BLOGPOST: It’s time to break out the big guns

The greatest thing I learned from my mother is how to stand up for myself. She is tiny but don’t let that fool you. She is fierce. Since I was a small child, I have seen her turn snarky, rude, unflinching and determined customer service reps, teachers who treated me poorly, and anyone else she deemed to be acting disrespectful into shivering wrecks, completely willing to do for her whatever she so rightly deserved and do so politely and apologetically. And I don’t think I haven’t done so myself on occasion. Don’t get me wrong—she taught me to use a little honey first but if that doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to break out the big guns.

So when Sonya asked me if I was interested in doing a little research for what she and Heather were calling SlutWalk and explained to me what exactly it was all about, I absolutely said yes. I rolled up my sleeves, channelled my grad school research experience, and I did whatever research they required to get the event up and running, for our general knowledge, Toronto Police policies, read Jane Doe’s book, etc. I uploaded relevant videos onto our youtube channel. It then became apparent that we were gaining some media attention, so I took on adding media mentions to the website. Other Canadian cities heard about our initiative and requested to hold their own Walks in solidarity. We were honoured and excited that they would take up our cause.

During the event, I gave out SLUT buttons (in exchange for a $1 donation to cover our out-of-pocket expenses) amongst the crowd and met a good amount of our supporters. I listened to our amazing speakers and felt an awesome electricity in the air. Without realizing that I was an organizer, people told me how much the event and movement had affected them and how thankful they were that this safer space had been created for them and how good it felt to know that they were not alone. Before and afterwards, we received email after email from people who courageously shared their personal stories of rape and assault survival—some of which hadn’t even yet told any of their friends or family. It was emotional, to say the least. There were days when I had to take breaks from working on SlutWalk research because I couldn’t stop crying. For my own personal reasons and for these people who felt safe enough to tell us what had happened to them. We received emails from people who wanted to share their epiphanies of their own slut-shaming and victim-blaming behaviours and how we had helped them to see the error of their ways. We even received emails from some of those who had opposed our event and made that VERY clear on our facebook wall. They told us that they had either attended the event out of curiosity or read blogs and articles about it or had seen television or youtube coverage of it and had changed their minds.

After SlutWalk Toronto happened, and we had gained quite a bit more press, we were inundated with emails from people in cities all across North America requesting to organize their own SlutWalk. It was mind-blowing. And still is. And so now I find myself with the title of SlutWalk Toronto Satellite Liaison. I assist those who wish to organize a SlutWalk in their city and we are currently supporting over 70 SlutWalks worldwide. I think this is proof enough in and of itself that what we are doing is needed and wanted and, most importantly, valid. Are we perfect? HELL NO! I don’t think we ever said we were. Do we want to make the world a better place? HELL YES!! Of course we do! And we are learning and adapting every day through open dialogue and communication. We welcome constructive criticism. We want to do and be the best we possibly can. We strive to educate and know that the only way to do so is to remain open to new ideas and methods for positive change.

So those who oppose SlutWalk can do so until they’re blue in face. They can engage in circular arguments and tell us why they think what they have to say is better than what we have to say, and so on. They can even continue to make (sometimes very false) assumptions as to who we are and what SlutWalk stands for. I could really care less. Because, as far as I’m concerned, actions speak louder than words. SlutWalk may not be perfect. But at least we’re out there doing something. And if we have improved even one  person’s life (and I know that we have), I’d say we’re doing something right.