SlutWalks: Yay or Nay?

slutwalk-toronto

SlutWalk Toronto

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.

slutwalk-sign

  • 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?

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52 thoughts on “SlutWalks: Yay or Nay?

  1. Glad you made this a full post Alee!

    I was thinking about this over the weekend and I found an unquestionably feminist blog where the author expressed her concern about the SlutWalks.

    She was fine with the Toronto SlutWalk because there was a purpose for it. The marchers had a clear focus (raising awareness in the face of a Toronto police officer’s comment blaming women for rape because of their dress) and the SlutWalk name emerged because the officer used the word slut to make his point.

    However, this author noticed that in her town, the SlutWalk organizers didn’t seem to make rape much of a focus at all. And others are saying that the organizers in their town seem to be focused more on sexuality in general, kind of an exercise in declaring to the world that they like to have lots of sex. (Does one need to march for that? ;))

    Or that some women seem to like the chance to dress up (or more accurately, not dress much at all) as if this is some kind of Halloween parade.

    The D.C. SlutWalk held a fundraiser in a strip club… hmmm

    Here’s a link that I found interesting… I don’t think it’s too objectionable, but if you’re at work, you might want to be careful reading because of the picture.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/19/slut-walks-are-organized-by-liberal-feminists-but-dont-help-women.html

  2. I am totally against someone blaming a rape victim for a rape. However I don’t agree with women dressing in clothes that are too provocative. Save that for the privacy of your own home and think about the children and families walking in the street that have to see that! I don’t want my son seeing some boobs and butt at the tender age he is. And I know for a fact dressing that way attracts a lot of negative attention. I use to have a best friend who would dress like that because she had a low self esteem and it was her way of attracting men. But every time I went out with her people would walk by and shout out of car windows “slut, hoe…” and she didn’t find anything wrong with it, she liked men staring at her breasts, butt, and legs. I would talk to her about all the time, asking why she wanted men to like her for her body and nothing else. I link this type of dressing to a person possibly having histrionic disorder. FYI her and I are no longer friends…smh.

  3. I would also like to share that I was a rape victim at the age of 15 and I don’t want to blame it on clothing. But now that I’m older and wiser with that experience behind me I don’t like to dress in ways that attract that negative or sexual attention. I consider it taking precautions because a sick man is gonna notice exposed body parts before he notices someone more covered up. These sick people can get turned on by any little thing and if you can prevent yourself from being looked at in that manner then why not. I think most of these women that dress that way have never had a horrible experience that changed their perception. I hear you should be able to dress the way you want, but the reality is we live in a world with sick people and you have to be smart and let go of ego, you can’t change a man if his hormones go haywire and he is out of control and sick. But you can change what you do as an individual, and if that means covering up more as a step toward precaution then to me its worth it.

  4. Bunny,

    “Glad you made this a full post Alee!”

    Yes, I didn’t know anyone here was so interested in discussing the topic. So thanks to Sherry for mentioning it. I need to get my Suggestions section back up!

    “…this author noticed that in her town, the SlutWalk organizers didn’t seem to make rape much of a focus at all. And others are saying that the organizers in their town seem to be focused more on sexuality in general, kind of an exercise in declaring to the world that they like to have lots of sex.”

    Really? I got the vibe the SlutWalks were becoming more and more about freedom of sexual expression as they went along, but to basically forget what spurred of all this in the first place doesn’t seem helpful. Especially to people who may be more critical of the SlutWalks on first hearing about it — that’s just giving them an excuse to dismiss them as the crazy antics of rebellious young women.

    “Or that some women seem to like the chance to dress up (or more accurately, not dress much at all) as if this is some kind of Halloween parade.”

    I got that sense too, watching video and looking at photos from several of the SlutWalks. Some women enjoyed dressing up in clothing they wouldn’t normally wear.

    ETA: That link is food for thought. I’m slightly inclined to agree with this bit — ‘Feminists are supposed to be countercultural, yet by marching in fishnets and bras with the word “slut” scrawled on their bodies, they are simply imitating a culture that objectifies and hypersexualizes women and girls on a scale never before seen in history.’

  5. Nikisha,

    “I don’t agree with women dressing in clothes that are too provocative. Save that for the privacy of your own home and think about the children and families walking in the street that have to see that!… I link this type of dressing to a person possibly having histrionic disorder.”

    They could possibly have histrionic disorder, but they could just be bent on proving a point or want to be different. Some people want to be unique and shocking and they express themselves that way with their clothing. The need to prove a point or be different can go overboard sometimes.

    “I would also like to share that I was a rape victim at the age of 15”

    Oh, Nikisha. *hugs* 😦

    Thank you for being open and sharing your perspective. It’s always good to hear from someone who has been there.

    “I think most of these women that dress that way have never had a horrible experience that changed their perception.”

    Probably so. I don’t think I’d ever dress in a provocative manner; just dressing in a blouse and pants attracts attention from men that I’m uncomfortable with. I can only imagine having been sexually assaulted and how that would change my perception on dress, and life in general.

  6. Nikisha, thank you for being so open and honest. Hugs from me too.

    You and some of the objectors in that link I posted bring up an excellent point… the women who are seeing SlutWalk as a fun thing to do are coming at this from a point of privilege. They’ve never been sexually assaulted, never had the word “slut” used against them to degrade them, never had to be forced to wear skimpy clothing, etc… it’s easy to have fun with the word “slut” when one has never experienced sexual violence.

