Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A few quick thoughts on SlutWalk (or "Oh great.. here she goes again..")

I've really been wanting to write about this, but my thoughts on the situation have been a bit muddled.  It occurred to me that many people were not clear on what the point of it all really was.

I mean, many people by now have heard the story of the cop in Toronto who was reprimanded for telling a group of women that they can avoid being victimized by 'Not dressing like sluts.'  Naturally this pissed a lot of people as victim-blaming based on clothing choice, based on how much someone has chosen to drink... well, it's all old hat by now.

The name Slutwalk is problematic, yes.  There are historical contexts around the word that hold different meanings for people of different backgrounds and cultures.  My understanding of these contexts is, well, shoddy at best, so if it seems like I'm glossing over them, it's just because I have not done adequate research into the issues behind the etymology.  In the context of the Toronto walk, it made sense.

It's not about the right to dress "slutty" (well, it is.. but slutty is a subjective term... hold on, I'm getting ahead of myself.)  It's not about the right to sleep with whomever you want, whenever you want.  It's not about the idea of taking back the word "Slut" - something I myself am less than totally comfortable with.  Yes, making a word taboo can give it power to hurt, but taking away the taboo doesn't necessarily take away the sting.

Basically what it boils down to is this:
No mater {sic} who you are or what you do, EVERYBODY is a slut in somebody’s estimation, and that means that as long as our culture makes “sluts” rapeable, it is a threat to us all.
Basically, it's the idea that one's perception of whether or not someone dresses like, or is, a 'slut' is NOT a justification for assault, and that policing women on their manner of dress, even out of sincere concern, contributes to a culture that puts the onus for risk reduction on victims to protect themselves from rape and other forms of sexual assault, rather than on the people doing the assaulting.

Basically, a Yes is a Yes.  A short skirt is not a yes. A pair of yoga pants is not a Yes.  A MuuMuu is not a Yes.

But when people say things like "Look at that girls' skirt, she looks like she's 'asking for it'" or when we slut-shame each other, we turn it into a "Yes, but..."

"Yes, people shouldn't rape, but... if (girls wouldn't dress so slutty) (didn't drink so much) (didn't leave their drinks unattended) (didn't smile and flirt so much)... they wouldn't get raped"

This is victim-blaming.  This is rape apology.  The point of the Slutwalk is not to get dressed up in your sleaziest attire and strut your stuff (although I'm sure some did), but rather was to point out that anyone, at any time, can be branded a Slut and as such, in our current culture can face blame for their own victimization.  Me.  You.  Anybody.


  1. Yeah, I always found it strange when people described it as "the right to walk around naked" and such. To me, the Slutwalk has always been about us--WOMEN--rather than men defining our own comfort zones. To me, it has been about "I'm dressed like a slut, according to me. I'm not dressed like a slut, according to me. I'M the one who defines sluthood for myself. If you disagree with me on whether I am dressed like a slut, you are wrong. And I am right. Because men do not define sluthood, just as they do not define femininity or what it means to be womanly--that is the right of women." This, I think, while it may take lesser significance behind the more urgent STOP VICTIM BLAMING message, is also key.

  2. When I read about it I laughed a little and thought to myself would it be wrong to try and pick up a woman there. lol

  3. A MuuMuu is the definition of "No."

  4. Hmmm! I had not heard of Slutwalk...

    I was at a restaurant recently where two of the women at the table next to me where wearing dresses that actually did not cover their asses, even standing up. I did not think they were asking to be raped. I did, however, think they were asking for quite a few dirty looks, which they received.

    Me, all I could think about was the need for their chairs to be wiped down after they left...


  5. Honestly, really wasn't expecting that direction based on the topic. I know nothing about this SlutWalk of which you speak, but I do know that my daughter's going to hate me when she starts wanting to pick out which clothes to buy.

  6. The website for the toronto walk provides a little more background, plus there are a lot of interested personal stories from people who participated


  7. Great post, you've expressed my thoughts almost exactly, which means I probably shouldn't do the post I was going to do on it, because I'll probably just be repeating you.

  8. Sadly there are plenty of blokes who feel the need to control women and this attitude is an aspect of that. They should try not taking themselves so seriously.

  9. it is true that no one is asking to be raped. People wear things for different reasons. Many I do not agree with but I keep my comments private just as I woould expect them to about my non matching clothes and crocs. I'm sure there is a common sense rule that you just don't go trapsing into a bad neighborhood dressed all sexy because you are going to draw attention and it probably isn't good attention. Doesn't mean you deserve what may happen but you also didn't use your head. Don't take that the wrong way either!

  10. @Bushman

    No one needs to be told. Thanks.

  11. Wow, this was the clearest and most well understood interpretation I've read about these walks yet =] I love how you addressed this whole situation, as a way of protesting victim-blaming instead of women wanting to walk around wearing whatever she they want.
    Friend, if a girl was to walk into a 'bad neighbourhood' wearing sexy clothing (perhaps she thought they were appropriate?) and was raped or sexually assaulted, then the only person not using his or her (just so we aren't being sexist) head is the attacker. And you, apparently.

  12. Kind of missed the point, there, Bushman. No one is saying "Don't take precautions." We're going to take precautions because this shit is drummed into our heads from the time we are old enough to say the words 'training bra'.. don't walk in scary neighborhoods, don't dress slutty, don't take drinks from strangers, don't leave your doors unlocked at night. It's actually pretty insulting to assume that the vast majority of assault victims haven't been engaged in some form of risk reduction.

    But in the eons women have been being told how to avoid being raped, no one seems to be telling perpetrators of rape not to.

    It gets passed along a lot, but it bears reading for anyone who hasn't seen it:

    How to Prevent Rape

  13. @Bushman... the other thing, and a big part of the idea behind the slutwalk, is this: How does any one person know what a potential rapist is going to react to? someone being "All sexy" is subjective.. Different people are going to find things sexy.

    Also, finding something sexy does not equate to finding something to be inciting to rape.

  14. What gives me the "observer" the right to decide for you the "actor" most anything When am I, the "observer" being forced (or responsibly allowed) to become an "actor"?

    I think when you assault me (not "offend me") I may be forced. I think that when you Clearly Unknowingly for example have a (hidden to you) hole in your attire (or a man having his fly down), I may have a right to Tactfully note what I have noticed - and Offer you an option you might not otherwise have.

  15. I'm not sure I follow what point you are trying make, Geo. Are you saying that someone dressed distastefully is an assault against you?


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