‘Sluts’ to strut their stuff

Image courtesy Freerangestock.com (Greyson Ferguson)

Image courtesy Freerangestock.com (Greyson Ferguson)

On the face of it, synonyms for the word slut begin harmlessly enough. Tramp. Floozy. Hussy. Then the aggression comes. Hooker. Harlot. Prostitute. Whore. And that’s just in the dictionary.

In an effort to combat this perception, SlutWalk Johannesburg is gearing up for its third annual event on 28 September at Zoo Lake. Cape Town and Durban are also joining in the global protest which began when a Canadian police officer said women should stop dressing like sluts if they wanted to avoid being raped.

SlutWalk Johannesburg organiser Karmilla Pillay-Siokos said her involvement began when she read Binnelander actress and rape survivor Sandi Schultz’s story.

“I had to know more about her and her organisation. There were tears streaming down my face while I read about her ordeal, and my 10-year-old daughter wanted to know what was going on,” said Pillay-Siokos.

“Talking to her about my rape was the most difficult conversation I have ever had. She wanted to do the walk with me and came up with her own slogan, ‘I was made with love, not force’.”

It was Schultz’s performance at the inaugural SlutWalk which broke down Pillay-Siokos’s walls: “I released guilt I didn’t even know I had been holding on to for nearly 20 years. I was not to blame for somebody else’s actions. It didn’t matter that I drank and smoked ‘like a man’, how I dressed.

“It didn’t matter that I was alone with him. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t a stranger in the bushes. It didn’t matter that I didn’t fight hard enough. None of it mattered.”

All that mattered was that Pillay-Siokos had said no and he did not listen. “He didn’t stop when I tried to push him off. That is what defined it as rape.”

When she realised her ordeal wasn’t her fault, she decided to do what she could to help not just rape survivors, but all of society to understand that the victim is never to blame.

“Last year my daughter and I were marshals together. This year I am on the planning committee and have joined the International Community of SlutWalk organisers. We managed to have France and South Africa doing it on the same day and next year we will try for an International SlutWalk day.”

In April this year, the Medical Research Council found that a woman is killed by her intimate partner in South Africa every six hours.

“This is the highest rate (8.8 per 100 000 female population 14 years and older) that has ever been reported in research anywhere in the world,” said the report.

Walter Pike is also a SlutWalk organiser and said that many men take part in the actual protest and their involvement was pivotal to the success of spreading the walk’s message.

“Rape jokes should be receiving the same disgust as the ‘k’ word. Rape and slut naming is a problem of society, and not of gender,” said Pike.

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