New York-based musical comedy duo Reformed Whores have always had a lot to say about what it means to be a modern woman. So in the wake of Rush Limbaugh Slut-Gate 2012, they took it upon themselves to record a song for tawdry birth-control-using, college-degree-holding women everywhere. After all, if wanting medical insurance to cover the pill makes us sluts and seeking to educate ourselves so we can be more competitive in the job market makes us snobs (as Rick Santorum seems to think) shouldn't we have our own theme song?
After hearing a Toronto officer tell women they shouldn’t dress like sluts if they don’t want to be raped, fed-up feminists Sonya JF Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized the protest march SlutWalk. They considered the officer’s comment to be shocking evidence of cultural attitudes surrounding sexual violence and our epidemic of blaming the victim. The officer issued a public apology, but Barnett and Jarvis were not appeased. In April they organized a march called SlutWalk in Toronto, with more than 3,000 people rallying to express their outrage. Even with global support, Barnett and Jarvis have received searing criticism for their decision to attach the descriptor slut to their grassroots movement. The four-letter word has incited anger from political and religious groups and from some feminists who feel that the language harms women. “We have had every kind of response you can imagine,” says Jarvis. “We’ve had death threats.”
On the day I marched with SlutWalk, 700 protesters were arrested in New York City. They weren’t at SlutWalk, of course; that protest attracted between 1,000 and 4,000 people (reports have varied wildly), and there were no reported arrests. The 700 were part of the main event: the protest downtown. It was hard to ignore Occupy Wall Street that day. Protesters discussed it amongst themselves while marching; on the fringes of the protest, people handed out the Occupied Wall Street Journal. That protest—describing itself as a “resistance movement” against “greed and corruption,” and comparing itself explicitly to the Arab Spring, which if nothing else shows that overblown self-promotional language is not just a SlutWalk problem—was in its third week, and had survived bad weather, reported police brutality, and a false rumor that Radiohead would be playing a free show there. I had been staying away from Occupy Wall Street. I wasn’t sure why; I, like every other progressive in the city, had been exhorted to attend, reminded that it was both my right and my duty. As a recession casualty, and a woman from a working-class family, I often thought that my lack of money controlled my life, and brought violence and suffering into it, just as much as my gender had. But the exhortations made me resentful, for reasons I couldn’t name. It was something to do with the big, sexy, non-specific targets; something to do with the language of duty; something to do with the fact that men who had routinely given me gentle or not-so-gentle crap for my own activism were now Tweeting constantly about the power of the people and the obligation of the masses to protest. It wasn’t until I marched in SlutWalk that I finally got it. It was simply this: No matter how hyped SlutWalk had been, no matter how long the marches had been going on or how global their reach was, no one ever imagined we could book Radiohead. We had all known that wasn’t our place; it wasn’t a degree of recognition we felt entitled to, even in our fantasies. Even on the day we marched, we weren’t the biggest show in town. We had accepted that. We didn’t tell the Wall Streeters it was their duty to join forces with us; we didn’t express resentment that more of them hadn’t come uptown. We were just feminists, after all. We might well be the next wave, but to the progressive community we looked a lot like the feminist waves before us: A sort of women’s auxiliary to the real movement. Maybe admirable, mostly irrelevant.
It was the 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall, and the day meant to put a crack in the wall of sexual assault stereotypes. Though it almost seems like the former was an easier achievement. It seemed more like a multicultural party, packed with friendly people, rather than a protest. Slutwalk participants are out to teach people (notably men) the meaning of two simple words: "yes" and "no." Until 1989, the breaking of the "no" at the Berlin Wall meant possibly getting shot. Nowadays, the violation of "no," when it comes to someone's own body, might end with blaming the victim. The essence is the same totalitarian attitude: You are free to do whatever we want you to. In Berlin, I joined some 3,000 "sluts." One of them, Sophie, had a personal reason for putting on her sexiest red underwear, a corset and a pair of high heels. Several months ago, she was beaten up by a man when she came out of a bar. She supposes his motivation was her sexy outfit. The real reason still remains a mystery for her, and so does the face of the aggressor. She woke up on the pavement after a while and couldn't remember much of what happened.
For Sophie, the Slutwalk is a chance to say publically, no matter how I dress, you still don't have a right to beat me up.
