The SlutWalk marches over its critics


From left to right: Annalena Eckton, Suqi Soleil, Taylor Allen, Lizzie Thompson, Anne Thorton

By Sunflower Rangel, Copy Editor

Beginning a bit before 1 p.m. on Sept. 20, people of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, ages, sizes, and abilities gathered on the Salmon Park block patiently awaiting the beginning of SlutWalk Portland 2015.

You may be wondering what SlutWalk is and why it’s called that. The story starts on Jan. 24, 2011 when Toronto Police were giving a demonstration on crime prevention at the York University campus. While on the topic of campus rape and sexual assault, constable Michael Sanguinetti said, “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Three months later, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis organized the first ever SlutWalk to bring attention to rape, sexual assault/violence, victim blaming, and the misconceptions surrounding these topics. Four years have passed and the SlutWalk movement has now spread into the U.S. and become an international campaign with walks in the United Kingdom, multiple Latin American countries, Singapore, India, and South Korea. Back here in Portland, Elle Stranger, Sterling Clark and Jillian Eyerman were the main organizers of the event.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of SlutWalk is the attire. People come dressed in anything that could be called “slutty,” but more important, whatever they feel comfortable in. This could be a full outfit, just undergarments, topless, or completely nude. It just depends on the person.

When Elle Stanger began her opening speech, she was fully clothed. “We know that we will be judged by what we look like before we open our mouths…We are treated by the way we look all the time and that is a problem regardless of who you are. I actually had no idea what I was going to wear [today]… . I decided two days ago, when I was walking, on the phone with my mother, carrying a bag of sandwiches, and I was made to feel pretty unsafe by a couple men in a car in my neighborhood, in broad daylight. I was wearing this,” she said as she stepped to the side for everyone to see her outfit: a long sleeve bodycon dress, a cropped vest, leggings, and boots.

Stranger continued, “As you can see, I am 90 percent covered. The only thing I am grateful for is [that] this time, I was not walking with my small daughter… . And that is my point. I’m never ‘asking for it.’ Whether I’m riding on a bus or walking down the street or driving in my car or breastfeeding in a library, I’m never ‘asking for it.’ Whether I’m 90 percent covered or naked or in a swimsuit. And that’s what SlutWalk means to me. It never matters what I’m wearing when I’m harassed, I just know that it shouldn’t happen… . To me, SlutWalk is about personal safety, because that is something we all deserve… . We here today know that [Sanguinetti] is wrong, so the hell with it.” On that note, Stranger grabbed the hem of her dress and pulled it up over her head, along with the vest. In front of this crowd of hundreds, she is now an icon of self-confidence and comfort, as she heroically stands at the mic, completely topless. As the audience cheered, she jokingly thanked her plastic surgeon and then the activists for attending the event.

After a few more quick speeches from the organizers and supporting organizations/businesses, the march began. The massive amount of supporters filled the streets and the walk led them in an oval shaped loop through some prominent streets of downtown Portland, including Madison, Main, and Broadway, right in front of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and finally back to the Salmon Park block. This mass of loud, chanting, half-naked people with poignant signs definitely drew some attention. Sadly, not enough for local news stations to cover it, but enough for the radio station 95.5 to post a video on their Instagram wondering what the march was about. As many people stopped to watch the activists march, they heard the chants aimed to describe the situation. Those marching yelled out in unison slogans such as, “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no!” and “Two, four, six, eight! No more violence, no more hate!” These chants and two others were shouted by the participants throughout the entirety of the Walk.

Once back to the Park Blocks, Gabriella Cordova, a representative from Sex-Positive Portland (one of the SlutWalk sponsors) led the crowd in exercises of how to kindly ask someone’s permission to touch them. This could be a simple hug, handholding or more sexual advances. The participants also practiced how to kindly refuse the proposal and how to accept the refusal. After this exercise and some more thank you’s from the organizers, the attendees dispersed.

The event meant something different to everyone there. Stranger posted on her Facebook account about how one woman who attended wore the same outfit that she wore the day she was drugged and raped. It was a very empowering event to those in attendance. With the large amount of support this year, it is hoped the event will draw a larger crowd next year and the message will reach and affect even more people.