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South African "Sluts" Tell Men: "Control Yourselves, Not Women!"

"Slut Walk" phenomenon comes to Cape Town. More protests planned for Johannesburg and Durban.

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For me the adoption of this word as the signifier to this global feminine rebellion is directly rooted in language similar to the poststructuralist feminist movement of the 1970s.  This movement was born out of a common need for all women to create a language that escapes the clutches of the panoptical patriarch that has established himself as a jailor in our collective feminine consciousness. 

In opposition to western phallogocentrism, these feminists identified language as a means by which “man objectifies the world, reduces it to his own terms, speaks in place of everything and everyone else—including women.”  The movement called on women to find a language that spoke their sex and existed outside of the patriarchal hold over discourse.

The Slut Walkers are seen to subvert this patriarchal institution of language through the reclamation of the word slut — and have thus redirected a celebratory sexuality back to womankind. And women all over the world have responded in a joyful but revolutionary spirit and joined the Slut Walk. The use of the word slut and the carnivalesque, celebratory protest that accompanies the movement then becomes the expression of female sexuality and pleasure that manifests outside the male libidinal economy.

Women are building up their revolutionary linguistic arsenal having already reclaimed the words ‘Vagina’ ‘Cunt’ and ‘Slut’.  With the ongoing reclamation of these feminine words, the public discourse will inevitably find its way back into the feminine arena. This is why we need the Slut Walk.

It is a manifestation of our collective desire to no longer be obedient.  It speaks of necessary subversiveness. It also tells men that their sexual abuses of women will no longer be tolerated. It unites women in a common sisterhood and it raises our voices in a collective feminine language such that we will no longer be spoken for.

Gillian Schutte is an independent filmmaker, writer and social justice activist. She is a founding member of Media for Justice and co-producer at Handheld Films .

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