I started (con)sensual in 2009 because I wanted to get everyone talking. I wanted to hear every voice. And I still do. Because the time to dismantle rape culture and end our culture of shame is now. Because that time should have been a long time ago. And SlutWalk belongs in D.C. because this is a city of loud voices – but not ours. We have watched Washington go silent on sexual violence, comprehensive sex education, our bodily autonomy, our human rights, and our safety. That is unacceptable. The voices in Washington should sound more like ours. So we must keep making noise, until that noise fills every school, until it fills every office, until it fills every life. Until everyone is free to speak up, and speak out, and until the world is ready to listen. Until we’re free to live on our own terms. The struggle to end violence belongs to everyone. And only with our voices can we all come together – in solidarity, and with respect, and on our terms.
Women in Costa Rica hold SlutWalk in protest at Catholic clergy remarks that women's ultimate purpose is fertilisation. Women in Costa Rica held their own SlutWalk on Sunday after controversial comments from senior Catholic clerics earlier this month. At a ceremony honouring Costa Rica’s patron saint, Mexico’s Cardinal Francisco Robles said women should create ‘a more humane world by exercising creativity in the household’ instead of ‘emulating men’. He was attending the event on behalf of the Pope. And Cartago bishop José Francisco Ulloa asked women to dress ‘modestly’ to avoid being ‘dehumanised’. He also said that a women’s ultimate purpose was fertilisation. The words outraged feminists, leading marchers to chant ‘Get your rosaries off our ovaries!’ Montserrat Sagot, university professor and feminist leader, welcomed the awakening sentiment the march represented and that the younger generation wants a secular state.
In the lecture “What’s Wrong and What’s Right with Contemporary Feminism?The SlutWalk movement, in my opinion, is an extension of what Ms. Sommers called “victim feminism.” I’m sure, by now, you’ve heard about SlutWalks since a few articles on it have been written by several of my colleagues. It’s this movement which is supposed to deconstruct patriarchy’s negative caricature stereotype of sexually liberal, sex-positive women (since patriarchy, allegedly, implies that only prostitutes can enjoy sex with multiple-partners) but ends up reinforcing it by walking the streets dressed up like, well, prostitutes – thereby inadvertently isolating the idea of “a woman who enjoys sexual freedom” with the image of – provocative clothing. Some would argue that these provocative clothes are worn as costumes to make fun of the patriarchal stereotype. But at the end of the day it’s called a SlutWalk; it’s a pride march for a sexually liberated lifestyle and a sexually liberated identity and even in jest, the association between sexualized images and sexual liberty might imply that only women who have the audacity to dress like this enjoy sex. Personally, I have nothing against women who dress provocatively. Ultimately, women are supposed to be able to wear what they want. In fact, it is completely legal for women to wear what they want. There is no law which prevents women from wearing revealing clothing. My problem with the SlutWalk is that these women want a privilege or an assurance that extends beyond legal permission. There’s a claim that women should not be judged for what they wear, and that people should not respond negatively (by calling them sluts) or respond positively (by approaching them, or staring at them at length [I think the exact term was “to ogle”], or by whistling) to what they wear. In other words, they want to be able to wear what they want, without you being able to say what you want about what they wear. They are, in my opinion, asking for “special” rights, not equal rights.
The Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa is the latest in roughly 80 cities internationally to hold a SlutWalk. Marchers in Honduras came out for a variety of reasons including: bringing an end to street harassment, demanding an end to the rising rate of murdered women in the country, reproductive rights in a country where the morning after pill is banned and abortion carries a 3-6 year prison sentence. Produced by Jesse Freeston.
While the world witnesses a wave of slutwalks inspired by the iconic Toronto Slutwalk, the Indian version has also embraced the concept albeit with a desi twist to the name. Formerly known as the Delhi Slutwalk, it has been renamed as Slutwalk Athaart Besharmi Morcha to make it more inclusive.The Delhi chapter of the international movement was kickstarted by Umang Sabharwal, a student of Kamla Nehru College. Though scheduled for June 25, it has been postponed to last week of July.The slutwalk movement has been grabbing headlines after university students took too streets over a Toronto police officer’s flippant comment that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid being raped or victimized. Since then slutwalks have taken place in Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne, Chicago, London. he worldwide movement is aimed at claming women’s right to wear what they want without being branded as ‘sluts’ asking for trouble. The aim of the Delhi chapter is to combat culture of victim blaming in most rape cases.
