Let’s Discuss: SlutWalkNYC and Racism

5 Oct

Maureen: Really?

Chloe: Here’s something I wrote in another forum on this.  The point of the tumblr conversation is that Yoko Ono created a controversial quip under the banner of “women of color” which, at the time, spurred the same confusion and outrage we’re having from people who felt that Ono as a woman of color was appropriating and embodying racist taglines (it reminds me of Beyonce’s – GIRLS RUN THE WORLD … thanks Beyonce, but no we don’t!) What I like about the post is that it suggests that the shame not only lies with the woman who is racist enough to create and hold the sign in the first place, but to all the people who let her walk with it un-confronted. It should not be the responsibility of the people who are oppressed to change their status – it is our status as privileged people to acknowledge the privilege and redistribute it.

How that looks depends who you are I guess. I’m an economist at heart so I believe strongly in tax reform and economic reform as a broader banner. I don’t believe formative social change exists without institutional/and economic change. We can make pretty (or not-so-pretty, as the case may be) signs all day but unless we have the literal capital to back it up, we ain’t goin nowhere.

So I demand the involvement of the privileged.  I was at a workshop recently where we used a participation model that serves nicely as an analogy here.  It was called Step Up/Step Back: those who were normally talkative were asked to take responsibility for themselves and create space for quieter individuals to speak.  Similarly, introverted folks were asked to take ownership of their participation and challenge themselves to contribute.  So: I demand that the wealthy lead the redistribution process; similarly: I demand that perpetrators stop perpetrating, learn empathy, and humanize their potential victims; I demand that hetero and cis people move the fuck over and create room for the queers; I demand that we as citizens recognize and respect the crucial work and participation of non-US citizens… Do you see? And at the root of all that is economic policy for me. I don’t think we can effect (key word: SUSTAINABLE) political change without participating in the union mvmt, without resources…

Dawn: I haven’t read any of the stories about this, but I have seen the picture and I read chloe’s response above.

First, I want to say that this was at Slutwalk NYCand I’ve seen some people I know claiming that this is a reason to completely disengage and oppose slutwalks as a whole. I want to point out that these events are local events organized by people all over the world who do not know each other and who have different visions/goals/ideas about their events. This is not something like the Vagina Monologues that is run by a central organization like v-day. There is not one particular way to do this, so disavowing all of the slutwalks around the world doesn’t really make sense to me.

Second, this sign is ridiculous. I know its lyrics to a song written by a woman of color and who knows what this woman’s intentions were, but I don’t think that makes it okay. At the same time, I’m sure that her friends there saw the sign and perhaps should have said something about it before the organizers of Slutwalk NYC had to ask her to not display it, but as someone who walked in Slutwalk DC, I think that blaming all of the women that were around her (and especially behind her) is ridiculous. I have no idea what all of the signs around me said. I saw ones that were right next to me or if there were people standing on the sidelines. but there’s no way in hell that I saw all of the signs that were there.

There’s definitely still a race issue here and there needs to be conversations and acknowledgment of privilege and the lack thereof, but using this sign as a reason to write off all of these events seems like a bit much to me.

Rachel: I just sent around a link about this from racialicious, my most favoritest blog besides hairpin and, natch, mislabeled.

The post is super thought provoking, as are the comments, and it raises a good question: Why are all these other white ladies around her not looking at that sign and saying whoaza, take that down and don’t let anyone see it?

Women have certainly been oppressed, but this word is not the one to describe it. and we have to be CAREFUL. Black women are already not happy with white ladies for the way feminism has gone down these past 100 years, and I don’t blame them.

We need to be edcuating ourselves and one another about ALL women’s experiences, and how to be SENSITIVE. SENSITIVE. SENSITIVE. and understanding. Because that’s what we ask for. we must give it back.

Chloe: I just know that for me, I was not comfortable being a part of something that did not represent MY feminism, and that erased so many people’s experiences.  I like the movement behind SlutWalk, and I have argued for it for some time.  A friend of mine and I got into a debate about whether or not we should go to SlutWalkNYC and I was arguing for it in a lot of ways: I think we NEED something that starts a grand conversation – for example: I am one of the ONLY educators in Westchester County serving the county as a whole on sexual assault prevention and education – and I’m THE only educator here that’s directly affiliated with the county’s Rape Crisis Program.  THAT is not enough.  That is the kind of thing that, while it’s nice when I can help individual people, and while I comfort myself with the idea of the domino effect (like, if I totally revolutionize one high schooler’s ideology, and then THEY talk to their friends, and their friends talk to THEIR friends, hayyyy that’s social change guyz!) I KNOW that I am not really creating change, and anything I DO manage to do is not lasting, not sustainable, and does NOT combat the powerful tide against us (and meanwhile, I cannot wait to get the fuck out of this line of work, as important as I feel it is – and that is a really big problem).  SlutWalk provides that larger platform, that larger “WAKE UP AND SMELL THE RAPE APOLOGISTS” and demands that people outside of the still-fairly-insular feminist community take notice.

However… I think a very strong point is made: we are a group of women demanding that women do not be erased, and that rapists, largely men, take responsibility for their actions.  So with that extremely explicit and extremely unforgiving standpoint in mind, I was not comfortable being part of the NYC walk where the organizers of the walk themselves erased so many of my community and failed to take responsibility for THEIR actions in a racist society.  And to me, that is absolutely condemnable.

Dawn: I’m not saying it’s not okay to condemn Slutwalk NYC in particular, but I’m sure that all of the participants were not aware of what happened behind the scenes or of this sign until the photos went viral. I’ve heard some horror stories from a few people about the way the organizers handled the event, but I’m seeing people choosing to condemn the movement and all slutwalk events altogether. I don’t think that’s necessary. I think that there are certainly good things coming from the conversations that have occurred re: slutwalks and that this is the first year they’ve happened so there’s clearly room for improvement and for more people to get active in the organizing process so that the movement can indeed be more inclusive and representative.

Rachel: Another piece to our puzzle....

With a reminder to myself to keep an open Black feminist mind, I began to pay better attention to what was happening around me. People cruised by on wheelchairs, bikes and skates. One woman, with her SlutWalk wristband on the same wrist as her hospital band, made the journey on crutches. What I saw was a beautifully diverse representation of what feminism can look like. That diversity taught me something about the significance of the SlutWalk.

Stay tuned for more as we have it….


One Response to “Let’s Discuss: SlutWalkNYC and Racism”

  1. Chloe H October 6, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    To be fair the link to “something I wrote” is not my writing! I just found it on tumblr. But it is good info 🙂

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