn’t about assuming every accused man is a rapist. It’s about equality, and freedom, or specifically fair trials and fair treatment. I was equally upset to see a youthful crowd, a new generation of feminists whose interest had been piqued, being completely misdirected. It’s important to stand around and cheer, to raise our firsts in the air, to weep at the tales of the people we fight for and be inspired by them too. But it’s also important to get organised.

I mean, where do you even start? Yes, 93% [give or take a few percentage points] of men accused of rape are never convicted of rape but, that’s because we live in a rape culture where men are constructed as victims of lying whores. Thing is most men accused of rape are guilty of rape. They may not be found guilty in a court of law but that’s because the law’s an ass. Very few accusations of rape are false. Even the government and the FBI, neither of whom are hotbeds of radical feminism, agree with these statistics. So, why would any woman write anything so utterly ridiculous? Did Khan completely fail to see how offensive and arrogant that is to rape victims? Last time, I checked feminism was about the liberation of women from male violence and equality, fair trials and fair treatment for women [and children]  who were raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. It is they who get unfair treatment in the criminal justice system. Not rapists. I genuinely can not express how unbelievably angry I am at that.

As for the references to Julian Assange and Domique Strauss-Khan, well, they were kind of obvious weren’t they? Imagine an anti-rape demonstration not mentioning the two most famous rape trials of the past two years? Two cases involving powerful, wealthy, white men where the men have been constructed as victims of some sort of evil feminist conspiracy because both self-define as liberals. It is the very rape myths surrounding these trials that Slutwalk is attempting to address. Yeah, I don’t agree with the way Slutwalk is addressing the issue by using the word slut, but, FFS, criticising an anti-rape demo for talking about rape cases is beyond stupid. 

And, yes, I’m sure the speakers at the rally used the word victim constantly. Just as I’m sure some of them will have used the word survivor constantly. Women who were raped are more than within their rights to define themselves as victims or survivors as they see fit. There is debate within the feminist and other anti-rape movements about which word is more applicable but Khan doesn’t seem to be addressing this debate. She seems to be dismissing the idea that many women are victims and/or survivors of sexualised violence. It’s a very odd statement to make.

And, the “it’s time to get organised” bit, is, well, weird. Isn’t that exactly what Slutwalk was doing: organising a feminist demonstration. Giving women a place to share their stories . It seems rather hypocritical to be criticising someone for not organising feminist activism at a piece of feminist activism. The conclusion to the article does nothing to negate the damage caused within it:

What Slutwalk has achieved can never be disregarded. It energized a growing and inexplicable discontent amongst women and directed it in a way that academia never could. It stopped preaching to the choir and took it the streets. For all its flaws in its punchy, explosive name, the reality is no one will come to a rally that sounds like an essay and Slutwalk should keep doing what they are doing. But this event is not enough to carry the bright flame of feminism single-handedly; two chapters in, the story has barely begun.

Yep, I’m a big supporter of the whole moving away from Slutwalk into more critical discussions of rape culture but I’d prefer to start by moving away from the premise that most women lie about rape and most men accused of rape are victims of an evil conspiracy. Could just be me though. Doing that whole over-thinking thing feminists are always being accused of. 

Slutwalk London’s Joins the Never-Ending Parade of Assange’s Rape Apologists

I’m not a supporter of Slutwalk in general as I have already outlined here. ‎I don’t think its possible to reclaim a word that the Patriarchy uses to oppress us. Despite my reservations, I am, however, supportive of the number of women who have stood up to be counted in the War on Women. I hope to see these women at Reclaim the Night and Million Women Rise. We can destroy the Patriarchy from within fighting simultaneously on various fronts but we can’t win the war when the very women supposedly standing up to defend women are supporting the silencing of rape victims who had the misfortune to be raped by left-wing men.

I was disappointed to read of @SlutwalkLondon’s tweet from yesterday via Stavvers. Their statement of support for Women Against Rape’s perplexing stand on the Assange rape case is full of fallacious statements, complete misunderstandings of the Swedish justice system and some seriously problematic rape myths:

We support Women Against Rape. We think Assange should be prosecuted, just that he should not be extradited to Sweden because it is likely he will then be extradited to the US and treated the same as Bradley Manning. We are not saying the women lied or that they should not get justice. But we think he should stand trial here. It is pretty clear the authorities are not pursuing Assange because of the rape allegations. Look at how the authorities treat rape victims – they don’t give a damn. 93 out of every 100 reported rapists go free. Also, look at how the UK acted when Spain requested that Pinochet be extradited. Pinochet (a Chilean dictator) was responsible for the death, rape and torture of thousands of people, crimes far greater than Assange’s. But the UK government denied Spain’s extradition request and let Pinochet go free – because they didn’t care about the people who died because of Pinochet just as they do not care about these women. The pursuit of Assange is not about protecting rape victims or anyone else. They want him to be extradited to the US to face trial and be imprisoned there so he can’t expose what the US government does anymore. We can’t let this happen because the things Wikileaks exposed will help stop wars and the rape and murder they bring happen in future. Let him stand trial here.

