There is something powerful about being a part of something that is bigger than yourself. Being part of a moment in time where a group of strangers can come together for one unified cause. To be part of a social movement that is more than just a political protest but rather provide a hope that positive change is upon us.
Thanks to a couple of amazing women at the Women Center, the University of Waterloo held the first ever SlutWalk in the KW region just a few mere hours ago. I remember in the beginning of the winter term, one of my friends Erin (an executive of the Women Center) came into my room and told me all about her exciting new conquest at the Women Center to bring forth the SlutWalk to the University of Waterloo. I was amazed that it hadn’t had been brought forth sooner but I couldn’t have been prouder of the work that Erin among her fellow comrades did to accomplish this.
Up until a few hours ago,I had never participated in a SlutWalk let alone any rally or protest before. I remember hearing about the SlutWalk a few years back when I was in high school. I didn’t really know much about it other than it was a walk in protest to a comment made by some police officer where women could wear literally anything (or nothing) they wanted. As an ignorant teenager, I associated the Slutwalk as something that was very scandalous that only crazy people took part of. The whole concept of women walking around with literally nothing on didn’t make any sense to me, and I was just confused and baffled by the idea. However, fast forward to present day and through meeting some amazing people such as Erin and some of my fellow Indevours, I have learned the true meaning and now understand the main ideas behind the SlutWalk.
The SlutWalk is a monumental transnational movement of a march that is held to protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance and a call to end rape culture. The first ever SlutWalk was held on April 3rd 2011 in Toronto, Ontario and since then these marches have symbolized a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all. This all started after Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police Force officer, made a public statement on January 24th, 2011 reiterating the Force’s views on sexual assault as “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.Since the initial walk in Toronto, the SlutWalk has become more than a political protest but also about freedom of expression.
So without really knowing much about the SlutWalk, I did some research and then it dawned on me, what does one wear to a Slut-walk? One of my friends suggested that I wear a scandalous outfit that was sexy and revealed it all. Another agreed and suggested I go naked. I knew that some participants were going to be shirtless or wearing tight short clothing. And I didn’t want to stand out like a sore thumb if I didn’t conform to that. But then it hit me, I was no different than many other ignorant men and women who believed that the true underlying reason behind many sexual assault cases was because of how promiscuous a woman dressed. What I wore to a simple march let alone what I wear every day or when I go out with friends should not define me or label me as a “Slut”.
Many can argue that the SlutWalk is just a march that lacks the substance and drive to be a monumental movement. But I see it differently. I see it as something that is about to achieve its tipping point effect to break stereotypes and change the way modern society views violence against women. I mean looking back to when the walk first took place in 2011 and seeing it grow into something bigger is powerful. To see the effects that it has by raising awareness and generating discussion on the issues surrounding rape culture, victim blaming and slut shaming. It shows the power that a group of individuals can have to create change.The walk breaks the norms and perceptions that society has on how a “Slut” should look, act and dress. Hearing and seeing stories of rape victims who participated in the walk wear the clothes that they were raped in shows that rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what you wear, what your gender is or orientation. Rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone and perpetrators could be people close and dear to your heart. The SlutWalk brings light on the issue that how you dress and present yourself is not the cause for being assaulted it is just an excuse that the system and society think. Women are blamed and taught to apologize for provoking, taunting and teasing men. They are just asking for it by wearing seductive clothing and walking home alone at night. Victim blaming and slut shaming is a very real thing that is overlooked by society.
We focus on saving our world and protecting our planet but what about saving and protecting the lives of hundreds and thousands sexually assault victims. We need to start teaching men and women of all ages, race, and orientation that no one is ever asking to be raped or sexually assaulted. No means no. Everyone deserve to live a life without fear.