A struggle that’s going strong

October 8, 2012

OVER 400 people gathered at the State of Illinois building and City Hall in downtown Chicago September 29 to continue the movement against slut-shaming and sexism. With a more diverse crowd than last year and just as many perspectives, the speakers and protesters at the event were united in saying that a fighting movement is needed to combat the war on women's bodies.

SlutWalk is still going strong more than a year after Toronto police officer Michael Sanguinetti infamously advised female college students that women "should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." In fact, Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin's statements about "legitimate rape," along with the multitude of anti-women legislation in states and at the national level, have given the movement continuing urgency.

"I hate not being able to wear whatever I want," said marcher Liz Sheridan. "When I was 13 or 14 years old, I would wear mini-skirts and get hit on by grown men, and my own parents told me it was because of how I dressed, and not because of society's assumptions about women and sexuality. I have been a survivor of multiple sexual attacks, and I feel that others like me are the people who need to be involved. We know what's up. It's our experiences."

Those who attended and spoke at the protest shared an understanding that sexism and sexual violence are integral aspects of the oppression of women. There were sex workers who spoke about treatment on the job and demands for change. Members of the LGBT community talked about specialized violence and threats.

Other speakers included members from abortion fund networks, rape survivor advocacy agencies, students and political organizations, all of whom kept the event rooted in reality and the need for change throughout society.

Another participant, Caitlin Halstead said, "For me, not only is it about obvious social and governmental issues. It's about women and our bodies. It is also a healing experience to be near so many other survivors and people who support survivors and people who love us and feel that we're not victims. I think that's a very important distinction to make."

The question remains: how does this generation build the new women's rights movement?

Events like SlutWalk shed light on avenues of organization and protest that directly confront sexism and misogyny in a way that also broadens the scope of activity beyond just one method of addressing the symptoms. Not only are rape survivor advocacy groups a part of this conversation, but sex workers and abortion rights groups are as well. The queer community was also vitally connected and raised issues around transphobia and violence.

This is a kind of event that weaves together issues like health care equality, sexual violence, the rights of sex workers, anti-harassment issues and queer rights into a dialogue about fighting back.

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