This response is late in coming. I apologize. I have read An Open Letter from Black Women to SlutWalk Organizers, and AF3IRM’s The Women’s Movement is not Monochromatic and I would like to respond.
First and foremost, I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed and I should be, because I like to talk about intersectionality and during the planning of SWLV it was a goal to have diverse speakers address different facets of victim blaming, and yet it still wasn’t until reading these and other critiques of SlutWalk that I understood why the word “slut” is seriously problematic for WOC.
I may not like to claim the label “white”, but I’ve been benefitting from the privilege of that label my whole life, and from inside that perspective I understood “slut” as a tool for shaming and discrediting women, for demonizing their sexuality while reinforcing the idea that sexuality is their only value. But for WOC, this word has been used to do much more. This word has been used to dehumanize, to excuse not just sexual assault but imperialism, white supremacy, violence….
And from inside my white privilege, I didn’t realize this. Now, I’m at least beginning to understand. No shit, WOC aren’t eager to claim the label “slut”. The idea now seems not just absurd to me, but rather cruel on our parts as organizers. Although SWLV never demanded that all participants claim the label, it’s not exactly easy to participate in a protest without, you know, endorsing the fucking message. Of course SlutWalk doesn’t feel like a safe place for WOC.
So why didn’t SWLV just choose a different name? Because we were doing what the cool kids were doing. Really, that’s the whole reason. The trivial fact that everyone else was calling it SlutWalk, and we wanted to participate in this big movement, and why would we change the name - how would people know we were part of that movement if we changed the name?
But you know what? The protest in New Delhi didn’t use the word “slut”, and they still had a successful event, and they still got media attention, and they still got support from organizers in other cities around the world. Any why did they replace the word “slut”? Because the word didn’t work for them culturally; it didn’t serve their community’s needs. Well folks, I think that WOC here in the US have proved to us very thoroughly that the word “slut” isn’t working for us, isn’t serving our community’s needs.
We need to be open to changing the name of SlutWalk. The word “slut” and it’s use are just one example of many, many different incarnations of victim-blaming. Focusing on this word is not essential to fighting victim-blaming, and in fact is clearly impeding our progress by marginalizing WOC. We can lose the word without losing the meaning of the movement, and without losing our enthusiasm and dedication for the cause. We can even lose the word without losing the media attention.
So now the question is, what can we call this? What will be inclusive? What will clearly communicate our mission to eliminate victim-blaming?