"Have you any idea how offensive that is?" asked feminist lady gaping in educated, middle-class disbelief at Adam Boulton, while next to him his hot-socks lady newsreader colleague tutted silently. Not how offensive it sounds, or how it could be interpreted by some as being offensive, but how offensive it IS. Full stop. So there. That, the statement so obviously heinous as to cause the feminist lady's head to wobble slightly in a righteously outraged mini-oscillation, was a query as to why young women would want to dress in such a manner as to suggest they were slovenly and promiscuous - the dictionary definition which every journalist and commentator looking to cover the recent slutwalks phenomenon, from Mr Boulton to Germaine Greer, has wheeled out in order to prove they're capable of more than a knee-jerk response to the word 'slut'.
Mr Boulton didn't have any idea how offensive he was being and, to be perfectly honest, neither do I. I mean, really? It was such a dreadful question to ask that it didn't even deserve an answer? The feminist lady could have said that young women these days don't necessarily associate dressing sexily with behaving promiscuously, or that wearing a short skirt was no indicator of a dirty house, not-that-housework-is-my-sole-responsibility-anyway-thank-you-very-much. Instead she retreated into the great feminist fallacy, the one insidious, pervasive, corrosive idea, the long-fingered hand on our shoulder jerking us firmly back every time we try to move forwards: she assumed she was speaking for all of us. Every woman, as far as she was concerned, was at that moment nodding their head disapprovingly and muttering "so offensive..."
Every woman, every girl, every lady, every lass, every babe, every chick, every miss, mrs and ms is supposed, apparently, to 'get' feminism. Because, for us, it's not a movement, or a cause, or an ideology, it's a natural state - the way the world ought to be, if men didn't keep fucking it up every five minutes with their wars and their raping and their questions about why we dress like we want to have sex if we don't actually want to have sex. But here's the thing, feminist TV pundit lady: I'm a woman - and I don't agree with you. In fact, I don't agree with many things that have been said in the name of women everywhere over the years, like the idea that all men are potential rapists, or that the way to be equal to men is to descend, 'liberatingly', to the depths of their worst behavioural excesses, ladette-style. And right now, I don't agree with slutwalks.
I think going on a march dressed like a tart is a really dumb way to advance the cause of feminism. It's a really dumb way to demand that the world stops looking at women in terms of their sexuality. And it's a really, really dumb way of protesting against the fact that if you dress like you're up for it, some men might think you're, you know, up for it.
Of course this doesn't mean you should be raped, but women don't get raped because they're wearing stiletto heels, they get raped because they've had the awful misfortune to encounter a rapist. The Toronto police officer who warned young ladies against dressing provocatively was off the mark, but so are the slutwalkers. What does a woman achieve by dressing sexually provocatively just for herself? A sense of inflated ego? Well, we all deserve that sometimes, but it comes at the expense of the men who are turned on by her. She's using them. The way we dress signals both who we are and what we expect from any given situation. The feminist lady hadn't dressed as a slut to come on TV and make her point. She was wearing something conservative in green with chunky beads. Prostitutes on street corners don't advertise their profession to potential clients by dressing like maiden aunts, they wear clothing that says "take me, I'm yours". Female teachers don't wear low-cut tops and short skirts, nor do we expect doctors to totter about hospitals in eight-inch heels and hotpants, especially if they're telling us we've got cancer. Why not? Because sexually provocative clothing is considered inappropriate in certain situations. This must mean that it's both appropriate and effective in others.
There's a picture of a young lady on a slutwalk holding up a banner reading "It's my hot body, and I'll do what I want with it". Well, minus one word of that, I completely agree. It is indeed your body and yours to feed, irrigate, cleanse, rest, boost, dress, decorate, slim, fatten, impregnate, depregnate, nurture or punish without the slightest interference from me. But what's that? Your 'hot' body, you say? 'Hot' according to whom? As the male magazine editor Sky had brought on to counterpoint the feminist lady tried to argue, you don't exist in a vacuum. If you are hot then you're hot because someone else thinks you're hot. Hot means sexually attractive and, unless you're a lesbian, that means sexually attractive to men. Even if it's just you, in front of your bathroom mirror, admiring your own hotness, you're doing it by ranking yourself on a giant scale with Megan Fox at the top and Anne Widdicombe at the bottom. Sexuality is a vast and complex spectrum, but everyone on it, from acerbic, alternative goth-chicks, to Paris Hilton-type blondes, is aware that in their own particular weight class there are people above them, and people below them. You don't even have to think about it. You just have to look in a mirror, and you know. So to argue that dressing attractively is nothing to do with men perplexes me completely. Of course it's to do with men. You can't dress in a way calculated to make you look as 'hot' as possible and then go out and not expect the very people who, unconsciously, and as a hegemonous blob, define 'hot' not to pay attention. Dressing in a sexually inviting way without any intention of following through on said invitation doesn't invite rape, but it is irresponsible. And wearing the grim uniform employed by women who need to attract men in order to make enough money to sleep in a bed and not on the streets, in order to fulfill some feminist fantasy about being sexually empowered, is horrendously misjudged.
So why is dressing like someone who wants to have sex in order to demonstrate to the world that you don't have to have sex if you don't want to so obviously, so clearly right and sensible and feminist, that to even question it is "offensive"? What I found more offensive was the fact that Sky News got on a woman to defend the slutwalks, and a man to speak against them, while Adam Boulton took the offensive with the feminist with Hot-Socks lining up against the man, as though this ideological divide could only ever fall along gender lines, That's a far greater and more damaging reduction of feminism, and female rights than a police officer in Canada offering bungled advice about how not to get raped, as was the feminist lady's assumption that her views on what was right were so universal to women that no-one with two X-chromosomes could possible fail to understand.
A friend recently posted a link to a depressing website detailing some of the terrible things that are happening to women across the world. (http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/womens-rights/). "If anyone disses feminism or its need," she said, "punch them in the face with this..." And it is a punch in the face. On the other side of the world some very nasty men are doing some very nasty things to women, and it has to stop. But where are the women who might mobilise against this, the ones who start movements and lead crusades? They're all marching through Swindon in their bra and pants.
Meanwhile feminism stutters and stumbles, and makes a mockery of its own values, all because of this ridiculous idea that all women are the same, that we all need the same things, that we want the same things, that we're sisters. Feminists ask that men stop treating women in a certain way, just because they're women, but I ask that of the feminists. The idea that, because I have breasts and a uterus, I can somehow be classed with every other uterus-owning individual on the planet, and will agree with them on any uterus-related matters is absurd, but more than that, it's a dangerous and upsetting reduction of who I am as a person.
So ladies, slutwalk if you have to, but don't do it under the banner of feminism, please? I don't agree with what you're doing and you're not my sister. I resent the idea that it might be assumed that I support your dippy, attention-seeking behaviour, because you claim to be marching on behalf of women, and I am one. In fact, I might even go so far as to ask, have you any idea how offensive that is?