SlutWalk: the word, the reaction, the movement

Illustration by Keith Mclean

Alex Wagstaff
Copy Editor
This all started with words.
A Toronto cop, whether misguided or simply misspoken, told a group of women that their best bet to combat rape was to avoid dressing like “sluts”. We gave the story legs when Excalibur contributor Raymond Kwan wrote up the furor that followed.

Illustration by Keith Mclean

It seems the world’s taken the idea for a bit of a walk. From one dumb comment sprang a global movement that shows no signs of stopping.
And it all started with that word, “slut”. For a word with so much baggage, it gets slung around a lot.
Who knows? The officer may have meant well, earnestly giving what he thought was good advice. The problem lies instead in a concept of the world that is based in fear. It’s a concept based on the dream that the world is fair.
In a fair world, misfortune would be meted out by merit: if you did something bad, something bad would happen to you. But the world isn’t fair. It’s random and unfortunate. For good or bad, it doesn’t have an agenda,
This scary truth makes a lot of people say a lot of stupid things. Blaming women’s clothing choices for sexual assaults is one such thing.
One argument I’ve heard a lot is that wearing revealing clothing is like a jewelry store owner leaving diamond rings in the window at night. It’s just asking for someone to commit a crime, they say.
Comparisons like this fall apart, because crimes to property and crimes to the person aren’t the same.
The closest comparison to rape is murder, not theft.
If wearing a low-cut top is asking for it, by the same logic, wearing a bull’s eye T-shirt puts you partially at blame if somebody decides to shoot you. The idea of someone as a willing participant in the direct violation of their personhood is absurd.
Where the officer missed the point was when he assumed that it’s only so-called “sluts” that get raped. Reality has a much more sordid tale to tell. Studies have found that a woman’s clothing has no bearing on her likelihood of being raped. Most rapists don’t even remember what their victim was wearing. The most common outfit for rape victims is jeans and a T-shirt.
Sexual victims aren’t just the women in short skirts. They are our friends, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters.
Ultimately, telling women that they can stop rape from happening is a tool of control. Calling victims “sluts” uses fear to tell women what to do and how to act. If that is to be believed, the only difference between a man and a rapist is a peek of cleavage.
Painting this false picture of a world where revealing clothes cause rape only shrouds us in more fear. Robbing the word “slut” of its power is just one step towards the light of truth.
Newer words might pop up to replace “slut”, sure. But when you take down the word, it’s a blow to the legitimacy of the concept. When you start running out of ways to phrase your argument, you start to realize you don’t have an argument at all.

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