Saturday, June 9, 2012

More on Slutwalk 2012;

A few weeks ago I attended Brisbane's 2012 Slutwalk - a movement I have strongly agreed with since I first heard about it on the blogging platform Tumblr around this time last year. For my Reporting class, I made a video detailing my experiences at Slutwalk, which you can watch here.

For a bit of context, Slutwalk began in Ontario, Canada, on April 3rd 2011, as a widespread response to one police officer's unashamed statement that to attempt to avoid getting raped, "Women should stop dressing like sluts." Popular opinion and societal expectations may tie in with this view, however the women who originally organised Slutwalk felt that this was an outdated, disgusting notion that was offensive not only to victims of sexual violence and assault; but all men - it implies that men are animals who cannot control themselves around attractive, scantily clad women, and they are almost EXPECTED to rape women who 'lead them on'. Slutwalk does not believe this. Slutwalk does not shame men; it encourages men to participate, to stand up and say, no, you can wear what you like, I'm still going to respect you and your personal boundaries because the length of your skirt has nothing to do with your willingness to sleep with me.

Many men were in attendance at last month's Slutwalk, which I think is just amazing. I've spoken to a lot of boys my own age who disagree with the movement because, "It encourages women to be whores and just sleep with everyone" - yeah, right? Some boys I've spoken to even agree with the original statement that began Slutwalk. To them, I would like to extend an invitation to speak to their mothers, sisters, female friends, girlfriends and, in the future, daughters, and hopefully come to an understanding of just how wrong they are.

Slutwalk Brisbane stopped traffic, with cries such as "Hey hey, ho ho, sexual violence has got to go!" ringing the streets and many passersby and tourists stopping to take our pictures, some even taking the time to ask exactly what it is we were doing and why we were there - reactions like this are a huge part of why I will always believe in the power of protest, and the possible implications of like-minded people gathering together to be vocal about their causes.

Not everyone had positive reactions to us, however.
Before the march even began, when we were simply standing around King George Square listening to speeches, comparing signs, telling stories and complimenting one another's fabulous outfits, a girl I later interviewed was subject to the oh-so-witty and relevant taunt of, "Fucking slut! Yuck, you're such a whore!!!" from a snapback-wearing fifteen-year-old male.
Her reaction was to laugh at him and refuse to allow his slut-shaming to affect her day - however this abuse, even at a Slutwalk event, really got me thinking as to the ways in which our society raises boys. Girls being taught that their sexuality is a 'prize' is a whole other kettle of fish; when parents teach their little boys the virtue of "purity" and "saving yourself" (only in relation to the female gender, mind you) then yet another generation of misogynists are born.
I believe that over the next few years, Slutwalk should have a large focus on the male gender; inviting males of all ages to come along and hear the stories of their female contemporaries; a focus on parents and how to raise children to believe that any and all genders and sexualities are equal and need to be treated with the same amount of respect; the idea of "teaching men not to rape", etc. We can scream and shout about these things as much as we like, but until we start taking positive steps towards implementing what we believe to be right into society and generations to come, we may as well be talking to brick walls.

Overall, Slutwalk was a positive experience for me and everyone I spoke to. I do think, however, that Slutwalk is a largely misunderstood movement, and for it to become spoken about and respected on a global level there needs to be a higher focus on education, rather than simply assuming that everyone in attendance is doing so because they understand and support the cause.

I have had many mixed reactions to my support of Slutwalk, so I thought it would be interesting to reach out to a wider audience with a diverse demographic - I asked my followers on Tumblr, "What do you personally think about the Slutwalk movement?" and these were some of the responses I received:
"I personally think it’s fab, it’s for something I agree with a lot and would love to go on the march, although some people I feel don’t represent it the way I think it should be represented."
"I love that people do it, but hate the fact that we live in a society where anyone would even have to." 
"Sanguinetti’s comment was brutally honest, but honest still. If you’re prepared to dress or act in a way that promotes attention to yourself than also be prepared to take attention, good and bad. HOWEVER rape is never excused by a victim’s appearance."
(All photos found here.)

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