May 9, 2011 / Law & Justice, Safety, Sexism, Uncategorized

SlutWalk Toronto


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

Advertisement for Toronto's "Slutwalk," from a Canadian blog.

In January 2011, young women from York University were attending a campus presentation on rape prevention. York University had recently seen some brazen attacks on women, including a rape in the stacks of the University library. One of the Toronto police officers involved in the presentation shocked the women by remarking that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized.” In other words, women are responsible for the behavior of others. You know, blame the victim.

But the young women of Toronto were not cowed and quickly organized SlutWalk Toronto to draw attention to the mindset of those they felt should protect society. Although the Toronto Police issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to assault victims and distancing themselves from the statement of the officer, the damage had been done, and the women were marching their discontent to the doors of the police department.

One of the "30 best signs" from the Toronto Slutwalk. Click the image to view more.

Founders of the event noted that the “Toronto Police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of the “slut” and in doing so, failed us.”

The organizers are planning to make SlutWalk an annual event and are hoping to expand to cities throughout the world to make society conscious that victims of sexual assault are not to blame for the acts of others.

To thumb their noses at the mentality that women are to blame for their assaults, some of the SlutWalk participants wore outrageous outfits saying in effect that women should be safe anywhere regardless of their attire. That wearing a short skirt does not give anyone the right to violate your basic human rights. According to one sign held aloft at SlutWalk “Don’t tell us what to wear, tell men not to rape us.”

The same mentality that blames women who are sexually assaulted because of their clothing is the same mentality that endorses shrouding women in burquas because it says that men are not able to demonstrate self-control.

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  • Brooke, I am so glad you wrote about this. In my younger days I was being stalked by a security guard in my place of work and when I complained to Human Resources they told me to stop wearing skirts, dress “uglier”, and don’t wear makeup. I was dumbfounded that I could be blamed for another’s inappropriate behavior. That was over two decades ago and seeing that this is still a societal mentality is just as shocking. I am glad those young women are doing something about it.

  • Bes

    Great idea but I do hope they aren’t overwhelmed by the PETA style, lingerie brigade antics. The focus needs to be on the issue not on a few exhibitionist women.

  • AnnE


    Of course, if you dress atractively, you must be asking for it. Oddly enough, though, I have never seen a woman wearing a sign that says “rape me.” I guess I am not wearing the right secret decoder ring.

  • Kathleen Wynne

    thanks so much AnnE for focusing on this mindset that women should curtail their lives to accommocate bad male behavior.

    I think the sign that said “don’t tell women what to wear, tell men not to rape us…” pretty much says it in a nutshell.

    The focus should be on why men rape and abuse women and how we can stop this behavior.

  • Henrietta

    I know what you mean Bes. But I think it works here and this is no PETA advertisement. The 3rd wave can too often employ an “I can be sexy AND empowerfulated!” personae but here the message is striking – Women and girls can wear short skirts or long skirts, we can be born beautiful or enhance our beauty with make up. We can wear shirts that peak a bra strap or not. We can flirt with the cute guy at the party or the nerdy quiet guy. Men may find us hot, sexy beautiful, cute, enticing. Whatever the case we women are not the ones causing rape!

    Optixmom, I had the same experience at a job years ago when I was in my mid 20s! I will spare the details, but I was put in a somewhat frightening scenario with the man. I told a female colleague who was very socialist, very political, very much a fighter for the every man. Her response? Oh, how cute! So and so LIKES you! We still do not take rape seriously in this country or most countries. Unless it is the man hiding behind the bushes we just think of it as one of the repercussions of courtship. DIsgusting! We have a long way to go!!!

  • Honestly, I’m not in favor of the term “Slutwalk”. I don’t believe in using derogatory terms used against us as fuel for empowerment. I am for the power march, but calling ourselves sluts to get a message out is not empowering. It’s the same as when the French Feminists were called hysterical, so they began writing and acting in “hysterical” tones. It’s the same as the “N” word for the African Americans. When a term is used to keep you down and dehumanize you, there is no power gained in using it and attempting to redefine it. Same thing goes for the girls that did the topless march a few months ago in the Ukraine. We’ll never be seen or treated differently if we use their terms to define our causes.

  • Henrietta


    Yes, I was conflicted about that aspect of the march too. I understand the whole redefining philosophy and I understand the mocking tone here. But I agree, I’d rather have derogatory terms erased than repurposed.

