Ralliers outside the State Library on Swanston Street.
Best. Sign. Ever.
Last Saturday the highly anticipated SlutWalk occurred in several Australian cities, and I attended the Melbourne event with my fellow anti-slut-shamer friend Laura (both of us below).
We rocked up in our sluttiest outfits, which you can see above, complete with permanent marker declarations of our proud sluthood to boot. Some of the other outfits we noticed were short skirts with knee-high skull print socks and customised Doc Martins, worn by event organiser Clem Bastow (below), lace dresses and gym gear, the latter of which adorned a short-haired tattoo fan with a body Tracy Anderson would envy.
As Bastow commented when she gave one of the opening addresses, along with fellow event organisers Karen Pickering and Lauren Clair, and noted feminists Monica Dux (above) and Leslie Cannold, amongst others: “thank you, God, it looks like you’re going to rain on me”. But no one was gonna rain on our parade and, despite the chilly temperatures, we still walked tall and proud in whatever get-ups we chose to wear.
Dux said this is the beginning of a movement, which I have to disagree with. SlutWalk is not the beginning of a movement; it is part of the reignited battle to stop victim-blaming and slut-shaming based on one cop’s archaic musings on rape and how much a woman was “asking for it”. Here’s a fun fact: WE’RE NEVER ASKING FOR IT! (See Bastow’s sign, above). No matter how we are dressed, where we are, how much we’ve had to drink, or what we do for work.
Speaking of, I was really proud to see the representation of sex workers at the event, and president of the Australian Sex Workers’ Association, the Scarlet Alliance (represent!), Elena Jeffreys (above) spoke about her sexual assault and that even though she was paid for sex, she was not consenting to assault. Her opinions on the SlutWalk were really interesting and I hope they receive as much publicity as the negative perceptions of the rally have in the media.
In the days leading up to SlutWalk, I was embroiled in a heated debate on Facebook with a friend who disagrees with the SlutWalk. I think he confused—like a lot of people—the meaning of the SlutWalk with an excuse to get gussied up in a very risqué manner when, in fact, that was not at all what it was about. That didn’t stop protestors on the steps of Parliament House at the top of Bourke Street brandishing their “rape is horrifying, but so is immodesty” placards (above). Like one of the speakers (whose identity escapes me: should have used my BlackBerry voice recorder!) said: it’s not up to us to curb our behaviour (and that includes how we choose to dress) at the risk of potentially being sexually assaulted; it’s up to those who sexually assault to curb their behaviour!
I think most people against the SlutWalk had a problem with the use of the word slut. As Cannold said, “words matter…: … we won’t stand for one, the same one, being slung at us over and over again to demean and degrade us.” Lori Adelman, in a post on Feministing, said she didn’t agree with the term “slut” and that she “would much rather have attended a ‘Do Not Rape’ Walk”:
“I find that the term disproportionately impacts women of colour and poor women in order to reinforce their status as inherently dirty and second-class, and hence more rape-able.”
To me, “slut” is just a word. It meant as much to me to be called a slut when I was 12 as it does today; as they (and Rihanna) say, sticks and stones will break my bones but names can never hurt me. It’s not about the term “slut”, it’s about the backwards and extremely offensive views that go along with that word. As coordinator of the first SlutWalk in Toronto, Sonya Barnett, told Rachel Hills: “if he [the policeman] had said something else, we would have called it something else.”
The speaker who garnered the most attention, though, was transgendered man, Cody Smith (above), who had been raped both as a biological female, and as a trans man. There were tears a plenty during his speech!
It was nice to see such a welcoming, non-judgmental turnout of everyday men, women and children of all walks of life, wearing all sorts of garb, not just the fishnetted and cut-out body con dresses that certain attendees chose to wear (guilty as charged!). After all, rape is not about what you’re wearing, what you look like, what size you are, how old you are, what your sexual orientation or gender is, or any other denomination that you happen to belong to as a person. It is about the perpetrator, and nothing you can or cannot do will stop them from attempting to rape you.
As Smith said, it shouldn’t be the victims of sexual assaults’ responsibility to educate the general public on sexual assault and victim-blaming. And I thought the sexual revolution happened several decades ago: it shouldn’t be up to members of a fringe movement to educate the general public on the sexual rights of women to express themselves however they please without the threat of retaliation. In fact, feminism—which is what the SlutWalk was all about—shouldn’t be considered as on the fringe in 2011.
Black and white images via Ali Ryan Photography.