Make love, not rape!

Slutwalk Manchester by Man Alive@flickr.com

Author: David Thomas
Translation: Pierre Thomas

This article is product of the project My Europe.
Reporting on European youth from the different parts of the continent. Young journalists from different countries and different media organizations are working all together to show how dynamic and innovative is the youth of Europe.
European media makers from Mladi Info (http://www.mladiinfo.com/), Euradio Nantes (http://www.euradionantes.eu/), Journal Europa (http://www.journaleuropa.info/) and European Youth Press (http://www.youthpress.org) are reporting here on the topics of Gender equality, Youth unemployment, Volunteering and Intergenerational solidarity.
Let’s deal with the topics which were, are or will be in the European agenda. But… in a different way, showing our own vision on what the young people of Europe create and invent to answer those big issues. In a personal approach, our young reporters are analysing how is the youth involved in civil society, to create another way of building the continent.
Project is supported by the fund of Nantes Creative Generations
This is our Europe, this is My Europe.

 

From Toronto in April, The Slutwalk movement has since become widespread, protesting the sexual mugging to which some women are still prey. From Boston to Johannesburg, including London, New-Delhi or Prague, Slutwalks are about to become the most federative women’s liberation movement in the last decades.

“Don’t tell women how to dress, tell men not to rape”
“Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”
. Uttered by police officer Michael Sanguinetti at a lecture at Toronto University, this is the sentence that ignited the powder-keg. In spite of his apologies[1], response was not slow in coming : “we were fed up, infuriated, but we did not want to be content with only being angry”, explains Heather Jarvis, co-founder of the slutwalk movement[2]. Initiated by five Canadian women, the first slutwalk shook Toronto on 3rd April. 3000 people took to the street with a single instruction: dress short, sexy and provocative; in a word dress slut. The demonstrators chanted a single slogan: “Don’t tell women how to dress, tell men not to rape !”. Which is a way to remind that a victim of a rape must never be held responsible for her mugging.
That is a provocative step by a women’s lib movement which aims to arouse public opinion and refresh the ancient struggle for women’s rights. For Miranda Mammen, student in California, the energy spawned by the movement is beneficial to the cause: “It’s also loud, angry, sexy in a way that going to a community activist meeting often isn’t”[3]. This first slutwalk has been imitated, town after town, mostly owing to social networks where activists come together. At first in Canada and in the USA, then Australia, Argentina, Brazil or South Africa… A wave of global protest[4] which has reached as far as India, although it is regarded to be one of the most backward countries as regards women’s rights[5].

From a Slutwalk in Manchester by Man Alive@flickr.com

 “Yes means yes and no means no”
By fighting in their way the idea that from of dressing or behaving can turn them into rapist’s targets, thousands of women, but also men, hope to boost women’s struggle. On 3rd March the European parliament celebrated the centenary of women’s international day. On 100 years, major progress has been achieved showing the usefulness of women’s liberation for society at large: the right to vote, access to the labor market and the highest political responsibilities, contraception, abortion or divorce are legally accepted in a great many countries. But behind this deceptive acknowledgement of facts, the reality has more nuances. On an average worldwide, just under a woman in five will be the victim of a rape or rape attempt in her lifetime, according to Maria Jose Alcala’s survey in UNIFEM, a specialized agency of UNO associated to United Nations scheme for development (PNUD[6]). That is therefore an increasingly topical struggle, and although the cause is still the same, the methods have changed.

Slut pride
It took only a few weeks for the old continent to join the movement. As often, the Northern European and Anglo-Saxon countries responded quickly. On 4th June, slutwalks were held simultaneously in Amsterdam, Stockholm, Cardiff, Newcastle and Copenhagen. On 11th June in London thousands of activists in heels and fishnet stockings were speaking up and loud. Invitations were at once given out on social networks, especially Facebook where activists are particularly prominent. But Paris is the place where the first European slutwalk took place on 22nd May. One with a rather peculiar flavor while the mediatization of the DSK case was reaching a climax. Eastern and Southern Europe seems to lag behind the movement as only the Prague slutwalk in the Czech republic has taken place so far.

No matter how popular, the slutwalk movement is criticized however by some women’s libbers. For American anti-pornography activist Gail Dines, the leaders of the movement play the game of male chauvinism by using its code: in her opinion the activists who claim the label slut accept de facto this sexuality disparaging woman’s body[7]. However the fact remains that slutwalks are about to rekindle old-fashioned feminism through a new form of borderless, spontaneous and droll protest.

 

[1] Rush, Curtis (2011-02-18), “Cop apologizes for ‘sluts’ remark at law school”, thestar.com.
[2]
Slutwalk Toronto, official site, “why”
[3]
Valenti, Jessica, (2011-05-03)“Slutwalk and the future of feminism”, washingtonpost.com.
[4]
Slutwalk Toronto, official site, “satellites list”
[5]
Oliver, Christine (2011-05-15), “Worst places in the world for women”, guardian.co.uk.
[6]
María José Alcalá, L’état de la population mondiale 2005. La promesse d’égalité : égalité des sexes, santé en matière de procréation et objectifs du Millénaire pour le développement, UNFPA, 2005, p. 65
[7]
Dines, Gail; Murphy, Wendy J (2011-05-08), “Slutwalk is not Sexual Liberation”, guardian.co.uk