    I know not all SlutWalk participants are like the ones in the pictures that are getting publicity. Many probably really do care about stopping the victim-blaming culture that so many raped girls and women have to deal with. But I wish people could keep it about THAT instead of hijacking the intent of the original SlutWalk to make it about THEM and their “right” to express themselves sexually.

  7. Bunny,

    Yes, many of the participants are truly concerned with the principles at hand and aren’t viewing this as their chance to buck the system and make it all about them. I wish those people would get more attention from the press, but you know how these things go. The extremists always make the headlines.

    Nikisha,

    Thank you!

  8. Women in countries where the burqa or niquab is mandatory and no flesh can be exposed in public still get raped.
    Women who are never allowed to leave their homes unaccompanied still get raped.
    Old women get raped.
    Small children get raped.

    So rape has nothing to do with how sexy or attractive you look or how much flesh you reveal, otherwise, swimming pools and beach resorts would be rape central, and that Toronto police officer would have been advising the students to avoid beach holidays.

    Rape is something that first and foremost takes place inside a disturbed man’s mind and is the result of a mixture of violent hatred and resentment of women and a strong sense of male entitlement.

    One can’t then seperate the act of rape from the culture of patriarchy that nurtures it. They are completely entwined. Only someone growing up in a culture that sees women as less than men, and even sometimes less than human, can mentally justify the act of sexual violence against another human being.

    The more strongly patriarchal the culture, the more ubiquitious rape becomes.
    It can even stop being seen as a crime as long as the act is perpetrated by someone who is seen as having ‘ownership’ of the woman.
    Thus marital rape isn’t counted as rape at all in repressive cultures and only became illegal in all 50 states of the U.S as recently as 1993.

  9. Kat,

    In addition to all those rape scenarios you mentioned, most (around 70 percent, IIRC) women are raped by someone they know. That’s one of the things I originally found so odd about the officer’s statements: if most rapes involve people who are familiar with each other, then why does clothing really matter? I mean, he made it seem as the way a woman is dressed is very important, and while I think it might have an influence (in unfamiliar situations), it doesn’t seem to be one of the more important factors.

    “One can’t then seperate the act of rape from the culture of patriarchy that nurtures it. They are completely entwined…The more strongly patriarchal the culture, the more ubiquitous rape becomes.”

    I suspect this is true (highly patriarchal communities do seem to have a higher rate of rape, in general). But I haven’t seen any actual surveys or studies on the matter — do you have any?

  10. Tight hug to Nikisha as well. Thanks for sharing and I’m sending you much energy from across the big pond. Feel it?!.

    Agree with Kat. Rape is not about what sort of clothes you’re wearing. Rape is about certain men abusing their power.
    I’m for any demonstration that brings attention to this horrible crime and like most deeds that start with good intentions, something gets skewed along the way. No difference there, but the initial message is received and that’s what we should focus on.

  11. foosrock,

    “I’m for any demonstration that brings attention to this horrible crime and like most deeds that start with good intentions, something gets skewed along the way. No difference there, but the initial message is received and that’s what we should focus on.”

    This reminds me of the bra-burning myth of how feminists were burning their bras outside of the Miss America pageant. (Except of course most of what is said about the SlutWalkers is true of what they’ve done.) But when I’d first heard about some showing up to the SlutWalks in their underwear, I thought, “Yup, everyone is going to focus on that.”

  12. This is the first time I hear of Slut Walks. While I’m all for women reclaiming their sexual integrity and autonomy, and while I hate the whole slut vs virgin dichotomy, and while I’m against blaming the victim for rape… I fail to see the connection.

    I do hope I’m wrong here, but these walks don’t seem to be directed towards raising the awareness about rape and criticizing the culture of victim-blaming. They seem to be more on the female sexual liberation side, which is not a bad thing, but it’s not the same.

    That being said, I’m all for it, but I do agree with those who criticize them for trying to reclaim the word “slut”. By doing so, you ARE implying that such a thing exists- and I’m not a fan of that view.

    As for wearing “provocative” clothes: it is true this kind of clothes bring attention, both wanted and unwanted, but they can hardly be blamed for rape. Like others already pointed out, rape usually has nothing to do with the way a victim dresses, or how attractive she is. Anybody can be a rape victim: a child, an older person, attractive, unattractive. It doesn’t matter. Because rape is often not about sex or physical attractiveness at all. It’s about forcing your power and taking someone’s integrity in the process.

    That being said, I don’t wear revealing clothes just like I don’t walk alone in the dark streets at 3 am. But that doesn’t mean that a person who does that asks to be raped or that it’s her fault.

    As for the walks… I don’t see it happening in my country any time soon. Women here are really into the good girl vs slut dichotomy, and they’d do anything to label another female slut, while them being a good girl. So no, this is not happening.

    PS- Alee, sorry for not replying to your email. I had a food poisoning the other day and I still feel weak and grumpy. But I will reply soon, I promise.

  13. Well y’all know my opinion (the cloud)-

    And really people want to be sluts? If you want to fuck over 20 dudes you’re welcome to it, but don’t cry if no one wants to marry you.

