I am truly saddened by the ignorance on display in Winnipeg this past weekend.
As part of the Winnipeg SlutWalk, a large group of women, men, and children — many of whom decided to make up some signs or get some from those people who printed my business cards — went out and marched from the Burton Cummings Theatre to the Legislature.
I’m not upset about that part.
How can so many people respond to this walk with what can objectively be classified as complete and utter ignorance? Not only was there a small group of nearby men shouting out mostly incomprehensible hatred as the people walked by (I believe the word “whores” was part of it, but I’m not 100% on that), but the most ignorant website commenters in Winnipeg history (and that’s quite an achievement in itself) decided to descend on news coverage with inexcusable statements like these (I’ve bolded some of the worst):
- “Rape is not always Just the fault of the man.”
- “If you walk like a duck, talk like a duck and look like a duck, you are probably a duck. Ladies, please dress like ladies and you won’t have this type of problem. If you wish to be treated as tramps the answer is simple. Look like a tramp, walk like a tramp and talk like a tramp. Sorry I have no respect for this type of female”
- “If you dress conservatively, and do not put yourself in a vulnerable position, your chance of being victimized are drastically reduced.”
- “Slutwalk is a joke. A total joke.”
- “Its doesn’t protest violence. It states I want to be self centered and have no regard for reality. Well I want to walk down any street with $100 bills hanging out of my pocket. but I know better.”
- “You want respect and some protection from attack, then show respect, act respectful, dress respectful. Which is more inviting for attack; a 200 lb 5’5″ woman dressed in jeans and sweatshirt or a 130 lb 5’5′ woman dressed in a scantly clad outfit baring much of her body.”
- “There’s been no real controversial issue about women’s rights to take a stand on recently and this one remark has provided more of a weak excuse to rally for women’s rights than a bonafide platform.”
- “Perhaps women can begin taking responsibility for their violent acts rather than blaming the nearest man all the time, that would go a long way to giving this movement credibility…of course the cops would have no one to arrest then.”
- “This makes me ashamed to be a woman. No wonder men don’t respect us. I wear clothing that clearly makes me look like sex object, and I expect men to not treat me like a sex object? Get a life.”
- “If you go to a party, get smashed, have no plan on how to get home, fall over any guy that buys you a drink, and hike your skirt up to your waist every 5 minutes… well, you still aren’t to blame if you get raped!”
- “In related news, sexual aggression was reportedly up 10% overnight in nearby bars and homes.”
- “Bottom line is: you run a risk of attracting the wrong men if you choose to have your boobs and butt hanging out of your clothing.”
- “I cannot believe that people are fighting for the right to dress like sluts, it’s really pathetic. Just think about it people.”
- “This walk was no different than the Zombie walk. A lot of incoherrent people wandering aimlessly and mindlessly with no thought given to the utter futility and silliness of their bizzare behaviour.”
- “These are just angry people who know damn well that their personal choice to dress this way places them also ironically by choice in harms way!”
- “Seriously, it’s common knowledge, dress conservatively, rapes go way down in numbers. Most of the time, woman bring these things on themselves. But that would be taking responsibility. Some would still happen, but the numbers would be drastically lower.”
- “If I dress myself in wieners and honey and walk through the bush, is it the bears fault or mine when I get eaten?”
- “Is it just me or aren’t the very women who participate in walks/demonstrations such as this, the very ones who are the least likely to attract unwanted male attention in the first place?”
- “The next time some naive young girl gets raped because of being dressed like a $lut, we should put some of the blame where it actually belongs. On these promoters of slutdressing who have convinced her that she has the right to dress any way she pleases no matter what.”
- “This is HYPOCRITE FEMINISM at its worst. The most abusive creature on the planet is the violent woman who knows the cops will blame the nearest man for her actions.”
- “Now i’m not about to go and rape anyone, but does anyone reading this think a guy does not choose who he rapes? He has to give it some thought. So if there is a woman dressed up or “slutty” vs. a homely looking person all covered up. My guess is he looks at the skanky one. I may be way off base but you don’t see too many ugly rape victims.”
- “More like Douche bag walk…LOL”
- “Wow! Some of these ladies sure have some ENTITLEMENT ISSUES!!”
