Portland SlutWalk 2015

This Sunday, September 20th is Portland’s annual SlutWalk. What is SlutWalk you may ask? Check out this Q&A with two local activists who are passionately involved in putting together this amazing event.
What is the purpose of the event?
ELLE: I like to think that we are creating a safe(r) space, and bringing attention to the issue of rape culture. The word “Slut” can bring such a visceral reaction in some folks; I’ve seen people cringe just because of it. And why? The word itself means nothing; it is an intangible, a construct.
STERLING: This event is meant to raise awareness around sexualized violence, victim-blaming, slut- shaming, and rape culture in general. Our society is littered with rape apologists and micro aggressions towards women who dress provocatively, speak their minds, drink alone, walk alone, are at all openly sexual; the list goes on and on. One thing I hope, is that as we start having these very important conversations, I’d like to see it become either illegal or taboo to ever have a legal official ask a victim/survivor was wearing during a rape, sexual assault, or molestation, or of for it to be brought up during legal proceedings. The honest goodness truth is that what a person is wearing while assaulted has literally nothing to do with why they were assaulted, and to imply that it does relieves the attacker of some of the responsibility. My dream is that this will change.

How did you come up with the name?
Sterling: SlutWalk is a trans-national movement that started in 2011 in Toronto when a member of the police force, during a seminar on campus safety, suggested to a group of college students that, verbatim, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to prevent getting raped”. Those couple of people were rightly outraged and created a movement with these quite flippant name that ended up spreading like wildfire, country to country, city to city- so to answer your question, we didn’t name it, we took it upon ourselves to make sure that Portland has a SlutWalk too. Why was it named this? My take is that I think many are interested in reclaiming the word so it can’t be used to hurt women any more. I think many are interested in drawing attention to how outrageous it is to pass off sexual abuse to “slutty” people as ok. Too many valid, tender, human beings who happened to be wearing you know, maybe a mini skirt, have been told by authority figures that they were asking for it after being assaulted, and I think we’re tired of it, we’re outraged. A name like this certainly gets peoples attention.
Elle: The name was coined due to it’s origins, in 2011 Toronto police Constable Michael Sanguinetti was giving a talk to about a dozen college students, where he made the now-infamous statement, “women could avoid being raped if they would stop dressing like sluts.” Those words resonated with those people, and set the stage for a movement.
What kinds of people come?

Sterling: This event is open to anybody who feels drawn to participate. This is for the whole community. We have had people of all genders, races, ages, sizes, abilities, sexual orientations, you name it! We actually tend to have a pretty diverse crowd!
Elle: Women, men, young people, old people, trans people, queer people, and families have brought their children. If you’re surprised by that, you shouldn’t be, it’s a much more positive environment than an anti Planned Parenthood protest, I see people with their kids out there all the time, holding misinformation about abstinence and abortion. And because ALL WOMEN will experience harassment in their lifetime, it makes sense that we educate our children to the realities of the world.
What happens at Slutwalk?
Elle: In previous years, we had guest speakers, a march, and an after-party. This year’s after-party will be at Dante’s from 4-6.pm.
Sterling: We start at the meeting spot, mingle and build up a crowd, usually either myself or Elle or a volunteer will pass out fliers with chants on them so everybody will have an idea of what to chant as we march through Portland. Once we have a good sized crowd we will have a couple speakers, and then commence with the actual walking part of SlutWalk! In past years we have dispersed at the ending spot, but this year, we will be having a bit of mingling, hanging out, an interactive tutorial on boundaries, we might even all hold hands and sing kumbaya! I’m kidding about that last part…. or am I?
What kind of obstacles have you faced, if any?
Elle: Most advertisers won’t take us on. Our flyers get torn down. The organizers and supporters have gotten hate mail and threats. These reactions remind us of how much work we have to do, and why we are doing it.

Sterling: The word “Slut” is rejected by many, even if being used in a different context. We’ve received hate mail, people have publicly posted lies about us, promotional posters get torn down, advertisers won’t take us on, and, it can be difficult to find sponsors so that we can actually pay for the permits and everything.
How can we support the movement?
Sterling: Let victims and survivors speak, if they so choose. Call out bigotry, racism, ableism, misogyny, misandry, and trans phobia, when you see it. Realize and remind people that the words “slut” and “skank” are not insults, but hate speech.
Elle: And of course, attend our demonstration and march on September 20th, at the PSU Park Blocks at SW Salmon, 1p.m.