SlutWalk has become a global phenomenon since Canadian policeman Constable Michael Sanguinett told a campus safety meeting “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised”.
Big SlutWalk rallies have retaliated against this victim-blaming that police, courts, and governments perpetuate.
People have protested in Canada, Mexico, London, Amsterdam, the US, London and Australia. Homemade placards denouncing sexual violence, supporting consensual sex and rejecting victim blaming were displayed at all the rallies.
At least 2000 people marched in Melbourne for SlutWalk on May 28. Hundreds protested on the same day in Brisbane. Two hundred and fifty Canberrans took to the mall led by a banner saying: “End Victim Blaming SlutWalk Canberra.”
In Adelaide, several hundred protesters showed up with bright red umbrellas, and defiant banners. An action is also planned for Darwin.
More than five hundred marched in Sydney on June 13. It was organised as part of the queer pride conference Camp Betty. Rally-goers braved wet conditions and public holiday train timetables.
These rallies have struck a chord and are needed given the rise in sexual violence in past years.
A 2004 Australian Bureau of Statistics report noted a rise in recorded sexual assault victims from 12,186 in 1993 to 18,237 in 2003.
The National Crime and Safety Survey estimated in 2002 that 33,000 adults were victims of sexual assault in the preceding 12 months. Of these assaults, 28,300 of the victims were women and 4800 men.
The use of term “slut” has attracted criticism. In Monique Ross’s May 27 ABC Online article about Slutwalk, applied language studies professor from the University of Queensland Roly Sussex said using the word slut was “a slap in the face to everybody”.
He said: “It’s part of a big group of words which are derogatory words about females for which English has almost no male parallels.
“It’s used principally by men about women, but also by women about women in the sense of moral standards. It’s a bad word that one should avoid ... there’s very little to be said in favour of the word.”
However, the SlutWalk rallies were an overwhelmingly positive response to Sanguinett’s “slut” slur. Their anti-violence, anti-blame message shows the feminist movement can be re-invigorated.