There are many arguments fighting against the SlutWalk movement. Each one valid, coming from a very specific social location and perspective.
It’s interesting, the history behind a movement, a cause, a run for recognition… not as sluts, or just those who would like to reclaim the word, but as human beings, as women, as lovers and relatives and fighters. There is so much push back against the SlutWalk because of the provocative name-which serves a really great purpose: to incite thought, and invite change.
Though initially a movement in response to a police officer’s usage of the word slut – AS WELL AS a movement in response to a prevalent rape myth and ideology that permeates our society, that an individual can be blamed for their own assault because of what they are wearing. How can the clothes or demeanor of a person allow for an act of brutal violence with long lasting traumatic effects? The rape culture affects all of us.
The idea, when laid out like that, seems preposterous. But then again, we have Kansas State Rep. Pete DeGraaf insinuating that women should be prepared to be raped, as well as possibly have a child from rape, much like carrying around a spare tire in preparation. Really?
Not only is public opinion dominated by a heteronormative and gendered male focus as we are keenly aware, public space is as well. I am constantly keeping in mind how close to walk by a man or group of men due to impending street harassment. Comments are made on the street, on the bus, at schools or work or parks, alone or in groups of other womyn, whether I’m pushing a stroller wearing work clothes, riding a bike, at the beach in a sundress, or out at night in heels. This starts young, really young. The youth in our society are subjected to this and learn how these views affect their place in the world. What does that say about our culture?
The SlutWalk also has high criticism for being from a white perspective, as the word “slut” is stereotypically used in white culture. I understand these arguments: offensive name AND white privilege running the show. There was also heartfelt concerns raised about the SlutWalk Chicago (I do not know about others, if this was addressed) not being trans-friendly or inclusive. Being white and cisgendered, these concerns are coming from different social locations than mine. These ideas and discussions are what build movement and increase inclusivity! I know there is shifting to help the SlutWalk become more inclusive in these ways, because of communication and openness of the parts of the organizers and those involved.
Though “slut” does not offend me as a word, I would have been offended in a different time and context. SlutWalks provide a hopeful pathway for standing as an ally against victim blaming, shaming, and naming that combat the rape culture that is maintained and perpetuated constantly in media, by the legal system, by authority figures and peace officers, in religious affiliations, in the education system, in politics, and much much more.
So, what do we do?
Revolution starts with an individual. Be you male or female, queer or straight, a survivor of sexual assault or an empathetic ally, abledbodied, mono or multi racial… should I keep going? …YOU can make a difference. By being an advocate of rape victims, by stopping street harassment, by discontinuing and not allowing victim blaming or person shaming, by avoiding and girl-boy-cotting brands and business that partake in the rape culture… Then, what else? We can stand together. Walk together. With purpose and stride, reclaiming words that may or may not offend us, that have been used as verbal weapons against members of our community.
As a survivor of sexual assault, of rape, I am completely in support of any direct action that works towards doing such. Coming out as a survivor just in January, as I told a friend for the first time (5 years later), numerous womyn have also approached me about similar and horrifying experiences. It makes me cry thinking of it. Family members, close friends, colleagues, womyn I have never met.
I will walk in the SlutWalk because I want to see a difference. I want to incite thought and invite change. I want those around us, those who KNOW we are walking to ASK why we are walking, to THINK about how they can then be an ALLY, too. I want to make a difference. This is why I am committed to participating in the SlutWalk Chicago, and only wish I could attend others.
I also hope to see many of you this Saturday, at the James R Thompson Center, stepping off at noon, to walk and combat a culture that teaches “don’t get raped” as opposed to “don’t rape” and other harmful sexual double standards, against the promotion of slut-shaming and victim-blaming and for enthusiastic consent, equality, education and sexual assault survivors’ rights.