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Flash Your Slut Card

January 29, 2012

While speaking at a York University safety forum on January 24th, 2011, Constable Michael Sanguinetti made an inflammatory comment that sparked a protest, and subsequent initiatives around the globe. In order to address sexual assault, Sanguinetti stated: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Despite being an attempt to display concern for the safety of women, such comments perpetuate the culture of victim blaming. We live in a society where male sexual violence is excused or rationalized as a biological predisposition for multiple sexual encounters, and thus, sexual violence is inevitable. Doesn’t this insinuate that males are too weak to control their sexual thoughts, and do not possess the ability to act in a rational and morale manner? Rather, this argument is damaging to women, placing all of the blame and responsibility on them.

Slut is a derogatory, made-up term utilized by many to label and disparage women who enjoy their sexuality, and take pleasure in sexual activity.Unfortunately, this has been a very effective strategy to keep women afraid of their sexuality, and instill hesitation in developing their self expression. Maybe it would be more proactive to develop community education in order to reshape the way in which society doles out blame, rather than discussing what the victim was wearing, what streets she took home, how many drinks she had, or who was accompanying her at the time.

Protests organized in Toronto involving a SlutWalk (SWTO) on April 3rd, 2011 organized by  co-founders Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis. SWTO developed three requests sent to the Toronto Police prior to the April walk with no follow-up response by the department. The requests were as follows:

1. Restructure police training and education (training for staff and outreach education for community) within the next 2 years to include non-discriminatory language, increased understanding of experiences of marginalization and oppression, and practices and protocols that support victims and survivors of sexual assault.

2. Using existing third party reviews and recommendations of police training/education for police, partner with third party agencies/initiatives in the next 12 months and have them come in and evaluate current police training & education and outreach programs and work toward offering recommendations for these to be improved where necessary.

3. Increased outreach and educational programs for the public in the next 2 years around sexual assault and informed consent, focusing on ‘rape myths’ and stereotypes (around perceived understandings of how assault/rape happens).

The premise of the SlutWalk involved reshaping the term “slut”, and removing the negative connotation associated with the term, as well as to raise awareness of the rights women are entitled to. For more information check out SlutWalk Toronto.

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