Two of my favorite posts from this year were about violence against women but dealing with two different stories in the news. One was Jos’ post about what we do when police are not the ones we can trust anymore to keep us safe and the second is a post by Lori about why despite a level of ambivalence she chose to participate in Slutwalk.
I noticed that the New York City “rape cop” case seemed to cause a shift in the thinking of some feminists, who saw police officers using their position of authority to do violence and basically get away with it. At around the same time, the SlutWalk movement caught on in a big way, inspired by the slut-shaming words of a Toronto police officer. I got the sense a lot of privileged white feminists learned a lesson many people of color, undocumented, poor, and trans folks have known forever: the police are not your friend.
Yes, there are decent people on the police force. But the job of the police is to preserve the status quo. Topeka, Kansas decriminalizing domestic violence is a stark recent example of how much the police and the whole criminal legal system don’t care about sexual violence. And in fact, we’ve seen the worst of this in cops raping a woman and getting away with it. The issue isn’t that there are a few bad cops, or that there are a few good ones. The problem is the institution of the police itself. They’re a force that works for those who are in control to maintain the social order. Anyone working to realize social justice, anyone trying to change an unjust social order, could come up against the police at some moment or another.
This is a lesson many feminists have been slow to learn. Folks who have grown up with the police serving and protecting them understandably think the police work for them. Folks who’ve grown up being harassed by the police – who’ve seen their family members pulled over for no reason, arrested for being in public space, or totally ignored or even charged when they were a victim of a crime – have a different image. When the cops work for you, it seems like a pretty good idea to trust them to serve and protect. When you’ve been a target of the police, you tend to see a different picture. A lot of feminists with more privilege, and therefore a bigger megaphone, have an experience of the police that doesn’t mesh with what more marginalized folks have seen.
And Lori on Slutwalk:
I personally march because I want to end gender-based violence and because I view an intersectional analysis of violence as the only means to achieve said end.
I march because I stand in solidarity with those who have experienced sexual violence including women of color, queer people, trans folk, working class women, translocal women, men, gender non-conforming people, and others.
I march because people of color and trans women are 1.5 times more likely to experience violence than their white or cis counterparts, and 2.5 times more likely if they are both trans and a woman of color.
I march because the disproportionate levels of violence against marginalized people are in part exacerbated by their systematic exclusion from the traditional and even the “radical” movements addressing gender-based violence.
I march because I recognize many recent critiques of SlutWalk as not only valid but critically important, and I seek to engage them in earnest with an open mind and heart.
I march because I seek a SlutWalkNYC and an anti-violence movement more broadly that employs an intersectional approach to social change.
I march as an investment in a radical progressive movement that holds complexities, contradictions, and what I believe to be potential. I march in support of a growing movement that simultaneously has ties to age-old movements and represents something brand new; that is both profound and problematic; that excites me but also incites in me a deep ambivalence and weariness.
I march as an investment in the efforts of young radical progressive feminist grassroots organizers, to recognize their potentials and their failures and to show support for the laborious and inglorious process of social change.
I march in optimism towards the creation of a movement that breaks the mold and impresses and engages even those for whom skepticism and mistrust is warranted.
I march with a ball of confusion in my heart and stomach, with some pride in how far I’ve come and with some pain at how imperfect I am. I march because circumstances are so dire that urgent action is both necessary and terribly inadequate.
I march because there’s something in the air in New York, and it feels big and exciting.
I march because I am not only in solidarity in principle, because solidarity cannot be exercised in theory.
I march because I want my friends and family to know where I stand, even the ones who disagree, even the ones who don’t understand. I march because I want my aunt and my uncle and my grandmother and my cousin to find a way to be proud of me, to love me anyway, to love me even more for what I stand for and who I’ve become.
I march because I have the privilege to define walking under a banner of “slut” as subversive and empowering for me, a privilege that my grandmother and all her grandmothers before her couldn’t choose to invoke.
I march because no matter how brave or strong I try to be, my own fear of the label “slut” has at times been big enough to cause me to betray myself.
I march because I choose creativity over critique.
I march because many organizing efforts, even great and iconic ones, to some extent feel like uncontrollably hectic and problematic failures, and the important part is whether we are listening to each other and in this together, or at each others’ throats.
I march because sex negativity has been such a dominant force in my life and it’s sickening to think that it will persist to my children’s generation.
I march because my privilege compels me to, as does my oppression.
I march because I’ve experienced slut shaming and assault and gender based violence at the hands of all races and genders, because the enemy doesn’t have one face or ethnicity, because there is no one “enemy”, because there is only us.