    Best thing a girl can do to avoid rape from strangers is have a boyfriend or man with you if you going to dress ‘Slutty’ or simply don’t act like a stupid white woman and believe that everyone is your friend

  14. @Alee,

    I’m aware of an anthropological study entitled “‘A World in Which Women Walk Freely Without Fear of Men: An Anthropological Perspective on Rape’ in Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 26, No. 6 ” by Maria Barbara and Watson Franke

    A good summary and review of the study can be found at http://sc2220.wetpaint.com/page/Review+on+Barbara+and+Franke%27s%2C+%27A+World+in+Which+Women+Walk+Freely+Without+Fear+of+Men%27

    An interesting paper on the forced sexual enslavement of 200,000 Korean women by the Japanese government in World war 2, entitled “Patriarchy and the Comfort women” by Jessica Jenson can be found at
    http://www.hum.utah.edu/hgc/papers/jensen_jessica.pdf

  15. Now, Nkosazana, I wouldn’t agree with that either. What about women who don’t have a man by her side? Those who don’t want to depend on one? Is that a crime or a bad thing? I’d say no.

    Also, you seem to agree there ARE women who are sluts, if I’m not mistaken…

    Just because someone have had sex with 20 people doesn’t mean she’s unworthy or a bad person. Or that nobody would want to marry her, should she want that. Similarly, just because someone is a virgin on her wedding night doesn’t mean she’s more worthy or a better person.

    However, I am not sure if slut walks are the good way to express one’s wish for reclaiming sexual integrity and autonomy. These walks won’t stop virgin vs whore dichotomy, nor rape. All they can do, maybe, is to legitimatize the use of word “slut” in a positive context. But it’s irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

  16. (sorry for any typos. wrote this in a hurry)

    I like what Bunny77 said here about these women in the walks coming from a place of privilege (in general):
    “You and some of the objectors in that link I posted bring up an excellent point… the women who are seeing SlutWalk as a fun thing to do are coming at this from a point of privilege. They’ve never been sexually assaulted, never had the word “slut” used against them to degrade them, never had to be forced to wear skimpy clothing, etc… it’s easy to have fun with the word “slut” when one has never experienced sexual violence.

    It really does appear to be a way for a privileged group of people who want to be able to do what ever they want (dress provocatively, sleep around, etc) and not have to face any consequences. I just can’t take them or the organizers seriously. It’s similar to organizations like PETA, who veer away from their central message and start doing random projects that have nothing to do with the issue at hand. This whole taking back the word slut and making it a positive thing makes me vomit. It’s like the thug/thuggettes who attempt to take back the n-word, the gays who want to take back the f-word, etc. IT HASN’T WORKED. IT WILL NEVER WORK.

    I think the clothing issue should be kept separate from the topic of rape and sexual assault since we know you can get attacked wearing whatever.

    But the clothing controversy is a tough one. I compare it to applying for a job. You are allowed to wear whatever the hell you want, but don’t expect to get the job when you come to your interview in a top that exposes your breasts and belly or in jeans and flip flops. The interviewer is going to judge you based on your appearance and I think these girls in real life don’t want to be judged for how they are dressing.

    I think these girls want to be able to wear whatever they want and not be judged for it. But, that’s not the world we live in. How one presents themselves does say something about them even before they open their mouths. It’s a powerful thing. Why would I want to risk my presentation to prove that I can be taken just as seriously walking around in booty shorts and a tank top with my breasts spilling out? Battles like that just aren’t worth it to me. Maybe I’m misunderstanding them, but it seems to me to be what they are focusing on with these “SlutWalks”.

    If we know the issue of rape and sexual abuse involves things like alcohol and certain male behaviors, why don’t their signs have things like that on them? When are they going to organize classes to educated young women and men about alcohol consumption/safety? These “demonstrations” just don’t sit well with me.

  17. I’m with Kat and Alee. It doesn’t matter what you are wearing – someone intent on rape will rape you anyway, if given the opportunity. It is about the nasty rapist shifting the blame onto the victim. And as Alee pointed out, in light of the fact that the vast majority of rapes were done by men who knew the victims or were in some sort of confidential relationship with the victims, clearly the issue goes way deeper than “dress.” Again, that is the sicko looking for an out. That is what perps do, they shift the blame for their wrongs on anybody but themselves. Like Kat said, if it were all about clothing, old ladies, children and people from conservative cultures would never ever be raped. So that is foolishness. The better advice to give women and young girls would be to avoid certain areas of town, walk with a large group at night, etc. If you are drinking, have some trusted girlfriends nearby, so you don’t get date-raped by the cute frat guy who you thought was your friend. That makes way more sense than “don’t dress like a slut” – which is completely subjective, depending on who you are talking to, and the context you are in. Meanwhile, you have the girl who was just leaving church in her Sunday best, only to be raped by the minister’s son. She wasn’t at all dressed “slutty,” but she was still raped. Instead of saying that she was dressed as a slut, he’ll probably say that she is actually a slut, and that she enjoyed it. That’s how the sick mind works.

  18. People can do whatever they want to. I don’t care really unless it affects my family.

    Also, you seem to agree there ARE women who are sluts, if I’m not mistaken…

    And there’s men who are sluts as well. I wouldn’t marry a guy with 20 girls under his belt.

    They don’t see it as a big thing to sleep with someone and so they are more likely to cheat. And come home and give their partner a STD or something.

  19. Mira,

    “This is the first time I hear of Slut Walks… I don’t see it happening in my country any time soon.”

    It might be coming to a country/region near you soon! 🙂

    I mean, they have two planned for South Africa, and from what I’ve read and heard South Africa is as much or even more into the whole “good girl virginity” idea.

    “I do hope I’m wrong here, but these walks don’t seem to be directed towards raising the awareness about rape and criticizing the culture of victim-blaming. They seem to be more on the female sexual liberation side, which is not a bad thing, but it’s not the same.”

