When growing up, it is easy for one to absorb almost everything that society has to offer. We listen to certain words and we give it a specific meaning. At the beginning, we don’t really question what is around us- we take is as it is, as our parents and teachers explain it and in most cases, we just don’t think about it again.
But I do remember the moment I heard the word ‘’slut’’ for the first time.
When I was in 6th grade, there was this girl in my class who, as I remember it, kissed a lot of boys. She would take them behind one of the school buildings and just kiss them. As a naïve kid in the realm of romance, I remember having a conversation with my friends about that unknown ritual taking place.
‘’My mother actually told me that she is a slut’’ said one of my friends. ‘’She shouldn’t be kissing all those boys’’ said another one. ‘’Why?’’ I remember asking ‘’because girls don’t do that’’.
‘’Girls don’t do that’’.
I can still remember the voice of the girl who uttered these words to me. In this simple sentence, we can see that girls (and boys as well) grow up with extremely strict cultural and social markers of what they can/should do and what they can’t/shouldn’t do. That evening I asked my mum what a slut was, to which she answered that it was the same as a prostitute. I was confused, thinking how that boy-kissing-girl looked nothing like (what I imagined at the time) a prostitute. And the conversation went no further than ‘’if you want to kiss boys you just marry one and kiss that one for life’’.
I wish I could go back in time and tell that little girl that none of those social markers matter- just do what you, and you alone, is okay with.
The word slut is nowhere far from controversy. It is a word used to describe ‘’a women that has many sexual partners’’. The origin of the word stands a bit unclear but funny enough, the first recorded use of the word ‘’slut’’ was in reference to a man, in Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales, in which he is referring to the man’s untidy and dirty appearance. Nevertheless, the word transformed itself, gained another meaning and was then used to describe a women’s sexual activity. Classy.
Slut-shamming is a phenomenon that took the constructed meaning of the word slut and made it soar trough the sky. It implies that women are supposed to be these angelical creatures that are pure- and by pure, I mean they don’t sleep with TOO many men. It can also happen when women strongly defy society’s rules- dress with cleavage and short skirts and display their sexuality. Slut-shamming can have many forms, but its core problem is the underlying assumption that women do certain things to attract men. That women wear those cleavages and short skirts to be sexual for men. That our bodies are temples of sin and that the only worshipers should be men and not ourselves.
In Rotterdam, 84% of women have experienced harassment and are not happy about walking the streets on their own during certain hours of the day. 1 in 3 women in the whole European Union (EU) is going to experience sexual harassment. Still in the EU, almost one in two victims of sexual and/or physical violence (47 %) have not disclosed the incident to anyone.
I could go on.
I could write about all the statistics I have read and all the women I have spoken with. All the girls that have shared with me horrible situations in which they felt that it was all their fault. In which they felt there was no other choice but to stay silent and put up with it. And even though I believe it is every women’s right to chose what to do if something happens to them, we will not be silent about it. We will not let it slide. And we will speak up twice as loud for those who feel like they have no voice.
This slut walk, here between our own city borders, will be a reminder that women can do anything.
We are going through deep changes in the Netherlands and in the world. But we need to make sure that this dogmatic mentality of ‘’girls don’t do that’’ is fought not only at a policy level, but at a sociocultural level as well. Feminism, the idea that there can be gender equality, is for everyone- regardless of their sexuality, gender, non-gender, religion, ideology or beliefs.
The boys and men of Rotterdam are also essential to this action- toxic masculinity is a big catalyst of sexual misconduct towards women and rape culture. However, when showing signs of femininity, men and boys can also be frowned upon by this society who prides human biology rather than human soul or spirit. This slut walk is for you too.
The innate conviction that our bodies belong to us and us alone, should be universal.
In the beginning of its creation, KONTRA’s goals were to trigger communal individualism and question the mainstream culture. We want our readers, artists, musicians, friends, neighbours, partners, to join us on this quest.
Let’s trigger communal individualism by sending a clear message throughout the streets of Rotterdam, that harassment is wrong, uncalled for and disrespectful to those who suffer from it.
Let’s question the mainstream cultural meaning of the word ‘’slut’’, break it down and build something beautiful and empowering to replace its meaning.
Let’s march together on the 9th of March and make this slut walk a powerful experience with an even more powerful message.
Let’s rebel together against sexism.
But most importantly, let’s make this women’s day a celebration of womxnhood and equality for ALL of us here in Rotterdam.