SlutWalk was born when a representative of the Toronto police force told a congregation of law students that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”
Since then, groups of women have hit the streets, arguing against the idea that the way in which a women dresses changes the degree of sexual assault, or suggestion that a victim could somehow be “asking for it”, and on Sunday the 19th of May, 2012, it’s Oxford’s turn.
The message they are trying to convey is that people can dress how they want without being considered responsible for the effect this could have on men. This is a perfectly sound message: rape is in no circumstance the fault of the victim.
The number of rapes which get reported is an extremely low proportion of the number which actually occur, and people need to know that what they were wearing, how drunk they were, or whatever other circumstances came into play, are irrelevant: being raped is not the victim’s fault.
This isn’t what Balliol College voted against. Obviously, few people would want to argue against this.
What was voted was whether it will be fully supported: that is, whether it’s doing more harm than it is good.
In naming it slut walk, are the solving a problem, or making it worse?
The debate has now left the police officer in Toronto, and has moved onto the general attitude of people who dress “like sluts” are asking to be raped. The police officer has apologised for any offence caused, and the SlutWalk is now about changing attitudes.
In calling it “SlutWalk”, is the message, “what I wear is my decision, no-one asks to get raped”? Or is it (as the argument put forward by Hannah Smith, who forwarded the motion to oppose the walk), “I’m allowed to dress like a slut”?
Now that the movement has travelled so far from its roots, the message of the movement seems to be “woman can dress like sluts”.
How does a slut dress?
What does the word “slut” mean?
In today’s society, “slut” mean someone who sleeps around. In saying “I can dress like a slut”, people are saying “this is how people who sleep around dress”. They should be saying “if a woman dresses like this, it says nothing about her sex life”, but are they, in fact, making it worse for themselves?
Some people, however, are calling the movement a “reclamation” of the word slut.
Let’s look in the Oxford English Dictionary…
slut, n.Pronunciation: /slʌt/Forms: Also ME slotte, north.slute, ME–15 slutte, 16 sluttEtymology: Of doubtful origin: compare German (now dialect) schlutt , schlutte , schlutz , in sense 1. Forms having some resemblance in sound and sense also occur in the Scandinavian languages, as Danish slatte (? from Low German), Norwegian slott, Swedish dialect slåta, but connection is very doubtful.
a. A woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern.1402—1883
b. A kitchen-maid; a drudge. rare.?c1450—1855
†c. A troublesome or awkward creature. Obs.—1a1475—a14752.
a. A woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade.c1450—1881b. In playful use, or without serious imputation of bad qualities.1664—1884
3. A female dog; a bitch.1821—18944.
a. A piece of rag dipped in lard or fat and used as a light.1609—1886
b. The guttering of a candle.
Which of these meanings are they referring to? Do they want to reclaim the meaning of “a women of dirty appearance”? This is the earliest meaning of it, so in reclaiming the word this must be what they want to do…
Unless, of course, they are referring to the meaning 2b: a woman of low or loose character, but used in playful terms? This is slightly patronising, and has come from a derogatory term.
It took only 48 years from the first usage of the word, for the word to have sexual implications, and before this point it was never positive. Even if you’re a candle.
So, unless someone disagrees with me (and please, feel free to!) I think we can dismiss this argument for the naming of SlutWalk.
Balliol JCR came to the decision that they would not fully support the movement, considering the majority of people who attended the meeting went with the intention to oppose the motion Smith proposed, this is astounding. They have come to the decision that people should attend the march to show solidarity, but that Balliol JCR won’t endorse the name.
This makes sense.
The concept and aim of the movement, I don’t think anyone could find a problem with, but in practice, is SlutWalk doing more harm than it is good?