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From crunktastic at CFC, brilliant words about race and SlutWalks

I’m just going to post the whole thing. It’s so good, and totally eye-opening for me.

SlutWalks v. Ho Strolls

23MAY

Courtesy of Indybay.org

Today, we had initially planned to bring you a review of the new groundbreaking book Hey Shorty: A Guide to Combatting Sexual Harassment in Schools and on the Streets. And you can read it here. But in light of the SlutWalk movement that broke out in Toronto earlier this year and the embrace of the movement in U.S. feminist mainstream over the last few months, I would like to add a few more thoughts to the discussion, in light of recent and much-needed calls on the part of feminists of color for a much more critical race critique in the SlutWalk movement.

SlutWalk Toronto started as an activist response to the ill-informed, misguided words of a Toronto police officer who suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Women in Toronto were enraged and rightfully so, and SlutWalks have become a way to dramatize the utter ignorance and danger of the officer’s statements. And on that note, I fucks very hard with the concept and with the response, which is creative, appropriate, and powerful.

What gives me pause is the claim in SlutWalk Toronto’s mission statement of sorts that because they are are “tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result,” they are reclaiming and reappropriating the word “slut.”  Um, no thank you?

Here’s the source of my ambivalence: as I read the mission statement, I was struck by the righteous indignation these women had over being called slut. While that indignation is absolutely warranted, it also feels on a visceral level as though it comes from women who are in fact not used to being fully defined by negative sexual referents.

Perhaps my cynicism reflects my own experience as a Black woman of the Hip Hop Generation in the U.S., or a Black woman who’s a member of the Western World period. It goes without saying that Black women have always been understood to be lascivious, hypersexed, and always ready and willing. When I think of the daily assaults I hear in the form of copious incantations of “bitch” and “ho” in Hip Hop music directed at Black women,  it’s hard to not feel a bit incensed at the “how-dare-you-quality” of the SlutWalk protests, which feel very much like the protests of privileged white girls who still have an expectation that the world will treat them with dignity and respect.

The first activist response I ever heard to such mistreatment was Queen Latifah’s 1993 Grammy-winning song, U.N.I.T.Y.

 

It energized a community and opened a space for much needed conversation. But sisters did not line up to go on  symbolic, collective ho strolls. And for good, and I think, obvious reasons.

So maybe the best way to deal with the debates about re-appropriating the term “slut” is the way I deal with the whole n-word debate. As a Black person, who occasionally uses the n-word (with an ‘a’ on the end), I am admittedly ambivalent about whether or not the use of the term among Black people really does constitute a reappropriation. I’ve heard and read most of the arguments, and I remain…ambivalent but generally think the word is unproductive. That said, I balk at older Black folks who act as though the Hip Hop Generation are the first Black people to toss the word around. Read any 19th century Black literature and you’ll know different. What I’m clear about, however, is that to use or not to use is a decision that  lies solely within Black communities. White people simply don’t get a say; the word is off-limits to them. Black folks have surely won the right, long held by white folks, to struggle and determine amongst ourselves how we will refer to and define ourselves. Period.

For me, so it is with the word slut. It is off-limits to me. But for those who have been shamed, and disciplined, and violently abused on the basis of its usage, they have the prerogative to determine whether to reclaim or not to. As a word used to  shame white women who do not conform to morally conservative norms about chaste sexuality, the term very much reflects white women’s specific struggles around sexuality and abuse. Although plenty of Black women have been called “slut,” I believe Black women’s histories are different, in that Black female sexuality has always been understood from without to be deviant, hyper, and excessive. Therefore, the word slut has not been used to discipline (shame) us into chaste moral categories, as we have largely been understood to be unable to practice “normal” and “chaste” sexuality anyway.

But perhaps, we have come to a point in feminist movement-building where we need to acknowledge that differing histories necessitate differing strategies. This is why I’m somewhat ambivalent about accusing my white sistren of being racist. If your history is one of having your sexuality regulated by the use of the term “slut” for disciplinary purposes, then SlutWalk is an effective answer.

