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Cheering SlutWalk's rallying cry for sex abuse victims, if not the costumes that go with it

You know you're conflicted when the very name of a big, bold public rally makes you uncomfortable, even when you wholeheartedly support what they came to say.

Which I suppose is, at least in part, the point of "SlutWalk."

At 11 a.m. today, women, and also men and children, are expected to gather in downtown Tampa for a show of strength, a shout back at anyone who would blame a victim of sexual violence because of how she looked, how she acted, where she was or what she wore.

And who doesn't get that?

The movement caught fire earlier this year after a Toronto police officer opined at a college safety forum that women should "avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." That was January 2011, not 1951. Sigh.

Then there's the methodology. Given previous rallies, many participants will likely show up in bras, bustiers, short shorts, minis and fishnets, an in-your-face way to protest blaming the victim. To borrow from another pay-attention campaign, the message seems along the lines of: We're Here, Even If You Can See Up To Here, Get Used To It.

This makes me think of all the years my mother hammered home the idea that women are so much more than their sexuality — a concept that maybe the young women who gather today can take for granted. And that's a good thing.

But still, I am conflicted on SlutWalk.

It should go without saying that the message is important to say and a no-brainer to embrace, that it is admirable that people care enough to come together for it. Of course no one "deserves" it. Of course no means no. You would think we were way past that. The words of a Toronto cop, the latest date rape or campus assault, show we are not.

I sat through not a few rape trials as a reporter, and more than once it was clear potential jurors being questioned would have preferred the victims be nuns. Sometimes, the harshest judges of those victims were women.

I get the sharp, in-your-face intent of women carrying signs that say "BECAUSE I WORE THIS I DESERVED IT?" and I get neutering the word "slut."

But they say new wave feminism, and I see potential for old-fashioned exploitation. I think of unrealistic body images nearly every girl I have ever known, myself included, struggled with. And it bothers me some that this statement has to be made in skimpywear.

Then again, if they all wore jeans and T-shirts to the protest, would anyone pay attention? Point SlutWalk.

Charli Solis is a graphic designer, college student and local organizer, someone who got mad when she heard the cop's ignorant take. She seems to be a person to make a mother proud.

She talks about her generation being "empowered by the fact that we can own our own sexuality and do what we want with our own sexuality." She says it's more than putting on lingerie to make the point, that it's mocking the absurdity of the idea that certain women don't count.

I get mocking absurdity, even wedged here between my mother's generation of fighting objectification and the current one, celebrating all they are. When they parade in Tampa today, I'll applaud their spirit, if not their spiked heels.

Cheering SlutWalk's rallying cry for sex abuse victims, if not the costumes that go with it 09/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 17, 2011 12:28pm]
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