” The word ‘ Slut, didn’t speak for Muslim Woman Did my shameless Muslim ‘sister’ Salma Yaqoob understand that she should not march with sloppy dirty servant girls or Sipcy Latina ”
SlutWalk protests have been critiqued for their focus on white women. One woman of color explains how she came around to the cause.
A sign at the Boston Slutwalk
Photo Credit: facebook.com– Mitch Lewis
You could have colored me unsupportive of SlutWalk.
Even though I have jokingly called myself a slut (as in “I’m a handbag slut”), as an African American woman I was rather uncomfortable with the protest’s racial dynamics, at least how it was shaping up in the US and Canada. I felt the word “slut” didn’t speak to me; I found the word “ho” more damaging. Of course, I also thought this word broke down in theblack/white binary. in my experience, if a black woman was in a mostly white or all-white setting, the word “slut” as a perjorative would be used. In mostly black or all-black settings, the words “ho” and “fass” (meaning sexually “fast”) would be flung to sexually shame us.
What didn’t help my ambivalence regarding SlutWalk was, when watching some white organizers and speakers talk about the problems of race in organizing the protests, it was the usual “well, ‘slut’ is universal,” or they’d point to the speaker roster or the people in the audience (though the photos show, again, white women). It came off as another word-reclamation project that seemed to recenter white cisgender women’s sexual agency and bodies. (Sort of the way “feminist issues” tends to reincarnate a little too often as “white (cis) women’s issues.”) And, increasingly in the discussions, there is a disturbing new attribute of the “relatable rape victim” as a woman who is “young and sexy” or at least“precocious and body-conscious.”
Simultaneously, I wasn’t feeling how SlutWalk became some litmus test around women of color and being down with the “WoC agenda” of addressing the meld of racism and sexism as linked with issues around class, gender identity and body images and capacities, reproductive rights, sexual identification and sexuality, immigration, the criminal/penal system, education, healthcare, and other issues. (Yes, I mean the WoC agenda facetiously because there’s really no such thing. Women of color aren’t a monolith, and as people are wont to do, will disagree on the best ways to achieve social justice.)
Even when participants like Morgane Richardson, Harsha Walia and CreatrixTiara have spoken their truths on why they joined the protests in their respective countries, quite a bit of rhetoric coming from some online WoC communities andbloggers is that “women of color” don’t see the use of the march because “it doesn’t speak” to “us” categorically.
But see, the thing is quite a few women of color are called sluts. Three recent examples of this, in consideration of what the word means:
1) Slut, meaning a “servant girl,” has her modern-day descendents in the women to do domestic work, be it in a home or in a hotel—like the woman who cleaned former IMF leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s room. She may or may not have been a young woman, may or may not have been body-conscious or thought herself as sexy. What I do believe she was conscious of was that doing her job didn’t involve this man allegedly sexually violating her. Strauss-Kahn probably thought the hotel worker he violated was powerless. He thought wrong, as his arrest and subsequent resignation has proven, thanks to the worker going to her union and people supporting her in getting her story in the media.
2) Slut, meaning “a sloppy, dirty, untidy woman,” which is essentially what Massachusetts Representative Ryan Fattman said regarding undocumented women. He said they deserved to live in fear because that’s what they get for living in the US without having their paperwork in order when they arrived. (Considering that the implicit ethnicity in talking about immigrant women are those from Latin America, another stereotype in play is the “spicy Latina” who’s always ready for sex, which tends to render them “unrapeable” because Latinas are naturally “asking for it.”) Regardless of age and whether or not immigrant women are sexually self-confident about their bodies, what they are aware of is they are people living and contributing to this country and they are not a readily available group of women people are free to rape with impunity because the women lack paperwork.
Their taxes put clothes on the cops’ and Rep.Fattman’s back and food in their bodies, Undocumented or not, that fact alone means the police and the lawmakers are beholden to these women—including responding to their reporting of sexual violence.