SlutWalk sparks worldwide movement


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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  • These ‘slut walk’ women are simply fighting for their right to be dirty

    True liberation is women wearing what they like and abandoning the Hoover.

    The Telegraph, By Germaine Greer, May 12

    The Toronto policeman who in January told a “personal security class” at York University that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised” said nothing unusual. What made news was what happened 10 weeks later, when a thousand people hit the streets of downtown Toronto in a “slut walk”.

    That was surprising, but not as surprising as what happened next. Within days, all over North America, in Britain and even in Australia, women came together to organise slut walks of their own. Throughout the English-speaking world, it seems there are hordes of women prepared to sashay round the streets provocatively dressed, making a defiant display of their inner slut.

    The mind police were not amused. The most sanctimonious of our newspapers solemnly intoned that “women need to take to the streets to condemn violence, but not for the right to be called ‘slut’ “. But it was not heeded. The women (and men) who are set to prance the streets of dozens of cities in underwear and fetish gear for weeks to come will be taking liberties. That’s where liberation begins.

    Slut-walkers are apt to say that the purpose of their action is to “reclaim the word”. It’s difficult, probably impossible, to reclaim a word that has always been an insult. And yet here are women spontaneously deciding to adopt it. Before we decide that thousands of our sisters are simply stupid or misguided, an attempt must be made to understand what’s going on. The slut walk manifesto states: “Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative association. Aimed at those who were sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality…”

    A little knowledge here misleads. Historically, the primary attribute of a slut is not promiscuity but dirt. The word denotes a “woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern”. A now obsolete meaning connects it with a kitchen maid, whose life was lived in soot and grease. She was too dirty to be allowed above stairs, but drudged out her painful life scraping pans and riddling ash, for 16 hours a day, and then retreated to her squalid lodging where hot water could not be had. The corner she left unswept was the slut corner; the fluff that collected under the furniture was a slut ball. People who thought of sex as dirt suspected the lazy kitchen maid of being unclean in that way as well.


    If women are to overthrow the tyranny of perpetual cleansing, we have to be able to say: “Yes, I am a slut. My house could be cleaner. My sheets could be whiter. I could be without sexual fantasies too – pure as the untrodden snow – but I’m not. I’m a slut and proud.” The rejection by women of compulsory cleansing of mind, body and soul is a necessary pre-condition of liberation. Besides, taking part in what looks like an endless “vicars and tarts’ street party is not just bad-ass. It’s fun.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • In These Times, By Lindsay Beyerstein, Mary 11

    Anti-porn feminist Gail Dines manages to completely miss the point of the Slut Walk marches being organized in cities around the country. Dines and her co-author think that the marchers are asserting their sexual liberation by clamoring for the right to be sluts.

    In fact, Slut Walk is satirizing the whole slut construct. The Slut Walk phenomenon got started because a thoughtless cop in Toronto opined at a campus safety meeting at one of the most prestigious law schools in Canada that women could avoid getting raped by not dressing like sluts.

    But what does a slut look like? How does a slut dress? Judging by the photos, some women (and men) wore mini skirts, others showed up in hoodies and jeans, or provocative toques and parkas, or in one case, a gilded smoking jacket. Granted, the first walk was in Toronto in April, which might discourage anyone from showing skin.

    Organizers told people to wear whatever they wanted. The message was: Who’s a slut? We all are. Or none of us are. And who cares? It’s a stupid, meaningless concept anyway.

    “Slut” is just another way of saying “worthless” without having to come up with a reason. Little girls get called sluts before they even know what sex is.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • XXfactor, By Amanda Marcotte, May 13

    I often find Germaine Greer to be a tad fluffy-brained, but her defense of Slutwalk, an anti-rape protest that started in Canada and is spreading across the globe, couldn’t be more right on. I mean, she does the usual fluffy-brained stuff I don’t like, such as arguing from etymology, but she describes the point of Slutwalk perfectly: “When it comes to sex, women are as dirty as the next man, but they don’t have the same right to act out their fantasies. If they’re to be liberated, women have to demand the right to be dirty.” The word for a dirty girl in our culture is slut, and so it goes that you use that word because people grasp immediately what you mean by it. Language is a beautiful thing, because it’s not a static thing.