Nick Freeman – nicknamed Mr Loophole for his success in getting clients off motoring cases – said girls who wear ‘racy’ underwear and skimpy tops made it clear they had one thing on their minds: sex. The 54-year-old, whose clients have included David Beckham, said women who insisted they dressed in this way for themselves and not the opposite sex were liars and urged them to ‘take more responsibility’. Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos criticised Mr Freeman’s comments as illogical. She said: ‘The idea that men are at the mercy of their testosterone and see a woman in a short skirt and think “I’m going in for the kill” is demeaning to men. It’s saying they’re not capable enough to ascertain for themselves what they really think or want.’ Mr Freeman expressed his views in a local newspaper column as he commented on a Slut Walk protest that took place in Manchester. Mr Freeman wrote: ‘Those taking part claimed women should be able to wear whatever they like in public – including racy red underwear – without being judged and their motives questioned. But, as a red-blooded alpha male, let me state unequivocally that I believe how a woman dresses (and behaves in that dress) tells a man what’s on her mind.’ He makes clear he abhors rape and attacks on women, writing: ‘As a criminal defence lawyer, I’ve been involved with plenty of cases where those who have been dressed in a perfectly conventional way were still victims of this heinous crime. I also strongly believe Yes is Yes and No is No. But in the real world a woman who behaves or dresses in a sexually provocative way conveys a certain message. A message that ironically can victimise men. ‘So ladies, when you say you dress for yourselves and not for us males, I don’t believe you. It’s time to take responsibility for how you act and what you wear.’ Dr Papadopoulos said: ‘What he is doing is turning a man into an imbecile, who is unable to have a proper conversation to ascertain what the short skirt actually means.‘There are a lot of ways we give each other messages but one of the clear messages is verbal. How about men taking responsibility for how they act? There’s no evidence that more women are raped for wearing a short skirt than a long skirt.’
When 19-year-old Umang Sabarwal set up a Facebook page urging her friends to support an event with the provocative name SlutWalk Delhi, she may not have appreciated what she’d set in motion. Ms. Sabarwal, a student who returned to India four years ago after living in Canada, was reacting out of frustration at the Indian capital’s history of violence against women. Of India’s major cities, Delhi has among the highest rates of rape (489 reported in 2010), street violence and harassment of women. “The way the men stare, you feel like meat,” Ms. Sabarwal said. But trying to hold a walk in Delhi, the first Asian city where such an action is planned, has raised a range of contentious issues, including class differences and feminist priorities. Ms. Sabarwal has pushed the date back from June to July to involve as many women’s rights organizations as possible, and to explain what the protest is all about. Many Indian feminists who support the idea of the march grapple with the name, which employs an English word infrequently heard here. “Only a very tiny percentage of upper-class, elite people use the word ‘slut’ in India,” said Annie Zaidi, a journalist. “On the street, it’s never thrown at you. You’re never called ‘slut.’ It’s hard to reclaim a word that isn’t used.” At the Badarpur subway station, Mita Desai, 17, said she didn’t understand it at all. “Is slut like randi?” she asked, using the Hindi word for prostitute. “It’s not like the men here need to call you names to grab your breasts or threaten you.” Ms. Desai, a sales clerk at a cosmetics shop, said she often dealt with sexual harassment on her commute to and from work. But she said she wouldn’t participate in the protest. “My parents won’t like it,” she said. “And it’s for rich college women, not for women like me.”
So, has the SlutWalks’ year-long fight against victim-blaming and slut-shaming really made any progress? The evidence is discouraging. While each walk usually gets media attention, it’s nearly impossible to say whether or not the walks have actually opened up any substantial, public dialogue about victim-blaming. The walks have received plenty of criticism from feminists, who argue that the focus on the term “slut” distracts from the message on victim-blaming, or that the term “slut” is too deeply rooted in the patriarchal views of women to ever be reclaimed. Victims are still being blamed for violent crimes, as evidenced in the Trayvon Martin case. Slut-shaming still occurs — Rush Limbaugh’s recent attacks on Sandra Fluke show that women’s sexuality is still being used to insult and shame them. But while the evidence for change is lacking, there is still hope for SlutWalks. As Emily Bazelon‘s article in Slate points out, the SlutWalks and the support that rallied behind Sandra Fluke both are evidence of a shift towards embracing women’s sexuality, rather than denying or ignoring it. By putting the issue of slut-shaming front and center, Bazelon argues, feminists can better force legislators to quit dismissing the victims of rape based on, say, their previous sexual experiences, or how they were dressed at the time. So, while SlutWalks might not be the sole key to dismantling rape culture and ending victim-blaming, and their approach might elicit the wrong sort of attention, they still play an important role in grabbing your attention and forcing a public dialogue about women’s sexuality. So, ladies, grab your stilettos: Let’s go join the march and embrace our inner sluts. As activist Jessica Skolnik, who helped organized SlutWalk Chicago, explained in an interview, the SlutWalk “is a rally against our culture of shame, sexual double standards, and the way those double standards have become a cornerstone of rape...
