What made news was what happened 10 weeks later, when a thousand people hit the streets of downtown Toronto in a "slut walk". That was surprising, but not as surprising as what happened next. Within days, all over North America, in Britain and even in Australia, women came together to organise slut walks of their own. Throughout the English-speaking world, it seems there are hordes of women prepared to sashay round the streets provocatively dressed, making a defiant display of their inner slut.
The mind police were not amused. The most sanctimonious of our newspapers solemnly intoned that "women need to take to the streets to condemn violence, but not for the right to be called 'slut' ". But it was not heeded. The women and men who are set to prance the streets of dozens of cities in underwear and fetish gear for weeks to come will be taking liberties. That's where liberation begins. Slut-walkers are apt to say that the purpose of their action is to "reclaim the word". It's difficult, probably impossible, to reclaim a word that has always been an insult.
And yet here are women spontaneously deciding to adopt it.
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Before we decide that thousands of our sisters are simply stupid or misguided, an attempt must be made to understand what's going on. The slut walk manifesto states: "Historically, the term 'slut' has carried a predominantly negative association. Aimed at those who were sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label.
We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality…". A little knowledge here misleads. Historically, the primary attribute of a slut is not promiscuity but dirt. The word denotes a "woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern". A now obsolete meaning connects it with a kitchen maid, whose life was lived in soot and grease.
She was too dirty to be allowed above stairs, but drudged out her painful life scraping pans and riddling ash, for 16 hours a day, and then retreated to her squalid lodging where hot water could not be had. The corner she left unswept was the slut corner; the fluff that collected under the furniture was a slut ball.
About the author. Sinead O'Carroll. See more articles by Sinead O'Carroll. Contribute to this story: Send a Correction. Read next:. Your Email. Recipient's Email.
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True liberation is women wearing what they like and abandoning the Hoover.
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