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Monday, 24 September 2012

SlutWalk 2012 – or Why I don’t really care about the controversy

April Howard discusses the merits of SlutWalk

SlutWalk - we’ve all heard about it. What do we all think? Despite attempting to ignite activism and achieve real social change, the scantily-clad marches through cities and towns all across the world have truly polarised opinion within feminist movements and the general public alike.

Why are they using the word slut? 

Who do they think they are? 

How can they use their bodies like that to raise the cause of feminism? 

I have encountered all these reservations in feminist circles and amongst other acquaintances and friends.

Who cares? This is the thought that usually comes into my head at such discussions, often unbidden
and usually unspoken. Yes, I have a persistent inner-debate over using the word slut, but really, SlutWalk’s association of everyone in society with that word isn’t such a bad idea – it instantly lays open the ridiculousness of using the word slut to denigrate and allow a “certain type” to be raped without protection and without certain resource to justice.

With the SlutWalk organisers yelling the abysmal figures of 7 in 100 reported rapes ending in a conviction in the direction of the CPS and police, surely any action that brings attention to such a clear weakness and blind-spot in our judicial system is worthy of support?

Yes, some of the photographers may have come to get a picture of scantily-clad women, but it got
photographers to the event and interviews in many local and national newspapers. The view of thousands of men and women in unusual outfits, shouting slogans that described the need to blame the rapist and not to victim (“It’s a dress, not a yes” and “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no” being amongst my favourites) caused many people in London, and across the world’s SlutWalking cities to stop and consider an issue that has long been swept under the legal and social carpet.

Academic feminism has an incredibly important place in influencing governmental policy, but movements such as SlutWalk can access all levels of society and cause a stir on the streets. If society and those holding judicial power within society continue to tell men that someone’s drinking or attire can excuse rape on the grounds that the victim had somehow “asked for it” or been a “vulnerable position”, then people will continue to view rape as something that only happens in certain settings, to certain people. By loudly calling bullsh*t on this analogy and demonstrating that rape is never acceptable, SlutWalk use their attire and slogans to visibly demonstrate the absurdity of slut-shaming and victim-blaming.

So, I went to my first SlutWalk dressed in a 60s dress with suspenders underneath to highlight that neither attire legitimises rape.

Did I enjoy the walk? Yes, I did.
I feel empowered to stand up to the rape-culture we live in? Yes. 
Did I feel empowered to call bullsh*t before I Slut-walked? No.

SlutWalk may not be your cup of tea, yet I defy anyone to refute the good it has done – uniting millions of people across the world to publicly reject rape-culture and sparking millions of discussions on the acceptability of rape-apologists. I refuse to believe that because of a word and a bra these global outpourings of frustration are an endangering addition to the feminist cause.

Also we managed to get on to Sky News briefly and April's placard is featured in The Huffington Post.

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