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SlutWalkers take to the streets of Jerusalem

Showing lots of skin in capital’s city center, several hundred marchers protest perceived rape culture and victim blaming

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

  • Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
    Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
  • Woman holds sign saying, "I was raped" at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
    Woman holds sign saying, "I was raped" at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
  • Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
    Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
  • Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
    Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
  • Moni Krausz (left) and R. at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
    Moni Krausz (left) and R. at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
  • Protesters hold signs saying, "My body is mine only" and "No is no" at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
    Protesters hold signs saying, "My body is mine only" and "No is no" at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
  • Protesters holds sign saying, 'She isn't asking for it,' at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
    Protesters holds sign saying, 'She isn't asking for it,' at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
  • Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
    Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)

Traffic came to a standstill and pedestrians stopped and stared midday Friday as several hundred demonstrators marched through downtown Jerusalem for the city’s fourth annual SlutWalk protesting rape culture.

The protesters, mainly young men and women in their teens and twenties, paraded in various states of undress to make the point that women should be able to wear whatever they want without being sexually harassed. Many of the women had on midriff-baring tops, or no tops at all. Some of the men went bare-chested or cross-dressed, donning feminine sundresses appropriate for the warm late-May weather.

They carried hand-made signs and shouted slogans such as, “Blame the rapist,” “When she says no, she means no,” “My body is mine,” and “Women demand safety on the streets.”

A SlutWalk is a protest against the explaining or excusing of rape based on a woman’s attire or appearance. The first such protest took place in Toronto, Canada in April 2011, in response to a police officer’s suggesting that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” in order to avoid being raped. Since then, SlutWalks have taken place in cities around the world and have broadened their protest scope to include all types of sexual assault and harassment, as well as the prevalence of victim blaming.

In Israel, SlutWalks have taken place in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheba, as well as in Jerusalem. According to Or David, one of the event’s organizers, however, Friday’s SlutWalk in Jerusalem was the only one planned in Israel for this year.

Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)

David told The Times of Israel that she thinks harassment of women happens more in Israel than in other places.

“People in Israel think everything is their business, and they say things that are not okay,” she said.

However, David cautioned that this is not just a local problem. “Men all over the world think they can do whatever they want, and it’s always the woman’s fault,” she said.

Many high school-age girls (some accompanied by their youth group leaders) participated in Friday’s SlutWalk, suggesting the younger generation is more politically aware of this issue. They spoke of having their behinds pinched and breasts grabbed by boys at school.

“Boys and men treat us like objects. I want people to pay attention to my character, not they way I dress,” said 15-year-old Shir, who was at the protest with three of her friends.

Slightly older women said they were participating in the SlutWalk because they are fed up with being judged for all different reasons by men — and also by other women.

‘I’m here to celebrate body rights and the freedom to wear whatever makes me feel comfortable without being judged, harassed or abused.’

“It’s not only about what I wear. You can’t criticize me for who I am having sex with, either,” said 21-year-old Ron, who did not want to give her last name.

A middle-aged woman who wished to remain anonymous said she was proud and “incredibly emotional” to see so many younger people at the protest.

“These are young women and men who understand that feminism will make the world a better place not just for women, but for everyone,” she said.

Many young men came to show solidarity with the girls and women.

“I’m here to celebrate body rights and the freedom to wear whatever makes me feel comfortable without being judged, harassed or abused. I’ve seen harassment happen to both men and women. Men can also be victimized,” said a shirtless R., 17.

Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)

His friend Moni Krausz, 27, was draped in a rainbow LGBT flag. In his view, the gay rights and feminist struggles are strongly connected.

“There are a lot of gay people here today. As members of the LGBT community, we are part of this. These are the same values I believe in as a gay person,” he said of the SlutWalk’s purpose.

The SlutWalk in central Jerusalem did not cause as much of a stir as one might expect. The protesters had light police protection, and the march took place without any incident.

Although, at one point, a man got up from a sidewalk café table on Jaffa Street and confronted the protesters. “You’re garbage! You’re sick!” he yelled at them as they passed by.

But not all passers-by were as judgmental.

Orthodox teenager Esti Homnick, dressed in an ankle-length skirt and long-sleeves, happened upon the march at the corner of King George and Ben Yehuda Streets. She said she wasn’t surprised to see a SlutWalk in Jerusalem, and even called it “necessary.”

When asked what she thought about what the protesters were wearing, Homnick responded with a live-and-let-live attitude.

“This is my choice,” she said as she pointed to her own attire. “That is their choice. No one has the right to tell them what to wear,” she added as she looked over at the scantily clad women.

Man confronts protester at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)
Man confronts protester at Jerusalem SlutWalk, May 29, 2015. (Renee Ghert-Zand/Times of Israel)

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