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Walking With Sluts

Walking With Sluts

Slutwalk Toronto happened today, as scheduled. Some 1500 women, men, and people of all gender expressions, converged in front of the Ontario Provincial Legislature at Queen’s Park, and marched peacefully to police headquarters on College St. This was in response to an incident on January 24th, when a Toronto Police spokeperson caused widespread outrage by suggesting that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.

A group of Toronto women took to social media to organize a show of strength against the blaming of rape victims by the system.

photo by Woresh Mean

A couple of days ago, I conducted an e-mail interview with Sonya JF Barnett, one of the lead organizers of the event.

Q: How did you feel when you first heard the words “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized” coming from the Toronto Police?

A: Absolutely appalled. Even though I’m engaged in a sexually liberated and creative community that uses the modern definition of the word ‘slut’, hearing it slung from a police officer was very disheartening. I knew exactly what context he had used it in {as an epithet} and I realized that education in the use of the word was important for our protective services.

Q: How did the concept of Slutwalk come about? Were you influenced by any other movements?

A: SlutWalk was conceptualized as a reaction to the harshness of the word. If it was going to be slung out, we were going to sling it back, with our own spin. We weren’t influenced necessarily by specific movements, but by simple motivation to do something. Our team is a spirited bunch that are confident in standing up for what we believe in.

(Interview continued after the break)

photo by Ivy Cuervo

Q: Were you surprised by the enthusiasm and earned media it generated, like the column by Heather Mallick?

A: We are constantly blown away by the amount of attention we’ve garnered. Not all of it has been good, and that’s no surprise, but for the most part, the reaction has been phenomenal. To be acknowledged not only by Big Media, but by others who we respect, like writers & activists, and by people sharing their own stories is both unexpected and incredibly inspiring.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish?

A: We want to start a conversation about the use of language, and to have our protective services truly take part in our community in teaching against victim-blaming.

Q: What would you say to someone who said that dressing modestly to avoid unwelcome attention was “just common sense”?

A: Firstly, “modestly” is subjective. Secondly, attracting attention should not equal attracting assault. Someone shouldn’t have to restrict themselves from attracting one person’s positive attention for fear of attracting another’s negative attention.

Q: Where will you go from here? Any hopes of having Slutwalk go global?

A: We’re actually not quite sure. It was originally just going to be our own comment against the officer’s statement, but with all the attention and support, it looks like we’ll be around for a while. In what capacity, we’re just not sure yet.


See more photos, and follow the aftermath, at the Slutwalk Facebook Page.

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more