Lizi Gray, one of the organisers of SlutWalk Newcastle, reports on Saturday’s event.

Newcastle SlutWalk

Newcastle’s first SlutWalk saw around 200 women and men gathered at the city’s Grey’s Monument on Saturday. The phenomenon started in Toronto, Canada, after police officer Michael Sanguinetti made the careless comment he had been advised against making: “girls, if you don’t want to get attacked, don’t dress like sluts”.

Although it was stressed that people should dress however they like – and despite fairly grim weather – many turned up in mini-skirts and stockings, to make their stance that women should have the right to dress however they like and feel safe wherever they go. The march set off, led by the banner reading “Feminism: back by popular demand” to the sound of the chant “whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!” and the slightly more tongue-twisting “a dress is not a yes, men of quality respect women’s’ equality”.

We marched to the Bigg Market, known for the typical Friday night in Newcastle, where women often find themselves harassed for how they dress. The march preceded along Mosley Street and up Grey Street, then we headed along the main shopping street in Newcastle, Northumberland Street, where all eyes were on our marchers. “Slag, slut, stupid whore; we won’t take it anymore!”

Contrary to some accounts – like the Guardian’s article about Newcastle SlutWalk – the aim of SlutWalk is not wholly about reclaiming the word ‘slut’. It’s unfair that men who sleep around get the name ‘stud’ and ‘player’, praised by their mates, where women get the more derogatory term ‘slut’ and are made to feel ashamed for expressing their sexuality. Women are encouraged to use such terms against each other, giving men even more of a reason to put them down in the same way.

Feminsim Back by Popular demandBut the message we wanted to stress is simple: no means no! Rape and sexual assault are unacceptable by anybody, no matter what the situation: women who dress ‘provocatively’, women who have been drinking or flirting, or those who work in the sex industry.

One study with university students in London, from their student union newspaper, said one third of students still believe the woman is partly or fully to blame for her assault if she is dressed ‘provocatively’ or if she has been drinking. With attitudes like this still existing it is clear action is needed to combat such views. Victims already have it difficult enough without society blaming them for being attacked.