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May 16, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

Real life

A while ago, I talked to a friend soon after she had been sexually assaulted. I sat with her, on her couch, while she cried and talked about feeling violated and scared and hurt. And amongst all that, amongst the pain of what she was going through, she kept saying that she was a bad feminist.

Because a good feminist wouldn’t feel like it was her fault. Like she’d invited it, like she should have been able to stop it.

And all I could do was tell her she had done nothing wrong, and it wasn’t her fault. And that she wasn’t a bad feminist.

Because, self-identifying as a feminist doesn’t automatically turn you into a perfect person. You don’t suddenly grow a halo, and become able to fight every battle with ease and grace. Particularly when a lot of the work you do is online. I can interview my typewriter about this stuff ’til the end of the world. It doesn’t make the real world any easier.

I’ve been writing about SlutWalk, and the word Slut, over at TLG, and I am still conflicted about it. I absolutely support the walk, and I will be there with bells on. (You won’t be able to see them.) I support the right of women to reclaim “slut” for themselves. I even support “the movement” adopting it. I understand the arguments. I get that reclaiming it is to dilute the negative power of the word, and not being ashamed.

I am a sex-positive feminist. I think I have demonstrated that pretty clearly. I am not ashamed by my sexuality, although it is something I like to talk about on my own terms, and not have broadcast for me. But hey, ask me, and I will likely tell you. Drink with me and Emma, and it will be pretty fucking obvious. I believe in a woman’s right to autonomy over her body and her image, without the intervention of anyone else. I will, within reason and my own moral code, fuck who I like, thanks very much.

And yet. I just can’t get entirely on board with Slut. Because I’m not a perfect feminist. I still, on occasion, judge a woman on her clothing. I still laugh at a perfectly timed sexist joke. I still like rugby. (I’m given to believe I can’t enjoy rugby and be a member of the sisterhood.) I am aware of my privilege, and I try to take it into account where I can. But I am not an angel.

And even given what I proclaim, what I believe, there is a teeny-tiny traitorous voice in my head that says “Tallulah, you are a slut. And that’s a bad thing”. It’s only in my…darker…moments that that voice holds any sway, that I listen to it at all. I fundamentally don’t believe it. Why do you think I drink so much? It’s to shut that voice up.

But it’s still there, and it still hurts. It means when someone calls me a slut, in anger, it takes me a second to recover and fight back. It means it’s not a word I can take lightly. It hurts. I wish, when people suggest that I’m a prude (hah!) for not wanting to reclaim it, they’d remember that.



Leave a Comment
  1. Amie / May 16 2011 11:47 am

    I fully support Slut Walk. Even kust re reading the article that spurred it is enough to make me want to march NOW (…a representative of the Toronto Police saying “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”). Yuck.

    For me, Slut Walk isn’t about being a slut all the time. It’s about making noise with strong, like-minded men and women who have been accused of being sluts and telling people that attire doesn’t equal violence/victim blaming is not okay/slut isn’t a dirty word/etc.

  2. Boganette / May 16 2011 12:22 pm

    I don’t know where all the good/bad/perfect feminist stuff comes from to be honest. I get really confused when I hear people say they think they’re a bad feminist. Where does that come from? Where are they hearing those messages? It worries me that people think that you get membership to a club when you self-identify as a feminist and that there a rules. It really makes me sad. I want to find out who or what is behind those false messages about feminism and what it means to be a feminist.

  3. Craig Ranapia / May 16 2011 12:36 pm

    A tangental slutwalk observation. Over in the US, tne networks are announcing their slates for the upcomming season and NBC has commissioned an American version of ‘Prime Suspect’. Am surprised, and disturbed, to read various television writers saying the conceit of a female police officer facing pervasive sexism so severe it almost derails a rape-murder investigation is “dated”. In a world where a police officer can keep his job after telling a room full of young women that they shouldn’t dress like sluts if they don’t want to be raped, I disrespectfully call bullshit.

  4. @missannajane / May 16 2011 2:25 pm

    Fuck yeah. There is so such thing as GOOD OR BAD thus it follows there is no such thing as a good or bad feminist. There’s unlawful, and unethical, and those are very different topics. There’s putting oneself in comfortable and uncomfortable situations, and remaining sober enough to make healthy decisions too. These are all other topics though.

    The point being
    I will be there quite LITERALLY with bells on. Love your work.

    • tallulahspankhead / May 16 2011 2:54 pm

      The thing is, I could point to any number of comments on the internet, calling me – implicitly or explicitly – a bad feminist for my views.

      I also don’t believe there’s such a thing. My point is, it is harder to live up to these principles than we give ourselves credit for, sometimes. And labels, whatever they are, hurt.

  5. Melimalle / May 16 2011 8:53 pm

    I agree with the “bad feminist” feelings. I feel like I’m letting down the feminist side when I watch tv programmes that have sexist comments or jokes (almost everything), when I don’t speak up to correct sexist/misogynist/shaming/incorrect statements and when I “genderise” the gifts I sell at work. I feel the same way about being vegan and wearing my leather boots that I brought before I became vegan.

    I can’t change every single thing. I can not isolate myself from everything in the pursuit of being a “good” feminist or a “good” vegan. I just have to do the best that I can, when I can. And while I know all of that, it’s still hard to come to terms with sometimes.

    • @missannajane / May 23 2011 1:33 pm

      So so much of acceptance, and this includes acceptance of oneself when it comes to feminist issues I think, it letting go of The Guilt. Acknowledging none of us are perfect [indeed, I believe Tallulah herself would find beauty in her delightful imperfections 😉 ] and moving on.

      When faced with a situation, there is a crossroads. You make a choice. You hope it is well informed and a judicial choice, but if it is not, you don’t beat yourself up about it. You move on to the next situation. You make a choice. It’s kinda like the pickapath books. Remember those?


  1. The Thirty-Seventh Down Under Feminists Carnival, Collated by Boganette | Down Under Feminists' Carnival

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