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Jun 24

We Talk the Talk. Can We Walk the Slutwalk?

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When first I heard of the Seattle Slutwalk, my immediate reaction was, “I am there.” When I found out there was actually a good purpose for the march and not just an excuse to wear criminally short skirts in public I liked it even more.

For those unaware, a Slutwalk is a protest against rape and victim blaming. Originally started in Toronto in response to a police officer’s statement that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” the marches gained popularity and have now taken place in most major cities around the world, including London, Paris, and Brazilia.

Originally I had intended to make this a short and sweet post. I was going to briefly explain the philosophy of the walk and then post a bunch of pictures of my favorite sluts pithy signs. Easy, done in five minutes, I’d have the rest of the day to iron the pleats back into my slutty schoolgirl skirt.

Then someone posted this picture on Facebook:

Yes, that’s a man at the Slutwalk leaning over to take a photo up a girl’s skirt without consent. And she wasn’t the only victim.

TL;DR In a crowd of empowered women standing up against sexual abuse, no one stood against this man. Is encouraging women to protect themselves against abusers victim-blaming or a realistic expectation of equality?

So this guy would approach a girl and ask if he could take pictures of her shoes. When she said yes he’d crouch down, tilt his camera upward, and get a wide-angle shot of the girl’s precious damp and silkies, often leaving her none the wiser.  Many didn’t realize what he was doing. I myself saw him snapping photos of a friend and assumed he was getting shots of her adorable puppy. Many did realize and didn’t have the courage to call him on it.

The photographer of the above photo witnessed it all and had the presence of mind to catch him in the act but was too shocked to approach him. Says the girl in the photo, “When it was happening I just thought, “Is this really happening at a protest against exactly this kind of shit?” and blew it off because I didn’t want to cause a scene and upset everyone.

It’s an understandable—if infuriating—reaction, and one that many women that day seemed to share. Of the many people who saw him taking the illegal and exploitive photos, reportedly only one woman was brave enough to point him out to the police, who failed to take any action.

Is this what the walk was about? A thousand women united against abuse in theory, but still too frightened to stop it in action? There is no better place to call a person out than at a Slutwalk; it’s not as if the people there wouldn’t back a sister up. But taking that first step is still a terrifying prospect that goes against all of our social conditioning as women.

The first speaker of the day, Alyssa Royse, encouraged women not to fight attackers. “Do not ever risk your life for this. It’s not worth it. There’s life, love, and sex after rape.” The crowd cheered.

Now, this is a sentiment I personally disagree with. I would not be able to live with myself if I allowed myself to be raped without trying everything in my power to defend myself.  That’s not true for many women, however, and all of us are right about what is true for us. I think blanket statements like the speaker’s are part of the problem.

The message of the march seemed to be, “Hey, rapists! Stop it. Okay? Stop it.” Which is… well, to be perfectly brutal, completely ineffective. I truly wish it were that easy and that we lived in a just world where we could tell abusers to stop abusing and they would. The truth is, we can shout about how we’re not going to take it anymore until we’re blue in the face, but the only way the abuse is going to stop is if we actually stop taking it.

I encourage all women to be the strong, proud sluts that we all aspired to be at the Slutwalk. I know it’s difficult, but we can do it. Protecting ourselves against abuse does not mean that we are accepting blame for the abuse. The fact that we have the power to stop it does not in any way make it our fault.

Fellow sluts, I beg of you. Wear your short skirt with pride. If anyone tries to take a picture of your panties, don’t stand idly by or lecture them on how your body is yours. Take your knowledge that your body is yours and proudly kick them in the fucking mouth.

3 comments

  1. kriscrat

    Now that there are pictures and many witnesses, can the police do something?

  2. PeanutBee

    A number of people are working with the police to get a case together, but no one has managed to get any useful info on him beyond a vague description. He looked to be in his later 60’s, with a pronounced limp and a prosthetic right leg.

    If anyone has any information that might help, please contact the police.

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