Minus Facebook's inflated numbers, SlutWalk Denver was a success
Several hundred people came together on Saturday in Civic Center Park for the Denver edition of SlutWalk, a gathering of women and men seeking to bring attention to victim-blaming and shaming of victims of sexual assault and rape. The movement, which began in Toronto in January in response to a police officer's statements that women could actually avoid being sexually assaulted and raped by not dressing like "sluts" (hence the name), has gained momentum in the States since. The Denver rally was a strong one, with keynote speaker and journalist Pamela White leading the afternoon of mini-marches and, later, the chance for victims of sexual violence to get up and share their stories with the amphitheatre.
Last week, Westword highlighted some Facebook comments on the SlutWalk Seattle event page, which led to one commenter coming back to defend his comments on the controversy over the controversy. It seems that (on Facebook anyway) the movement's biggest issue has been the name itself -- which was chosen by the first rally's participants as a way to take back the word "slut" and the idea that victims can control and should be responsible for their attacker's behavior. But beyond the lexical issue, Facebook also made another problem glaringly obvious: the amount of people who said they would attend the event versus the amount of people who actually did.
Sure, Facebook isn't the go-to source for facts and information on current issues, but it is often a good gauge of what is going on in the world socially. For Denver's edition of SlutWalk, 3,744 people responded that they would be attending last Saturday's march and rally, and over 1,000 said they were "maybe" joining in. When it came time for the actual SlutWalk gathering, only several hundred showed up.
Photo by Brandon Marshall. See the full SlutWalk Denver slide show.
This doesn't in any way undermine the success of SlutWalk Denver; it was still a powerful day for those who did come out for the rally. But it left me wondering: Was the low turnout due to apathy? Or could it have been a fear of making an actual public statement about something as controversial as SlutWalk?
The holiday weekend no doubt could have had an impact on the numbers too. But overall, I was disappointed with the turnout and the lack of familiar faces -- especially considering the amount of traffic, commentary and arguments that occurred on my own Facebook page when I posted about the movement last month.
Regardless, the message of SlutWalk was loud and clear. There is word spreading that the rally will become a yearly event, as the issues surround sexual assault, rape, victim-blaming and rape culture most certainly aren't going to go away. My only hope is that people come out from behind their computer screens and actually "check in" to something other than their favorite hamburger joint. Because while Facebook is really great at connecting and informing us, it isn't always so good at getting us to actually do something.