The sentiment that whatever we wear and wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no is what got me Slutwalking earlier this year. Those campaigning to “reclaim” the word “slut”? I didn’t totally hate the idea, but it wasn’t one that particularly inspired me, because I’m skeptical regarding reclamation of marginalising slurs in concept and feel it’s of limited utility compared to actively challenging prejudices more radically.
As the priority of Slutwalk organisers worldwide appears to keep on shifting, on their websites and press releases, to emphasising reclamation of a word above and beyond protesting against the persistence of the rape myths and victim-blaming linked to that word, I find myself less and less interested in marching next time, especially if it means that some White marchers might insist on holding up banners celebrating another attempt at word reclamation which many social justice advocates feel John Lennon and Yoko Ono got badly wrong over 40 years ago.
I want to be in solidarity with Slutwalk. I really do. But my knees are getting weak. It’s inspiring to see women coming together to protest the all-too-real threat and reality of rape and to reclaim our right to define and exercise our respective sexualities outside the context of patriarchy. I dig all that. But I do not dig seeing signs like that held up by Erin Clark and Kelly Hannah Peterlinz at Slutwalk NYC that said “Woman Is the Nigger of the World.”
I do not dig debating with young white feminists late into the night about white privilege and having other Black women in the thread have to call out the supposed anti-racist feminists for not speaking up, for yet again forcing Black women to do the exhausting work of teaching. I do not dig being told on the interwebs, –tumblr, other blogs, the Slutwalk NYC FB page–that Black women are being hyper-sensitive and divisive. I do not dig being intellectually insulted with the assertion that I simply didn’t understand “Yoko and John’s intent.” As if.
Karnythia at The Angry Black Woman writes that it needs to be acknowledged that women like me are never going to be insulted using that word, and therefore we just shouldn’t act as if it’s ours to embrace:.
So, when people claim that Woman is The Nigger of The World? I want them to remember that not every woman is going to be called a nigger. Trust me, if I could give that word up I would, I certainly don’t want it. But I can’t, and I refuse to pretend that what happened to me could happen to a white woman.
There’s so many reasons why Slutwalks already feel exclusionary to many women. Insensitive stunts like this just don’t help.