Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Sluts, and Other Good Causes

Posted on | May 28, 2011 | No Comments

Tomorrow will be held in Montreal the second Slutwalk, the first having occurred in Toronto last April. The walk is a spontaneous movement reacting against the less than flattering remark of a Toronto police officer who declared that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.

There are many ways to look at this phenomenon. Obviously, the threat of sexual aggression and blame shifting towards the victim are totally unacceptable in our modern society (whether this threat is made against men or women). We could however see in revealing clothes another kind of exploitation that aims to showcase female figures for the pleasure of (mostly) male viewers.

This argument can be overturned in two ways. First, there is a certain irony at work here, a second level which aims to promote freedom of expression for all women, a freedom they should wield without fear for their safety. Second, we must now forget that female sensuality is also a source of power and self-confidence. Claiming back this power and the right to wield it is quite legitimate.

There remains the choice of this word « slut » which is appropriated for sheer shock value. Presumably the goal is to break the one-minded view of women as simple sexual objects. But like any word whose meaning is subverted, there is an inherent risk to create a permanent state of discomfort. This is what happened the words “nigger” and “queer” for example – two words appropriated by communities of people discriminated against, now made pariah in our vocabulary by political correctness.

When good intentions crash on the reef of censorship we know that the attempt failed dismally. The Slutwalk is an excellent initiative when it aims to give back to women freedom of speech, access to power and physical safety. But if the debates focus on semantic aspects instead of real problems, the sought-after shock value will not have been such a great idea.

Anyway, this is just a reminder that families travelling downtown tomorrow for the Museum Day might have quite a surprise during their afternoon stroll… Obviously we wish for warm and sunny weather for all protestors!

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