I want my daughter to grow up in a world in which all men are safe: on guys and SlutWalk

Eleven days out from SlutWalk LA, my weekly column at Good Men Project looks at why men should join the movement.

Excerpt:

When I was first publicly identified as an organizer of SlutWalk LA, someone sent me a tweet asking how I’d feel if my daughter turned out to be “a slut.” It’s not as offensive a question as it sounds. It was a reminder to me as a dad that I shouldn’t advocate for others what I wouldn’t want for my own child.

What I replied (in more than one 140 character tweet) was that my daughter was foremost in my mind when I committed to the SlutWalk campaign. I want a world where she is free to grow into a woman’s body without fear of being raped. I want her to have the freedom to express her sexuality safely and joyfully in whatever way she chooses, whenever she’s ready (and not a moment before). And I want her to grow up without shame about her own wanting and about her wanting to be wanted.

I want my daughter to grow up in a world in which all men are safe, responsible, reliable. We don’t have that world yet, of course. But the reason has nothing to do with biology: it has to do with our crushingly low expectations of men’s capacity to reconcile lust and humanity. In order for our daughters and little sisters and nieces to be safer, we must demand better of ourselves as men. And one way to start is to challenge the very roots of our thinking about sex, desire, and respect. That challenge is part of what SlutWalk is all about.

14 thoughts on “I want my daughter to grow up in a world in which all men are safe: on guys and SlutWalk

  1. Recently I voiced my opinion to the man I (was) dating about how its been acceptable in society for men to behave poorly. Unfortunately, he turned it around to say that women are manipulative and that I wanted too much for men to behave a certain way (and expect behavior changes), and don’t ever think about changing my response towards certain behaviors ???

  2. I’ve discussed this with my mother, who vehemently opposes women/girls dressing in short skirts and shorts because she considers it distracting and inconsiderate towards men who have hormones or certain feelings about it. She constantly tells me not to do it because its **very inconsiderate** (emphasized because she honestly thinks its self-centered for women to just dress pretty/sexy and not think about how others may respond), and that I am not a man so how could I possibly understand how they feel about it.

    She says when girls dress like that it is sending a message that makes it seem like they are trying to provoke or seduce and men will disrespect us for that. “People are not robots and we should accept biology; being able to control a piss is not the same as hormones.”

  3. May, with all due respect, your mother is invested in a fundamental lie about men and biology. And as men, we’ve done nothing but reinforce it for her. But the reality is that men are capable, really we are, of being aroused and still respecting the woman whose body arouses us. We are not prisoners of our testosterone. Really, truly, we’re not.

  4. Mr. Schwyzer,
    I love that you are taking seriously female emotional needs and encouraging men to respect women more. (and I’m not saying this in the tone of people who put on a pretence of agreement to then sock you over the head with their contrary view. I am sincere) Here is my idea for a different parade, on a different day, not conflicting with yours: a march of ladies in dress that reflects their feminine virtues: purity, modesty, beauty, ladylikeness. Ladies in beautiful long dresses, in lovely soft colours, with ribbons in their hair. Something to truly shock our visual field. Something you’ve never seen, something attractive…something that would inspire art and poetry and peace.

  5. i think hugo is oversimplifying a complex subject. for one, there is the difference between acting respectfully and being respectful. lots of progressive rhetoric these days is based on the idea of treating everyone with kindness and respect. that is just not possible. for one, it destroys the concept of “respect” — respect is a mark of distinction. acting respectfully, or with common decency is different — it is, by definition, “common”, meaning “the lowest form of”. i am capable of acting respectfully/with common decency towards just about anyone, but that has nothing to with respecting that person. it does have something to do with respecting our shared humanity, but that’s about me, not about them. it also has something to do with respecting the humanist tradition — again, about me, not them. all of this is a long way of saying, respect is complicated and rare, and of course it can be lost based on what a person wears. common decency and a right to safety and courteous treatment is much less complicated, and should be applied to everyone.

  6. Lavender Luck,
    It may be uncouth to respond to another’s comment, but I can’t shake the sudden and visceral reaction I had to your post (or your website, for that matter. I did look at it).

