UPDATE: It has been suggested that my analogy is "problematic". I have added an apology/ acknowledgement at the end of the post.
18 Months ago, Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti became famous for suggesting that if they want to feel safe on Toronto streets, "women should avoid dressing like sluts." This inspired the Slut Walk movement, a protest against blaming the victim for what they wear. It's been called " the most successful feminist action of the past 20 years."This morning in Toronto seven pedestrians were hit by cars within 45 minutes. In a press conference, Police Constable Clint Stibbe noted that all the pedestrians were wearing dark clothing. According to the Star:
“We’re not saying pedestrians actually did anything wrong,” he said, “but wearing the dark clothing makes you less conspicuous to other road users.”
So it is now the victim's fault, for not wearing yellow reflective vests and lights. I am sorry, but this is a Slut Walk moment for pedestrians and cyclists in a city where clearly we do not have the same rights as people in cars. It's not about clothes on pedestrians, it is about drivers hitting pedestrians, including moms with kids in pedestrian crossings. I don't know what we should call this movement, but like the women of Slut Walk, it's time for us to take back the streets. To demand rules like in the Netherlands where drivers are considered to be at fault in almost any car/ bike/ pedestrian "event." Where proper pedestrian and cycling infrastructure is provided on complete streets. Where speed limits are reduced, as recommended by the Toronto Board of Health.
And what happened when the Chief Medical Officer recommended lowering speed limits to cut the carnage? The Mayor's brother asked on radio, "Why does this guy still have a job?" Councillor Minnan-Wong said:
Doesn’t he have better things to do than interfere in every single department and everybody else’s lives? If he wants to lower speed limits, maybe he should apply for the general manager’s job in the transportation department.
It's time to get out our dark suits and coats, to get our signs and to take back the streets from these jerks. The surprising thing is that most of these accidents happen in these jerks' wards, in the suburbs where the car dominates the landscape. It is their voters' kids and moms who are getting killed. They are the ones who should be leading this campaign, not fighting for more lanes and fewer bikes.
Meanwhile, in Chicago,
In Chicago, Doug Ford's favourite city, they have an action plan for zero traffic fatalities in ten years. Measures include:
-20 mph zones in all the city’s residential areas.
-A five percent bike mode share on trips less than five miles. (Currently 1.3 percent of Chicagoans travel by bike, but in the central city the figure is as high as two percent.)
-An emphasis on street maintenance, or “fix it first.”
-Better education for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians
-Better data collection and evaluation, analyze all fatal crashes involving pedestrians or bicycles.
-More and better enforcement of rules
-Annually evaluate the top 10 crash locations in the city and implement quick, low-cost improvements while also seeking funding for more comprehensive changes.
It's time to be like Chicago, take back the streets, and learn from SlutWalk.
UPDATE An organizer with SlutwalkTO properly takes me to task and suggests that "it was really unnecessary for you to draw parallels to victim-blaming in sexual violence and what SlutWalk is about." At the Slutwalk website they note that it really isn't about clothing, but about the language.
As the city’s major protective service, the Toronto Police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of ‘the slut’, and in doing so have failed us. With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed. Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim.
Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.
I consider SlutWalk to be an inspiration, and hope that we learn from it and the people behind it. Both situations involve police and others blaming the victims. But my correspondent is correct, the analogy is problematic.