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Sweat, tears, and twerking: My top 10 feminist moments from the Amber Rose SlutWalk

If E.L. James had set out to write the fan fiction of my feminist wet dreams she could not have improved upon Saturday October 3rd, 2015. 

Saturday was a convergence of so many things that are dear to me. Sesali has notably covered Amber Rose’s feminism and how accessible (and under-appreciated) it is. I’ve also written a bunch about  SlutWalk — both my high hopes for it, and my deep ambivalence about it. My feelings for SlutWalk seem to resemble the way that white women feel about Hilz in that I desperately, almost irrationally want to see it succeed, in great part because of all the people watching, waiting for it to fail. But I mean, I was at the NYC event, I saw the sign. I know the risks, pitfalls, and problems. I’m not going into this blind.

But Saturday, Saturday was different. Here are ten things I loved about the Amber Rose SlutWalk.

1) Muva’s hair

The first thing I saw when I pulled up to Pershing Square (my friend was driving because, lol, I can’t drive, I live in NY!) was a big ribbon of pink balloons. My friend and I thought we might have fucked up and ended up at a breast cancer awareness event — again! — but then we saw the perfection of a platinum blonde short-haired head with “muva” shaved into the back being thronged by the media so I knew I was in the right place.Amber speaking under a banner of pink balloons

2) Muva’s outfit — and everyone else’s 

Everyone looked amazing. I do not say this lightly. Folks SHOWED UP for Ms. Amber Rose. Amber herself was dressed in a dreamy black satin nighty thing with over the knee boots and sick black shades. She looked like a straight up sex goddess manifested directly from my imagination. There were also too many amazing outfits and signs to count. The crowd was extremely diverse. I didn’t do like a formal census but I would guess it was majority people of color, which felt amazing, and there were folks repping from the sex worker community, trans community, disabled community, and many more.

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Photo credit: Janna Zinzi/jazabel jade.

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Photo credit: Janna Zinzi/jazabel jade

Amazing crew at ARSW

Photo credit: Janna Zinzi/jazabel jade

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3) Muva’s Muva

That’s right: Amber’s mom was there. She held up a sign that said “Fuck yo 30 showers” (in reference to this B.S.) and after I woke up from my fainting spell, I felt I had gotten a good glimpse into how Amber grew into the strong woman that she is. Supportive parents rule! I also saw Amber tell her mom “I love you” multiple times throughout the day. Their dynamic just seemed really sweet and I was way into it. ARmom

Amber's mom holds up a sign that says 'fuck yo 30 showers'

Photo credit: Janna Zinzi/jazabel jade

4) Predictable haters

This event featured the holy grail of protesters: a male with a megaphone, standing at the event entrance, literally quoting the bible to explain why everyone at the event deserved to get raped. Charming! But seriously, it was actually a very helpful reminder about why we were there. Thanks, religious rape apologist! #TrollsGonnaTroll

5) Protest or club? 

I’ve been to many a protest in my day but none that felt so much like a continuous party. The music was undeniably good. The host was Frenchie Davis, who blessed us with her incredible voice and brought some soul to the day, but most of the time DJ Duffey was just going in with the latest hits. It was also just — and how do I say this without insulting anyone or feeding into a stereotype about what feminists are supposed to look like? — an unusually DOPE crowd. As in, not that nerdy. I love nerds and strongly identify as one but Amber brought a level of cool to this event that frankly feminism is in dire need of, and we need to be straight up about that. So yes, there was a twerk contest and a fashion show. There was even a ‘VIP area’ where people were toking up! I was way too intimidated to partake, but I did enjoy the feeling of listening to top 40 music, which can often have problematic elements, and just knowing that folks were jamming out to it in a different way this time around. Plus, when was the last time you sipped complementary rosé at an anti-rape event?

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6) Testing…testing… 

There was HIV testing by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which was a sponsor of the event, and Planned Parenthood of LA tabled. They managed to do this without shaming people for their status or sexual activities, which I really appreciated.

7) Burlesque dancer jazabel jade gave us the new face of queendom 

Sex workers have been a major part of previous SlutWalks and I was excited to see that theme continue with this event. Janna Zinzi, aka jazabal jade, blessed the SlutWalk stage with a performance from her “brown girl burlesque” repertoire, and it was honestly everything. (She is also a former Feministing contributor! We are all so blessed!) She got the crowd super hyped up during her performance, while wearing blinged out Jordans, a string bikini, and a “This is what a feminist looks like” cape. She then proceeded to give incredibly thoughtful remarks about the ways in which doing burlesque has been an empowering experience for her as a woman of color looking to overcome all the stigma and shame that’s been historically associated with her body. Standing next to her on that stage, I knew I was in the presence of a queen.

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 8) The original founder of SlutWalk and Amber had a moment 

SlutWalks were not born out of thin air. They began four years ago when a police officer in Toronto told women to “stop dressing like sluts” if they wanted to avoid being raped. Organizers Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis put together a march in protest, and although they expected around 200 people to show up, over 3,000 gathered. Today, SlutWalk has gone global, with thousands of people joining events in hundreds of cities across the world. I even had the pleasure of interviewing Heather and Sonya way back in the day for the Feministing Five, and found them incredibly thoughtful. Having Heather at the event was amazing because she spoke from the heart about how slut-shaming has impacted her as an organizer, queer woman, and sexual assault survivor. It reinforced the idea that no matter what walk of life you come from, these issues affect you, and showed why Slut Walk has resonated with so many from around the world.

9) A badass panel of feminist superstars dropped knowledge

Heather joined a badass panel of feminists who spoke truth to power at the event. Matt McGorry from Orange is the New Black and How I Got Away With Murder called on other other white straight cis guys to get involved in the movement. He also said that defining feminism as equality between men and women isn’t enough — we need equality for people of all genders, which got a huge cheer from the crowd. He came off as a straight white dude who gets it rather than a Straight White Dude Who Needs You to Know That He Gets It, a hugely important distinction. Juana Cavero spoke about reproductive justice, the high rates of maternal mortality for black women in LA, and why we need reproductive health access for our communities if we really want to see liberation and end gender-based oppression. Dr. Napatia Tronshaw, a psychiatrist, talked about the effects of stigma, judgment, and shame on mental health and quality of life, especially for women of color, and how suicide rates in our community are tragically high. Artist, educator and writer Kim Katrin Milan was another crowd favorite whose words gave me life. She talked about the kinds of messages we see in the media, and particularly on social media, about gender roles, consent, and sexuality that perpetuate this problem, and what can we do about it.

After it was all over, Amber came on stage and gave me a big hug. At this point I was a) extremely sweaty and b) very covered in glitter but she didn’t seem to mind. #feminism

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Pictured here with the fierce group of panelists!

10) ALL WAS FORGIVEN

Much has been made of the tearful speech Amber gave in which she forgave Kanye and Wiz for their slut-shaming ways. I do find it weird that all the media can report on is the two seconds of the event where these shaming a$$ dudes were named, but w/e, that’s our media cycle for you. While this moment was extremely powerful, for me it was not because I got some juicy inside scoop on a high-profile celebrity relationship drama, but because Amber kept it so real and used her own authentic story and voice to make the point that when we judge, stigmatize, and attack people because of their sexuality or any other reason, it has actual negative consequences for people. Or as Amber would say, strippers have feelings, too.

Lori and Amber selfie.

Me + Muva. At this point I am running on fake lashes, glitter, and feminist adrenaline only. Photo credit: Kim Katrin Milan

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to serving as an Executive Director at Feministing, Lori is the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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