There’s been a few news tweets about the SlutWalk that happened this weekend and unsurprisingly several of them – maybe most – have touted photos. I’m not condemning that – I like looking at provocatively dressed women myself. But don’t miss the very serious reason it’s called SlutWalk and involves protesting while scantily-clad: to combat a perception that dressing a certain way is in any way permission or a valid reason for other people to use your body against your will.
If that seems implausible in 2011, well, the whole impetus for this now nation-wide and multi-country phenomenon was the somewhat astonishing statement from a Canadian officer of the law during a lecture on health and safety.
“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here,” he reportedly told them. “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”
I’m (sadly) not surprised that someone would say a version of “If you wear that skirt you’re just asking to be raped,” but I can’t say I expected to hear it from a police officer.
Holly Kearle writes very eloquently here about the point of SlutWalk and why she participated. She’s also the force behind the excellent Stop Street Harassment blog. If you’ve got the time to look at some skin you’ve got the time to read what she wrote about this event. I’d encourage you to keep up with the SSH blog as well.
It’s easy for us men to be blind to the reality of the million little shitty things that happen to women in our society – we’re not the target of the harassment. We might not ever see it going on, but it does. Constantly. Take ten seconds at Holla Back DC and see the sort of unbelievable crap that happens all the time, ranging from crappy inappropriate talk about mustache rides to stalking and physically threatening behavior against a fifteen year old girl.
SlutWalk might not be how you want to confront this sort of thing in our society – Holla Back DC’s Chai Shenoy didn’t feel like it was a productive thing for her – but the women who stood up and told their fellow DC residents that how they look or dress isn’t cause to mistreat them have good cause to think making the statement is necessary. Make their sacrifice of their time worthwhile and look past just the pictures.