On June 23 the streets of Byron Bay will see it’s first SlutWalk. The main idea of SlutWalk is that it is a protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance.
On January 24th, 2011, a representative of the Toronto Police, during a lecture to college students, gave shocking insight into the Police Force’s view of sexual assault by stating: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” The reaction to this statement has since started a world-wide grassroots movement challenging rape culture, victim-blaming and slut-shaming, and working to end sexual and domestic violence. Over the last 16 months, SlutWalks have taken place in almost every country in the world, from Africa to India and now it’s Byron Bay’s turn on June 23.
A SlutWalk for Byron Bay was first preposed in 2011, but it proved controversial and diversive. With the wide publicity received all over the world about SlutWalks since last year, people are now more familiar and less threatened by the word Slut, or being aligned to an event that carries that name.
Sexual violence is not just a women’s issue, it is an issue for everyone. A lot of violence against girls and women happens within the family. We invite and welcome women, men and young people to be a part of the walk and help to create awareness of these problems.
It is asked that people joining in the walk, simply come as themselves and wear the colours of white, red and black, which represent the three aspects of the feminine and the Triple Goddess: maiden/mother/crone. We hope that this will create a sense of solidarity and also a strong visual effect. The most important part of the day is the validity of the message, it is a political action, trying to convey that however women dress is not an invitation for assault, and that the victim is not to blame for the crime. This is a deep rooted belief in sections of society. It is not so much a dress up, as a stand up, make a statement and be counted on this serious issue.
Placards to be carried in the walk will predominately be special ‘STOP’ signs, which will carry the messages that the organisers hope to get out to the public. There will be a working bee the week prior to the walk to create these signs and placards.
The main message that the organisers want to get across is that-
No matter who you are
No matter where you work
No matter how you identify
No matter how you flirt
No matter what you wear
No matter whom you choose to love
No matter what you said before:
NO ONE has the right to touch you without your consent.
The Byron SlutWalk will start from Railway Park at midday on June 23, walking to Main Beach Park, where they will stop for a photograph from a helicopter, then continue to the Byron Youth Activities Centre for SlutFest, an afternoon of entertainment, inspirational speakers, information stalls and a forum hosted by Mandy Nolan.
Mae Wilde will lead the walk itself, all dressed in white and on stilts! She will also perform after the walk at the YAC. Others performing at the YAC include SupaFresh, a North Coast Urban Hip Hop group and BYTE (Byron Youth Theatre in Education) sponsored by Byron Youth Service’s Project U-Turn. BYTE is a company of young performing artists in Byron Shire who regularly devise creative performances that are used as part of schools based workshops through Byron Youth Service. BYTE will perform their short play ‘Calling The Shots’ which is essentially about the journey that some young women go on when using alcohol. This play has been performed to year 7 and 8 students in schools around the Byron Shire over the last month.
The SlutFest event at the YAC will have information stalls from many of the services around the Northern Rivers, including ACON, The Women’s Resource Service, Pathways, Byron Youth Service, the Byron Community Centre and others.
SlutFest will culminate in a Forum hosted by Mandy Nolan. The panel members will include those working in mental health, youth work, domestic violence and sexual assault, the GLBT community, young people, community services workers and the Police. One of the issues it is planned to address in the forum is how the word ‘slut’ is used by young people against each other in a bullying fashion, and how to help to have this become ‘uncool’.
The SlutWalk/SlutFest organisers are still looking for those that might like to be involved, whether it be to have an information stall, be a road marshal for the walk, and others to help out in the park and at the YAC. For more information contact Nicqui Yazdi on 0402013177 or email email@example.com
There is also a Facebook page entitled SlutWalk Northern Rivers, with an event box, where people can go to for more information. https://www.facebook.com/SlutWalkNorthernRivers
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