What becomes an issue is those white women and liberal feminist women of color who argue that “slut” is a universal category of female experience, irrespective of race. I recognize that there are many women of color who are participating in the SW movement, and I support those sisters who do, particularly women who are doing it in solidarity and coalition. But rather than forcing white women to get on the diversity train with regard to the inclusivity of SlutWalk, perhaps we need to redirect our racial vigilance. By that I mean, I’d prefer that white women acknowledge that they are in fact organizing around a problematic use of terminology endemic to white communities and cultures.

In doing so, this would force an acknowledgement that the experience of womanhood being defended here–that of white women– is not universal, but is under attack and worthy of being defended, all the same.

Perhaps, also, if white women could recognize SlutWalk as being rooted in white female experience, it would provide an opportunity for them to participate in coalition and solidarity with similar movements that are inclusive and reflective of the experiences of women of color.

One example is the Stop Street Harassment movement– a multiracial movement that has led to “Stop Street Harassment” campaigns throughout the U.S. and abroad. It is that movement which is the subject of Hey Shorty!  This movement, too, works from the premise that streets and schools should be safe for women, but it recognizes that challenges to that safety while similar in some respects, can differ across race and class. And as I said, earlier, different histories necessitate different strategies. In that regard, I don’t think sisters will be lining up to go on a symbolic “Ho Stroll” anytime soon.

We’d like to hear from you. What are your feelings on these two movements and the connections and divergences between each?

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to slut, or not to slut?

I’ve been reading some eye-opening stuff about reclaiming the word “slut”

From the blog Something of Something Other:

“And, don’t get me wrong, I can’t possibly bring myself to give a shit about whether or not you consider yourself a slut. But I can tell you that I am no less of a survivor for wanting to keep my distance from such a term. Because slut is something that I internalized in a way that I could never internalize “stupid,” or “cunt,” or “dyke.” It didn’t mean anything to me, except that I was irredeemably available for sexual violence. “Slut,” to me, will always be a rape threat…

[Jaclyn] Friedman addressed a group of survivors with “well hello you beautiful sluts!” but all of us who would have felt threatened already knew not to be there that day (fittingly, if I wanted to be called a slut, I could just hang around at home). It’s frustrating, and a little exclusionary. I mean, maybe if every Saturday a group of survivors got together and demanded an end to rape culture, I could be okay with SlutWalk. I wouldn’t go. But I would be okay with it. But the fact that I apparently have to “reclaim” a word that I’ve been fighting my whole life to escape if I want to be part of the one response to a dipshit rape apologist who is furthering oppression that I–and every rape survivor too triggered for SlutWalk–suffer from is inexcusable. Demanding that we call ourselves sluts or just shut the fuck up is what rape culture looks like”

The whole entry is here:

http://somewhatofsomethingother.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/i-am-not-a-slut-so-i-didnt-go-to-slutwalk/

I use the word slut to describe myself, and with friends who I know are comfortable with and appreciate it, but I’m appalled that Friedman would use it to address a group of survivors. Reclaiming a pejorative word is sticky business, and folks like myself must keep in mind that this word can be triggering.

{{I think that many people have very legitimate critiques of reclaiming “slut” and SlutWalks but that there is also a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about SlutWalks in general. Misconceptions cleared here at: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2011/05/answering-slutwalk-faqs.html}}

What I would add to all this dialogue, is at the end of the day, this is really about ending victim blaming, which is something many people can get behind. I really admire Harsha Walia’s complex take on the SlutWalks, and how the term can be different for women of color.

“On the use of the term ‘slut’ itself, while I appreciate that others feel differently and there is an argument to be made about transgressing the social boundaries defined by the term ‘slut’, I personally don’t feel the whole ‘reclaim slut’ thing. I find that the term disproportionately impacts women of colour and poor women in order to reinforce their status as inherently dirty and second-class, and hence more rape-able. The history of genocide against Indigenous women, the enslavement of Black women, and the forced sterilization of poor women goes beyond their attire. It is a means of gender control that is embedded within the intersecting processes of racism and colonialism. As long-term activists with Incite Women of Color have pointed out, the experience of women of colour with violence and victim-blaming is not only quantitatively different (i.e. increased) but is also qualitatively different”

But Walia ends her critique by saying that despite all this, she did march in the Vancouver SlutWalk because she stands against victim-blaming.

