Sluts from all walks of life took over College Street in Toronto last Sunday, chanting one resounding line: However we dress, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.
The protest march was sparked when local media caught wind of a statement made by a representative of the police force this January during a campus safety information session at York University. According to the school paper, the officer told female students they should avoid dressing like “sluts” to prevent becoming victims of assault.
City-wide, women and their allies were outraged. Not only was the officer’s comment an attack on rape victims, it was an attack on women’s right to wear whatever they want. The idea that women who dress provocatively are “asking for it” is everywhere in pop culture, from crime shows to video games. Sonya Barnett, a SlutWalk co-founder, was already tired of the primitive stereotypes surrounding women and their appearances in the media. For her, the police officer’s sexist statement was a call to action.
“Women, and any gender identification, have the right to wear what pleases them, not the obligation to wear what pleases another. It’s important to make that distinction,” said Barnett.
Barnett and several others immediately began organizing a peaceful protest.Volunteers were summoned, a website was launched, t-shirts and buttons were made. By the time April arrived, over 3000 people had clicked ‘attending’ on the facebook page. The invitation was compelling:
“SlutWalk Toronto is asking you to COME AS YOU ARE. If you want to wear fishnets, great. If you want to wear parkas, that’s just as great. Any gender-identification, any age. Singles, couples, parents, sisters, brothers, children, friends. No matter how you visually identify, come walk with us. And we’re welcoming ALL those who feel that prevailing attitudes as to why sexual assault happens need to change: WHETHER YOU’RE A SLUT OR AN ALLY, come walk, roll, holler or stomp with us.”