Why I Will Be Participating in SlutWalk

Published May 14, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

So you may have seen some buzz around lately in the media about an event called SlutWalk.  What SlutWalk is, is a rally/march in protest of the cultural attitude that a woman may “deserve” to be raped/sexually assaulted, based on measures of what she wears, whether or not she is consuming drugs or alcohol, or her sexual activity, amongst other things.

SlutWalk began in Toronto, Canada after a police officer giving a talk at a college campus safety information session stated that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”.  Quite understandably so, the people of Toronto were angry at this and a protest event sprang up very quickly, the inaugural SlutWalk.  As the word spread around the world, allies all around the world have been organising their own local event to send the message that slut-shaming victims of rape/sexual assault is not acceptable.

Just a couple of days ago, I read this amazing speech given at Boston SlutWalk by Jaclyn Friedman.  Jaclyn really expresses most of my own thoughts (and a whole lot more) in her piece.  Don’t miss it – whether you watch the video or read the transcript.

A lot of women really have a problem with the term “slut” and some have refused to take part in the events because of the name.  Many feel that it is a derogatory term that shouldn’t be used to describe women, and feel that “reclaiming” the word encourages people to use the word to shame women who are sexually active, who enjoy sex or who dress in a manner that is considered “sexy”.

To be honest, I am inclined to agree.  It is a word that is used to shame and bully women, to control them by socially policing them into shame for having any form of sexuality and sexual expression.  It’s not a word I want to hear used to describe women and/or girls.

But that said, I am still going to participate in SlutWalk.

Why?  Because I feel it is of the highest importance that we, as a society, stand up and speak out against the rape culture that implies that women “asked for” or somehow deserved rape in any way, shape or form.  We need to speak out against a culture that tries to control women by dictating what they wear, what they do with their own bodies and how they conduct their sex lives.

Because I believe there is nothing that anyone can do or say that makes them deserve rape.  Ever.

But most importantly, as a sexual assault survivor myself, a rape survivor myself (I still have issues using that word in reference to my own experience) who has been doubted, questioned and denied the right to name what happened to me, I need to speak out against a culture that puts the onus of preventing rape on the victim, instead of where it should be, on the perpetrator.

The very reason I never reported my own rape (and other sexual assaults) was because I was led to believe that it was somehow my fault that I was raped.  I was shamed for being a victim of a horrible, violent act that someone else perpetrated against me.

So on the 28th of May, I will be joining the Brisbane SlutWalk, not to reclaim the word slut or proclaim myself a proud slut, but to stand up and stay that nobody deserves rape for any reason.

I urge you to become involved in the SlutWalk in your local area.  Don’t let the shame pushed at women hold you back from speaking out against the injustice of rape apologism and victim blaming.

22 comments on “Why I Will Be Participating in SlutWalk

  • I agree with you about the usage of the word and I don’t think it is one that I personally want to reclaim or even see reappropriated.

    That doesn’t negate the importance of the march and the message that hopefully doesn’t get lost. I will participate if I can.

  • I have not heard of this event. But I think it is great that people can protest at this out dated belief. I hope you can also gain more power from it for your own comfort. I will be with you in spirit, shouting out my support.

    • I believe by silencing the word, and allowing it to be used as a tool of shame, we allow those who use it to silence and control us. By declaring it loudly as a tool of shame, and denouncing it as a word that has ANY power over us, we seize back control of our lives, our bodies and our choices.

      We have to stand up and say “You will not use that word against me to blame me for what others do to me.”

      You can despise it all you like, as I do – but it must never be allowed to silence us ever again.

  • I was at the one in Boston. I heard that speech in person. It was a great experience to walk about the Commons.

  • I understand where you’re coming from, however I feel like this event illustrates that most women are labeled slut by someone else first. In fact, most of the women I’ve known, regardless of their sex life or clothing choices, have been called a slut already.

    I realize there are women who revel in their slutiness. I would prefer to support them. If I don’t want to be called a slut I’m allowing the word to infringe on my sexual choices, no matter what they are.

    • As I said above, by allowing people to label us with it, and silencing the word as a kind of Voldemort of words – one that should never be uttered – we’re buying into the shame that is being placed on our shoulders. We’re accepting it when we try to eliminate the word.

      Instead, I think we should be shouting from the rooftops what a tool of shame and control that word is. Denouncing it loudly, screaming that it cannot be used to shame women out of their own choices and lives.

      The event is not about CALLING yourself a slut, but about exposing what that word actually means and the false power that people give it.

  • “Because I believe there is nothing that anyone can do or say that makes them deserve rape. Ever.”

    This times a million.

    Great post and thank you for the courage to tell others about your experiences and the drive to do something to make things better. You so rock!


    • I don’t think it’s going to be a good experience for any of the participants jen. I think it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to draw some really mean shit said about us. But I hope that someone out there listens. And re-thinks their attitude about rape culture. That’s why I’m doing it.

  • My mum used to call me a slut – because I am messy and had an untidy bedroom. I gather that ‘slut’ does not mean the same in the wide world as it does in the west of Scotland? A slutty woman in my part of the world would be the one with the yellowing net curtains, having unwashed hair, showing her grubby bra-strap from the edge of her top. It wasn’t necessarily anything to do with sex, more to do with standards and caring how others perceived you – if you were an adult woman and didn’t care to live up to the standard expected by the local community you were a slut.

    I understand my first statement there might be shocking in world terms, but really, I don’t think the use of a word should stop those who can from going along to a slutwalk – to me it’s about the judgement of lifestyle, clothing, attitudes. That policeman had an idea in his head about how women are, how he was wiser and expected the world to react in a certain way to women being women and wearing the things they want to wear. He is a timely example of how we also need to keep reminding the men in our lives that it doesn’t matter what a woman wears, she is not inviting violent assault of any kind.

    I do hope there isn’t much mean shit thrown the slutwalkers’ way either, but since I have already got into a big discussion about this on a friend’s wall on FB (in which male friends chimed in with generally unenlightened and depressing attitudes) I’m not hopeful that the message has already got through to people.

    • Originally the word meant a dirty woman. But of course, women having/wanting or expressing sex is now considered dirty, thus the attachment to sexual context.

      • Is *now* considered dirty? It’s my understanding that women have always been discouraged (at the very least) from admitting being sexual beings in public. But yeah, preferring to have some good sex instead of scrubbing a floor or a window – how slutty. 😉

      • Yes, the history of sex being dirty when it comes to women is actually relatively short. But it seems like it has always been this way.

        Even the Victorians were more liberal about sex in a lot of ways than we are!

  • While I admire anybody standing up against rape, I feel it only denotes a derogatory message to others by using the word “slut”. I think the use of this word only makes others look down on those who march and thereby makes the message meaningless. Ever since I heard of this event, it has left a really dirty taste in my mouth, and I am saddened that such an important message against rape has been sullied by this term. I think marching for gender equality and mutual respect would be much more positive than marching for this cause.

    • Sereena I urge you to read some of the responses to these accusations. I would hope that once people read these, they would open their minds about the need to denounce the power of such a word over us.

  • I applaud your bravery and strength to do this. The main message is whether you are considered a Slut, bitch, skank, whore, tramp, ho, you do not deserve to be raped or assaulted in any manner. Yes the labels are seen as derogatory in our society, however, it does not make the people who carry them any less human or less deserving of safety and dignity.

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