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!