What is SlutWalk?
SlutWalk is a public protest against victim-blaming and slut-shaming. SlutWalk Melbourne is one of many SlutWalk events around the world.
Why call it SlutWalk?
In Toronto in 2011 a police officer addressing a group of university students told them if they wanted to avoid being raped “they should stop dressing like sluts”. Feminist activists organised a show of strength to tell survivors that they are never to blame. SlutWalk became a spontaneous, global protest against victim-blaming, slut-shaming and the denial that these attitudes exist.
The organisers on the ground in Toronto made the decision to name the inevitable protest using the words of this police officer. This has been a divisive issue. Of course the word “slut” is offensive or re-traumatising to many people, but the intention of the organisers was to highlight the casual way in which women are dismissed as victims of sexual assault. At SlutWalk Melbourne, we believe in the merit of taking a reviled word and using it against those who seek to hurt women. It also can’t be denied that the name has garnered significant interest and attention on an unprecedented level for a women’s rights issue.
Some will wish to reclaim the word, some see its use as ironic, some hate it, but they still attend to support survivors in the fight against victim-blaming and slut-shaming.
What is victim-blaming?
“What was she wearing?”
“How many drinks did she have?”
“What was she thinking, walking alone at that time of night?”
Victim-blaming suggests that a victim of sexual assault or rape made themselves a target through the way they dressed or acted. This idea that a victim – regardless of gender – is to blame for being raped is false and incredibly destructive to survivors. The truth is that most rapes are pre-meditated. Nearly all rapes are committed by partners, family members or others known and trusted by the victim. Most rapists don’t even remember what the victim was wearing – and in many cases, victims were wearing ordinary clothing when attacked, like jeans and a hoodie. For a valuable perspective on on victim-blaming, see Emily Maguire’s speech from SlutWalk Melbourne 2012.
What is slut-shaming?
Slut-shaming includes any comments designed to make women feel humiliated or embarrassed about sex and sexuality. “Slut” is a word that most women have been called, for having “too much sex” or not enough, for showing too much or not enough, for refusing to have sex, or for agreeing. Slut-shaming aims to make women ashamed of their sexuality, and makes them susceptible to self-blame if they are assaulted or raped. Slut-shaming is related to victim-blaming and we need to fight both.
Do I have to dress “slutty”?
There is no dress code for SlutWalk. There’s no inappropriate way to dress, and no need to dress differently from how you normally would. As long as you don’t break any laws, you can wear whatever you like to SlutWalk! It’s not about what you wear, it’s about your right to wear it and not be harassed or assaulted as a result of your choice.
I don’t identify as female; can I attend?
SlutWalk is a global movement that invites everyone to join the fight against victim-blaming and slut-shaming. Rape culture hurts everyone: people of all gender identifications, races, classes, orientations and backgrounds are equally invested in challenging and critiquing it. We understand that the involvement of men in particular is problematic for some supporters. SlutWalk Melbourne respectfully disagrees with the premise that men are not important, relevant or welcome in some feminist spaces. As SlutWalk Melbourne organiser Karen Picking says: “the feminist men in my life, and in particular in SlutWalk Melbourne, are aware of their privilege and are using it to further women’s rights and to critique patriarchy, even though they benefit from it. Just as many black activists want white supporters to strenuously fight racism whilst respecting black leadership in the cause.”
Who runs SlutWalk Melbourne?
SlutWalk Melbourne is run by a dedicated team of volunteers, including but not limited to the people listed on our Melbourne SlutWalk Team page. No-one is paid for their work on SlutWalk Melbourne. Running costs, including web presence, sign making materials, publicity and equipment (such as sound systems etc.) are paid for by donations made through this web site. All excess funds are donated to CASA.
Can I bring my kids to SlutWalk?
Yes! SlutWalk is a peaceful event for all ages. Bear in mind, however, that issues of an adult nature will be discussed on the day. If you feel comfortable discussing these things with your children then we encourage you to bring the family.
For more on children and SlutWalk, read this great piece from Amy Gray: “Why I’m taking my seven-year-old to Slutwalk“.
Why would anyone want to reclaim the word “slut”?
Not everybody does. Those who do might be interested in this perspective from noted feminist Jessica Valenti:
“The only way to battle shame is with pride; we have to be proud of the choices we make and stand behind them. We have to take the power out of sexual insults like “whore’ and “slut”. There aren’t many feminists my age who don’t remember musician Kathleen Hanna scrawling SLUT across her stomach as a way to reclaim the word. We need to do the same thing, not just with the word, but with the idea. There’s nothing wrong with having sex; don’t let anyone forget that.” (Valenti 2007, p. 37)
SlutWalk Melbourne has no interest in whether you want to reclaim the word or not; our focus is to stand against victim-blaming and rape culture.
Is SlutWalk Melbourne accessible?
The State Library forecourt is fully wheelchair accessible. We are committed to allocating seating areas for supporters with mobility issues. Likewise, the rally route has been shortened in 2013 and is of course optional for all participants. It was our hope to provide Auslan translation for this year’s event but we were unable to secure the services of a volunteer. Please get in touch with any suggestions or queries about the accessibility of SlutWalk Melbourne.
I’m supportive but I can’t come to the march; what can I do?
You can support SlutWalk, and fight victim-blaming and slut-shaming, in many ways; see our Get Involved page for some suggestions.
Is SlutWalk Melbourne a feminist event?
Yes. A feminist event is any event that addresses inequality and discrimination of women. SlutWalk stands against victim-blaming and slut-shaming of sexual assault survivors, an issue that cannot be discussed without addressing the sexist mistreatment and discrimination of women who have been sexually assaulted. It should also be emphasised that just because SlutWalk is a feminist event, it doesn’t mean that participation is restricted to women. Sexual assault affects everyone in society and sexual assault can occur to anyone regardless of gender or sex.
What is the social media comment policy?
We encourage our supporters to share links, information and engage in respectful discussion on our Facebook page. However, due to the sensitive topics addressed by SlutWalk (i.e. sexual assault and victim blaming), all comments that are seen as potentially triggering will be deleted without warning. SlutWalk Melbourne will not tolerate threats, bullying or purposefully insensitive comments and will delete and report such comments to the appropriate authorities. Well-meaning but unintentionally triggering comments will also be removed from our social media to avoid offending other readers. Please ensure you use trigger warnings on links and posts, where appropriate.
What is a trigger warning? Why should I use one?
A trigger warning is placed at the beginning of a document to indicate that it contains material that is potentially ‘triggering’, (i.e; due to graphic descriptions of rape or assault, or other potentially traumatic content). This provides people with the ability to make an informed choice about continuing on to read or view the content. Many survivors find this to be incredibly useful to avoid unintentionally engaging with material that could prompt post-traumatic flashbacks or otherwise make them uncomfortable or unsafe.