Shameless Promenade flaunts name change

Name of SlutWalk changed to respond to criticism over whether women of colour could relate to “slut”

Marchers protest rape culture at the Shameless Promenade, formerly known as SlutWalk.
Marchers protest rape culture at the Shameless Promenade, formerly known as SlutWalk.

The fourth annual Kingston SlutWalk celebrated its birthday with a name change — to the Shameless Promenade.

The Kingston SlutWalk began in 2012, but the first SlutWalk took place in Toronto as a response to a local police officer saying in January 2011 that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” in order to prevent sexual assault. The march’s purpose is to combat victim-blaming and rape culture and advocate against sexual assault.

This year’s event, which took place Sunday afternoon, began with an hour-long open mic and was followed by the march through campus and the streets of Kingston.

Sexy Queen’s U — which will also undergo a name change next year, becoming Awareness for Sexual Assault Prevention, or ASAP — organized the march, which began and ended in City Park.

Approximately two dozen people attended, which organizer Montana Hauser attributed to the cold weather rather than to the name change.

“We actually had a higher attendance on Facebook this year, more people shared it,” said Hauser, ArtSci ’15. “It’s just a cold day, so I think that’s what’s deterring people.”

Hauser, who originally got involved with SlutWalk two years ago, said this year’s event went better than the last — previous SlutWalks were plagued by problems with speaker equipment and generator failure, something the Promenade avoided this year.

The open mic also had more speakers this year, something Hauser also saw as successful.

“Being able to go out on campus, and being able to chant our chants and say what we need to say, is going to get more people to come out next year as well, because now they know what we’re known as and they know what we do.”

The name was changed from SlutWalk to the Shameless Promenade in an effort to be more inclusive and intersectional, Hauser said.

Since SlutWalk began, there have been criticisms that the name excludes women of colour. Black Women’s Blueprint published an open letter in the fall of 2011 stating that black women can’t call themselves sluts without reinforcing stereotypes that sexualize them, and that “slut” has different associations for black women than it does for white women.

“There’s some problematic aspects of the word SlutWalk, specifically that not everyone can relate to the term slut or being called a slut, and so there’s racial connotations, there’s gender connotations, sexual connotations with that type of term,” Hauser said.

“So in an effort to try and make this more intersectional, more inclusive, those types of things, I decided to change the name to make it something original.”

This is a shift from Kingston SlutWalk’s first year. At the time, co-organizer Jessica Sinclair told The Journal there’d been criticism about using the word “slut” as a word of empowerment, but critics were missing the “many messages” in SlutWalk.

She added that if people didn’t identify with that word, the name could be changed in the future.

Because the Kingston SlutWalk wasn’t directly affiliated with SlutWalk Toronto or any other SlutWalks, this gave Hauser the freedom to change the march’s name.

“We have the ability to be able to change the name and make this into something bigger so it doesn’t just become about white, straight women who affiliate with the word slut, but it becomes about everyone that can relate to these issues and these types of situations,” Hauser said.

Ellen MacAskill, a third-year exchange student from Scotland, told the Journal via email that she approved of the name change.

“The re-branding of the Slutwalk this year to its new name made it feel like a more inclusive protest against all forms of violence — violence against all marginalized people, as well as the violence inherent in the systems of patriarchy which justify misogyny,” she said.

“It’s so important for us to remember that bodies on the street [have] a whole level of impact above online campaigns.”

Despite the low turnout, she said, the march was “energizing”.

“The turnout could always be better,” MacAskill added, “but even five people shouting on the street is better than nothing.”

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