A Follow-Up To “The Funny Thing About The ‘Slutwalk'”

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article (one of the first I ever published) that talked about women.

I talked about the Slutwalk, specifically, a movement that started in Toronto originally to protest a local Constable saying that, in order to avoid being victimized, women should avoid “dressing like sluts.” The movement has grown since, having incarnations in many cities, and really taking on a life of its own. And aside from the actual marches themselves, it has also sparked a general conversation about the discourse around rape, rape culture, and what leads to victims being blamed for what has happened to them by — in some way or another — not doing what they’re supposed to.

When I wrote the article, I was angry. I had seen things in the modern feminist movement that I disagreed with and felt were trying to “speak for me,” I thought the witch hunt for this particular Constable was unfair, and I — having always been a person who naively thought “better safe than sorry” — felt that what he said had some degree of merit. I wrote it and it was published quickly, my editor here aware that the topic was relevant, that it was a news topic which, like most things on the internet, should be addressed quickly, lest we miss out on the conversation that was clearly happening right now.

The truth is, when I look back on the article today, I cringe. And I don’t cringe because of all the negative comments — though, let’s be honest, that’s never pleasant. I cringe because it was something that I thought and, in my ignorance, said loud enough for the world to hear. It was something that I signed my name to, something that was so offensive as to lead some to think that I had done it just to be contrary. (For the record, I could not have anticipated the response, and it was certainly not done to attract that kind of attention — “all press is good press” only makes sense until you’re getting the worst kind of press, the kind that is both unflattering and true.) But I cringe at myself, and at the idea that some people — many people, even — might rightfully think that it is still how I feel.

And to be clear, it isn’t. I’m not so naive as to imagine that we live in a society free of judgment on appearance, and you wouldn’t wear pyjamas to a job interview, but we do live in a society that tells women that there is a certain line they can’t cross when it comes to how they dress, who they sleep with, or how much they enjoy sex. I’ve been accused, like many women, of not doing something “right” sexually or as a woman before, and it is arguably the most insidious kind of judgment, because it not only imposes an arbitrary moral authority, but pretends to do so “for the good of society.” No one deserves any kind of sexual aggression, no one has “too much” sex or doesn’t present themselves in the “right” way, and no one should ever contribute to the ideas that those moral lines exist. And I did. With one article, I gave credence to every person who ever told a woman that she deserved what she got, that she didn’t merit respect, that she wasn’t one of the “good” ones. I am embarrassed to have done that, and glad to have learned.

It would be disingenuous for me not to say, though, that I do still hold some problems with some of the “mainstream” feminist discourse around rape culture. I think that it too often paints rape and sexual assault as uniquely male-on-female, that it ignores prison rape, that it silences women of color (the white girl holding the “Woman is the n-gger of the world” sign at Slutwalk was inarguably in poor taste), and forgets trans* people. I think that it’s essential that we start talking about sexual assault more as a crime that can, and does, affect people of all demographics, sexes, colors, and gender presentations, instead of just a unique issue that is inflicted upon cis women by cis men. But the fundamental idea that we can ever “deserve” our attack, based on dress or on any other factor, is one that needs to be eradicated from society completely. That, we can all agree on.

I learned a lot from writing this piece, and from its response. I learned how much my words could hurt people, and the responsibility that comes with having a platform of this or any size to espouse these kinds of harmful ideas. I have become acutely aware of the danger of this culture of “get the piece in today, while it’s relevant” that is taking over our society. Often, in the rush to join a conversation or pass judgment on an issue, we say things without giving them the reflection or the education they require to really formulate an argument or statement. I have bitten my tongue on many things since, and am glad that I did, because a short time later, I realize how hasty and uninformed such a statement would have been. And though I can never take back what I originally said early last April, I can take a general sense of reflection and becoming informed with me to everything I write in the future.

