It’s Hard Not To Shoutby Linda Stupart / 19.01.2012
It’s hard not to shout when someone just isn’t listening to you. Unfortunately, though, if you’re a woman, and particularly if you’re a Feminist (GASP), shouting at men is exactly what’s expected of you: Illogical, emotional, cock-hating, weeping and so on (at this point I’d like to reiterate that I rather like men, and I definitely like cock, hey SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE BOYS).
So, calmly, I would like to say something to you (this ‘You’ includes women, men, myself as well as the particular man who is this story’s main protagonist, this is an inclusive you, not an othering one):
I said: We need to claim our voices, our streets, our bodies as our own.
So he patted me on the head and asked after my father.
(Do not think, little man, that because I do not possess the one-eyed upstanding middle leg that you choose to stand on, that I will not tear you to pieces with my brain, my boots, my flesh, my cunt, my pen-wielding fingertips, my greedy, generous, terrible and sharp-toothed lips.)
Last year I wrote an article about the potential effectiveness (and affect) of a Slutwalk in South Africa. I have not written anything on the subject since, as I felt that the thoughts expressed in the article remained the same post-event. However, of the Cape Town Slutwalk I remember:
A sense of unity, of carnival, of freedom, a real sense of women claiming their sexual freedom, and of Feminist men supporting us.
Dissatisfaction with the safe route we traversed, in a neat line (in Seapoint, an upmarket, queer-friendly and fairly slutty location), for which we had permission.
Frustration and anger that the male co-leader of Slutwalk Cape Town (with whom I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever) had a megaphone and was speaking to the crowds when we reached the end of the walk. Surely women should be speaking? Why didn’t I take up the loudhailer, the address? I stamped my feet and then walked back to the car.
So, when I saw Feminist author and filmmaker, Gillian Schutte’s, Facebook status stating:
“I have serious concerns about a male representing the Slutwalk and talking on behalf of women about issues that directly affect women. I have nothing against the actual man… but how did Slutwalk Johannesburg become an organisation represented and run by a man?”
I agreed. Of course it is ridiculous for a man to be the spokesperson for the Slutwalk, especially in South Africa where a woman is raped every 26 seconds, where advertising, government, law and ‘tradition’ are all against us. And internationally Slutwalk is a movement formed against victim blaming – that double negation where the raped woman is both victim (powerless, without speech) and to blame (aggressor, inciter, whore) as well as a specific reclamation of the word slut, of patriarchal language generally (that calls us sluts, or ‘unclean’, when we behave as they do or, worse, as we want) and also of our own self-defining sexuality – a sex that means wearing short skirts, or burkas, a sex that is written in a new language, a sex that is ours, to do with as we want, a sex that does not end when you are ‘finished’.
No, we need a nice white man to tell people that us girls should be able to dress how we like.
But, I thought, this man probably is well meaning. He is anti-abuse, he probably just hasn’t really thought this stuff through. So, when this man (who I do not wish to name, but I must), Walter Pike, posted a defensive, angry text on his Facebook page (POOR ME, I’M SUCH A VICTIM, A RADICAL FEMINIST ATTACKED ME WITH HER TEXT – go tell that to the millions of women who are raped every day and see how sorry they feel for you. A knife on my neck. Take her into a room and teach her a lesson) – I thought I would write a reasonable response. For the sake of brevity and word count, you can see our conversation below:
Since then I have been trying to remain calm. Unfortunately, though, since then Mr. Pike has been relishing his position as simultaneous chief whip of the anti-feminist backlash and the spokesperson (a spokesperson or spokesman or spokeswoman is someone engaged or elected to speak on behalf of others. We do not need to be standing beside you under your rib while you speak. We DON’T need another hero) for the Slutwalk – publishing accusatory, whiny texts and interviews on various media. Since then I have wondered why I am so fiercely defending a movement I am still not even sure of. Since then I am wondering if Slutwalk can work in a country where we are so incredibly unaware of international gender politics that maybe we need to start somewhere else, in a country where the word Feminist is dirty, other, exclusionary, attacked; in a country where (as I suggested before) maybe we do not deserve to be carnivalesque or celebratory, where maybe we have bigger problems when it comes to rape. In a country where we are so obsessed with equality, humanism and easy-to-say conservative-liberal catchphrases that we are not allowed to stand up and say: THIS IS A WOMAN’S PROBLEM.
Since then I have fantasised about taking You on in a public forum, a stage in South Africa, where I could really bite you, castrate you, as you do Us. Since then I have wept because I am so angry. Since then I have wished that I was there, I have wished to be home to fight you.
So (I would say, before I got angry, before I shouted or wept, before a response) this is why, Mr. Pike, you are so infuriating:
You use the word “feminist” almost exclusively before the word “attacked”, as someone who is the spokesperson for a Feminist movement, encouraging anti-feminism is not ok.
YES SLUTWALK IS A FEMINIST MOVEMENT. Or, at least, victim-blaming is a WOMEN’S ISSUE. It was a group of girls who a Canadian policeman told not to dress like sluts, it is women who are the ones constantly put on trial when they accuse men of rape (and while boys and men are tragically too victims of rape, men are almost always the aggressors).
It is we whose sexual history is used against us when we are raped, it is we who do not feel safe in public, we who are told we were ‘asking for it’ (They who are not listening). It is we who are called sluts, ‘unclean’, not you, Walter.
You constantly confuse speaking with speaking for. Your voice, as with all voices, should be heard. You claiming our voice, you silencing us, you ignoring us and accusing us, and you completely negating the violence and harm done unto women (YES WOMEN, SPECIFICALLY), that’s not ok.
You also purposefully ignore, disrespect and silence women who disagree with you. You chose to completely ignore my points on your commentary, purposefully goading me by asking after my father when I questioned patriarchal authority. You accuse Gillian Schutte but fail to address her points and you unfriended Charlene Smith on Facebook because she dared to suggest that the Slutwalk movement would be best led by a woman. This was her final comment, shared with a group of women who are discussing You, together, which she could not post on your wall as you ‘blocked’ her:
“Of course, as a woman and a rape survivor how would I know? C’mon Walter, you have more intelligence than that, constructively engage with an open mind … when I started out as a lefty journalist writing about how awful apartheid was I felt so smug in what a ‘good person’ I was so hurt when black people turned around & said, Charlene we can talk for ourselves. But they were right. It was a great and important lesson for me. I never stopped writing about the harm of racism, but my approach changed. And as such I became far more effective.”
“Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies.” – Cixous
Perhaps readers might say that arguing, in public, the position of this single man is unimportant, perhaps there is some Truth in that. That he seems to have legions of supporters, I think, makes this point more important. And that so many seem unable to see the insidious, sexist and harmful nature of This Man’s comments, even more so. (And I have intentionally written this in a forum that is not specifically Feminist. Dare I say, if anything, Mahala is the opposite).
I’d like to end with a wonderful quote from Pike’s own mouth, or public Facebook page at least. In responding to Jen Thorpe’s article in Feminists SA on Why Men Can’t Lead the Women’s Movement Pike wrote: “in my radio interview I asked whether the same argument applies to rhino – that only rhino can speak up against poaching. Lol.”
Of course, Walter, woman are EXACTLY like Rhinos, because clearly neither of us can speak. In fact It’s a wonder I can write this with my giant unwieldy rhino hands.
In 1913 British suffragette Rebecca West famously stated that “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”.
(BUT HEY WE DON’T NEED FEMINISM AT ALL RIGHT, BECAUSE SO MUCH HAS CHANGED).