Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sluts of St. Louis Unite

This Saturday, Faith Aloud joined a lace and leather-clad crowd to march in support survivors of sexual assault. The purpose of the provocatively named “Slutwalk” is to protest victim blaming that cites “slutty” clothing as a legitimate explanation for rape.

The original Slutwalk took place in Toronto as a direct response to policeman Michael Sanguinetti, who declared to a group of university students that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized." Since then, Slutwalk events have been happening all over to the US to continue to protest against blaming the victims of sexual assault for their attacks.

At the St. Louis Slutwalk, one protester, sporting leather shorts and pasties proudly wielded a sign that said “Stop Slut Shaming.” This sign, though only three words long, makes a poignant observation about the way in which issues such as such as sexual health, abortion, and sexual assault are addressed in the media and politics alike: with a heavy dose of shame.

Recently, when voting against funding for Planned Parenthood, New Hampshire council member Raymond Wieczorek said, "I am opposed to abortion. I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party but don't ask me to pay for it." But with respect, Mr. Wieczorek, this is not a “party.” This is life. The reality is (surprise!) people have sex, so we need to make an effort to keep them safe and healthy. Regardless of any attempt to condemn them, women will claim their power to choose when to have children and when not to, and we must be respectful and understanding of their choices. The very sobering reality is that people will be raped, and they need our compassionate support, and absolutely not our blame.

Shaming accomplishes nothing. It doesn’t end rape, it just keeps survivors from being able to speak out about their abuse without somehow being blamed for it. Similarly, abortion patients are shamed into silence for fear of face a torrent of judgment for the most responsible choice they could have made. Shaming is nothing short of bullying—it seeks to build up oneself (or one’s political party) by degrading another.

Worst of all, shaming creates the false security that comes with “othering.” By blaming rape on “slutty'' clothing, or abortion on a “promiscuity,” people think they can distance themselves from the issue and convince themselves that it will never happen to them or someone close to them. However, rape occurs across all ages, race, genders, incomes, and levels of education, in mini-skirts and sweat pants. Across all demographics, nearly half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and bullying will not decrease the number of abortions. One in three women in America will have an abortion in their lives, and believe me, this includes Republicans and Christian women (in fact, 13% of abortion patients describe themselves as born-again or Evangelical Christians, and 27% say they are Catholics)*. Odds are that at least one woman Councilman Wieczorek respects has had an abortion, but would never feel comfortable telling him.

The Bible explicitly forbids the kind of victim blaming we see all too often, quite frequently coming from self-proclaimed Christian sources. Let us kindly remind them: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart” (Zechariah 7:9-10).

Faith Aloud calls on our followers and opponents alike to have a little compassion. Morality is not about blaming others, morality is about looking within oneself to cultivate “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" (Collossians 3:12). True morality lies within the way we treat others. So stop shaming. Love your neighbor. And as always, carry your faith aloud!

*Photo from theriverfronttimes.com

*All statics come from the National Abortion Federation website.