SlutWalk: Why I Am Marching


Dear Friends,

This Saturday, the International SlutWalk movement finally comes to New York City. After thousands of women marched along the streets of hundreds of cities around the globe, we will gather in New York City’s Union Square together. At The Line Campaign, we recognize that there have been many valid concerns and contentions over the name—primarily that it doesn’t speak to many women of color, or others who are offended or who aren’t in a position to parade under a “slut” banner.

“Slut Walk” as a name began as a challenge to the notion that what might fall under a contemporary description of “sluttiness”—revealing clothing, flirting, drinking—does not equate consent to sex, and never justifies rape. However, somewhere along the line it became about re-appropriating the word “slut” into an empowering term, something that many women of color have expressed feels dangerous and counter productive to combating a problematic history of racialized sexuality.

SlutWalk was never meant to be divisive—but its controversial name was both a blessing and a curse, gaining media attention, but inciting a politically theatrical debate that veered the movement off-course from a universal struggle against victim-blaming and started dividing women along race lines.

SlutWalk is a grassroots movement, often spearheaded by young people organizing for the first time. Every movement has its growing pains, and we hope that SlutWalk can work through these contentions and mature into an inclusive and groundbreaking movement that inspires conversations and further organizing that lead to real change.

At The Line Campaign we see the SlutWalk Movement as a tidal wave against rape culture and victim-blaming, something that women of all backgrounds need one another’s support in resisting. Women have organized across the world, from Toronto to Buenos Aires to Mexico City, Kyrgizstan, and Morocco under the universal agreement that we, as women, have had enough. I hope that you will continue this movement by joining us to march from Union Square at 12 noon sharp; I will be speaking along with representatives from Radical Women, Red Umbrella, Queers for Economic Justice, Domestic Workers United, STARR, Sex Worker Outreach Project, International Socialist Organization, and other independent activists.

In Solidarity,

Nancy Schwartzman

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

  • dkos

    While I fully agree with the theme and your purpose, it’s a totally different movement and should be totally separate, at a different time and place.

    On it’s own, fine, but right now, it is confusing, “lefty” name, and has nothing to do with occupywallstreet.

    This is all the movement we need right now. You will be giving Fox and all of them something to mock and make fun of, they are already mocked for not having a clear message and for protesting everything under the sun.

    Great cause but I really think it’s rather trivial right now compared to what is beginning to take shape. Any accident or mistake in messaging can be captured on camera and film and derail a very fragile thing taking place.

    No time to be piggy-backing off of THE movement. They are just now clarifying their message for the media soundbite world as it is. I would cancel this immediately, this is too important for any more confusion whatsoever. IMOHO.

    Even the Int. Socialist Organization or any signs with socialism right now I feel are a big mistake. Nobody’s demonstrating for socialism, or shouldn’t be. This is fragile right now and the media is waiting to jump on anything. It could all turn at a moment’s notice with one captured image. No more topless chics, no more socialism on signs, this is serious folks and the message needs to get focused not broaden.

    Just my $.02 worth.

  • kmiriam

    While I appreciate the sentiments of this brief article I think that the vagueness of the agenda– “working against victim blaming” says a lot about what is missing.  There seems to be an unwillingness to look at the roots of victim-blaming in concrete social conditions of a capitalist patriarchy– systems of control of women, systems. victim blaming doesn’t come out of the air from mis-informed individuals. It is a systematic part of rape culture, and i hate to have to state the obvious but rape is about relations between men and women. Yet there is extreme hesitation in naming this central fact.  So I think in this context individual assertions that dress does not equal consent miss so many points about how women are exhorted to be hypersexualized today.  It’s not about youth vs. older generations, since many older feminists are on board with this, and many younger feminists object to it. More to the point– even if it is steered by young women, they are informed by what the elder generations have failed (due a to external forces of anti-feminism) to pass on. There was a lot of misegosh in the 80s–and the development of “sex positive” feminism– gee a feminism so appealing, men can like it too.  I am glad that the recent statements by women of color have started pushing the envelope and inciting some productive conversation about the reclamation of Slut. And i’m sorry it’s just silly to say a march literally *branded* as Slut-walk is not about this reclamation. If it gets media attention it’s for the same reasons that women are victim-blamed! due to the sexualization (which also includes desexulation) of girls and women.

