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‘Slut’ walk on Fort Lewis College campus in Durango an effort to help end sexism, rape culture

Students want to be part of conversation about objectification of women
Fort Lewis College students march Tuesday during a “Slut and Hoe Walk and Roll,” which seeks to raise awareness about the objectification of women and to end sexism. From the left are Lily Burdick, Jenn Grdina and Ashlee Parks.

“My vagina, my rules,” was the provocative chant on Tuesday of more than 30 Fort Lewis College students marching through campus to bring awareness to the objectification of women and the hope to be part of a movement to end sexism.

The event, “Slut and Hoe Walk and Roll,” was organized by FLC student Jenn Grdina as part of a final project for a sociology class that encourages civic engagement. Grdina said she wanted to raise awareness around several female issues through a “slut walk.”

“Initially, it was a silly idea, but the more I got into it, the more I saw how big the issue is,” she said. “I wanted to bring awareness to the word ‘slut.’ Just because you dress a certain way doesn’t mean you want to be cat-called at.”

Grdina said she is discouraged by the stream of conversation that purports women who dress scantily are “asking to be raped,” and she hoped by inviting fellow classmates out to the campus grounds, the dialogue can change.

Marching around campus on a bright and unusually warm afternoon Tuesday, about a dozen women purposely wore scant clothing, carrying signs and shouting several chants, including “No means no,” and “My vagina, my rules.”

“I’m out here to support a good cause,” Jordan Baird said. “Consent is everything. In this day and age, a lot of people feel they can’t say no. But I put whatever looks good on me. I dress for my own body, not for anyone else.”

Most of the students said rape and objectification are not as big an issue on FLC’s campus as in other universities, and the march was an opportunity to show support. In 2014 alone, a recent survey of more than 150,000 students in the U.S. determined that almost 1 in 4 women had been victimized by sexual violence on campus.

“The problem is absolutely everywhere,” freshman Kris Walsh said. “Less so here, where there’s a more tolerant, liberal campus. But we’re protesting rape culture. Even if I wear a bra and hooker boots, I’m not asking to get raped.”

On Nov. 27, The Durango Herald reported that from Aug. 30 through Nov. 19, FLC received three reports of rape involving students as victims. While that number is considered “low” when compared with the national average, officials at the school say any case is too many, and they have undertaken several initiatives to combat sexual violence, such as a glow run, campus talks and a consent carnival.

“Victims of any gender often internalize blame for sexual assault,” said Molly Wieser, FLC’s Title IX coordinator. “This is because many people believe that the wrong choice of clothing, beverage, ride and/or friend causes rape. But nobody asks to be raped no matter what.

“Sometimes you need strong voices like those of our students to emphasize and dramatize that point. I’m very proud of our students for sending this message.”

Anthony Nocella, a sociology professor who teaches Grdina’s class, said the project was intended to inspire students to create change for social justice, and focus on an issue about slut shaming and objectification.

“It needs to end,” Nocella said. “And it’s not just about theory at this school. It’s about engaging in positive social change.”

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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