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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PRESS RELEASE EDMONTON SLUT WALK 2014

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April 30 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The fourth annual Slut Walk Edmonton

MAY 31st 12:00PM at WILBERT MCINTYRE PARK (8331 104 St)

SLUTWALK HITS EDMONTON

On January 24th, 2011, a representative of the Toronto Police gave shocking insight into the mentality of victim-blaming women who were targets of sexual assault by saying: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”. In response to this comment, a global movement was born. Slut Walk.

The first Slut Walk occurred on Sunday, April 3, 2011 in Toronto and quickly went viral with walks occurring across North America and in countries around the globe: Australia, Denmark, Finland, New Delhi, Argentina and Morocco among many, many others.

Here in Edmonton, we are celebrating our fourth year in pushing out the message that there’s nothing a person can ever do to deserve sexual violence. We have a line-up of amazing speakers: Danielle Boudreau, Junetta Jamerson, Jaqueline Fayant and musical artist Sierra Carter Jamerson. Our diverse group of speakers come from communities who are often under-represented in the conversations around sexual violence.

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Last year, hundreds took to the streets to walk with us, and we are anticipating an even larger turn out this year. People of all gender expressions and sexual orientations are welcome to take part, as the walk is about making a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights, and a demand for respect for all.

Backgrounder:

On Twitter @yegslutwalk or #YEGSlutWalk

Website: www.yegslutwalk.com

In Canada 50% of women will experience physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime and women, who are Indigenous, women of colour, sex workers, trans, or differently-abled face even higher rates of victimization. Because of prevalent gender roles, men and boys who face victimization and sexual assault are often ignored or laughed at because it is assumed that they always want sex.

Rape culture or a rape-prone world describes a culture where sexual violence is normal and prevailing attitudes, norms, and behaviours excuse, minimize, and even propagate sexual violence. Sexual violence happens often. It is misrepresented. It is not taken seriously. Consent Ed has a great section on rape myths.

Femifesto Media toolkit: reporting on sexual assault

Photos:

Stephanie Chard by Tyler Mckay

Jason Garcia and Nicki Anderson by Tyler McKay

For media/interview requests:

 

Danielle Paradis (@daniparadis, Dani.paradis2@gmail.com)

The Case of the Ineffective “Don’t Get Raped” Safety Tips

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By Franki Harrogate

**Disclaimer: given that the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by men, and that the majority of “safety tips” are directed at women, I’ve mostly utilized a gender binary in the following discussion.**

I’ve noticed something funny about the majority of the “safety tips” directed at women: besides being very obvious advice that the majority of women already follow, they are usually attempts to control women’s behaviour. Example: “Don’t walk through/go into alleys.” This was a (paraphrased) statement from the Edmonton Police Service after a number of sexual assaults in the south side of the city. And here’s why it’s so problematic:

It ignores the fact that women have a right – an unconditional, 100%, fundamental right – to be in public space, regardless of where that space is or their reasons for being there.

 

It ignores the fact that, right now, it’s winter (and when the ‘advice’ was issued, it was bloody cold out) and going through an alley may be the quickest way to get to one’s destination.

It puts the onus on women to prevent being attacked. There is no mention here of the perpetrator, or of the fact that attacking women and sexually assaulting them is wrong. It assumes that sexual assaults WILL happen, and that it is the responsibility of women to ensure it doesn’t happen to them.

 

Further, such “advice” actively ignores the statistics that show that ~80% of sexual assaults are committed by an individual known to the victim. I shouldn’t have to clarify that, but unfortunately, the fact that police services are still issuing “safety tips” that masquerade as legitimate solutions, but that actually demand that women change their behaviour and ignore the responsibility of men in committing sexual assault means that I must.  So let’s discuss the reality of “safety tips” and why they’re generally problematic:

“Take a martial art/self defence course so that you know how to fight back”. Let me be the first to say that if you are able to, and wish to, take martial arts or a self-defence class, by all means, do so. Just – please, don’t take one on the assumption that doing so equals becoming rape-proof. As I stated above, statistics show that most victims know their attacker. Given that armies spend an inordinate amount of time teaching recruits how to kill, how easy do you think it’s going to be to break the arm or gouge out the eyes of someone you know and may care about? And that’s if you’re even physically able to take a self-defence class in the first place.