  • litlcreaux

    Kathy did a good job of naming so much that is wrong with SlutWalk. Think about the message it sends compared to Take Back The Night. It says, We are feminist, but still pretty and available to please men. This will women trapped with no real choice but to live up to these imagee of male-identified and acceptable women. How can any real change be made as long as it is attached to male approval? This is so about making sure the status quo is kept and no real feathers are ruffled. SlutWalk is misguided, despite its good intentions. Yes, it ought to not matter what a woman is wearing, but we know it is. Hypersexualizing women and “reclaiming” the word slut is akin to saying stripping is an empowering act for women.

  • colleen

    If the undiluted concern trolling continues I  will be forced to conclude that an international movement composed of men and women  objecting to rape prone cultures scares some folks. I can’t imagine why.

     

     

  • crowepps

    Thousands of sexual assaults that occur in the United States every year are not reflected in the federal government’s yearly crime report because the report uses an archaic definition of rape that is far narrower than the definitions used by most police departments.

    “The data that are reported to the public come from this definition, and sadly, it portrays a very, very distorted picture,” said Susan B. Carbon, director of the Office on Violence Against Women, part of the Department of Justice. “It’s the message that we’re sending to victims, and if you don’t fit that very narrow definition, you weren’t a victim and your rape didn’t count.”

    “You can’t ignore the politics of crime,” said Charles H. Ramsey, commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department and the president of the police research forum, who backs changing the federal definition.

    “With the new definition, it’s going to dramatically change the numbers,” Commissioner Ramsey said. Police chiefs will then need to explain to the public that the increase represents an improvement in reporting, rather than a jump in actual numbers of sexual assaults.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/29/us/federal-rules-on-rape-statistics-criticized.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

  • crowepps

    You’ve pretty much missed the entire point.

    It is possible to be a feminist and still be pretty and still want to attract men.  Feminist are not all ugly, fat lesbians.

    Women who want to attract men are not “trapped with no real choice” but actually want to have sex with men to whom they are attracted.

    The status quo is “women who are attractive deserve to be raped”, something you apparently agree with, since you think it really does matter what women are wearing.

    It is an empowering act for women to say ‘DO NOT USE MY CLOTHES OR MY ATTRACTIVENESS AS AN EXCUSE TO RAPE ME” and apparently we need another message to the rape enablers like you, ‘STOP BLAMING WOMEN FOR CAUSING THEIR OWN RAPES’.

  • crowepps

    It’s pretty easy to see why it upsets the rapists, isn’t it?  They don’t want to admit that the only way they can get a woman to have sex with them is to rape her, they don’t want to admit that getting a girl drunk and having sex with her after she’s passed out is rape, and they don’t want to admit that using roofies isn’t a sign you’re hot stuff but instead an indication you’re a pathetic loser.  Men who see women as meat puppets for their use don’t want to give up the only kind of sex life accessible to them so long as they’re unwiling to give up being sexist jerks.

     

    Why it upsets other women is more problematic.  I’m not sure if they have been trained to be sexphoblic and are repulsed by the ‘immorality’ of other women actually wanting and deliberately attracting possible sex partners, or if they just get a sick thrill out of ‘prettiness’ resulting in punishment so they feel justified in conforming to their cultural programming to wear unattractive clothing so men will ignore them.  Do know as more Evangelicals and Mormons have moved into our area here, the local store started carrying a section of over-long, baggy, long-sleeved dresses in drab colored upholstery patterns that the staff in the break room call the ‘Repulsive Religious’ collection.

  • crowepps

    So I think in this context individual assertions that dress does not equal consent miss so many points about how women are exhorted to be hypersexualized today

    I grew up in the 50′s.  I don’t think anybody can reasonably claim that women were “exhorted to be hypersexualized” in the 50′s, but “What was she wearing?” and “What was she doing there?” and “What was she drinking?” and the label “Slut” were even more common at that time.

    Rape is NOT about “relations between men and women”, since men are also willing to rape men, but instead SOME men’s most important relationship being with their penis, and THOSE FEW men feeling entitled to use EVERYBODY around them as meat puppets for their gratification.

    I hold no brief for the cultural push in the media and advertising that constantly insists that all women have to be sexy, sexy, sexy every second, but the whole POINT of Slutwalk is that there isn’t anything about any aspect of what is culturally considered ‘sexiness’, not behavior or clothes or drinking or anything else, NOTHING that entitles anyone to have sex with women who did not consent.

    The women AND MEN who are involved in Slutwalk are not trying to deal with all of the “concrete social conditions of a capitalist patriarchy”, they instead are attempting to serve notice that the era of rape-enabling through victim-blaming is over, not just to rapists but also to the cops and prosecuting attorneys who embody that.

  • jennifer-starr

    I suspect that the real ‘concern’ among at least two of the posters is that the Slut Walk will overshadow the Wall Street Protests and take publicity away.  Surely NYC is big enough to handle more than one demonstration at a time. 

