I was minding my own business when Facebook served up a post about a “slut walk” that was happening nearby. I didn’t get pissed thinking that Facebook’s algorithm was feeding me posts I would prefer not to see because I had heard of Slut Walks. I wasn’t so sure that they were great ideas, but I was sure that this was not something that I needed to have an opinion on. It was for women to decide.
Slut Walks, in case you didn’t know, are part performance art, part rape culture protest demonstration, where women dress in a way that they think many men would find to be an advertisement of interest in having sexual contact. Facebook advertised that there would be some women walking that very day, only 20 minutes away.
I have written for the goodmenproject.com website on sexual assault prevention and how living in a culture that considers rape to not be a very big deal as being a very big problem. I have written about how the vast, vast majority of people doing the sexual assaulting are male. I have written about how it seems that more men should be doing more than just not ever engaging in sexual assault themselves to address the problem.
I am not a professional writer. I am one of those writers that hopes that they write well enough (or is it good enough?), that their writing might have some influence in matters of social justice and the heart. I’m like a great deal of non-professional writers that way.
The announcement of women walking got me thinking about how what these women would be wearing might be something I could write about. An article with “Slut” in the title might lure some clicks from men thinking they would be reading about one thing and then finding themselves being tricked to looking at the opposite of what they had expected.
As I thought about writing something to urge men to do more to confront and transform rape culture, I thought that maybe I should actually go to the event.
I thought that I had not planned on going for a drive. I thought about turning 65 in a few months and how demonstrations were for the young. I thought that others might think that I was a “dirty old man” and had come to enjoy the women’s movement from the wrong perspective. I thought that I better get going to the event.
It was a rather small gathering. There were about thirty women ready to walk. There were about eight men there for support. There was one man across the street from the group holding up a sign. I thanked him as I walked by, for showing up. When I crossed the street and looked back, I could see that his sign read, “THERE IS NO RAPE CULTURE.” I thought maybe he was just being overly optimistic. I thought, it was at least good that he cared enough about the issue to take his opinion to the street. No, I had just praised the opposition.
I knew I was on the right side of the street when I got there, but I felt awkward on not being clear as to where not to look. This was political performance art so I should look at the costumes, but not too long. Was I capable of this viewing triggering lust? Sure. What it triggered was a respect for the bravery of these women who were willing to expose themselves for a cause they believed in.
As I stood there a car whizzed by. A window was opened. A young man gave voice to his opinion of the gathering. He yelled, “cunt bags.” Now, I didn’t know exactly what that meant, only that it was profoundly unsupportive. I couldn’t help but notice, that I didn’t notice a single slut walker flinch. I thought I heard a couple of dismissive laughs. I knew I heard myself yell back “fuck you.”
No sooner had I added my part to the “cunt bags” conversation did I feel some fear and then guilt. In an instant I felt the fear of hearing a screeching of brakes and the approach of some young men, who wanted to teach an old man some manners. In the next instant I felt guilt that I might be attracting the wrong element to the side of the street I was standing on. I immediately turned to a middle aged man standing next to me and said, “I shouldn’t have done that. I just sunk to their low level.”
The man, in a calm voice, replied that he thought my rebuttal to be quite appropriate. I replied that I just didn’t know.
There were two reporters there. One filming for a local television station, another for a college television station. I thought about seeking to be interviewed. I didn’t really feel like it. I like being in the front row, but not on stage. This was a women’s event. The cameras were there for them.
I somewhat impulsively approached the local TV reporter anyway. I asked the reporter if she would like the perspective of someone who wrote for the goodmenproject.com website. She looked concerned and said no, because that wasn’t part of the story. I assured her that what I had to say very much would be. The reporter looked more concerned and moved her camera away. I responded by saying that I understood her declining of my invitation.
I realized that everyone isn’t as familiar with goodmenproject.com as I am. If I were that reporter and an old man came up to me and I heard “I write about men. Are you interested?” I would have replied with something like, “That’s not part of the story.” I began to feel some admiration for the courage that reporter needed to cover that story. She seemed to be with a crew of no one.
I approached the other reporter. I asked if she was with the college. She said she was. I noticed that she had a couple of young men helping with the production. I said I wrote for the goodmenproject.com website. I added that The Good Men Project had a pro-feminist bias. She said she was interested.
When the camera was turned on, she asked me for my title. I blurted out something like,”I am a random white guy, here to applaud this event.” I added that I had been writing about rape culture and sexual assault for the goodmenproject.com website. I had no explanation as to why I included “white” in my title.
I said something like, Most men spend very little time being vigilant to the possibility of being the victim of a sexual assault. I said that most women spend a great deal of time thinking of such things. I said that I did not want to minimize the problem of men who have been sexually assaulted by my comments. I related that fear of sexual assault can benefit some men who would never engage in such assault. For example. many women will put up with poor treatment by a man, because they are grateful that they are not being treated even worse.
I imagined that a police escort would show up before the women were ready to assert their sense of entitlement to walk down whatever street they wanted to, wearing whatever they wanted and not feeling so afraid. I guess the police had more important things to protect. I did see squad cars parked nearby.
I thought about walking with the women, but decided that it was time for the old man to go home.
I wondered what experiences the men holding the “THERE IS NO RAPE CULTURE” sign had, that brought his hands to the sign. I wondered again, what a “cunt bag” was and why that young man was holding onto such an attitude.
The Good Men Project has gotten more and more interested in social action in addition to social justice rhetoric. On the goodmenproject.com web page there is support for doing more than reading about social justice and talking about it.
In taking some of my writing attitudes a little bit to the streets, I experienced how lack of clarity on how to express your convictions doesn’t matter as much as moral clarity on your position.
One of the Slut Walker’s chants was, “We shake our ass to break the state, (of rape culture) not to make you salivate.” Hopefully such demonstrations will get more male assess off their chairs and couches and into communities to make the world safer for lovers.
Photo credit: Getty Images