SlutWalk London is one branch of a worldwide protest marching under the radical notion that nobody deserves to be raped, regardless of what they wear.
‘Yes means yes, and no means no.’ That is the message that SlutWalk is spreading worldwide in a protest movement sparked by a Canadian police officer’s advice to women to “avoid dressing like sluts”. SlutWalk marches are on the rise as men and women gather in their thousands to denounce the idea that how they dress makes them responsible for sexual harassment. People inspired by SlutWalk are organising protests, speaking up against victim-blaming wherever they see/hear it, and giving victims a platform to share their experiences and ideas.
On SlutWalk marches you’ll see inspiringly confident women carry banners bearing statements like ‘my little black dress does not mean yes’. The majority of the marchers at SlutWalk London dressed provocatively to raise awareness for their cause and get attention from passers by, making a proud statement that we are worth more than our looks and that women should wear whatever makes them happy without fear of being placed in danger. It was also a message that it doesn’t matter what you wear – if a man is going to rape you, he will do it regardless of your attire. SlutWalk marchers want to inspire confidence in silent rape victims, victims of domestic abuse and violent relationships.
We live in a blame culture, where derogatory words such as ‘slut’ dehumanise women, insinuating that their lifestyle choices make them sexually available to any men. women should be able to dress as they please, go wherever they please, drink as much as they please and be sexually active while being respected and (most of all) safe.
Insulting words like ‘slut’ are socially constructed terms used as an attack, generally on women, by people who may not approve of their dress sense or sexual activity. None of which holds any relevance over rape cases. Regardless of what a woman is wearing, who she has slept with before or how much she has had to drink, the word ‘no’ should not be reinterpreted.
‘Slut’ as a word and a style of dress is used to make a very strong point at protests: namely, that it is appalling to shame a woman for her sexual behaviour or clothing, neither of which should provoke abuse of any kind. Members of SlutWalk marches enjoy expressing themselves – which seems to further illustrate the point that we shouldn’t have to fear going out dressed a certain way.
Interestingly, the country with the highest recorded incidence of rape was Afghanistan under the Taliban, where women follow the sharia code of dress. In this case men excused their lust by saying they were excited by the click of a woman’s shoes on the pavement.
In May this year, British Conservative politician Ken Clarke discussed a proposal on radio station BBC 5 Live to shrink the sentences of criminals, including rapists, who pleaded guilty in trial. He suggested that some types of rape are more serious than others. Conviction rates for this most serious of crimes remain very low and too often the burden of proof falls on the victim.
When surveyed the general public agreed that all forms of rape are just as serious (68%) and only 12% said that the way a victim was dressed should be taken into account. Encouraging numbers, but protesters are still trying to reach those who voted that the victim held some responsibility.
Some argue that women who dress in a provocative way are encouraging negative attention, which could be true. Unfortunately, the wrong kind of person could always be paying attention to you – no matter what your age and no matter what you wear. Women should be aware of the potential for negative attention.
It would be advisable for any woman, particularly on a night out, to follow precautionary measures and stay safe. Simple things such as:
- Making sure that your group of friends stay together
- Letting somebody know where you are going and when you will be home
- Keeping an eye on your drinks and getting a taxi straight home where possible.
Our highly sexualised society makes a lot of young women want to dress more provocatively. Some do it to attract men and some do it as a means of confidence-boosting self-expression, both of which can make them more vulnerable to negative attention. Sadly, there is always a chance that somebody out there will have bad intentions. Instead of dressing differently or not going out, we can protect ourselves by planning ahead and making sure that we are always in contact with friends and family.
The Facebook page for SlutWalk London already has more than 8,000 members. Student Anastasia Richardson, 17, who organised this year’s SlutWalk in London, said that the movement clearly relates to people in Britain. She said: “I think the reaction shows how relevant it is, especially in Britain where only 6.5% of rape cases end in convictions – and that’s the ones we know about.”
The SlutWalk London website says: ‘Make it known that those who experience sexual assault are never the ones at fault, and show the world we’re proud of who we are.’
A wonderful message – which basically says that the only person who owns a right to a woman’s body is the woman herself.