This article in the UK Guardian explains the recent history behind the SlutWalk, an in-the-streets form of women’s activism that also uses social networking sites to organize and mobilize:
When a police officer from Toronto went on a routine visit to Osgoode Hall Law School to advise the students on personal safety, little did he know that he would unwittingly inspire a movement that has caught fire across Canada and the US.
“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here,” Michael Sanguinetti began, blandly enough, as he addressed the 10 students who turned up for the pep talk. Then he said: “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”
Fast forward three months from Sanguinetti’s unfortunate remarks, and a movement that was born in riposte to his loose talk has now gone international. “SlutWalking” is attracting thousands of people to take to the streets to put an end to what they believe is a culture in which it is considered acceptable to blame the victim.
Some 2,351 people have signed up via Facebook to attend a SlutWalk through Boston on Saturday, when they will chant “Yes means yes, no means no,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, patriarchy has to go.”
Further SlutWalks are planned in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
And that’s before you get to Argentina, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the UK.
Some women attended the protest wearing jeans and T-shirts, while others took the mission of reclaiming the word “slut” – one of the stated objectives of the movement – more literally and turned out in overtly provocative fishnets and stilettos. But they were all united by the same belief: that rape is about the rapist, not his victim.
“We live in a society where rape isn’t taken as seriously as it should be,” said Katt Schott-Mancini, one of the organisers of the Boston SlutWalk.
“There’s victim blaming: the idea that the victim of rape did something wrong. What you are wearing doesn’t cause rape – the rapist causes it.”
Schott-Mancini said she was herself a survivor of abuse by a former partner. “People belittled me, implying that it was my fault and that I shouldn’t be an independent woman,” she added.
The SlutWalks have particularly taken off among college students, given the location of the officer’s remarks and the high prevalence of sexual violence on campus. The US government’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that up to one in four women in US universities report having experienced an attempted or completed rape while in college.
For more info on SlutWalk Toronto, see the organizers’ website here. A few of the group’s slogans: “Sluts & Allies unite!” “Being a slut and getting pissed off.” Here are the group’s guidelines for organizing a SlutWalk:
We don’t believe you need to come from an activist background. We believe you just need to be inspired by your own passion to do something. SlutWalk is about expressing our unity, fighting to shed the stereotypes and myths of sexual assault and supporting a better understanding of why sexual assault happens, putting the blame where it belongs: on those who perpetrate it. We believe in working toward better partnerships and conversations with our protective services and our communities to help make this happen.
If you’d like to have SlutWalk in your community, we ask that you follow our guidelines:
- SlutWalk is not about hate, and we do not use hateful language.
- SlutWalk aims to reclaim the word “slut” and use it in a positive, empowering and respectful way.
- Refer to sexual assault, not solely rape.
- Do not frame sexual assault as something solely done by men to women.
- Women are most often the targets and men are most often the perpetrators, but all genders are affected. SlutWalk recognizes all gender expressions as those that have been and can be negatively impacted. All genders can be sluts or allies.
- Some communities/people are at a higher risk of sexual assault than others based on their status, work, ability, access, race, identity, and a variety of other factors. We aim to recognize this and come together, in all our diversity, as people who are all affected and unite as sluts and allies.
- Use inclusive and respectful language when discussing the diversity of people affected: men/women and all gender expressions, racialized communities, people of different abilities, etc.
- SlutWalk is an impassioned and peaceful stance that aims to engage others in dialogue.
See more here.