What is a Slutwalk?

Respect is an attitude. Dignity is a right. #slutwalk Don’t judge us for your thoughts.

It all began with a safety forum at a York University on 24th January 2011. Constable Michael Sanguinetti and another officer from the Toronto Police Service’s 31 Division were speakers there. As a part of raising awareness about safety around the school, they were meant to talk about proactive measures students could take. The suggestions included the words “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.

In another incident (unrelated) Justice Robert Dewar gave a rapist two years of probation and an order to write a letter of apology to the victim; even when the crime should have got three years in prison at least, because the victim was wearing a tube top and heels and “sex was in the air” and since the rapist did not threated her but was “insensitive to the fact (she) was not a willing participant”. This was appalling that a rapist did not get any prison time because of the victim was wearing.

In the outrage that followed, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized a march on the 3rd of April 2011 to protest the victimization of women being justified by accusations of promiscuousness. People of all genders, ages and races participated in clothing that ranged from conservative to clothes typically associated with prostitutes.

In their words:

… are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.

From Wikipedia

Some of the signs read “sluts have dreams too”, “NOT asking for it”, “proud sluts”, “sluts say yes” and “police look like sluts to uniform fetishists”. There were some men who participated; holding signs such as “real men take no for an answer”, “sluts are not as disgusting as Toronto police services”, and “real men don’t rape”.

The idea caught the imagination of people the world over, and many cities around the world have held slutwalks since then.

I heard of the concept in May and have been following it keenly, hoping that they take on in India as well. We have a strong culture of slut-shaming where morals and worthiness of a woman is often judged by her clothes and her dignity as a person is undermined by disrespectful evaluations that abandon responsibility for her safety.

Just last week, we had a commenter on this blog speak in such a manner.

There are countless instances of violence, punishment, social judgments and repression.

We need a slutwalk to happen in every city, town, village and locality. We need a slutwalk happen each time a woman steps out on the street. It is going to be a long journey to change minds, to create that space for the dignity of being a person and expecting safety as a right. To getting people to realize that no matter how a woman dresses, she is a person, and she has a right to say “no”.

The journey begins. Delhi has a slutwalk this month on 25th June 2011, and it is much needed. I am certain many cities will follow.

Stay tuned to a slutwalk happening in your area, and participate. Better still, organize one!