    That was the original purpose: raising awareness about rape and the culture of blaming the victim/slut-shaming. That was definitely the case in the Canadian cities where they had workshops and speakers, and everything. But it seems as the SlutWalks have continued they’ve become more and more about sexual liberation. However, I think it also depends on where a particular SlutWalk is taking place; more liberated areas focus more on the female sexuality side of it. At least, that’s what I’ve seen.

    And don’t worry about the email if you had food poisoning! Just focus on getting better and respond when you have time.

  20. Nkosazana,

    “And really people want to be sluts? If you want to fuck over 20 dudes you’re welcome to it, but don’t cry if no one wants to marry you.

    Best thing a girl can do to avoid rape from strangers is have a boyfriend or man with you if you going to dress ‘Slutty’ or simply don’t act like a stupid white woman and believe that everyone is your friend.”

    …Uh, how blunt. 🙂

    I don’t think it’s so much about wanting to be a “slut”, but saying that the word –and people who are called it– shouldn’t be seen as something negative or less worthy.

    Here’s what Heather Jarvis, a co-founder of the SlutWalks, had to say about the use of the word “slut” and reclaiming it, in one interview:

    “We chose the name of what we’re doing consciously—we wanted to get attention because we want people to talk about this and pay attention to sexual assault, revictimization and victim blaming—and a large part of it is the language that surrounds these things. We want people to think about the language they use and what it really means.”

    “We’ve had people from indigenous and black communities, or of different age groups and generations, saying, “This is wrong. We can’t reclaim this word and never want that or will.” And I completely respect those opinions but I want more choice, not less. This is a choice for some people and everybody can’t do it. I don’t think it’s valuable for people in certain parts of the world, who live in fear, to pick up the word slut and call it a day. But this is something we’ve seen done before—language can shift, language can change—and not everybody agrees with it, but it’s an option.”

  21. Kat,

    Thanks muchly for the studies! I will definitely read. 🙂

    BWLivingWell,

    Here’s what Heather Jarvis has to same in the interview linked above re: the organizers and participants coming from a place of privilege:

    “…very recently, there has been increasing criticism coming from people of color—not all people of color, but some—labeling us as perpetuating white supremacy and white privileged dominance. What’s tough is that we’re getting back to the place where a lot of these analyses are really valuable, but a lot of them are inaccessible. It’s an absolutely valid criticism, but that does not mean the people of color who have been involved should be dismissed and erased because that’s also been happening. People from outside of Canada are saying we haven’t engaged “Us, as people of color,” and I’m left wondering who that universal “us” is? One of our organizers is a woman of color and part of our speeches on the day of our SlutWalk addressed our more local experience of Indigenous populations, multiculturalism, and women of color in Toronto.”

    You said,

    ‘I think the clothing issue should be kept separate from the topic of rape and sexual assault since we know you can get attacked wearing whatever.’

    Well, the issue of clothing is what sparked everything, so they have to address that as it pertains to rape and “sluttiness”.

    “I think these girls want to be able to wear whatever they want and not be judged for it. But, that’s not the world we live in…Why would I want to risk my presentation to prove that I can be taken just as seriously walking around in booty shorts and a tank top with my breasts spilling out? Battles like that just aren’t worth it to me. Maybe I’m misunderstanding them, but it seems to me to be what they are focusing on with these “SlutWalks”.’

    The clothing aspect is one part of it: they’re saying that a woman being dressed in a manner that shows more skin should not be (a) an opening to make negative judgments about her character and, (b) an invitation to rape. But that’s just one part of the SlutWalks; overall they’re saying that people should not blame victims of rape for their attacks (no matter what) and that attempting to restrict female expression of sexuality is the wrong way to go about addressing rape.

    “If we know the issue of rape and sexual abuse involves things like alcohol and certain male behaviors, why don’t their signs have things like that on them?”

    Some of the signs do address male behavior, like one sign which read something like, “Don’t tell women to cover up, tell men not to rape.” I assume the workshops on rape also included issues like these, but I can’t say for sure.

  22. Robynne,

    Yes, the way the police officer honed in on dress instead of the numerous other factors that contribute to rape, says a lot about the way he/people view rape. He was all, “Let’s not beat around the bush!” as if dress is the foundation of rape and rape victims play an equal hand in their attack. The organizers were really bothered that someone who is supposed to be working for victims of crime could be so ill-informed and blaming the victim. At SlutWalk Toronto there was a strong focus on trying to work with police officials to change that mindset in their own ranks and the larger community.

  23. Nkosazana, I really take umbrage with this:
    “Best thing a girl can do to avoid rape from strangers is have a boyfriend or man with you if you going to dress ‘Slutty’ or simply don’t act like a stupid white woman and believe that everyone is your friend.”

    Horribly offensive, dearie.

  24. Heather Jarvis, what are these quotes lol?

    We chose the name of what we’re doing consciously—we wanted to get attention because we want people to talk about this and pay attention to sexual assault, revictimization and victim blaming—and a large part of it is the language that surrounds these things. We want people to think about the language they use and what it really means.”

    We’ve had people from indigenous and black communities, or of different age groups and generations, saying, “This is wrong. We can’t reclaim this word and never want that or will.” And I completely respect those opinions but I want more choice, not less. This is a choice for some people and everybody can’t do it. I don’t think it’s valuable for people in certain parts of the world, who live in fear, to pick up the word slut and call it a day. But this is something we’ve seen done before—language can shift, language can change—and not everybody agrees with it, but it’s an option.