- “I’m almost thinking this is for a weight watcher’s convention after looking through the pics….”
- “After looking at the picture of the three organizers , I can honestly say ….. they should have NO WORRIES AT ALL about getting attacked…. I mean seriously…Look at them!!!”
- “These ugly chicks are just looking for attention. nobody would want them so they join the slutwalk cause there so nasty. look at them, eww. get out of here. the slutwalk has to be the funniest thing iv heard in years!”
- “Yar!Not a looker in the bunch!”
- “Oh yeah, one more note. I have to agree that a great number of those that participated in the protest really had no reason to worry about getting raped … there is not enough alcohol or drugs in all of Manitoba for that to happen to some of them loud mouth yard-apes.”
- “Just another example showing how out of control these fembos are getting.”
- “Definitely there are people who don’t understand that flaunting is just as bad as the person who violates another person through unwanted physical contact.”
- “Useless Trashwalk, Time for your next positive STI test ladies”
- “The pupose of these events is for these people to advertise their promiscuity. It does serve a purpose, which is to clarify to men who do respect women of character that these are not the types you want to associate with. It tells clear thinking men that these are not women capable of meaningful lasting relationships. It serves to enhance the stature of honorable women.The end result is that men and women who can respect each other will connect. The women in these events will be relegated to interacting with men who are users and more likely to be rapists. Everyone gets what they deserve.”
- “Make me a sandwich”
It seems like a convenient excuse for people to say “I don’t like the word ‘slut’, so I can’t support this movement.” The name SlutWalk brings attention from the media and the public by its very controversy, and it also weakens the power of a word used to oppress and belittle women.
The word “slut” is offensive because it is wielded as a weapon against women; only by taking control of the narrative can that word lose its power. We’ve seen this before with other words; the best example is “queer”. “Slut” is probably closer to the word “fag” in that there’s less chance of it ever gaining respectability, but it is possible to take away its power to harm. And it is never acceptable to use the word to attack or demean anyone, and it is up to each individual woman to decide whether or not she feels comfortable using the word to self-identify for any purpose.
Not only was each woman (and man) at the SlutWalk an individual deserving of respect, but every one was attractive in their own way, and I’m sure a large number of the women there would have been held up as attractive in any other context by the very men who felt the urge to insult their appearance. They did this, of course, as a way of trying to take power away from these women. Since sexual violence itself is about the same thing, taking power away from someone else, it is shocking and unacceptable to see so many disparaging comments on the physical appearance of those involved.
I believe the victim blaming that overwhelms the comment feeds is not just the refuge of would-be rapists waiting for their opportunity, though sadly I know that there are far too many men in that camp; I believe a far more prevalent group is made up of people who want so much to believe that the victim is to blame, because to them it’s the only way they can feel that their loved ones can stay safe.
The thinking seems to be: if these women asked for it, if these small children or elderly ladies or mentally-disadvantaged people did something to bring on the violence, then my wife/daughter/mother/friend will be able to make different choices and avoid being attacked.
Not only is this untrue, but the very notion is dangerous, not only for awareness of the true nature of sexual violence, but also to the victims, many of whom already face their own concerns that they somehow brought the attack upon themselves. They don’t deserve to feel that way. They don’t deserve to be victimized a second time by callousness and ignorance.
It doesn’t matter how much faith you have in the idea that the victim could have somehow avoided the attack; that idea has been shown to be wrong again and again. I have known many survivors of sexual violence and sexual abuse; for every one of them there was no way for them to avoid what happened. The attack was not their fault in any way. Because of those survivors in my life, I do not have the option of living in ignorance on this issue. And considering that somewhere between 25-33% of women have been victims of sexual abuse (and perhaps as many as 15% of men), I doubt any of us can continue to be ignorant when so many around us are being affected.
All of us know people, be they women, children, or men, who are survivors of sexual violence. There’s no getting away from this, and we’ll never make any progress against sexual violence unless we fight against victim-blaming and stereotypes. Judging from the comment threads on the Free Press and Sun, we have a long way to go.
I took part in SlutWalk Winnipeg. And there I saw survivors regaining their voice.
It was important to them.
For that reason alone it should be important to all of us.