The rapidly growing phenomenon tries to counter the widespread myth that by wearing a miniskirt women jeopardise their own safety.

“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here…women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”

These were the words of a Toronto policeman, speaking to a group of university students on the topic of personal safety.

I hope this particular law enforcement official doesn’t think I’m beating around the bush if I advise him to wear a protective cup to avoid some truly immense pain when I place my knee, located well below the hemline of my ‘slutty’ miniskirt, between his legs and drive upwards, hard. I’m sure that’s a sentiment shared by anyone who buys into the radical notion that, just maybe, victims of sexual assault are never to blame.

But however much we might all support revolutionary justice being dished out to sexist police officers spewing misogynistic body-policing, woman-shaming bullshit, the sad truth is that some well-deserved revenge against a particularly scummy individual doesn’t really do the trick. Not in a society where this kind of rhetoric is not only regularly trotted out, but validated by courts of law. Not in a society where the spectacle of women victims of rape being cross-examined about their sexual history is all too common. Not in a society where, according to a recent University of London-wide study, one third of students think a woman dressed ‘provocatively’ should bear at least some of the blame if they’re sexually assaulted. To defeat this kind of institutionalised sexism, we need to take to the streets.

Enter SlutWalk, the rapidly growing phenomenon that does just that – it gets angry women and men marching to counter the pervasive myth that wearing a miniskirt negates your right to personal safety and bodily integrity. Called in response to the Toronto police’s vile comments, the SlutWalk Toronto march pulled 3,000 people out onto the streets.

The decision to brand the march ‘SlutWalk’ has inevitably stirred some controversy and there are, clearly, problems with attempting to reclaim a word so heavily steeped in misogyny, which has been used persistently to shame, degrade and devalue women, and to delineate acceptable fashion choices in a world where women’s bodies and dress have a disproportionate political impact.

Let’s jump back across the globe for just a minute to France, where women who make the conscious choice to cover up by wearing the niqab have been painted as oppressed, in need of saving. Women are bookended in between conservative sexism and rampant Islamophobia. Between ‘put it away!’ and ‘get it out!’. In this context, it becomes clear that women should avoid appropriating the language of an oppressive system that attempts to control our bodies and circumscribe our dress.

Interestingly, however, the SlutWalk Toronto participants interpreted the organisers’ call to “wear your sluttiest clothes” in a noticeably more diverse way. Women turned out in jeans and micro-skirts, bodycon dresses and knitted jumpers, maxi-skirts and t-shirts, fishnets and wooly tights – and it is in this diversity that a real challenge to the ‘slut myth’ begins to emerge.

The truth is, women are raped – one in four of us in a lifetime – regardless of our dress, regardless of our behaviour. The majority of women who are raped are subjected to it by a partner, friend, family member or a person previously known to them – not a seedy stranger in a dark alley. To talk of ‘sluts’ is to attempt to draw a line between deserving and undeserving rape victims.

Rather than attempting to reclaim the language of misogyny, the SlutWalk phenomenon can pose a direct challenge to it. A huge diversity of women, men and trans people marching under the banner of SlutWalk ridicules the term ‘slut’, makes it devoid of meaning. It questions what it means to be ‘slutty’ and tears down the barriers between women that our sexist society attempts to erect.

So make sure you’re on the streets on 11th June for SlutWalk London. At 1pm, thousands will rally in Trafalgar Square to protest against sexism, rape and victim-blaming. Reject a society that values you by the length of your hemline, and demand proper funding for rape crisis centres rather than the cheap outsourcing of responsibility to the victims.