Paris was dreary and grey yesterday, and pedestrians walked the streets with their heads hung low beneath umbrellas and hoodies, hurrying to escape the rain. But unlike the rest of the city, Paris’s sixth arrondissement was alive. Here, feminists gathered to protest sexism, rape and victim-blaming as part of the international movement, Slut Walk. Slut Walk started in Toronto in 2011 after a police officer claimed, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” His statement caused thousands to take to the streets, and Slut Walk quickly spread to cities across North America and Europe.
I joined the marchers of Slut Walk Paris 2012 on their trek across the city, which ended at Place du Panthéon. The men and women brandished signs painted with anti-rape-culture slogans like, “mon corps, mon choix,” my body, my choice, and “le viol est un programme politique,” rape is a political program. At the front of the march, a woman with a megaphone led the protesters in their chants. “Le sexisme est une maladie sociale,” they yelled in unison. Sexism is a social disease.
The march concluded at Place du Panthéon, where France’s national moto, liberté, égalité, fraterité, loomed overhead. In the background, the Eiffel Tower stood like a sentinel guarding this historic, traditional city, where classic gender roles maintain a significant, yet waning, presence.
Attending Slut Walk in Paris was an opportunity I could not miss, although I’m still not sure how I feel about the movement as a whole. I invite you to read critiques of Slut Walk here and here. I support the movement’s message– there is never a justification for rape and sexual violence– but I’m still not sure I support the means as the most powerful, effective way to combat rape-culture and victim-blaming. Even so, the energy and determination of these protesters was contagious, and I found myself breaking my journalist’s rules and chanting and marching along, side by side in solidarity with fellow feminists.
Le sexisme est une maladie sociale.