15 June 2011
SlutWalks. We have all heard of them, some know how they started, but for those who don't here's a bit of background.
The movement began on January 24, 2011 in Toronto, Canada. A police officer spoke at a York University safety forum. He was there to talk to students about personal safety. Unbeknown to him, the comments he made would spark worldwide protests.
As his senior officer was talking, Michael Sanguinetti interrupted 'You know, I think we're beating around the bush here,' he stated. 'I've been told I'm not supposed to say this - however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.'
He later apologised for this comment, but the damage was done.
His remarks, whether he meant them or not, were in the hands of the Internet and social media now. He could not take them back.
And so the SlutWalks began- starting in Toronto, Canada on April 3, 2011 and spreading around the globe to parts of the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East and even hitting our own Australian shores. Women took the streets taking a stand against the 'blame the victim' mentality.
If, like me, you are confused about the use of the term 'slut' in a demonstration against its overuse in society a quick visit to the SlutWalk Toronto website will clear up any misunderstanding. Their website states 'historically, the term 'slut' has carried a predominantly negative connotation… the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we're taking it back. 'Slut' is being re-appropriated.'
Now I understand. And I think that the protests address two significant issues. Firstly, the use of the term 'slut', not just by the police officer but, but by the community in general. And secondly, the fact that some people imply that the way a woman dresses or acts impacts her chances of being a victim to sexual assault or rape.
I do think that the police officers comments we're wrong, but why use the word 'slut' and why dress up and parade down the streets?
At first I was taken aback by the use of the word 'slut'. I just wasn't sure if it was completely necessary to use the word when protesting about women's rights and freedoms. Now, I support the application of term.
It is not about women calling themselves or other women 'sluts' it is about the overuse of the term in the wider community. It is not just about one police officer using the word and voicing his closed-minded opinion about women and rape. It is about individuals, in general, being judged, labelled and categorised into neat little boxes- sluts, gays, prudes, cougars. SlutWalks aim to reclaim the use of the word 'slut' and stop the term being used in a derogatory and stereotypical fashion.
This brings me to the second issue of the perception that certain people have more of a chance of being attacked because of the way they dress or act. Sexual assault is not a light matter and it should be taken seriously, by everyone-not least by police officers. But we all know this, right? So why is there this perpetuated myth, that if you wear a short skirt and some knee-high boots you are more likely to be assaulted than a woman wearing trackies and runners?
If this belief is maintained why would a victim of sexual assault have any reason for going to the police? If someone is going to be blamed for attracting an attacker, there is less of a reason for people to report the crime. And rape and sexual assault are significantly under-reported crimes as it stands. There is no positive outcome in blaming the victim.
I honestly thought that in this day and age we were over thinking or believing that a victim of assault could be in the wrong, but obviously we are not.
To those people who are asking if it is really necessary to dress in fishnets and bras and roam the streets to get this point across- my opinion is that no, it is not necessary to put on a revealing outfit and walk. But that isn't what SlutWalks are. You do not have to dress in a certain way to take part in the demonstrations. Nor, do you have to have been a victim of sexual assault. Anyone wearing anything is encouraged to walk and take a stand against this archaic and outdated way of thinking.
The point of the walks is to celebrate sexuality and discourage stereotypes and generalisations. I say, power to them.
Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been approved.
M. Byrnes, Sydney (14 June 2011 10:32PM) wrote:
I think that it past time for us all to step out of the dark ages. Everyone should be able to wear what ever they want and not attract adverse attention. If a women chooses to wear a short skirt, short shorts, midriff tops or anything else classified as revealing it should be her choice no one elses. If a man wears a pair of short football shorts and nothing else he is likely to get the opposite sort of attention. I have to ask myself why is he not asking for it. Thanks M.Byrnes
Helen Charalambous, Australia (14 June 2011 9:41PM) wrote:
Great Work Stacey and i would have to agree that if the point is to discourage stereotypes and generalisations then bring on the Slutwalk. Blaming the victim is outrageous! Helen
Kaylee Byrnes, Sydney (14 June 2011 9:29PM) wrote:
Truly a serious issue in society and it's great to see you bringing light to the situation. I agree power to these women!!