SlutWalk: Changing a 'don't get raped' culture to a 'don't rape' culture

| April 5, 2011
Photo: Dave Coombs/Flickr

There are moments that can melt the hardest of activist hearts.

I was in a crowd of thousands for the 1st Annual Toronto SlutWalk on April 3, 2011 -- the march a statement against labels and the shame/blame game played against a woman's sexuality -- feeling proud of myself for dressing the way that I wanted as opposed to dressing with my normal shyness of my body.

This feeling often compounded with the socially-derived feeling that: "dis/ability isn't sexy." I started to feel ridiculous wearing my favourite fancy pants since people were staring at me.

To my left was a mother and daughter, the six year old dressed in a fluffy pink dress worthy of any princess. She was more free at that age than I have ever been, skipping and running around with that lack of self-consciousness that I know plagues many women. You just knew she picked that outfit out herself and she was proud of it.

This little girl turned to her mom and said, "I will wear what I wear."

Her mom beamed down at her, quietly saying, "Do you mean you will wear what you want to wear?"

The little girl nodded and said louder, proud, "I will wear what I want to wear!"

And that's when my heart melted. Right then and there. As the mother and daughter proceeded to make a sign -- the little girl wrote it herself -- that said that magical statement that is so absent of fear and self-doubt: "I will wear what I want to wear!"

Maybe I should have asked to take a picture but I didn't want anything to break up that kind of love and support from mother to daughter and I pray to Creator that they both remember that moment between them for the rest of their lives.

I will wear what I want to wear. Because whatever I wear, it is never an invitation for sexual objectification, sexual harassment or sexual abuse. Never.

The ocean of signs with slogans carried by the 3,000 people who partook in the SlutWalk carried the same pride, defiance and strength.

What a woman wears should never be a target.

Unfortunately, in the media, music and mainstream culture women paint themselves with targets when they paint their lips red.

In a larger context, we hear rappers pontificate about "bitches and hoes," sliding credit cards through bum cracks. We get rap stars like Chris Brown who beat up Rhianna and then throw a tantrum when people won't conveniently forget that the incident happens.

Or we get heavy metal albums like that feature busty, blond and blue-eyed women where a woman's degradation is the shock value that sells. I remember a T-shirt -- burned in my mind -- with an image of a woman menstruating while crucified on a cross.

It's also a culture in our protective services where Toronto police suggest that rape victims could have avoided their fate by not dressing as sluts.

Enough with blaming the victim. Enough with a culture that tells a woman to not dress in a way what would garner "negative, undue attention" for looking like a "slut." Our society needs to change from a culture that tells women not to get raped to a culture that demands that men do not rape.

As Jane Doe spoke during the demo, "Rape is about power and violence." She also dismissed the "woman as whore" myth when she dares to express her sexuality, when she admits she "enjoys hot, consensual sex" with a partner of her preference (not always the preference of her family or religion).

Because sexual objectification, sexual harassment and sexual assault is about power, and I do not want to live in a society where my power is diminished for my own good and men's power is heightened by a culture of permissiveness and impunity regarding sexual oppression.

Perhaps you think I speak harshly of our polite Canadian society but the low point at the demo was when a CBC cameraman asked two "slutty" young women to dance for his camera.

They hesitated and I shouted over to them, "You know, you don't have to." They declined and the CBC cameraman went off hunting elsewhere.

Or the tweet I got the next morning from XXXX about my coverage of SlutWalk who suggested that if I only had him as a "partner" and commented: "Bored need new vagina."

In fact, the rally itself was organized -- and titled "SlutWalk" -- in reference to comments made by Constable Michael Sanguinetti who earlier this year advised women at York University to "not dress like sluts" to avoid getting sexually assaulted. The Toronto Police Service has promised to discipline him, but how this will be carried out the public does not know.

This is also a polite Canada where Manitoba Judge Robert Dewar can sentence a rapist to house arrest instead of prison, partly because of the way his female victim was dressed.

