Recently, a police officer in Toronto offered women some advice on how to prevent sexual violence. If women don’t want to be victimized, he said, they “should avoid dressing like sluts.” Unsurprisingly, some people did not take kindly to the implication that women who are raped while dressed “like sluts” deserve it more than women who are dressed in other ways, or that rape does not happen to women who dress in “non-slutty” ways, or that women should be held responsible for the actions of rapists.
Some people decided that a protest was in order, and so, they organized the SlutWalk. Lots of people came to the Slutwalk, wearing all kinds of clothes, “slutty” and otherwise, to show support for survivors of sexual violence and to protest the notion that a survivor of sexual assault is to blame for the violence that other people have inflicted on him or her.
The SlutWalk happened last weekend and judging by the photos, was a great success. A young woman writing at Thought Catalog disapproved with the message of the event, because she believes that women who dress like “sluts” are at least partially to blame if a man rapes them.
I responded at Feministing:
The basic argument of “The Funny Thing About the ‘SlutWalk,’” is that if a woman is raped while wearing something “slutty,” she should take some responsibility for what happened to her, because she ought to have known better than to dress that way. “Women know the kind of attention they attract when they dress like that,” Fagan writes, repeating the oldest argument in the history of gender relations. Seriously, this story was sexist and wrong in 1697, when Charles Perrault wrote it about a young woman in a red cloak, and it’s sexist and wrong now.
Firstly, while the Toronto protest might have featured some women dressed in a way that they, and Fagan, would deem “slutty,” the point of the protest was that rape happens to women wearing all kinds of clothes. Women showed up wearing skimpy and revealing clothing, sure, but they also showed up wearing jeans, and pajamas, and lots of other clothes. Men showed up wearing plaid shirts and cargo pants. The point of the protest, as Fagan would have realized if she understood feminism, is that rape doesn’t follow a dress code. Rape happens to women in pajama pants and men in plaid shirts, not just to “sluts” in miniskirts. That’s why the comments made by that law enforcement officer were so very, very misguided.