Clothes as a scapegoat- the real issues of Slutwalk Chicago 2012

Clothes as a scapegoat- the real issues of Slutwalk Chicago 2012

It's Friday night. I'm waiting for my ride to the pub with 3 of my best friends. I'm wearing jean shorts, a top, and combat boots. Of course, my father narrows his eyes, telling me my shorts are too short and I should go change. It's not me that worries him, he says, it's other people.

I've dealt with this philosophy since I was old enough to dress myself. Why should my fashion decisions have to be questioned because of other people who will potentially hurt me? Why am I told I'm doing something wrong, that I should have to fear people? Why do women get lectured about what to wear, when they aren't the problem? Why aren't MEN being told not to sexually assault women instead?

Being a self-proclaimed fashionista and someone who pays attention to stylish trends, I'm constantly self-conscious about what I'm wearing. I know what I like and I know what's trending on the runways. Thigh high socks and tights that are made to look like garters are in right now, and I love wearing them! Instead of uncomfortable jeans, I'd rather wear tall socks with a dress. The outfit is instantly looked at as “skanky.” Just because of socks.

Obviously there are bigger issues here than just clothes. We're talking victim blaming, the question of consent, etc. Clothes, often seen as the domain of women, are being used as the scapegoat for what is ultimately a men's issue. 99% of people who rape are men. Instead of teaching men to control themselves, women are being taught that they should prevent sexual assault by dressing modestly as not to tempt men. Tell that to the 29% of children who were assaulted between 12-17 years of age and the 12% under 12 years.

Saturday's Slutwalk 2012 was a chance for women to gather in protest of the myth that a woman is asking to be sexually assaulted by what she is wearing. When I showed up at the Thompson Center with a friend, I instantly was surrounded by people who dress like me. Dr. Martens were the overwhelming shoe choice and there were tights and thigh highs everywhere. It was a great display of current fashion, something that my conservative mother surely would turn her nose up at.

Besides those who showed up dressed up as they normally would, there were some brave souls who chose to wear corsets, midriff-bearing tops, and sky-high pumps. Some men who showed up (and there were a handful!) dropped their trousers without shame, strutting around in just boxers.

Passers-by stopped and stared at the congregation of scantily clad women (and men). That simple act explains the entire mission of Slutwalk. We should be able to wear whatever we want without being harassed, or disgustingly common, raped.

The point of Slutwalk is to enforce the truth that those who experience sexual assault are never at fault. Too often are rape victims blamed because of the clothing they were wearing, that they were asking for it because they were wearing a short skirt or a low neck top. Once again, they're missing the point. The real issue is that rape is NEVER okay in any circumstance, no matter what the victim is wearing.

Need a simple way of understanding Slutwalk's stance on sexual assault? Here are a few phrases from signs carried on Saturday:

“No outfit says 'Rape me.'”

“What I'm wearing has nothing to do with consent.”

“Clothes don't cause rape... Rapists do.”

“I was ten, was I asking for it then?”

“Modesty did not protect me from rape.”

“I reserve the right to dress as I like.”

“My dress is not a 'yes.'”

Our society teaches 'Don't get raped' instead of 'Don't rape.'”

Check out Slutwalk Chicago's Facebook page for more information and stay tuned for the gallery of outfits and signs I'll be posting later this week!


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  • Yes I understand the point of article no one should be raped the way you dress.
    But if you take a look a hooker she has been dressing this way for thousands of years in less clothing a certain way to get customers. Now the way ladies dress a person can not tell the diffrenence anymore so when guys ask you do not be offended they have no way of telling who is who. But what is the real reason you dress this way? You say to make you feel good. How is this affirmed by people saying you look good. So you do want attention brought to you to confirm you look good. But when it is bad attention IE Raped, The wrong (UGLY) guys says something to you like hits on you you say what are you looking at or someone makes a crude joke you say it's my right to dress this way. But if the hot guy hits on you or people say you look good you are affirmed by the way you dressed.

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    BHII - a "hooker" gives consent in exchange for money. Hitting on someone and raping someone are very different, you seem to equate the two. Rape is Rape - regardless of how the person is dressed. If there's no consent then it's RAPE! Period!

  • In reply to John Turkovich:

    Yes rape is rape I understand its bad it will happen no matter how you are dressed. If the person that is doing the raping he may pick the person that is dressed a little more slutty then the normal dressed person because it maybe more of a turn on. Either way whoever he chooses SUCKS. So to you when you go to bad area of town do make sure you go in the day time when its crowed and walk around or you go at night and walk around when less people are out. All Im saying is to dress away to protect yourself from it happing.
    I dont agree with the Idea well the way she dressed she had it coming to her thats wrong by all standards.

