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Sunday
May272012

Who Are You Calling A Slut: Speaking Slutwalk 2012 The Video & Transcript

May 25th 2012, Queen's Park, Toronto, 'Slutwalk'

Video by Kalmplex

Thank you to the organizers, to all the people who made it possible for me to be here. I do not and never have done this alone and I reject the celebrityism that often comes with this work – there are people who came before, are here now and will come after who we may never see and they are just as valuable to the movement as the people who we see here.

I also want to acknowledge that we are on First Nations land and acknowledge the labour of enslaved people that constructed this country. I want us to acknowledge migrant workers, domestic foreign workers and folks filling up the prison industrial complex who know just how expensive it is to be poor.

 

Hurt people hurt people and even in our experience of violence, we are all accountable for the ways in which we participate in and perpetuate systemic violence including, racism, transphobia, ableism and classism. We all have responsibilities to consider how to make this world one that we all want to live in, are all entitled to live in with an abundance of respect, safety, and love. As bodies with complex and layered identities, our responsibilities are profoundly different. We each exist simultaneously in possession of privilege and of experiences of oppression and while I have no desire to play oppression Olympics, we must recognize that these are not in equal amounts. Our social identities and the socio- political context are not optional when we engage in dialogues around accountability, building safe communities and challenging systems of advantage.

 

The context that we live in literally defines some traits as better than others. We are swimming in it. "The point isn’t that differences exist. It’s not about who is different and why, whether these differences are socially constructed or ‘biologically defined’, whether the difference falls within or fits into a forced dichotomy.

It’s the fact that we live in a society that privileges differences associated with a certain class and group over all else. These systems and rules take differences and declare them as a disadvantage on an institutional level, it declares these differences criminal." - newfeminism

 

And so what of us, those who stand at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality. I am fundamentally concerned with our strategies for resistance and self-care, our experience of state inflicted/sanctioned violence. I am primarily concerned with the breaking open of spaces where our voices are heard in such a way that they are able to inform policy, education and justice.

 

My mama is 1/4 Venezualan Arawak and ¼ Dutch and half Indo-Trinidadian.

My father is Half Scottish White Plantation owner and half West African slave stock, bred in Dominica. My father’s father was a plantation owner who raped my grandmother and he was referred to as Massa.

 

I was born in Trinidad, raised in Toronto.

 

I am able-bodied, English speaking, Female Assigned At Birth, an immigrant, but with Canadian citizenship that my mama fought for on my behalf. These are a few of the privileges that I enjoy. I did not earn them, they have no intrinsic value despite the enormous value that they are assigned and the benefits I reap.  I have never been incarcerated even though I participate in a system that does violent, criminal things daily.

 

I identify as a queer femme, as a short skirt wearing, heels rocking, push up bra wearing girl. My granny left me a legacy of femme-ness, suffering in silence  in head to toe glamour and with a brilliant wit.

 

I learned about femme-ness from drag queens like Jade Electra who taught me how to apply makeup, walk right in heels and feel courage in the face of violence. Trans womyn like Monica Roberts, Octavia St. Laurent taught me that femininity is radical, powerful and not to be fucked with. Womyn of colour like Dulce Garcia, Omisoore Dryden showed me just how brown, red and black femme was.

 

Makeup is warpaint (to me as someone reclaiming my Arawak ancestry), people across the world adorn their faces to reflect art, emotion and history. Always have and always will. And the time and self-care that goes into wearing makeup is healing and in a world that decries that I am not only Black and ugly, but a sexual object to be consumed – to dare to adorn my temple is an act of resistance and worship and should be regarded as such. And the glitter and the tight dresses, armor – I feel protected, expressive. I feel like me.

 As a young girl, I was ‘too sexy’, ‘too developed’ – constantly being compared to standards of white girlhood and never found to be deserving of that innocence. And as a survivor of rape, sexual assault in my home and outside of it; this isn’t social justice work; this is a matter of life and death.

Over the course of my life this violence has come in the form of caregivers, street harassment, and at the hands of partners both male and female. I was introduced to sex and sexual desire at a very young age, and let me be specific, I was introduced to being 'sexually desired' at a profoundly wrong age. I felt deep, gut wrenching shame, responsibility and oh so much guilt.

