Tel Aviv Holds a SlutWalk: 'A Struggle of All Humans'

Hundreds of protesters filled Tel Aviv's streets with cries against rape culture. Even a sleepy homeless guy pulled out a camera to film the colorful spectacle

Tel Aviv's SlutWalk, May 12, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

Hundreds of scantily clad women protested against rape culture Friday on Tel Aviv's promenade many with shrill whistles colorful her. The city's annual "SlutWalk" was slithering its way after a row of drummers dressed in pink along the waterfront, as passersby looked on eyebrows raised.

A group of women wearing dresses carried signs criticizing the release of the suspects in a gang rape in Herzliya last month. By them another group of women chanted slogans such as "Feminism is the radical realization that women are human," "a G-string isn't an invitation to rape," and "The rape culture begins in the offices of the police."

A group of curly–haired children waiting for the march to go by began to imitate the protesters calling out "My body is mine." A homeless person napping in the sun on one of the benches was woken up abruptly by the commotion. He pulled out a mobile phone and started recording the multi-colored spectacle.

Tel Aviv's SlutWalk, May 12, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

The "SlutWalk" was born in Toronto Canada in 2011, as a response to the comments of a local police officer that said that to avoid rape women should "not dress up like sluts." The statement ignited an international protest against victim blaming from the U.S. to India and Europe and Israel, where over the past six years "SlutWalks" have been taking place in Haifa, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv.

Last year, the event drew criticism over the use of the word "sharmutah" ("slut") in the events title. This year organizers addressed this issue directly in advance saying that the word was chosen "exactly because it carries such a negative connotation. Because it is a word that is applied to any woman whom someone wants to blame for the sexual violence that befell her, whether it is the attacker, society, or the system put in place to protect her."

One of the organizers, Zohara Biton, a 22-year-old feminist activist, said that this year's event was bigger than in past years. "Just as in every year this is amazing and moving. It was a march that exceeded our expectations with crazy energy." According to Biton Israeli society is failing with regard to its treatment of sexual violence, "You see, we aren't there yet when someone is raped and the first thing that is done is going through her underwear and her plate instead of laying blame on the rapists."

Tel Aviv's SlutWalk, May 12, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

The whole length of the march, which ended in the city's central Habimah Square, the organizers called on the passersby with their megaphones to join in and protest against the sexual violence that took place over the past year. According to Biton, the protesters were talking about the use the defense team was making of a photo of the victim in the Herzaliya gang rape wearing a G-string. "To say that if a woman wears a G-string she asked to be raped is to legitimate her attack." She added that "We see it a lot recently – victim blaming."

Ayellet Moore, a 33-year-old from Tel Aviv, put on a purple corset matching the hue of her hair and skipped the whole length of the march. "This is our holiday," she told Haaretz. Moore said that she joined in the protest because "as long as there is a rape culture, marches like these were needed."

Moore said she was spurred to come to the protest after a young transgender man she met told her that he was concerned that his presence at the march would be seen as illegitimate, "this filled me with a bust of excitement because if there is a place you can find yourself in itis the SlutWalk. It is a protest for all people hurt by the patriarchy." Moore added that the protest was characterized by its diverse participants "There's a feeling that this is not a women's niche issue, because the number of men and those defining themselves as unfeminine was admirable.  This is a struggle of all humans."