  • Last statement on this you need to blame Hollywood for this also. In a movie / TV show or whatever. When a plain jane girl wants a hot boy they always Vamp her up so the boy notices her(makes her look slutty) By skimpy mini skirt and bare drift showing and the High Heels . Its always Jane WOW you look hot you cleaned up well. When the normal boy want the hot girl all they do is put him in nicer clothes like designer name and change his look.
    Not hot skimpy shorts and him showing his middle of his stomach off. Also in those shows the other girls start caslling her all types of names & the boy either tells his friends he slept with her or she is raped.
    Males are raised to be the Alpha over women over the entire world history.
    So when have world history and Hollywood showing movies where women are objects now even women are sleeping around like guys in tv shows and magazines selling sex to men to buy the products. Men are being more aggressive in thier views of what women should be like & it is not for the Good.The facts suck also as the Econ has gone bad more women have turned to strip clubs & hookers to make money.Also if you go to sites like Chive you have hundreds of women sending in pics of them with no bras on or pics of thier middle of the legs for mind the gap or women sending in provactive pics of being bored at work.
    Women are pushing the men sex drive higher then normal. If you read the post guys say all kind of stuff on site over the top.

  • In reply to BHII:

    The above proves that sex sells even here in the age of AIDS. But the real legacy of the abuse of women is that it makes it much harder for decent, well-intentioned men to get dates. The innocence is gone forever so it seems, although there may not be any more incidents than there ever was, but there certainly is so much more exposure than there was in the past. The issue needs to come to the fore the way that the drunk driving issue has. But well-adjusted men can look at pictures and admire beautiful women without the temptation to foce himself onto someone. The eveildoers of the world tend to ruin things for the rest of us. Before being put to death Ted Bundy was quoted as saying that the influence of lurid pronography led him to do what he did.

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    Amy, thank you so much for your honest discussion of the issues behind SlutWalk and rape culture. I cannot believe some of the ignorant, offensive responses received so far, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. *sigh*

    I have one request: the fifth sign slogan you have listed was "Modesty did not protect me from rape," not modestly. Could you or a Chicago Now editor please correct that?

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    Nobody cares about this...

  • In reply to Clybourn Porkins:

    Then why are you commenting? Just because you aren't intelligent enough to understand the issue doesn't mean nobody cares.

    God. I hate lame people.

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    Victims are never to blame, however, putting yourself in a stupid situation is just plain dumb. For example:

    Going to an all-black neighborhood (doesn't matter the crime rate)and shouting the n-word at every passerby. You have a right to ANY speech whatsoever, but, what do you think will happen to you if you do this? You will most likely be assaulted and possibly beaten to death.


    Riding the CTA in high-crime neighborhoods lavishly displaying a fat wallet and the latest iPhone. You have the right to go ANYWHERE, but, what do you think is going to happen to you? You'll most likely be robbed and possibly beaten, if not to death.

    I believe that people should be responsible for putting themselves in dumb situations. Blame is one thing, putting yourself in a stupid situation is another. If you dress provocatively and drink like a sailor, you will most likely be assaulted.

    PS -- I fail to see the correlation behind the assault of a ten-year old and the assault of a drunken sorority sister in thigh highs...

  • Interesting story, interesting comments.

  • The accepted legal school refutation is the "money hanging out of pants". If an assailant sees the money hanging out of your back pocket, he is just a guilty as if he mugged you first without knowing how much money you had, perhaps even more culpable for victim selectivity. lawyers jump in.

    Of course, all the legal philosophy in the world does not help the fact that rape is an act of violence, and subjective allure has very little to do with the selection of juvenile victims, incest crime, rape as a tool of terror, etc. Men have to take their peers to serious task whenever the merest objectifying speech (llok at her XYZ body parts,,,,) and each instance of verbal battery or retraining behavior (boyfriend wont let go of date's hand even for a moment if she wants to leave), any implied threats.

    Of all this is rooted in the family, or the lack of good fathering, or no father....and the media - devaluing any woman without a certain look, certain clothes, participating in in the glamour cult.

    Society is also becoming aware of a long hidden crime of clergy abuse in every religion - in foster care - in the workplace, the military, etc.

    Most of the victims are women, and some are men, as I just found out. The reasons given by the perpetrator may vary ever so slightly, but the roots are the same - extremely low sub-basement levels of self-esteem by the perpetrator, no role modeling, and a mass media that is culpable in the extreme as abettors.

    We need more women and men in law enforcement, in the legal profession, in the legislature, and in executive leadership - because the fastest way to change behavior is to hit the bad boys in the wallet.

