Stop the Shame Game

SlutWalk Demo Struts Through Montreal

  • Photos Laura Beeston

Scantily-clad solidarity ruled the day as between 400 and 1000 folks came out for Montreal’s version of the now-global SlutWalk phenomenon on May 29.

Championing more than simply the reclamation of the word “slut,” organizers of Sunday’s event—which included sex worker advocacy and outreach group Stella Montreal, the PolitiQ queer solidarity collective and local burlesque troupe Glam Gam Productions—stated support for transsexual and sex workers’ rights, calling for an end to rape, sex shaming and victim blaming.

“There’s never an excuse for sexual violence,” said Julie Paquet, one of the SlutWalk organizers from Glam Gam. “We’re not telling people to walk under the banner of ‘slut’ if they don’t feel comfortable with the word, or to dress a certain way, or to use the term if it makes them feel bad. But we are saying that you shouldn’t be attacked based on what you wear, what your life choices are, for your profession, or based on your gender presentation or sexuality.”

Paquet explained that the burlesque troupe decided to get involved after they heard about the Toronto version of the event that was held in April, because SlutWalk really struck a chord with their performers who have experienced harassment and unwelcome touching on the job. “But once we got the ball rolling,” explained Paquet, “we realized how big it was and other questions and problems kept coming up from this one word. This [effort] is now much bigger than [reclaiming] the word ‘slut.’”

As the march progressed, the number of self-proclaimed sluts swelled, as members of the pleasantly surprised downtown crowd joined in. One woman watching from the sidelines was even inspired to disrobe. Stella organizer Emilie Laliberté said that she was very happy about the level of respect and positivity that emanated from the event.

Originally sparked after Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti said, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized” at a York University safety forum, SlutWalk is a happening that has since taken off all over Canada, the United States, as well as in the United Kingdom and Australia.

The diverse crowd at Montreal’s SlutWalk included folks of all ages and orientations. A significant number of men came out for the cause as well, holding signs reading “Rapists Cause Rape” and “Real Men Don’t Rape.”

“This is not only a women’s issue, and [this turnout] is showing that it’s not about the gender binary anymore,” said SlutWalk organizer Michael McCarthy. “Transgender people are some of the folks who face the most sex-related violence, so we’re all standing here in solidarity today. We want it to be a march against violence and discrimination, and as the movement gets bigger, we’ve realized that [taking back the word “slut”] has opened up a lot of other related issues.”

To learn more or get involved with the sex-empowered folks from the SlutWalk, find the group on Facebook or visit chezstella.org

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