Consider this one part editorial, one part event announcement.
Some of you may have heard of SlutWalk, an event held in Toronto recently in response to the unfortunate choice of words used by a Toronto police officer, wherein he stated: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.
The event explanation elaborates: “As the city’s major protective service, the Toronto Police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of ‘the slut’, and in doing so have failed us. With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed. Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim….We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.”
Unfortunately, because of the event’s name, its purpose has been misrepresented and subjected to reductionist logic that pins it as a celebration of women’s right to dress like prostitutes and degrade themselves. The articles which attack SlutWalk contribute to the acquiescent side of rape culture that perpetuates our society. And that’s what people don’t understand- that by making “logical explanations” of why dressing like a slut is a bad idea, they are abetting a society which is tolerant of rape.
You don’t have to be a misogynist or a rapist yourself to have this effect on society. But every time you allow yourself to fall into that logic trap, wherein we must live in accordance with the reality at hand rather than trying to change it, you allow rape culture to exist.
To put it more simply, participants of SlutWalk are not advocating that women go walking through Northeast DC or the North Side of Pittsburgh, or any number of other “bad parts of town” in 3 inch heels and short skirts. That would be foolish. But we ARE SAYING that we deserve to live in a world where we could. It is entirely possible to acknowledge an unfortunate reality and simultaneously work to change it. THAT is what SlutWalk is about: breaking the silence, refusing excuses from status quo observers, and changing people’s attitudes to create a world where the threat of sexual assault isn’t contingent on what we wear or where we go, because it shouldn’t (and one day, I believe, WON’T) exist anymore.
So if you feel like this is a worthwhile cause, come out and support one of the satellite SlutWalk events happening all over the US and Canada this year. I’ll be at the one in DC on August 13th. Let me know if you want to join me!