I developed quickly, by 13, I was told I looked ‘grown’ and this is something I also want to challenge – by whose standards. I looked like many other Black girls my age, but the standard of white feminity proposes that womyn of colour Black, Latina, First Nations people – our bodies are inherently sexualized. Ask yourself why big breasts or big asses mean ‘sex’? Who crafted that definition and why are we participating in the hyper sexualization of WOC.

 

As Mia Mingus so aptly put, "To me, femme must include ending ableism, white supremacy, heterosexism, the gender binary, economic exploitation, sexual violence, population control, male supremacy, war and militarization, and ownership of children and land." And I can do this in pink. I explain this all because I want you to know that I am on purpose. We are all different, but we have agency and are on purpose. I am femme on purpose.

 

S.e. smith says “I want to live in a world where little people are not pinkified, but where little people who like pink are not punished for it, either. Let‘s stop denying people their own autonomy by telling them that their expressions of femininity are bad and wrong. Anti-feminity has no place in this movement, it isn’t revolutionary to uphold status quo.

As womyn of colour, racialized and First Nations womyn (and folks) – what we wear, the context that we are in has so little to do with our experience of safety in the world. As a Black womyn, I cannot separate my experience of safety in the street from that of other Black People and this includes Trayvon Martin, Jersey 7 & Cece McDonald

On June 14, four African-American women received sentences ranging from three-and-a-half to 11 years in prison. None of them had previous criminal records. Two of them are parents of small children.

They were defending themselves from a physical attack by a man who held them down and choked them, ripped hair from their scalps, spat on them, and threatened to sexually assault them—all because they are lesbians and much of the assault was caught on tape.

Around 12:30 am, CeCe was walking to the grocery store with some friends, all of them young, African American, and either queer or allied. As they passed a local bar, the Schooner Tavern, a group of older, white people who were standing outside the bar’s side door began hurling racist and transphobic slurs at them, without provocation.  They called CeCe and her friends ‘faggots,’ ‘niggers,’ and ‘chicks with dicks,’ and suggested that CeCe was ‘dressed as a woman’ in order to ‘rape’ Dean Schmitz, one of the attackers. When CeCe approached the group and told them that her crew would not tolerate hate speech, one of the women said, “I’ll take you bitches on,” and then smashed her glass into CeCe’s face. She punctured CeCe’s cheek all the way through. A fight ensued, during which one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was fatally stabbed.

CeCe was arrested, interrogated without a lawyer present, held in solitary confinement, and charged with murder.

And I think we all know the case of Trayvon Martin, at the same time a black womyn also living in Florida, fired warning shots into the air to stop her abusive husband from attacking her, who killed no one was sentenced to 20 years in prison and denied the same stand your ground law that protected George Zimmerman.

Our endurance should not be confused with transformation. It is simply not enough to offer us such surface platitudes as ‘don’t give up’ and ‘it gets better’. Black womyn are so often characterized as angry without taking into consideration the sheer amount of violence we experience. I am angry and there are reasons. Our angry, our sadness, our pain are the products of a system that works diligently to engender that.  Low self esteem, lack of hope are reasonable responses to unreasonably depressing circumstances.

It doesn’t get better, not unless we do something about it.

It is not about the hoodie or the hijab, whether you are at home or in the street. These are all pseudo arguments which skirt the real ‘problem’. Recognizing that these systems are created with an economic purpose behind. They are meant to keep us fighting amongst each other (this is why competition between womyn is real, we too uphold these systems that determine what a good womyn is, what a deserving womyn is – damn metaphor), while a few people hoard a lot of resources. "Femininity in all bodies is discriminated against because of the negative meaning assigned to being female. Blackness in all bodies is discriminated against because of the negative meaning assigned to being Black It is not our gender or skin color that we have to change, but systems of oppression that benefit some groups at the expense of others. This whole process is what William Ryan calls "blaming the victim." It is an ideological process that justifies inequality by finding defects in the victims of inequality. The logical outcome of analyzing social problems in terms of the deficiencies of the victim is a simple formula for action: Change the victim!"

