Why I Marched in SlutWalk DC
Twice yesterday, I found myself engaging in a conversation with my friend about the name “Slutwalk.”
It’s the kind of name I wouldn’t ever say to my grandmother, and even when taking the metro to get to the march, I had a hard time saying it to people who saw my sign and asked what protest I was attending. The day after the march, I showed my mom, an avowed feminist, a picture of myself from a fellow marcher’s Facebook album, and she said, “I think I’m glad it is a picture from behind if it’s in a march called Slutwalk.”
I couldn’t argue with her dislike of the name.
For those of you who don’t know about the international Slutwalk movement, here’s some background from the Slutwalk Toronto website, the march that started it all.
“On January 24th, 2011, a representative of the Toronto Police gave shocking insight into the Force’s view of sexual assault by stating: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”… Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.”
Since the Toronto march in May 2011, the SlutwalkToronto website has listed marches that have taken place (or will take place soon) in 30 cities in the US, and in countries such as India, France, Australia, Sweden, South Africa, Mexico, Germany, and Czechoslovakia (which is a miracle in and of itself because apparently they also travelled back in time to when Czechoslovakia was still a country…).
Perhaps it’s the anthropologist in me that is wary of reclaiming my sluttishness because “reclaiming” the word slut gives weight to term in the first place. Still, I don’t want to be the bully on the pulpit who tells people what they can and can’t call themselves. But then again, do I really want people to think that I am marching for the right to let it all hang out? (I don’t much care if you are a man or a woman, there are just some things I don’t want to see. My friend who attended the rally with me noted that several male marchers provided us with a view of more junk than we had seen (or wanted to see) in a long time.)
But, maybe I am just arguing a matter of degree, not principle.
As a teacher of undergrads, I have noticed that the third generation of feminists (the very ones who reap the rewards of generations one and two) has gotten incredibly lazy about their desire to have equal rights as women. They sort of think it’s too much work to bother with discussing the ways in which women still aren’t equal. Generally, I get the impression that many of them think we’re equal enough.
So, perhaps it does take several dozen ta-tas chillin’ in the wind to remind people that women (and a whole slew of other groups and combinations therein) have hardly achieved equality. The proof of this is in the pudding of how we, as a society, treat rape victims (man or woman, gay or straight).
I want to help end the global rape culture that blames victims for their attacks (what were they wearing? how much did they drink?). There is no label sown into a pair of fishnets that says, “sexy stockings come with an implicit understanding that you are asking to be raped.”
It’s the same problem that I have with the “It gets better” campaign, even though I am a member of that too, because the message is, “we can’t stop bullies, so just hang in their folks.” Um No. Bullies, like rapists, are the problem (not the survivors of bullying and rape). I think that the campaign should be “It’s going to get a whole lot worse—for bullies, that is.”
But that hasn’t happened, and so we live in a society where victims are labeled as the provocateur if they get raped, and kids who just couldn’t take it anymore are judged for not having hung in there just a little bit longer….
So, I’m not wild about being called a slut, either “good” or “bad,” but if that’s what it takes to draw attention to the fact that rape survivors are still blamed and made to feel ashamed of something that’s totally not their fault then I will be there with my shocking pink and purple glitter protest sign to step into the march.
You can find more information about Slutwalks in your area by clicking HERE.
For more information about the march in DC, click here.
I highly recommend the first part of Andrea Bredback’s amazing keynote speech, which can be found here (though be aware of strong language, graphic descriptions of real-life rape situations, and references to sexuality). I have yet to see a posting of the entire keynote, but I will post it as it becomes available.