Tomorrow sees not just Belfast Pride, but the first SlutWalk in Ireland. London, New York and Toronto have all had women take to the streets in a 21st century version of Take Back the Night.
But Belfast isn’t quite as liberal as those other cities. Even New Dehli’s SlutWalk is gaining more momentum than Belfast’s. For one, India’s parliament has the critical minority of one third women. Northern Ireland has around 18%. Women are not quite equals here, and the refusal to acknowledge this by Stormont is a real problem.
SlutWalk’s main objective is to point out that women are the victims of rape. But for such a Christian place, Northern Ireland expects women to be the virtuous virgin, and if she looks remotely provocative she needs to take responsibility for the actions of others. For some reason “she was asking for it” is often cited as an excuse. The idea of a girl going out in a tight dress and high heels, drinking too much is not a girl going out for fun, it is that she is looking for male attention. And should she get a bit more than she had first wanted, well it is her own fault.
In 2010 Northern Ireland’s conviction rate for rape was one in fifteen. It isn’t that the support centres aren’t there for women, it is that they have one word against the other, and the man tends to get listened to much more often.
There’s been opposition to the idea of SlutWalk from women who dislike the word slut. The problem is that there is no male equivalent to it. Men are players or studs. Women are slags and sluts. In an attempt to be derogatory, the term “man-whore” can be used, but whore isn’t gender neutral. If a woman wants to call herself a slut, then she can, but just because she says that doesn’t mean you can.
Belfast is different for marches, which is why there is only a contingent of Pride. It would have been nice to have the SlutWalk recognised on its own, but as it is meant to be sunny tomorrow let’s just hope for a good crowd supporting gay rights and condemning sexual violence.