updated 4 Nov 2012, 10:16
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Tue, Nov 01, 2011
The New Paper
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Slutty? We’re just sexy
by Joyce Lim

So what if you dress like a slut?

To borrow and alter a line from Jessica Rabbit, I'm not bad, I just dress that way. If you subscribe to that, here's an invitation to join SlutWalk Singapore.

Yes, Singapore women are striding forth and getting into the global movement on Dec 4. But you don't have to dress like a slut to take part in SlutWalk Singapore. And, oh, there is no walk either.

Unlike SlutWalks held in western countries where women thronged the streets in skimpy outfits to protest against sexual violence, SlutWalk Singapore organisers here urge supporters to "come as they are" - whether in T-shirt and jeans, fishnets, sari, jacket or tudung.

And instead of a march through the streets, the Singapore version will be a gathering of demonstrators in support of the cause, say organisers. They are hoping for a turnout of at least 300.

One does not need to identify with being a "slut" to be part of SlutWalk because the goal is not to reclaim the word, but to express sexuality without fear, the organisers say on their website.

Supporters of SlutWalk Singapore will converge at Hong Lim Park as that is the only place in Singapore where people can demonstrate without a police permit.

The first global SlutWalk took place on April 3 in Toronto, Canada, after a Canadian police officer said in January that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised".

Within six months, the march spread to more than 50 countries.

Miss Vanessa Ho, 24, a social worker and part-time lecturer, learned of the movement in June and decided to create a Facebook page on SlutWalk, but she kept the discussion within a small group of friends.

A month later, she decided to make the Facebook page public. She now updates it regularly with commentaries, blogposts and articles.

The SlutWalk Singapore Facebook page has received more than 700 likes.

The New Paper on Sunday understands that the organising committee had more than 10 members when it was formed, but it is now down to just seven members.

Miss Ho says: "Some members left because they could not commit their time to it. We also had a few Singaporeans who were studying overseas and they left the committee as they had to return to school."

The current organising committee's members come from all walks of life.

"We have a film-maker, freelance writer and retiree, ages range from 20s to 50s," Miss Ho adds.

Why adopt the name SlutWalk when they have chosen to downplay the word "slut"? And what would SlutWalk be without a walk?

Team member Vanessa Victoria, 23, a theatre practitioner, explains: "Keeping the name 'SlutWalk' was a move in solidarity with the original movement and the ideas behind it.

"However, after many discussions about the different ways in which we could localise SlutWalk, we decided that because we live in such a culturally and racially diverse country, we should not limit the idea behind the movement to just one English word, or to its meaning."

At the same time, the team feels that it is important to keep the word "slut" as they want people to critically examine the value system behind this word.

Miss Ho adds: "The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has been very supportive in this event and will be holding a free workshop a day before the walk, titled SlutTalk. The workshop, which will be held at The Substation, will touch on topics like what men and women can do to prevent sexual assault by gender equality advocacy."

The goal is to create awareness about victim-blaming.

Stephanie Carrington agrees. The model, actress and TV host says: "Slutty is not just about dress sense. It's how someone portrays herself. It's a harsh word to use on someone. You can dress sexily and not look slutty."

Carrington, who is with Fly Entertainment, is a supporter of women's rights and plans to turn up to support SlutWalk Singapore if she is in town.

She feels that everyone should be treated equally regardless of what he or she wears.

"We all have the right to dress sexy, but we also need to be aware of the risk when we do so and take precautions," says Carrington.

"It is great that such a movement is coming to Singapore and hopefully it will help to change things."

Nobody likes to be stared at like a piece of meat, she adds.

Miss Fei Wong, a Singapore permanent resident, also supports SlutWalk Singapore.

The 32-year-old regional assistant director of sales feels it is time for women to reclaim the right to express their sexuality without fear.

She recalls how she once felt offended by an elderly man as she walked past him in a body-hugging outfit.

"That elderly man was staring down at me, as if he was mentally raping me. I asked him in Hokkien: 'Uncle, what are you looking at?' Then he looked away.

"When a woman dresses up, she is bound to get some attention, but she is not asking for rape," says Miss Wong.

"When we were young, our parents would tell us not to dress too sexy or we would get molested or raped," adds Miss Wong. She feels it is time to challenge the perception that it is acceptable to live in a victim-blaming society, where we are taught "don't get raped", instead of "don't rape".

Youth counsellor Cherie Lee, 25, who also supports the movement, says: "I have met many rape victims who weren't dressed like sluts when the sexual abuse took place. Even elderly women get raped. One can be in jeans and T-shirt and (still) get sexually abused."

Miss Lee, who was second runner-up at this year's Miss Singapore International and also won the title of Miss Body Beautiful, says: "I have a good figure which I work hard to maintain through sports, exercise and maintaining a good diet. I feel that I have a right to dress in a manner that compliments my good figure."

She likes how the Singapore organiser is taking a localised approach in holding workshops leading up to the protest.

"In Singapore, we don't usually see such protests in public," she says. "It doesn't matter if we do not walk down the streets and make a lot of noise in our protest. What's more important is getting the message across."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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