  • Really? I have never left a comment to an article like, but I feel compelled to respond to this one. Amy writes about these rapists as if they are just regular people that need to learn not to be turned on by sexily dressed women. Rapists are sick. They are not just 'guys' that need to be told to calm down and control themselves. They are not subject to reason. There is something fundamentally wrong with them. So, while I agree that it sucks if you can't wear what you want to wear. And perhaps you can change public perception that it's not the scantily clad woman's *fault*, that she got raped. Does any of that really matter after she has been raped? Does it really matter to the post-rape female after this horrible violation has occurred? No one ever deserves to get raped, but those who rape are out there. Its not *fair* that rapists may prey on those who are dressed provocatively. Its not *fair* that rapists rape ANYONE. My point is that you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself.

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    In reply to lory:

    um wow. no. actually, because of the way rape is conceptualized in our culture, and because men are socialized to believe they are entitled to women's bodies, the default is to think like a rapist. rapists aren't just "sick" people. 85-90% of sexual assaults reported by college women are perpetrated by someone known to the victim. and YES, it does actually matter that the victim not be blamed for a crime committed against her/him! they've been raped, and now the whole world is telling them they asked for it because of what they were wearing? how do you think that would feel? not to mention the institutional support for this idea; police often don't do anything about reported rapes. in fact, it has been reported that thousands of sexual assault and rape reports have gone completely uninvestigated by police, and categorized as "non-crime." you said, "you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself." would you say the same thing about murder? robbery? how can everyone constantly protect themselves from crimes that could potentially be committed against them? people are raped in their homes, it doesn't matter what they're wearing or what environment they're in. the ACTUAL problem here is how society and institutions are conceptualizing crime. rape is blamed on the victim, while murder and robbery are blamed on the perpetrator. you are merely spitting back out what rape culture has engrained in society's beliefs: that the victim is at fault for rape, rather than the rapist.

  • Why do women get lectured about what to wear, when they aren't the problem? Why aren't MEN being told not to sexually assault women instead?

    You don't understand. You're dad was right. Would you wave a piece of raw meat in front of a wild lion who hasn't eaten in 7 days, and say "he needs to show respect to me"? No you wouldn't.

    That's how "MEN" are who sexually assault a woman. They're animals - no, they're worse than animals. They're evil monsters.

  • The only reason slut fashion works is because it is provacative. perhaps some of us need to dig deeper to understand what it that word means. Lust it up!

  • Great post. I don't know how the "entrapment" argument ever made its way into rape.

    I think it needs to get posted down in St. Louis. Missouri and Afghanistan are about equally female friendly.

  • Rape is wrong period.

    Now that I got that sentence out of the way I just want to add how much I appreciate a beautiful woman dressed in a way my Grandmother would disprove of. Women in short skirts/shorts make my ride on the L much more enjoyable.

    With that said, RAPE IS WRONG. In fact any form of assault is wrong especially on anyone weaker than you.

  • This event will serve to make everyone feel good about themselves and the message will reach and be understood by exactly zero percent of the people it is intended to reach. The event will have exactly zero percent effect on the rate of sexual assaults. Have fun.

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    Wow, some of these comments are asinine. Real winners, these guys. Amy, your article is awesome (but you already know that!) What many of these commenters don't seem to understand is the ass-backwards double standard that women are subjected to. We're told to dress sexy to please men, and then we're punished for dressing "too sexy" when we're assaulted. We're told to dress sexy and work on our appearance, and then called sluts for doing those things. We're given long lists of ways to avoid being raped, and then we're blamed for being raped because we failed to be constantly doing every single one of those strategies. Those long lists do nothing but ingrain an intense fear of being attacked. We're taught to be polite and never say no, and we're not taken seriously when we do say no. We're taught that our bodies are not ours; instead, our bodies are supposed to function as an object (that MUST meet men's beauty ideals) to be ogled (without our permission), touched (without our permission), disrespected, abused, and destroyed. And then we're not supposed to be furious about that. This is why cisgender men shouldn't even be commenting on this - they will never understand what it's like to be a woman in this society.

  • I fully agree with Amy, that women are not to blame. However, I steadfastly defend any man's right to tactfully look at women. This includes those modestly or scantily dressed, or those choosing to go nude on a beach. Women DO look at men! Female reporters do much "guy watching", in men's locker rooms, and why not? If a guy chooses to go uncovered, he is giving the female reporters tacit approval to look. Look they will; this is a normal girl thing! He is showing security in their presence, by not covering up.
    Most men are able to "control themselves". However, no woman should expect us guys to deny our heterosexuality!
    On another point, asking someone out, as a gentleman (or lady), is not "hitting on them"; it is part of the courtship ritual.

  • If you want to see women dress like sluts, watch the Fox News Channel.

    But, getting back to the topic, As a guy, i am allowed to gawk at women wearing the tiniest of skirts.... and it stops right there.

    Women can't give the "omigawd I'm wearing this tiny little dress and i can't believe guys are looking at me" look.

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