SlutWalk 2016 took to the streets in Tucson on Nov. 19 to challenge rape culture, victim blaming and sexual violence with a resource fair, march and to speak out. A crowd marched from the Women’s Plaza of Honor on the UA campus to Fourth Avenue with the help of various Women’s Resource Center groups.
SlutWalk was created in 2011 in Toronto, Canada after police announced women could reduce the risk of sexual assault by not dressing like “sluts.” SlutWalk has since spread around the world as a feminist protest and movement to argue sexuality and promiscuity are human rights to be embraced, not rejected.
Lili Steffen, a sociology and German student and the community outreach coordinator for the Feminists Organized to Resist, Create, Change and Empower group on campus, made opening remarks in the Women’s Plaza of Honor moments before the march to explain what the protesters hope to communicate to the community with SlutWalk.
“SlutWalk is a rally, march, protest and movement aimed to make visible the prevalence of victim blaming, rape culture, street harassment and sexual violence,” Steffen said. “To address these issues, we as feminists insist that this is a movement that holds zero tolerance for sexism, classism, racism, ableism, fat phobia, homophobia, transphobia or any other general forms of hatred.”
Steffen said the people participating in SlutWalk wanted to reclaim the word “slut,” disassociating it from a derogatory connotation and instead using it as a term of taking pride in one’s sexuality.
After these opening remarks, the march toward Café Passé began with protesters chanting, “It’s a dress, not a yes,” and, “No more shaming, no more blaming.”
Two keynote speakers, Adiba Nelson and Kati Standefer, opened the speak out portion of the event at Café Passé. Nelson is an activist and body-positivity blogger and Standefer is a sexologist, teacher and sexuality writer.
Nelson spoke first and said she was 13 years old the first time she was referred to as a “slut.”
“An article of clothing cannot make you a slut, promiscuous, a hoe, “thot” or ratchet anymore than wearing a diamond-encrusted cross can make you a Christian,” Nelson said. “It is high time we make people responsible for themselves rather than carrying the fragility of their ego and sex drive in our purse for safekeeping. Today, we give you back your body and empower you to reclaim it as your own. In the name of body autonomy, today and every day, your body is yours.”
Standefer took the stage next and started by sharing her personal story as a rape victim. She said she believes stories like hers have unfortunately become more normal to hear.
“I’m here tonight because there’s no logical sequence of events that leads to rape,” Standefer said. “This story should not be normal, but it’s normal for us. It’s normal in this society.”
Jeanett Dalhoumi, a family studies junior, was one of the speakers who volunteered to share a personal story at the speak out after the keynote speakers. She wore jeans and a loose-fitting jacket, and stated it was the outfit she wore on the night she was assaulted seven years ago at age 19.
Dalhoumi said she wanted to show people what she was wearing when she was attacked to try to disprove any assault or rape victim is “asking for it” by wearing certain clothing.
She said her attacker hit her from behind while she was walking home, choked her and forced himself on her before finally attempting to kill her. Dalhoumi said her attacker is now incarcerated, but she was assaulted again two years ago by a different man.
“To the people out here: If you’ve been through something traumatic and you’re still mending and you’re still dealing with this like it’s fresh, I’ve been there and I know how it is,” Dalhoumi said. “I’m really sorry and I validate everything you are going through.”
Dalhoumi said she wants assault or rape victims to speak up about their experiences even when there might be other people discouraging them to do so.
“Don’t ever stop fighting because you doubt that people will believe you,” Dalhoumi said.
UA alumnus Michael Webb is a prevention specialist at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, and also made remarks on stage at the speak out.
“To the men here: Spend more time investing in getting to know the experiences in the lives of women and girls,” Webb said.
Shevonda Joyner, an education junior and a member of FORCE, helped lead the protesters in chants before and during their march.
“We’re not going to stand for disrespect or invalidation of our own rights,” Joyner said. “We are here and we’re not going to leave.”
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