Today, the Washington Post features a piece on a new, grassroots feminist movement, SlutWalks. These walks have women taking to the streets, wearing as little or as much clothing as they choose to protest sexual assault. Their message: A woman’s clothing is her choice. It does not entice rapists, nor should it be blamed for such.
The movement so far has been successful in terms of garnering attention and gathering followers. In a world where the debate is on whether or not to make school uniforms baggier in order to deter pedophiles, rather than what measures to take to keep such predators away from schools, well, that’s indicative of a serious problem. And that is what SlutWalks is all about. “She’s asking for it” is antiquated and preposterous. Fashion should be fun, not frightening.
The other debate surrounding SlutWalks is the use of the term ‘slut’. Opponents of the movement – or at least how the movement is categorized – claim that by trying to reclaim the world slut, these women are injuring themselves and their cause. Slut does have a negative stigma, one that is culturally common. But I don’t think they’re actually trying to reclaim slut and turn it into something positive. Rather, I think by using the word slut, SlutWalks is cleverly turning the word on its head. First, it’s a great way to get attention – who would willingly call herself a slut? That incites curiosity. Second, it seems that SlutWalks is using the term as a sort of threat to anyone who would dare to call them such, or to go so far as to attempt some sort of assault. Singling out one woman as a slut is degrading, and renders her powerless. But it’s damn near impossible to call thousands of women sluts and expect the same effect. There is strength in numbers, and when women rally around each other, it is much harder for any of them to feel victimized.
Slut is not going to be the new ‘homegirl’ or ‘wifey’ or any other odd nickname. But used in the context SlutWalks, it shows that sexuality can also be strength. That a woman can wear whatever she wants, just because she wants to. And to those that oppose this – well, they’re just stupid. And they’ll have a hell of a time getting a date.