    “…very recently, there has been increasing criticism coming from people of color—not all people of color, but some—labeling us as perpetuating white supremacy and white privileged dominance. What’s tough is that we’re getting back to the place where a lot of these analyses are really valuable, but a lot of them are inaccessible. It’s an absolutely valid criticism, but that does not mean the people of color who have been involved should be dismissed and erased because that’s also been happening. People from outside of Canada are saying we haven’t engaged “Us, as people of color,” and I’m left wondering who that universal “us” is? One of our organizers is a woman of color and part of our speeches on the day of our SlutWalk addressed our more local experience of Indigenous populations, multiculturalism, and women of color in Toronto.”

    Her words just reek of privilege. Maybe it’s just me, but she’s sweeping the opinions/concerns of women (‘people of color” as she says) under the rug when it is those women who should be benefiting from these walks. How does taking back the word “slut” give women more choices or benefit us in general? Or is she really talking about white women here?

    Alee you said:

    “The clothing aspect is one part of it: they’re saying that a woman being dressed in a manner that shows more skin should not be (a) an opening to make negative judgments about her character and, (b) an invitation to rape. But that’s just one part of the SlutWalks; overall they’re saying that people should not blame victims of rape for their attacks (no matter what) and that attempting to restrict female expression of sexuality is the wrong way to go about addressing rape.”

    I understand that the way one dresses should never be an open invitation to rape or any kind of assault. I agree with that. As for not wanting to receive negative judgement about their character for how they dress…I don’t know. Women in the West in general have the choice/freedom to dress however they want to but that doesn’t mean people will not make assumptions about them. It’s like Freedom of Speech. You have the right to spew what ever kind of hatred you want (Dr. Laura), but that doesn’t mean you are free from criticism (or in her case getting your show taken away). You can’t force me to take you seriously or not question your judgement if your butt is hanging out of your shorts, thong is showing or if your breasts barely covered in public. Does that make me a “slut-shamer”? I hope not.

  25. BWLivingWell,

    “Heather Jarvis, what are these quotes lol?”

    LOL. I’m just allowing one of the founders to speak for herself.

    “Her words just reek of privilege. Maybe it’s just me, but she’s sweeping the opinions/concerns of women (‘people of color” as she says) under the rug…”

    My take — she really doesn’t have a response for the criticisms from “people of color”. 🙂

    I think she realizes that the reclaiming of the word “slut” is not viable for people living in certain communities or parts of the world: “This is a choice for some people and everybody can’t do it. I don’t think it’s valuable for people in certain parts of the world, who live in fear, to pick up the word slut and call it a day.”

    So she is saying, “Hey, if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.” — if you don’t think it’s a good idea for your particular situation, then disregard.

    ‘How does taking back the word “slut” give women more choices or benefit us in general? Or is she really talking about white women here?’

    I guess she means that reappropriating the word and lessening the stigma around it gives women more choice in terms of how they can dress, identify, and act. I remember her stating in another interview that she and those she knows already use words such as “slut” in a neutral/positive manner. And yes, I think she knows that this only applies to some women and not necessarily all.

    ‘You can’t force me to take you seriously or not question your judgement if your butt is hanging out of your shorts, thong is showing or if your breasts barely covered in public. Does that make me a “slut-shamer”? I hope not.’

    That would depend on what sort of judgments you are making. 🙂

    But I agree that people make assessments about others based on their appearance. I don’t see that changing any time soon, but it’s possible that we could cut back on negative judgment about women who dress less conservatively.

  26. You know, I have the problem with reclaiming or “taking back” negative words.

    Some words, like slut, were ALWAYS meant to be negative. They weren’t ever meant to have a positive connotation. I don’t want “slut” to be “taken back” or “reclaimed.”

    If a woman (because slut typically is only used for women) chooses to have a lot of sexual partners and feels happy with her choice, I don’t think she needs to have a word to describe what she supposedly is.

    No matter how much people try to redefine the B word, the N word or any other word, those words will never escape their negative connotations. And that’s fine… every word isn’t MEANT to be positive. I just prefer not to use negative words to describe people. (Unless I’m really angry! :D)

    As for dress inviting unwanted attention — I agree with your earlier comment Alee that the police officer’s choice to focus on a woman’s dress is incongruent with actual stories of sexual assault. Dress is usually the last reason why it happened to a woman, and yes, since most sexual assaults happen because a woman knows a man, she’s likely not dressing in scantily clad clothing most times when she’s around him.

    Even when prostitutes are raped, it’s not because of their clothing! It’s not like he was just going to pay for sex and then because of her micro-mini, decided instead he was going to sexually assault her. He was going to do that regardless of what she was wearing.

    I

  27. Bunny,

    ‘You know, I have the problem with reclaiming or “taking back” negative words.

    Some words, like slut, were ALWAYS meant to be negative. They weren’t ever meant to have a positive connotation. I don’t want “slut” to be “taken back” or “reclaimed.”

    Tell ’em how you feel, Bunny. 😉

    “If a woman (because slut typically is only used for women) chooses to have a lot of sexual partners and feels happy with her choice, I don’t think she needs to have a word to describe what she supposedly is.”

    True. You definitely don’t need to label yourself, positively or negatively.

    But then…

    “No matter how much people try to redefine the B word, the N word or any other word, those words will never escape their negative connotations. And that’s fine… every word isn’t MEANT to be positive. I just prefer not to use negative words to describe people.”

    What happens when you have a whole group or society of people who do choose to use the word, to disparage and discriminate against women who don’t meet their personal standards of sexual behavior? How does one change that or does it not need to be changed?

  28. “What happens when you have a whole group or society of people who do choose to use the word, and in a way to disparage and discriminate against others? How does one change that or does it not need to be changed?”

