Outside of the realm of politics, rare is an event which polarizes and divides people so quickly, which causes the social media world to erupt in such heated debate. It pits small-c conservatives and small-l liberals against each other, the self-proclaimed “modest” versus those comfortable in their skin.
I’m referring of course, to Slutwalk.
First, a quick primer for those who are unaware of the scenario which birthed the movement, or of what the movement is about.
January 24, 2011. The Toronto Police was giving a small seminar at York University, regarding “personal security”. One of the Constables present, going against senior officers’ orders, as well as the general script of the event, stated the following:
“I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
The reaction was swift (well at least as swift as it could be, coming from an event of limited attendance), with the assistant dean of the University’s Law School (who had hosted the event) demanding an apology and explanation from TPS. The Constable eventually apologized, and faded into obscurity as a forgotten name.
Enter the initial event’s founders, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis. Their response was quite long and drawn out (and is viewable at this link), but highlighted the fact that rape culture and victim blaming pervade society, as well as omnipresent slut-shaming and the patriarchal double standard of “sluts” vesus “studs”. The movement has now gone worldwide, with events in at least 58 cities.
-Credit to yegslutwalk.com and Wikipedia for source material
The ways in which people have been polarized by the event revolve around a few things. Primary to social prudes and the “politically correct” is the concern that the event promotes vulgarity, even at the base level of name. According to these, “Bad Words” should not be said, especially in public earshot, and negate the message of the event upon their utterance.
There are the modesty police, who believe that breasts belong in shirts, and not in public view. Their gripe is that the event promotes the practice of women dressing provocatively, which offends their delicate senses. Despite the fact that the only way for a woman to completely obscure her figure would be to wear a burqa (which is another topic in itself for another time), these opponents continue their insistence.
Then, and worst of all, there are the pig-headed men (such as the officer who lit the movement’s fire), and the women who have been brainwashed, who claim that the victims of rape are really to blame for their predicament. Some make such bold statements that I have become sick to my stomach reading some of them. (Writer’s Note: If you would like to see this material, leave a comment below, and I will email you the link – I will not give these sick persons the publicity of a public link)
I care about Slutwalk for a couple of reasons. First, I know victims of rape. NOT A SINGLE ONE was dressed “slutty” when their attacker commited the crime. This notion which goes around of clothing mattering? Complete BS. Also, save for one instance, It occurred within these womens’ homes, with the attacker being someone previously known to the victim. When some of them have approached the Edmonton Police Service, they were informed that as there was consent for these persons to be in their home, there is nothing that can be done. News of this refusal to charge or prosecute was enough to keep another victim from even approaching the police or medical aid whatsoever.
Another reason for my support happens to be the oft-forgotten realities of forced envelopment, and forced anal penetration. Yes Virginia, men can be raped as well. While statistically as likely to be prevalent as the rape of women, the rape of a man is highly stigmatized, and is much less likely to be reported to any authority. Held as even more of a stigma, is the rape of genderfluid and transgendered persons, due to their already tenuous position in society. Hesitation on the part of victims to report the crimes committed against them, for whatever reason, is sadly one of the reasons why these things keep happening – the perpetrators are still out there, looking for the next person to violate.
In addition, I am quick to dispel the myth that it’s primarily scantily clad women getting raped in an alley behind a bar they have frequented. I have been witness to sexual violence even at such events as metal concerts, and away from the sea of humanity that surrounds the mosh pit. In Early May, I attended the Edmonton Event Centre (Red’s) for a show headlined by metal stalwarts Opeth and Mastodon. In a seating area removed from the main standing area, I saw an intoxicated concertgoer repeatedly “trip” face and hands first into the fully covered cleavage of a young woman, wearing both a t-shirt and hoodie overtop of whatever else. Having been moved almost to violence against the drunk, I approached the event staff (in fact the bartender whom he repeatedly sourced his alcohol from), and sadly, they responded that only if they saw such an occurrence themselves, could they take action. (Side note – If I see anyone doing this again at a show, I will not hesitate in taking physical action myself to prevent it.)
It all comes down to one thing; respecting the bodies of other persons, and getting consent from said persons before doing anything to their body. If consent was given, and is subsequently retracted, then it means not continuing your activity, and definitely not advancing. In essence, and regardless of when it is uttered, NO MEANS NO.
Even in such venues as kink/BDSM, where there is the notion of “consentual nonconsent” and where the word “no” has little standing, safewords are to be adhered to. Red, lintbrush, watermelon; whatever the word of choice, it means STOP.
No one deserves to be the victim of sexual violence. Sadly, there are people in this world who think that it only happens to women, that it only happens to the “sluts”. There are people who believe they can touch whomever they wish, wherever they like, regardless of consent.
I believe in Slutwalk as a method of education. Until no one is becoming the victim of rape, we need Slutwalks. We need Slutwalks to educate victims as to the power they hold. We need Slutwalks so that we can educate the public and law enforcement that victims are of all gender identities and expressions, wear all manners of clothing, come from all ways of life, and don’t just wander down dimly lit back alleys. We need Slutwalks so that we can educate perpetrators, past present and future, that NO MEANS NO.
PS. This year’s Edmonton Slutwalk will be held Saturday, July 7 at noon MDT, at the Alberta Legislature. I will be there, and I hope to see you as well.