Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Smoke and Mirrors

    As I bring this blog to a close I have one last comparison to make. There were two Miss America Pageant Protests organized in 1968,  the women's liberation movement is the one I will discuss (Kreydatus 2008). The women's liberation movement directed their efforts toward the Miss America Pageant because they found it to portray gender roles and a sexist beauty ideal. In order to bring about the change they wanted to see, these radical feminists sought to draw attention to their problems with the pageant. As a result of this protest the idea of beauty and women's liberation were brought to light and discussed nationally. During the protests in a symbolic gesture the feminists threw objects of womanhood such as, their bras, girdles, false eyelashes, steno pads, women's magazines, wigs, and dish cloths into a garbage can called the "Freedom Trash Can" (Kreydatus 2008: 490). Even though there was a lack of fire during this act, the protesters were labeled 'bra burners'.

     These radical feminists had very specific reasons for targeting the Miss America Pageant. In order for a woman to be considered a contestant she had to fit within the beauty ideal of the time, which happened to be white and slim with symmetrical features. The contestants also had to fit within a certain idea of how a proper woman should behave. They had to have spent no unchaperoned time with a male, have any hint of sexual encounter and have spent no time in establishments that served alcohol. The feminists found this to be a way for men to control the rights of women.

    SlutWalk, I feel, would feel roughly the same way about these ideals as the radical feminists did at the time. Though they would support women who choose to abstain from sex, they would be outraged at the notion of men, or even society, dictating the sexual behavior of women. What is interesting is how similar these feminists and SlutWalk are in ideas yet their veiw on femininity seems completely opposite. The radicals use bras as examples of woman garbage and are symbols of their oppression. SlutWalk on the other hand struts around in their underwear as means of embracing of their femininity. This change in attitude could represent a subtle shift in the meaning of feminism over the decades; the idea that women can be equal to men while still remaining completely female.

    With its mix of feminist values regarding sexual equality of women and mission to aid bring about the end of sexual assault SlutWalk has an interesting place in society. It gives women a place to share their stories as well as allows them to proclaim their desire to lead sexual lives without being judged or persecuted. In an effort to take away a means of controlling  the sex lives of women they aim to reclaim slut and turn it into something positive. They primarily use marches and tactics associated with marches to further their message, but have also made use of Facebook and Twitter as a way of raising awareness and gaining support. Though it has been less then a year since the first Toronto SlutWalk there have already been Walks in two hundred other cities and more are planned. For the time being SlutWalk is proving to be a force in raising awareness and getting people involved in the movement against slut shaming and victim blaming.

Courtesy of SlutWalk

For more information:

Reference Cited:

Kreydatus, Beth
     2008.  Confronting the "Bra-Burners:" Teaching Radical Feminism with a Case Study. The History Teacher
     41: 4.

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