Culture At Large

What Christians can respect about SlutWalks

Caryn Rivadeneira

This Saturday, scores of scantily clad women (and some men, though I’m not sure how they’ll be clad) are scheduled to march through the streets of Detroit. Since I’ll just to happen to be in Detroit this Saturday, I’m planning on heading over and cheering them on.

While I’m not usually a fan of scant dressing, I am fan of what these women are doing.

“SlutWalks” - the name for this sort of march - began this April in Toronto when, according to a NPR report, a “Toronto police officer suggested women should ‘avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized.’” Apparently his comment to a small group of law students was all it took to light the fire under this new movement.

And I’m glad it did. Frankly, I’m shocked that anyone would still think - or suggest - that what a woman wears somehow makes her responsible for violent crimes committed against her. I thought there were laws against this sort of thing. I thought we worked through all this “she asked for it” nonsense back in the 1980s.

Apparently we didn’t.

While I’d like to give this police officer the benefit of the doubt - that what he meant to say is that women ought to be wise when it comes to safety - what he said was horrific. Something that should make Christians, especially, shudder and want to cheer on these SlutWalkers. Maybe even join them.

I realize my contention will bother the camp of Christians for whom “modesty” is seen as the solution to the world’s problems and as the best way to keep chaste and safe - not to mention honor Christ.

I agree that dressing in a way that intentionally titillates, tempts or scandalizes probably doesn’t honor our Heavenly Father. And I don’t believe women should dress in a way that turns our “Temples of God” into objects of lust. But - honestly - I don’t know how that can happen.

From what they tell me, men are allured by all manner of dress. I mean, our culture has turned Catholic school-girl uniforms slutty. Teachers - with prim skirts, buttoned-up blouses, tied back hair and glasses - slutty. At least, when men imagine her removing the glasses, shaking out her hair ... right?

And let’s go a bit global: Right now I’m in tan Bermuda shorts, a black t-shirt and flip-flops. Pretty standard “mom” fare on my block. Drop me in certain parts of Afghanistan? I’m dressed like a slut. One who “deserves” to be raped. Perhaps to be stoned to death.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter what a woman wears. Whether fig leaves or yards of fine linen and purple (both biblical). Whether loose fitting or tight all over. No woman or girl asks for or deserves violence against her body. No matter what.

As Christians who believe our bodies are beautiful gifts from the God - whose image we bear - we must demand an end to violence against women. And we must stand up against attempts to put the blame for this violence on women. The Bible may instruct us not to let our “rights” become stumbling blocks to the weak (1 Corinthians 8:9), but this doesn’t exactly green-light violence. The Scriptures still talk plenty about self-control - without qualifiers.

While we can debate the method of SlutWalks, Christians should agree on their purpose. Christians should be leading the marches against violence toward women. And turning the discussions of this violence clear away from what women should wear, to how men should behave.

(Photo of a June SlutWalk in Edmonton, Canada, courtesy of Hugh Lee/Wikimedia Commons.)

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, Social Trends, Justice, North America, Home & Family, Sex