Slutwalk - there, I said it without quote marks

I was startled the first time I heard the term "slutwalk." I'm easily embarassed by profanity and wildly uncomfortable with the word "slut." See: I had to use quotes around it to dissociate myself from using it.

But Slutwalk is in the proud tradition of other words I can't make myself use like those that start with "N" and "Q" and "F" diffusing the power of an epithet by repeating it endlessly and refusing to be victimized by its use by those who mean to harm. In case you have not yet heard about this, it follows a revolting public statement by a Canadian policeman about how to avoid rape - not dressing like a "slut." As most reasonable people know, rape is not an act of helpless lust induced by the sight of willing women. Rape is an act of aggression and dominance little related to the victim and everything to do with the predator.

Much to my surprise, a day or two after I first heard the term I learned a blogger friend has actually attended a Slutwalk, and describes it.  I'm grateful to her for her post, and her newspaper interview - these are important things for us to bring into the light. I used to work at the Everywoman Center at UMASS, where I answered the rape/crisis hotline. I have known too many women who survived rape or assault - and suffered in various degrees from the experience. We cannot lift all the pain and effects of that but one thing we can do is hear this: "shame and blame belong only to the rapist."


  1. I agree with you on feeling confronted by this word. It is such a strongly derogatory term I would have trouble saying it. But it is such an effective tool for the message it is conveying. So controversial it cannot help but provoke debate - which is brilliant for the promotion of the cause. Sometimes shock-value is required.

  2. It's quite strange seeing my poster on your blog! It's still lurking in my spare bedroom.

    It's been quite difficult getting people to have a proper conversation about SlutWalks, because so many get hung up on whether the name is a good or bad idea, or whether the word should be reclaimed, or other periphery details. As you point out in your post, the message of SlutWalk is that the victim is NEVER to blame, whatever they are wearing. Even if there were compelling evidence that the majority of people were raped whilst wearing miniskirts, the blame and pressure to change should still only fall on the criminal, not the victim. But rape is also a political tool in some countries; elderly people, men and babies are raped as well as teenage girls; it's a massive problem in prison populations and it's more likely to happen to people with any variety of vulnerability, especially those with physical or mental health problems - so clearly clothing is not the issue. The more good posts on the campaign are written, the better chance people have of seeing past quibbles over the wording, and understanding the real message. As I am a survivor I've been shouting my mouth off about this for the last few weeks and I'm so grateful that you wrote about it! Thanks Laura :)

  3. It makes me so mad when I think that any intelligent decent human being can take the responsibility away from the attacker by rationalizing some belief that it they cannot be responsible for their actions because someone can suggest that what they look like or wear reflects their desire to be forced into a sexual act violent act. Does that mean if a man takes off his shirt or wears a speedo he is asking to be raped by another man who can't control his urges? It's absurd of course, yet the belief lingers.
    We need to educate our children, boys and girls on how to protect themselves. How to respect each other and themselves. Rapists are violent criminals. No one is responsible for a violent act against them. Rape is a violent act.


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