Slut Walk London on Sept. 22 (Getty Images )
SLUT. It is an ugly little word we've seen pop up with increasing viciousness in the past year. Whether it is being spat through radio airwaves at college students on birth control, tweeted at tweens' favorite cheating celebrities or sneered in high school hallways everywhere, the word is quickly becoming synonymous with a girl we don't like or a woman we don't want heard.
But at 11 a.m. Saturday, Chicagoans are gathering at the Thompson Center to say "enough with the name-calling already!" We are so over letting people exchange the word "slut" for a human being with lady bits. Besides, slut-shaming is so 2011.
It's Slut Walk 2012, people! In case you don't know Slut Walk's illustrious history, the march started last year in Canada after an official spouted a few words of wisdom about rape to a roomful of college women: "Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized," the esteemed Canadian constable advised.
In April 2011, women in Canada marched to protest the idea that women—or really, "slutty" women—were to blame for rape instead of, you know, the rapists who raped women. The movement spread all over North America and eventually the world.
It may have ended there. Except it didn't. This year, we have seen women reduced over and over again to their sexuality and their perceived sluttyness. Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut for wanting to speak to Congress about the health benefits of birth control pills. The tabloids banished Kristen Stewart to slutdom as the T-shirt company Skreened made a killing off "Kristen Stewart is a Trampire" shirts. And a disgusting new website called thedirty.com publicly and possibly illegally slut shames hundreds of women who it deems "slutty" based on the totally "unbiased" narratives of dumped lovers.
This is not a women's issue nor is it even a fringe issue. Ending slut shaming in the media, in our schools and in our social circles is good for everyone. It makes societies safer when the rapists are punished instead of sexual assault survivors. It makes public discourse healthier when women's voices are included. And it makes sex more enjoyable when partners don't have to worry about slut shame aftermath.
Every woman stamped "slut" is someone's sister, wife, mother, best friend, first love or fifth-grade math tutor. She is a person who one nasty little word can reduce to sex. The fact is we shouldn't be judging men or women by their sexual experience (or by their perceived sexual experience). Just as the number of partners a man has had does not define him, neither does a woman's number, nor should her shirt, nor her choice in birth control.
If you too are sick of the slut shaming, join me marching Saturday. I'll be the one in the homemade T-shirt that reads "Trampires aren't real."
Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.
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