The first time I went to Slutwalk, I joked to my friends that I might be refused from participation for being just too damned qualified. Whilst without a shadow of a doubt the people behind Slutwalk UK, and the people who attend are genuine, passionate individuals who should be praised for bringing back into popular consciousness an ideology that had fallen out of favour (feminism), from the very beginning there was something not quite right about Slutwalk - something that made it easy to mock from every side of the political landscape.
It was these inconsistencies that stopped a number of my own feminist contemporaries supporting Slutwalk Episode One. Indeed, up until the very day of the 2011 march I was in two minds- when did taking the word back ever do anyone any good? Did it help black people gain respect or do they still live as the poorest sector of society and the highest jailed ethnic community? Did it help gay people who now battle with their word being appropriated as a synonym for shit? Does taking the word back do anything but keep the word, the ideology, the curse, in circulation?
It was a smaller group of us than I had hoped whom eventually made the trip to Slutwalk 2011 and a smaller group still to the 2012 edition. For myself, in that first year I simply wanted to support anything, anything that got people talking about rape, consent, the mistreatment of women by the police and of course celebrated feminism as the raddest discourse on earth, even if it had its problems. I was genuinely pleased to see the extensive coverage by the media, some criticising in a valid progressive way, and others with knee-jerk, misinformed and hateful responses. I felt it would only do the movement good. I returned last weekend to see how the only event in years to gather such interest on an issue of gender had grown. It hadn't.
I didn't stay long, I was too angry, hurt and disappointed - it's the same feeling as watching your underdog football team (Feminism FC) get all the way to cup finals and then crash and burn because they still hadn't ironed out that formation problem from Round 1. It was the liberal and constant use of the word 'victim' that infuriated me, it was the speeches that assumed Assange did it, like a speech the year before assumed DSK did too.
It was the insipid use of facts such as '93% of rapists get away with it' as though every single man accused was guilty. Feminism isn't about assuming every accused man is a rapist. It's about equality, and freedom, or specifically fair trials and fair treatment. I was equally upset to see a youthful crowd, a new generation of feminists whose interest had been piqued, being completely misdirected. It's important to stand around and cheer, to raise our firsts in the air, to weep at the tales of the people we fight for and be inspired by them too. But it's also important to get organised.
What Slutwalk has achieved can never be disregarded. It energized a growing and inexplicable discontent amongst women and directed it in a way that academia never could. It stopped preaching to the choir and took it the streets. For all its flaws in its punchy, explosive name, the reality is no one will come to a rally that sounds like an essay and Slutwalk should keep doing what they are doing. But this event is not enough to carry the bright flame of feminism single-handedly; two chapters in, the story has barely begun.
For how long shall we talk about a woman's right to dress like a 'slut' but avoid why she feels compelled to? How can we make sure that everyone understands the rules of consent? Where is the petition to have consent taught in class, to tackle the lingering problems of pornography and the worst thing to happen to feminism since the 1950's- the fashion industry? We have seen the preface and the introduction, but now let's all get together and write Chapter One.