Let’s get this straight: SlutWalk fights for the right to express our sexuality free from shame, hate and abuse. Sexuality is infinitely more complex and beautiful than “dressing sexy.” The New Paper twisted our mission into something people could make fun of without thinking critically about any of the issues surrounding sexual diversity, sex choices and freedom from sexual abuse.
As a woman who walks in a skin-color identified [incorrectly in terms of accuracy, as my skin-color changes dramatically while I age on a planet impacted by an ecology irrevocably damaged by irresponsible humans] as ‘white’, I claim to speak for no specific group. And yet, I speak. I speak as one human with one vagina who has a spirit and body that carries the wounding that an enormous statistic of other humans have also experienced, each in their own unique way.
I personally believe that:
Legitimacy does not come from: “I am a ____ .”
But more that:
Legitimacy comes from: “I am.”
(And yes. I am painfully aware that even the nature of my personal beliefs and thought process is profoundly influenced by the privilege [relative, given that gender roles and gender identification play so importantly into the hierarchy we live as an outgrowth of patriarchy] relegated by my skin color.)
I’m a feminist because I have faith that once we individually and collectively harness our feminine energy sufficient to offset the pure masculine ethos of the unregulated corporate person, with its unlimited billionaire underwritten speech—we will get back to a relatively lush, safe and sane America where we all share in the beauty of the commons and we all share the costs of maintaining our general welfare.
My friend recently asked whether I could talk to her daughter about how to deal with men leering at her. The daughter is eleven. In two years she’ll celebrate her bat mitzvah, when the world will recognize her as a woman. Yet today, her mother and I are inducting her into the underbelly of womanhood – how to deal with vulgar looks and gestures and comments and the threat of assault. I propose a pop-up picket sign, activated by a button like an umbrella. “I’m somebody’s daughter,” it might say. Or, depending on your mood, “I’m somebody’s daughter, asshole.” Or, “What if this were your daughter/sister?” Groups like Hollaback organize women to use their cell phones to snap photos or video of offenders and post them online. Our hypothetical pop-up for this would read, “Welcome to YouTube,” or “How will the women in your life feel when they see you online?” Some people want to brush off the vulgar behavior by saying, “Boys will be boys,” or “Guys will be guys.” It’s highly insulting to men to imply they lack control over this. I’ve raised two sons who would no more foist unwanted sexual attention on a woman than they would pick up a gun when they had an argument or torture animals.
I am here today because I want to see an end to the victim-blaming in my lifetime, and I’m 42-years old. No, victim-blaming is not going to stop because we are all here participating in SlutWalk Philadelphia. If only it were that easy. However, I believe it is important that the faces, voices, and perspectives of women of color (inclusive of all sexualities) and trans people of color are seen and heard. Documented herstory and contemporary reality has shown us that more often than not, it is our bodies that catch the most hell not only by the State but also by people in and out of our communities (however we define them). It is our bodies that have a demonstrated track record of being on the frontlines of the movements to end all forms of oppression.
I believe words are very, very powerful. At the same time, I really struggle with many who are hostile to the “SlutWalks” because they say it gives the wrong message. What is the right message? I think about Take Back the Night, which was founded in the early ’70s, when I was a toddler. As strange as it may seem today, especially now that Take Back the Night has become an “acceptable” movement throughout this country and globally, I know there was resistance. I’m sure some, if not many people took the position, ‘What do you mean take back the night? You shouldn’t be out at night!’
Personally, I do not embrace the word Slut at all… And, at the same time, I will not say or subscribe to the patriarchal and misogynistic thinking that “we can’t do this or that type of behavior; or wear this or that type of clothing and not expect to get harassed, fondled, and/or raped.