Statistics also show that people with disabilities – i.e., those in long-term care, assisted living, etc. – are more vulnerable to sexual assault. That’s not a problem that can be resolved by self-defence courses. As well, not all self-defence or martial arts classes are created equal. There is no regulatory body that prevents Joe/Jane Schmoe from taking people’s money and teaching whatever they themselves feel are self-defence skills. And how does one access classes when money is an issue? If you’re trying to decide between paying bills and putting food on the table, where does the money for a class come from? Not to mention child care and/or transportation as barriers to being able to actually attend classes. And hey, fun fact: if someone roofies your drink, it doesn’t matter how big of a badass you are when you’re sober/conscious, or how many martial arts you know. Unconscious is unconscious and, despite what the movies and tv shows depict, no one is going to suddenly overcome drugs in their system to effectively fight off a sexual assault.

 

What it comes down to is this: my issue with being told to “take self-defense classes” as a way to prevent sexual assault is that it ignores the real problem: people who commit sexual assault.

“Don’t drink/get drunk/drink too much/drink when you’re out”.

Why shouldn’t women be able to drink if they desire to do so? The message never given: “Men, don’t drink because you could become a belligerent asshole who starts fights.” It’s okay for men to drink – it’s not okay for women, as the threat of sexual assault is held up as a punishment for disobeying. Now, I’m the first to admit I’m not an expert in everything, but if men have the right to go out, drink, and have a good time, why don’t women have the same right? Why is this a social activity that’s reserved entirely for men? Telling women not to drink (or how much they may drink) has absolutely nothing to do with preventing sexual assault and everything to do with controlling women’s behaviour. Once again: this “advice” completely ignores the actual problem – people who commit sexual assault.

 

“Have friends walk you home” – This works in theory, but remember that pesky statistic of ~80% of victims knowing their attacker? Your rapist could be that friend walking you home. You can’t tell someone is a rapist just by looking at them. People who commit sexual assault don’t wear signs saying “RAPIST.” They don’t wear black hats and have pointy mustaches that they twirl while narrating about their evil plots. Telling women that they need someone to walk them home:

a) implies that women need a protector (because they certainly can’t take care of themselves!);

b) assumes that whoever is enlisted to provide safety doesn’t turn out to be a predator themselves.

 

So I think it comes down this: what IS the “safety advice” that’s being disseminated? Does any of it focus on changing the real problem: people who feel entitled to sexually assault? Or is it predicated upon controlling women’s behaviour? Does it actually have the potential to remove all likelihood of rape, instead of merely turning a potential attacker on to another target?

If someone wants to take martial arts with the idea that s/he wants to be better prepared to defend herself if need be, great. I honestly think that everyone should learn to defend themselves to the best of their abilities. What frosts my cookies with respect to safety tips is when they’re presented as a panacea of rape prevention – “do this, and presto! No rape, ever!” when we know full well that’s not how it works. Plus, there’s the whole mess of safety tips being used against rape victims in court: “You didn’t do X, therefore you asked for it; everyone *knows* that if you don’t want to get raped, you do X.”

Here are some safety tips that can assist with reducing the likelihood of sexual assaults: If the cops know that a predator is repeatedly assaulting in a particular area, step up the number of patrols in that area. Get some foot patrols happening. Tell the residents what the suspect looks like, the times of the assaults, and the exact areas that the assaults were committed in. Give people the chance to decide, for themselves, how to best protect themselves. Work with the neighbourhood to “take back the alleys” by improving lighting, by encouraging foot traffic (more people means more eyes, which means more witnesses and less likelihood of a crime – any crime – occurring), and by encouraging reporting of suspicious behaviour.

