What we can learn from SlutWalk

[Cache – #16]

“Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”  So said a Toronto police officer in January at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, remarks for which he has apologized and conceded his embarrassment.  A group of five women, however, have decided to “express [their] frustrations and demand better” by organizing a protest march they’ve coined “SlutWalk.”

The name is shocking at a minimum, and abhorrent to some.  But it is also effective at gaining our attention. The Toronto Star featured the story yesterday, and within hours, SlutWalk’s Facebook page had 1,700 “likes” and the term was percolating in the blogosphere and on Twitter.

Much as some members of the gay community robbed the word “queer” of its destructive power by using it to describe themselves, these women are highlighting the absurdity of the implication that women deserve to be raped for the clothes they wear.  They have taken a word that is offensive in most contexts and used it against those who want to injure them with it.

What are the words and concepts from your world that you can redirect to boldly make a point?  Epilepsy Toronto, for example, distributes buttons with “1 in 100” on them to create awareness about the 1 % of us with epilepsy, a physical condition regarded with fear and devastating mockery.  Button bearers, whether they have epilepsy or not, help normalize the condition by proclaiming themselves to be unique and valuable individuals.

In similar fashion, Responsive Health Management, owner of long-term care, assisted living and retirement homes in Ontario, has introduced Making Every Moment Matter as their tagline.  Because of one way in which the tagline can be interpreted, most competitors in their industry wouldn’t be caught, well, dead making such a statement.  But Responsive is making the point that their 1,400 staff are perpetually vigilant at giving residents the best quality of life they can, honouring their dignity whatever the state of their health.

What are the taboos in your industry?  Talking about them could unearth some powerful naming and messaging opportunities.

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Toronto Star story:  http://www.thestar.com/news/article/955682–police-officer-s-remarks-at-york-inspire-slutwalk

Epilepsy Toronto: http://epilepsytoronto.org

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