Monday, 4 April 2011

Slutwalk and Koran Burning



[Preamble: I'm a white atheist straight male living in Toronto Canada. So, except for the atheist thing, I'm speaking on these political, gender and religious issues from a position of privilege. This blog post represents my understanding at the moment.]


SlutWalk
Today, here in my beloved city of Toronto a huge crowd rallied and marched and demonstrated in the first possibly annual Slutwalk. It was in response to an idiotic, insensitive hurtful, perpetuating-antiquated-stereotypes comment by a Toronto Police officer who said, "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized".

The SlutWalk encourages women to dress how they want to dress, and joined by their families if they wish, to march from Queen's Park (our Province of Ontario house of legislature for you non-Canucks) to Police Headquarters. The basic message is simple: it doesn't matter how a woman dresses, she is not asking to be assaulted or raped.

The SlutWalk Toronto site is here.
BlogTO.com has a great interview about it.
Our Lady of Perpetual Win comments about it on Almost Diamonds.
Some footage from the rally by Torontopia.

* * *
Koran Burning
To shift gears, let's look at the actions of the Pastor in the USA who burned a Koran after threatening months ago to do so.  At first largely unnoticed by mainstream media, it was announced in Afghanistan by Hamid Karzai. After last Friday's prayers, a mob, possibly filled with Taliban infiltrators left a mosque, rioted and attacked a UN building, beheading two, and killing in total 15 people, revised upwards to 21 the next day.

New York Times.
Sam Harris's take on his new blog, with which I largely agree.
Josh Rosenau's response on Thoughts from Kansas, with which I largely disagree.
Notes and Comment.
Why Evolution is True.


Josh and I had a brief discussion on Twitter about it. If I may say, in the end I concluded, "Well it seems you and I agree the pastor is wrong to some degree, but murder is worse than book-burning to some degree."The rest of the conversation was a disagreement over the degree of blame lies at the Pastor's feet.

Basically, I find a lot of attention and blame in the media and some bloggers online are blaming the idiotic Pastor who burned the Koran for the deaths of the UN officials and other civilians in Afghanistan. 

What he did was provocative and idiotic, but hardly worth murder, beheadings and attacking an all-girls school (wtf, but yes really).

* * *



Responsibility for Violence
I can see a parallel - and very very significant differences- between the Pastor's Koran Burning and Slutwalk. Saying the Pastor should expect and therefore be be blamed for fanatical Islamic violence is similar in some ways to saying a "woman is asking for it". 

The Pastor is an ass - I personally don't like book burnings. I once worked at a school library where I was asked to burn some beautiful old Andrew Lang Colour Fairy books in the incinerator, because they were unpopular. I took 'em home. Josh pointed me to this post by PalMD pointing out that book-burning can be an act of violence and not just expression. But book-burning by a denounced nutbar should not be conflated to responsibility for beheading and murdering. 

Women should absolutely dress however they want. I agree with Ontario not having a double-standard when it comes to toplessness (though the social stigma is mainly still there, the legal barrier was and should have been removed.) Standards of what constitutes "proper" dress are fluid with the times and with individual tastes. One person's conservative is another person's offensive. And no clothing choice should be conflated to responsibility for being raped. 

In both situations, the blame for violence falls with the perpetrator of the violence, not with anyone who may or may not have provoked them.


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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

4 comments:

Stephanie Zvan said...

Well said, sir. There was an excellent article in The Atlantic recently, too, which used the Jim Crow to highlight the poverty of "asking for it" excuse-making.

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/03/gender-jim-crow/73229/#

It's also worth considering that if someone does actually ask for real personal violence to be done to them, a civil society doesn't oblige. We generally consider the request a marker of mental illness, to be treated rather than aided in self-destruction.

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Stephanie! You raise some more good points.

And thanks for the link.

Marco Ferrigno said...

i keep trying to tell my self the muslim religion does not breed insanity like the media makes it out to do and the news makes it appear to do so but when you see things like this you cant help but wonder if their stairs go all the way to the top...

the bible says an eye for an eye, so burn a bible, no need to kill people over an expression of ones opinion.

Glendon Mellow said...

Actually Marco, "eye for an eye" predates the Bible by about 1700 years, and dates back to the earliest law ever discovered, Hammurabi's Code.

(Oh - but the Bible is what the Pastor believes in, gotcha)

I generally think eye for an eye is kind of barbaric, but in the case of speech or expression, it's often totally appropriate. Meet the political cartoon head on with another political cartoon.

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