Alright, so I know we’re a day late but hopefully not a dollar short with the SlutWalk movement, but I just discovered it. SlutWalks began in Toronto in early 2011 after a police officer was invited into a university classroom to talk about rape and sexual assault prevention, wherein he told the students to “avoid dressing like sluts.” This did not go over well in Toronto, where five women organized SlutWalk to speak out against “victim-blaming, slut-shaming and sexual profiling and policing.” SlutWalk works to change victim-blaming, a cultural problem that blames survivors of sexual assault for their assault, sometimes associated with what they were wearing, how much alcohol they drank or a previous relationship with a perpetrator.
We at Speak About It also work to eliminate language of victim-blaming, reminding survivors that no matter what happened, it wasn’t their fault. No one invites sexual assault or is responsible for their assault, especially because of what they may have been wearing. SlutWalk sums it up perfectly, saying that “being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim.” SlutWalk works to include people of all genders and gender expressions, identities and sexualities. Sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, status, gender expression. People who march in SlutWalks can be anyone, wearing anything, with any story or experience.
SlutWalk also aims to re-appropriate the word Slut and dissociate it from its prevalent pejorative use. They recognize “language as an integral part of victim-blaming and slut-shaming,” and by including Slut in their title, they are beginning to battle against its common use and begin to “use it in a subversive, self-defining, positive, empowering and respectful way.” One founding member of SlutWalk has likened this linguistic shift to the word “queer” in LGBTQ conversations.
Speak About It, when all boiled down, has one major focus: language. This means asking for and getting consent, saying “no” when you need to, stepping in to be an active bystander, telling stories, and so much more. Our language, and how we chose to use it, is what makes us unique. Unique from other animals, but unique from each other. Our language is one of our most powerful tools, our easiest communication, and can be damn sexy. But, as we all know far too well, can also be harmful, malicious and damaging. The old adage of “sticks and stones” isn’t necessarily accurate anymore, as language has evolved to include social media, texting, cyber-bullying and so much more. Reclaiming Slut, as Eve Ensler has worked to do with other words, is part of a larger movement to spur awareness about language.
So what can you do about this on your campus or in your community? Change the way you use the word slut and other sexually-charged words (like whore, for example). Participate in a SlutWalk near you or begin a SlutWalk on your campus. Whether you choose to get involved with the global SlutWalk movement or not, it’s certainly food for thought about how we use language, and how we can change the culture of victim-blaming one word at a time.