What Do You Wear to a SlutWalk?

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What do you wear to SlutWalk? Well, what would you wear to get raped? Short skirt, tight dress, pants, sari, burka, flannel pajamas….anything.

The message of SlutWalk is not the wardrobe. Many journalists and critics entirely miss this point. The original protest in Toronto was based on comments by a Toronto police officer saying that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”. In response, a group of women is organizing a march to express their frustrations. The biggest frustration? After all this time people are still saying stupid shit about how clothing causes rape. As if when a man sees a long pair of shapely legs and turns into some sort of beast unable to control his own urges. It’s honestly as insulting to men as it is to women.

While many participants do come dressed provocatively (I do), it’s hardly a requirement if you don’t want to. We want you to wear what makes you comfortable, and we want everyone else to understand that your clothes do not equal consent. But, that’s not the entirety of the message: the flip side is that dressing conservatively doesn’t save anyone from being sexually assaulted. Rape is about power, not sex. That is why Grandmothers and people with disabilities, women living in poverty, and homeless boys and girls are often targets for sexual violence.

I remember going to my first SlutWalk event and seeing a woman wearing full-bodied pajamas with a sign “this is what I was wearing when I was raped”. It was powerful—thinking back on it still gives me shivers.

In March, Twitter user @Steenfox (Christine Fox) sparked a conversation about what people were wearing when they were sexually assaulted. Some of the answers were collected by The Root:

@steenfox I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, baggy jeans and a cap advertising the Beatles. You can RT

@steenfox I was wearing a brown Garanimals-type shirt w/green frogs on it, a brown fringe jacket, Wranglers and B. Brown loafers. 6. OKRT

@steenfox The first time? I was 8. I had on a sweater and jeans. The 2nd, work clothes: dress pants and a button up blouse

@steenfox 1st of multiple times by the same family member was at 7…wearing pajamas. 2nd time I was 12…sweatpants and tee…youth pastor

The link between a woman’s wardrobe and sexual assault is one of the most insidious myths that exist. It is victim-blaming. It is desperately seeking a way to make sense of sexual violence and protect yourself and people you love. It’s the same cultural narrative that tells young girls that their bodies are a distraction to young men–as though teen girl should, or even could, be responsible for the hormone-fueled thinking of teenage boys.

I understand why people may think that way—but we have to shift the focus off of the victims and on to the perpetrators of sexual assault. We have to insist that people are responsible for their own feelings and the earlier we teach young men and women, the better.

We need to tell people who rape that, “this dress is not a yes”. We need society to understand that telling anyone that something they did caused their sexual assault is wrong.

Wear as much or as little to SlutWalk as you want.

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