The term "slut" is loaded with meaning. It's a word that's been used for decades to label women in the most demeaning way imaginable. Before the word made its way into the lexicon, other phrases stood in its place: harlot, sinner, jezebel, whore, fornicator — and so on. There's a long-standing tradition that negative terms be used to describe women who behaved in ways that our male-dominated culture hasn't approved of.
But we no longer live in the Stone Age. Feminists have been working to reclaim the word "slut." Visible evidence of this movement is the SlutWalk, an annual event now in its fourth year at Florida International University. The gathering stands in opposition to slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and rape culture. The 2016 edition will take place at 5 p.m. Friday, April 8, at the Eighth Street campus.
Since its inception in 2011, the march has taken place in more than 200 communities in North, Central, and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The event is sometimes confused with singer Amber Rose's slut walk, says Rayna Milfort, volunteer coordinator for the National Organization for Women (NOW) at FIU, which organizes the event. But this is the original. "It started in Canada, because one of the police officers said that if women didn't dress like 'sluts,' they wouldn't get raped," Milfort adds.
Last year's SlutWalk drew about 200 participants and has been growing annually. Milfort and her team expect around 300 supporters Friday. The walk is open to students and members of the community and is free of charge.
"This is about awareness for sexual assault, and it's important because it shows that we need to transcend the social norms that are apparent," she says. "No matter what I'm wearing, that doesn't mean you have the right to my body or that you have the right to assault me because I'm wearing something 'provocative.'
"Women have the ability to do whatever they please with their bodies, and men shouldn't look at them and objectify them," she adds.
The walk weaves around campus, and participants are encouraged to bring their own signs. There will also be sign-making supplies onsite. "At the end, there's a get-together with water and snacks and music, and people can mingle."
As far as clothes, anything goes. "Wear anything you want. Last year, I saw a girl who wore pasties — it was awesome," Milfort says. "[The variety of everyday clothes] signifies that you can get raped in anything. You can get raped in a pair of slacks and a shirt. Just come as you are."
Registration for the event begins at 3 p.m. Friday, April 8, at the GC Lawns on the FIU Modesto Maidique Campus. The walk begins at 5 p.m. Participation is free, but donations are welcome via gofundme.com/now2mujer. Visit fiunow.com/miami-slut-walk.