Girls, girls, girls!

  • Over at New York magazine, Emily Nussbaum has written the perfect introduction to the new, fiery, sardonic, savvy generation of feminists who are making change online and in the streets. Nussbaum checks in with both the feminist blogosphere and the controversial “SlutWalks,” a series of anti-rape marches that have caught imaginative fire. The title has been hotly debated—but as young feminist leader Jessica Valenti has noted, it sure has gotten the attention that organizers wanted. Nussbaum writes:
    SlutWalk launched in April, sparked by the outrage of Canadian activists after a cop told female students to “avoid dressing like sluts” in order not to be victimized. The idea was to take the sting out of the insult with a Spartacus-like display of solidarity, to put blame back on the attackers. Since April, there have been marches all over the world, including in Mexico, Germany, and South Africa, but this Manhattan march feels fired up with local frustration, the climax of a year of scandals, from the acquittal of the “rape cops” to the DSK case to a series of unsolved assaults in Brooklyn’s South Slope—just the day before, there was a news report of a policeman warning women that skirts might suggest “easy access.” Every one of these cases had returned obsessively to the enraging fantasy of the “perfect victim,” that ideal woman who is sober and chaste and white and middle class, whose testimony would be believed.
    We march down University Place, chanting all the old familiar “hey, ho” alternatives, plus some new ones like “Rapists! Go fuck yourselves.” (Marchers lock eyes and grin; it’s so percussive and playful.) In college in the eighties, I’d gone to my share of rallies, but this reminds me more of ones I’ve read about: the 1970 sit-in at Ladies’ Home Journal; the Atlantic City “zap” at the Miss America Pageant, when activists crowned a sheep; and my personal favorite, the 1968 “hex” cast on Wall Street by the collective WITCH—Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell—when women in pointy hats spooked the brokers so badly they reportedly made the Dow drop.
  • One thing surprised me in Nussbaum’s article: There was no mention of the gifted writer and editor Ann Friedman, formerly deputy editor here at the Prospect, and one of the smart young feminists in this network. Friedman is now the executive editor of the online magazine community GOOD. She should be running some major New York magazine someday. Soon. (Ten, nine, eight…)
  • Speaking of the new feminism and women on the streets, Soraya Chemaly -– who so fabulously proposed a “National Let Your Boy Be A Girl” Day –- has moved on to discuss preparing your daughters for street harassment. I am so glad that I am raising a boy, not a girl. When I look at friends’ beautiful daughters -- ages 11, 12, 13 ‑- I am stricken with terror, wondering: How do you ever let them leave the house? These girls are utterly unprepared for what is going to hit them on the streets, in their first jobs, at parties, in parking lots. How do you prepare them never to walk too close to a parked car, lest they get jumped? How do you teach them to be quick-witted enough to get rid of some guy who insists on following them home, or who hollers things that reduce them to their breasts? As Chemaly writes:
    The first time it happened to me, I was nine and an older boy told me he could "do what he wanted" to me in an empty schoolyard. At 12, I was walking on a busy street the first time a man grabbed my arm so he could "take a good look at me." I was 15 the first time a group of guys followed me in their car, in a busy urban area, while they barked and hooted. I was 17 the first time a man flashed me while masturbating in a public place. I'm 45 and it's still going on. And, I'm not alone; 98% of all women report that they experience street harassment.
    When my confident, curious, adventurous 12-year-old daughter asked if she could go get ice cream by herself (we live in a city) the first thing that I thought of was how to prepare her to hear:
    "Where's my smile, baby?"
    "Wanna go for a ride?"
    Chemaly points to some resources working on ending street harassment. To her list, let me add two books: Back Off! How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers by Martha Langelan, which gives honest and fabulous advice. (I learned a lot, although I’m well past street-harassment age, thank God.) The second might surprise you: young feminist Jaclyn Friedman’s new book What You Really Really Want: the Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety. (Review here.) Give it to your teen. Really.

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