Why the slutwalks? I've read a few different theories. Laura Wood believes that many of the women protesting are genuinely fearful of rape but are seeking protection from it in a counterproductive way:
what are these women protesting? As I said, they are frightened. There is such a thing as rape, and they cannot process that reality. They have no way of understanding or making sense of it – and so they protest against it, hoping that outrage alone will make it go away. They want a world in which rape does not occur. Such a thing is not possible. However, there is a way to gain some measure of safety. A woman can protect herself against rape not by participating in protests, especially protests defending sluttiness, but by earning the protection of good men. Men protect women against men. The sensible path for a woman in a dangerous world – and the sensible path for women collectively – is to earn the protection of good men. Protection is not a right, but a privilege.
Women earn the protection of good men by dressing modestly, by recognizing the nature of masculinity, and by remaining faithful. Then their safety increases.
Grerp at The Lost Art of Self-Preservation (for Women) looks on it as an assertion of female sexual empowerment. She argues that it's unreasonable for women to dress to get the maximum sexual attention from men and then object when the predictable reaction can't be controlled as tightly as they want it to be:
Women apparently feel that the new frontier of empowerment hinges on their ability to dress like brothel workers and demand others respect them for their bad taste and attention whoring. For this women are marching: to look like the best lay a gold-mining saloon could offer; as in, not obviously diseased.
Look, let's be honest with ourselves as women. Can we all agree that we don't go out in a pink halter tops and satin hot pants because of the comfort factor? We don't dress that way to impress our girlfriends with our sense of style either. Women dress in miniscule, tight, sexy clothing to get the attention of men. And it is effective. Unfortunately, women can't always control how that attention channels itself. And instead of acknowledging that limitation - that this is a built-in trade-off for guaranteed male attention - they throw a group tantrum, wag a bunch of fingers, and attempt to control the reaction they provoke through chanting, and shaming, and what have you.
Wouldn't it just be easier to wear figure flattering clothing that manages to cover up the essentials? Women looked gorgeous in Edwardian clothing. The success of Mad Men has to hinge in no small part on wardrobe envy - women and men staring at how fantastic people used to look in tailored, buttoned up clothes. Most of the time, with clothes, more is more. Dress decently, and you spare yourself the possibility of trouble.
Bonald at Throne and Altar is sceptical that the issue is really about rape. He thinks the slutwalks are about legitimising female sexual promiscuity:
The rape issue is a red herring. It has nothing to do with the real issue, which is the social legitimation of female promiscuity. These marches are not meant to intimidate potential rapists; they’re meant to intimidate social conservatives. The sluts are only tying together the issues of social disapproval and sexual violence as a rhetorical trick to cast themselves as victims even as they go on the attack...
The sluts are not victims; they are aggressors. Their victim is society itself. Their goal is social approval for female sexual promiscuity. The MRM and “game” advocates (who I have elsewhere criticized) have painted a disturbing but very plausible picture of where widespread female promiscuity will ultimately lead. A few of the most desirable men monopolize women during their young, attractive years. Then after getting old and being discarded by these “alphas” from their harems, women “settle down” and allow themselves to be supported by a “beta provider” husband.
I don't think Bonald's point should be discounted. At the Melbourne rally, a lot of the emphasis was on the idea that there was nothing wrong with being a slut. There were placards reading "Stop slut shaming" and speakers made comments such as "reclaiming the word slut is going to disempower it" and "enough of the judgements about our sexualities".
At Camera Lucida, Kidist Paulos Asrat developed my own arguments in an interesting way. I had noted in a post about Ita Buttrose that in the early 1970s in Australia a group of feminist women accepted the idea of autonomy (of being self-defined rather than defined as women), but that they rejected the radical idea of giving up on heterosexual relationships with men. This was the birth of a "sex positive" feminism in Australia.
Kidist Paulos Asrat believes that this leads to a kind of schizophrenia, in which women don't want to reject feminism by appearing too feminine but in which they still feel a natural need to express their female selves:
I think what is going on is that women secretly yearn for femininity (although I think this is an actual biological reaction and need, rather than an "autonomous desire"). But they cannot succumb to this need for fear of appearing to reject feminism, as Richardson shows above. Imagine the schizophrenic back and forth that must be going on in their minds!
As I wrote above, one way young women can avoid this schizophrenia is by sporadically, and in a limited way, adding feminine touches - such as having children, but avoiding caring for their children, or wearing lipstick, but pursuing high profile, and highly demanding, careers...
One thing I've noticed here is that young women are wearing extremely short skirts, and now in spring, they're donning very short cut-out shorts, often (as though this will help) with dark tights. These skirts are dark, dreary, and ugly. At least the sixties brought color and pizazz with mini-skirt fashion.
My assessment of this depressingly ugly trend (many of the girls are over-weight, so we are forced to look at bulging body parts as well) is that it's that schizophrenic attempt at reconciling femininity with autonomy: I will dress how I want, but I will also look like a girl. It is the "sex positive" (to use Ricahrdson's coinage) compensation of reconciling femininity with autonomy. But all they end up looking is like prostitutes, which is the last thing - consciously, at least - they're after.
One major point of evidence for this argument is the tendency for female fashions over the past 40 years to swing back and forth between grunge and the overtly sexual. There hasn't been a consistent fashion trend for women to relax into a feminine dress style which emphasises elegance or beauty.
I'll finish by going back to Bonald's argument that the slutwalks are really about legitimising female promiscuity. Why would feminist women want to do this?
I can think of a number of reasons, but I'd like to focus on two. The first is that women are at a peak of their sexual power in their 20s. Some women might, therefore, resent moral restraints on their sexuality at this time. In particular, they might conceive that they are using their sexuality to "trade up" amongst men as much as they are able.
What these women need to understand is that a sexual free-for-all will ultimately be harmful to them. Their window of sexual power is relatively short-lived. If there are to be no moral restraints, then men, on finding that they have the advantage of sexual power in their 30s and 40s, will be in a position to "trade in" or "double up" when it comes to women.
There is, in other words, a purpose to the traditional restraints on sexuality. They are not there simply as a patriarchal imposition on women.
A second reason "progressive" women might have to advocate promiscuity is that the new, trendy life script is for women to defer marriage and family until their 30s. If family formation is delayed for this long, then people are not likely to be chaste in the meantime. The 20s will be thought of as a time for more casual sexual relationships.
The odd thing about this is that many of the women deferring marriage and family, effectively leaving it last and to the last minute, still see it as an important fulfilment in life, something they don't want to miss out on. And yet they are risking never getting there by leaving it for so long.
It's not just that they are leaving motherhood till the dying moments of their fertility. They are also undermining a culture of family life amongst men. Men face a choice early in life. They can enjoy the company of their mates whilst pursuing erotic sexual encounters with women - and this is not an unappealing lifestyle for many men. Or they can set aside the urge toward promiscuity in favour of the higher goods of a loving and secure relationship with a wife, experiencing love and respect as a husband and father, making an adult contribution to society and their own tradition by raising a family and so on.
But what happens if the higher goods are withdrawn as an option because women want to leave family formation until something close to middle-age? What if women seem to mostly be offering casual relationships, with sex being the main thing on offer? It shouldn't then be surprising if fewer men in society develop into reliable family men. The family man culture will gradually decline.