Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived
chiefly British: a slovenly woman
Before we get started, here’s a trailer for a lighthearted cautionary tale about the difference between having a reputation, and living it:
“Slutwalks” have become all the rage in the last few months. Back in January, a Toronto policeman let slip a poorly worded, poorly taken, but nonetheless honest suggestion to small group of college students at York University. This incident gave rise to Slutwalk Toronto, the eye of an international activist hurricane that has spawned dozens of tornadoes across Canada, the United States, and around the world. The essential message of this movement is that “no one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.”
Slutwalkers demonstrate for their cause by showing up en masse in public places, usually city streets or parks, holding picket signs ranging from reasonable enough
to the arguably inexplicable.
Before we get further into this, let us first acknowledge the realities behind the emotion charging this movement.
The fact is, nearly one out of every five women in this country will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. And these victims of sexual assault are not nameless. They are 28,000,000 of our mothers, sisters, friends, girlfriends, fiancées, wives, daughters and granddaughters. That’s the equivalent of the combined populations of Texas and Oklahoma!
They play, learn, work, shop, worship, celebrate and sleep right next to us. All of them want attention, as they should. None of them want to be raped. And that is the battle cry of this movement.
Think of it this way: if every day, every fifth woman we saw had either a missing or severely mangled arm due to a ritual and forced attempt, successful or unsuccessful, to hack it off with a machete, how would we react? Would we shrug our shoulders and think “that’s a shame,” and move on with our day? Would we wonder what she did to deserve that treatment? Or would we be outraged, heartbroken, and hitting the streets to demand a change in our culture?
Even more provocatively, would we be active in gathering and disseminating the information to women that would minimize their chances of being targeted as the objects of such a horrific act? And, damned be the implications, what if we, as individuals, found ourselves fitting the same demographic profile of ninety percent of the perpetrators of these violent acts of devastating personal and permanent injury? What if we could relate in some way to those perpetrators? What if we found ourselves, directly or indirectly, complicit in the cultural attitudes that encouraged this national disgrace of a statistic? Would we admit our complicity and commit to change, starting from within, whether we were victims or perpetrators, or even both at some point? The writer contends here that we have all “danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight,” and that these issues are more complicated than either policemen or activists would like to believe.
These are the questions we will explore as the week unfolds. But, as the old saying goes, “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” At some point, as we attempt to speak the truth in love, we, this writer included, are bound to be wrong. Our self images are bound to be challenged. That is the nature of being in a healthy family. That is the nature of love.