“More than 1,000 women, men and children from all walks of life took to the streets of Washington Saturday in a so-called SlutWalk to protest sexual violence. Demanding victims not be blamed for sexual assault against them, they marched from Lafayette Park outside the White House to the grassy National Mall and the monuments at the heart of the city. "This is what I was wearing when I was raped," Rice's sign read. "Think I was asking for it? The cop sure did." She said participating in the rally was a way to vindicate herself. "I'm here to reclaim myself, it's empowering for me," she told the German Press Agency dpa. "The society needs to start teaching 'don't rape.' " Others sought to shatter stereotypes about what their attire says about women. "Ms Tracy. I am a teacher, not a slut," a nametag worn by one woman in a tight dress read. "We're just here to show that it doesn't really matter what we wear, we're not asking to be victims," explained Tracy Regal, who works as a preschool teacher. The events worldwide seek to turn a traditional pejorative description for women into a battle cry against sexual violence and against the still widespread practice of blaming victims for aggression by pointing to their own behavior or their dress.
SlutWalk has become a lightning rod for the collective anger that women feel about denigration and oppression throughout human history.The only thing that might dampen the spark lit by SlutWalk is its name, and the way in which that hostile, hateful word has somehow morphed into a badge of honor for angry women around the world. Not everyone wants to “reclaim” the word slut, and not everyone wants to glorify sexual freedom. But then SlutWalk isn’t just about “sluts” and the regrettable comment made by that single dumb cop in Toronto last winter. It’s become a lightning rod for the collective anger that women around the world feel about denigration by authorities, oppression by orthodoxies and, most of all, the intractable dominance of men in society and culture. There are many, many messages in SlutWalk. Look around the crowd at any SlutWalk in any city and you’ll see people declaiming or proclaiming a huge variety of issues and causes: gay rights, spousal abuse, program and service cuts, breastfeeding rights, topless and nudist right, local political issues, Anthony Weiner, and even that IMF goon. Everybody’s got a laundry list of reasons to be pissed, although far fewer will want to wear their “I Heart Sluts” button to work on Monday. We put together this gallery of posters and signs from SlutWalks around the world (so far) to illustrate that point. Some are funny, some are clever and poignant, some just perplexing. Collectively, though, they show the incredible energy, enthusiasm and purpose that participants bring to the occasion. Of course, all of this has left the SlutWalk movement without a single, unifying message. “Slut-shaming” and “victim-blaming” and other forms of gender-based bullying are significant issues, but as slogans they only hint at the issues buried underneath. SlutWalk is only nominally about rape culture and the way women dress; it’s about the intersection of language and gender roles and power politics and social mores — a mighty big stew of issues that have been simmering for decades. Put simply, women a re sick of being beaten up, and beaten down, by men.Not all participants and supporters agree with the name, or even with the attempt to make sluts cool. What I think most people do want, however, is to defuse language and behavior that belittles and judges and pigeonholes women. In which case, “slut” is just a starting point.
I wrote this for SlutWalk Toronto, a sex-positive movement that has taken the world by storm.My name is Kendra Holliday, and I am a slut. I was first called a slut by my mom when I was in high school, because I was a promiscuous punk rock girl. It hurt me deeply at the time, but now that I'm an adult in my 30's, I've removed the stigma from the word and have repurposed it into something positive.SO many words have negative connotations - hedonism, bald, aberrant, bipolar, fat, crazy, slut, old - but they don't have to be bad words. We can strip them of the judgment and embrace the honest kernel of truth in each one.You see, we have that power. We have the power to disarm hurtful words and shape our language. It's easy turning verbal bullets into flowers. All you need to do is change your mindset, and that is completely within your power. You may not be able to control other people's behavior, but you do have control over your feelings and can shape your own environment.So what if the dictionary defines the word "slut" as "a slovenly, dirty woman"? How about the urbandictionary definition? "A slut is a woman with the morals of a man." Or the definition from The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures:"A slut is a person of any gender who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you." I define slut as a person who embraces their sexuality creatively, without guilt or shame. My amazing partner proudly uses the word "slut" as a term of endearment for me. It's right up there with "darling," and "My Love." He is not afraid of sluts the way some people are. The sad fact is, in our society there are people who will try to repress - or punish - women who are outspoken about their sexual creativity. It makes them uncomfortable - if she is in charge of her own sexuality, then what? What will she become in charge of next?
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