Most importantly, I want to say that I’m sorry. I want to say I’m sorry to anyone I hurt in writing that, anyone I made feel — even for just a moment — that they deserved what they got or one day might get, that I don’t care about their pain. Though it’s not anyone’s duty to forgive me or to ever read my writing again, it is mine to do my best to convey how much I am ashamed to have said such damaging things. I have been lucky enough to succeed and grow as a writer in spite of having hurt people with my words, and feel incredibly grateful for all of the people that have been able to forgive my mistake and read and enjoy my work in spite of the ugly things I said.

In the end, I will always write things that people will disagree with, and so will everyone else. You can never please everyone, and negative feedback is an integral part of writing for public consumption. But there are certain lines one should never cross, and I crossed it. I said something that, beyond just being ignorant and wrong, can actively hurt people. I, like many of us, have made a mistake — and I hope to continue to learn from it every day. TC mark

image – Tukuru Obscene

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • http://gravatar.com/jereich2 jereich2

    This piece is beautiful as it is rare. You go, Chelsea!

  • The MacKenzie Method

    This is a fantastically thought out apology, and I’m glad you’ve come to feel this way over the last year.

  • http://twitter.com/rob_t_firefly Rob Vincent (@rob_t_firefly)

    Very illuminating.

  • humblecore


  • http://twitter.com/caromaldonado24 Carolina Maldonado

    I remember how angry and disappointed that article made me feel. I couldn’t believe that a woman roughly my own age could feel like that. It’s good to see that you understand where all the negative comments were coming from and I think it’s very brave from you to publicly acknowledge this. It’s true that the feminist movement has a lot of flaws, but as women of this generation we have to remember how much we owe to it.

  • milajaroniec

    Proud of you for writing this! Well done.

  • http://gravatar.com/michaelkohhh michael koh

    “You can never please everyone, and negative feedback is an integral part of writing for public consumption.” So true, so true.

    What a great article, Chelsea!

  • Ryan O'Connell

    yayyyyyyyyyyy so good

  • Sarah

    Looking back at the first article, I could tell it was something a younger me would have 100% agreed with. I never expressed my opinions on a public forum, but i’m still incredibly ashamed that was how I felt. We all grew up swallowing that bullshit, and it’s a process learning to think these things through. I’m glad you not only had a change of heart but had the balls to admit you were wrong and re open discussion on an obviously embarrassing part of your writing career

  • TheGreenDoor

    I’ve been avoiding articles on Thought Catalog lately because most of them end up having a lot of grammatical errors or they just aren’t well written. This, however, was perfect. It was well thought out and well written and even though I didn’t see the original article when it first came out, I’m glad to see you’ve changed your mind. I went to catholic school growing up and I was always taught that women are supposed to dress modestly so that they look respectable and men won’t treat them like a piece of meat. I only realized within the past 2 years that that way of thinking was completely wrong. I hadn’t realized that I still carried certain beliefs from my upbringing even though I stopped practicing that religion years ago. This article gives me hope that other girls might change their minds as well.

  • eff sox

    “I do still hold some problems with some of the ‘mainstream’ feminist discourse around rape culture. I think that it too often paints rape and sexual assault as uniquely male-on-female, that it ignores prison rape, that it silences women of color (the white girl holding the ‘Woman is the n-gger of the world’ sign at Slutwalk was inarguably in poor taste), and forgets trans* people.”

    Where are you getting that idea? I’ve taken several women and gender studies courses, all of which delved deeply into the issues of prison rape, child rape, race, class, privilege, trans people, and much more. All those issues are in the forefront of almost every contemporary feminist conversation. While there was a lot of transphobia historically in mainstream feminism, in 2012, it’s naive to say feminism ignores trans people.

    I’m glad to see you recognize how problematic and hurtful that piece you wrote last year was.

  • Tory

    Thanks, Chelsea. That article angered me at the time and I can’t tell you how glad I was to see your comment on an earlier post related to it, and then this article bringing the issue front and center again. I think you’re right about there being some problems with the current feminist movement’s approach to rape culture, although I’m beginning to see some pushback on issues like the effect on minorities and trans* issues. Articles like this bring a little more humanity and seriousness to a world sorely in need of it, and I think it was brave and just of you to come forward with it.

