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Does labelling ourselves 'sluts' really help the fight against sexist attitudes?

The word 'slut' is a forceful one. Originally it was a derogatory, anti-female word.

Like 'whore' and 'tramp', it was a negative word for women, mostly used by men to demean and subjugate them.

But the word is now being embraced by women involved in the so-called Slutwalk, on its way to Dublin.


The Slutwalks are worldwide movements and protests arranged to oppose what the organisers call 'slut shaming' and to challenge beliefs and perceptions that what a woman wears might in any way suggest that she might 'be asking for it' or could have dressed in a way to prevent a sexual attack.

As in, the responsibility to prevent sex attacks in some way lies with the victim, as opposed to the attacker or rapist.

Calling the marches 'Slutwalks' was brave if nothing else.

And an excellent marketing strategy; controversial and headline grabbing.

I guess the women organising the Slutwalk are trying to reclaim the word 'slut', decontaminate it, make it something other than it currently is.


Perhaps in the same way as the gay community has made the word 'queer' their own.

But the word 'slut' to me is anti-female. It's an irredeemable, repugnant word and not possible to reclaim.

Not all women are comfortable calling themselves 'sluts'.

I know the organisers want to ultimately make calling someone a 'slut', a ludicrous, moronic insult. In other words, if we women use the word ourselves again and again, we will remove its power to degrade.

But using this word means much of the focus of this march will be on it and whether or not it's appropriate to use rather than on the message the organisers are trying to get through.

It's a message the Rape Crisis Network has has been trying to hammer home for years. In 2001 a survey found that 47pc of Irish men and 34pc of women agreed that 'the reason most rapists commit rape is overwhelming sexual desire'.

But rape has nothing to do with sex or provocative clothing -- it's about power and degradation. Nuns, Muslim women in burqas, elderly women, women wearing pyjamas, duffle coats and trousers have all been victims of violent rapes.


A visit to some online forums confirms that some Neanderthals think your dress code as a woman suggests your availability and readiness for sex.

But, if you're unable to control a so-called animal instinct, may I suggest that like an animal, you should be locked in a cage. Dressing in a short skirt or low-cut top does not equal 'I would like to be sexually assaulted'.

I do hope that the message that what you wear doesn't mean you were asking to be raped, isn't lost in the controversy surrounding the word 'slut'.

If that happens, the protest will be undermined at best and utterly fruitless at worst.