“Even though I did not march under the banner of ‘sluthood’, I marched to mark the unceded territory of women’s bodies. I marched because language is a weapon yielded against the powerless. I marched because rapists causes rape and sexual assault can never be justified. I marched to end the policing of women by other women. I marched because that day, though understandable, I happened to be tired of the Left ruthlessly eating itself alive. I marched in defiance of right-wing pundits like Margaret Wente to make visible the staggering reality of rape and violence against all women in so-called civilized countries like Canada.”

What a badass!! Her full post, via feministing, is here: http://feministing.com/2011/05/18/slutwalk-to-march-or-not-to-march/

So should I retitle the blog? I would seriously consider it, especially since I shaved my legs yesterday, and thus I am (unfortunately) significantly less hairy. But due to the fact that this is basically an online journal  and no one else is reading this, I don’t think its necessary. I’m still mulling all of this beautiful stuff over.

Hi Friends

Welcome to The Hairy Slut!

You may be asking yourself, what’s with the title?

I consider it a tribute to a long history of slutactivism. From the old-school Betty Dodson to the SlutWalks that are sweeping the nation, a lotta sweet-ass feminists are breaking down the term “slut.” I use the descriptor with pride; to mean a politics rooted in asking what the fuck is going on with the values assigned to certain bodies and peoples. This stretches from the de-valueing of bodies for the type clothes that cover them (ie “She was asking for it in that skirt”), issues of environmental racism and the like.

And the hairy bit? Well, it’s just true. The glances of disgust I encounter when I show my legs in public often carry this message of, “Who the fuck would sleep with you?”

Well, y’all have no idea…. 😉

Coming Home Again

I feel so different being home.

I have never felt more queer. Or aware of it.

In a way, I more comfortable coming back here than I have since I first left for school. I know what to expect from this place, from my family. Coming home is peaceful, and relaxing for me if I know what it is, and don’t mistake home for a fairytale land where all the ways I find myself changed are perfectly alright with everybody.

For the first time, I wasn’t upset when my sister disdainfully informed me that my outfit is “super gay.” Or when she asked me to please stop talking about feminism already?

Disclaimer: I love my sister. She is actually a big-time feminist herself, which makes her responses even more perplexing at times.

But I have so much to say about what is happening in the world around me. At a birthday dinner, a friend jokingly asked for my analysis when several women went to into the kitchen to prepare our meal. He meant well by the invitation, but I responded with some joke instead. To say what I really thought in that moment would have been painful, and inappropriate.

Funnily enough, the same friend asked me if, due to being a Women’s Studies major, I would forget about the existence of men. I dryly responded that Women’s Studies is in fact a discipline devoted solely to the superiority of women. My father actually believed this for a minute, until I continued to say that us Women’s Studies majors are also all hairy, man-hating lesbians. At which point he got the joke.

The fact that he actually believed this for more than several seconds astonished me. Granted, I was deadpan sarcastic, but I am not that good of an actress, ya know? I’m fairly certain my father thinks that my education is turning me into a crazy radical. He’s probably right, but I’m having fun.

Disclaimer: I love my dad. My dad and I are really close. But I can’t help but write about some of the shit he says.

A few nights ago, I joked around with him about his reluctance to see me perform in my school’s production of the Vagina Monologues. Apparently he had been telling people, “I don’t want to go out to Indiana to hear my daughter talk about her vagina!”

I just pointed out to him that there was no danger of this, and in fact my monologue was about someone else’s vagina giving birth to a baby. In fact many years ago my father saw the play in New York with my mother, and according to him, those women on stage were talking about their own vaginas. He told me “They kept saying, ‘my vagina this,’ and ‘my vagina that.’ ” I told him it was a script; that it was actually roles they were playing, but he vehemently denied it.

The Monologues came up again today, when my dad dubiously asked if he should come see “Bridesmaids” with the rest of our family for my sister’s birthday. Given all the effort that has gone into marketing “Bridesmaids” as the “anti-chick flick,” I was surprised, and then he said, “It’s not like the Vagina Monologues, is it?”

Whaaaaat? Since when is a mainstream raunchy comedy written and performed by women the frickin VAGINA MONOLOGUES? I thought I was going to bust my pants I was laughing so hard.

Because it is my dear sister’s birthday, I resisted the urge to break down the politics of “Bridesmaids” as we walked out of the theatre. It’s really funny, but of course, I have a lot to say about it . A review is to follow!