Violence ain’t sexy

SlutWalk falls short of its goals

Aranda Adams

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”
- Audre Lorde

SlutWalk is coming to Winnipeg – and its message of sexy spectacle is just not good enough.

The first SlutWalk was held in April 2011 in Toronto, in response to Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti advising women to avoid sexual assaults by not dressing “like sluts.”

SlutWalks have now taken place around the world, with the aims of ending victim blaming and resisting the rape culture, which surrounds women.

FemRev recognizes the need for activism against issues of victim blaming and sexual violence, and stands against comments such as Sanguinetti’s. However, we also recognize that the SlutWalk movement lacks a strong feminist analysis.

Instead of standing against oppressive systems, SlutWalk reinforces these by objectifying women, focusing only on the privileged class and reinforcing the oppression inherent in policing. 

SlutWalk ostensibly calls for a reformation of police attitudes without questioning the system of policing itself.

On their Facebook page, SlutWalk organizers in Winnipeg state that police “have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of ‘the slut,’ and in doing so have failed us.”

FemRev’s analysis asserts that policing as a system of “protection” has always failed.

Police brutality has a long and documented history in low-income, indigenous and racialized communities, and many consider state policing as inherently racist, genocidal and oppressive. 

SlutWalk does not take into account the voices of these communities, but rather works as a tool to reinforce the harmful power dynamics inherent in policing.

What needs to change is the system itself. 

We support every woman’s right to dress however they choose without the threat of violence or labelling.

SlutWalk works as a tool to reinforce the harmful power dynmamics inherent in policing. What needs to change is the system itself

However, we are concerned that SlutWalk’s reliance on skin and spectacle to relay its message makes sexual violence sexy enough for mainstream media.

This is neither feminist nor empowering; instead it feeds society’s harmful belief that women’s bodies are for public consumption, while perpetuating a limited and patriarchal-defined image of beauty. 

Women’s issues deserve media attention because women’s voices and experiences are valuable, not because those voices are delivered by scantily clad bodies. The media’s focus on SlutWalk perpetuates the belief that women should only be listened to if they look a certain kind of sexy. 

SlutWalk requires a stronger analysis of oppression. As is, it perpetuates the misleading belief that inherently oppressive and patriarchal systems are fixable.

FemRev asserts that a reform approach is not good enough - instead, we must work toward a total dismantling and undoing of these systems. Anything less is a watered down call for justice. 

Women’s realities are varied and diverse. While SlutWalk focuses on issues of the privileged few, many others are fighting for the right not to be reduced to their sexuality; to dress according to religious tradition without facing discrimination; to be protected from harm while working in the sex trade.

Many women aren’t interested in dressing to appease notions of beauty created by patriarchal and capitalist ideals.

Many are too focused on searching for their missing or murdered mothers and sisters, or nursing community wounds of police brutality, to fight for their right to be called a slut.

Others are survivors of sexual violence, and may be triggered by the event.

Many more are simply sick of being called sluts, and don’t want to “reclaim” a word which was never ours.

We urge women and our allies: don’t reclaim the patriarchy, dismantle it.

The word slut ain’t your wrecking ball.

FemRev Collective is a grassroots Winnipeg collective made up of young feminists from diverse backgrounds.

Published in Volume 66, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 12, 2011)

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