    The thing with “trying to take back” a pejorative is that it seems to perpetuate the continued use of the offensive word. It bothers you, yet some insist on using this word or set of words. That is illogical. This is most marked among certain classes of AA’s and their continued use of the N word as a descriptor of other black people. It doesn’t help that rappers insist on keeping it in the mainstream. If black people insisted on calling their children “pickanninies,” then the use would have continued across the board. I mean, you don’t see other ethnicities using pejoratives like “chink” or “wetback” to describe others of their ethnicity – at least in public. In the case of Jews, they work behind the scenes to punish people who do that. It’s the same with B, hoe or slut. It would be nice if other women stopped referring to other women in this manner.
    Sidenote – I feel the same way about the use of the word “nappy” in describing black hair. It comes from the same muck as the N bomb and pickanniny – deprecatory and dehumanising roots. But then, it might be just me.
    Sidenote 2 – where I come from, annoyed moms will sometimes call their children “pickney.” But then, the country is like 95% black, with no where near the racial drama of the US. It’s just not in somebody’s self interest to perpetuate certain words in charged environments.

  29. For your interest, the etymology of the word ‘slut’:-

    It’s original 14th century medieval meaning had no connection with sex, and only pertained to untidyness, lack of hygiene and slovenly behaviour in men or women (though usually women).

    By the 1600’s ‘slut’ was being used more playfully to signify brazen/bold hussy.

    By the 19th century it was sometimes used to describe a female dog as a euphemism for bitch.

    Words change. They change in meaning and significance as languages evolve over time. Deliberately attempting to change the meaning of a specific word does nothing to alter the underlying problem that the word is merely a symptom of.

  30. Robynne,

    ‘The thing with “trying to take back” a pejorative is that it seems to perpetuate the continued use of the offensive word. It bothers you, yet some insist on using this word or set of words.’

    Right. If a word is truly going to be reclaimed, it can’t be reclaimed only by the subset of people its aimed at. If that is the case then it can still be used in an offensive manner by people outside of that group and retains its offensive roots.

    But hopefully, if the word is reclaimed/can be reclaimed, it can be reclaimed more broadly.

    Kat,

    Thanks for the etymology sample. 🙂

    “Deliberately attempting to change the meaning of a specific word does nothing to alter the underlying problem that the word is merely a symptom of.”

    I’d be inclined to agree with that. That’s why the SlutWalks are/should be focusing on not just the word but the mentality behind its use.

    ETA: Yikes, I butchered this comment. Typos corrected. 🙂

  31. What happens when you have a whole group or society of people who do choose to use the word, to disparage and discriminate against women who don’t meet their personal standards of sexual behavior? How does one change that or does it not need to be changed?

    I like Robynne’s answer to this question, so that’s mine too. 🙂

    (Except I don’t mind the word nappy. But that’s another topic!)

  32. Bunny,

    “I like Robynne’s answer to this question, so that’s mine too. :)”

    Okay.

    I don’t mind the word nappy either. I don’t know if it merits its own topic, but I would be open to discussing that. 😀

  33. What? act like a white woman? Well A LOT of white women acts very naive about these things. Acting like their are invincible and that no one will dare to touch their white flesh. Especially abroad.

    I’m just wondering why so many seems to think it’s a good idea to go with a gang of Turks in a minivan, yes girls should not get raped but god darn it don’t make it so easy for them.

  34. Is the word nappy a prejorative?. Well colour me very uninformed if so. Been using the word since, well forever to describe my type of hair. Even got my Swiss colleagues/friends using it. They say kinky just conjures up other thoughts. I wondered though why so many Americans seemed to be offended more at being called nappy heads, as oppose to “ho”. (referring to the comment made by that neanderthal).

    Nkosazana, lots and lots of black women act like fools too. The only difference is, they have no one to defend their honour. Don’t grudge white women that they are in a position of priviledge, rather continue to fight for the injustices women and girls continuously face irrespective of where they are or from.

    I too was also once in a compromising situation, with a group (6 of them, including the shop owner!) of young, doped up Swiss guys. I was the(much) older woman (and you all know my penchant for young guys!) hanging with them in a small shop owned by the guy I bought my weed from. Suffice to say, after I purchased my stuff, the owner offered me a drink and rolled a joint. We hung out on his sofa until his friends arrived, talking, joking. After a while I realised that I was totally getting ways too buzzed and alone, unprotected with a group of guys who were getting rather fresh with me. I got up, prepared to leave, when one grapped my arm, trying to keep me from leaving. I looked over at the owner, and said rather loudly that I WILL leave at which he got up, sauntered over to the door, opened it for me. I left, hightailed it to the tram stop. Two of the guys followed me, begging me to come back to their place with them. Luckily the tram came at the same time they went to grab me again, I press for the door, jumped into the tram and sat there crying wondering why I put myself in such positions knowing full well how dangerous they could become for me and as well society would surely blame me for being “dumb”. I never went back to that place and actually, haven’t bought weed since then either.

  35. I know black women acts like fools, mostly women who grew up in the west though. They got the privilege of that.

    Well, it’s not easy not to have some contempt.

    You did not buy weed in Denmark? Practically legal! and ok to smoke in the open (In one place at least) 😦

    I mean, they have two planned for South Africa, and from what I’ve read and heard South Africa is as much or even more into the whole “good girl virginity” idea.

    Hah. We got A LOT of different cultures and everyone does things differently.

  36. foosrock,

    “Been using the word [nappy] since, well forever to describe my type of hair. Even got my Swiss colleagues/friends using it. They say kinky just conjures up other thoughts.

