Posts Tagged ‘SlutWalk’

What does it mean to walk the walk? Were you there for SlutWalk 2012?

July 26, 2012

Over the last few months various “SlutWalks” have taken place across Canada, with some still on the agenda for the immediate future. These events have gained popularity since last year when they began over a flippant sexist comment made by an ignorant police officer, and organizers hope to make the marches annual events. The disgusting and offensive comment was made in Toronto by Constable Jackass Michael Sanguinetti who stated the following:
“women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Shockingly, this did not go over well with the public the good Constable was assigned to serve and protect. Many were outraged at the blatant attitude of victim blaming within police services this statement represented. Two Toronto women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized an event that brought thousands of women and men to protest in the streets of Toronto and in front of police headquarters to demand accountability for their attitudes towards women and victims of sexual assault. They called it SlutWalk. Since then, SlutWalks have been organized in many other cities in Canada, the US and around the world. Some cities, such as the one I live in (Vancouver), have already had the pleasure experiencing round 2, SlutWalk 2012. These events are carefully planned, with organizers regularly updating websites, twitter feeds, facebook sites etc. Some websites even allow supporters to donate money through the site to cover organizational costs. Many of the websites outline their own mission statements, values and goals which are generally congruent with each other and adapted from the “original” SlutWalk Toronto website.

The SlutWalk Toronto website, (www.slutwalktoronto.com), lists among their main goals advocacy against “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”. From the website: “Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation……so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated…….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…..We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise…….Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come……Join us in our mission to spread the word that those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception.”

On May 25 in Toronto about 1000 people took to the streets for SlutWalk 2012. The theme was “My Body is not an Insult”, however without any background information, a casual observer would be hard pressed to decipher a clear message from the diverse group of protesters who participated in the event/spectacle. Both women and men attended and were dressed in attire that ranged from the conservative (think business attire and even nuns habits) to lingerie. Some left most of their clothing at home choosing instead to go topless. Protesters displayed slogans everywhere from man made signs to t-shirts to bare flesh. Some phrases were clever and original while remaining moderate, relevantly bringing attention to the need for all of society to realize that the sexually victimized are never to blame under any circumstances.
“A dress is not a yes!”

“My dress doesn’t have a mouth but I do and I said  NO!”

“There is no Y-E-S in NO!”

Other statements were just crude with some making one wonder which side of the debate these people were really on.

“Sluts say yes” (Yes, this is for real. No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.)

“There’s no shaming this slut!”

“We’re taking slut back!” (Did we ever have it?)

“I’ll f**k just about anything, but only with consent.”

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Listen, I get the spirit of these protests. I was angry too when I heard Constable Sanguinetti’s statements. I agree that society has a way to go in the way that we view the victims of sexual assault. Sadly, opinions such as Sanguinetti’s are all too common. Women are often thought to have “asked for it” based on their style of dress, current or prior sexual escapades, line of work or attitude. Women get the message they should watch what they wear for fear of inciting rape when we should really be sending the message to men instead that raping a woman is never OK. It is especially unfortunate that those perfectly positioned to enable them to provide protection to those who have been victimized or who are most vulnerable would hold such misogynistic ideas. And it’s not just the police. In 2011 Manitoba Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar gave Kenneth Rhodes a conditional sentence instead of any jail time for a 2006 rape because he felt the victim sent signals that “sex was in the air” since she wore a tube top with no bra, high heels and lots of makeup, and flirted with Mr. Dewar before he forced himself on her on a dark highway. Justice Dewar said “This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.” From his ridiculous sentencing it is unclear whether he meant he felt Mr. Rhodes (whom he referred to as a “clumsy Don Juan”) was inconsiderate for raping the victim or the victim was inconsiderate for being such a cock tease. But don’t worry, the judge redeemed himself by adding “I’m sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” Well at least he realizes the woman   didn’t MEAN to ask to get raped. The mentality behind this type of injustice is infuriating. But I still can’t bring myself to back the SlutWalk movement.

I support the SlutWalk mission to bring attention to the mentality of victim blaming wholeheartedly and to try to change this. But ending slut shaming? Taking the word slut back? Calling myself a slut? You see, this is where the whole movement loses momentum with me. I don’t want to be called a slut, or any other derogatory term used to degrade and belittle women. The participants in SlutWalk seem to believe that by reclaiming the word ‘slut’ for themselves they are embracing and owning their sexual independence. I call bullshit. Regardless of whether you call yourself a slut or a prude or any other term used to sexually oppress women, you are really just giving more power and validity to these misogynistic words which have been used for decades or centuries in some cases to attack, shame, and demoralize women. It is not feminism to conform exactly to the chauvinist idea of “sluttish” and to do it of your own accord in an effort to show the world that you are in control of your body and your sexuality.  Why would a woman want to proudly march in her skivvies with the word SLUT emblazened across her chest and be proud to bear this title which for so long has been used as a weapon thrown at women to punish them for their sexuality? Is this not the exact opposite of what the SlutWalk is trying to accomplish?

I’m going to be staying at home for SlutWalk 2013 in Vancouver. This will be my own silent protest. You should think about joining me.