    Of course, Slutwalk is an anti-rape protest, which I think is entirely appropriate. Our culture treats rapists not like out-and-out criminals but with the ambiguity reserved for vigilantes. Yes, we officially condemn people who take the law into their own hands by attacking those who threaten us, but we also admire them and often refuse to convict them when we’re on juries. Rapists are viewed as just a specific kind of vigilante—the kind that assaults women who threaten by transgressing the multitude of sexist and often contradictory rules we have for women, especially “be sexually appealing but not too sexual,” or “be fun to be around, but don’t have too much fun yourself.” So while rape, like other forms of vigilantism, is illegal, society often sides with the rapist over the victim. To cite a recent example, the rapist is kept on the team and the girls are forced to cheer his name, while the victim is booted off her team and fined $45,000.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” said a Toronto policeman in response to a rape. The remark sparked outrage, and a protest march dubbed SlutWalk. Thousands took to the streets in raunchy clothes to stand up for a woman’s right to be sexy without being scared. Saturday is Amsterdam’s turn for a SlutWalk.

    Radio Netherlands Worldwide, By Love Matters, June 3

    Watch the video: SlutWalk comes to Amsterdam [subtitled].

    “Having consensual sex is a wonderful thing and no one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault,” says Heather Jarvis, a co-founder of SlutWalk.

    The Toronto cop’s comment blaming a rape victim for wearing sexy clothes was a red rag to Canadian activists. They decided to adopt the word ‘slut’ – rather like the gay community has claimed the word ‘queer’ as its own.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • Washington Post, By Jessica Valenti, June 3

    More than 40 years after feminists tossed their bras and high heels into a trash can at the 1968 Miss America pageant — kicking off the bra-burning myth that will never die — some young women are taking to the streets to protest sexual assault, wearing not much more than what their foremothers once dubbed “objects of female oppression” in marches called SlutWalks.

    It’s a controversial name, which is in part why the organizers picked it. It’s also why many of the SlutWalk protesters are wearing so little (though some are sweatpants-clad, too). Thousands of women — and men — are demonstrating to fight the idea that what women wear, what they drink or how they behave can make them a target for rape. SlutWalks started with a local march organized by five women in Toronto and have gone viral, with events planned in more than 75 cities in countries from the United States and Canada to Sweden and South Africa. In just a few months, SlutWalks have become the most successful feminist action of the past 20 years.

    In a feminist movement that is often fighting simply to hold ground, SlutWalks stand out as a reminder of feminism’s more grass-roots past and point to what the future could look like.

    The marches are mostly organized by younger women who don’t apologize for their in-your-face tactics, making the events much more effective in garnering media attention and participant interest than the actions of well-established (and better funded) feminist organizations. And while not every feminist may agree with the messaging of SlutWalks, the protests have translated online enthusiasm into in-person action in a way that hasn’t been done before in feminism on this scale.


    Heather Jarvis, a student in Toronto and a co-founder of SlutWalk, explained that the officer’s comments struck her and her co-organizers as so preposterous and damaging that they demanded action. “We were fed up and pissed off, and we wanted to do something other than just be angry,” she said. Bucking the oft-repeated notion that young women are apathetic to feminism, they organized. What Jarvis hoped would be a march of at least 100 turned out to be a rally of more than 3,000 — some marchers with “slut” scrawled across their bodies, others with signs reading “My dress is not a yes” or “Slut pride.”


    Unlike protests put on by mainstream national women’s organizations, which are carefully planned and fundraised for — even the signs are bulk-printed ahead of time — SlutWalks have cropped up organically, in city after city, fueled by the raw emotional and political energy of young women. And that’s the real reason SlutWalks have struck me as the future of feminism. Not because an entire generation of women will organize under the word “slut” or because these marches will completely eradicate the damaging tendency of law enforcement and the media to blame sexual assault victims (though I think they’ll certainly put a dent in it). But the success of SlutWalks does herald a new day in feminist organizing. One when women’s anger begins online but takes to the street, when a local step makes global waves and when one feminist action can spark debate, controversy and activism that will have lasting effects on the movement.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • The SlutWalk movement is still in its infancy. A few kinks need to be worked out. Obviously, one movement cannot be expected to represent the causes of everyone. But at least, the issue of people of color feeling excluded has been raised and is being addressed. However, I’m sure there are some who would love to see the movement crumble.

    Are you looking for any positive articles by any chance?

    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • I HAVE A DREAM that one day … women of all colors will be free of the tyranny and agony of sexual suppression.

    Sexual inequality is “The Mother of all Inequalities”.
    Liberate female sexuality and you will eliminate racism, homophobia, financial greed, and violence.

  • The SlutWalk movement has divided feminists. Should women try to reclaim the word? And is undressing the best way to protest against rape?

    The Guardian, By Tonya Gold, June 7

    SlutWalking entered the UK on Saturday with marches in Cardiff, Newcastle and Edinburgh and Glasgow. I stood under Grey’s Monument in Newcastle, watching the protesters gather. As I write about SlutWalking, I first wonder if I can call the SlutWalkers “sluts”, without the ironic speech marks. I think I should. Isn’t this the point? To decontaminate the term through overuse? If I am repelled by repeatedly writing it – and you by reading it – perhaps we will learn whether the “reclaiming” of abusive terms is helpful, as the fight for equality stalls and porn culture swallows everything.

