By Danielle,

SlutWalk: Yay or Nay?

10/17/2012 DK 3 Comments

When I first heard the term, "SlutWalk", I was stunned: What in the world could it mean? So, obviously, I did some online research.

According to Wikipedia, SlutWalk is a protest march against sexual assault and "against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman's appearance"; That is, excusing rape or sexual assault against women as the women's fault for dressing (and perhaps behaving) promiscuously. "The rallies began when Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, suggested that to remain safe, "women should avoid dressing like sluts." The first SlutWalk was held in Toronto, Canada, on the 3rd of April, 2011.

From the few pictures I have seen, it seems that a typical SlutWalk consists of women in "normal" or "slutty" clothes holding signs that read something like:
"Anyone can be called a slut."
"I am a slut bitch chick woman."
In my opinion, SlutWalk address one of the core problems we face against sexual assault: victim blaming. Blaming sexual assault on the women's choice of clothes implies that
a) when men see women in revealing clothes, they want to have sex with them;
b) men have no self-control, responsibility or commonsense;
c) men are forced to rape women or at least give them unwanted attention;
d) therefore, women are the reason why they are sexually assaulted/women consent to being raped when they dress "like a slut".
If this is valid, then I think it is safe to assume that we don't want this kind of unbelievably delusional and misinformed logic in our so-called "civilised" society.

This is the idea of SlutWalk, and as frustrating as it is that we even had to come this far, it is a good cause. However, I can't help but disagree with some aspects of it.

First of all, the word "slut".

According to, slut means "an immoral or dissolute woman; prostitute" or "a dirty, slovenly woman." It is a gender-specific word which only applies to women. Is there a male-equivalent word for "slut"? As far as I know, no. You could say, a "player", "womaniser", or even "man-whore", but they don't have the negative connotations of a "slut". (Perhaps there is a word as derogatory as "slut" to refer to men. If there is, let me know in the comments.)
So, why are we enforcing the use of this word to support a cause that is exactly opposite the meaning of the word? Women have the right to be sexually "unrestricted" and not be the target of name-calling, disrespect or sexual assault (although I am certainly a fan of the idea that both men and women be sexually modest), whereas a "slut" is a woman who is socially inappropriate and frowned upon. It seems that using this word as the name of the protest defies the point of the whole thing.

Against this objection to using the word "slut", some have said it is part of pushing the boundaries and the attention should be on sexual assault, not the word.

SlutWalk has attracted much more objections, including the remark by Maiy Azize that this approach is "another example of women defining their sexuality in male terms."

On the other hand, in support of SlutWalks, Mel's article "Why Slutwalk?" thoroughly explains the idea of it. The article is copied below:

