A chance for us to reclaim our dignity

26 September 2011 - 03:04 By Manthipe Moila
Manthipe Moila, who took part in the Slutwalk at the weekend and wrote about the experience Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Manthipe Moila, who took part in the Slutwalk at the weekend and wrote about the experience Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

Manthipe Moila, 16, took part in Saturday's Slutwalk in Johannesburg and wrote about why she did it.

The clouds in the sky looked unforgiving; there was a slight breeze that left gooseflesh on whoever dared to bare their skin.

But this did not stop the thousands of women, men, girls and boys who gathered at Johannesburg's Zoo Lake Sports Club on Saturday in support of the Slutwalk, and it did not stop me from finding out why other teenagers wanted to participate in the event.

According to the official website, the Slutwalk originated in Canada when a policeman made a comment about how, in order to avoid being victimised, women must avoid dressing like sluts.

His comment led to a feminists' uproar in March, when the first Slutwalk was held in Toronto.

Nandi Mgwaba, 16, from Johannesburg's Greenside High School - dressed in a red bra, grey top and a yellow skirt, with the words "Not an I(invitation)" painted on her chest - participated in the walk because she believes that young women need to be proactive about situations that affect them.

"We should not think of ourselves as victims, and we should not listen to adults who tell us to keep quiet about rape," she said.

Michael van Niekerk, 17, a pupil of the private Sacred Heart College, agreed.

"On the whole, it is guys who do the raping, thus the more guys there are, the stronger the message [of the Slutwalk]."

During the walk, many bellowed: "It's a dress, not a yes" and there was an air of defiance as protesters questioned society's need to label women as sluts.

Sasa Nhlapo, an 18-year-old student at Wits University, dressed in tight black shorts, said she attended in protest against the mind-set that stipulated that women should dress in a certain way to avoid being hurt.

"I was told that I shouldn't wear shorts because they put me in danger.

"It is important for the youth to support a cause like this because that mind-set begins at a young age."

Some women had fun with their outfits and wore fishnet stockings, tights, short skirts or dresses.

Not everybody went wild in terms of what they wore - there were plenty of people in jeans and T-shirts.

Actress Sandi Schultz, one of the march's main organisers, who wore blue pyjamas, said it was not necessary for people to be dressed as "sluts" for the event.

"I am wearing the closest thing to what I was wearing when I was raped," she said.

During her speech she undressed from her pyjamas into a seductive red and black outfit, emphasising the point that, whatever a women wears does not allow the perpetrator to blame her for the assault.

The Slutwalk was done not as an excuse for women to dress provocatively and men to dress as women, but to send the message that rape is inexcusable in a country where it is becoming a regular occurrence.

I did not dress like a "slut" because I did not feel the need to; I knew that was not the point of the walk. I wore a floral print dress with lace on it to represent femininity.

I believe that women should be able to express their femininity whichever way they want; be that through jeans, a mini-skirt or dangling earrings.

  • Manthipe Moila writes for Media Monitoring Africa's The Children's News Agency