Hundreds march in Seattle 'Slutwalk'

Jun 20, 2011

Hundreds of women in skimpy outfits – plunging necklines and the shortest of shorts – disregarded the overcast 60 degree weather on Sunday and marched down the streets of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The march was part of a series of "SlutWalks" taking place this spring and summer in which scantily-clad women, and some men, take to the streets. They say they're protesting a culture in which the victim of a sexual assault is blamed, rather than the perpetrator.

Protester Monica Thomas explained why she came out for the walk.

"I don't believe that how a woman dresses dictates whether or not a woman wants to be raped. No one wants to be raped. And no one deserves to be treated like that.”

SlutWalks began in April when a Toronto police officer suggested women should "avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized." He was talking to a small group of law students, but that comment incited an international movement. So far, thousands of protesters have participated in demonstrations in Ottawa, Dallas, Boston, London and several other cities.

From afar, the protest could be mistaken for a Mardi Gras celebration, but behind the garter belts and bustiers are stories like Jessi Murray's.

"I was a nerd. Never been kissed," she said.

Murray is one of the organizers of the Seattle SlutWalk. She said on her 18th birthday, she visited MIT as an accepted student.

"I had recently lost some weight...I wasn't used to the idea of guys being into me. And it happened that I was assaulted that night. And I ended up blaming myself and I thought, I must be a slut," she says.

Murray says this march is for women like her, who were shamed into feeling responsible for their own abuse. She said it's about reclaiming the word "slut."

"Along the lines of how a guy might refer to himself like 'I'm a stud,' a woman never says she's a stud. For some people, it's a really uncomfortable term, and it's one we need to take the negative power away from.”

But there are some people who are a bit uneasy with some elements of the protest movement. Catherine Sharpe is one of many women at the rally who are uncomfortable with "I'm a Slut" protest signs and general chest-beating on display.

"I still have mixed feelings about the way some people are dressing up. It seems like an excuse to just dress slutty and I don't know how I feel about that.”

She's dressed in a hoodie, jeans and sneakers. There was a topless 22-year-old in pasties nearby.

"But then again," Sharpe said, "I am kind of mad at myself for thinking that, because I really do think women should be able to wear whatever they want to, whenever they want to. And it's never an excuse for sexual assault or harassment."

In all, there are 81 SlutWalk chapters around the globe. Their Facebook pages are full of personal stories and encouragement. The next SlutWalk is scheduled for June 25 in Detroit.