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Hundreds United as One for Slutwalk Chicago

By aaroncynic in News on Jun 6, 2011 4:00PM

“My original sign was going to say 'it's my birthday and I shouldn't have to be here.”

That's what Elizabeth, a marcher from the Western suburbs told me when I spoke with her about why she decided to come to the Thompson Center on Saturday and participate in the first ever Slutwalk Chicago. Like Elizabeth, hundreds of others who rallied downtown over the weekend shared the same sentiment - it's ridiculous to believe a victim of sexual assault or violence could be somehow at fault for the crime. Unfortunately, blaming victims of sexual assault set the first Slutwalk in motion, when a representative for the Toronto Police service said “"Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized.”

Thankfully, some good can come out of bad statements, and Slutwalk Chicago turned plenty of heads towards a more positive direction. Demonstrators jubilantly snaked through the sidewalks and the streets of the loop to remind the world that no in fact, does mean no, consent is sexy and the pervasiveness of sexual violence damages everyone.

Women and men, queer and straight, old and young, fashioned in everything from regular casual attire or homemade t-shirts with slogans to bikinis or more outrageous outfits not only marched to dispell myths about rape and sexual assault, but to address the much larger issue of rape culture in America. After heading to Daley Plaza at the end of the walk, various speakers not only gave personal accounts of their experiences with sexual assault, but highlighted the connections between race, class, gender and sexual violence.

While an event like Slutwalk might be an incredibly positive, eye-opening and progressive response to address rape culture in America, plenty of walkers reminded me how far we have to go. When I asked Hollyn, a woman who counsels victims of abuse, if America has made progress in the past few decades, she said "I think we've made a little progress but we have a long way to go. The fact that we have to do this, that news media still gets it wrong… ‘oh those poor guys who raped that girl - they're being blamed by this girl who's a slut, who's out to get them. They couldn't possibly have done that this girl's out to get them somehow.’ I find it surprising and unfortunate but I'm glad we have Slutwalk and that it's caught on.