Okay, I've had enough and it's time for me to actually start spouting off about the SlutWalk. Although I've been fairly involved in the event, I've not spoken publicly about it yet. But get ready because there's about to be a whole lot coming from my corner. I think this is the single thing that I feel most passionate about in the whole world and the SlutWalk has brought it front and centre in Edmonton right now. I am thrilled to see the issue of victim blaming getting so much media attention but the backlash that inevitably comes with it is at once infuriating and heart-breaking.
First of all, for anyone reading who doesn't know about SlutWalk, here's the deal. The concept of SlutWalk started after Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti told a group of students at York University that 'women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to avoid being assaulted'. In reaction to this comment and to call attention to the victim-blaming that, made evident by Sanguinetti's comment, is still rampant, women in Toronto organized an event they called 'SlutWalk'. It has caught on like wildfire and there have been SlutWalks all North America and even overseas.
The use of the word 'Slut' is controversial and has brought on many criticisms that the name of the event and the event itself is degrading to women. I have never felt that. From the moment I heard about this, I understood it. The word 'slut' needs to be used because that is the word Sanguinetti used and that is the word that is used and has been used for decades to dehumanize and to blame women. The point of this movement is not to reclaim that word or give women the right to be 'sluts', it's to call attention to that ugly word and the layers of hatred, shame and blame that lie beneath it. We do not walk as sluts. We walk as women who have been called sluts and are sick and fucking tired of it. We walk as women who know that we should be able to wear whatever the hell we want and walk wherever we want and act how we bloody please without the fear of 'provoking' an assault. Because that's just it, women don't provoke sexual assault. Sexual assault is an act of violence that has not one single thing to do with the way a woman acts or looks. It's something that is done to her by someone intent on causing harm.
I have worked with survivors of sexual assault for almost 20 years. I would venture to say that 99% of them blamed themselves in some way for the violence that was done to them. I know what that does to someone. It makes her question everything she says, every move she makes, every piece of clothing she wears, every relationships she starts or ends or continues, every sexual act she participates in, every thing she ever did or didn't do. It makes her wonder if at sometime, somehow something she does will again put her in the position where she will be assaulted. It makes her afraid to live her life. It robs her of her freedom to be who she is. And you know what? Every single woman in our society is affected by this to some degree and it's so insidious that many of us don't even know it. But we hear these comments like Sanguinetti's so often that it seeps into our consciousness. And if the day comes, and sadly if comes for far too many of us, that we are sexually assaulted, the first thought that will come into most of our minds is not 'how can I get some help?', or 'where should I go to report this?', it will be 'what did I do to deserve this?' and 'how could I have let this happen?'. Those thoughts carry with them an enormous amount of shame and they keep women from reporting sexual assaults. Heck, they already blame themselves, why would they ever want to share it with someone like Sanguinetti who's just going to blame them too? And THAT is what perpetuates our culture of sexual assault. THAT is what makes it easier for offenders to rape. THAT is what makes it easier for them to get away with it without consequence. and THAT is why we need to stop blaming victims.
That is why I am participating in SlutWalk. We are not sluts. We have no interest in reclaiming the word 'slut'. We are women. We want to live our lives and express ourselves in whatever way we want. We will not tolerate being called sluts and we will not tolerate being blamed for violence which we did not provoke, have never provoked and for which we are not responsible!
This is so very important, I can't possibly stress it enough. If you agree, go to SlutWalk. And if you or anyone around you is the victim of sexual violence, just love and support them and make sure they understand that it's not their fault.