If you haven’t heard about SlutWalk this is a good explanation from Katie J.M. Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle:
In January, Toronto police officer Michael Sanguinetti told law school students during a lecture on safety that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
What does it mean to dress like a slut? Sanguinetti, who later apologized, didn’t specify – he just advised that women shouldn’t do it. The likelihood that he was only trying to be helpful became the driving force behind the SlutWalk movement: Why do we teach women how not to dress instead of men how not to rape?
Thousands of Toronto residents, mostly young women, marched in the first SlutWalk in April in a protest where marchers attempted to reclaim the word “slut.” Since then, SlutWalks have taken place everywhere from Dallas to Delhi. San Francisco will get its own SlutWalk on Saturday.
The concept behind SlutWalk, organizers say, is that no outfit justifies sexual assault. SlutWalkers wear all types of apparel. Some wear bustiers, while others wear burqas, sports bras or combat boots.
From their website:
These are our guidelines and work for us here in Toronto. They may work for your area as well or they may not. Please feel free to edit them to suit your needs if you choose to use them:
• 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. We suggest you engage in dialogue with groups in your area that will help include many diverse voices in your event.
• 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.
And here is Baker again on the SF Slutwalk and the feminists who don’t get it.
Some feminists say SlutWalks are a superficial distraction. “I have mostly felt irritation that stripping down to skivvies and calling ourselves sluts is passing for keen retort,” wrote Rebecca Traister in the New York Times Magazine. In the Guardian in London, Gail Dines and Wendy J. Murphy argued that women should be protesting against gendered violence, “not for the right to be called ‘slut.’ “
I stopped by a SlutWalk SF Bay meeting last week to ask local organizers what they thought of their detractors’ opinions.
Three women and one man sat around a small table in the back of El Cafetazo. Two of the four had backgrounds in social justice, but the chief organizer, 29-year-old Evelin Ramirez, said she never expected to be running the show. After reading about SlutWalk online, the San Francisco State student e-mailed the founders to ask when SlutWalk was coming to her city. They told Ramirez that she was the first to inquire, and asked her to orchestrate the San Francisco event.
“It’s time to determine how the women of the future want to be approached by men, and by each other,” said Ramirez, who was hesitant about her leadership role but fervent about the cause. She joked easily with the other organizers, some of whom she had just met. When her dog jumped onto the lap of the only man at the meeting, she laughed. “What a little slut; just kidding, she’s neutered.”
A few moments later, Ramirez told me she was raped as a 5-year-old and grew up thinking the incident was her fault. “It took me decades to realize it wasn’t,” Ramirez said. “SlutWalk is an attainable, actionable way to help other women realize that it’s not theirs, either.”
Critics who dismiss SlutWalkers as half-naked women striving to be “sluttish” are oversimplifying the movement. It’s more sensational to describe SlutWalk in those terms, but it’s inaccurate; click through photos of SlutWalks past and you’ll see that there are just as many women dressed comfortably and conservatively as there are in booty shorts.
If you’re looking for a simple message, try this poster from a London SlutWalker: “How to prevent rape: Don’t rape anyone.”