Saturday, October 15, 2011

After a lot of time and consideration, I've decided to leave SlutWalk

I had initially intended to stick by SlutWalk and stay active within the movement.

But now, after dealing with the mass amounts of ignorance and racism coming from people organizing and participating in SlutWalk, people criticizing SlutWalk, and, the most painful of all, with Kris Fletcher, the woman who I partnered up and did SlutWalk Grand Rapid with (as evidenced by 1, 2, 3, 4*), I've come to find that I no longer feel like this is my movement, or a movement that welcomes me. I go to the SlutWalk page and feel a heaviness. The name has become comical and mocking to me, a slap in the face at times. Women of color who are criticizing the racism they see in mainstream feminism and the SlutWalk movement are getting shouted down, accused of being racist themselves, being ignored. I am as cynical and wary as thy come, but I never imagined the bigotry in this movement and in current-day feminism was this aggravated, that people knew SO little about our lives, our history, our cultures, our struggles.

My story was not of the white, sexually liberated college feminist, but of the once "pious" and "godly" Latina Baptist church girl, who was never out of her parents' sight for the first 14 years of her life, who never went around with boys or wore "slutty" clothes. I've since grown into the person I am today, but needless to say, my past and my identity informs her and her activism. My SlutWalk sign was in Spanish. On the Slutwalk page or when arguing with trolls, I addressed how these issues intersected and correlated with issues of race and women of color. In the interview I did at the actual SlutWalk and in my speech beforehand, I addressed this intersection yet again. I had a friend design flyers both in Spanish and English.

I knew about the criticisms of SlutWalk before I even created the page, and had many of my own. I understood and wanted Grand Rapids' SlutWalk to be different and stand as an example of one done right. In the end, partly due to failures on my behalf and failures on mainstream feminism as a whole, I wasn't able to communicate that, or people just aren't listening and understanding how important this intersection of race and gender is.

Sexism as experienced by women of color is often racialized. Even worse, just like how my former SlutWalk partner's post showed, the sexism we experienced is appropriated by whites out of alleged faux concern, but instead twists our history and spits on our culture and is spoken from a place of ignorance. We're told what words we can or cannot use, and how to engage our history and our past. White people default and refer to hip hop videos, Latino telenovelas, & extremely conservative Muslim practices to mournfully shed silent, condescending tears over the "sexism" they see in our cultures, without batting an eye at the extreme ignorance, hypocrasy, and racism in their words. They simultaneously ignore the many women of color who themselves have seen the sexism in their cultures and wish and work tirelessly to see it eradicated, the best and only people suited for such a job in the first place. They forget how privileged they are over the many women of color who are immigrant, who live in poverty, who are undocumented, who are living in third world countries, all to whom which mainstream white feminist history, culture, and rhetoric means absolutely nothing, and just isn't relatable or accesible in any concievable way, shape, or form, no matter how many "White Saviors" might say otherwise. They forget how imperialism and colonization historically enacted by their ancestors in the past and by them in the current day IS AGGRAVATING and CREATING the sexism and lack of human rights WOC experience.

Alternately, no doubt many WOC have been rather shitty about SlutWalk in terms of erasing and ignoring the WOC who DID participate in and identify with Slutwalk for their many various reasons. I would venture to say the racism that has come to obscure and engulf the movement was an even bigger slap to us who participated, who had a vested interest and hope in the movement, who could relate to it. We've been told we're catering to white supremacy, that we're selling ourselves and our people out, that NO WOC have a place in Slutwalk, to not try and be more inclusive because WOC are't interested, go away. We've had our experiences and lives erased with this kind of rhetoric, and for me, being a person who in the past was constantly severed and pushed from her identity as a woman of color in many ways, and often times by woman of color themselves, it was really heart-wrenching and just a reminder of how aliented I have been and still currently am to my culture and identity.

Another aspect that gets ignored is the root of the SlutWalk movement. Yes, punk rock is very white, punk rock is very racist, but punk rock was the first place I truly felt acceptance. SlutWalk, with it's riot grrrl roots and message, was close to my heart as a riot grrrl myself. It appealed to me in the sense that it was a grassroots movement that eschewed and didn't care or rules, authority, & establishment, that wanted to stand brashly against social mores. I feel that many WOC ignored or forgot this aspect of it in it's criticisms, or else just didn't take it seriously enough. That was another way I felt my experiences were spat on by the many dissenters.

That said, I am more than willing to fight with WOC on this and set them straight. I AM NOT willing to educate racists and stand and solidarity with bigots who wish to ignore me and my identity.

In the end, this is also about starting over and creating new ties in my community both as a woman of color and a feminist, as an all or nothing package. There is a lot of white (and other kinds of privilege, academic being a major one) surpremacy in the activist circles in my area, and very little spaces for and by WOC, and that's completely unacceptable for me. I no longer wish to attach my name to institutions and groups and people that ignore me, that belittle me, that appropriate or step on my history, that add me as an afterthought, or after I've angrily told them to do so, or after I've pushed my way in and the air is heavy with apprehension, ignorance, and awkwardness. It isn't my job to educate people. It's my job to be stand in solidarity with my people and work only with those who stand in solidarity with us.

I still extend my unequivocal solidarity and support to my fellow WOC who are still active in participating or supporting SlutWalk. I wish them the best and do not wish to alienate them or put them down in any way, shape, or form.

I plan to use this blog to continue to post more racial (and other -ism related) critiques on the SlutWalk movement, and things in relation to WOC feminism, womanism, and empowerment.

Thanks for reading


*The screencaps aren't meant to be a "HE SAID SHE SAID". How absolutely racist and apologist Kris is is evidence enough by the posting of the picture (just one of many other problematic ones she has posted, including ones in relation to the Antoine Dodson meme, which is racist AND making fun of sexual assault!) and what you can see of her comments.