If a woman does get raped, everyone rushes to see where she let her guard down. Was she drinking? Was she alone? Was she wearing a short skirt? How old did she look? How old did she act? What did she look like? Did she go to a strange man’s room for coffee at 4am?

We have statistics upon statistics about womyn who were violated, but not about the men who violate. What were they wearing, drinking, saying? (paraphrased from http://bigthink.com/ideas/39234)

A woman should be able to walk down the street at 4 in the morning in nothing but her socks, blind drunk, without being assaulted, and I, for one, am not going to do anything to imply that she is in any way responsible for her own assault if she fails to Adequately Protect Herself. Men aren’t helpless dick-driven maniacs who can’t help raping a vulnerable woman. It disrespects EVERYONE.” — Emily Nagoski.

We cannot blame the most vulnerable bodies in the system, we must condemn the system.


These experiences are further complicated by ability, class, status (as well as other social locations). Differently abled womyn have an additional layer of dehumanization, which often cloaks their experience of sexual violence at the hands of caregivers and the medical industrial complex. Non-status womyn and incarcerated womyn are provided no recourse in cases of violence and are faced with threat of deportation and/or continued violence. And cash poor womyn and girls voices are consistently devalued and silenced and cannot afford the ‘luxury’ of time to heal so are often forced to continue their labour post, as well as during sexual violence and harassment.

We must continually recognize that there is privilege and complexity that comes from claiming the word ‘slut’, ‘dressing like a slut’, knowing that for the vast majority of those womyn who are victimized through rape, sexual harassment, sexual violence and state sanctioned violence that this is impossible. And we also must be duly careful not to conflate the idea that the only way to liberation is to be found in baring ones body. Womyn need to be just as free to cover their bodies, to wear the hijab without the white euro-western saviour rhetoric about ‘oppressedbrowngirls’.

We must continue to affirm that the existence of different simultaneous narratives, one does not invalidate another. We are not all the same, our experiences are vastly different and in our deicision to collaborate, we must not erase each other. We are not a monolith, we are wildly different in our histories and experiences and we must trust each other in our description of our realities.

So often we are told to prioritize knowledge that is ‘objective’, but no one is objective, we all have our experiences, our lenses and our biases. We are all subjective, the danger comes when we do not name that. I as a FAAB will never be able to speak with more authority about transphobia that my trans siblings. Anything I have learned has been at their expense and has been graciously shared. I will treat that as the gift it is, and we need to be able to do that with each other.

Trust your struggle, you don’t need a man to justify the existence of sexism and I don’t need white folks to affirm my lived daily reality of racialized sexism. Subjectivity is a powerful place. What happens when the specimen that you have under the magnifying glass speaks back? When the subject of the anthropological study raises their hand in class and says no. Keep speaking out as the experts of your own experiences, tell your truths, step back and allow others whose voices are not often acknowledged take up more space. Know that there are multiple narratives that all exist at the same time, the truth of another should complicate your own, but not invalidate.

There is an enormous privilege that comes from the ability to change what you’re wearing or where you are walking and be able to find safety, even relative safety. The normalization of the disappearance, rape, torture and murder of Black Womyn, Womyn Of Colour & First Nations Womyn (who may and may not be cash poor, differently abled, possessing status etc.) is a part of the foundation of ‘modern’ Western-Euro science, in-justice, and government and I never get to take a break

This is our lives.

And these are our bodies.

And even if we like sex that is rough or that explores rape fantasies, even if we love or have deep appreciation for masculine energy regardless of the body that it comes in - the fact of the matter is that the consent is what turns us on. It is possible to protest misogyny with my legs spread wide open and I am going to just that.

And as much as wish I didn't have to say this, we have to say this.

Don't rape us.

Don't shout slurs at us on the streets and check anyone who does that.

Don't act with ownership over our bodies. Always ask us what we want.

No is not yes.

Maybe is not yes.

Silence is not yes.

Yes means yes. That's it.

Don't police our bodies and that includes how we dress, how we fuck and how we birth.

Don't drug us, slip things in our drinks, wait until we are drunk - these things are not consent.

We are not responsible for getting you off, or tempting you, or in general for your lack of self control.

We are children of the universe no less than the sun or stars.

It's time you all acted like it.

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