I received a rather unusual invitation the other day from a friend of mine, a lady University Professor. This is what it said:
Time Sunday, April 3 · 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Location central Queen’s Park, heading to Toronto Police Headquarters at 40 College Street
More Info: When we first heard about the Toronto Police officer labeling women and people most at risk of sexual assault as “sluts”, we thought about making noise and demanding for more than an apology. We have a constitutional right to a freedom of expression and a freedom of assembly so we’re using it. Putting that into action, we wanted to go right to Toronto Police Service’s front door at 40 College St. with impassioned numbers uniting against these damaging stereotypes.
Thus SlutWalk Toronto was born. We are taking our frustration to the streets – literally. Join us for our walk. (from slutwalktoronto.com) For full details, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
As you can imagine I am intruiged!
Here is what it says on the Facebook page for Toronto's 'SLUTWALK' coming up this Sunday April 3, 2011:
"SlutWalk Toronto BECAUSE WE’VE HAD ENOUGH!
On January 24th, 2011, a representative of the Toronto Police gave shocking insight into the Force’s view of sexual assault by stating: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.
As the city’s major protective service, the Toronto Police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of ‘the slut’, and in doing so have failed us. With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed. 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.
Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.
We 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.
We are a movement demanding that our voices be heard. We are here to call foul on our Police Force and demand change. We want Toronto Police Services to take serious steps to regain our trust. We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise.
We are tired of speeches filled with lip service and the apologies that accompany them. What we want is meaningful dialogue and we are doing something about it: WE ARE COMING TOGETHER. Not only as women, but as people from all gender expressions and orientations, all walks of life, levels of employment and education, all races, ages, abilities, and backgrounds, from all points of this city and elsewhere.
We are asking you to join us for SlutWalk, to make a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all. Whether a fellow slut or simply an ally, you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come. Any gender-identification, any age. Singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends. Come walk or roll or strut or holler or stomp with us.
Join us in our mission to spread the word that those those who experience sexual assault are not the ones at fault, without exception."
The momentum of the Slutwalk Cause appears to be building, as sister Slutwalks are planned in Montreal, Vancouver and Boston, with some small towns like Sackville, New Brunswick even courageously joining ranks.
While media focus has this week been on the Libyan woman Iman Al-Obeidi, who bravely spoke out against her attackers even in the face of shame and the likelihood she would be permanently silenced, the problem of rape and victim blaming is by no means limited to the Middle East.
In the US an eleven year old girl who was gang raped by a group of 18 men, prompted a NYT journalist to write about the girl's tendency to dress older than she was and to ask "I wonder what on earth would lead these men to be drawn into doing such a thing?" The backlash and anger at his insinuations caused a petition to circulate demanding that he issue an apology.
Speaking on the issue of "rape culture" writer Kit Bacon Gressit explains,
"...with this deft reporting of unattributed hearsay, the paper has provided the answer: Excuse Me, I’m Writing http://www.kbgressitt.com/has implied it is the victim’s fault. An 11-year-old girl, using the force of her appearance, her makeup and dress, her choice of companions, “drew” a gang of men and boys into raping her. That’s rape culture." To read her excellent article on the subject: "
The Toronto Slutwalk Facebook page certainly appears to be stirring controversy, as witness some abusive and aggressive comments posted by men. Others, however are finding the idea thought-provoking.
Will I be attending? Due to vehicle issues I will have to bow out this time, however to all the brave women (and men) who will walk and be counted as sluts, know this; that I am with you , in 'slutty spirit' if not in body!