In Brazil, a very interesting situation happened during the last World Youth Day (WYD), which is an event organized by the Catholic Church for young people to learn and celebrate their faith. On July 27, while the WYD was occurring, members of the SlutWalk decided to protest against the repression of the female body and the mystification of the feminine, which, at least in the Occident, was greatly caused by Christianity (but takes its origins from much earlier times).
The ‘protesters’ decided to claim respect and to fight against prejudice and repression, demonstrating that they are free and that they are the only ones responsible for their bodies. The great problem is the way this ‘protest’ has occurred. Many people know that the SlutWalk has provocative way of protesting, in which women typically dress with shorter clothes, referring to the common sense that if a girl sleeps around, she is a slut, and if a guy does the same, he is a stud.
Even though each country has its own characteristics and problems regarding the female gender, SlutWalks usually denounce and bring attention to the rape culture, in which people are surrounded with images and values that perpetuate violence against women.
In Brazil, the SlutWalk decided not only to protest against the rape culture but also against Christianity. The protesters had posters and bans with provocative and even disrespectful messages to the many tourists that came from all around the world to celebrate the Christian faith. They dressed making symbolic references to the Church, masturbated with holly images and crosses and broke many religious symbols.
Being a feminist, I consider a duty of mine to defend every attitude that empowers women in a positive way and to denounce and criticize when the oppressed become oppressors. Unfortunately, the SlutWalk in Rio de Janeiro was very disrespectful and did not manage to deepen the dialogue of the female role in modern society. Instead, feminists where furthered repelled because of the ‘theatrical act’.
It is important to highlight that I am not against the SlutWalk itself or to protesting in a provocative way, but the idea is only interesting if relevant to improving the dialogue about the female gender. If the actions are only offensive in a mere vulgar manner, than the debate itself has not been richen.
The organizers of the SlutWalk informed that the breaking of holly sculptures was not planned by them, but said that the protest defended artistic freedom as well as freedom of thought. They also informed newspapers that they believed the Walk was a huge success in Rio de Janeiro.
The episode was very unfortunate and reminded us how important it is to respect other beliefs in order to be respected. It is not necessary to say that, when defending an argument, one should always try to understand others, what doesn’t mean to be conniving. Criticize one’s religious believe is an ignorant and prejudicial attitude.
The aggressive and extremely negative image the SlutWalk in Rio was very damaging to the serious feminists that discuss and contribute to a lucid debate about the feminine.
I am sure that those who have seen the photos all over the internet of the SlutWalk were, to say the least, shocked and irritated. Brazil is a country extremely sexist, where most of its population is catholic. A lot of improvement could be made by the Brazilian SlutWalk.
Unfortunately, instead of contributing with interesting arguments and denouncing domestic violence and rape, still quite common in Brazil, feminists from the Walk managed to receive negative critics and even more prejudice because of the incredibly socking and barbarian acts occurred. We, as feminists, cannot let these misrepresentations and terrifying lack of disrespect towards others happen. Feminism? Yes, but with respect and responsibility!
Gabriela Isa Rosendo Vieira Campos