30 October 2012

A Man's Man's Man's Word

For some reason this put itself at the top of my blog in October 2012. I actually wrote and published it in May 2011. Fuck knows how. A few more semi-coherent, largely reasonable but provocatively-worded points about this SlutWalk thing:
  • If you dress like a slut, you will be treated like a slut
  • Being a slut can get you raped
  • Men can't be sluts
  • Feminists like Cath Elliot have no claim to the word
  • There is no justification for promiscuity

If you dress like a slut, you will be treated like a slut
Or, more to the point, it's not actually necessary to be a slut to be labelled one. Just as hyperassimilated second-generation Christian converts fell foul of the Nuremburg Laws, just as Sikhs suffer Islamophobia, just as straights can get queer-bashed, sluttiness isn't something you choose. It's something slut-shamers allocate to you. To become a slut, all you need do is be labelled one.

Please note that there's not a specific way to dress like a slut. It's fashionable for women's clothing to suggest availability, so there's a fag-paper's breadth between slut and fashionable. The way to dress like a slut is to be a slut, and wear clothes. Don't flatter yourself, sluts, that you have any say in the matter.

Being a slut can get you raped
Obviously, as mentioned above, there's not actually anything you can do to avoid becoming a slut. Deciding whether you are or aren't one isn't really your prerogative. But try to avoid it all the same, as it's a known fact that sluts can't say no and therefore being one may be seen as constituting consent.

Men can't be sluts
You might say that gay or even straight men can get called "sluts" too. But, I wonder, is there a history of gay men using deliberately feminine terms for themselves and each other? Even slut? Could you maybe call a straight man a slut in a feminising sense? As in "a man who puts it about in the manner of a distasteful woman"? Just being used on men doesn't remove its reference to women, the amusing absurdity of using it for a man showing how clearly it refers to a woman. So if anything a little humour can help entrench it.

Feminists like Cath Elliot have no claim to the word
I'm thinking specifically about what she says here
Because of their history, and because I’m a feminist, ['slut' and 'cunt'] are words I would never use to describe any other woman, just as they are words I would never ever use to describe myself.
Which is reasonable enough, but I've never trusted avoidance tactics. Even if anyone had any particular moral right to determine how other people use their own language, good luck persuading hardline misogynists to use more feminist terminology. Good luck switching off the linguistic auto-pilot of the people who don't read feminist blogs. Language is not shaped through sitting round deciding what words are ok and which aren't. Language is shaped by usage, and words belong to the people who use and understand them. If you decline to say a word, you forfeit any ability to shape its meaning through the contexts you say it in. If she really means that "feminism is about liberation, not capitulation", she just capitulated a perfectly good four-letter combo to woman-haters.

There is no justification for promiscuity
Aside from that, the problem with 'slut' isn't like the problem with, say 'Nigger'. It's not a word for an ok thing to be that has been given nasty connotations through several centuries of slavery, violence and systematic discrimination. The signified, not the signifier is the problem. Someone who grew up being called 'dyke' or 'faggot' can try and reclaim these words, because their objection is mostly to the set of sounds or letters. 'Slut' goes deeper. The very concept of 'slut' is rotten. A slut is a woman who is too promiscuous. Sometimes we like it - I believe pornography tends to get excited about "sluts" from time to time - but I doubt anyone would be surprised that our attitude to sex leaves room to have no respect for sluts as human beings, but still like the idea of fucking them. "Promiscuity" shouldn't exist. Without us specifying a normal sexual appetite or number of partners, promiscuity and sluts just wouldn't make any bloody sense. I mean, we don't have a word for someone who scratches the end of their nose too much.

On balance then, I'm in favour of the SlutWalk. Even though absurdities like sluttiness need to be ironised, misapplied and generally mashed about until they mean precisely fuck-all, this relatively straight-faced use of the word still has its purpose. We don't just need to break the word. We need to break the word's connections to rape. We need to break the connections between dressing like one and being one - and dressing up like a slut for the purpose of serious frigid-feminist hairy-armpit demo action is going to bollocks up all kinds of fun preconceptions.

But let's not get bogged down with the word. This isn't really about sluts, because sluts don't exist. It's about lots of sex, multiple partners, revealing clothes and provocative behaviour. It's about asserting women's right to do them, and the right for them not to be considered consent. Once we've sorted that out, what we call it should be largely academic.

PS Oglaf is good at the word 'slut'.

19 October 2012

A Day in the Life of The Twitter Activists

You may or may not be aware of the Activist Socialist Party/Revolutionary Communalist Party/Red Chili Peppers/whatever they're called now. If not, Lissy Number has kindly documented their Twitter Empire, and a small bit of code twits regular summaries of whatever it is they're on about. It's easy to dismiss them as a "cult", because they pretty much are, but they also manage to have this bizarre self-sustaining momentum despite not having any real specific ideas. Like this sci-fi story I once read where someone wrote a constitution for a local sewing circle and it took over the world.

Generally, their jokes look like this: And their serious statements look like this: and occasionally get either rather mean-spirited: or descend into a full-on intersectional clusterfuck: They also do artwork but it's usually not very good and they only really publish it in theory now.

Anyway, they have a leader. He's on Twitter if you don't believe me. They also have an anarchy-themed account, which is brilliant. I reckon everything you need to know you can learn from the Radcal Anarchist feed. Bear in mind that, although I'm going to be drawing conclusions from indivudual tweets, the Activists are pretty repetitive and most of these have come up with slightly different wording at least fifteen times each.

Firstly, they seem to be having an internal struggle with three main factions. Most urgently dangerous is the faction among the anarchists who think anarchy is "horizontal" or "leaderless" or involves "consensus-based democracy" or whatever. Oh yeah, this leader demands DISCIPLINE. Not that kind of discipline though. You see, the second mutinous faction is the ones who want to have interesting sex: The ones they really hate though, the ones they're constantly battling with, are the ones who want to take drugs, get drunk and have some kind of fun or other alongside the serious business of activisting: Apart from this barrier obviously: NO FUN.

Bear in mind they do have an effective and sympathetic treatment centre for those who are struggling with addiction. But of course, you know what so-called "anarchists" always say whenever you tell them freedom doesn't include any actual fun, especially if you mention dancing. Of course, some up-their-own-arse elitists will always try to argue about what this or that socialist or anarchist or philosopher "meant" or "said" or "consistently emphasised throughout their writing", and they'll tell you to "actually read the fucking book" or to "at least get a primer or something" or "even listen to the fucking In Our Time podcast with Melvin fucking Bragg of all people" but you can't go paying attention to these paid quislings. Ok, bear in mind the same stuff keeps coming up, so this same squabble must be going on all the bloody time.

Clearly if The Leader of the Activist Socialist People's Front of the Revolutionary Revolutionist Party is going to fight those who act in the interests/pay of the capitalist boss class, he needs a comeback. He has two in fact. "Reformist": and, for something a little more serious, "traitor": And we all know what happens when the great all-seeing eye falls upon traitors right? Right?