Why Black Women Should Participate In SlutWalk

September 30, 2011  |  

Tomorrow, New York City will be host to its first SlutWalk, a protest march organized in response to the suggestion that women must mind what they wear in order to prevent sexual assault and harassment. The Toronto based movement, which has spread across the globe to places including Buenos Aires, South Africa, Sweden and Romania, has faced harsh criticism from a group of influential black feminists and their allies who feel that women of color have been marginalized in the naming and organization of the marches in  “An Open Letter to SlutWalk Organizers from Black Women”.

An excerpt:

As black women and girls we find no space in SlutWalk, no space for participation and to unequivocally denounce rape and sexual assault as we have experienced it. We are perplexed by the use of the term “Slore” and by any implication that this word, much like the word “Ho” or the “N” word should be re-appropriated. The way in which we are perceived and what happens to us before, during and after sexual assault crosses the boundaries of our mode of dress. Much of this is tied to our particular history. In the United States, where slavery constructed black female sexualities, Jim Crow kidnappings, rape and lynchings, gender misrepresentations, and more recently, where the black female immigrant struggle combine, “Slore” has different associations for black women. We do not recognize ourselves nor do we see our lived experiences reflected within SlutWalk and especially not in its brand and its label.

…As black women, we do not have the privilege or the space to call ourselves “Slore” without validating the already historically entrenched ideology and recurring messages about what and who the black woman is. We don’t have the privilege to play on destructive representations burned in our collective minds, on our bodies and souls for generations…Every tactic to gain civil and human rights must not only consult and consider women of color, but it must equally center all our experiences and our communities in the construction, launching, delivery and sustainment of that movement…We ask that SlutWalk take critical steps to become cognizant of the histories of people of color and engage women of color in ways that respect culture, language and context…

While I, too, have my concerns about a seeming lack of direct engagement of black women in the development of SlutWalk (particularly the domestic ones), I feel that sisters should go out and march tomorrow and we should actively participate in the movement in order to guarantee inclusion from within. The alternative would be starting our own marches and quite frankly, I don’t find that to be necessary this time around. If SlutWalk claims to represent the needs of women across cultural and socio-economic lines, let’s be there to ensure that it does with our presence.

The Black women behind this letter are the proverbial ‘choir.’ They get it. They understand street harassment and sexual assault, but they fail to realize that an argument over semantics is not as pressing as the need to get African-American women engaged in the struggle for our basic human rights and dignity. Let’s have conversations with not only the organizers, but also the many black women who fail to acknowledge the need to eradicate the culture of rape and harassment that charges women with “protecting” themselves with what they wear, as opposed to holding men accountable for their crimes against women. Let’s stop shaming girls and women for enjoying low-cut dresses and flirting, and instead, educate boys and men on how to be respectful of them regardless of how ‘easy’ or ‘available’ they may look. Let’s stop treating rape victims like suspects who are lying until proven assaulted. Then, perhaps, we can quibble over the word “Slore.”

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  • Studies show that rapists target women based on opportunity and passivity, not clothing choice.

  • Yes, because women who dress modestly are never catcalled, disrespected, harassed, or raped. Even by the most menacing men. This never happens.__I know it's nice to believe that we have an easy way to keep ourselves safe, but the reality is that you can be victimized regardless of dress, and to imply otherwise shifts blame to the victims and puts their behaviour on trial.

  • Maimuna

    Ralph, i don't know where me and you went wrong you had me all along until you attacked my women studies degrees and i an't white nor gotta a rich daddy let a lone a trust fund! LOL

  • maimuna

    I agree fighting the battle from within if i may quote it again

  • somethingdifferent

    it's written in the Bible.

  • uldsuafl

    gotta love black people who are racist themselves complaining about racism. Because all white woman in this country are rich, and all white women are hipsters, and all white women have privileged backgrounds and their families have never had to face any hardships in the present or past. Thanks for the prejudice Ralph 🙂

  • SoCalGal

    May I ask what is a "pink man"?

  • Dcarter910

    Now that I can most certainly agree with! Its not the clothes but the men, even though the cloths at time can "really" play a role!

  • Lydia

    I'm so sorry that happened to you. It isn't right and I really wish there was more we could all do to prevent something like this in the future. The disrespect is multilayered. Normally I would suggest a mace but I don't even know if that would help it. Maybe yo should carry a taser though because I know if anything happened to my grandmother, I wouldn't be able to handle it.

  • Dcarter910

    Now how about that!! Not trying to redefine negative words but actually promoting positive dialogue toward negative stereotypes and mentalities.

  • Kayla

    it's not degrading it's empowering. it's sending a message. Black woman get harassed to, by men. the author is just using all those fancy terms to mean that since their are too many white people participating, or since this is a white woman thing, black woman should sit this one out

    • DLW

      To each his own. However, I COMPLETELY disagree with you and your take on this article. Words have power and It has nothing to do with the amount of white participants but rather not giving validation to to an ignorant recurring message. "Fancy terms" ?!??! Are you serious? (SMH) The letter was articulate, to say the least and I'll just leave it at that as to not personally attach you. The naming of this march is totally degrading and not at all empowering! Why anyone, especially a woman of color would participate in something like this is beyond me, but like i said initially, to each his/her own.

  • Transam

    i think its humorous..but the term is used very loosely in this organization …

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  • satch

    lol ralph you are right.but remember the white woman is not safe from the crazy white boys who will kill them and throw them away like trash.so why would they want to wear stuff that will get more negative attenion.just because i can do something do not mean it is the right thing to do.

  • What You Say?

    Things Women Do that Confuse the Hell Out of Men

  • Brodie

    I'm glad the writer of this article brought her own opinion and ideas to the discussion in a mature rebuttal. I don't think a call for all black women to participate or not is necessary though. Let the black women who feel passionately about the message contribute/attend as they wish. I can't be the only person who can appreciate the fact that our black population is as diverse as the next. Black feminists-at least the ones who penned the open letter- are more concerned about the image of black women with white women; it'll appear that white women are either using black women or the black women are "stupid" for following white feminists (again)-either way black feminists still haven't focused on the consistency of their message, they look flaky.

  • JustAshley

    Thank you. I absolutely agree.

  • Sam

    Wow. I'm more than a little disappointed in this article. To diminish this very legitimate issue as nothing but "an argument over semantics" is like doing a very different, but very real kind of violence to black women around the globe. The best thing about this post is that it linked to the actual letter WHICH I took the time to read, and sign, before I posted in this forum. Perhaps everyone who reads this rather selective and simplified version of the issue should read that letter (in its rather long entirety) before denouncing the actions of these women. Or we can rely upon, and rage against, a cherry picked excerpt.

  • itaintthatserious

    Whomever wrote that letter clearly can't take a joke, let alone be smart enough to realize that the message is bigger than the word. He/she totally missed the whole point; eh, can't please everyone all the time. Someone is always going to complain about something. Take something with a purpose and bash it, like everything else. Just can't win for losing with some folks. smh…