Sunday, 12 June 2011

slutwalk and other issues

For London's slutwalk yesterday I donned mondrian-inspired tights, boots and a skirt that was above the knee but probably wouldn't worry the elderly.

To make it clear to the woefully uninformed: Slutwalk is an international campaign to end 'slut-shaming' - the idea that women should be judged morally for the way that they dress, particularly in rape cases where the girl's dress or alcohol consumption continues to be a factor in the investigation.

In the festering depths of online "comment" boxes, I keep finding morons who conflate rape with sex, or imply abusive relationships don't exist, or argue that women should cover themselves up to avoid being targeted. This last view is quite insulting to rapists, I feel, by implying that rapists are passive objects with no ability to think or make decisions for themselves.

[*Deep breath*] The internet can be a hunting-ground for trolls, amplifying their views at the expense of sane people.

All this said, I like to think that most rape fears are irrational and I really can go out without worrying. 'Just a bit of liberation-affirming fun!' I thought, 'the objectification of women can't be that huge a problem in this day and age.'

So I left the house, and it was sod's law that before my skirt and I had reached the railway bridge a tall, middle-aged man got out of a van in front of me. The street was quiet.

'You came this way before.' he informed me, his face set. 'I'd recognise those tights anywhere.'

Wurgh. Look at the ground, walk faster.

Thank you, stranger, for shattering my happy illusions…

The march itself was a bit like a carnival. There were thousands of us, including a pleasing number of men. "Yes means yes and no means no" was the rallying-cry widely quoted in the press, but I was happiest shouting "Hey (hey!) / mister (mister!) / get your hands / off my sister!" like a loveable street urchin.

There were rousing speeches, rather too many in fact, some of which I recorded and might attempt to put online. The high point of my day was finding out about this organisation:

London Sex Workers Open University

It's simply comforting that it exists.

In other news…

I've been revisiting the subject of veterans in prison today, so phoned a contact who has been trying to support carers to those suffering from depression, PTSD and the like.

She estimates she's counseled 260 people in the past month, who are finding her by word of mouth as a (completely unpaid) line of support.

Her own son, when he got into the army, had learning difficulties - which made him much younger than his age, she said, but that wasn't fully acknowledged. He was sent to the front line, developed erratic behaviour and an alcohol problem. He still drinks a lot and is in and out of prison when he does.

"He changed completely. People try to comfort me by saying he's at the less serious end of offending. I would rather he wasn't offending at all," she says. "The things my son has to deal with from the police. Being tasered if he refuses to strip naked. Being put on suicide watch."

Ultimately she wants to launch a charity for soldiers with complex problems. "Alongside the red poppies I also want blue poppies, for the abandoned ones," she said. "Blue for depression."

A sombre note to end on, but some are.

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