 

Encourage talking about consent. Enthusiastic, ongoing, consent. Not just “no means no” – but that “Only yes means yes.” Tell men that they don’t have the right to women’s bodies, in any way, in any situation, in any circumstance. The “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign by SAVE that was later adopted by other agencies throughout the country sparked a reduction in sexual assaults. That’s a clear indication that education can have an effect.

 

Bystander interventions are another great option. And by that, I mean on-the-ground work. Stop victim-blaming. Don’t tell rape jokes, and don’t put up with others doing so. When you see people in an iffy situation, keep your eyes on it and watch to see what’s going on. Call the police, or a bouncer, or a security guard to intervene if you’re unsure or don’t have the ability to become involved yourself. Sometimes even just going over and asking the person who’s causing the problem the time, or if they know how to get to ______ place, can provide enough of a distraction for whoever they’re troubling to disengage and leave the situation. If you know that someone in your circle of friends has a history of inappropriate behaviour, refuse to invite that person to parties/events. Rapists can only operate in a group if the group ignores or bypasses their behaviour.

 

Finally – and, in my opinion, most importantly – when someone says that they have been assaulted, believe them. Ask “How can I support you?” instead of “What were you wearing?” Familiarize yourself with the local resources and groups that assist survivors of sexual assault. Never, ever ask “Why didn’t you _____?” or “Shouldn’t you have ____?” Placing the blame on the victim of an assault removes the perpetrator from the equation completely. And let’s be honest here: the only thing that sexual assault survivors have in common is that they were in the presence of someone who decided to commit an assault.

 

If there is something that you, yourself, do in order to make yourself feel safer, by all means, do it. Whether it’s taking martial arts, or taking your drink with you when you go to the bathroom, or whatever – if you feel empowered by what you are doing, that’s great. But please don’t tell others that they “must do XYZ in order to avoid rape” because that’s not how it works.

What that does is perpetuate the message that sexual assaults are a given, so the only way to make sure it doesn’t happen to you is to obey the rules – so that it can happen to someone else. The only 100%, surefire way to avoid being sexually assaulted is to never be around someone who would commit an assault – and as I pointed out above, they don’t wear signs. Let’s stop making the conversation about “How to avoid getting raped” and turn it to “Stop raping!” instead.

FUNDRAISING

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Hello Friends,

Danielle here. Putting on my best Ira Glass voice in order to ask you to help us out this year with Slut Walk. We work hard to create an event that is responsive to the needs of our community and works towards addressing the diverse issues of victim-blaming faced by marginalized groups. That is why this year, we’ve lines up some amazing speakers to address our theme: “Race and Gender: Intersection and Inseparable Oppressions”.

We’re also putting out a call for art work for logos and posters. 

We believe in working together as a community and a part of that means showing appreciation for the efforts of others. Money isn’t everything, but it is one way we can help those who are helping us. It is important to Slut Walk Edmonton that we are able to pay our speakers and artists for their contributions. It’s just the right thing to do. 

However, that means we need the community to support us too. If you believe in the work that we do, we need you to donate. Please. Stop whatever you are doing and donate now. It’s important. Don’t put it off. You contribution will go towards proving food for the event, supplies for people to make signs, and paying the speakers and artists. 

We are collecting funds this year through an Indegogo Campaign. Go here to donate.

Announcing 2014 Speakers

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Jacqueline Fayant

298186_10151585902426558_1525047340_nJacquline is Cree Métis woman, born in Edmonton with her family roots strongly grounded in the Fishing Lake Metis Settlement. Professionally, she has had extensive experience working with marginalized populations and advocacy has always been the common thread in all of her work. After switching from a BA in Psychology to Social Work, Jacqueline has enjoyed specializing in community development and social justice. She has also taken training on internalized racism and sexism under the tutelage of the Alberta Network of Immigrant Women and Tina Lopez (Dancing on Live Embers.

