The 'Slut Walk': Does the shock value undermine the message?

From left, Isa Stearns of Somerville, Mass., Nadia Friedler of Cambridge, Mass., Louisa Carpenter-Winch, of Cambridge, Mass., and Emma Munson-Blatt, of Cambridge, Mass, chant during the From left, Isa Stearns of Somerville, Mass., Nadia Friedler of Cambridge, Mass., Louisa Carpenter-Winch, of Cambridge, …New England is known for its Yankee sensibilities, frugal living, and blue-blooded Brahmins. But last week, about two thousand women stripped down to their barely-theres and took to the streets of Boston for SlutWalk2011, to reclaim the word "slut" and promote awareness about rape and sexual assault.

The SlutWalk movement started in Toronto in January, after a police officer at an Osgoode Hall Law School campus safety session suggested that women can avoid being sexually assault by not dressing like "a slut."

The officer was disciplined, but not removed from the force. The incident triggered protests in Canada and sparked satellite movements in other cities, including New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia; the Boston SlutWalk rally was organized by Nicole Ouimette and Katt Schott-Mancini, both of whom are sexual-assault survivors. "We were fed up how rape was being treated in our society and our culture," Ouimette told the Metro newspaper.



Schott-Mancini compared SlutWalk to the gay rights movement. "It's like 'queer' in the '80s," she told the Metro. "That was a derogatory term and it's almost been reclaimed. In a sense we're trying to do that with 'slut.'"

In Boston, protesters walked holding signs saying "Jesus Loves Sluts," "It shouldn't be this hard to be easy," "An outfit is not an invitation," and "Society teaches 'Don't Get Raped' rather than 'Don't Rape'."


"We have to stop talking about rape and sexual assault as an expected consequence of any type of behavior," Meg Bossong, the community mobilization project manager from the Boston area Rape Crisis Center, told the WHDH-TV. "If we're against sexual violence or rape as a war crime and as a consequence of being part of a particular ethnic group or of being on a particular side in a conflict, then we have to be against it in all contexts, and that includes here."

"It doesn't matter what someone is wearing and what you think of that, you cannot commit violence against them," she added.

The protesters' point is completely valid. But do the provocative signs and skimpy outfits undermine their message? Is it feminism to reclaim the word "slut"-or is the word still derogatory, no matter who uses it?





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