SlutWalk Comes to NYC
Starting at Union Square and marching through the East Village, women in racy clothing held up signs that read “We’re Souls Not Holes” and “Consent is Sexy,” and could be heard chanting from blocks away. SlutWalk had officially arrived in New York City.
SlutWalk NYC made its debut on October 1, following over 75 similar protests that have taken place all over the world. New School students — including members of the student organization the Feminist Collective -— were among an estimated 3,000 people who participated in the march, which drew many scantily-clad women expressing their right to dress as they please.
The event took place one day after The Wall Street Journal reported that police in the South Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn were warning women against wearing shorts, skirts, and other revealing clothing. There have been at least 10 reported sexual attacks in the neighborhood since March.
SlutWalk is an organization that rails against what its members call “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming.” According to SlutWalk NYC organizers, the first term is defined as the condoning of sexual violence towards women, while the second is the act of demeaning a woman for acting on sexual feelings that are disapproved by traditional society.
Organizers said they had reached out to students at The New School, New York University, and other college campuses to garner support and publicize the event. In their recent meetings, the Feminist Collective discussed the motivations of SlutWalk and encouraged members to take part.
“Slut-shaming and victim-blaming is something that we, as a collective, have stood against in the past, and will continue to,” said Feminist Collective member Rhiannon Auriemma.
The concept behind SlutWalk emerged after a college safety seminar at York University in Toronto last January, when a police officer, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, told women “not to dress like sluts” if they wanted to avoid sexual assault. Angered by the mentality behind the remarks, activists in the city organized the first SlutWalk event in April, with an approximate turnout of 4,000 people.
The movement’s name, however, has stirred up controversy. Some are disheartened by the use of the word “slut,” and feel that it only further demeans women.
In an essay for The New York Times, feminist writer Rebecca Traister said, “To object to these ugly characterizations is righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women.”
New School professor Jennifer Baumgardner, an author, journalist and third-wave feminist activist, said she opposed this mentality.
“Slut-shaming is real,” said Baumgardner. “Any way to use slut as a weapon for women, rather than against them, I am wholeheartedly supporting.”
Andie Glik, a member of the Feminist Collective and a SlutWalk NYC participant, said the event’s appeal is in its challenging of traditional notions of feminism.
“Everyone thinks of the typical feminist as someone who burns her bras and doesn’t shave her legs,” Glik said. “Recently, feminism hasn’t been cool for anyone under the age of 30, but SlutWalk grabs people’s attention and makes you feel like you’re actually a part of something, making a difference.”