Last Saturday saw “Marcha de las Putas” return to BA for the fourth time since the campaign began in Toronto in 2011.
Since its conception, actvist groups in cities across the world have taken to holding yearly protest marches to demand fair treatment for victims of sexual abuse. It demands that we quash the attitude- still present in many courts, media stories and homes- that someone who commits an act of sexual abuse can be held less responsible if they got confused by a raised hemline or a bit of lipstick. With the sort of joyful and easy defiance of people fighting for an obviously worthy and insufficiently addressed cause, crowds gathered in Plaza de Mayo for a full programme of events performed from the back of an open-sided (easy, tiger!) trailer, including radio-show satire and a deface-your-own woman´s magazine stand.
This march wasn´t a protest so much as it was a righteous assertion of the right to not be defined or judged according to the number of square-inches you are wearing. The impetus of the march from Plaza de Mayo was one of celebration, with drummers launching the parade and an activist-loaded van taking over the lead halfway with music loud enough to sustain the hype, even when it had to distance itself navigating the one-way system and aggy 8 PM traffic flow around Obelisco.
A protest march is intended to be a spectacle; media coverage of previous Slutwalks serves as testament to the fact that the spectacular nature of this particular march is in part due to the semi-/nudity of some of the participants; some have criticized this as insensitive, given that Slutwalk aims to promote the rights of victims of sexual abuse.
It is an interesting facet of the slutwalk that it gains a lot of coverage precisely from the great naked-lady photo-ops; in this sense it gains a lot from the objectification against which it protests. “The pornification of protest” is a phrase batted around between critics of the campaign, and it dose seem to be the case that ´Slutwalk´ has chosen a particularly publicity-friendly method of distinguishing their march from the hundreds of other causes being protested in the streets.
But is it fair to accuse the march of using the classic ‘sex sells´ marketing method? The fact remains, regardless of any alleged covert intentions of the organizers to get pictures of hot babes on their media coverage, that none of the people there were flaunting themselves as sexual objects. And what would these critics prefer? That the racy men and women should put some clothes on if they don´t want to be seen as publicity-hungry media-whores? Isn’t that something suspiciously akin to the attitude the whole march is protesting against?
Another similar issue, as voiced by Louise Mensch, is that the march “lionizes promiscuity”. This, again, misses the point. Too many people are getting distracted by a NSFW minority in the crowd and failing to realize that no-one is actually banging; nobody is actually being promiscuous. People are licensed to come wearing little clothing, and it is precisely the point of the march that whether or not they then go on to have sex, or “be promiscuous”, has nothing to do with it. Dress and circumstance are separable from sexual behavior, and one can´t make assumptions about what people want sexually based on what they are wearing. To criticize the march of lionizing promiscuity is to look at the people going topless to assert their sartorial freedom and:
#1: Ignore the wealth of other more or less conventional outfits.
#2: Assume, based on these more “risque” and frankly sometimes fucking fabulous outfits, that one is in a position to know anything about these person´s sexual practices.
That´s precisely NOT the point.
What seems to be the most contentious issue, though, is the attempt to reappropriate the term “slut”, or “puta”. The biggest problem seems to be that victims of verbal aggression continue to be the less powerful party; they don´t have the credentials to reclaim the word, and so the derogatory use of the word is the one that sticks. We can´t reclaim “slut” for Slutwalk, as for us to use the word is for us to perpetuate the meaning it has when these big, bad, ignorant people use it as an off-hand or aggressive slur. This year´s protest reached a neat compromise in using “Marcha de las Putas” as a handle, extending the name to include the theme “Consentimiento: la línea es clara” or “Consent: the line is clear”.
Plus, once we get out of the theoretical and onto the streets. It really didn´t matter which kind of “slut” you were talking about. If it was a reclamation: great; if it was perpetuation of the derogatory “slut”: these were sluts with drumming bands frolicking barefoot down Avenida de Mayo feeling breezy in the near-summer sun. So who´s really winning here.
Like water off a slut´s back.