    Lol.

    I wondered though why so many Americans seemed to be offended more at being called nappy heads, as oppose to “ho”.’

    Because nappy/kinky/whatever you want to call it hair is not as highly regarded here, in general, as more loosely curled, wavy, or straight hair is.

    “lots and lots of black women act like fools too. The only difference is, they have no one to defend their honour.”

    This is unfortunately true, for the most part.

    Nkosazana,

    “Hah. We got A LOT of different cultures and everyone does things differently.”

    I know, but wouldn’t you say the black South Africans are traditional and conservative in their ideas about female sexuality? That’s just what I’ve gleaned from South African friends, but of course I’ve never been there.

  37. Is this nappy/kinky hair preference a black American thing or is this generally Americans?. My experience has been different, ie, more negative when I meet black (male) Americans as oppose to white Americans.

    Nkosazana,
    I wasn’t looking for weed in Denmark. Too many hot and friendly guys to oogle, so I needed a clear head. Drunk the BEST beer though. Tubourg ROCKS!

  38. Well, a bit. But would you really advocate women going out and sleeping around with a AIDS rate as high as ours?

    No the best way to deal with that is faithful relationships and cutting down on the multiple wives thing that some men indulge in. And be proud to be a virgin on your wedding night. But I guess that is too much to ask..

    No hashish? Awh. Nothing better than playing a bit of pool with some random people and smoking a fat one (Haven’t done it in a year and more). You can drink a beer as well lol.

  39. Nkosazana,

    “But would you really advocate women going out and sleeping around with a AIDS rate as high as ours?”

    Well, some people obviously are for the AIDS rate to be that high. 🙂

    /really bad joke


    foosrock,

    Is this nappy/kinky hair preference a black American thing or is this generally Americans?. My experience has been different, ie, more negative when I meet black (male) Americans as oppose to white Americans.”

    It’s a little of both, but yes, black Americans feel a bit more strongly about it.

  40. Well, a bit. But would you really advocate women going out and sleeping around with a AIDS rate as high as ours?

    No the best way to deal with that is faithful relationships and cutting down on the multiple wives thing that some men indulge in. And be proud to be a virgin on your wedding night. But I guess that is too much to ask..
    —————————

    It’s pretty hard to regulate morality. I don’t know SA at all but I assume that having faithful relationships and being a virgin is something already promoted there as African countries tend to be conservative around sex and relationships. Problem is that clearly is not working. So I disagree it is not the best way. You’ve heard the definition of insanity right? People will and still sleep around. So I don’t see the solution as promoting more of the same and hoping for a different result. What people need is proper sex education, (worldwide of course) but especially in an area rife with HIV. Actually I’ve read quite a lot about AIDS in Africa and which countries have more issues with it than others and which ones have gotten a decent control on it. What is working is education, getting people condoms, and access to antiretroviral drugs. Scientists are finding that the drugs are acting almost like a vaccine as they lower the viral load of a person with HIV to so low that it is almost undetectable. So close to a cure but they can’t call it that yet. More of this is what is needed.

    I’ve only ever been to Senegal and the Gambia but Senegal has one of the lowest rates of HIV and transmission of it in Africa and actually the world. They have a progressive HIV centre that I visited when I was there that couples rapid testing, counselling, and peer support. They also support those from the LGBT community which is amazing as sadly it is still illegal to be gay there. We (you, me, all of us) need to stop judging people for their decisions and educating them so they can make the best healthy choice for them and their partners and then those healthy decisions of course will be good for the wider community.

    Everyone will take an interpretation of how helpful/harmful these slut walks are but I highly doubt they are about advocating women going out and sleeping around. My contention with them is that the focus should be on telling men not to rape rather than telling me about my clothes.

  41. BEAUTIFULLY stated, wanderlust82!. Alee sure has some very very smart, articulate readers. Think I’m going to do more reading comments as you ladies(and gentlemen) express my thoughts ways more accurately, thoughtfully and without the stink of generalising as my comments tend to express. Thanks!.

  42. wanderlust,

    “My contention with [the Slutwalks] is that the focus should be on telling men not to rape rather than telling me about my clothes.”

    That’s actually their issue — that’s what they’re trying to address. 🙂

    Great ideas re: HIV/AIDs prevention.

    foosrock,

    “Alee sure has some very very smart, articulate readers.”

    Well, thanks. I take all of the credit.

    …Just kidding. 😉

  43. So if we piss on my culture and our way of doing things, we will end up in the same as western black women. No marriages and women having 5 baby daddies if we ‘remove’ our morals and *let lose*.

    Promoting old ways of doing things is a good way as well as having sex education (that we already have).

    And what the heck is so wrong with having a culture that promote marriages and as much sex as you want within with no shame since you married…………

  44. Nkosazana,

    I’m all for marriage; I think that along with the progressive sex education wanderlust mentioned would be a really good idea. But having this virgin/slut dichotomy and slut-shaming… eh.

  45. I think the problem is that people don’t take sex that seriously anymore, and in our day and age it IS extremely important to be RESPONSIBLE! And yes, I am referring to AIDS, first and foremost. I know it’s not the only danger, but it’s unique to our age; generations before us didn’t have to deal with it (though there were other kinds of STDs that could kill you… And they were never responsible about it, so I guess this attitude is not unique to people of today).

