Friday, October 28, 2011

Slut Walk participant pissed that newspaper had the audacity to run her photo

The Dal Gazette, the student newspaper for Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, sent reporters and photographers to the local Slut Walk event. In its coverage, the paper included the photo to the left, accompanied by this story, which explained the mission of Slut Walk. Among other things the newspaper noted: “A person’s attire or activity is not provocation for sexual violence.”

The story did not identify the woman pictured.

But Emilia Volz, a third-year gender and women's studies student at the University, said the photo was of her. Volz wrote to the student newspaper and said this: "This was quite a surprise for me as NO ONE had asked if it would be ok to publish this picture. I am not mad, at all, I just wanted to bring light to the fact that if anyone else had a photo like that in the paper without express permission they would be quite pissed off. I do not want an apology or anything of the type to be published."

Then Volz proceeded to complain about other aspects of the paper's coverage; specifically, it allegedly quoted someone who was not at the event. At no point in the letter did Volz request a retraction of the photo.

But the newspaper didn't print Volz's letter. Instead it ran an editorial explaining that it is "naive to expect journalists wouldn’t do their job" in covering the events.  And it explained why the editors felt the paper had every right to show the photo."Our Slut Walk article made waves because we had the audacity to take a photograph of one of the protesters who was marching in only her bra."

The editorial continued: "Any event held on public property can be photographed. In a rented building, or a private building–that’s different. If you march down a main street in a bra, the media will take your photo. If you lead a march protesting violence against women, you will get reporters asking tough questions. It’s naive to expect otherwise. Welcome to public life."

Well, the editorial apparently didn't sit well with Volz. Volz took her case to the court of last resort, the Dalhousie Women’s Centre. The Women's Centre sent this over-the-top -- indeed, other-worldly -- notice to their members (FRS's commentary is interspersed):

"It has come to our attention that the Dalhousie Gazette published a photograph of a woman's body without her permission in print and on the Internet.When she objected . . ." [she "objected" by declaring that she wasn't mad about it and was not seeking an apology or anything else] ". . . they refused to take it down [they didn't "refuse" to do anything -- they weren't asked to do anything] and the Editor-in-Chief wrote a victim blaming editorial: ‘Smile you’re at a protest.’ [Read that again: it is "victim-blaming" to show a photograph of a woman who purposefully dressed in a sexualized manner in order to make the point that women should not be raped even when they dress in a sexualized manner? This characterization borders on the pathological]  We believe it’s unethical to distribute pictures of individual’s bodies without consent, that this picture was taken without context and thus defeating the purpose of the event and that the Gazette's Editor-in-Chief is perpetuating the victim blaming culture that the protest was fighting against. [The picture was used in context, it was positioned next to a news report that explained the purposes of the Slut Walk] If you have as much of a beef with this as we do, come by tomorrow and write or sign a letter from 10am to 4pm at the Centre."

Volz also complained to a local news outlet. "Ok, she thinks. I did wear a bra to a protest. So maybe I was asking for this to happen... Wait! Isn’t that the problem that Slut Walk seeks to address? No matter what women wear, they aren’t asking to be objectified, raped, sexually harassed, or used by anybody else as a sexual object to draw attention to a story in a newspaper?"

Wait, wait, wait. I'm lost.

Didn't you purposefully dress in a sexualized manner -- in a very real sense, you objectified yourself -- in order to make the perfectly valid point that women should be permitted to present themselves as sexualized beings without being raped?

I mean, you, and likely others at the Slut Walk, dressed that way specifically to draw attention to the message you were trying to convey, right?  And yet for some reason you are pissed that a newspaper ran a photograph of the body you purposefully sexualized to get your message across? 

Come again? 

News coverage of Slut Walks the world over has shown women with less covering their torsos than you wore, Ms. Volz.

The sex columnist at the Gazette, Hayley Gray, quit in protest of the paper's puported mistreatment of Volz: "[The] message of [Slut Walk] was that, no matter what someone wore, they deserved to be treated with respect and asked for their consent." 

Right, their consent to engage in sexual relations. Ya know, it is not a crime for men and boys to look, or, heaven forbid, even to have an involuntary erection when they do. That doesn't mean they assume she's a piece of meat without a brain, and here's the important point: it doesn't give them license to rape or harass.

And photojournalists covering Slut Walks are going to show some of the things the participants did to get their message across. That's just how it goes.

Gray continues: "So 'If you march down a main street in a bra' I get to snap your photo and not try to ask for consent, doesn't cut it. It actually perpetuates the rape myths and victimizing culture that enraged individuals to create slut walks in the first place."

The misplaced rage in the previous sentence seems to have blinded the author to the fact that it makes no sense. "Rape myths"?  A woman purposefully showed off her body and a newspaper ran a picture of it to make the very point the accompanying news story explained. That has as much to do with "rape myths" as does a ham sandwich. And "victimizing culture"? If the photographer had sneaked in her dorm room and snapped the picture, that would be a "victimizing culture." Not when she intentionally parades down a public thoroughfare exposing her body to make the very point the newspaper got across.

But let's not quibble about this. Let's just have the Women's Centre write the stories, and take the photos, for the newspaper. That way, they can control the message and make sure it's presented "exactly right" -- as they determine what's "exactly right."  And above all else, they can make sure they don't run a photo of someone so attractive that it might actually elicit an involuntary erection in some misogynistic college boy.

The message of Slut Walk -- that women don't ask to be raped by the way they dress -- is one that no rational person can disagree with. But, once again, extremist gender warriors do the cause far more harm than good by coming off as asses.

Source:  http://halifax.openfile.ca/blog/curator-blog/exclusive/2011/slutwalker-says-student-paper-screwed