Chicago–SlutWalk came to downtown on June 4, a gorgeous hot day. Over 1,000 participated, including many GLBTQ folks. SlutWalk originated in Canada when a Toronto police officer told students at York University in January that if women don’t want to be raped, they should “avoid dressing like sluts.” That ignorant statement, uttered in 2011 by a cop after over 45 years of the Women’s Liberation Movement, ignited what may become a movement.
It isn’t as if the issue hasn’t been addressed before. Take Back the Night marches originated in the mid-1970s, and our chant then as now was “Yes means yes! No means no! Whatever we wear! Wherever we go!” The message of SlutWalk is much the same except now women want to own the term and, unlike other campaigns to end rape, SlutWalks are taking place in cities around the world. For example, Umang Sabharwal, a 19-year-old college student, has received over 4,000 responses from Facebook users planning to attend the New Delhi, India, SlutWalk she is organizing for July. Four out of five women there report sexual harassment and one fourth of rapes go unreported. Both are worsening, with rapes sometimes even committed in front of police stations.
In many U.S. cities, women and men took the opportunity to dress as slutty as possible to drive the point home that there is no excuse for rape ever.
What is exciting about SlutWalk is the same thing that is important about Walk for Choice. Both movements sprang up spontaneously, are independent of any mainstream women’s organizations, are made up of young women, most of them in their 20s who are angry and radical and determined to make a difference.