A higher court later stated under immense public pressure that Judge Dewar wrongly suggested that the woman's decision to wear a tube top and behave flirtatiously somehow played a part in the sexual assault she suffered in 2006.

Or where over 1,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women are not given concern nor justice by a society or real, Indigenous-focused solutions.

In a press release by SlutWalk:

"Historically, the term 'slut' has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one's character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we're taking it back.

"We are tired of being oppressed by slut shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault."

Because of the Toronto success of SlutWalk, other cities will begin to host their own demonstrations, including Vancouver B.C., London Ont., Ottawa, in Boston and Dallas in the U.S. and in Adelaide, Australia. Please click here to find out more details.

Organizers of the demonstration declared their wish to work with the police -- despite the fact that when asked by organizers, the police refused to send a representative to address the demonstration -- and had three recommendations: to restructure its training and education protocols, implement third-party recommendations regarding said training and improve its public education messaging.

Anna Willats, a member of the Police Accountability Coalition who was standing among the crowd of demonstrators, commented to me that women in Toronto have been working with the police for over 30 years and have still not received the changes they feel will keep them safe.

Others at the march were more critical of the police, chanting "No Justice/No Peace/No Sexist Police." In the Toronto Star on Monday -- along with coverage of the SlutWalk -- of a settled sexual harassment case against a Hamilton Police Sergeant from within the Hamilton police force itself.

Deb Singh of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre also addressed the crowd to add context to the demonstration as she noted that the police, in the process of investigating domestic assault or sexual assault complaints have in the past ended up arresting non-status women complainants for later deportation.

Jane Doe while addressing the crowd reminded the issue of police misogyny was "not about one bad apple cop." A refrain echoed by those critical of policing during the G20 summit.

It's true that is it not just about one bad cop, or one bad male, but rape culture is systemically entrenched in polite Canadian society.

Again, we must move beyond a "don't get raped" culture to a "don't rape" culture. Ever.

It is ironic that while packing for the demonstration, I hesitated in front of the mirror, studying myself in my fancy, furry, tight Zebra-print pants, thinking: Perhaps I should pack an change of clothes, do I really want to be stuck wearing these the rest of the day?

But I promised myself that I stick to my promise to honour myself and I rocked those pants the rest of the day, regardless of the sometimes-stares I got or the lewd "hooker" comment I overheard when in Chinatown.

To hell with that!

I will wear what I want to wear!

Krystalline Kraus is a regular contributor to rabble.ca, writing the Activist Communiqué blog and covered the G20 weekend for rabble.ca. More photos from the SlutWalk can be seen here.

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Comments

There's an old May 68 slogan that goes: "To call into question the society you 'live' in, you must first be capable of calling yourself into question."  I'm with slut too!  That's because there's another slogan: "Take revolution seriously, but don't take yourself seriously."  Solidarity with sluts! "Drive the cop out of your head."  "The bourgeoisie has no other pleasure than to degrade all pleasures."  "Revolutionary women are more beautiful."  Don't rape.  

Well sinse rape is not tollerated in our society in the first place. Meaning that the rape that does occure is not undertaken by the masses and is in fact undertaken by the fringe, won't one take precautions and protect themselves instead of demanding this fringe group control itself? A fringe group that will never disapear untill a better world is developed.

 

I would asume that rape is an uncontrolled behavior to begin with. So why chastize the many because of the few? The few that will be punished when caught for their crimes anyways.

And quite frankly, even though Im no fan of cops. This cop wasn't blaming the women, he was telling them to take precautions. The very thing that cops are suppose to do.They are the ones that deal with it on adaily basis, they would know best how to deal with it safely.

When you're running around in a battle field , wear some protection.

 If you want to dress in a way that is sexualized and meant to attract sexual attention onto yourself, expect people to react accordingly. Cause quite frankly, there are people out there that will turn you into a victom.

 

By all means dress the way ouy want, but understand that you also have to take precautions. Because some men will love you, some will stare at you, some will approach you, some will ignore you, some will cat call you, some will have disrespect for you and some will molest you.

 

Trippie, you missed the point and your ideas are not new or creative. Maybe you should take mjl's advice and call yourself into question?