Jacqueline has been an oskâpêwis (Elder’s helper or Helper at ceremonies) and is is strongly guided by the traditional teachings. She defines herself mainly as a de-contructionalist, agitator and decolonizer.

 

Junetta Jamerson

JunettaJunetta Jamerson is a passionate community advocate, artist and mentor. She is  a daughter of Alberta’s African-American community, raised in the political ideals of her people. She has won the majority of her acclaim as a vocalist, however, it is her mentorship with women and children in Edmonton’s Pan-African community that has been the most gratifying and affected the most change.

Call for Artists and Graphic Designers

Post has been updatedswoc

SWOC is seeking entries for the creation of a logo or poster to be used for the 2014 Slut Walk campaign. The theme this year is race and gender: intersection and inseparable oppressions. We are looking for art that is edgy and intersectional. All submitted pieces will be reviewed for originality and quality of the work. The successful entrant will be awarded a cash prize of $100

Email all entries to theyegslutwalk@gmail.com

Contest Closes: March 21st 2014

***Update

Received inquiry as to the text for art work.

This year’s theme is “Race and Gender: Intersection and Inseparable Oppressions” our tagline is also “There is nothing a person can ever do to deserve sexual violence”

Getting a Yes! Instead of, “I Guess”

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The phrase enthusiastic consent is so useful in discussion of sexuality. Not in the least because it constantly sparks dialogue. For me, a part of its usefulness is also a part of its annoyance. I will forever have to explain what the term means.

Recently StudentsNS, a consortium of Nova Scotia student’s associations, launched a new website morethanyes.ca which declared: “Sex without enthusiastic consent is not sex at all. It’s sexual assault or rape”. This point stuck in the craw of Todd Pettigrew, an associate professor at Cape Breton University who writes frequently for Maclean’s On Campus.

For what it is worth, TheMorethanYes website doesn’t explain the concept of enthusiastic consent very comprehensively, and there’s some room for improvement to prevent future confusion. Sexual violence educator, and good friend, Jamie Utt describes enthusiastic consent as:

The standard we should all strive toward in our sexuality. It is an expression of the joy and ecstasy that can be sexual connection while also ensuring that both parties are fulfilled and cared for. It goes beyond the simple “Yes/no” so often thought of when people say consent and helps us realize that “God, YES!” and “NOW!” and “RIGHT THERE!” and “DON’T STOP!” are all expressions of consent.

Now, I really have to mention this there’s an air of really puzzling smug-satisfaction permeating the article Pettigrew wrote in response to these students. It just seems so mean-spirited to call an initiative to end sexual assault, “so overflowing with gormless self-congratulation that even I was stunned”.

There is a strange implication in taking the offensive against enthusiastic consent. It seems to indicate there’s only a certain amount of indignation or interest appropriate to for those who seek to end the astronomical levels of sexual assault.

While there are certainly points that are up for discussion around what enthusiastic consent means, it’s also possible to raise this with some respect to the individuals who put a lot of time and effort into discussions on how to end sexual assault on campus. It’s also worth an effort to come across as more than a stereotypical depiction of a mean-spirited writer-manqué professor who gleefully eviscerates the sort of high-minded ideas developed in “the sun-lit offices of youthful student activists”.  This pattern of resistance to ideas of sexual violence appears more than once in Pettigrew’s writing, he also washes his hands of responsibility for rape culture with the stalest counter-argument of individualism over systemic behaviour. I don’t know him personally, but this dismissive persona certainly sets my teeth on edge. It really saddens me when a person in a position of authority behaves this way towards young people. It is discouraging and unnecessary.

