My dear friend Candace shares why she is Rising in 1 Billion Rising event on Feb. 14th.
Learn Debbie Allen’s choreography to the ONE BILLION RISING dance anthem BREAK THE CHAIN!
Activists in 182 countries are staging One Billion Rising events, many are using “Break The Chain” for flash mobs in high profile locations. Watch this video and dance the day away! And be sure to let us know what you are doing by registering your event! Special shout out to the incredible Senior dance class at Brooklyn High School of the Arts for teaching Debbie’s moves!
Why I don’t use the word: slut!
Below is a letter I wrote a year or so ago to the creators of a North Hampton Slut Walk. Since my friend, one of the organizers of the rally, read my letter they changed the name of their walk to:
Stomp And Holler: We’ve Had Enough
I attended the renamed rally a few months later and marched in female solidarity. After the letter there will be pictures from the rally. My friend Jester The Activist
marched along side me and gave a really compelling speech about men being involved in the feminist movement. I love Jester (Hi is in the yellow shirt)! I am in the purple shirt holding the mega phone!
Letter to Slutwalk Organizers of the World
Dear Slutwalk Organizers,
Hi. My name is Roxanne Wright and I am a strong, empowered woman, who has survived both rape and victim blaming. The UN Commission on the Status of Women has changed their statists stating that one in three women in the world are abused. ONE IN THREE! That number is generated from women who have admitted to being abused, can you imagine what that number would be if unreported abuses were taken into account? What this statistic demonstrates is that our world is at war with women. Although the laws are supposed to protect women, they often are manipulated in a way which victim blames them or shames them into silence.
When I first heard about the comment made by a police representative in Toronto about how "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victims,” I was immediately appalled. How could a law enforcement official say such victimizing words to women, who are being assaulted and turning to them for help? Just like the thousands of women who took to the streets and marched against victim blaming and abuse towards women in the original Slutwalk, my shock quickly turned into anger.
This anger was geared towards society, society at large and within my own community, who has lashed out at me for voicing my abuse. I was highly impressed by how many people were mobilized by this outlandish statement and choose to march in protest of victim blaming. However, the catchy title of “Slutwalk” left a bad taste in my mouth. For many years cities all over the world have had “Take Back The Night” rallies, which have also fought against victim blaming and the abuse of all women. Take Back The Night rallies have died down in numbers over time, while the amount of abuse has remained steady, if not increased. Due to this lack of hype I completely understand the rebranding of these marches, however by calling them Slutwalks I feel like we are doing women a disservice.
Granted the term slut is extremely catchy, but it also extremely powerful. In a society where women are in a constant struggle of tug of war between being a Madonna or a whore it is, in my opinion, rare to find a woman who has not heard/used/or been called a slut. The term resonates with women from all walks of life, but that does not mean it should be celebrated. This is the other objective of the Slutwalks. They want to not only stop victim blaming and the abusing of women, but they also want to reclaim the word ‘slut’.
It is my personal opinion that the later objective cannot be done. How can women take a patriarchal term, which was forced upon them in order to objectify as well as subordinate them, and reclaim it? I am in full support of women taking control of their own sexuality as long as it is done in a safe and mutual environment, however I do not think the term ‘slut’ embodies this objective. Rather it fights against women.
The word itself is powerless; it is the meaning behind the word, which is hurtful. However, you cannot simply change the meaning of a word for it has deeply rooted historical as well as current meaning. Professor Gail Dines, a radical feminist and author surrounding women’s issues, stated in her article: SlutWalk is Not Sexual Liberation, that “while the organizers of the SlutWalk might think that proudly calling themselves ‘sluts’ is a way to empower women, they are in fact making life harder for girls who are trying to navigate their way through the tricky terrain of adolescence.” For women in the black community the term slut is particularly detrimental.
In An Open Letter From Black Women to the Slutwalk, black women voiced their concern over the later objective of the walk as well. They claim that the rebranding of the term ‘slut’ is extremely harmful to their demographic for it continues to dehumanize women who have struggled to fight against stereotypes and rape culture. These black women, who are comprised of several black female organizations, state that they, “don’t have the privilege to walk through the streets of New York City, Detroit, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, L.A. etc., either half-naked or fully clothed self-identifying as ‘sluts’ and think that this will make women safer in our communities an hour later, a month later, or a year later.” The reality is, the meaning behind the word will never fully be changed. By trying to reclaim the word slut women are giving men the luxury to normalize the word and therefore trivialize rape and abuse culture in the world. It is due to these issues that black women, alongside many other women from a variety of demographics, feel like there is no place for them to join this cause.
By annihilating certain women from participating in the fight to end rape culture the entire cause is done a disservice. All women need to work together to change the statistics about abuse. In An Open Letter From Black Women to the Slutwalk, black women say that, “We can learn from successful movements like the Civil Rights movement, from Women’s Suffrage, the Black Nationalist and Black Feminist movements that we can make change without resorting to the taking-back of words that were never ours to begin with, but in fact heaved upon us in a process of dehumanization and devaluation.” Instead women should try and find their own term, outside of patriarchy, which will express their sexuality in a positive manner. It is crucial that this term is agreed upon as an uplifting term by all women in order for it to stick and be helpful.
Now I must admit, I have never personally been to a Slutwalk. This fall I had friends in North Hampton Massachusetts who were working to organize their own Slutwalk and I voiced to them the concerns I had mentioned above to you. They then talked amongst themselves and decided to change the name of the rally in hopes of being inclusive of all women. The name they choose for the rally was “Stomp and Holler: Because We’ve Had Enough!” They choose this name rather then staying with the age old ‘Take Back The Night’ because they felt it breathed new life into an old cause, while staying all encompassing. Madeline Burrows, an organizer of the event, said that “the important thing, regardless of the title, [was] that a march against victim-blaming and sexism” take place. At first many women lashed out against the name change, but that quickly changed once the organizers explained their reasoning behind the name change. People from all walks of life, including myself, joined this rally and shouted in the streets of North Hampton in both English and in Spanish about the plight of women and how abuse must end.
I believe that the rally in North Hampton should be seen as a model for how future Slutwalks, or rallies for women’s rights should run. By being mindful of the terminology they used all women felt comfortable to join the cause. They also were mindful of the fact that men, trans, and people with disabilities, regardless of their age, should also have a voice in fight to end rape culture. Alongside wonderful female speakers a transwoman named spoke about her experience; a woman in a wheelchair spoke through an interpreter about her experience, and a male activist named Bryan Newman rapped victim blaming and abuse. At the end of the rally the organizers announced several more meeting times and locations for people to join together and take action against rape culture and victim blaming.
Due to the enormous popularity the Slutwalks have had, it is evident that there is a need for people to fight against victim blaming and abuse. By including people from all walks of life to join the cause; the fight was strengthened significantly. We must continue to change the statistics so that no one is ever a victim of abuse or victim blaming.
Thank you for your time.
The night before the last presidential debate, the activist collective Luminous Intervention projected stories of survivors of sexual violence on the Capitol Building in Washington DC, including the phrase “RAPE is RAPE” to counter rhetoric like Todd Akin’s noxious “legitimate rape” and insist the issue be addressed in the national dialogue.