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Power of a Protest

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Power of a Protest

As an organizer for the Edmonton Slutwalk, and comment moderator on Facebook, I have to read every comment posted to the event page, such as:

  “I don’t get the point of this Slut Walk. The fact still remains that disgusting rapists still exist.”

  “I don’t see how 2000 people walking in their underwear through Edmonton is going to change anything.”

  “Just a little worried that the statement would be lost with a parade of scantily clad women to be gawked at like a sloppy drunken stagette party.”

 The question of “what could possibly change from walking in underwear” simplifies the movement for body autonomy; it denies the efforts to end sexual assault and it ignores the power of protests. 

 The numerous comments discussing clothes that are considered too provocative identify how complex it is to define what scantily clad, provocative or slutty actually looks like. There is no consensus among the commenter’s on what exactly is considered inappropriate clothing. The growing list includes underwear, fishnet stalkings, knee high boots, short skirts, short shorts, tank-tops, and not wearing a bra. It seems hypocritical to endorse bathing suit attire at a beach but shun it at a protest. Neither location is an “acceptable” place to be sexually assaulted or allow sexual assault to occur.

 The call to dress “slutty” is to come dressed in whatever way you feel best represents that word. To not allow anyone but yourself define what slutty is. If it's sweat pants and a tank top, walk proudly in those sweat pants, no matter the color or the cotton count; those sweat pants don’t indicate your sexual choices.

 And if you choose to dance the length of the walk, or skip, or run, you are making a choice to not be told how to act. If you whistle, sing, scream, cry or shout along the path of the Slutwalk, you are accepting your own personal choice of expression.

 One protest for black rights did not end racism. One rally for the U.S. to leave Vietnam did not end the war. And one Slutwalk will unfortunately not end sexual assault.  But what would happen if no one demanded change of politicians, racists, and offenders? What if no one spoke up about the sexual assault of stolen aboriginal children in residential schools? Would we still have schools utilizing corrective rape? What if no one spoke about their missing sisters, mothers, friends who are being assaulted? Would Robert Pickton or John Crawford still be destroying the lives of women? Should we just sit back and accept how we are treated?

 The claim, or question, that walking or protesting will not further the cause to end sexual assault ignores the effects of seemingly simple actions such as bus boycotts, trash collection strikes, and postal strikes. “A protest is a signal about who you are, what you want, and what else you might do. A former White House advisor can write an op-ed against a planned war and create a stir; less prominent citizens  need to do something more dramatic to win attention for their views, demonstrating at the Capital or trespassing at a military base,” wrote Professor David S. Meyers  in a Freakonomics article debating the importance of protests. (http://www.freakonomics.com/2009/08/20/do-protests-matter-a-freakonomics-quorum/)

 It has become a white settler society ethnocentric value to utilize or benefit from misfortune. The Alberta Tar sands activists brought attention and awareness to the destructive processes of oil extraction when the BP oil spill occurred in the Gulf coast.  The law change in Arizona to increase the powers of police which led to racial profiling has brought attention to the discussion of borders being illegal and illegitimate. In comparison, the Slutwalk is utilizing the police officer’s comments to demand an end to victim blaming, sexual assault and rape.

 We will not see rape end or see police come forward to re-write their entire policies on Saturday June 4thbut we will hope to see progress.  We can demand that anyone should have the right to directly contact a sexual assault officer to report their assault (currently, if you choose to report, you must tell your story to the on duty officer, unless you go to a hospital to request a Sexual Assault Response Team (S.A.R.T) nurse who can contact the trained sexual assault police response team).  We can demand that all police and government employees receive sexual assault awareness training from non-police community bodies. And we can demand more sex positive training in schools by community groups. 

 Personally, I don’t expect this protest will sooth the immediate or long post traumatic pain that the young women in Winnipeg is suffering from for being blamed that her tank-top was an encouragement to her assault. My intention is to challenge and deconstruct the systems and institutions that allow or encourage rape and sexual assault. I will challenge friends, family, and co-workers who perpetuate stereotypes and clichés that women are like TVs, bikes, and houses. Women are not objects that should be subjected to metaphors of being taken or stolen.

 I believe Susan Brownmiller’s thought that “rape can be eradicated, not merely controlled or avoided on an individual basis, but the approach must be long-range and cooperative, and must have the understanding and good will of many men as well as women,” as stated in Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (1975).  The Edmonton Slutwalk is one of those many long range and cooperative actions and I am proud to support the movement that will eventually eradicate sexual assault.


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anna j glover (Anna J Glover)
Edmonton AB
Member since December 2010

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