 

Excellent coverage, KK!

No, i don't think so. I never missed any points here on this one.

It's fantasy worlds that need to be called into question and sinse Im not living in one.....

""that said that magical statement that is so absent of fear and self-doubt: "I will wear what I want to wear!". ""

 

That right there is what I call living in a world of fantasy.

""I will wear what I want to wear. Because whatever I wear, it is never an invitation for sexual objectification, sexual harassment or sexual abuse. Never""

Now when you walk around in public in your underwear you may not want any of these things to hapeen, but when living in the real world they do happen.

And as for the remark of not inviting sexual objefications.Well when dressing like a "slut" you already have done that to yourself. And what else do you want when doing so. Or ar you gonna tell me that walking around in 8" stiletos and your underwear is comfortable. Men and women dress sexual for one reason only, to be desirable. Unfortunately sometimes you attract the wrong type of people.

Rape has nothing to do with sexual desire. Your wires are crossed, trippie, and you're buying the line MSM sensationalism sells you.

Nice try Catchfire. The fact remains, upping the anti by creating a highly sexualized environment is not helpful to the cause.

Rape is the extreme, other forms of harassment are not and are more pervasive. Why take chances. Dress the way you want, but don't expect other people to pretend you don't exists.

 

I can give you plenty of scenarios were the 'I can wear what every I want" attitude creates wrong impressions and exaggerated behaviours. On both people, the wearer and the viewer.

 

I'm not saying don't wear what you please. I'm saying don't live in a fantasy world were you want every man to behave themselves properly because you want to disregard biology.

 

And besides it's two way street here, not a one way.

 

This is a serious matter, having a parade is not going to stop millions of years of biological evolution.

 

Women should protect themselves, properly.

 

And if you think dressing like a slut doesn't attract man attention, well then you better go tell all those prostitutes and strippers that they got it all wrong.

That's not what I said at all, of course. I'm saying that mainstream society encourages men to think that any woman who dresses "provocatively" is the purview and property of masculinity. It has to do with power and control, not with biology. Rape is not a biological impulse based on the urge to procreate. It is the fullest and most extreme expression of murderous masculine heterosexual desire; it is violent, not erotic. And if you can't accept that distinction, you don't belong in this conversation. Your assertion that rape is a "two-way street" would be laughable if it wasn't disgusting.

Perhaps we should hand out helmets to battered wives so they can "protect themselves properly."

look here is how it is....

Women get pregnant and men do not.

This means that women have one more responsibility in the procreation of the human species.

This gives them more power then men. Women rule the world from this biological stand point.

When the women participating in Slut Walk say they should be able to dress the way they want, in this case sexually provocative, they are asking for two things.

1- To use their power the way they want

2- To flaunt their power

By all means they can dress the way you want, but don't expect to flaunt your power and not have someone wanting to take that power away from you.

People are already stressed out from the environment we live in. Turning it into a highly sexualized atmosphere does not help you out.

Asking for even more obedience from men will not help either.

And what about the repercussions? A man on the edge, watching a woman flaunt her power in one place and then him taking that power from some other woman in another place?

 

It's called responsibility of your actions.

 

On a personal note:

The women in Toronto need to relax a little. I try to talk to them in this town and they're all up tight. They can't even relax and just have a conversation with a man.

 

It's my opinion that Slit Walk comes from a place of misunderstanding of the power women have in Toronto. They rule this town and they don't even now it.

 

Men in this town can't even joke around with them without them getting all freaked out... no seriously this Slut Walk has more to do with Toronto then anything else.

 

Anyways now you know my point and were it comes from.

 

To reiterate what was already stated, you have your wires crossed, trippie. You're just plain warped, in fact, and I have several flaws to point out in your argument:

"Well sinse rape is not tollerated in our society in the first place. Meaning that the rape that does occure is not undertaken by the masses and is in fact undertaken by the fringe, won't one take precautions and protect themselves instead of demanding this fringe group control itself? A fringe group that will never disapear untill a better world is developed."