    The thing is, slut vs virgin dichotomy was invented because men (who had more power in society) wanted to make sure they aren’t raising other people’s children, but their own. Also, they never had to care that much about protection, because pregnancy was considered women’s problem (even though it takes two to tango, and even though most of the societies believed child is made only from sperm (they didn’t know about the egg). But I digress). Men didn’t have to be responsible: they couldn’t get pregnant and they didn’t really care. And yes, there were STDs that could kill you, but they didn’t really understand their mechanism. Women, on the other hand, had to take care of themselves, because if they got pregnant that could easily be the end of their social life, economic life, and maybe life altogether.

    But with AIDS epidemics, things have changed, though I’m not sure if (male) people realize that. Men get HIV, too. Sex can have serious consequences for them, too. That’s why the old virgin vs slut dichotomy doesn’t make sense anymore: BOTH men and women have to take care, and BE RESPONSIBLE!!!!

    I’m all for sex (lol), but people, if you don’t want to use a condom, you are not ready to have sex. I don’t care if you’re 16 or 36. Be responsible. “Taking care of one’s self” in this case doesn’t mean: “waxing your bikini line”, it’s about taking care of your and your partner’s body. I mean… Is that too much to ask?

    Speaking for sex in marriage, I have nothing against people who wait for their wedding night. However, people (especially female people who are virgins, but their husband’s aren’t) must understand that marriage vows don’t protect you from STDs, or the emotional pain. It doesn’t matter that he wants to marry you: he might still be irresponsible in sex. He might be cheating on you (sadly, many men – and women – do). Which means you’re not protected. And yes, I’m talking about both STDs and emotional pain. Marriage doesn’t make it magically go away. You have to choose a person wisely.

  46. The bottom line is, I think AIDS is a serious matter, just like the other things sexual (even the pleasant ones, such as emotional bonding). But slut vs virgin dichotomy is BAD, and it’s not solution. Well, not a solution that suits women anyway. Only men.

    And I’m sorry for the grammar/spelling mistakes (wtf “never responsible out it” is supposed to mean anyway?)

  47. Mira,

    “slut vs virgin dichotomy is BAD, and it’s not solution.”

    Agreed.

    And I fixed your typos.

  48. @ Nkosazana not sure where you think people trying to ‘piss on your culture’ is coming from. Nor am I talking about removing morals either. It’s good to have guidance and a moral code but which one? I’m sure mine and yours are completely different but I’m sure we are both good people. You seem to have a huge bias against the west as well. It’s not perfect but if we get into which country/continent/way is better/worse we have a completely different, long and endless discussion on our hands.

    I stated that regulating morality is difficult and actually it cannot be done. Look at prohibition, the war on drugs, and other endless wars on telling people what they should/should not be doing in their own personal lives. These things are all motivated by morality and are HUGE failures. People will do as they please regardless of what you think of their behaviour. However, if you shame them and say what they are doing is immoral, loose or any other negative term they will just give you face talk and do what they want when no one is looking. Parts of the US are hugely religious, hello bible belt! I think they would say they are also a society that promotes marriage, stable relationships, and waiting until marriage for sex. Reality is a different story though.

    Culture is an interesting thing. Just because people have been doing things a certain way for a long period of time does not mean we should continue to do it just because. I think preservation of culture is important but I also feel that modernising a society towards more progressive ideals is better (i.e same sex marriage, suffrage, civil rights etc) and enables us all to live better freer lives.

    Example Japan. Japan is not perfect nor am I saying that they are but I think the world can take note at the things they do well. Japanese society retains it’s culture however they are so progressive. It is not one or the other, these things are not mutually exclusive. Walking in a major city you can still run into Geisha, Sumo wrestlers, partake in tea ceremony, worship at a temple. You can also jump on a bullet train that connects the country, enjoy heated toilet seats, sell your kidney to buy an ipad 2 (I kid I kid, plus that was in China anyways). Sorry, I just don’t subscribe to the ‘old way is best’ mantra over reason or logic.

    @ foosrock thanks. I agree the comments enhance the posts and the readers/commenters are great.

    @ Alee. Yes, they are trying to address it but on the surface it’s easy to dismiss these Slutwalks as just reclaiming the word slut and about wearing what you want. Obviously I delve into the issue but I think on the surface it could be a little less slut and little more men taking responsibility for their actions. Maybe I’ve been listening to too much talk radio on the issue.

    @ Mira – exactly marriage does NOT protect you from STD’s. If anyone is interested in reading more I recommend the book 28 stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolan. None of the women were sleeping around except one who is a sex worker (to take care of her kids) but she demands her johns use condoms. It is primarily men who are spreading this disease.

  49. wanderlust,

    “Parts of the US are hugely religious, hello bible belt! I think they would say they are also a society that promotes marriage, stable relationships, and waiting until marriage for sex. Reality is a different story though.”

    Lol, I live in the Bible Belt (and Stroke Belt — topic of my last formal paper).

    I do think that the area is more conservative and traditional in practice as well as in theory, re: sex. Not as much as they promote, but definitely moreso than other areas of the U.S. and most parts of the Western world. But there is a sizable minority of people (mostly men) in certain areas who are “down low” about their sexuality due to the traditional social environment.

    “Yes, they are trying to address it but on the surface it’s easy to dismiss these Slutwalks as just reclaiming the word slut and about wearing what you want.”

    It is, because those areas are getting the most attention and several women are deliberately dressing provocatively. I agree that they could focus more on the rape aspect since it appears things are getting off-track.

    “You can also jump on a bullet train that connects the country, enjoy heated toilet seats”

    Well, finally! I’m just about tired of those cold, awful toilet seats. 😀

    I agree that a mix of traditional and progressive in a society is helpful.

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