SlutWalk: An Ill-Conceived Name for a Worthy Cause
The use of an offensive term to attract attention to a cause is just as bad as if the term itself is used to degrade women. Whould we be willing to sanction the use of the "N" word in front of walk or Kike-walk? Why not use a respectful name such as Respect for Women, walk? Or, Stand Up For Women?
According to its website, SlutWalk was a reaction to not one officer’s remark, but to a history that was doomed to keep repeating insults, degradation, shame, and the rape of women. The site mentions offensive labels against women such as slut, whore, feminist, anti-feminist, and sexy feminist. The movement is admirably designed to promote "heated discussions about the use of language, shaming and sexual profiling."
According to a story on May 27 in the San Luis Obispo Tribune by Tonya Strickland, Cuesta College student Ashley Riddell learned about the Toronto-based sexual assault movement called SlutWalk and she was inspired to challenge society’s approach to victims on the Central Coast of California. In April, she contacted SlutWalk's Toronto event organizers and began organizing a SlutWalk event on the same day, which is now planned for 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 28 at Osos and Buchon streets in downtown San Luis Obispo.
“ ‘Slut’ is a term that’s frequently used to justify violence against women. It’s so toxic and harmful, and gives criminals and bad people the idea that it’s OK to hurt women,” Riddell said. “We are reclaiming that word and saying that no word is an excuse to hurt anyone.” After reports of three rapes involving Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (SLO) students were announced earlier this month, Riddell said it was all the more reason for residents to hear SlutWalk’s message.
The first SlutWalk began in April, when a Toronto police officer said that “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” according to the original event’s website. The walks have since sprung up in cities throughout the U.S and across the globe, including a walk in Santa Cruz on May 15 where about 400 people took part.
According to reporter Strickland's story, as of Wednesday afternoon, May 25, 130 people had signed up for the San Luis Obispo event. Organizers with the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention (SARP) Center of SLO County plan to be on hand to distribute information, although they are not affiliated with SlutWalk. “We believe that events that raise awareness about sexual assault and get our community talking about victim-blaming are a good thing,” SARP Development Director Megan Mastache said.
While the title of the event may raise questions, Riddell said reactions have “been positive for the most part.” She believes critics will be more accepting of the title once they learn the facts that motivated the movement. Personally, I don't need to hear a demeaning name to identify with a cause, and it belittles the importance of the event especially in light of recent revelations of sexual escapades of the likes of disgraced Senator John Ensign and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. I previously blogged about these kinds of creeps and the growing trend among politicians to allow testosterone levels to cloud their judgment.
The root cause of the problem is the sexualization of women in society in all forms of media. Just as bad is the use of the Internet to project offensive and compromising images of women. The term SlutWalk is ill-conceived and reminds me of the pejorative term Feminazi used by a popular radio talk show host who has stated that the word refers to unspecified women whose goal is to allow as many abortions as possible. It wasn't morally correct then to use that term and it's not morally correct now to refer to a noble cause with a term simply for shock value.
Demonstration to mark International Women’s Day, Melbourne, 8 March 1975
Blog by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, May 27, 2011