A controversial name for a controversial subject.
SlutWalks are a series of demonstrations taking place around the world to increase awareness about blaming victims of rape and shaming women for expressing their sexuality. The SlutWalks began in Toronto, the capital city of Ontario in Canada, after remarks made by an officer in a routine personal safety forum at York University. The officer interrupted his colleague on the issue of rape and ways to prevent it, saying:
“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here…I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”
Even though just ten students attended the forum, news of his comments spread quickly. First around the campus and city then later around the world via social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Thousands gathered and agreed to take action and a few months later, the first SlutWalk took place in Toronto.
SlutWalks have taken place in, or are scheduled for, just about every continent in the world, in countries from Argentina to the Netherlands to South Africa. Participants march with signs, many of which include the word slut in the spirit of the event to reclaim the word. Rallies usually include workshops on sexual assault and end with a call to action for everyone, especially those in positions of power, to not blame victims of rape, regardless of how they are dressed.
But everyone is not in agreement with the SlutWalk initiative and its critics have been vocal in their dissent in publications and forums. Most of those who disagree with the rallies center on a few opinions:
- Throwing caution to the wind — some say that dressing more conservatively is not such a bad thing and women should take precautions. Why take chances if you don’t have to? Thus although the officer’s comments came off as dismissive and cold, he had a practical and helpful motive.
- The use of the word slut — critics don’t believe that attempting to reclaim the word slut is helpful, but instead gives more credit to the term by suggesting that such a woman exists.
- Forgetting personal responsibility — Critics add that the way a person dresses and carries themselves sends a message to others about who they are; there is no way around that. While a woman is not responsible for another’s actions, she is responsible for herself and her body.
- Acceptance of an increasingly sexualized culture — some disagree with the notion that girls and women should feel free to dress as provocatively as they wish. They believe that SlutWalks encourage and accept young girls and women objectifying themselves by dressing in an overtly sexual manner.
However, whether you agree or disagree with the SlutWalks, there is no denying that the movement has been successful in increasing international attention on the causes of rape. The SlutWalks and its participants have sparked discussion about whether society has become too permissive of attitudes which restrict and blame women.
What are your thoughts on the SlutWalks — its causes, mode of operation, and purposes?