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SlutWalkers move to end blame, shame

Slut. Whore. Skank. Ho. Trick.

If you are reading this sentence, then you made it past my attempt at the “shock and awe” method that involves the same derogative terms used by SlutWalk, a protest movement coming to Nashville on Oct. 2.

This international movement to reverse victim blaming in rape cases began in Toronto after a male police officer offered the advice that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” to prevent rape.

Outraged by the poorly conceived comment, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis, co-founders of the SlutWalk, decided to do something. Five months and more than 70 walks later, Nashville will become the next stage for what author Jessica Valenti called the “most successful feminist action of the past 20 years.”

Naturally, the whole walk has been scrutinized and debated by media, feminists, and social conservatives alike. With large groups of women, and a few men, marching through the city dressed in mini-skirts and bikinis and holding signs that say, “My dress is not a yes,” who can blame them?

Scandalous attire aside, the real issue debaters have with the SlutWalk is not the nature of the mission, but its methods of trying to reverse the blame of rape that has the public and media alike in an uproar.

“Why can’t they dress respectively?” some ask. “Couldn’t they have picked a less derogative term?” others will inquire.

My question to these people is, “Would you have paid attention to it any other way?” Probably not or at least not at the same level.

Society has been conditioned to ignore the well-behaved, non-scandalous actions of anyone in the public light; that’s considered boring and unworthy of attention. Instead, hyper-focus is placed on the social justice cases deemed less appropriate. As a culture, we flock like moths to a light to the ugly problems.

Currently, the SlutWalk is the gossip-worthy, ugly problem.

I’m not advocating that every time there is a major social dilemma that we all rip our clothes off to raise awareness. The very idea of strutting around in my bathing suit mortifies me, but these women understand and are using the power of the “shock and awe” factor to get people talking.

But is talking enough? Will this lead to a change or just be a diversion from the status quo?

Maybe the better question is, “Will any efforts work to reverse the blame?”

Thanks to oversaturation of idealized female sexuality on TV and in ads, it’s no wonder potential rapists believe that a female is “asking for it” anytime she wears a skirt that shows more leg than three inches above the knee.

Now this doesn’t give guys – or anyone for that matter – the right to blame a victim for her attack, but it does put the phenomenon of “rape culture” in perspective.

When 15 out of 16 reported rapists never see jail time and society continues to condone the sexually promiscuous behavior of some males, how can we expect a female to report a sexual assault when police officers are judging the victims before they know their story?

By getting people to talk instead of letting the stigma of rape control their actions. By making rape and victim blaming the center of discussion. By not keeping quiet.

So bring on the attention-grabbing antics. Pass out the signs saying, “consent is sexy.”  Paint “slut” and “whore” on your chest. My hoodie and I just might join you.

Autumn Allison, Vision managing editor, is a sophomore journalism major.

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