Jessica Valenti has a great piece up at the Washington Post about sexual assault, feminism and how Slutwalks are doing their part to counter victim-blaming. But what Valenti finds most exciting about the Slutwalks — and what I do, too — isn’t the content as much as the grassroots activism and the offensive (as in playing offense) posturing:
Feminism is frequently on the defensive. When women’s activists fought the defunding of Planned Parenthood, for example, they didn’t rally around the idea that abortion is legal and should be funded. Instead, advocates assured the public that Planned Parenthood clinics provide breast exams and cancer screenings. Those are crucial services, of course, but the message was far from the “free abortion on demand” rallying cry of the abortion rights movement’s early days.
Established organizations have good reason to do their work in a way that’s palatable to the mainstream. They need support on Capitol Hill and funding from foundations and donors. But a muted message will only get us so far.
“We called ourselves something controversial,” Jarvis says. “Did we do it to get attention? Damn right we did!”
Unlike protests put on by mainstream national women’s organizations, which are carefully planned and fundraised for — even the signs are bulk-printed ahead of time — SlutWalks have cropped up organically, in city after city, fueled by the raw emotional and political energy of young women. And that’s the real reason SlutWalks have struck me as the future of feminism. Not because an entire generation of women will organize under the word “slut” or because these marches will completely eradicate the damaging tendency of law enforcement and the media to blame sexual assault victims (though I think they’ll certainly put a dent in it). But the success of SlutWalks does herald a new day in feminist organizing. One when women’s anger begins online but takes to the street, when a local step makes global waves and when one feminist action can spark debate, controversy and activism that will have lasting effects on the movement.
Jessica also recognizes that Slutwalks haven’t been universally embraced by feminists, and are far from perfect feminist activism. But the key, I think, is recognizing that there is no one perfect form of activism, and no one-size-fits-all feminism. Slutwalks ain’t your thing? That’s cool! Think there are problems with using the word “slut,” and that it alienates some women? Yes, that is worth addressing. But we can recognize the imperfections of Slutwalk as a movement while also recognizing that for a lot of women it’s incredibly powerful, and it is pretty cool that these walks have been springing up all over the country, organized locally by grassroots activists in their particular communities. There have been Slutwalks in more than 75 cities across North America and beyond, and there’s no organization or central group being the phenomenon. That is pretty awesome.
Check out the whole article. My favorite quote:
Emily May, the 30-year-old executive director of Hollaback, an organization that battles street harassment, plans to participate in SlutWalk in New York City in August. “Nonprofit mainstays like conferences, funding and strategic planning are essential to maintaining change — but they don’t ignite change,” she says. “It’s easy to forget that change starts with anger, and that history has always been made by badasses.”
“History has always been made by badasses.” I want that embroidered on a pillow.
- Thank you, Jessica by Jill February 2, 2011
- Review: Feminism for Real by Guest Blogger May 9, 2011
- Wherein Ann Althouse Shoots Any Credibility She Had Left by Jill September 15, 2006
- Congrats, Jess! by Jill November 15, 2007
- Strident and Proud by Jill July 12, 2006