Why This Slut Walked

[E]Coco PapyFeminismLeave a Comment

olivemylove

You know something is amiss when a grown man says to you at a rally against rape, “I hope you get raped.” But let’s not color the entirety of this piece on that comment. This lone incident, while reflective of something that is so large and encompassing, is not what moves me to write this piece on the Slutwalk march, though, there is something devastatingly ridiculous about it.

I admit I had serious doubts about Slutwalk. There were criticisms that weighed heavy on the shoulders of the movement, hard evidence that the same old battles in feminism were still very seriously intact. It initially put me on edge to connect myself to a movement, when it was obvious that many felt erased, unheard or left out. So though I have now come to have a deep pride at walking alongside so many, I still have questions, for my own actions moving forward, and for any movement. How are these gaps bridged, without demanding that those most affected jump first?

In my best of times, I take a nonchalant pride in the title “slut.” It exists as nothing more than a joke between close friends when feel we can honestly talk about our sexuality with no judgment. In the worst of times, slut has been thrusted on me by men whose advances I’ve rejected, partners I have ended relationships with, well-intentioned family members commenting on my behavior and appearance, received with a punch in the middle of a street, and by a man who held me down and forced me to have sex with him. “Slut.” It took me many years to even admit that these acts had affected me, or even worse, had even happened to me. To pry open the secrecy that many will often hide deep within is nothing short of a feat of the human will; the power of shame can scare you stiff into staying in “your place,” even though you have done nothing wrong. This shame whispers into your ear with every decisions made, often letting countless of others walk over you and make you feel as if it is all your fault.

Of course, these personal incidents all still exist in a very privileged world. There are many who do not feel that they can even accept the term “slut,” no matter how many accomplishments, degrees, or steps forward they make.  We still exist within a world that has a deeply embedded white-puritanical supremacy, forcing titles like “slut,” “ho,” “exotic,” “tranny,” and “hooker” onto women of color, poor women, immigrant women, and trans persons. There is never a short supply of words used to oppress and hurt, nor does the reclamation of any one word undo the history of violence that still colors our present day. Harsha Walia offers the best evidence of the countless personhoods that exist under the unfair definitions of “slut”; people whose bodies are deemed more disposable, more “rape-able.” One only has to look at the media smear of Nafi Diallo during the DSK trial to know that the reclaiming of slut is not accessible for everyone. However, it is up to movements like Slutwalk to allow for a space of support for these situations and to provide solidarity in ways that they themselves may not be able to provide.

When I first attended one of the Slutwalk meetings, I wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to see. Like everything, I prepared myself for the worst and hoped for the best. What I saw in that room countered most of my fears: people working their asses off. I saw leadership as a collective. I saw the deep frustration that comes with trying to build something that can be set back easily. I saw multitudes of experience working towards something much bigger and each person who identified differently with the movement. Some felt okay with “slut.” Some refused to reclaim it. Some felt as if they didn’t have a choice.

This can be said of the actual Slutwalk as well, where the vastness of experience and voices gave me a moment of pause, at first to question, “Am I really the best judge of considering something accessible?” then to, “Look at all of us.” Trans women. Trans men. People who don’t identify with the gender binary. Cis Men. Cis Women. Sex workers. Women of color. Men of color. Fathers. Mothers. People in their seventies. Children. Activists. Queer women. Queer men. Self-identified sluts. People who refused to consider themselves as a slut. Those who came to support. Those who were survivors. Those who now used the violence enacted against them as fuel to move forward. Those whose pain was so palpable that it filled the air around you and it took everything not to scream out loud at the continuing forces that encourages sex as an act of violence, colonialization, manipulation, secrecy, blame, and power. There were those who marched not under the idea of slut as something to reclaim, but against sexual violence, rape culture, police brutality, the dismembering of bodies, the erasure of others. This is bigger than just a logo.

However, I can only speak for myself, in what I believe I saw. This is an opinion that is what I think Lori Adelman describes best as a contradiction, heavy with all the many things that need to be done:

I march with a ball of confusion in my heart and stomach, with some pride in how far I’ve come and with some pain at how imperfect I am. I march because circumstances are so dire that urgent action is both necessary and terribly inadequate. -Lori Adelman 

There are many out there who will disagree with my perspective on Slutwalk and they have every single right to. If anything, they are the people who hold the key to building better, stronger movements that are inclusive to all. I believe deeply that this movement is something big, that there is possibility to build with all and that there is a better future.

Rape is not a static act, nor are the linked acts of sexual violence, rape culture, and the decision making on whose bodies mean what. This is not about men and women, nor is it about one narrative. It is about violence and power against people. You can hear this in the stories of trans men raped by cis gender women, gay men raped by gay and straight men, trans women raped by men, queer women raped by queer women, people who were raped by friends, family, coworkers, husbands, wives, correctional officers, teachers, partners. Rape is not the boogeyman monster hiding in the dark waiting to get you or maybe sometimes it is, as evidenced by the man running around in my own neighborhood, now having assaulted five women.  It’s about daily moments. One moment, you are fine and then the next it is a smell, a touch, an ad, a comment, maybe your own anxiety that reaches out and grabs hold of you, takes you to a place you try to forget or you always try to move past. Sometimes this exists quietly; sometimes it is ever present in all the motions through out your day, a reminder that there is so much work to be done.

But I still stand by the idea that this is a way to do that work. This isn’t just a march for people to dress up and make noise for a day. This is an evolving movement that will change over time and will have to deal with the many intersections of our broken culture, all with the heads on mentality of what is best for all. So I leave you all with this video of what happened on October 1st, 2011, just as a glimpse of what I saw that day.

 

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[E]Coco Papy

Coco is a writer and burlesque performer. Born in the Deep South and based out of Brooklyn, New York, she performs and pens regularly, with gusto. You can catch more of her work at http://cocoepapy.tumblr.com/
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[E]Coco PapyWhy This Slut Walked

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