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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Portland Slutwalk Says It's Not Really About Sluts

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 11:29 AM

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By now, you've probably heard the gossip about the Portland Slutwalk. I heard a lady talking loudly about it on the 14 bus yesterday, actually, telling her friend about how all these people are going to dress up slutty and walk through downtown Portland this Sunday to protest... something.

The Slutwalk started last winter in Toronto after a police officer told a group of law students that women should avoid being raped by "not dressing like sluts". Over 1,000 people then took to the streets, marching in slutty outfits.

But Portland's organizers see this Sunday's event a bit differently. I talked with organizer Sophia St. James about what she's expecting.

MERCURY: Is the gist of this that a lot of people are going to dress in sort of "slut costumes" and march through the streets?
SOPHIA ST JAMES: That's not what it's about. I know that's the misconception, however it's not about dressing slutty and walking down the street. It's about saying no matter what we wear, where we go, what we look like, we have a right to be safe. One of the first things that's asked about rape victims is, 'What where they wearing? Where were they at?' It doesn't matter. If someone was wearing a mini-skirt because she wanted to have fun, that doesn't mean it's her fault if she is raped.

If it's not about being slutty or about walking, why call it a Slutwalk?
It's something to grab your attention, to make you say, "Oh my God, what is that?" It's also to reclaim a derogatory word. ... The name does throw people off, but the organizing and the passion behind it is what will make this event a success.

Why did you decide to organize one of these events for Portland specifically?
Rape culture is a problem everywhere. Especially in Portland, we're really making an effort for our event to be all inclusive. Not just women, but all people who have become victims of rape culture are welcome to march.

Are people asking you what they should wear? How to dress "slutty"?
We've been getting a lot of questions about what should we wear, and we say dress how you feel comfortable, dress however you want. We're expecting to see a lot of pasties and stilettos, but we're also expecting to see jeans. We're hoping it will be a march against rape culture versus a parade of revealing clothing.

Are you nervous that there will bunch of onlookers who catcall and jeer the crowd?
We're definitely nervous because you never know how many people are going to counter protest. Howeve, we're working with Portland police to plan the event and we're expecting, but no encouraging, the cat calls and inappropriate behavior. That's part of what we're protesting against, that just because someone's dressing revealing, it doesn't mean they're dressing that way for you.

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