Slut; The Word that is Contributing to Placing Blame onto Rape Victims

Posted: February 8, 2012 by lildanadoo in Uncategorized

            As a result of the rape culture which has lead to victim blaming and excused assaults on women, SlutWalk was created to reclaim the word, slut, so that it can no longer be used against women. Police officer Michael Sanguinetti “thought he was offering the key to rape prevention. ‘I’m not supposed to say this,’ he told a group of students at an Osgoode Hall Law School safety forum on January 24, but to prevent being sexually assaulted, ‘Avoid dressing like sluts’” (www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/20/slutwalk-united-states-city_n_851725.html). This statement made shock waves and was the driving force behind the SlutWalk Toronto, which has inspired a transnational movement.

 Initially the name of the movement, SlutWalk, can be jarring, especially since that word has been used to police women’s actions and behaviors. But after learning the motivation behind the movement it is inspiring that such an important issue is gaining international attention. Victim blaming is a major problem when investigating rape. In too many instances after a woman has been raped she is asked what she was wearing, as though her physical appearance somehow excuses the brutal act she has survived. Elizabeth Webb, the organizer of SlutWalk Dallas, made the statement: “If someone breaks into a house, do you blame the owner for having a house that looks appetizing?” (www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/20/slutwalk-united-states-city_n_851725.html). This statement really gets to the heart of the absurdity around victim blaming.

There is a resistance against the SlutWalk movement. Many people have complained that having the risqué clothing and the name Slut in the name of the movement further objectifies women. But are they missing the point?  The movement reclaims the word in order to display how sexual violence is engrained in our culture, and how calling a woman a slut is one way of policing her behavior. But I am not dismissing those who are resistant to accept the concept. The English language has many different variations of the word slut: loose, whore, ceiling eyes, cum dumpster, floozy etc. These words are always used against women, especially as a way of judging her sexual endeavors. Yet there are no words to describe a man in the same way, the only words close to this are: gigolo, pimp or player. All of these words that describe men have to do with having power over women, and these words are not viewed as insults when applied to men but are something to be proud of. To continue with that logic, reclaiming the word ‘slut’ will take away the power that it has over women. The SlutWalks do not require people to dress in a particular way, but many people dress in lingerie, thigh-highs and high-heeled shoes to be a part of the Walks. There has also been a lot of resistance to dressing in what is considered to be “slutty clothing.” On many blogs and cites people complain that embracing this word and dressing in this fashion is further objectifying women. However, the movement is meant to draw attention and gain a reaction to invoke a response: “We planned to demand accountability, not apologies. We wanted to make sure that the issue was kept fresh in people’s minds…” (www.slutwalktoronto.com).

Through the use of the internet, mainly Facebook, the SlutWalks have taken place across Canada, Us, Europe, Asia and Australia. The three demands the organization are working towards being achieved are:

                            1: Restructure police training and education (training for staff and outreach education for community) within the next 2 years to include non-discriminatory language, increased understanding of experiences of marginalization and oppression, and practices and protocols that support victims and survivors of sexual assault.

                         2: Using existing third party reviews and recommendations of police training/education for police.

                        3: Increased outreach and educational programs for the public in the next 2 years around sexual assault and informed consent, focusing on ‘rape myths’ and stereotypes (around perceived understandings of how assault/rape happens)  (www.slutwalktoronto.com).

These demands are not outlandish or unattainable, these are the basic expectation that we have as a society for our law enforcement. However, it is those who are in power and have control that are negatively shaping the way rape culture is formed. By effecting these demands the blame will be reassigned onto the assailants and allow women to be viewed as human being, who are entitled to being treated as such.

           

Yet this movement has sparked conversation, and even if people are uncomfortable with the name, at least they are talking about victim blaming and the rape culture that has been created. SlutWalk has been successful in drawing attention to the fact that this instance of telling women to “avoid dressing like sluts” is not an isolated issue but is an international phenomenon. Through this movement the subject of women’s sexualities is being discussed and explored. A woman has a right to be a sexual creature, without having to accused of being sexually deviant and deserving of sexual violence.

The SlutWalk movement gives people a way to participate. Many times when people discuss these issues they do not know what to do with the information they have. By being a transnational movement, all people can actively be involved in the movement. One does not have to consider themselves to be a sexual person to be a part of the movement, but just needs to be in support of the ideas behind the movement. This movement is not only intended for women, but all people can be a part of the movement. It is intended to change mindsets, not to exclude people from being a part of the conversations or movements.

No matter if you agree or disagree with the manner in which the movement is executed, ultimately challenging the source of these ideas and to change how women are perceived. The slogan that goes with the SlutWalk movement is “BECAUSE WE’VE HAD ENOUGH” but do you feel as though this movement is further turning women into objects rather than subjects? Are the women who participate in the walks assuming an internalization of their abuse? Or do you feel that this will encourage a discussion around the way that women’s sexuality is perceived and hopefully be able to change that perception?

-Dana Prebis

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Comments
  1. Dana, I thought this was very well written and educational. I definitely feel like SlutWalk provides a great opportunity for dialogue about sexual assault and the way we address it and perceive it, and I think you explained the premise and history well. I hope to be able to participate in one someday! 🙂 – Linnea

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