In Kingston’s first-ever SlutWalk, 100 women and men marched in an effort to combat sexual assault and a culture of victim-blaming.
“The word ‘slut’ has been used to take away our power, to take away our liberty, to take away respect from others, to take away respect from ourselves … to attach negativity and liability where they do not belong,” co-organizer Jessica Sinclair told the crowd.
On March 9, participants walked around Barrie, Princess and Clergy Streets and back to City Park.
The SlutWalk movement was sparked after comments were made by Toronto police officer Michael Sanguinetti at York University on Jan. 24, 2011.
According to a Feb. 17 story in the Toronto Sun last year, the officer reportedly said that female students shouldn’t dress like ‘sluts’ to avoid sexual assault.
SlutWalks are a protest against this mentality and have occurred all over the world since last year. Participants are encouraged to dress however they want, often choosing to wear high-heels, tube tops and shorts. The cold weather on March 9 meant most participants were bundled up.
The group chanted in unison as they marched, “Hey hey, ho ho, rape culture has to go.”
Sinclair told the Journal that SlutWalk Kingston was a collaborative effort between the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP), Education on Gender Issues (EGI) and the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society Women’s Empowerment Committee.
The name SlutWalk has been controversial. Critics are uncomfortable with the word ‘slut’ as a term of empowerment, Sinclair said.
“What people are missing is that there are so many messages in SlutWalk,” she said. “If people do not feel like they identify with that word then in the future it might be a good idea to change the name.”
Though SlutWalk aims to raise awareness about violence against women in particular, men are encouraged to participate as well.
“This march isn’t about hating men but it’s about joining together with men,” she said. “Men are our allies and there is a difference between men and rapists.”
There was a small but vocal group of about five men at the protest. Angus McCutcheon, ArtSci ’14, was one of them.
“Nobody takes it seriously if a woman sexually assaults a man because he is supposed to like it,” he said. “This movement means that nobody is okay with that kind of treatment. We want to advance as humanity, not as genders.”
Sean McDonald is a St. Lawrence College student in police foundations, a program that provides training for a career as an officer. He marched in the Kingston SlutWalk and said the lack of police officers at the protest was disappointing.
“[The SlutWalk is] a good thing that they should be part of,” he said.
McDonald said he wanted protesters and bystanders to recognize that comments made by officer Sanguinetti last year were a reflection of the individual and don’t represent police as a whole.
“I’m taught that no matter what power you have to never show a bias,” McDonald said. “That police officer was totally out of line.