"The word ‘slut’ is not just degrading to women, but it is also used by society and the system to justify rape,"said Bracha Barad of the Kulan group, which organized Saturday’s SlutWalk through central Tel Aviv, explaining the provocative name and outfits of the participants. “There is no connection whatsoever between sex and sexual violence and there is no connection between the victim's clothing or her sexual past and the attack she has undergone.”
The mostly female crowd, estimated at between 2,000 and 5,000 by Israeli media outlets, brandished posters of public figures implicated in sexual assault allegations, such as ex-president Moshe Katsav, and chanted slogans like “No means no”, “Silence doesn’t mean consent”, “Not your toy” and “Polite women don’t make history.”
The movement began in 2011, after a Toronto police official urged women not to “dress like sluts” in order to lessen the risk of sexual assaults, which many interpreted as victim-blaming, before resolving to reclaim the word 'slut' by making it a centerpiece of their protest.
Since then, dozens of similar walks have taken place all over the world, but the movement has been reinvigorated by the #MeToo scandal, which has once again brought focus not only on stories of abuse, but also how they were subsequently dealt with by those in power.
“We demand justice and radical and systematic change,” Barad explained. “The law-enforcement authorities are quick to give a pass to rapists, but for the victims an impossible criminal bar is set by the establishment. Women are overwhelmingly abandoned by the establishment, and it starts in the police and continues up to the State Attorney’s office and the courts.”
While the #MeToo movement has largely been hailed as empowering to women, others say it has simply gone too far. One of those people is French actress Catherine Deneuve, who along with 99 other prominent French women signed an open letter in January which said the movement allows for men to be seen as sex offenders based on simple accusations, with no chance to defend themselves.
Condoleezza Rice, who served as US Secretary of State under George W. Bush, also warned that the #MeToo movement risks “infantilizing” women.
“I do think we have to be a little bit careful. Let’s not turn women into snowflakes. Let’s not infantilize women,” Rice said. She expressed concern that the movement might “get to a place that men start to think, ‘Well, maybe it’s just better not to have women around...’ I’ve heard a little bit of that, and it worries me.”