I’ve attended many rallies and protests at downtown San Diego’s City Hall, but never have I attended one with so much sizzle. Sexuality was the issue– predominately, but not exclusively female sexuality. As Patty Jones has noted here the message was “yes means yes and no means no.” Participants were as unequivocal about everything that the “yes means yes” part implies as they were unequivocal about the “no means no” part. “Yes” put the sizzle in Slutwalk and it was a deeply sensual and life affirming “yes.” That is probably why Slutwalk was not only empowering and thought provoking but also a whole lotta fun.
Slutwalk was exhilarating and inspiring. It was smart. And it had unanticipated surprises that I continue to think about. I have been a self-identified feminist since the late 1960’s when I started thinking about things like patriarchy, pink collar ghettos and then the Equal Rights Amendment. My husband identifies himself as a feminist. I write about women’s issues from a feminist perspective. Slutwalk was an opportunity for me to ask the participants there about their thoughts on feminism and sluts.
I am deeply grateful to the women and men who were so thoughtful and open and frank in their responses to my questions. They were all twenty to forty years younger than me, and my first question was if they considered themselves feminists. Many in the thirty to forty year range did identify themselves as feminists and a number of them said that they were raised and influenced by feminists. Twenty year olds were much less familiar with the word, said they have never read about feminism or feminists in school. One young man didn’t know that men could be feminists.
My other question was whether the event would draw the same number and kind of people if it had been called FeministWalk and still used the same speakers and slogans. The response was quickly forthcoming- No it wouldn’t. So even if younger men and women consider themselves feminists, that particular word would not have the same draw and impact. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of pride that all the past waves of feminists have provided a sturdy trunk that has encouraged this tremendous, dazzling flowering.
It is worth noting that not only did women and the men who love and support them turn out at this event, a significant number of members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered community were also there. Their presence was the biggest surprise of the day and in retrospect, that presence makes sense. Women get it that they are victims of violence and hate crimes simply because of their innate sexuality as women. How many individuals who comprise the LGBT community have also been victims of violence and hate crimes by virtue of their innate sexuality? The alliance between feminists and the LGBT community results in the power of sluts. It is a necessary and natural alliance.
Slutwalk is about many things and one of those things is about taking back the word “slut,” embracing it in a way that diffuses the negative power associated with it. My own personal arc of feminism has provided me with the opportunities to re-define words like “crone” and “cunt.” On Saturday, I added “slut” to my feminist lexicon. On the one hand I applaud the resiliency and smarts of my gender; on the other hand I despair that it is 2011 and women are still being told that they provoke rape by the way they dress. Have we really changed the balance of power regarding our sexuality, our reproductive choices and our lives? No—I don’t think that we have come a long way, baby. But we are not going away either and if Slutwalk is the good indication I think it is, we will continue to exalt the power of “yes.”
Video by Theworldisrawvideos on YouTube