Slutwalk: Moving Against Intolerance and Toward Education

The ‘SlutWalk’ movement began in 2011 after Toronto policeman caused an outcry by telling a group of York  University students that women should ‘avoid dressing like sluts’ in order to avoid being sexually assaulted. It prompted protest marches by women wearing very little and holding signs such as “No means No”. His words had sparked a worldwide movement of women protesting the social stigma against victims of rape and it has been a topic of contervorsey in the media since then. Social media has helped the movement to quickly spread internationally and has been a key feature in the expansion of the movement. The walks are drawing major media coverage because it attracts great audience either because of the images of feminists reclaiming their power or simply images of young women dressed provocatively.

The mainstream media offers a sympathic and encouraging coverage of the global protest, it strengths the protest opinion that no rape victim is ever responsible for the crimes committed against them. Much of the framing of the conversations has been supportive of the aim of the organization as it tries to shift public and the criminal justice system attention from victim blaming to offender blaming. “Signs made by protesters showed that women are angry with being blamed for male violence and fed up with the failure of the culture to hold men accountable”(Dines and Murphy 2011). The media links the Slut Walk protest to current and past sexual assault cases where the victims did not act or dressed proactively in anyway. In the first protest in Toronto a women was carrying a sign ““Xmas 1985. 14 years old. Bundled in layers. How did I deserve it?”(Thomas 2011). This sign strengthened the protest goal which is to prove to the public and to the police that women are not to be blamed for their attack no matter what they wear. In another article the case of the 11 years old girl who was raped by 18 men in Cleveland was brought up to show that even when a child is involved there is still victim blaming, in that case it was due to the fact the young girl dressed older than her age. (Millar 2011). The co-founder of the Toronto Slutwalk Heather Jarvis has argued that no one deserves it and no one is asking for it not matter what they dress.

The controversial name has caused few critics to speak out against the way the movement is pursuing their goal. The Slut Walks have been a disruptive event amongst gender equality activists. Some say the term “slut” is better left to die than reclaimed as an empowering term. The protesters ignore the systematically abuse women suffer through social stigmas and judicial procedures and walk the streets bearing all with no consideration to whatever their actions help to advance women’s issues. Dines and Murphy (2011) support the main objective of the protest which is to shift the blame from the victim to the protester yet they do not support the way it is conducted, the media have argued that the protest is simply an excuse for some women to bear it all in public and has little to contribute to the abolition of victim blaming.(Dines and Murphy 2011).

According to Chelsea Fagan, a prominent blogger, dressing up as prostitutes attracts the wrong attention from men, and to remain safe women should dress more appropriately, women should simply avoid dressing like sluts as a precaution as sexual assaults could occur in any high density urban area. (Fagan 2011).  Such thinking reflects our neoliberalism society, where individuals are responsible for their own safety and are adults who are capable of assessing risk and acting appropriately.  Margaret Wente has argued that the old ways of blaming rape victims are no longer relevant in today’s criminal justice system and it is no longer the main public view. “The attitude that rape victims bring it on themselves has largely (though not entirely) disappeared from mainstream society. When a Manitoba judge recently blamed the victim in a rape case for leading her attacker on, he was universally ridiculed” (Wente 2011).  Slut Walks attempt to change society yet change occurs slowly and we must change the way society views sexual assault victims and remove the stigma that is placed on the victims. We must remember that if there is no rapist in the room there will be no rape, the victim should never take the fault in what happened to her regardless of what she was wearing.

References

CBC News. 2011. “Toronto ‘slut walk’ takes to city streets”. CBC News. April 3. Retrieved on November 29, 2012.(http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/04/03/slut-walk-toronto.html).

Dines, Gail and Wendy Murphy. 2011. “SlutWalk is not sexual liberation”. The Guardian. May 8. Retrieved on December 8, 2012. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/08/slutwalk-not-sexual-liberation).

Fagan, Chelsea. 2011. “The Funny Thing about the Slutwalk”. Thought Catalog. April 4th. Retrieved on December 9,2012. (http://thoughtcatalog.com/2011/the-funny-thing-about-the-slutwalk-feminism).

Millar, Sarah. “Police officer’s remarks at York inspire ‘SlutWalk”. Toronto Star, March 17, 2011. Retrieved on February  17, 2013 (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/03/17/police_officers_remarks_at_york_inspire_slutwalk.html)

Thomas, Nicki. “Sluts’ march against sexual assault stereotypes”. Toronto Star. April 3, 2011. Retrieved on February 17, 2013. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2011/04/03/sluts_march_against_sexual_assault_stereotypes.html

Yuen, Jenny.2012. “SlutWalk Marches on in Toronto”. Toronto Sun. Published on May 25, 2012. Retrieved on Dec 25, 2012(http://www.torontosun.com/2012/05/25/slutwalk-marches-on)

Wente, Margaret. 2011. “ Embrace Your Inner Slut? Um, Maybe Not”. The Globe and Mail. Published on May 12, 2011. Retrieved on January 3rd, 2013. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/embrace-your-inner-slut-um-maybe-not/article624631)

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5 comments

  1. I strongly agree with you about not blaming victims and holding offenders solely responsible for their own actions. While our conceptions of rape are changing, I think it would positive to also discuss other barriers such as race. Whether race plays a strong role in how rape cases are treated? And whether police discretion and power affect how rape victims are treated?

    I also found some interesting articles involving the Edmonton Police and the RCMP that are worth a read. The article about the RCMP is particularly interesting because there are allegations of rape by the RCMP.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/26/rape-victim-edmonton-police-deny-mistreatment_n_2767577.html

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/02/13/human_rights_report_bc_mounties_accused_of_rape_abuse_of_aboriginal_women.html

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  2. Matthew Chiglinsky · · Reply

    Dressing like a slut may not make someone deserving of rape, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. A woman degrades herself and sexually frustrates men that way. It’s not healthy for anyone.

    Likewise, shouting racial slurs in public doesn’t make someone deserving of being punched in the face either, but that also is not a good idea. That is also unhealthy for society in general.

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    1. Greetings Matthew,

      I read your comment and was baffled! Firstly, I don’t really understand the analogy you are making between someone dressing like a slut and someone yelling racial slurs. Whats your point?

      Secondly, you are making quite a few assumptions about males in your post. I am a male, and when I see a women “dressed like a slut” (as you put it) it does not “sexually frustrate” me, it usually doesn’t even phase me. This isn’t because I am gay, (which maybe your first thought), its because I am not a cavemen. In fact most men are not cavemen, we have the ability to control ourselves and our emotions. But the fact that you mentioned men become “sexually frustrated” when they see a women dressed provocatively makes me think you may suffer from this frustration. If that is the case I do really hope you are able to control your frustrating, and as mentioned on your blog cuddling is better that sex, so don’t let your frustration get the better of you, I know most other men won’t!

      Sincerely,
      Nav

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    2. Equating hate crimes to freedom to navigate society without being sexually assaulted.

      You aren’t a good person Matt.

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  3. It seems to me, those who dwell on the word “slut” are missing the mark. That is the whole point of calling it the Slutwalk, those are the very people who they are trying to reach. All this banter about the word slut, just shows we need a shift in the way we think in order to get the real point across. It’s about women and violence in our culture. If we can’t see past a derogatory word then we can’t see past the problem.

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