Slutwalk Minneapolis Seeks Cultural Change

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from Minneapolis Slutwalk October 3, 2011 - photo by Diana Rajchel

In early October, over 700 women, men and children marched over Hennepin Avenue and Stone Arch Bridges to protest attitudes toward sexual violence in dominant culture. The march, labeled “Slutwalk,” was prompted by Toronto police officer Michael Sanguinetti’s statement that women should “avoid dressing like sluts” to avoid sexual assault. The first march took place in Toronto last April, with women dressed in their most provocative attire. Slutwalk has since become an international movement. Marches have happened in cities across the world, including Minneapolis, New York, Melbourne Australia, Delhi and London.

The choice of the word “slut” is controversial, with some feminists objecting to its use as a term people use to subjugate and shame women. A 2009 sociological study also suggests that using words with negative connotations in an attempt to reclaim them does not effectively destigmatize them and can actually reinforce the associated stigma. While aware of these objections, Slutwalk organizers have chosen to retain the term for its attention-getting power.

photo by Diana Rajchel

At Minneapolis Slutwalk men and women wore clothing that ran the gamut from high heels to hijab. One woman wore baggy jeans and a sweatshirt, while carrying a sign that said, “This is what I was raped in. Was I asking for it?”

The organizers for Minneapolis Slutwalk ran into a few roadblocks early in the process, facing fundraising challenges in order to pay for permits and equipment rental from the Minneapolis Park Board. Individual donations came through at the last minute, with local supporters sending funds via PayPal and merchandising T-shirts and sweatshirts with “Do not remove without consent under penalty of law.” Slutwalk also received support from the National Organization for Women and Alexandra House.

There were no confrontational incidents at the Minneapolis march, and Slutwalk volunteers report that the Minneapolis Park police appear ready to welcome the march back next year.

Minneapolis Slutwalk is a 501c3 organization that will not stop at a single protest. The board plans to become an organization that educates law enforcement and lawyers about handling victims of rape. Organizers also plan to approach free clinics that serve youth with support and information. “The walk will be a celebration of all we’ve done,” says Slutwalk executive director Kim Sherra.

The organization will hold a fundraiser in January or February of 2012 called “SlutFreeze,” that will host bellydancers, burlesque troupes and other performers at Ground Zero nightclub. A silent auction is scheduled in summer of 2012. The organization also plans to host Town Hall forums to hear concerns from the public and receive ideas from potential participants, as well as hosting open mic nights four times a year, inviting supporters to share thoughts and experiences. The organization currently seeks volunteers, especially for fundraising.

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