My interest has also been somewhat stoked when I've read posts that are resistant to or critical of Slutwalk and the kind of rage, defensive ire and insults that the authors of dissenting posts have been been subject to which I'm going to address in my next post.To conclude, I just want to look at a few of the most common rebuttals to criticism of Slutwalk and mull these over. Most
of these complaints don't come from the organisers, and originate from posters who claim to be part of the movement: * "Slutwalk isn't a primarily young, white, middle class, hetero movement. It's racially and ethnically diverse! Many of the partcipants and organisers are, in fact, POC"
Perhaps this is true. I've read accounts of people being surprised at the diversity that they encountered on these walks. But for those of us who aren't actually *there* thing is, you'd never know
it thanks to the way it is presented and usually discussed. The problem is that when you court or capture the lens of a 'mainstream' (read = white dominated) media then that select demograph, if present, always 'becomes' the representative face of the movement ... Most of the photos I've seen, whether in news media or on blogs are blindingly white, and most of the people that are photographed, intereviewed and spoken to are ... guess what? Yes, I've seen minorities milling around, usually in the background
. Occasionally, some are even at the centre of photos, but this seldom happens. So why then, would you be surprised if you aren't
perceived as diverse? Which brings up the question: do you actually want to be perceived as diverse, or to actually BE diverse? And no, it doesn't matter for example if you preface a blog entry by "proclaiming" how mixed and diverse it all was when your accompanying pictures look like this
. And as we all know images have a greater immediacy and direct impact than WORDS. * "Why would it matter *if* 'Slutwalk" was primarily comprised of white middle class women? White middle class women are victims of rape too and deserve to have a voice! You're just being racist against white women!1111!"
True to the first two statements. The last just gets a dismissive laugh. No time for 101, sorry.
Yes, white middle class women can be victims of sexual violence and have a right to speak up. Yet when it comes to police negligence, disrespect and violence, like it or not, white middle class het women are as a group *comparatively* sheltered compared to most other groups of women. And while white middle class women are also victims of sexual violence, they don't bear the primary or heaviest costs and consequences of society's sexual violence as a GROUP. They don't actually shoulder the burden of being perpetualy on the receiving end of most of that violence, and the worst of that violence. Yet, for *some* reason as a GROUP they always
get the lion's share of representation and are always positioned as the representative faces, poster girls and voices that 'speak' for everyone, to the point where it is downright predictable and tiresome. Yet it's not a privilege that as a group that they appear to be working too hard to dismantle anytime soon. In these siutation, we already know that white women will receive the invitation to occupy centre stage - and we know that they never pass up these opportunities. And we know who tends to remain obscured in the shadows.
No one is contesting the right of white middle class women to organise against sexual violence, which is simply a strawman's argument. But when the the faces and voices that are predominantly seen and heard over and over again look eerily similar, then it stops looking like a 'right' and starts looking an awful lot like flat out privilege .... * "Slutwalk is on behalf of all women! We are doing this for women EVERYWHERE!"
* Groans *
Uh no. No you're not even if you'd like to imaginatively co-opt "all" women, push them into helpless object status then nobly perch yourself upon a white horse...
It's amazing that anyone would even think that a group of protests which actually evolved as a reaction to a highly local (Toronto) and specific(cop on campus) set of circumstances, is for the benefit of *ALL* women everywhere, across the globe, even as the idea spreads, morphs and adapts as I type. Nevermind that a number of women have openly stated that they they don't feel included amongst its ranks, aren't comfortable with the idea of reclaiming the term slut or find the specific term irrelevant to their own situation, or find the methods, approach and motivation behind the protests highly problematic. But clearly, none of these women can actually speak for themselves and decide where they are positioned in relation to Slutwalk. It is for the good of ALL women damn it, like it or not because ... you say it is?
* "Sexual violence is a universal problem. We need to universally unite and face the problem which is what this movement is doing."
Yes and no to the first statement, since the variables of the violence and the form often differ across cultural group. Yes, sexual violence against women occurs across cultures, sub-groups and so forth, but that doesn't mean that you can conflate Slutwalk's highly specific
approach to combatting said violence with
the 'universality' of sexual violence. And I don't understand the implicit aversion to the idea of women working wherever they happen to be situated and dealing with specific situations. After all, despite all the grand rhetoric around Slutwalk universality, that's actually what happened in Toronto, isn't it? They didn't 'universally unite' to fight the good fight or rise up against heteropartriarchy any such thing. A group of women got together and dealt with a specific siutation (and insult) as they saw fit. Stop with the grand and obfuscating narratives already ... * "Stop hating on white women for getting off their asses, organising and actually doing something to combat sexual violence. What are other women doing about it anyway? (And in case you didn't hear it before: We're working for the benefit of ALL women."
Yes. Because until the heroic advent of Slutwalk, 'other' women were idly twiddling their thumbs and no one anywhere was doing a damn thing to combat sexual violence and patriarchal attitudes towards rape victims? This also ties into the two previous claims. What I find interesting is that when various POC women around the world band together and start community initiatives, be it saving seeds in the face of genetically engineered 'self-terminating' seeds invading the biodiversity of their food stocks; attending to unsafe working, housing or environmental conditions or, I dunno ... halting a rape culture in its tracks by getting two rebel armies to sit at the same table and talk, overthrow a dictator and get a female president elected in backward, oppressive
, "Africa"; or by playing critical roles in spearheading democratic movements in Egypt and Syria, notice how none
of these groups of women grandiosely waft on about how they did it for ALL women 'everywhere', or that ALL women everywhere are benefitting from their actions (however, heroic, hard working or far-reaching their actions are)?