Never mind all your spelling errors or the fact that you don't know how to form a complete sentence. It sounds like you are saying rape is an uncommon crime in our society. If you took any time to research your claims before vomiting them all over the internet for all to see you might be more informed. This comment box won't allow me to post links to cite support for my arguments, but if you really think I'm making my statistics up you can search for them yourself. They are plastered all over the internet. Also, this "fringe group" you speak of is never going to disappear no matter what we do to the world, no more than murderers are going to vanish from the planet.

"According to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey -- the country's largest and most reliable crime study -- there were 248,300 sexual assaults in 2007 (the most recent data available)." That's one every 2 minutes. These "fringe groups" must have been pretty busy raping people in 2007, and every year actually.

"I would asume that rape is an uncontrolled behavior to begin with. So why chastize the many because of the few? The few that will be punished when caught for their crimes anyways."

Because they are almost never punished. Here's another fact.

"Throughout the last 10 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey has reported that approximately 30% of rape survivors report the incident to the police. (4)

Of those rapes reported to the police (which is 1/3 or less to begin with), only 16% result in prison sentences. Therefore, approximately 5% of the time, a man who rapes ends up in prison, 95% of the time he does not."

This proves that women are usually too scared to report they have been raped, and it's because of people like this cop.

"This cop wasn't blaming the women, he was telling them to take precautions. The very thing that cops are suppose to do.They are the ones that deal with it on adaily basis, they would know best how to deal with it safely."

Ummmmm. Obviously both you and the cop are highly misinformed. I can't find any statistics, or any form of proof whatsoever, backing up the idea that an irrational rapist is less likely to rape you if you wear a baggy sweater and old blue jeans. There is evidence to back up that women living in impoverished areas are more likely to get raped, as are women belonging to minority races. But there is nothing supporting a correlation between attire and rape. If you can find some actual proof and not just speculation let me know.

"If you want to dress in a way that is sexualized and meant to attract sexual attention onto yourself, expect people to react accordingly." So, what you're saying is, that rape is an according reaction to someone expressing their sexuality in the open. Wow. By the way, this contradicts your earlier statement about how rape is not tolerated and most people don't partake in the crime. Now you are telling women to expect rape. People reacting accordingly, to me, isn't raping people. Maybe hitting on them, flirting with them as you said, but raping them? I'm sure you have seen many promiscuous looking women on the street. Were you overcome with the urge to rape them suddenly? I don't think you really understand rape at all.

"""that said that magical statement that is so absent of fear and self-doubt: "I will wear what I want to wear!". ""

 
That right there is what I call living in a world of fantasy."


I'm only calling you out on this because it's so, so asinine. If you are trying to quote this statement and article to back up your point about people being blind to the plain fact that some people are just evil, uncontrollable monsters, you are failing epicly. You just quoted a six year old. Isn't it a six year old's job to live in a fantasy world? If this little girl got raped, would you blame the rapist or her mother for allowing her to wear whatever she wants in a FREE COUNTRY where everyone is told they have a right to do that and still be safe.

More importantly, since when is wearing what you want to wear living in a world of fantasy? Free worlds don't have national dress codes. If you think wearing whatever you want is a fantastical idea your views might be better suited to a nation that enforces Sharia law, where women must cover all of their skin except their hands and face. Oh, and by the way, they still get raped over there, even whilst wearing their "protection."

"And as for the remark of not inviting sexual objefications.Well when dressing like a "slut" you already have done that to yourself. And what else do you want when doing so. Or ar you gonna tell me that walking around in 8" stiletos and your underwear is comfortable. Men and women dress sexual for one reason only, to be desirable. Unfortunately sometimes you attract the wrong type of people."