  • http://annogus.tumblr.com Anna

    <3<3 Thank you!!

  • Vanessa Parks

    The slut-walk piece is why I stopped reading TC. Thanks for writing this, Chelsea.

  • Tanner H

    Compelling. It’s hard to judge how hard you step on toes when you write something controversial

  • http://lajoiedevivre.tumblr.com Julia W

    I’m not going to lie — I couldn’t ever bring myself to read your stuff on here after that piece, Chelsea. I just couldn’t get past it, because I didn’t want to laugh at or tear up from or cheer for something written by someone who felt that way.

    This article made me feel so much better. I’m glad to hear the whole thing was a learning experience for you, and I’m just plain glad you feel differently now. And I’m glad that I can now read & enjoy things you write without feeling like I’m betraying my ideals.

    It takes a certain measure of courage to be able to take mistakes we make and really grow from them. Not to mention to talk about them in such a public way. Good for you.

  • http://cookdancesing.wordpress.com steinlette

    Hell yeah! That piece was one of the few I’ve read from you that didn’t sit very well.

    You rock, girl, and this article is fantastic.

  • http://twitter.com/Amphx AnnamariaPhilippeaux (@Amphx)

    I didn’t come across that first article until now, but to be completely honest, I did not find it to be as misogynistic and despicable as so many others took it to be. Perhaps the issue being discussed could have been handled a bit more delicately, but I never got the impression that the piece was written from a place of hatred towards women on your part. Either way, many people took it very hard so you writing this for them is beautiful and honorable.

  • Adolf Hipster

    Who the shit spells it “pyjamas”?

    • Tanner H

      certainly not bananas

    • silverfaire

      Canadians and Brits

  • http://www.twitter.com/iamthe0nly wtf wordpress BS

    I might have been the only girl (or person) who read the Slutwalk article and loved it. I’m glad that we both realized that was a fucked up opinion. I’m also glad you are the one who is talented enough to be published because I’m a scaredy cat and I don’t know how I could have dealt with all that. I’m glad you pushed through the haterade cuz lmfao gurlfren, etc praise etc

  • http://www.facebook.com/MorganBoothArt Morgan Booth

    Thank you for this Chelsea

  • http://www.facebook.com/arbiebaguios Arbie Baguios

    I didn’t want to read that first post Chelsea because I didn’t want to hate you. But now I’ve read this and just wanted to say you are amazing for apologizing. Keep it up. :-)

  • Guy

    Chelsea, I really haven’t been able to read your articles since the Slutwalk piece because it colored everything you said for me. After reading this, and seeing how genuine you are about it, my respect for you as a person and a writer has shot up by about 10,000%. I still disagree with you often, but at least from now on, it will be respectful and constructive disagreement. Thanks.

  • boorf

    The slutwalk article did really sting to read, but I think it has been clear from following your writing here and on Tumblr over the last year than you have, idk, grown or w/e good shit. I mean, based on that article, I kind of made up my mind to always hate everything you wrote from then on and I just couldn’t and you made me a fan anyway :P

  • http://twitter.com/ltlboots Brittany Dalton (@ltlboots)

    I have found myself in a similar position to yours before. At my college newspaper this spring, my final semester, I wrote a column about girls dressing a certain way for men. I had a point, but out of anger, and ended up writing something that offended many young women. I dealt with hateful comments from women that didn’t even live in the same state, and a couple of these girls continued to post hateful things on subsequent columns for weeks.

    I said then, and maintain now, that I will not back down from the things I wrote. However, in the time since that article, I’ve realized that it’s not my place ever to judge anyone else, for how they dress. I’d hate that treatment if it were reciprocated toward me. I hate the idea that someone’s hateful comments could be seen as “what changed my mind.” Because they aren’t.

    It was a personal realization in myself, and not thanks to anyone else. I enjoyed reading this and didn’t read the original peace, but thank you Chelsea. I’m heartened to know that others have been in this situation, and others have come through it bettered as you and I are.


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