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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Slutwalk is a Step in the Right Direction

On October 3, model, entrepreneur, and feminist, Amber Rose hosted her own Slutwalk in L.A. Hundreds of scantily clad protesters came out to support Rose’s cause, all with the intention of setting the record straight on female sexual freedom, and addressing the imminent need to end a culture that attacks women for their choice of dress. Protesters did everything from going topless, to painting the word “slut” across their body, while some simply held up signs with “Slut Pride” in bold black letters, taking ownership of the contentious word used against them. Whatever form the protest takes, the message is glaringly clear: end slut-shaming.
Slut-shaming is, unfortunately, nothing new. Since the dawn of women, derogatory words, slogans, phrases, and pervasive gender-biased ideologies, have contributed to a persistent attack upon female sexuality and agency. The Madonna/whore dichotomy is deeply embedded in our social structure: one that not only enforces a strict set of hetero-normative ideals, but one that actively diminishes a woman’s control of her sexual identity and destiny. Women, more often than not, are put in a double-bind, between exploring their sexual freedom, and actively struggling to ward off unwanted attention, judgments, and overall degradation as a response.
Cue the Slutwalk, a protest to counter the destructive effects of slut-shaming, not only on women as a whole, but most potently, those who have been the victims of sexual assault. This trailblazing movement started in 2011 in Toronto, Canada as a response to the misogynistic comment of a Toronto police officer, who, when addressing the issue of campus rape at York University, said, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts if they do not want to be victimized.” This unsavory comment, to put it mildly, sparked a massive wave of outrage, and has garnered the support of thousands (women and men) and is now an active day of protest involving over 200 cities worldwide.
To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this movement. While I firmly believe that the current victim-shaming rhetoric that pervades our societal expectations of women’s sexuality needs to be addressed, I’m not sure that attempting to glorify a term that has historically been used to demean women is the way to do it. For the millions of girls, who are just starting to embrace their sexuality, and solidify their identity as women, this message could be confusing and conflicting. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea behind the Slutwalk; it seems like an empowering outlet for years of repressed rage at domineering and oppressive forces that have diminished women’s self worth –– I truly believe that. Yet when we boast signs declaring “Slut Pride”, are we effectively protesting misogyny, or simply embracing a label that was never an inherent part of our being to begin with? Is it not more worthwhile to lead an even more vehement campaign to educate boys, and men, about the proper way to treat, respect, and acknowledge a woman’s worth and basic human rights? Should we not establish a universal meaning for consent, rather than parading our bodies in protest? I don’t know. Each person has his/her own methods in combating a social issue; there is obvious not one definitive solution. But one thing is for sure: it is time to end the prevalence of rape culture, and reclaim women’s bodily freedom.