Belfast Telegraph

These protests won't make the streets safer

By Lindy McDowell

How come we haven't had a Slut Walk in Belfast? Not normally behind the rest of the field when it comes to organising headline-grabbing protest rallies, you'd think this would be a march made in heaven for us.

Slut Walks have already been held in major cities throughout the world, sparked by the ill-advised advice from a Toronto cop who suggested that women, if they didn't want to get raped, should avoid dressing like sluts.

(Tell that to the 80-year-old victims attacked in their own homes, officer.) The not-very-PC PC has since apologised - sadly for him, too late to stop global backlash.

Incensed by his comments, tens of thousands of women have got on their high heels, trowelled on the war paint, scrawled SLUT across their cleavages and taken to the streets to express outrage.

Part of me thinks - good point, well-made. Nothing justifies or excuses rape. Least of all the way a woman is dressed. But another part of me asks will Slut Walks make a blind bit of difference to the crime statistics or even serve to further women's rights?

Sadly I doubt it, sisters.

For all our talk over the years about female empowerment, never have the pressures on women - especially on younger women - been so complex and so cruel as they are today. And so very much of this is bound up with how women look and dress and more to the point, how it's perceived they should look or dress.

Which, would you say, is more constricting - the burka or the basque? Never mind becoming a Trophy Wife, these days a girl faces an entire Trophy Life. It starts early.

Take that beauty 'spa' in the news the other day, offering a full pampering package - to little girls not long out of their Pampers.



Fake tan for a toddler? Maybe it will stand her in good stead when she signs up for the pole dancing class for under-10s, another focus of recent media attention. Needless to say a worker at this establishment markets it with the inevitable guff about how it will help "improve the girls' self esteem".

No, it won't. Not any more than dancing round the Maypole will.

The progression from baby to babe seems ruthlessly rushed. At least if you are to believe much of the shock, horror sexualisation-of-children stuff you read.

Is this what really happens in the real world? Maybe not.

But there's little doubt that young girls, very young girls, are being programmed by media, showbiz, commerce and some daft, misguided mothers to gauge their worth entirely in terms of how they look and how they measure up to some fake, enhanced standard.

With all the fake nails, fake tan, fake hair, fake lashes thrown at them, no wonder so many enter their teens mainlining on silicone and self-doubt.

Then there's the weight thing. Too thin? Too fat? Too flat?

Later she'll be pressured to be a Domestic Goddess in the home and a Yummy Mummy at the school gates. And what is particularly patronising and cringe-making about these two tags is that this is how some women actually describe themselves.

Our grannies chained themselves to railings for this?.

OK, if you're male and reading this you may be tempted to argue that men, increasingly, get it tough too.

But men don't get blamed for inviting sexual assault upon themselves simply by the way they dress. Men don't get called slut walkers.

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