At the same time, these students’ associations did not invent the term “enthusiastic consent”. Ignoring the history of a word may be either laziness or ignorance and in Pettigrew’s case I can’t say I know which; however, what I can say is this article demonstrates the same carelessness in writing about sexual violence that prompted the creation of a media guide and checklist around writing about sexual violence. I would like to assign this guide to Professor Pettigrew for homework. As I would not turn in an essay without doing the expected reading, I expect an English teacher to do some research before writing on a subject. There are many many pieces that describe what enthusiastic consent means and knowing the subject-matter discussed makes for a far more pertinent argument.

What you need to understand is that the standard of consent that Pettigrew “can scarcely believe” is set under the guidelines of Canadian law. It speaks to many of the things he agrees with in his own article, sex without coercion, but with additional reminder that consent needs to be obtained throughout.

Troublingly, Pettigrew supresses the evidence of what led up to the StudentsNS declaring the need for this discussion. There was a commissioned survey “Student Safety in Nova Scotia: A Review of Student Union Policies and Practices to Prevent Sexual Violence” That clearly laid out that students in Nova Scotia do not understand the nature of consent.  It’s anyone’s guess what enters the mind of a man as he settles down to write about on-campus events, and decides this week to take a swipe via a rhetorical appeal to ridicule the efforts of students in Nova Scotia. The province that brought you the appalling Saint Mary’s chant, and the tragedy of Rehteah Parsons suicide after being gang raped. I would heartily commend an initiative that sought to prevent these sort of things from happening.

I’m not saying that Pettigrew is a rape-apologist, he demonstrates clear moral boundaries around sexual assault and consent when he writes, “when consent is not clear, one should err on the side of caution and hold off until consent, or lack of consent is clear. And I hope it goes without saying that I am not and would never be in favour of sex without consent”. This sounds wonderful—until we reach the dreaded “but” that goes on to condescendingly explain how out-of-touch with reality these views of enthusiasm are, while demonstrating a lack of understanding about which he speaks. Pettigrew creates his own false dilemma around consent by conflating what sex could look like in a long term relationship versus a one night hookup. They are not the same, and it is intellectually dishonest to pretend otherwise.

It is here that Pettigrew touches on a point also raised by Men’s Rights activists around enthusiastic consent—that it seems silly to expect someone to be jumping up and down every time they want to have sex and surely we can be relied upon to interpret, “a tone of voice, a facial expression, a laugh, a sly wink—an “I guess” as clear consent.

I agree.

We humans are very adept at understanding body language. Rapists ignore the clear signs of hesitancy or unwillingness to engage in intercourse. They see the signs that say no, and they don‘t like the answer. Later, they declare that there were mixed signals. That’s a well-known rape myth.

This is why education around enthusiastic consent also covers the need to understand non-verbal behaviours and respect them rather than rely on the social constructs of agreeability (we don’t like to say no, so we tend to issue rejections in softer language) to work in their favor.

Naturally, it occurs to me that there can be a problem with the phrase enthusiastic consent. I too have been in long term relationships. I get that sometimes you may not really feel in the mood until you’ve engaged in a bit of foreplay. I understand the way that sex can be a comfort or even a less than exuberant occurrence. Sometimes you just want to get off.  We have all experienced sex that was probably less than the golden standard of enthusiastic. But should that be reason enough to wedge in this supposed grey area around sexual assault? Consider the tie ins to rape myths and the way in which society dismisses sexual violence. While I am against moral panic, I am also for community accountability and a part of that is understanding that writing about something like enthusiastic consent without doing the most basic research only muddies the waters around a conversation and turns precious energies towards having to battle semantics.

On behalf of Slut Walk Edmonton I commend the work of StudentsNS and their enthusiastic attempt to address these issues head-on.  There will always be those who sit on the sidelines willing to tear your work down, to misrepresent what you stand for. Never mind them. Listen instead to the community and the voices on the margins of society because they have the lived experience to help end sexual violence. As a survivor of rape myself I appreciate your efforts, and here at Slut Walk Edmonton, we have your back.

Photo credit: Geralt