  • Kathleen Wynne


    By using the term “Slut Walk” these women are taking away the power the word “slut” has over women. When you out a deorgatory term against a group, you empower that group and take away the power that term has over that group.

    Comedian, Lenny Bruce, used negative words like “nigger” and “kike” often in his comedy. He believed the more you use these negative terms, they lose their power.

    I support what the women of Toronto have started because they are taking the word “slut” often used to describe women of all walks of life and owning it and taking away the power men have always had in using it against a woman to degrade and disempower her.

  • Henrietta

    Well, blacks did successfully repurpose the n-word. Perhaps it is possible for women to do the same. Still conflicted about this. But the way this march is gathering women to get together, to show anger, to shout out that they do not want to be raped anymore and stop saying that it’s our fault… I don’t think I’ve seen women galvanize like this about the topic of rape in my lifetime!

  • The n-word has not been redefined. It is still the n-word, which is why African-Americans loathe it when white people use it. They have taken possession of a hostile term, but it is still being used against them by non-blacks. Slut will always mean slut and will always be used against women to remind them of their purpose, or when they get too uppity. No amount of “SlutWalk” marches will redefine the term or erase its meaning, its implication, or its purpose. Women need to empower themselves by taking charge of how men treat us and telling them this is not OK. Now we’re just giving them license to call us sluts — because we are calling ourselves sluts. What’s next? Me going up to my daughter and saying, “Great job, you little slut. You are such a smart slut.” Way to go!

  • Kali

    I think the term “slut” is being used sarcastically in this walk (at least, I hope so) so I don’t feel bad about it the way I feel when women refer to themselves as a “bitch” non-sarcastically. For example, when someone says “yes, your royal highness” to someone who is being demanding or authoritarian, it is a sarcastic criticism, not a sign of deference. It’s the same way with “nigger” or “kike” – it is OK when used sarcastically in comedy, otherwise not so much.

  • Bes

    The Seattle Slut walk was discussed on KUOW (NPR of Seattle) today. Here is the link to where you can listen to it.

    Also yesterday and today NPR has had rape survivors on talking about rape and society and in both cases I noticed the young women end statements they have made with a question vocalization. What is up with that? Is it a way of seeking approval from their male interviewer? Very odd.

  • marille

    Bes your site had a reference to an Guardian article arguing the same line as Marina

  • Bes

    Marille: I do tend to agree with that article. While it is technically true that women should be able to walk down the street wearing anything or nothing, I am sick of overly intellectual, ivory tower feminism. For starters I think it would be relevant if we could force society to agree that women should be able to go anywhere in the normal range of clothing we generally wear and not be raped or have the fear of sexual violence. As a woman I don’t like to see other women strutting around in underwear or less, and the only thing that I have a greater aversion to is women who think they are accomplishing some grand political cause by prancing around in underwear or naked. I’m sick of that crap in movies, TV and real life.

  • Henrietta

    Interesting conversation here! I appreciate it. On the one hand I am thrilled that so many women are gathering to fight rape. When do crowds gather to fight rape? Hardly ever.

    On the other hand, I am starting to realize that these crowds would not be gathering if it did not give women an opportunity to refer to themselves as “sluts” and dress in fishnet stockings and bra and panties as daywear ensembles. Men would not be gathering if it did not give them an opportunity to cheer on women referring to themselves as sluts and gawk at their “I can be as sexy as I want to be” attire.

    The simple act of standing up against rape and rape culture has to be sexed up in order to gather interest, just as the breast cancer campaign has done.

    I like fishnet stockings. I find nothing wrong with a great lace-trimmed bra. I have stilettos in my closet. But is this march liberation? It’s hard for me to say if this is a net gain or net loss for women.

  • Bes

    I don’t think there is a net gain or loss, it’s just more of the same old shit over and over again. A lot of energy expended and nothing of consequence for it.

  • Marina DelVecchio

    Yes, both to Bes and Henrietta. The only reason the topless march in Ukraine received so much response is because women exposed their breasts. Dressing as sluts, whether it’s men or women or both, just makes this march gimmicky and halloweenish. Rape is a serious issue and it should be treated with seriousness. I’m all for radical marches and responses to womanist issues. I want to go out and march and take my girl with me, but why can’t we have the million woman march? Why dies it have to be called the slutwalk? I can’t and won’t participate in anything like that. But maybe that’s the point. I’m not in my twenties.