Slut Walk–degrading to women or a brilliant media strategy? In light of my last post one might expect me to say the former but as Jessica Valenti pointed out in her interview seen here: Would she be seen on national TV if they were called empowerment walks?! This movement (for lack of a better description) began in Toronto (Their website can be found here and their FB page here.) in response to a police officer’s comment. The campaign has grown and of course has met with some opposition and controversy. Yet the organizers have, in my opinion, answered their detractors fairly well.
In the past couple days I’ve read several blogs, watched a few videos, and generally gotten an education. Personally, I think the questions raised and conversations garnered by Slut Walk events are worth the bad press the actual events attract. We need to talk. And yet at times I wonder if we will ever learn to focus on what we have in common, rather than waste time and energy scrutinizing our differences. As one example of how women seem to be divided: it seems some Women of Color bloggers are put off by White Women bloggers who bring attention to issues they too seem to champion. Although, evidently not when the issues are pointed to by white women. I guess these white women belong to the wrong denominations or something like that. Why these particular WOC (and please know I am absolutely not putting this on all WOC) do not simply start affirming that the white women in question (and the media covering them) are finally talking about issues of importance is a puzzlement. As a white woman I guess I just cannot understand how being a woman of color changes wanting to stop sexual violence so completely that we–white women and women of color–cannot share a platform. Thankfully many WOC share my question mark. And, conversations are beginning to cross racial lines, economic lines, age lines, and gender lines.
We need to talk. And keep talking. We need to raise awareness not only with regard to blatant sexism but also with regard to the subtle ways we allow sexist attitudes to be propagated. I do not doubt that the intent behind the comment made by one officer in Toronto and shared by thousands of others was to try to help women be safe but sexism hurts us all. That officer is not to blame for the fact that women are raped any more than the clothing a woman wears is responsible. At the same time, one of the conversations we need to keep having is about how our sexist attitudes contribute to the under reporting of crimes against women and the re-victimization of women who do report these crimes. The myths we foster because of our puritan prejudices harm the innocent and protect the guilty. We cannot keep silent. The time has come to separate fact from fiction. Myths are fiction!
Another conversation we need to keep having: Rape is a violent crime done by violent people, most of whom are men but some of whom are women. Women perpetrators can not be left out of the conversation but like all the small slivers of truth we cannot afford to let that fact distract too much focus from the main point. Similarly, while most rape is committed against women and children, men can be targeted as well. Violence crosses economic divides, racial divides age divides and gender divides. Rape is never okay no matter who the target. Rape is never justifiable no matter who the purpetrator. And, rape is never. Ever. Caused by the victim!
Overall, I am excited by the conversations popping up due to SlutWalks. I am encouraged by the idea that women are speaking up for themselves and friends of women are speaking out as well! It may only be the tip of the iceberg but I have hope. The ship of prejudice and injustice is not unsinkable. As long as women keep talking, and singing, and shouting, and chanting–I have hope.