Does a “Slut Walk” Help or Hurt the Cause?

Grassroots activists in want to redefine the word “slut.”

The movement to protest the culture of victim-blaming began in Toronto where the first SlutWalk was organized to protest a police officer’s comment that to avoid being sexually assaulted women should not dress like “sluts.”

These marches have since been organized around the world and one will hit the streets of Hamilton, Ontario in two weeks.  But will the walks achieve their goal, or simply reinforce negative stereotypes?

“The word slut is used to make women feel uncomfortable about how they’re presented to the world and to shame (them), and make them feel they need to police their bodies and police their sexualities in the way they express themselves,” said SlutWalk founder Nikki Wilson, 22, who is from Hamilton.

“We want the word slut to represent a person who is confident in their sexuality, somebody who likes sex and isn’t afraid of talking about that, who isn’t afraid of expressing that.”

According to SlutWalk Hamilton’s Facebook page, more than 800 people are planning on attending the march, which will begin at City Hall at 2 p.m. and then go into Hess Village and end at the Central Police Station.

“These marches have been a great success and they definitely send a message,” said Sparklight President Joseph LaMountain.  “But I question the wisdom of wearing fishnet stockings and other provocative clothing.  While sex generates media coverage and awareness, it could also reinforce some of the negative connotations the group is trying to eliminate.”

SlutWalk organizers could take a lesson from the gay and lesbian community.  They’ve sought to tone down some of the more outrageous behavior in an effort to “normalize” homosexuals in the eyes of the general public.  Over time, this strategy has contributed to increased acceptance of same-sex relationships in American society.

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