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Sluts on Parade in Burlington 

Published September 23, 2011 at 1:42 p.m.

No, really. The title is true. Sluts in fact will be on parade in Burlington. At noon on Saturday, self-professed sluts, slut-lovers and friends of sluts will be taking a stand on Church Street against rape-victim-blaming and other crimes against women. The first annual SlutWalk is part of a global movement to draw attention to various women's issues (really humanity's issues) by taking back the word "slut" and empowering the ladies.

Quick history on SlutWalks: Back in April, a Toronto police officer told a class of college students that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." Obviously, this pissed off a lot of ladies and from their ire sprang the SlutWalk concept. They decided to march in solidarity to decry the notion that some women bring sexual violence on themselves and to protest slut-shaming and victim-blaming. As the organizers of the first march wrote, women “are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result…. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work.”

Since the Toronto rally, which drew thousands of participants — many dressed in little more than some lacy skivvies — the movement has spread to more than 70 cities across the globe. SlutWalks have taken place in London, Sydney, Sao Paolo and New Delhi. In the U.S., there have been marches in Chicago, Denver, Boston and Seattle. And now little Burlington, Vt., can join in the fun. 

The Burlington SlutWalk is being organized by a new group called Fed Up Vermont, whose mission is to defend women's reproductive rights, to end violence against women and to fight for workplace equality, says Matt Kimball, one of group's P.R. point people. (Sidebar — it's a little weird talking to a dude about ladyrights and SlutWalking. But cool that he's on board.) Fed Up Vermont has also been active in investigating CareNet, a Burlington pregnancy center that the group claims is anti-abortion. And they also organized a rally in July for women's reproductive rights. The SlutWalk was spearheaded by UVM student Abigail Graves, who had participated in the Boston iteration. 

While Fed Up Vermont's core organizing group is about 10 strong, they anticipate at least 300 people taking part in the SlutWalk, says Tristin Adie, another Fed Up organizer. More than 600 people RSVPed on Facebook. Some of those SlutWalkers will include local college sorority sisters, who are putting in an appearance and racking up some community service for their broader sistern. Sigma Delta Slut! 

As with other SlutWalks, Saturday's march will have a big, ol' whiff of "Fuck you!" about it. "Every SlutWalk has a tremendous air of defiance to it," Adie says. "It's people saying 'I'm out here and I get to do whatever I want.'" Though not everyone will be doing it in their unmentionables; Adie intends on marching in a sweatshirt and jeans, a sartorial combo that seems more suited to the PrudeStroll than the SlutWalk. 

Unsurprisingly, the SlutWalk movement has drawn criticism for its costumed protests. Most notably, writer Rebecca Traister in the New York Times Magazine, gave the concept a serious dressing down, calling it clumsy and confusing. She wrote:

I understand that SlutWalkers want to drain the s-word of its misogynistic venom and correct the idea it conveys: that a woman who takes a variety of sexual partners or who presents herself in an alluring way is somehow morally bankrupt and asking to be hit on, assaulted or raped... .To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women. Scantily clad marching seems weirdly blind to the race, class and body-image issues that usually (rightly) obsess young feminists and seems inhospitable to scads of women who, for various reasons, might not feel it logical or comfortable to express their revulsion at victim-blaming by donning bustiers.

Adie and Kimball say they understand that not everyone is going to appreciate the approach. But, they note, the walks have sparked conversations about sexual violence and sexual freedom that might not have occurred otherwise. "It's focused more attention on the problem," Adie says. "It's clearly touched a nerve."

Photos via creatrixtiara on Flickr. 

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Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2011.

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