My Short Skirt, by Eve Ensler from the “Vagina Monologues”, an excerpt:
My short skirt
It is not an invitation
that I want it
or give it
or that I hook.
My short skirt
is not begging for it
it does not want you
to rip it off me
or pull it down.
My short skirt
is not a legal reason
for raping me…
In January this year, some hugely misinformed cop in Toronto stated that “women should avoid dressing like ‘sluts’ so they aren’t raped or victimized” (hit the jump for the MSN article or go here for where it all began ). He said this to a group of university students, and has since apologized, but not before his comments were spread far and wide thanks to Twitter and Facebook.
I want to make it clear that this blog is not about this cop, because he shouldn’t be given any more attention that he’s received and instead I hope he’s receiving some serious crisis training and education regarding victims of rape and sexual assault. What he has served to do, however, is highlight a critical issue in our perception of rape and sexual assault victims: we are still placing blame on victims. A woman no more deserves to be raped whether she’s covered from head to toe in dark, draped fabrics, professionally clothed, wearing next to nothing, or downright naked. Nobody asks to be raped, and clothing doesn’t speak. Ladies hear this now: there is nothing that you can do that will make someone rape you; that ugly blame rests entirely on the attacker.
But something happened in Toronto that day the comment was made. Slut Walk co-founders Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis realized that this perception, this poor excuse for advice, was unacceptable. And they did something amazing: they organized Slut Walk in Toronto. Barnett and Jarvis expected 100 people and more than 3,000 – men and women – showed up to walk.
They walked to reclaim the word “slut” and to make a statement to the world that it is not okay, it is not excusable, and it will not be justifiable to scrutinize the fit of a woman’s dress, the height of her hemline, or the plunge of her neckline when determining whether or not she is to blame for being a victim. Slut Walks are popping up all over the world – not just America: the world.
People are walking in their best “slut” attire. Some show up in denim and tshirts. Some are wearing professional clothes, and still some walkers are showing support in their sweats. They come carrying signs reading: My Dress is Not a Yes” and with “SLUT” scrawled across their bodies, or they come alone – as victims, or as friends of victims, or simply to stand up once and for all and say NO MORE BLAME.
But why are we claiming the word “slut”? Where did that word come from? Though women trade insults and labels with other women, calling one another sluts, bitches, whores, etc – these labels are born from male perception. Slut is thought to have originated around 1402 referring to “a dirty, untidy, or slovenly woman”. The term appears in literature as early as the 1380′s when Geoffrey Chaucer used the word once in reference to a man, but then exclusively associated with women. Since 1450 “slut” has come to be associated with female promiscuity.
What’s the point of reclaiming “slut” – or claiming it at all? For me, the point of feminism is equal rights, freedom of choice over my body, and tearing down preset notions about what it means to be a woman. I’m not on a campaign to reclaim the word “bitch”; I’d rather reclaim “woman”, “intelligent beyond cup size”, “female”, etc.
Sometimes, to really make a statement, and show people (like this jerk cop in Toronto) just how poisonous their views are, you have to blaze down a rocky path in your efforts to effect change. I support Slut Walks, and absolutely recognize the huge deal that it is to 21st century feminism – and maybe even for feminism and the feminist movement in the last 20 years. I can’t say enough that what a woman wears is her business and will never serve as an excuse for violation. March on, people, march on.