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Duly Noted

Monday, Oct 3, 2011, 6:55 am

Scenes from SlutWalk NYC: A March Against Rape

By Lindsay Beyerstein

Manhattan, SlutWalk NYC, 2011.   Lindsay Beyerstein, all rights reserved.

The turnout for Saturday's SlutWalk 2011 anti-rape march surpassed my wildest expectations. I estimate that well over a thousand people showed up. (Photos here.)

A Toronto police officer catalyzed SlutWalk in January when he advised women who were concerned about rape on their university campus not to dress like sluts if they didn't want to get raped. Hundreds of feminists marched on Toronto police headquarters in protest.

SlutWalks have since been held in cities across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. I've been a vocal supporter of the SlutWalk movement from the beginning. Although I photographed the march from the sidelines, I was also there as a supporter. (In general, when I cover events, that isn't the case, but when it is, I'll let you know.)

The message of SlutWalk NYC was reflected in the attire of the marchers. Some marchers wore sports bras or sequins, others wore jeans and t-shirts. The point being that we're all sluts because the concept of sluttiness is just a general purpose anti-female slur.

What does a slut look like? She could look like anyone. As every woman knows "slut" it's a shifting, amorphous term of abuse that basically means "less than." It has no consistent relationship to the target's sex life, real or imagined. That little girls can labeled sluts before they even know what sex is should tell you everything you need to know about the vacuity of the term. 

The international proliferation SlutWalks shows that women are fed up with police taking the easy way out by shaming victims instead of catching criminals.

On the eve of SlutWalk, it was reported that a New York police officer in Park Slope, Brooklyn, told women not to wear skirts (or shorts, or dresses) because a serial rapist was on the prowl. In case you were wondering, this advice was based on stereotypes, not sophisticated criminal profiling. In New York City in early fall, 80% of the women on the street are wearing skirts, shorts, or summer dresses. Ironically, the time the rapist was captured on surveillance video, his victim was wearing pants and a hoodie.

I joked to friends that the officer was probably a feminist provocateur within the NYPD, drumming up publicity for SlutWalk.

To dispel any lingering misconceptions, the point of SlutWalk is not about "reclaiming" the word, or encouraging women to change how they dress or act. It's asserting that everyone deserves the same respect and protection, regardless of their clothing or their sexual history.

 

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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