Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Cause of the Week: SlutWalk
I'm sure you have probably heard about SlutWalk before... men and women marching through the streets, scantily clad, with signs and chants about how society blames victims for being raped. That sort of paints an accurate picture, but you really have to understand SlutWalk's history to fully understand the movement.
According the Wikipedia, On January 24, 2011 Constable Michael Sanguinetti spoke on crime prevention at a York University safety forum at Osgoode Hall Law School.He said: "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." Co-founders Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis decided to use the word slut in their response. They observe that historically, "slut" has had negative connotations, and that their goal is to redeem the term. They write that women "are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result."
The first SlutWalk was born; over 3,000 people came together to speak and march to the Tornoto Police Headquarters. Women dressed like "sluts" in order to send a message. The movement caught on like wildfire and there have since been SlutWalks all over the world, including New York City, England, Australia, Seattle, and Asheville. It has gotten a slew of media coverage, press and attention from feminists.
I think grassroots movements like this one are key to creating social change. For centuries, we have seen oppressed groups come together to strike, march and protest. This on-the-ground-activism has played a pivotal role in bringing issues like this to the forefront. Sure, women's rights advocates and prevention specialists have talked about slut shaming before. They have written books, given speeches, held forums and conducted research. But before SlutWalk, there was never any publicized events of this nature. There were never any public displays of slut...and did there ever need to be. Since SlutWalk began a year and a half ago, I have seen major changes in the ways activists treat women's bodies. I have seen mobilization where there was none, a voice, a passion given to women of all shapes and sizes. Suddenly, sluts had a voice and it was pretty damn cool to be one. Slut was officially taken back.
I believe that SlutWalk will ultimately play a role in beginning the conversation in society about the double standard between men and women's bodies; men can show skin, be topless and its no big deal, it's not sexual at all; but if women do the same they are dirty, inappropriate and anything but proper. People are beginning to wake up and see the body shaming that happens every day. People are beginning to see the rape and sexual violence that happens because of it. People are beginning to see the destructive nature of this notion. People are beginning to change.
So go out there and be a slut, show your skin, love your body and don't be afraid! Love yourself and dress any way you feel comfortable dressing. Empower other women around you to do the same and challenge societies ideas about appearance. Encourage them and their journey of self discovery. Be bold, be proud, be beautiful. Be Slut.