I can’t even begin to comprehend how they think Assange could be tried in Britain for a crime committed in Sweden or the naivety that Wikileaks has in anyway helped stopped wars. Assange himself has been fairly instrumental in outing sources who’ve then disappeared so how he gets to be the Defender of Democracy boggles my mind. Yes, the authorities don’t seem to give a shit about rape and the British government’s refusal to extradite Pinochet was wrong [I don’t care how ill he was. He should have stood trial and then we could discuss sentencing for elderly, ill men. But, not before they get convicted for their crimes.] The whole Bradley Manning bit is utter bollocks. Manning was a serving member of the military when arrested. He has been charged under military law; not criminal law. The treatment Manning is receiving is despicable and I think its fairly note-worthy that the same Dudes running about supporting Pussy Riot’s free speech haven’t been half as vocal on the issue of Manning. Even if Sweden deported Assange, he would be tried under civilian criminal law and, really, the chances of Sweden deporting Assange are so much less likely than the UK who have form for deporting British citizens to the US. 

How the fuck whoever tweeted this garbage thinks the two women will get justice whilst supposed feminists are running about claiming Assange is too important to go stand trial for rape is beyond me. The umbrella organisation Slutwalk Britain have already denounced this tweet but the damage has already been done. Rich, white guy can’t possibly be a rapist because he’s anti-government. This is precisely the language that the Occupy movement used when excusing the rapists preying on women in their camps across the world. 

UPDATE: Anastasia Richardson has apologised for the statements she made using the official Slutwalk London Twitter account: 

The recent views expressed regarding the extradition of Julian Assange were my own rather than those of SlutWalk London. I apologise for using this platform to express these views and hope they do not deter from the purpose of SlutWalk, which is to send the message that there is never any excuse for rape and to demand protection and justice for all rape survivors. 

Slutwalk London

Saturday 22nd September 2012
Top of Piccadilly (near Hyde Park Corner).

These are the details for this year’s London Slutwalk. As with the Edinburgh Slutwalk in July, I won’t be attending because I find the concept of Slutwalks deeply problematic. However, Slutwalk has ignited debate about victim-blaming and sexualised violence. It has also created a safe space for women to share their stories. There is no greater gift. So, whilst I stand by what I wrote in July about the Slutwalk Edinburgh, I also have to give props to the women attending. The Patriarchy must be destroyed. We’re just destroying it from different angles.

 This is what I wrote about Slutwalk Edinburgh

I would have marched in the original in Toronto because that had a specific purpose: to raise awareness of the misogynistic discourse normalised within the police as it manifested in that specific incident. The worldwide movement to reclaim the word “slut” bothers me. There seems to have been little real political analysis of the word and its specific connotations for different groups of women due to race, class, and ethnicity. Personally, I don’t believe it is possible to re-appropriate the words of your oppressors. I also think its incredibly odd to try to reclaim the word “slut” in order to demonstrate that rape isn’t about being a “slut”.  

Violence against women is endemic and systemic. It is everywhere and it is excused a thousand times a day in a million different ways. Slutwalk doesn’t address or even attempt to analyse VAW. It only attempts to address one facet of rape myths without questioning the rape culture in which those myths are perpetuated and perpetrated. Rape isn’t just about controlling women’s sexuality as Slutwalk seems to imply. The act of rape [and the fear of the act of rape] are about controlling every facet of women’s lives. Rape isn’t about how women dress [or don’t dress]. Rape is the practise of misogyny. It is misogyny that we need to eradicate but we need to do this by attacking every facet of VAW. Slutwalk privileges the lived experiences of middle class, white women. It merely reinforces the racist constructions about the sexuality of Black and Ethnic Minority women. It ignores the structural oppressions of poverty. It ignores how the structural oppressions of poverty specifically target Black and Ethnic Minority women. 

I want the eradication of the patriarchal-capitalist structures which oppress women. I don’t want to reclaim or re-appropriate the words of my oppressors. I want them gone. 

I wish my sisters luck [and sunshine] for Slutwalk Edinburgh. I won’t be on the march but, if Slutwalk becomes the catalyst which destroys the Patriarchy, I will be the first one to apologise.

Some interesting blogs and articles on Slutwalk:

Amplify Your Voice: In Context: Criticisms of the Slutwalk

People of Colour Organize: Four Brief Critiques of Slutwalk’s Whiteness, Privilege and Unexamined Power Dynamics

Black Women’s Blueprint: An Open Letter From Black Women to the Slutwalk

The Crunk Feminist Collective: I Saw the Sign but Did We Really Need the Sign? Slutwalk and Racism

The F Word: Feminist Critiques of Slutwalk Have Forgotten That Language is Not a Commodity

Gail Dines & Wendy J Murphy: Slutwalk is not Sexual Liberation 

Alternatives to Slutwalk:

Reclaim the Night

Million Women Rise