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Coalition of Black Women Pen Open Letter Criticizing “SLUT WALKS”

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Coalition of Black Women Pen Open Letter Criticizing “SLUT WALKS”

Coalition of Black Women Pen Open Letter Criticizing “SLUT WALKS”

A coalition of African American women – including activists, academics, and organizational leaders – have co-authored an open letter to the organizers of “Slut Walk,” taking to task the movement’s use of the term “slut,” as well as its level of engagement (or lack thereof) with the experiences and perspectives of women of color.

Check out an excerpt from their letter below.

Slut Walk marches began in April of this past year in Toronto, in protest of the explaining or excusing of rape and sexual assault by blaming female victims, their attire and/or their lifestyle choices. Slut Walk organizers believe they are re-appropriating the word “slut” with their usage of the term.

Slut Walks have been met with both enthusiasm and intense criticism, spreading to multiple cities and sparking fierce debate across the country.

What do you think of Slut Walks?

“We know the SlutWalk is a call to action and we have heard you.  Yet we struggle with the decision to answer this call by joining with or supporting something that even in name exemplifies the ways in which mainstream women’s movements have repeatedly excluded Black women even in spaces where our participation is most critical. We are still struggling with the how, why and when and ask at what impasse should the SlutWalk have included substantial representation of Black women in the building and branding of this U.S. based movement to challenge rape culture?

Black women have worked tirelessly since the 19th century colored women’s clubs to rid society of the sexist/racist vernacular of slut, jezebel, hottentot, mammy, mule, sapphire; to build our sense of selves and redefine what women who look like us represent. Although we vehemently support a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants anytime, anywhere, within the context of a “SlutWalk” we don’t have the privilege to walk through the streets of New York City, Detroit, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, L.A. etc., either half-naked or fully clothed self-identifying as “sluts” and think that this will make women safer in our communities an hour later, a month later, or a year later.  Moreover, we are careful not to set a precedent for our young girls by giving them the message that we can self-identify as “sluts” when we’re still working to annihilate the word “ho”, which deriving from the word “hooker” or “whore”, as in “Jezebel whore” was meant to dehumanize.  Lastly, we do not want to encourage our young men, our Black fathers, sons and brothers to reinforce Black women’s identities as “sluts” by normalizing the term on t-shirts, buttons, flyers and pamphlets.

The personal is political. For us, the problem of trivialized rape and the absence of justice are intertwined with race, gender, sexuality, poverty, immigration and community.  As Black women in America, we are careful not to forget this or we may compromise more than we are able to recover.  Even if only in name, we cannot afford to label ourselves, to claim identity, to chant dehumanizing rhetoric against ourselves in any movement.  We can learn from successful movements like the Civil Rights movement, from Women’s Suffrage, the Black Nationalist and Black Feminist movements that we can make change without resorting to the taking-back of words that were never ours to begin with, but in fact heaved upon us in a process of dehumanization and devaluation.”

Read the full letter at Black Women’s Blueprint