  • jennifer-starr

    duplicate, please delete

  • colleen

    Surely NYC is big enough to handle more than one demonstration at a time.

     

     announced their objections to the union of the 700+ airline pilots demonstrating this past week and told them how trival their concerns are compared to those of The Movement. Those pilots were, after all, actually on Wall St. (rather than 3.5 miles away)

    I expect not. The airline pilots are, after all, overwhelmingly white and male so their concerns can’t be trivial or embarassing to The Movement.

     

  • elburto

    Even ugly fat lesbians (like me) are raped, and we’re just as blamed as any other group. That’s what Slutwalk is about, it’s not about the right to be a skinny straight chick who can wear what she wants, it’s about everyone’s right to live without the fear of predators who will be absolved of their actions because of what we were wearing/drinking/doing and where we were at what time.

    That’s why the original SlutWalk occurred, because students in Toronto (I think it was Toronto anyway) were told that they were inviting sexual assault and rape by a police officer who deemed their behaviour and dress “slutty”.

  • colleen

    It’s pretty easy to see why it upsets the rapists, isn’t it?

    While the pathetic loser jerkyness of rapists is undisputed I suspect that the real reason they’re upset is that they wish to continue to live in a culture where the overwhelming majority of rapes go unreported and unpunished. Think what would happen if the prosecutors and police were actually forced to prosecute rapists rather than force rape to submit to polys or reflexively  charge rape victims with filing false reports etc. It would be  so oppressive for them.

     

  • crowepps

    Think how lonely it would be for the rapist, unable to brag to his buddies about his revenge on women for rejecting him, for fear they might not think ‘the chick probably deserved it’ and instead might report him to the cops.

    Think how it would spoil his fun not to be able to joke around about rape with his male coworkers and feel powerful because doing so creeps out the female coworkers.

    Poor him — mere sex isn’t the point.  The point is to be able to trick people or to hunt them down, to coerce them or to hurt them.  To feel superior because society is giving him tacit permission to use women as sex toys.  And speaking of almost megalomaniacal sense of entitlement to sex, take a look at the history of this fellow, from our local paper:

    http://www.adn.com/2011/09/26/2089528/man-plotted-to-rape-ex-girlfriends.html

  • crowepps

    I hope my careless stereotype didn’t hurt your feelings, I should have been more careful about whether I was dissing somebody but I am just SO TIRED of the ‘if she didn’t dress attractively and look sexy nobody would have raped her’ stereotype.  Old, toothless women like me are raped as well.  In their own homes.  With their doors and windows locked.  Without being drunk.

    I wish we could take if women weren’t hypersexualized out in the backyard and BURN IT because it has NOTHING to do with rape.

  • elburto

    Don’t worry! I just wish that possessing a vagina did not equal ‘slut’ to some men. I used to live on the edge of an ultra-orthodox Jewish neighbourhood, and was berated for wearing a shirt that wasn’t buttoned to my throat. I wasn’t a member of the community, I was just waiting for a bus home that went through that same area! A friend lives in a similar community in New York and was deemed a whore for letting her elbow show when she reached up to grab some cereal from a high shelf in a local supermarket. She’s nearing the time when her daughter has to be covered completely (age 3) and is seriously considering doing a runner, rather than doing so, because she doesn’t want to raise her in a community that sees the bare lower legs of a toddler as offensive.

    At the opposite end of the scale, another well known ‘party town’ I lived in is famous for girls and women wearing so little to go out, and not wearing coats, that hypothermia alongside a hangover is not uncommon!

    My rambly, drug-induced point is that there are people out there who will consider somebody a slut for the apparent crime of being out in public in possession of a vagina. And that terrifies me, and makes me so glad that I’m not bringing children up in this world.

    If you go to the front page of feministe right now (can’t give a direct link cos I’m on my phone!) you’ll see a story of women in New York being stopped by the police and lectured for wearing dresses or shorts while there’s a rapist on the loose. Nobody’s stopping men and saying “Don’t rape!” of course, that would infringe on their freedom.

    Feministe.us/blog

  • wendy-banks

    As the mom of a ten-year-old, I must say, that’s a REALLY creepy story :(

  • katwa

    the development of “sex positive” feminism– gee a feminism so appealing, men can like it too.

    Actually, plenty of WOMEN like sex as well.

  • katwa

    Yes, it ought to not matter what a woman is wearing, but we know it is.

    Actually, no, it doesn’t. Rapists do not choose who to rape based on what they are wearing.