Wow, this one was loaded. How many women do you see on a daily basis walking down the street in their underwear and 8'' stilettos? I don't think society even lets people get away with this in public long enough for it to become an issue. I guess they could stand outside and just hang out in their underwear, but they couldn't go into a store or a restaurant or anything, really, and I don't know any women who do this. I understand it's an exaggeration on the sexually seductive clothing some women sometimes choose to wear. Once again, you have contradicted yourself. You said dressing like a slut indicates that you couldn't possibly want anything else but to be sexually objectified. Then two sentences later you say men and women dress "sexual" (-ly) for one reason only, to be desirable. I don't know if anyone has ever told you this but being viewed as an object is not the same thing as being viewed as desirable. And wanting to pick up guys with your clothes does not mean you are willing to settle for absolutely any loser who throws his genitals at you. Wanting to have sex with some people does not mean you want to have sex with everyone, and any idiot with a few brain cells should be able to understand that.

"The fact remains, upping the anti by creating a highly sexualized environment is not helpful to the cause."

Whatever rock you are living under, you should really crawl out from under it and have a look around. We already live in a highly sexualized environment. Just look at strip clubs, porn, Hooters, Chip N Dales, and all the things you might not ever otherwise link to sex. Sex sells virtually everything, from deodorant to cars to chewing gum. Seriously, I have seen a commercial where a scene was acted out of a guy and girl about to have sex, or make out, or whatever, and the gum is equated to a condom. Men have just as much to do with creating a "highly sexualized environment" as women do. Humans are naturally obsessed with sex. If anything, we should be more open and comfortable about the human body and sex, all this tension and taboo is what is truly damaging to a healthy culture.

"I'm saying don't live in a fantasy world were you want every man to behave themselves properly because you want to disregard biology."

So you are saying "do what you want, but don't be surprised if people react unreasonably." Except that you think rape is a reasonable reaction to sexual arousal and is somehow justified biologically.

"And besides it's two way street here, not a one way."

Please explain what you are talking about here and what you mean. I have no idea what you are saying.

"This is a serious matter, having a parade is not going to stop millions of years of biological evolution."

Do you even know why this walk is taking place? It's not to stop rape. It's to stop blame-placing on victims, and I don't think it's a biological evolutionary trait for men to tell women they should hide their bodies and be ashamed of them otherwise men will rape them. And rape certainly isn't the result of millions of years of biological evolution either....once again, your comments don't really make sense or tie to anything.

"And if you think dressing like a slut doesn't attract man attention, well then you better go tell all those prostitutes and strippers that they got it all wrong." ....Did anyone say anywhere on this website, or anywhere in the history of anything, that dressing like a slut doesn't attract a man's attention? I didn't think so. And what is wrong with attracting a man's attention? Are you saying that a practice the entire animal kingdom uses to find mates and have sex is wrong?

"By all means they can dress the way you want, but don't expect to flaunt your power and not have someone wanting to take that power away from you." Hmmm. So what about rallies, parades and walks demonstrating black pride? It's perfectly natural for human beings to hate others because they are different, it happens all the time. Does that make it right? Or ok? Should black people give up their culture and everything that makes them unique because it stirs natural instincts of fear and uncertainty in other races? It's natural for people to fight. Does that mean black people should not be shocked or upset when a member of their race has his/her face beaten in by some people who didn't like the way they chose to dress, talk, or act, because it was unique to them? Does that mean they should stop "acting black" to avoid hate crimes? Rape is just as much of a hate crime as a sex crime, and it has nothing to do with how attractive you are. There are boatloads of accounts of women being raped who maybe aren't even attractive to the person or society in general to begin with. Rape victims are fat, skinny, tall, short, maybe that have horrible acne, maybe they wear sweatpants and hoodies in public, it really doesn't matter.

"And what about the repercussions? A man on the edge, watching a woman flaunt her power in one place and then him taking that power from some other woman in another place?"

So do you think we should outlaw strip clubs and porno movies too? Because apparently, to you, showing off your body is flaunting your power and is dangerous. Have you ever watched porn or been to a strip club? Most men have done at least one of these things, and once again, there is not a single study to show that men view these things are more likely to rape. I don't think there is any guy out there who sees a Playboy at a store and thinks "that's it, I've been pushed over the edge now, I'm going to go rape some random chick. Particularly one who is scantily clad."

Ridiculous. Just. Ridiculous.

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