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Are SlutWalks the New Feminist Revolution?

Why Are Women In Bikinis 'SlutWalking' Worldwide?

Are 'SlutWalks' the New Feminism?
Why Are Women in Bikinis 'SlutWalking'?
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Why Are Women Wearing Bikinis and Stiletto Heels and Marching All Over the World?

If you haven't heard of the 'SlutWalk' sensation sweeping the planet, let me introduce it to you. Women have walked in dozens of cities across the United States, in Mexico, Australia and across Canada. More are planned for not only Delhi but Kuala Lumpur and Seoul. As of the last reports, they're in every continent except Antarctica.

What is a 'SlutWalk'?

Women of all ages and in all categories that female humans come in are stripping down to their micro-est minis, their stringiest bikinis and their stiletto-est heels and taking to the streets, walking together in gigantic scrums around the world. They use their bodies as placards. They scrawl in hot pink or blood red lipstick across their bare abdomens or on placards: "Slut Pride," "Consent is Sexy," "Not Asking For It," "Do Not Touch," "How I Dress Does Not Mean Yes," "Sluts Pay Taxes," "My Clothes Are Not My Consent," "Don't Tell Me What Not To Wear: Teach Him Not To Rape!"

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In San Francisco they skated around on inline skates in lingerie. Their male supporters are represented as well, often holding signs that read: "I Love Sluts."

It's a revolution of both taking back a word - slut - and a concept; that we have long known sexual assault is a crime of power and sadism, not about sex. That's why rape victims range in age from six months old to 101 years old, of all shapes and sizes and wearing a wide range of clothing when attacked.

The rallies end with speakers and workshops on stopping sexual violence and calling on law enforcement agencies not to blame victims after sexual assaults.

What Sparked the Slutwalks?

The 'SlutWalk' organizers created Facebook Fan pages and the social media messaging has spread like wildfire. Here's the call to action from the 'SlutWalk' contingent from Seattle:

"Why are we doing this? Because we've had enough!

On January 24th, 2011, a Toronto police officer gave some advice that is all too common: "Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." From an 11-year-old in Texas being blamed for being gang-raped to a teenager in Seattle not being able to file rape charges because witnesses "portrayed the act as consensual," this line of thought pervades our culture. As long as it seems like the woman might like sex, they're made to take the blame.

The idea that women invite sexual violence by looking like they enjoy sex, or that men's urges become so uncontrollable at the sight of a little extra skin that they can't hold themselves back from raping, is ludicrous. People aren't assaulted because they invited it or enticed others to it by looking a certain way; they're assaulted because somebody chose to assault them. Saying that survivors could have protected themselves by not looking like "sluts" implies that the survivors are at fault and creates a culture in which the heinous crime of sexual assault is seen as no big deal.

Whatever reason a person is called a "slut," the word is always meant to hurt them. In addition, the use of the word "slut" to bring people-primarily women-down for their sexuality feeds into a culture that accepts rape. We're sick of slut-shaming and victim-blaming being a part of our culture, so we're doing something about it: we're going to make our voices heard."

According to media reports, the Toronto Constable whose comments ignited the movement, Michael Sanguinetti, was "disciplined but remains on duty."

I have a mental picture of Constable Sanguinetti looking out his living room window as a parade of revolutionary SlutWalkers meander by. 

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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