This last weekend I was completely honored to be able to walk in the Minneapolis Slutwalk. Slutwalk is a movement in protest of rape culture, particularly against victim blaming. When a culture tells its rape victims “it was your fault for wearing a short skirt” instead of “we are here to protect you and help you heal”, there is a problem. I walked with hundreds of other women and men from the Twin Cities to protest this attitude towards sexual violence. A few highlights about this particular walk and the movement in general:
I was surprised and excited to see many women and people of color out at the walk! The women’s movement has been divided around color lines for as long as there has been a women’s movement, and one of the main criticisms of slutwalk is that it’s a white woman’s protest: women of color are blamed, shamed and objectified every day, but when it happens to white women they get a protest. The presence of a variety of people made me proud of the Twin Cities, and illustrated to me that the message “no means no” is a universal.
Second, I was proud of all the men who turned out! The one thing that made me sad on this front though was that in many of the speeches I heard the phrase “real men don’t rape” or “a woman’s body is her own”. The first person I saw when I joined the walk was a man with a sign that said “I was 12. I begged for it to stop”. While rape is predominantly a woman’s issue, this sign brought home to me the fact that rape can happen to ANYONE. Much of the language was cisgendered, heteronormative or simply ignored the experience of men who had been sexually abused. While slutwalk is centered around the women’s movement, I think feminism needs to be careful not to speak in the dichotomies that lead to the oppression of women. Trans individuals, queer individuals, men who support the movement…ANY human being who opposes sexual violence should be included, welcomed and listened to. Their experiences cannot be erased.
And finally I was simply overwhelmed by the emotion and power of the people who turned out. This was my first time going to a protest, and I have to urge all of you to get to one at some point in your lives, whatever it may be for. On the surface of it all there is so much support and hope, there are people who are fighting and wanting and caring about something important. But just underneath the surface there is more pain and suffering, more broken people than we can imagine when we simply go about our daily lives doing what we do. And to see and feel this cognitive dissonance firsthand is the only way that someone like me can understand what it is for a survivor to live every day of their lives. They put on a face of hope, they push themselves to live, but underneath it all they are broken to some extent.
So that being said, I encourage all of you young lady skeptics to see if there are any Slutwalks in your area and so head out and support rape survivors if you can.