“SAY NO TO SLUTWALK!” she screamed.

Sexual equality symbol

Image via Wikipedia

I’m in the middle of a debate on Facebook that began with a friend screaming SAY NO TO SLUTWALK!  I had read about the SlutWalk campaign, but it didn’t sit right with me.  So, I let it disappear, along with all of the other headlines I read, but forget in the midst of rushing kids to school, pressing toward deadlines, and just trying to breath.  Her recent sentiment has brought it back to my attention, and now I’m ready to talk.

The movement grew out of an out-of-hand comment made by a police officer, that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized (G&M 3 April 2011).”  The usual media circus performed, and the response culminated in a march through the streets of Toronto because “No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault (slutwalktoronto.com, 11 July 2011).”

Beautifully phrased, but in this particular case, I would take this eloquent mantra a step further.  I would argue:

No one should equate provocative clothing with attracting sexual assault.

At the root of Constable Sanguinetti’s statement is concern for the safety of vulnerable women.

At the root of constable Sanguinetti’s thoughts is a commitment to help women protect themselves.

People can question the approaches law enforcers take, but any person who dons a uniform and faces violence in service to the public deserves the benefit of the doubt that s/he has our best interest at heart.  He wrongly associated vulnerability with a woman’s choice of clothing.  He apologized.  He’ll probably be forced to take some sort of bureaucratic sensitivity training that will teach him how to mask his thoughts using empty words instead of how to understand the social mechanisms that lend credence to words like slut.

We women speak out of both sides of our mouths.  We want to be attractive to others; for our own self-esteems; to attract sexual partners; even to impress other women.  At the same time, we take moral stands against being objectified.  We argue that it negates our contributions to society, perpetuates inappropriate stereotypes, and subordinates us.

Men are caught between a rock and a hard place, or more appropriately, between a woman’s self-esteem and her self-worth.  To compliment a woman on her appearance takes the risk of demeaning her intellect, yet a woman who invests in her physical appearance wants to be noticed.  We need to establish a paradigm that allows us to be feminine and sexual, but safe and in control of our bodies.

When my friend Sarah posted her anti-SlutWalk slogan, I realized my issue with the campaign: That word has no place in my lexicon.  The walk organizers want to “reclaim” a word over which I have never felt, and never intend to feel ownership, and in my mind, “slut-shaming” is redundant.  Embracing that word only serves to perpetuate the judgment of female sexuality as wrong, bad, unacceptable, deviant, aberrant…

The name SlutWalk detracts from the root struggle for sexual equality: Women are judged for being sexually active.  We are judged by men, but also by other women.  There is no male equivalent that bears the meaning and stigma of the word slut.  In our society, men are assumed and even expected to be sexually active, regardless of their clothing.

No one should equate provocative clothing with attracting sexual assault.

Every day, the clothes I choose send messages:  I’m gardening today; I have a date with my husband; I’m heading to my daughter’s T-ball game.  These messages start conversations.  Jumping to the conclusion that I want to weed your garden just because I’m wearing old jeans and a sunhat is no less ridiculous than assuming that a woman invites a sexual attack by wearing a short skirt and tight top.  Associating “dressing slutty” with inviting sexual assault, not only accuses the victim of “asking for it,” but also accuses men of being helpless sexual predators.

The SlutWalk campaign is no more likely to protect women than Sanguinetti’s unfortunate advice.  Despite a call to “re-appropriate” the meaning of the term, the authors use it rampantly with its derogatory connotation.  The statements made on torontoslutwalk.com are rife with contradiction, and only serve to confound their message.

My hope for the outcome of this spectacle is that we reflect on the judgments that we make, and teach our children to make, about others and ourselves.  I hope that the outfall of Sanguinetti’s words open dialogue that leads to effective advice for individuals to protect themselves, regardless of what they wear.

Live within limits without limiting life

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About ahemmayispeak

Environmentalist Egalitarian Engineer Writer There, I finally said it. View all posts by ahemmayispeak

2 responses to ““SAY NO TO SLUTWALK!” she screamed.

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