By all means I should be blogging about a weekend in London – a weekend that was a photographer’s dream come true. In addition to the Naked Bike Race in Hyde Park, London had its very own Slut Walk. Why oh why did I not replace my stolen camera prior to the weekend?
A bit of background would be helpful for my American readers. The Naked Bike Race is not restricted to London. Oh no. It is, in fact, an annual event that takes place in 50 cities all over the world. (To include Seattle… but enough said, we all know about Seattle. And if they ride naked in Seattle, surely they ride naked in the Republic of Boulder.)
Quoting from the website: http://www.worldnakedbikeride.org/uk, “The ride is an optional clothing protest against oil dependency and car culture.” I’m looking at photos from last year’s ride. I see lots of naked bodies. Somehow the tennis shoes, the hats, and the backpacks seem a bit perverse. Surely Lady Godiva did not sport a backpack. But then again, she probably didn’t have to leave the generosity of Hyde Park and ride on home in front of less forgiving folks.
London’s Slut Walk, one of 75 walks worldwide, was organized to protest the notion that women who dress provocatively are “asking for it.” In particular, the women are taking a stand against judges who do not sentence all rapists equally. They reject the notion that some rapes are less heinous than others.
Their marching slogan says it best: “Hey hey, ho ho, yes means yes and no means no. Whatever I wear, wherever I go, yes means yes and no means no.”
It might be my advanced age, this inclination towards prudishness, but I tend to have mixed feelings on this issue. On one hand, rape is always wrong – no ifs, ands or buts.
But (Oh my goodness! Didn’t I just write “no if, ands and buts”?), men are visual creatures. With no forethought and despite their higher thought processes, that lizard part of men’s brains (that part that is home to lust, anger and aggression) directs men’s eyes straight to sluttish dress.
If a woman dresses provocatively, she is provoking a response. It is a clear case of cause and effect. I check the Thesaurus for provoke: to cause, elicit, trigger, whip up, stir, activate, prompt, incite, bait, inflame, and rouse.
To me, if whipping up or rousing is a woman’s intent, she cannot also play the victim. Needless to say, I did not join the Slut Walk. I do, however, regret (as do you) my not taking pictures.
I live in the gray zone. It is hard for me to align myself with the absolutists which takes me to the debate over “Thought for the Day,” a three-minute, spiritual reflection that has run for years on Radio 4.
News presenter John Humphries, whom I admire greatly, has said, that it is “frankly bizarre” to set aside three minutes a day for a sermon. An editorial writer in the June 11 Guardian wrote: “You should no more expect to hear a prayer during a train guard’s announcement than a sermon […] after the sports news. Or indeed a news bulletin during a Sunday sermon in church.” Another criticism is that atheists have not been given equal
I take exception to both Humphries and the Guardian. A three-minute spiritual reflection by a varied cross-section of presenters is hardly a sermon.
I find “Thought for the Day” a brief ray of sunshine that cuts through news of violence, scandal, and politics. Can you really read or hear about rape as a weapon of war and not hope for some softer more hopeful words?
Writing of my disdain for absolutes, I draw your attention to a photo of my favorite church window in London. You will find the window by Shirazeh Houshiary at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.
Houshiary is an Iranian transplant whose work is said to be steeped in Sufi mystical doctrine. One of the basic tenets of the Sufi religion is the transmission of the divine from the teacher’s heart to the heart of the student rather than worldly knowledge transmitted from mouth to ear.
The cross and the oval are distorted. I marvel at the artist’s ability to convey the unknowable.