PROVOCATIVE: SlutWalk aims to debunk the myth that women invite rape by the way they dress. Picture: GREG WOOD/AFP
The SlutWalk campaign, aimed at exposing the myth that women invite rape by the way they dress, is coming to South Africa with SlutWalk marches set to be held simultaneously in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town on August 20.
“We have decided to bring this initiative to South Africa through the Jes Foord Foundation, which helps survivors of all forms of abuse and rape, as women should not be victimised because of what they wear.
“There is a great public response and people are keen to get involved in order to fight rape of women in our country,” said the foundation’s marketing manager, Justin Beer.
The SlutWalk rallies were triggered in response to a comment by Const Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto police officer, that to remain safe, “women should avoid dressing like sluts”. His comments elicited indignation from women across the world, especially those who had been victims of rape. And so the SlutWalk campaign was born.
It takes the form of a march, mainly by young women, with some dressing in ordinary clothing and others deliberately dressing provocatively, like sluts. It also holds meetings and workshops.
The Durban march will be led by foundation patron Jes Foord. She is a rape survivor and well-known public and motivational speaker, who told The New Age: “I was wearing shorts and a bikini during a day out by the dam when I was attacked. We live in a hot climate and women should be allowed to feel comfortable when they are wearing shorts and costumes. I also believe girls should be allowed to wear clothing that makes them feel sexy, without having to fear being assaulted or raped.”
“Any campaign that seeks to stop rape in this country must be welcomed. We want to create a society that respects women regardless of what they wear,” said Sonke Gender Justice Network media spokesperson, Mbuyiselo Botha.
Whether the campaign will take off in South Africa as well as it did in Western countries like Canada is another matter.
Some local rape survivors and gender activists find the term SlutWalk distasteful and provocative. “I don’t have a problem with this initiative but I think their slogan is wrong. Why do they have to call it ‘slut’ walk? I wouldn’t like to refer to other rape survivors as sluts because the word is offensive,” said rape survivor Andile Carelse.
Other objectors have taken issue with the SlutWalk approach as an example of women defining their sexuality in male terms.