SlutWalk walks away from protest

By Erin Shumlich

SlutWalk, the event that is capturing Canada by storm, will no longer be taking place in Calgary. The event was a protest to the blame-the-victim attitude many people hold and a way to raise awareness about sexual assault.

Event organizer Nicole Brady announced the cancellation of SlutWalk Calgary on May 31. The event was cancelled due to “logistical difficulties, the inability to secure insurance and liability concerns.”

“The inability to secure insurance was the reason we decided to cancel,” Brady said in an email. “As the main organizer of the event I am not willing to take personal liability for people’s safety.”

She said if someone were to get hurt at the event, it would be her personal responsibility. “As a student and a new homeowner I am personally not equipped to be able to take up that responsibility.”

The worldwide movement was sparked when Toronto police officer Michael Sanguinetti ventured onto the campus of York University with a warning message for students: “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this,” he stated in January. “However, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

He later apologized for his comment, but it was not enough for Sonya Barnett, who organized the first SlutWalk in Toronto, an event in protest of Sanguinetti’s statement. More than 3,000 ‘sluts’ took to the streets on April 3.

Since then, over 70 satellite walks have been organized.

The event website states “Toronto police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of the slut, and in doing so have failed us.”

SlutWalk Calgary was affiliated with the original Toronto walk but with its own intent of ending the culture of blame towards sexual assault survivors. It also planned to focus on changing the way sexual assaults are dealt with by the justice system and raising awareness of sexual assault within communities.

However, some Calgarians are happy the event has been cancelled.

When Calgary SlutWalk organizers announced CJAY 92 and the Forbes and Friends Morning show as official sponsors, it was met with outrage from some community members.

A Facebook page dubbed “Individuals Against CJAY 92’s Participation in SlutWalk Calgary” stated, “In addition to being blatantly misogynistic, CJAY 92 is also homophobic and racist, as can be evidenced in the plethora of content captured in various YouTube videos and CBSC decisions.”

The Facebook page states individuals are “uncomfortable in supporting a cause whose intent is to dismantle the rape myths that help support rape culture, given that its official sponsor is a station that in the past has objectified women, and uttered homophobic and racist remarks, and still continues to do so.”

There were 119 ‘likes’ for the page at time of press.

Heather McLean, who was going to attend SlutWalk Calgary, said although she is disappointed with the event’s cancellation, she thinks that a show that has made jokes about rape is an odd choice of sponsor.

“I don’t really know that having them as sponsors is 100 per cent a bad thing, so it’s not really that black and white to me,” she said. “My main displeasure is not over the sponsorship but over SlutWalk Calgary’s inability to reconcile its message with this station that doesn’t really seem to share the same values.”

CJAY 92 promotions director Megan Gough said the station wanted to support SlutWalk because of the important message it was trying to send.

“Our messaging is light and fun,” said Gough. “We are not out there to exploit anyone and we felt that it was an important message to spread. We are very community involved.”

Calgarian Kolter Gordon said he fully supports the message behind SlutWalk, but was not planning to attend. He does not agree with how ralliers are advocating their message.

“I think rape awareness and victim blame/shame is very important, but when you promote your protest by dressing scantily clad, you are going to find that people won’t take you seriously.”

Regardless, Kolter was let down by the event’s cancellation and supported CJAY’s involvement.

“CJAY’s main demographic is males 18-45, and that is exactly the audience that SlutWalk should be reaching out to,” said Kolter. “I believed that SlutWalk needed to be partnered closely with CJAY in order to ensure that the message was put out as originally intended, and to keep anyone from misrepresenting the event.”

He said his concerns were mostly related to Gerry Forbes’s inclusion, something Kolter was against because of his derogatory comments.

In a Calgary Herald article published April 20, 2011, Forbes is quoted as saying “Is there a better guy out there than one who can get the point across to young lads that it is not right to assault women?”

Distress Centre Calgary’s communications manager Michelle Wickerson said she saw the event as a loss of opportunity but that resources are always available for victims.

“Recovering from an incident is a very real and present issue,” said Wickerson. “The idea was to combat the idea that the victim is at fault.”

She said it is not about how people are dressed. Violence is never justified.

“Our intent for involvement was a great opportunity for promoting awareness,” said Wickerson.

Angela Bladon, one of the project coordinators for SlutWalk Calgary said she stepped down a month before the walk was cancelled.

“I didn’t agree with the way SlutWalk Calgary was being managed,” Bladon said in an email. “Since its cancellation, I have been working on putting together a new committee and arranging a relaunch of the event.”

Leave a comment