Several hundred people paraded through the streets of Minneapolis to protest against sexual violence in the city’s first annual SlutWalk on Saturday.
From low-cut leather tops and fishnets to men in dresses, many wore revealing clothes and held signs as they walked the 1.8-mile route along the Mississippi River to rally against blaming victims of sexual violence because of how they dress.
“People who are sexually abused need a chance to speak out against rape,” said Minneapolis resident Anna Giuliano. “I’m walking for someone who is currently being sexually abused and isn’t able to speak out.”
SlutWalks around the world encourage participants to dress up in wild clothing to protest sexual violence.
The first SlutWalk was held April 3 in Toronto, triggered by a Toronto police officer who said that women could avoid being victimized if they didn’t dress like “sluts.”
Spread through social media, SlutWalk Toronto co-founder Heather Jarvis guessed that 100 to 150 SlutWalks take place globally.
“There’s a wide variety of people here, and a lot of them really pushed the boundaries with their apparel,” said spring University of Minnesota graduate Valerie Hurst . “Clothes like these really make an impact on people and push our message to end sexual violence.”
The movement’s Minneapolis chapter began in June 2011 and has been using social media to raise awareness.
Minneapolis SlutWalk organizer Kimberia Sherva called the event Saturday afternoon a success, but said that more action is needed.
“We had a great turn out, but we can’t stop after this event. We must continue supporting, influencing, and educating people about sexual violence,” Sherva said.
Many were opposed to the event because of the word slut, Giuliano said, but there were no counter-protests Saturday.
St. Paul resident Kristine Holmgren, executive director of the Dead Feminists Society of Minnesota, told the Associated Press that women who call themselves “sluts” are undoing feminists’ work in the 1960s and 1970s to stop men from referring to women as “chicks.”
“When we buy the language of a patriarchy, then we all lose,” she said. “Girls trot around in bikini tops and say: ‘Look at me! I’m a whore.’ How does that make my world better?”
Sherva said that Saturday’s SlutWalk raised more than enough money to pay off organizing expenses. She said she’ll donate the extra cash to the Alexandra House, “which works to end domestic and sexual violence,” in Blaine, Minn.
Hurst said she hopes more people participate in next year’s walk.
“We need more people and more men. We had a great turnout this year and it had a great impact, but we need more people to be aware,” Hurst said.
-The Associated Press contributed to this report.