"SlutWalk" comes to South Africa, where rape is on the rise

In a country in which more than 55,000 rapes and sexual assaults were reported from 2009 to 2010 alone, some 2,000 protesters marched the streets of Cape Town to contest the notion that what women wear might play into their victimization. The Washington Post reports:

Women draped sexy lingerie over their street clothes as they marched through Cape Town on Saturday, bringing an international campaign against the notion that a woman’s appearance can excuse attacks to a country where rape is seen as a national crisis.

Some 2,000 protesters walked a route where fans partied during last year’s football World Cup. Men joined in, some of them wearing miniskirts in solidarity. Some protesters pushed their children in strollers and carried signs declaring, “Rapists rape people, not outfits,” and “Weak men rape.” …

“SlutWalks” originated in Toronto, Canada, where they were sparked by a police officer’s remark that women could avoid being raped by not dressing like “sluts.”

One of the walkers said it was important for women to know their dignity “should not be taken away from them.” Yes, but it’s also important that women carry themselves with dignity in the first place — and that, I’m sorry to say, means adopting a modicum of modesty. I pity the poor police officer who tried to speak truth and instead sparked an international campaign to excuse women from taking any responsibility at all for the situations in which they place themselves. The police officer was not excusing rape — and neither am I. It is never, never OK. Nor is it ever, ever deserved: The rapist is always the perpetrator, the victim always the victim. But he was pointing out the obvious — that by taking care to dress in a self-respecting manner and by not putting themselves in potentially compromising situations, women reduce the likelihood that they will be that victim in the first place.

As a college coed, I sat through my fair share of women’s safety lectures. No presenter ever wanted to say it, but it had to be acknowledged as true: No way a girl who stays in her secured dorm room or heads to the local movie theater with friends on a Friday night runs the same risk of date rape as a girl who dances on the tables or falls down drunk at a college kegger. That’s just common sense.

On a separate but related note, the “SlutWalk” phenomenon troubles me for another reason. The bald-faced use of terms once universally accepted as offensive has become too common. Anti-rape activists aren’t the only women who have taken to referring to themselves with labels that suggest they have little to contribute to the community other than brazen sex appeal. Young girls, too, have hijacked formerly disparaging terms and held them hostage in desperate pleas for attention. Facebook walls are plastered with girl-to-girl messages that use these terms affectionately. Women do themselves a disservice when, instead of outright rejecting the use of insulting language, they try to redeem it by using it themselves. Regardless of who uses it, disgusting language is just that – disgusting. Why not a “Walk Like a Lady” anti-rape demonstration?