So, I did the Slutwalk again this year. This time I was lucky enough to have my spouse join me. Sadly, nobody else that I knew was there, but that is OK. The day was hotter than usual as we are in the midst of an early mini heatwave here. We bought the official Slutwalk Johannesburg 2017 tops and so I wore that with a pair of skinny jeans and my trusty cowboy boots because I needed footwear that could stand up to the walk.
I had decided I didn’t want to be too over the top and really just wanted to be comfortable. I therefore decided to leave the true ‘sluttiness’ to the younger women on the march.
We arrived on time and had some time to check out the stalls and take a few photographs. I saw another transgender person there (who I did not recognise, there really are far more of us around than you may at first think) but we were never close enough for me to say hello.
It was wonderful to feel safe and accepted in a very tolerant social setting. It was also good to see the South African Police Service out in force and for once I felt that they were there to support us. It was good to not feel afraid of them. The motorcycle club that was there to help keep us safe on the road did worry me a little. They all had the old South African flag on their club colours. This is very much a symbol of the previous apartheid era and its presence concerned me more than a little.
Despite the heat the walk was not too onerous even though it started a little late. We were scheduled to start at 10-30 am but we only got going after 11. This meant that we were walking through the heat of the day with the midday sun beating down on us. So, guess what? Sunburn and yet more awkward tan lines ensued!
One of the important messages that this march seeks to convey is that women are free to dress as they like and that a woman’s clothing is never an invitation to sex. To this end one of the chants we were chanting is ‘it is a dress, not a yes’. Some women also take off their tops and do the march in their bras. Reiterating the message that no matter how you are presenting, consent needs to be explicitly given. It was somewhat revealing (if you will pardon the pun) that women in South Africa believe that taking off their tops but keeping their bras on is a highly subversive act. In some other parts of the world, to make that same point, women would be going around bare breasted, but in our conservative society, not so much.
About one third of the way into the march I noticed a young couple (readers please note I am now of an age where people younger than 30 are classed as ‘young’, so ‘cave legitor’, but I would say they were in their late teens or early twenties.) engaged in some discussion. Next thing I knew, the male half of the couple had removed his shirt. I couldn’t hear what he was saying to his partner, but it seemed that he was persuading her to remove her top as well. This went on for a while. Eventually she gave in to his pestering and she reluctantly (to my eyes anyway) removed her top. She was clearly very uncomfortable and after a short time she quickly put it back on. He followed suit. I found this all very ironic. Here we were at a march designed to empower women and educate men about sexual assault and this young man was pressuring his girlfriend in to removing her top… It really just shows how much we have to learn as a society.
We continued our march and it seemed to get hotter and hotter. I was starting to feel decidedly moist as my body was doing its best to cool me down. I was tempted to remove my top. Not in an act of defiance, but just to keep cool, but I decided against it. There is only so much of me I am willing to inflict on an unsuspecting public We made it back to the start and finish point, Pirates Sports Club. I ordered a burger for me and an egg roll for my spouse from the food stall whilst my spouse went to the bar for some drinks. We ate our food and gratefully drank our drinks.
I now needed the toilet. As I was walking into the bar area, where the toilets are located, I walked right past someone who I went to school with! Male me is friends with him on Facebook and we ‘ran into’ one another a few years ago. Also, he knows my spouse and my brother in law rather well. He does not know womanly me at all. A potential banana skin if ever there was one. Fortunately, he did not recognise me. After using the facilities, I saw my spouse waiting for me outside. I told her we couldn’t leave together! So, we exited separately and as far as I know my secret is still safe. Or not! Either way I have not yet had any backlash. Ah, the joys of being semi-closeted. Possibly the very worst of both worlds.
We went home and I got changed and we went to fetch the girls from their grandparents. I then sat down and did some social media sharing of my pictures. One pretty cool idea the organisers had was to provide a blackboard that we could use to say why we were there. The idea was to then use that as a photograph that could be posted on social media to increase awareness. I decided to participate and wrote my message:
I posted this on Facebook and Twitter as well as Instagram with a text message about rape culture being real. Shortly after that I started getting responses from two men making misogynistic and anti-transgender comments on my Twitter feed.
The first comment I received was from a guy that, at least at first, didn’t realise that I was transgender (yay me I ‘pass‘ online). He said, and I quote, ‘Actually, I’ll let you in on a secret: you made my member softer. No man is interested. Swipe left. Red socialblade. 0 rape culture.’ There was just so much misogyny, toxic masculinity and indeed rape culture here that I couldn’t even. I did however quote his reply in a tweet: I wondered: ‘why do men think we care about their pathetic little penises? Hard/soft, whatever. Who cares?’ Needless to say, this did not go down well. He said ‘The words of an ugly girl. Go make me a sandwich, sweety (sic).’ Again, I seem to have passed, yay me! But again, so much misogyny… This person seems to think that women are only valid if they are attractive and that they are there to serve males and their fragile egos.
Sadly, one of his friends then chimed in. This guy actually bothered to read my profile and realised I am transgender. Boom! Cue a flurry of anti-trans rhetoric and a series of ridiculous and insulting assumptions. ‘He’s angry cuz (sic) he cut his off’ and other tweets referencing my anatomy. I simply took screenshots of these offensive tweets and tweeted them to my followers so that all could see the level these people operate on. I then blocked the two of them because I realise that debating with people who resort to such ad hominem attacks is futile, especially when they are wilfully ignorant.
I would like to reiterate that this movement is not about being prudish. Quite the contrary it is about being body and sex positive. The movement is simply wanting people to realise that consent can never be assumed and needs to be explicitly given and that women are free to wear whatever they like. The only thing that causes rape, is rapists. Not women wearing skimpy clothes, not women drinking etc.
For a body and sex positive experience why not visit Lola Montez?
I was saddened by these responses, but it just shows why we need to do more events like Slutwalk. Men need to realise that they can’t wave their penises around, whether in a virtual or real-life context, and that such acts are acts of aggression. They also need to realise that resorting to such tactics is a de facto use of rape culture to silence women. We will not be silenced. We are here. We have rights and we will assert them!