(Slut)Walk This Way

April 3, 2011: Toronto's seminal SlutWalk / photo: Mark Blinch, Reuters

I was scrolling through my news feed today and came across a term I had never heard of before: SlutWalks. I felt that I needed to immediately stop whatever I was doing (watching You Tube videos of the Go Go’s….) and find out what SlutWalks are.

More Info: SlutWalk Toronto

The movement’s website states:

We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.

The idea of SlutWalks came about in response to a Toronto police officer’s comment in January 2011 that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” This officer perpetuated the commonly held belief that women who dress provocatively, or “slutty” are asking for or deserve to get raped. Unsurprisingly, Toronto’s feminist* community would not go quietly. On April 3rd, 2011 a group of around 3,000-4,000 men and women marched from Queen’s Park South near the Legislative Building to the Toronto Police Headquarters at 40 College Street to protest the unfair treatment of victims of sexual assault.  The Toronto SlutWalk has already inspired dozens of satellite SlutWalks across the United States, Canada, and the world in the past few weeks. The idea is to place responsibility on the RAPIST, and not the VICTIM.  A story from the Associated Press describes these marches:

        The events are similar to “Take Back the Night” rallies and other marches that aim to bring attention to sexual violence… SlutWalkers have danced to hip-hop, worn T-shirts with the word “slut” and held signs that read “sluts pay taxes.” Some women have skated around on inline skates in lingerie, while their male supporters wore shirts reading, “I love sluts”…rallies typically end with speakers and workshops on stopping sexual violence and calling on law enforcement agencies not to blame victims after sexual assaults.

Let’s be clear about one thing: no one asks to be raped. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, saying, or doing. Rape is an act of violence, power, and control. The Toronto police officer who made the disgusting comment is blaming the victim, something men have historically done in response to tragedies involving women (see:  Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire). Although I’m not an expert on this, I would venture to guess that rapists are more likely to walk free if the victim is described during her trial as someone who dresses or acts provocatively. Somehow rape is easier to digest if people believe that women who are assaulted are “asking for it” or “putting out certain vibes.” Participants of SlutWalks are marching in solidarity to raise awareness of sexual assault and victims’ rights. It is not so much about actually “dressing like a slut,” but rather about saying, “No one has a right to rape me simply based on what I’m wearing or what I look like.” It reminds me of  the protests that erupted in the late nineties  after the  Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the 18 year old female victim was said to have been wearing tight jeans at the time of the rape (the court declared that because tight jeans would be nearly impossible to pull off without the help of the girl wearing the jeans, the act must have been consensual).

Sexual violence against women is a DAILY reality all across the world. Campaigns against sexual violence like Denim Day and SlutWalks are creative and effective ways to bring about attention of this violence, and I applaud these women’s courage. To get involved in the movement and find a SlutWalk near you, head over to http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/satellite.

The first SlutWalk Santa Cruz will take place on May 14th, 2011. I’ll be out of town attending the opening of the Women Who Rock exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, but I hope to be at the SF Bay SlutWalk when it takes place (TBA).


*Let’s not go ape-sh** over this term. Feminists are people, both men and women, who believe that women deserve the same rights and protections that men have. If you think men and women should be equal, you’re a feminist.



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5 responses to “(Slut)Walk This Way

  1. Suzy

    sharing this with my feminist listserv. good writing rachie. really good.

  2. excellent! i just discovered you through “slut walk” and am glad to find you! will be reading through your past posts ASAP – feel free to do the same at my blog. hopefully i’ll see you at the SlutWalk Bay Area.

  3. Pingback: Turkish Mayor Offers “Obvious” Solution to Sexual Harassment | Projects and Musings by Rachel Ariel Scott

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