Who speaks for Slutwalk NYC?

My experience helping out with SlutWalk NYC has been incredible and uplifting. While I haven’t been able to be as involved with organizing efforts because of my schedule, I’ve had the pleasure of attending several meetings and helping out where I can, and I’ve been very inspired by the enthusiasm, innovation, and resourcefulness that has characterized the largely grassroots movement.

I’ve watched a group of well-intentioned and fired-up rookies morph into a team of strategic, inclusive, and efficient organizers (still well-intentioned and fired-up!).

Unfortunately, the mainstream media has often seemed more interested in talking about SlutWalk — what it means, what it stands for, what it’s doing right, and what it’s doing wrong — than it has in talking to or with it. On the topic of SlutWalk, I’ve seen the voices of almost everyone BUT actual SlutWalk organizers featured. Op-ed’s, editorials, and long features describing and often critiquing the movement have been published and almost immediately risen to the top of the “Most viewed” list without as much as a quote from a real live organizer. Which is funny, because we have a whole media team that’s been working really hard to place opinions and get mentions for our event. As Melissa Marturano, a SlutWalk NYC organizer who has been active with the media team, told me “I don’t think we have been represented very much at all and therefore, not very accurately.” Could it be that, once again, the media would rather pontificate about young women’s activism and sexuality than let them speak on it for themselves?

All this sets the stage for the importance of the video below, made by filmmaker Rachel Steele with post production help from Cameron Shaharay. The video quite literally gives voice to NYC SlutWalkers, featuring their personal views on SlutWalk specifically and feminism in general, “from the horse’s mouth,” as they say. I’m damn proud to be briefly featured in it, along with a ton of fellow organizers who I’ve been thrilled to come to know and respect over the past few months. Peep the video below. And if you’re going to be anywhere near New York City on October 1st, be sure to come out for the walk itself!!

Music by Le Tigre, Sleater-Kinney, and MEN.
We are working on getting a transcript and multiple translations, so please be patient and let me know in comments if you can help. Thanks!

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8 Comments

  1. Posted September 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Yep. That’s very common. The media sees it as sensational and novel, not as something to be properly examined from the inside. I remember taking Mass Communication classes in college about this very same thing.

    I think that there’s something titillating to an uninformed outsider about using a word that has usually been a pejorative. The question then becomes whether you ought to try to change the media narrative, or learn how to work with the way that you’ve been framed by the media.

  2. Posted September 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this. It is really heartening to hear things ‘from the horses mouth’ in the case of feminists on feminism. It truely is great what thesse women and a lot of women everywhere are doing every day. Especially thanks to those women for speaking up about thier values and beliefs. I wanted to hug every one of them just for being while I was watching. (Now I wanna go to nyc, but can’t cause I don’t have the money and such, and march with them. I wish I could show my support to slutwalks and the individuals participating and supporting them somehow.) ((((hugs)))) o the people who are okay with getting hugs!
    P.S. is there a slutwalk chicago happening that anyone knows about? or did it already happen?

  3. Posted September 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Here in the Twin Cities, we’re experiencing much the same thing. I wrote a column for our local feminist newsmagazine where I interviewed the event’s lead organizer online here: http://www.womenspress.com/main.asp?SectionID=2&SubSectionID=25&ArticleID=3907) , but when the major daily came calling, all he wanted to hear about was the pundit-fueled controversy. In particular, he wanted more about the “generational divide” between SlutWalkers and feminists who object to the use of the word slut in any context and are convinced that, to quote the leader of a St. Paul-based feminist discussion group, “SLUTWALK is a national movement of women…exercising their freedom to parade as sluts – to dress as sluts – to call themselves sluts and not be threatened with violence for acting slutty.”

    Ariel, if you can make the trip, Minneapolis is hosting its SlutWalk on October 1, the same day as NYC. FFI: http://www.slutwalkminneapolis.org/

  4. Posted September 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    @Ariel, aww! we’d love to hug you back!

  5. Posted September 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Just to play devil’s advocate:

    I found out about slutwalk from this site. I’ve lived in major US cities all my life (Chicago most recently), watch the news (national and local) regularly, and I have not heard about slutwalk. So I would wholeheartedly agree with you that the media is probably not playing ball when it comes to advertisement.

    That said, given that you have a large population of people who don’t know what slutwalk is, and who will likely find out when they see the walk on their way to work, shopping, etc.

    I see one big problem. Let me phrase this in the politest way possible; I don’t want to give the idea that I don’t love feminism. Here it is: People will look at this walk and set it on a par with bra-burning, thinking “oh, those crazy feminists are rambling about something insane again.” That doesn’t mean that attitude is acceptable or right; but denying that it exists is not helpful. There is a pervasive feeling among non-feminists that feminism is about, and always has been about, attention and crushing men down. There is a widespread idea that feminists are impossible to talk to because they constantly whine about their cause at the expense of friendly conversation. And while I don’t intend to demean the feminist contributions of the last forty years, the fact of the matter is that feminists have not been very effective at combating this mindset. It is still alive and well, and much healthier than I suspect many feminists believe.

    Slutwalk, viewed without a media campaign that allows it to be explained on feminist terms, will stir up that mindset and reinforce it. Some people will certainly view that walk and become inspired. But my feeling is that the vast majority of people who see the walk will have their erroneous beliefs about feminism validated. (I.e. feminism is all about attention, sensationalism, and confrontational action). They will think that most feminists are burning bras in their spare time. It’s wrong, but it’s likely to happen.

    So my opinion is this: If slutwalk’s media campaign simply doesn’t take off, if despite your best efforts you can’t seem to drum up any positive plugging in the mainstream news, I would consider shutting the entire thing down. Not yet, and not until your ideas and efforts are completely exhausted. But be wise to the fact that for every one person you get to appreciate slutwalk for its intended meaning, you likely have four, six, ten, or even more people who were just passing by and received a bad reintroduction to the world of feminism.

    Something to think about.

    • Posted September 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Right. So you read this entire article, and watched a 9 minute video of us explaining the premise of Slutwalk, and you learned absolutely nothing.

      We’re not gonna refrain from being confrontational. The reason the Religious Right and the Tea Party are winning over the country is because we, the feminists, have been spending far too much time behind our computers, answering “well-meaning” guys, and “devils advocates” like you. You think it’s too confrontational; I consider it making up for lost time.

      I’m not going to apologize for what others think of feminists. If the mainstream media isn’t keen on us, it’s because they’re not actually talking to us– and, like Lori said, they aren’t. We’re big kids, we can represent ourselves.

      -An unabashedly confrontational SlutWalk NYC-er.

      • Posted September 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Suzy X, that’s wonderful, but you haven’t addressed my concerns. Is being loud and in-your-face worth more than the advancement of feminism to a respectable and honorable pursuit in the public eye? If it is, your values are all kinds of screwed up.

  6. Posted September 15, 2011 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    I was one of the speakers for Slutwalk SD and LA. Thank you for all the hard work everyone is doing in NYC (and other cities)!!!!

    My main reason for speaking for Slutwalk = give support to sexual assault survivors, period. In both LA and SD, there were many marching that were survivors, or marching in support of friends/family that are survivors. There are not many places for us to be able to speak freely without fearing judgement and victim-blaming, and in both Slutwalk LA and SD, I believe we accomplished that goal.

    I’m also a minority woman (Asian-American). My community can be relentless about slut-shaming- so I felt like it was important for me to speak out as an Asian-American feminist.

    Again, thank you to all the organizers of Slutwalk NYC (and other cities)! Lots of support from the West Coast!

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