Israeli women join ‘Slutwalk’ protest movement

Movement started in Canada in response to policeman's comment that to avoid being attacked women shouldn't dress like sluts.

Slutwalk Toronto 390 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
Slutwalk Toronto 390
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
Less than a year after a group of Canadian women held the Slutwalk protest in response to a policeman’s comment that if women want to avoid being attacked they should not dress like sluts, Israel is poised to follow suit with its first Mitzad Sharmuta (Slutwalk) next week.
“The problem here is that rape is often seen as being the fault of the woman and during court cases or investigations there is always reference to how many partners she might have had in the past or how she was dressed, but that is just not relevant,” Ya’ara Liebermann-Callif, one of the women involved in organizing next Friday’s Slutwalk in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Thursday.
She pointed out that Israeli society is no different in its attitudes towards rape and rape victims than Canada, England, America or any of the other places where similar Slutwalks have been held over the past year.
“Israel is a patriarchal society and we are very worried about how women are viewed,” said Liebermann-Callif, a 17- year-old high school student who has actively used Facebook and other social media to attract nationwide attention to the protest that kicks off in Tel Aviv’s Gan Meir at 11 a.m. So far, more than 2,000 people have indicated that they will attend and the initiative has already drawn wide media attention.
Liebermann-Callif said the Tel Aviv protest will be followed by a similar event in Haifa on March 23 and also in Jerusalem sometime in April.
“Women are blamed for all the bad things that happen to them, but no woman asks to be raped or asks for a man to touch her,” she said. “Rape does not happen because someone is behaving in a sexual way, it happens for other reasons completely.”
While the premise of such a protest has most certainly been lauded worldwide as a way for women to speak out against sexual violence – organizers of the original protest said the underlying goal is to redeem the term slut – there has been some debate over using such a derogatory word and over the protest’s crass methods.
In many of the Slutwalks held worldwide women choose to dress provocatively, some wearing only their underwear, to drive home the point that it does not matter what a woman is wearing – she is never asking to be raped or attacked.
Despite the fact that Liebermann-Callif told the Post that women participating in the protest should come dressed however they want, and that women of all ages were invited to join the event, there has already been a local backlash against bringing the global protest to Israel.
Tel Aviv resident and mother of three young girls Varda Bachrach said that she had no intention of joining the protest because “the word slut should never be used to empower women.
“It’s a word that should not be used at all,” said Bachrach, adding that since hearing about the Slutwalks a year ago she has been uncomfortable with the display and when she found out it was coming to Israel decided to speak out against the event on a news blog.
“I like the idea of going on a protest where women are speaking out for themselves,” she told the Post. “However, I can’t bring myself to go on a walk called Slutwalk and certainly would not take my daughters to such a protest.”
Bachrach added that she does not oppose women dressing however they want to, but she asked, “why is it that in order for women to fight for a cause they feel it is necessary to take off their clothes? “It’s a great opportunity that a global protest movement is coming to Israel but maybe it’s time that we need to re-evaluate the goals and ask if we really want to be taking part in a ‘Sharmuta’ walk,” she said.
Efrat Oren, spokeswoman of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI), said that while the non-profit organization is not involved in organizing the Israeli Slutwalk, it is supportive of the protest’s central message and plans to join next week.
“We have not formulated an opinion on the name or the methods of this protest movement but the idea behind it is very important,” she said.
“It does not matter what women are wearing, they never invite rape on themselves.”
ARCCI, which runs the national hotlines for female and male victims of rape and sexual assault, said it receives more than 40,000 calls each year from women reporting sexual assault.