The other day @TheNation, a left-leaning political on-line periodical, tweeted the link to an article called, What to Wear to SlutWalk. I was intrigued. Clicking on the link, however, lead me to an article with different subject matter than I expected. An excerpt:
The first SlutWalk, organized last April by Heather Jarvis and Sonya Barnett in Toronto, was a response to a Toronto police officer telling a group of students in a public safety class that women “should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Since then, more than seventy SlutWalks have popped up in places as diverse as Chicago, Berlin, Cape Town, New Delhi and Mexico City. New York City’s highly anticipated SlutWalk [was] scheduled to take place on October 1.
@SlutWalkNYC’s bio states: SlutWalk NYC is part of a worldwide grassroots movement challenging rape culture, victim-blaming and slut-shaming, and working to end sexual violence.
Like most movements, SlutWalk is not without its proponents and its critics – both male and female. In protest of the “advice” offered by the Toronto officer who inspired the walks, many participants choose to wear the exact or similar clothes they were sexually assaulted in to prove that the type of clothing a woman wears should not have an influence on if she should be sexually assaulted. There is never a justification for this action.
However, despite SlutWalk’s intentions to be all-inclusive – although many operate independently – there have been charges that African American women are not solicited for their participation or feel alienated. For instance, after asking readers of the site about their opinion on the upcoming SlutWalk in NYC, despite the fact that a number of them call the upper East Coast home, many had no idea SlutWalk existed or its intended purpose. Mind you, this is of a movement that Jessica Valenti of Feministing.com described as, “the most successful feminist action of the past twenty years.”
Given the negative connotation associated with the word “slut,” some fear the name itself may alienate would be members, which includes but is not limited to African American women. Farah Tanis, co-founder of Black Women’s Blueprint and other like-minded women stated in an open letter, “As Black women, we do not have the privilege or the space to call ourselves ‘slut’ without validating the already historically entrenched ideology and recurring messages about what and who the Black woman is.” In a separate interview, Tanis went on to explain that SlutWalk also fails to have mass appeal among the sexually assaulted needs of Asian-American, Latina, and Native American women.
I’m not sure how I feel about SlutWalk personally. As conditioned people of mostly American residence, we do judge people by what they wear whether we like it or not. However, the type of clothing or lack thereof is not a reason to justify sexual assault. Specific to the movement itself, it seems to have the right intentions but from my admittedly limited readings and cursory knowledge, the lofty goals may be hard to implement through the current methods. Participants seem to rely on a disperse set of walks organized by groups around the country (and world) whom may or may not work together in coordination. Their grassroots organization relying heavily on viral social media. This is a familiar fault of many “movements” organized by our generation; #OccupyWallStreet comes to mind.
I, for example, found myself wondering what happens after the walks? Will SlutWalk be the vehicle used to champion for change or will it eventually lose momentum and become another movement that comes, stalls and then goes away without any tangible accomplishments to show for its existence? On the other hand, if it sparks conversation about the too often hushed and taboo subject of sexual assault from a young black male like myself on a site such as SingleBlackMale.org, is that enough? Is talk without results ever enough?
Readers, did you know about SlutWalk before today? If yes, have you or any of your friends/acquaintances participated in any of the walks? Why or why not? What are your thoughts on SlutWalk – its name, its goals, and its chances of success/failure as a movement? I would be remiss not to ask your thoughts on the quote from the officer who inadvertently inspired the movement: “[Women] should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”