One morning, when I was in eighth grade, I got dressed for school and went outside to wait for my father to drive me. I was wearing a long knit skirt, sweater, and some boots. My outfit would have met the requirements for an orthodox family temple outing. But when my father walked out the door and saw me, he told me I looked like a slut. I was devastated. More than that, I was baffled. 
You have to understand that, when I was a kid, my father and I were as close as two people could be. There was nobody on earth that I would rather have spent time with. My father wasn’t some uber-conservative, misogynist douchebag. He was the guy who always made me feel like my opinion was important.  He was the one who made me believe that there was nothing I could not do. 
There was nothing slutty about what I was wearing (if you believe in that sort of thing). It wasn’t about that. And at some level I knew that. But I still didn’t quite get what the hell was going on. All I knew was that my father’s attitude toward me changed. In fact, all men’s and women’s attitudes toward me changed. One day I was playing with barbies and the next day grown men on the street were trying to fuck me. The really mindboggling part was that somehow their desire was my fault. Somehow that made me dirty and wrong. There was some kind of code that I was missing. 
One of my friends at the time had the misfortune of having huge boobs. She would spend hours in a store trying to find exactly the right t-shirt. If it was too big, she would look fat. If it was too tight or the neck was too low, then she would look like a slut. In the hours that she spent trying to find a shirt that fell just perfectly on the spectrum between fat slob and dirty whore, she could have written a novel. 
It really didn’t matter if my friend found that perfectly chaste t-shirt. Because if something had happened to her, it would still have been her fault. If she was wearing a t-shirt, someone would say she should have been wearing a turtleneck. If she was wearing a turtleneck, someone would say that she should have been wearing a hijab. If she was wearing a hijab, someone would say the attack was due to some errant hair. 
The idea that girls and women are in some way responsible for other people’s action, for the sometimes truly awful things that people want to do to them, is pervasive. It is so pervasive that, when an eleven year old girl was gang raped, the first reaction was to examine her actions.  Really? Is there something that an eleven year old can do to bring something like that on herself? What kind of society even lets that thought pass through their heads? 
My teen-aged reaction to this bullshit (and a whole lot of other bullshit) was a big, punk rock Fuck You. I was not reading Betty Friedan. I did not have deep thoughts about how all of my personal mini-tragedies fit into a larger context. I knew that it hurt. I knew that trying to conform to social expectations would make me lose my fucking mind. I knew that, if I wanted to survive my teen years, I was going to have to give everyone the finger. 
So I did. It didn’t always work out. Sometimes I did some really self destructive shit. I spent way to much time acting in opposition to things and to people.  I did not understand that, when you are acting in opposition to people, you are still letting them define you. But it was the road I needed to take. 
I’m boring you with this tween years confessional because a couple of people have inquired about my participation in the upcoming DC Slutwalk. For those of you who have been on Mars for the last few weeks, there was an incident in Toronto that set off a firestorm.
“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here,” the officer said, according to Hoffman. “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
Women in Toronto got pissed. They decided to give that cop, and all the others like him, a big punk rock Fuck You. So the slutwalk was born. And women all over the world have been marching – sometimes scantily clad, sometimes not. Tiara marched with a sign that said,
This is what I wore when I was raped. I still did not ask for it
I think Katherine Feeney and Suzanne Moore were a bit like me as kids. They get the riot grrl attitudebehind the slutwalks. But lots of other people don’t like the slutwalks at all. Some people just don’t get the in your face fuckyouedness. Some people think that victim blaming really isn’t a problemanymore. Some think the word “slut” can’t be reclaimed. Some say the slutwalkers are just ruining things for real feminists. There are those who say it is too feminist and those who say it is not feminist enough. Some people think that it isn’t very sophisticated, only showing one side of the madonna/whore dichotomy. Still others say it is racist. 
Every day that I open my blog reader there are more articles on the slutwalks. And I was going to respond to the criticisms. I was going to write about how some people just don’t get the attitude. I was going to write about how things don’t always have to be so fucking intellectual. I was going to write about how I thought some of the criticisms were valid. But then I thought….Meh. 
The truth is that I am going to participate in the slutwalk because my inner fifteen year old thinks it is …like….totally….fucking… awesome. That’s it. I’m not going to intellectualize it or make excuses for its shortcomings. I’m not going to pretend that it is inclusive or that it is going to solve anything. I don’t believe that suddenly everyone is going to understand how debilitating it can be to be on the receiving end of that hate. 
One thing that is certain is that we are talking about this issue in a huge way. I think that is a good thing. I wish that there had been a big public discussion like this when I was a teen. Maybe it would have helped me. Maybe I would have put two and two together a little sooner. Maybe I would have seen how scared shitless and emotionally ill-equipped my father was. Maybe he and I would have found a way to heal our relationship before he died, because we would have understood that what was going on between us was much bigger than just us. 
Or maybe not. All I know is that me and my inner fifteen year old are going to put on a completely inappropriate outfit and give a big, cathartic Fuck You to a lot of clueless people. And it is going to feel good.
As with anything, I guess it is up to each individual to decide whether they agree or disagree with SlutWalk. However, despite the objections and possible shortcomings of the protest, the main point of SlutWalk remains important. There's definitely room for improvement in our flawed logic when it comes to sexual assault.

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