    I take exception to your idea of another kind of “reclaimation parade”. The sexuality of long dresses and ribbons, what I see as the sexuality of religious morals and ‘modesty’, is not a sexuality I believe that women are trying to reclaim. This kind of parade would feel counter-intuitive to me. It would be just another way to reinforce the idea that my style of dress, my body, my purity and modesty, as you put it is the defining part of my ‘ladyhood’ and is what others should expect of me or should expect of a ‘virtuous’ woman. A reflection of my ‘feminine virtues’? I escaped the fundamentalist Christian sect within which I was raised and I’m struck speechless with horror at that very phrase.

  7. May: your mom is seriously saying that men find short skirts upsetting? I mean, has she met many men?

  8. Lavender; I would tend to suggest that displays of traditional femininity are pretty far from ‘something you’ve never seen’.

  9. As for respect, I think the more relevant question is this: How can men earn women’s respect? At the moment, in the light of history, there really isn’t so much to respect, is there?

  10. Hugo: That world for your daughter is one worth fighting for.

    Lavendar` I (oddly enough) am probably gonna be the only person here who says if you want to organize a march like the one you described…you should do it. If you and others take pride in your feminine dress and virtues, and wish for people to see that, then by all means, organize your event…however, do not judge others as lesser than yourselves who do not hold the same beliefs, nor think that your way is better than or for everyone. Every woman is different, and SHOULD have the freedom to express herself as she chooses…

    May: Wow, your mom sounds seriously Old School. Yet, I wonder if she realzes that, oh, a good looking man working shirtless in his yard is also distracting to women who might find him attractive, yet, amazingly, we manage to control ourselves and merely look? Men can do this as well, they really can….they do have self control and willpower and stuff- and I am with Hugo on the fact that they SHOULD be expected to exercise it. I also wonder if she has ever lived in a hot climate…heck, I am in the Southern US, and it’s gonna be 90 degrees with crazy humidity here today: You can bet I am wearing shorts today….

  11. Well, now there has been a complimentary event for men kicked around in “solidarity”: the Pimp Walk. ;)

  12. Tom, thanks for reminding us that there are always some insecure assholes who don’t get it.

  13. I have mixed feelings on Slutwalk. It has been pointed out on a good handful of the blogs of women of color that Slutwalk is not terribly inclusive of their experiences, and rather defaults to the shaming of white women and white women’s experiences with oppression. I am inclined to agree, even though I am a white woman and the problem had to be brought to my attention. I appreciate the urge to reclaim hurtful terms and to demonstrate political momentum, especially with the awful policy winding its way through state legislatures right now and some of the horrific responses to rape in the MSM over the last month. I just wish, however, that the walk was a little more inclusive. I’d rather be marching with POC, people of all sexualities and genders, and people across the economic spectrum. Anything else, and I’ll start worrying about the expression of power in the movement.

    On a slightly different note, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve been called a bitch for asserting myself, disagreeing with being shamed or called names, refusing to allow a male colleague to interrupt me and take the floor, or otherwise punished by people around me, I’d be a millionaire right now. I sometimes wear a ‘bitch’ t shirt, but more often the form of my protest is being competent to my own measure (since I won’t get that appellation from colleagues who don’t like my unwillingness to submit) or being in charge of my sexuality. Both of these are a daily struggle against overwhelming odds. At this point, I can’t imagine how I’d put the complexity or scope of that struggle on a sign, or what I might wear to carry it. Women are so much more complicated than they are often allowed to be.

    That said, I would march on a “Bitchwalk”– Lord knows I hear bitch, cunt and whore more often than slut, and honestly I’m uninterested in providing watchers with something to ogle (any more than they already do, when I’m out. It’s no compliment, either, for reasons you’ve already discussed on this blog.) I would not, for the world, object to women wearing what they wish, in order to protest. I just, for myself, don’t want to volunteer for more of what I get every day, no matter what I wear (my eyeballs, they are a foot or so up from where men tend to look when they see me.)

    I admire your desire to make the world a better place for your daughter– I have similar urges for my own daughters, neighbors, friends and women to come. I believe white men would also benefit from this, but I’m more interested in the benefits to populations marginalized by the control of their sexualities. There’s no reason to associate the sexual practices of a person (given that they stay within the bounds of consent, eg: no passed out or intoxicated persons, no animals, no children, no people who are being coerced into sexual acts by differentials of power and age) with a defect in their character. This is especially true with women, whose sexuality has always been controlled by authority in societies.

    I hope that the world will change, for your daughter, my daughters, my neighbors no matter their gender, and people in general. I comfort myself by thinking of the changes already accomplished and by thinking of some of the more horrific bits of bullshit out there as a last gasp of sorts.

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