Recent news stories about women
asserting their entitlement to wear what they choose in public provided
diametrically opposed imagery.
On the one hand, we had Slutwalk
– a worldwide series of protests triggered by a Canadian policeman’s remark
that women who did not want to be victimised should avoid dressing like sluts.
name and image generated a heated
debate among feminists – particularly since one of the movement’s
Canadian founders had said that she did not regard herself as a feminist and
would rather be known as a slut. Maiy Azize on The Drum disagreed
with the attempt to reclaim the word “slut”: “Feminist, not slut, is the
word we should use to describe women who support other women, consensual sex and
Rundle noted in Crikey, the “Reclaim the Night” marches during the 1970s
and 80s were a less-colourfully dressed protest with a similar message about the
entitlement of women to go about their lives without being held responsible for
any sexual violence that might be committed against them. Rundle’s critique
triggered a sharp response from Ellena
Savage in Eureka Street: “Slutwalk, using the theatricality and parody
that Rundle dismisses, performs and inversion of the Madonna/Whore binaries that
harm all women, and as well employ a fierce solidarity that Rundle seems to
think us incapable of."
While the coverage of Slutwalk
focused on images of women wearing outfits ranging from low-cut dresses to tight
jeans to bustles and corsets, Carnita
Matthew’s successful appeal against a conviction of falsely accusing a
police officer of racism threw the spotlight onto women who cover their entire
bodies, including their faces. Matthew’s conviction was overturned on the
grounds that her face-veil made it impossible to be certain that she was the
person who had lodged the false statement. And so another round of veil-wars
begins, with most Muslim organisations and commentators stating that removing a
face-veil to assist in law-enforcement is permissible, but that Muslim women –
like “sluts” – are entitled to dress as they choose on the streets.
‘LOOK AT MOI!’