Feminists debate provocative title, but Toronto co-founder says, ‘Without such an audacious attitude, we wouldn’t be where we are’
SlutWalk, the in-your-face response to violence against women that began with a march in Toronto, has gone viral, inspiring plans for similar protests in more than 60 cities around the world and setting off a debate among feminists about using loaded language even if it brings huge attention to their cause.
….. Ms. Barnett came up with the name for last month’s Toronto march after talking with friend and University of Guelph student Heather Jarvis. Both were outraged by a report in a campus paper that a police officer advised York University law students to ”œnot dress like a slut” to reduce the chances of assault.
”œHe used the word ”˜slut’ in his way. We wanted to take the word and sling it right back in our way,” said the 38-year-old mother, who until this spring had never marched in a protest. Besides grabbing attention, the title also is designed to teach people about the harmful use of language, she said
The Toronto group has faced criticism ”“ most notably in the opinion pages of the British newspaper The Guardian ”“ for using a misogynist putdown that some argue feminists can never reclaim. In a piece published earlier this week, two academics based in the United States wrote that the SlutWalk organizers’ efforts to change the meaning of the word were ”œa waste of precious feminist resources.”
Others who support the group’s bravado say any movement that challenges widespread attitudes that blame women for sexual attacks should be applauded.
Kathryn McPherson, a professor who specializes in women’s history at Toronto’s York University, said the debate among feminists is not new. ”œThe question of where sexuality fits in is an intense one,” she said. Such a charged word should not be taken lightly, but in some ways, using it has allowed organizers to put the issue of women’s sexuality on the table and then focus on a more pressing topic ”“ why society has failed to address sexual violence, she added.
As a strategy, it is clearly working, she said. ”œIt’s clever. It’s effective. It has people’s attention.” More
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