SOCIAL CITY Presents: “COMMUNITY EVENTS EXPERIENCE: SlutWalk Vancouver” by guest-writer Nicole Mucci
As a guest writer for SocialCity Networking INC., I want to preface the following blog by saying that these opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and views of SocialCity Networking INC.
Photo: Tammy Maltese Photography
When looking for definitions- be it while writing a paper for school or trying to understand a pretentious co-worker- most people turn to Grandfather Google. According to said search engine, a slut is a dirty, untidy woman. Contrarily, Collins Gage Canadian Paperback Dictionary defines a slut as “a woman of loose morals”. I am confused, to be of loose morals, must one (a woman, to be specific) not shower? Or, in the grand style of Victorian euphemisms, is dirty in this sense one and the same as lacking morality? Regardless of which is right, I am left to wonder how this word has become synonymous with people who are antagonized after being attacked on the basis of their apparel or open sexuality.
On Sunday, May 15 2011, a little over 1000 people rallied together at the Vancouver Art Gallery to take part in the controversially titled SlutWalk. My roommates, friends, the ladies of SocialCity and I were part of this crowd. Some, like Rory my roommate, chose to come in attempt to grasp the meaning behind a Slutwalk. Others, such as myself, attended as a show of solidarity and support to all victims of violent sex crimes who have been blamed after seeking help and refuge. I attended the SlutWalk to stand up for those who have been sexually molested, belittled, or harassed and to call attention to the greater societal issues underlying these problems.
I do not self identify as a feminist. Religion aside, I am a humanist and an egalitarian. Humanism does not have a set creed to follow, for which I am grateful. My belief is that as human beings, we are responsible for our destiny and with affirmative action and underlying strong personal philosophy we have the ability to create happiness and safety for those around us and ourselves. The egalitarian in me maintains that all humans, regardless of race, gender or social stature are created equal and should be treated equally. When I heard about the SlutWalk and what it meant, I felt it really lined up with my personal views.
My roommates and I got ready for the SlutWalk by making signs.
One read, “Sluts of the world unite and take over!”
Another said, “Blame the Rapist.”
Whereas my sign simply stated, “There is no dress code for rape”.
Even within our small group, we reflected the vast differences of those who would later be at the SlutWalk. As I stood in the rain at the Vancouver Art Gallery, I took in my surroundings and felt a sense of pride for the community I live in. There were a lot of men in attendance, acting as allies and friends. Families, teaching their children about advocacy, stood in gumboots near strollers. People were engaged with one another, taking photos of signs they enjoyed, and complimenting some of the more ‘outrageous’ outfits.
However, once the opening speakers began, my pride began to waver. Organizer Katy Raso, began the event with a mixture of shock value (she ripped off tearaway pants to reveal a short skirt), and an impassioned speech.
“Just because I am showing it, doesn’t mean I am sharing it.” Raso shouted into the microphone.
Raso’s repetitive mantra worked wonders as an opener to the first time event in Vancouver. While she maintained that she was a woman, a daughter, a niece and a girlfriend – she failed to mention that she was a human or an equal.
As the speakers continued, it seemed as if the SlutWalk was less about fighting to end Victim Blaming, and more about pushing feminist doctrines and fighting for “power”. The overall feeling of conflict continued as one the speakers, called men out specifically as the perpetrators behind victim blaming and users of the word slut to be a derogatory call-out.
I am not saying the speaker was wrong; statistics aren’t taken on name calling or belittling one another. And the unfortunate truth, according to Statistics Canada, is that only about “6%” of sexual assault cases end up being reported.
The SlutWalk is supposed to help push the fight against victim blaming in the justice system, so ANY victim, regardless of gender identification, feels safe to tell their story and fight for justice. I just wish that when the speeches were being made about being called a slut, that there was less discrimination when describing the aggressors. SlutWalk Vancouver’s mandate had deliberately attempted to clarify that they did not believe in identifying men as the sole aggressors nor women as the sole victims.
When I was in junior high school, I remember a group of girls who consistently belittled me and used the word slut to make me feel as though I deserved less than them. I, like one of the speakers, hadn’t even kissed a boy before the word slut was used against me – unlike the speaker, I wasn’t verbally attacked by a group of men, or boys. So in this aspect of the SlutWalk, I was disappointed – if we are fighting to end stereotyping, shouldn’t we have lead by example? Wouldn’t it have made more sense, while speaking about the term slut, to round out the discussion by saying that we all need to work on the way we treat one another? Why was it brushed under the rug, that by women treating one another this way, we are no better than anyone other type of bully and attacker?
As with all controversially titled events, The SlutWalk has received extensive press coverage and has gone global – both literally and virally. Over 60 other walks are planned around the world, and finding articles written by everything from mainstream media to small independent press is incredibly easy. It has also created a large amount of dialogue, which is a necessary step in creating change.
Columnist for The Globe & Mail, Margaret Wente’s, wrote an opinions article, in opposition of the SlutWalk, and has thus far received almost 600 comments on her piece. When talking about Wente’s most other journalists have focused on her snarkier comments, such as her explanation that SlutWalks happen when “graduate students in feminist studies run out of things to do.” Went does happen to make a few statements that are worth consideration, and her constructive criticisms have been slightly overlooked.
In regards to the SlutWalk gaining extensive media attention, Wente whether it is because viewers would be intrigued by “valiant young feminsts” or by the images of young women in “thigh-high cutoffs and tube tops.” It’s a valid point.
As we marched in through the rain on Sunday, one young lady wearing only a g-string, saran wrap, and a bright purple wig, was walking alongside of us for a while. Her confidence to be walk through downtown nearly nude amazed me; but as we passed various camera men and boom operators, I couldn’t help but overhear some of the comments they were making – one of which was, “If my leftovers looked like that, I’d eat them everyday of the week.”
For someone was covering the event was this man so closed to the possibility that a young woman showing her body was not a young woman inviting him to treat her like meat? Was he a perfect reflection of our general society, a reflection for why SlutWalks are needed? Hearing his comment, and the laughter that followed, I was reminded that while I may not agree with every statement made by the various speakers, or other partakers in the SlutWalk, I knew what I was standing for and why I was in proud to be in attendance.
I sign off with hope that we can continue to create dialogue and fight for the eradication of victim blaming and that as we continue this fight into the future, we stop looking at the SlutWalk as a feminist issue, but as a human issue.
What do you think of the SlutWalk?