Saturday, May 14, 2011

friday forte: calling names and telling history

capsule wardrobe challenge: day five
judging by the types of account favouriting this image on flickr, these hunter wellies count as sluttish attire :(

Two radio tidbits got me thinking this week.
One was the impending release of the latest in the Duke Nukem games series (a much welcome piece of news to a vast number of eager but ageing - this release has been in the works for over 15 years apparently - gamers. The other is the rise of the Slutwalk movement, including a walk here in our very own downtown Vancouver (May 15th).

So, how are they connected?
Well, Matthew - today's interconnected theme is societal attitudes to women (woah, that is a heavy topic). Especially, attitudes to women and their perceived sexuality, sexual availability, and their sexual preferences.

For those of you too young to remember, Duke Nukem was originally released in 1991 as a side scrolling video game available in that venerable old format, DOS. I think vertical scrolling was also a feature, and here I should probably also disclose that I was not a games player at this time so never knew Duke Nukem from anything other than magazine ads or overheard conversation (which, since I wasn't hanging around with geology students* or teenage boys, wasn't much). So, let me repeat, I haven't played the game. In fact, my first 'game' would be Myst (definitely not side scrolling) and side scrolling is just as it sounds, the game scrolls left to right or reverse if you need to go back (duh). After the 1991 edition, Duke also spoke (according to wikipedia he was the first talking alien game blaster shooty person) and oh boy, they were some impressive one-liners according to a CBC-R1 interview I stumbled across (yes, this is truly reearched posting). I think the term is 'misogynistic' ... but this was back in the early nineties (and I don't think he will be any more pc in the proposed June 2011 release). Twenty years ago life was different (remember this point).

The next gem in this fest of induced interconnectedness is an interview, aka a heated exchange, between one of the originators of the Slutwalk movement and a feminist author. Given the almost quarter century age difference between the two, the use of the word 'slut' did dominate the conversation. Slutwalk's originator claimed that the action was proposed to re-claim the word for women everywhere, whereas the author could find nothing redeeming or historical about the word to support its reclamation. This was a discussion centred around a generational gap in feminist ideology par excellence, thus reinforcing the historical division of women in the feminist movement.

And my connection linking the two? It's the generational thing. Duke Nukem's attitude to women was in part a product of an age in which he was born (but I can still remember that the 'hot babe' 'Duke never comes early' references would have elicited a groan even then). Women's careers were accelerating into traditionally male-dominated fields and many were enjoying new financial freedoms. Laddism, as an antidote to New Man culture, was on the rise, and with it the denigration of women once more as a way of asserting traditional male dominance. Women could be referred to as slappers or sluts if they were available for casual sex or behaved/dressed like they were. Dressing the part but not delivering earned the monicker, prick tease. They were not a terms of endearment or in any way a positive message, and were applied by men on women they wished to demean (or worried parents attempting to control a daughter).  Life was different 15, 20 years ago.

While I applaud the organisers of Slutwalk for wanting to bring home the message that it's not the victim's fault and perpetrators should be the ones told to control themselves/modify their behaviour, I think that many women of my generation will find the choice of word to reclaim a difficult one because of its connotations and history. Slut has been used to shame a woman about her appearance, her apparent readiness/hunger for sex, and question her good girl credentials since 1450. It's never been strongly associated with anything other. We also didn't grow up in a time when pornography was so widely available for all with such easy access to explicit video clips. Neither were we growing up when pornography portrayed such horrifically violent acts against women (normalised gang bangs, multiple penetrations of any number of orifices, often simultaneous, and so on). We didn't grow up with standard issue clothing which sexualised us from a very young age. We didn't feel it necessary to parade our legs, tits, pudenda and asses on show daily - fashion was different and more was covered up I guess. We had relatively real bodies to emulate too, compared with today's stretched out parodies. We didn't 'have' to dress like 'sluts' as this wasn't the fashion. Things were different then and to many, slut is beyond redemption.

And Duke Nukem? Also a different era - but maybe instead of warring with 'older sisters' who 'don't seem to get it' maybe the young feminists today should revisit the past. Maybe today's young 'sluts' should play a few games of the old unreconstructed Duke to get a feel of what yesterday's feminists were up against. Bravo putting the blame where it is deserved, with the attackerand not the victim. Bravo being able to wear whatever you like without being labeled or propositioned. Bravo bringing awareness to some damn stupid comments made by someone in authority.
But slut? Please, no.

the footnotes
*at university, geology student were apparently the most active games players on campus - that's where this little personal observation comes from

and yes, it's saturday but blogge was indisposed for self portrait thursday so it go posted on friday, and friday's is posted today - you get the pattern?
ebb and flo by pomo mama design click to shop pomo mama design online!