SlutWalk marches into Sacramento

SlutWalk Sacramento and Take Back The Night Rally & March start at 5:30 p.m. in the Sacramento Native American Health Center Parking Lot at 2020 J Street. For more information, visit
and http://sactakeback


I’ve been called that once or twice in my life (more specifically: back in high school, that bustling petri dish for lifelong anxieties), but these days it’s hardly an “insult” that offends me.

At least not on a personal level.

On a political level, however, I find the term pathetic.

Typically, the four-letter word comes as the sort of uninformed verbal slur that says more about the person who uses it than it does its intended target.

It’s a word that often speaks volumes about gender politics—how we view men and women and their place (and identity) in society.

And now, like the word “bitch” before it, some feminists are looking to reclaim the term, claiming that its continued use isn’t just misinformed but also a threat to women’s safety.

In recent months women all over the world have staged “SlutWalks” to protest the word’s implications. The first SlutWalk happened in April in Toronto after a police officer, speaking during a York University campus panel on safety, advised that women shouldn’t “dress like sluts” if they wished to protect themselves against sexual assault.

Because if you dress like a slut—whatever that means—then you’re obviously asking for it.

The university formally reprimanded the officer, who eventually apologized, but two students took the complaint further, launching SlutWalk as a 3,000 person protest against the politics of victim blaming, slut shaming and antiquated sexual politics.

In the months since, there have been numerous similarly styled SlutWalks across the world—from Texas to Florida, Massachusetts to Mexico and South Africa to India.

Now, SlutWalk marches into Sacramento this Saturday, October 8, as part of the 2011 Take Back the Night Rally.

Co-organizer Stephanie Isaac, a Sacramento resident who volunteers as a sexual assault/domestic violence peer counselor, sees SlutWalk as a way to educate people on the politics of the word.

The need for such an education, she says, has become only clearer as she and other organizers have promoted the event.

“When we first started promoting [SlutWalk Sacramento] on Facebook, I was astounded by the amount of ignorance out there surrounding sexual-assault issues,” Isaac says. “I would get heckled with [instant messages from] people trying to inform me sexual assault occurs because of an evolutionary need.”

Others, she adds, protested the SlutWalk ethos, insisting there was a direct correlation between so-called “modest dress” and one’s vulnerability to attack. Critics argued, Isaac says, that “we needed to use common sense … how would we change anything? Why are we encouraging people to be ‘slutty?’ No matter what, comment, after comment I heard themes of victim blaming.”

Historically, the word “slut” dates back to the Middle Ages and was originally used as an insult to describe someone who was dirty or slovenly. Its usage expanded to denote someone with loose morals; today it’s a verbal slight that can, in effect, act as judge, jury and executioner.

So while some may find the term “slutwalk” off-putting, Isaac says, that just makes it all the more important.

“SlutWalk is sensationalized and thought provoking, offensive, attention grabbing … but if you take a deeper look you’d understand why the event has such an offensive title,” Isaac says.

“We’re not encouraging anyone to be ‘slutty,’” she says. “We need to reject the word’s power by confronting it head on.”