    Grey’s Monument is a phallic column, commemorating the white male Charles Grey’s role in passing the Reform Act of 1832. So, as a symbol for female emancipation, it doesn’t work. A first generation feminist might say we were standing under a patriarch’s penis that is covered in pigeons. Some sluts, like me, are dressed in jeans or long skirts and jumpers, like Tories seeking labradors. Some wear spidery black underwear and bovver boots, like pole dancers in fear of broken glass. Others wear pink dresses and wigs and carry teddy bears. There are also some normal-looking men and a delegation from the Socialist Workers party, who for some reason don’t want to give their names. They carry signs, made from cardboard or sheets. “Feminism: Back by Popular Demand.” “Stop Telling Me – Don’t Get Raped. Tell Men – Don’t Rape.” “My Clothes Aren’t My Consent.”

    The SlutWalk is the latest chapter in the story of modern feminism, perched between the Rise of the Fragrant Good Wife – Samantha Cameron, Catherine Wales – and the Return of the Bunnies and Their Big Ears to the new Playboy club in London. The SlutWalk is not poised and it is not reticent. It is a scream of dirty, unfeminine rage ripping through conventional gender stereotypes, which seem more solid and irritating than ever.

    • The London SlutWalk is on Saturday. Click here for other dates. Do you think SlutWalks are a useful protest against sexual assault? And what do you think of this attempt to ‘reclaim’ the word “slut”?

    Next up in the US: SlutWalk San Diego / Austin, June 11.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • The Nation, By Katha Politt, June 28

    For decades now, older feminists have been griping about young women. They take their rights for granted. They don’t feel sisterhood. They’re not politically active. Now comes SlutWalk, taking the world by storm, with boisterous demonstrations of young women protesting sexual violence and the way victims are blamed for it. Starting off in Toronto, where a police officer told law students at York University that if they wished to avoid rape they shouldn’t “dress like sluts,” these grassroots protests, featuring thousands of women dressed in everything from lingerie to sweatpants, have been held in more than seventy-six cities in Canada, the United States, Europe and beyond; there have been SlutWalks in Mexico (sign in Morelia: My Tiny Skirt Does Not Make Me an Easy Woman), and one is planned for Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

    Here at last is that bold, original, do-it-yourself protest movement we’ve been waiting for, a rock-hard wall of female solidarity—an attack on one is an attack on all!—presented as media-savvy street theater that connects the personal and the political and is as fresh as the latest political scandal.

    And what do older feminists say? Frankly, I expected a lot more griping. Naturally, there was some, most vigorously from the antiporn scholar Gail Dines (Pornland), who sees SlutWalkers as man-pleasers embracing a false Girls Gone Wild “empowerment.” But mostly, feminists of all ages are cheering from the sidelines. Apparently feminists have a sense of humor after all and grasp the concepts of irony, parody and appropriation. Further proof that the evergreen narrative about feminist generation wars tends to fade away whenever feminists actually get out and do something.


    In any case, redeeming the word is a side issue. What matters is the central message: rape is not the victim’s fault. What she wears. What she drinks. How late she stays out. If she’s on a date. Walkers aren’t saying, “Please call me a slut, big boy”; they’re saying, “I am Spartacus”—the molested hotel worker, the murdered prostitute, the student whose rapist is protected by her college because he’s a star athlete. Even more, they are attacking the very division of women into good girls and bad ones, madonnas and whores. Don’t be misled by the fishnet stockings and miniskirts. These women are making a radical challenge to foundational ideas about women’s sexuality—and men’s.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

  • Washington Post, By Rama Lakshmi, July 22

    New Delhi — A young man follows a teenage girl along a street in India’s capital on a recent muggy morning, leering. The girl, wearing jeans topped with a long tunic, quickens her steps. As the man closes in, she covers her mouth with her hands. Bystanders cover their eyes.

    Then everybody freezes in place.

    The two had just acted out the first scene of a street play about sexual harassment and social acquiescence that Indian university students have been performing around the city as part of the run-up to SlutWalk Delhi, India’s version of the campus campaign that began in Toronto in April and has since spread to the United States, Britain, Germany, Australia, Argentina and South Korea.


    Rather than focusing on clothes, the campaign is questioning gender stereotypes embedded in ancient Hindu religious epics, Bollywood movies and sexist matrimonial classified ads.

    One owes respect to the living. To the dead, one owes only the truth.

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