Tuesday, October 18, 2011

don't speak too soon, for the wheel's still in spin

Oh, blog. I'm sorry for my neglect of you. *pets* Life's been a little crazy.

I've been keeping track, at least peripherally, of two different movements that have been going on: the Occupy movements, which (as I'm sure you all know) started fairly recently, and the Slutwalk movements, which have been happening since (I think?) this spring.

Occupy Philly is underway, with protesters camping outside of City Hall. Since the movement here doesn't seem to have a website, here's their Facebook page and the PW blog, which seems to be covering it pretty often.

I personally haven't checked out what's going on at City Hall, but it's pretty close to where I work. Last week I walked by and got a glimpse of lots of tents, but it was cold and raining, so no one was really out. I might go by later this week when things have slowed down for me.

In general, I'm interested more in the smaller, local movements than in the larger Occupy ones. If we're going to change things, I think we need to start in the places in which we live. I think if this had happened six, seven years ago, I might be more optimistic about larger structural changes. But bringing down Wall Street? The IRS? The Federal Reserve? Hmm.

I think this could turn into a solid movement, one that takes root in the US (maybe the rest of the world, too; who knows?). But I also think it needs concrete goals, which (from what I understand) are developing slowly. So we'll see. It might fizzle out, or it might burst into something wonderful.

If you asked me about what I'd like to see here in Philly, I'd say this: I want to see good schools. I want to see support for struggling families. I want to see neighborhoods revitalized from the bottom up.I want good affordable housing for every person who needs or wants it.

I think slogans are all well and good (I used to have shirts that said, "There's enough for everyone's need but not enough for everyone's greed" and "Live Simply" on them). But we need to think longer-term as well.

On the more meta-side, I've been reading a lot of interesting articles on the idea of occupation. It's a loaded word--and for some groups, it's a word that has a lot of history. (What does it mean to occupy on occupied land?) For Native Americans, the US is already occupied--by people like me, and probably, if you're not a Native American, you too, dear reader.

Here's some reading that I've done: A Letter to the Occupy Together Movement and Decolonization and Occupy Wall Street.

The Slutwalk movements started in Toronto, when a police officer, in giving a talk about safety, said that "women should avoid dressing like sluts" to prevent rape. The first Slutwalk was in direct response to his remark, but also in response to the larger issues: 1) dressing not like a "slut" does not prevent rape (there were women in the walks who were wearing pajamas and jeans and jackets holding signs that said, "this is what I was wearing when I was raped.") 2) rape is very, very under-reported, and most rapists don't even spend time in jail 3) and then this, which is from Slutwalk Toronto's website: "We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault."

To be honest, I don't really have a personal desire to re-appropriate the word "slut." It's not something I identify with, and it's not something that I really want to identify with. And, of course, let's look meta again:

An Open Letter from Black Women to the Slutwalk: If you're interested at all in the movement, read this. Sometimes--many times--we in the majority have to sit down, shut up, and listen. 
We are deeply concerned. As Black women and girls we find no space in SlutWalk, no space for participation and to unequivocally denounce rape and sexual assault as we have experienced it.  We are perplexed by the use of the term “slut” and by any implication that this word, much like the word “Ho” or the “N” word should be re-appropriated. The way in which we are perceived and what happens to us before, during and after sexual assault crosses the boundaries of our mode of dress.  Much of this is tied to our particular history.  In the United States, where slavery constructed Black female sexualities, Jim Crow kidnappings, rape and lynchings, gender misrepresentations, and more recently, where the Black female immigrant struggle combine, “slut” has different associations for Black women.  We do not recognize ourselves nor do we see our lived experiences reflected within SlutWalk and especially not in its brand and its label.

Here are the responses from the Slutwalk organizers: first here and then this longer letter.

There have been other responses as well that I think are worth listening to, and then there's this debacle, fiasco, something that makes me want to hit my head against the wall. Read that as well.  

So. Anyway. Movements and things being shaken up and I have no idea.I think, above all, we need to remember to listen to one another, really listen, because that's what solidarity is, at least in part. And really? If I, as a white, straight, educated, really rather privileged woman, want to make some sort of a difference, I think a lot of that will come through keeping my mouth shut and supporting others.

That's all.


  1. Thank you for bringing up the Slut Walks. It has been on my mind since I heard about it last spring. I've wanted to write about it but haven't been able to find the words for the way I feel about them. I also really appreciate the link/excerpt you posted from the open letter. I think they had a discussion about it on Tell Me More a couple months ago (Elliott heard it; I still have to find it and take a listen).

    I'm also surprised that I haven't read more about it on the blogosphere (maybe I'm not reading the right blogs?). Yours is the first (or maybe second) that has brought it up. Perhaps others are, like me, still pondering how exactly to tackle it. I think you've done a better job than I could have attempted.

  2. I know Feministe and Racialicious have covered them, but those two are really the extent of my regular blog-reading (at least in terms of relatively well-known multiauthored blogs).

    I'm not so sure Slutwalk is the "next feminist movement," as some people have said. I think I should keep an eye on it, definitely.