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‘Slutwalk’ addresses victim-blaming and sexism in modern society

Credit: Juan Fernandez/Art Staff Credit: Juan Fernandez/Art Staff
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“Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

A Toronto policeman uttered this ludicrous statement in January while giving a safety talk to college students at York University. Since then, students from the university have organized a large protest aptly called “Slutwalk” to reappropriate and redefine the word “slut.” And I say more power to them!

I’m glad these students didn’t brush aside this statement and instead saw the underlying problems within our society that it exemplified. Women may have equal rights now, but sexism and misogyny still exist and heavily influence the thoughts and actions of many people. The statement made by that Toronto policeman might have been meant to help women stay safe, but the underlying logic of it suggests that he thinks women are, in a way, asking to be victimized by dressing in a provocative way.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. Policeman, but no one asks to be victimized.

People like this policeman may think that dressing conservatively decreases a woman’s risk of being raped, but think about it: She can take self-defense classes; she can walk home with a friend when it gets late; she can keep her cell phone handy; she can buy mace. How she is dressed is not a deciding factor in whether or not she is raped. It is a well-known and well-proven fact that rape isn’t about how hot or slutty a girl looks; it’s about opportunity and power.

In case you weren’t listening, I’ll re-emphasize: Rape is about opportunity and the power the rapist has over his victim.

To demonstrate my point, let me illustrate a hypothetical situation. A rapist is lying in wait for a victim and sees three girls walking by. Two hot girls are dressed in slutty clubbing clothes and turn left while the third girl, who is kind of homely, is dressed normally and turns right. Who do you think he’ll go after? The third girl, of course, because she’s alone and there is a greater opportunity for success. So honestly, when one thinks about it, how a girl dresses has nothing to do with whether or not she will be victimized.
Victim-blaming in these ways is a serious issue, one made even more serious when those who are meant to protect citizens practice it. To take another example from Toronto: There was a case in 1986 in which a rapist was targeting women in a certain neighborhood. The police, however, did not believe the first two women who claimed they had been raped because one had a boyfriend and the other related her rape in a calm and relaxed manner.

By the time the third Jane Doe, who kept her name a secret throughout her 11-year legal battle, was raped, the police had made a conscious decision not to warn the women in the neighborhood so that they could catch the rapist red-handed. Poor Jane Doe was nothing more than bait for the rapist. What a travesty that the very entity created to protect and defend citizens failed to do so because of victim-blaming and sexism.

As a citizen, I would hope — even demand — that the police do everything in their power to protect me. As a woman, I would expect the right to walk down a street dressed as I choose without judgment from the law. Granted, I know I can’t go out naked without getting pulled over for public indecency, but wearing a tight dress shouldn’t mean that I as a person am indecent.
If I wear a slutty dress, yeah, it probably means I’m looking to get some. Women dress attractively because we want to attract attention — of the consensual kind. Blaming women for wanting to look attractive is like blaming a shopkeeper for putting some of his best wares on display. Is he asking for a break-in? Of course not! What it comes down to is respect. Respect for a woman as a person, with the right to make decisions about the clothes she puts on and who she takes them off for, free of labels like “slut” or “whore.”