Why I will be taking part in the Slutwalk
Today, I will be joining hundreds of women, men and children for London's second annual Slutwalk – a global movement promoting the "radical notion that nobody deserves to be raped". Although initially sceptical about the concept of the walk, it is one I have slowly come to support.
When I first heard about the movement last year – sparked by a Toronto police officer saying women would not be victimised if they "didn't dress like sluts – I was amazed at the overwhelming response.
With thousands of protesters marching in Canada, Australia, Morocco, France, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, the US, India and more, I kept asking myself who would ever want to call herself a "slut" – a term used to describe irredeemable women, the slovenly, those who enjoy "too much" sex, with too many partners – a term used disproportionately about women of colour and the working class.
No, my initial instinct was to reject this term. Nice girls like myself have been taught being slut is a social death sentence – that no nice boy will marry you; no nice girls will be your friend.
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But the more I thought about it, the more I see how this word needs to be challenged. How it is used to keep women in line.
Step outside the bounds of traditional femininity and you are labelled a "slut". Do you voice your opinion too loudly, draw too much attention to yourself or are you too successful in your career? You must be a slut! Do you challenge male authority? Slut!
One in four women will experience some form of sexual assault in her lifetime. Who, therefore, does not know someone affected by this crime?
More worrying, how many of these victims are afraid to report this crime, feeling ashamed for believing (or being told) they brought their assault on themselves.
For some, they are told their clothing is to blame (Studies have shown "modest" clothing does not prevent rape).
For others, it would be for staying out "too late" – as if there is a curfew before which rape does not occur! As one rape survivor stated, such views are down to a collective denial: "Don't blame the men. Blame the thongs and the women who wear them."
In order to challenge common rape myths, end victim-blaming and to teach men not to rape, rather than teaching women how to not get raped, I will proudly call myself a "slut" today and march with other supporters.
Kaitlynn Mendes is a feminist and senior lecturer in journalism at De Montfort University. She is author of Feminism in the News, and is writing a book on Slutwalk in the media.