SlutWalks Throughout the World
After the initial walk in Toronto, SlutWalks were organized in 40 different countries around the world, including Canada, the United States, Costa Rica, Brazil, India, Morocco, Australia, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Mexico, and China.
An international directory of SlutWalk chapters can be found here.
The SlutWalks are part of a larger, world-wide movement against sexual assault. Take Back The Night is a foundation that seeks to end sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and all other forms of sexual violence.
Since the late 1970s, women across the world have assembled for nighttime marches where they can display their solidarity and speak out against sexual crimes. They address issues of female sexual safety and personal agency.
Party with Consent is another popular movement on college campuses that combats sexual assault. By promoting comfortable and safe party atmospheres, Party With Consent strives to prevent sexual violence and raise awareness about its prevalence on campuses. Hundreds of college campuses have taken part in both Party With Consent and Take Back the Night.
Other movements have gained large followings by working to include those that feel excluded by the SlutWalks.
Incite! is a national activist organization of radical feminists of color that works to end violence against women of color and all communities. Grassroots chapters across the United States organize to fight for the same cause as SlutWalks. Organizations, such as Incite!, are beginning all over the world in response to sexual assault.
In the United States- The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 is a landmark piece of legislation that seeks to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States. States have passed more than 660 laws to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. All states have passed laws making stalking a crime and changed laws that treated date or spousal rape as a lesser crime than stranger rape.
On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed an expanded Violence Against Women Act, saying it was a “day of the advocates, a day of the survivors.” The signing of the act was important for gay rights advocates and Native Americans because both saw new protections under the law.
In Canada- The Canadian government is currently taking action by protecting the most vulnerable women in its country. Although Canadian legislation concerning sexual assault already exists, women and girls living in immigrant, impoverish, and aboriginal communities constantly face barriers that do not allow them to live safe and healthy lives. In 2011, the Canadian government launched a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which aids women and girls who are being targeted for sexual exploitation by trafficking. For the first time in history, Canada is funding projects that engage men and boys to end violence against women and girls. To ensure the safety of women and girls, Canada has passed new laws that address issues surrounding sexual assault.
Although the SlutWalks are part of a mass movement to end sexual assault and victim blaming, it is important to note that many people disagree with the SlutWalk’s tactics. There are three major arguments against the SlutWalks.
1. Neglecting the Larger Issue
2. Cultural Insensitivity
In “An Open Letter from Black Women to SlutWalk Organizers,” a black women expresses her hesitation to associate with the word “slut.” Many African American women feel as though their experiences and histories are left out of the movement. They feel as though their lack of privilege has not allowed them to identify with the word “slut.”
The letter calls for the acknowledgment of the historical significance of the word “rape” as a racist/sexist structure. It concludes with the goal to organize beyond an annual demonstration to end oppression on all levels of society.
This argument is echoed throughout other marginalized groups, especially in the Global South, where the word “slut” is foreign. Some believe the SlutWalks push Western feminist ideologies on the Global South. SlutWalks are criticized for not fully understanding or taking into account different cultures and beliefs.
3. Male Defined Vocabulary
It is noted that the word “slut” raises issues of sexualization placed on girls and women. Media images constantly pressure girls to be “beautiful” and “sexy.” The question is what will happen to women who do not want to own the word “slut?” Others think it is important for women to define their own beauty outside of male-defined terms such as “slut.”
There have been many criticisms of the SlutWalks regarding its focus on the word “slut.” Some believe it shifts the focus from anti-victim-blaming to “slut”-reclaiming. The fact that rape victims and other women of the world do not feel comfortable reclaiming the word is a common argument for the inefficiency and unimportance of the SlutWalks.
These questions are current discussions among the SlutWalk organization itself.
Slut Walk New York City made the decision to withdraw from the march because of the name. In Vancouver, the organizers decided to cancel the march and have a discussion instead. A debate was held to determine a different name.
It is important to take these criticisms into consideration when studying the SlutWalk movement. Although the SlutWalks do receive backlash from many groups of people, the movement has been effective and is an integral member to the broader movement against sexual abuse, assault, and victim-blaming. In future movements, hopefully organizers can learn from SlutWalks and work to include all women of the world.
Progress Still Needs to be Made
Despite the efforts of the SlutWalks and the numerous other organizations to end sexual assault and victim-blaming, there are still many people who still believe that it is the woman’s fault when she gets raped. In 2009, a high school cheerleader was punished for not cheering for her rapist during a school basketball game. Even today there are still people with these attitudes. In 2013, the University of Arizona was home to a protest against a sexual assault awareness event. The organizations described above are trying to end these misconceptions with education and activism.