Nor are they big-headed enough to suggest that ALL women everywhere should be (ugh) "grateful" for their activism, or that their specific methods and strategies would apeal to or be suitable for all women. Instead, they give an account of what they did, outline their methods, tell their stories and above all presume to speak for themselves. Often, they will say that they did it for their communities, their children (or future generations), their families, or friends and neighbours. Some might even mention 'the nation' or connect their work to the work of women elsewhere. But rarely, if ever, have I seen them adopt some condescending 'savior' mantle in regards to their own activism. They don't resort to this self-glamourising, self-validating, universalising bullshit
(the heroic 'everywoman' who valiantly champions ALL beknighted women everywhere) that too much of mainstream white feminism, can't seem to do without. They don't indulge in the kind of overweening hubris and CCS (centre stage syndrome) it would take to even make
such a grandiose claim in the first place. "Stop dragging race into this! This is about gender not about race!"
x sighs x POC women leave your 'race' at the door I guess which you can separate from your gender the way you separate a yolk from the rest of the egg? "I could understand if you suggested that there was degree of white privilege in Slutwalk. But to suggest that it's underpinned by (zomg!) white supremacy? Do you know how that makes the movement look? That's irresponsible and damaging!"
This, by far, was perhaps my favorite complaint against Aura Blogando's "Slutwalk: A Stroll through White Supremacy"
which I thought had a number of salient points to make. I particularly like the fact that she was so quick to identify the ideological and cognitive disjuncture that lies across different groups regarding how they perceive the police, and what the police signifies to them. A number of commentators viscerally objected to the use of the term 'white supremacy' and did not want the movement to be tarred with that undesirable brush.
Take this quote from Slutwalk Toronto
in response to title of Blogando's article, for example:
Our struggle with the label of 'white supremacist' is that although we are trying to understand much more, most people in the world are not engaging in critical analyses like this and have a very different idea of what a 'white supremacist' is. This is a term that is associated with a lot of history, proactive violence and proactive silencing and exclusion of people of colour, and the active persecution of anyone who is not white. We may not be doing the best job at inclusion of people of colour but we have not actively excluded them or persecuted them. We are concerned that the label of 'white supremacist' will be taken out of the analysis offered and this will jeopardize the organizers and participants lives by the possibility of some seeing this and risking the loss of our jobs, our housing, our relationships and our safety. Labeling SlutWalk as 'white supremacist' can obscure many valid critiques about privilege and can isolate many who are new to these conversations - many who may not have the exposure or privileged access to education that can be involved in these deeper analyses.
Once again, there seems to be much anxiety over a perceived 'image' problem since for some at least, the term 'white supremacy' connotes pointy white hoods, active violence against POCs, silencing and erasure and what have you. I think that just as there is so much ideological and congnitive disonance over what the police represent and signify to different groups of women on the basis of race, class, sexual orientation and overall life experience, I think that we also have divergent viewpoints in relation to what the words "white supremacy" mean.
As a POC, I find the idea that you *have* to have exposure or privileged access to education in order to be able to 'understand' what the term white supremacy actually means to be rather amusing. Please. White and POC children alike get a daily education in white supremacy along with their breakfast and they don't need to be sent to an ivory tower at age 18 in order to be able to get a grasp on it. Nor do you need to get a rarefied education in order to be able to recognise
it for what it is.
This is my understanding of the term from a relatively young age:
White people often secretly and not-so-secretly think that they are simply bettter than 'other' people, thanks to having the most 'advanced' civilisation the world has ever known and having generously contributed more to 'mankind' than anyone else. Their systems, methods, institutions reflect the best and only way to do anything. Their institutions are superior and smarter which everyone should automatically mimic and adopt. And despite being a minority population on the planet they somehow speak in a 'universal' voice and are the spokespeople of all 'humanity' - as the average Hollywood can attest to. They are born leaders, invested with innate agency and are the only ones who can act successfully or do anything right. Everything they say, think or do is World-shatteringly Important. They tend to regard themselves as in a position to speak on 'behalf' of others no matter what the situation or despite their own lack of knowledge or actual experience, and are then encouraged/enabled to do so. It's completely fitting and right that their views and voices are always privileged above all others, constantly aired and placed centre-stage all day, every day. This almost isn't even worth noticing let alone commenting on. It is simply the natural order of things and just the way that it just *happens* to go ... It's the norm, since they
are the norm.
You can define 'white supremacy' as a belief without nary a melodramatic mention of whips, hoods, guns, or gas ovens? x eye roll x It's just the simple idea that white people are taught from an early age to think they are better and are thus 'naturally' the ones to lead the way or run the conversation on just about anything - which, I am pretty sure is what Blogando was referring to in regards to Slutwalk. Newsflash: 'White supremacy' as a concept is about as remarkable, extreme, and 'out there' as misogyny or sexism. (i.e. it's actually a pretty commonplace ideology that just about everyone gets indoctrinated to or comes into contact with at some point and is an integral part of society thanks to the last 600 years. The term doesn't even qualify certainly even qualify for an arched eyebrow.)
If you don't get panic attacks when ever you hear terms like sexism or misogyny (which has historically had some pretty dire consequences) then why start chewing your finger nails whenever terms like racism or white supremacy appear?
Slutwalk may be indeed be 'white supremacist' insofar as it centres a white way or method of doing things (riot grrrl posture, emphasis on Western liberal individualism, romantic idealisation of the police) yet some of its more arrogant members claim that they are speaking and acting 'universally'. Despite who may or may not be participating in the walks, it also privileges the faces and voices of white middle class women with the clear implication that they are somehow more worthy of being seen, heard or listened to all of which falls into line, rather than resists the economy of 'exposure' as determined by a white, Western media.
ETA: tags and as usual, spelling and grammar!