Amber Rose’s Slutwalk is the natural pinnacle of Slutwalk

Amber Rose
Amber Rose

I wrote about the first Slutwalk back in 2011. I was the first to do so, and was attacked viciously for it. Like all third wave trends, one is to blindly follow along, questioning nothing. I’d tried to give it a chance, following and engaging with the conversations the organizers and supporters were having online, it became clear early on that Slutwalk had little to do with the feminist movement. Rather, many of the young women and men involved rejected feminism outright. They wanted to identify as “sluts” not “feminists” for pretty obvious reasons, albeit ones they weren’t ready to cop to… A “slut” is always going to be more popular than a feminist because, well, feminists aren’t popular. They’re activists. They’re pushing back against the very foundations of the word and idea of “sluts.” They’re pushing back against the men who use that word against us. They’re saying, “No, we don’t want popularity — we want justice.” But Slutwalk wanted popularity above all else. So we parted ways.

The kids of Slutwalk readily embraced anti-feminist stereotypes of second wavers and chose to distance themselves from the movement, selling out for media coverage and male support. And where did it get us? Well, you see young, privileged women today advocating for prostitution and pornography as liberated choices for women using the same language the Slutwalkers did: “My body my choice!” “I do what I want, fuck yeah!” You see efforts to encourage men to vote against Stephen Harper by offering blow jobs or exchanging nude photos for votes. “Sluts Against Harper” [NSFW — feel free to report this Instagram account for pornography] is direct evidence of Slutwalk’s impact on young people’s understanding of politics today. All women can offer, in terms of advocating for change, are their objectified bodies. While leftist men have long encouraged women’s subordinate status, only considering men’s liberation and equality something worth fighting for, it’s new for self-described “feminists” to glom on to this blatant sexism.

Image/Jessica Simps, founder of "Sluts Against Harper"
Image/Jessica Simps, founder of “Sluts Against Harper”
Image/Jessica Simps
Image/Jessica Simps

The neoliberal, self-centered, enormously deluded notion that if women simply “choose” objectification or commodification, it becomes empowering, now underpins mainstream feminism. We seem to have fully embraced the idea that “reclaiming” misogyny and making it our own is the best we can do. While it’s clear to those of us in the movement that this is anything but feminism, those engaged don’t see it that way, nor does the media.

As feminists, our job is to work towards the liberation of the most marginalized women, globally. Not do to whatever the fuck we want because that’s what makes us feel sexy or liked. Claims that prostitution and pornification are a liberated choice, progressive so long as you say so, doesn’t actually help women and girls who are in prostitution because they have no other choice. Asserting that you enjoy objectification and that, therefore, it’s ok doesn’t help the marginalized women on the DTES who are raped and murdered because men don’t believe they are truly or fully human. In truth, it doesn’t help any woman, anywhere. It is wholly damaging to all of us and contributes to our subordination. While a few middle class girls might think it’s fun to call one another “sluts” or to enjoy the attention they receive from posting pornographic imagery on Instagram, it’s not really all that fun to be called a “slut” while filming a gang-bang porn or being choked with a penis. Take your privilege and do something useful with it.

While I can’t blame Slutwalk entirely for the farce presented to us as “feminism” today, it played a prominent role. You’ll find a glaring continuum between those who advocated for Slutwalk four years ago and those no-platforming radical feminists, blacklisting abolitionists, lying through their teeth on national television about violence against prostituted women, calling feminists who actually name male violence “bigots,” and pretending that our challenges to male exploiters and abusers are, in fact, more dangerous than the literal violence faced by women, globally. The young, privileged, American liberals who rail on about “white feminism” as they paint a romanticized image of the abuse their impoverished sisters face for their own personal, financial, and professional gain are the same women who rejected Take Back the Night on account of it being “too second wave” and “not inclusive enough,” (read: we don’t want men to feel left out) choosing the more media (and man) friendly Slutwalk.

At the time, I laughed at the notion that this silly individualism was being called a “movement.” There was no solidarity, no class analysis, no understanding of systems of oppression, no understanding of oppression at all… This was just a hodgepodge of mantras advertisers and the American capitalist state have been pushing on us for decades: Your destiny is what you make of it. Your ability to “choose” breast implants or to profit from an exploitative system in any way at all is, in fact, empowering. If I call myself a slut and enjoy it, I’ve successfully freed myself from patriarchy. Of course, imagining our own liberation while under the thumb of a system that is destroying us is exactly what those in power wanted.

Last weekend, “hip hop model,” Amber Rose, held her own Slutwalk in LA. Rose has been thoroughly trashed online, thanks, in part, to her ex-boyfriend Kanye West’s “30 showers” comments about her, essentially calling her “dirty.” She was further hurt when the father of her child, Wiz Khalifa, dismissed her in a song as being “nothing but a stripper.” I feel her righteous anger at being painted as a “slut,” big time. I’ve been there, albeit on a much smaller scale. It is wrong and it is painful. But Slutwalk isn’t going to resolve any of that.

To be clear, I don’t dislike Rose. I respect that she is trying to heal from all this and I respect that her intentions were good, in terms of organizing this event. Her tearful speech, talking about the pain of being humiliated and insulted by men who used her, who she loved, who she got pregnant by, was moving. But “forgiveness” and “positive energy” will never shake the patriarchy. And truly, Slutwalk doesn’t want to shake the patriarchy. They want a feel good, fun event. Which is fine. But it isn’t feminism. You can’t just “let that negative shit go” because you choose to. It won’t just go away because you throw a party.

Heather Jarvis, one of the founders of Slutwalk, was naturally “thrilled” by the celebrity-laden event. This kind of publicity is exactly what she wanted. In fact, Amber Rose’s Slutwalk seems to epitomize her “movement.” It featured a twerk contest, a burlesque performance, and a fashion show. This is Slutwalk’s destiny.

amber rose slutwalk

This event may well have succeeded in making some of the young women in attendance temporarily shed some of the shame imposed on them by a culture that says, “Be sluts, but we’ll punish you for it,” but it missed a bunch of stuff in the middle.

Embracing the male gaze, performing as though we’re in a porn movie or on stage at a strip club, reinforces the message that women really only exist in as much as they are perceived as “sexy” by men. The women at Slutwalk go out of their way to reassure men that, yes, they love porn, they love to look sexy, and oh yes, they love cock. So the message that women are only acceptable so long as men accept them remains. Women are called “sluts” and “whores” and “prudes” and “bitches” and “man-haters” and “teases” exactly because they are being defined in relation to men and what men want. All of those words are about controlling women and reminding us that what men think of us and what men decide we are matters more than who we really are. It’s a reminder of male power — it says, “I can cut you down whenever I feel like it. Whether you do as I say or not.” If we abide by their wishes and act like “sluts” we are punished and if we refuse we are punished.

The only way to escape these definitions is to reject them entirely. To reject the idea that what men think about us matters at all. To reject the idea that the male gaze legitimizes our worth and our existence. And that, I’m afraid, has never been Rose’s message. Certainly it’s never been Slutwalk’s.

amber rose

The message is: Sure, you can feel empowered, but only so long as you do it in stilettos and reassure men that you’ll suck their dicks later.

amber rose slutwalk

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Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Buzz kill

    Omg this is so fucking cringe worthy. …. how do they not see themselves doing the exact thing men want them to do and expect of them¿ …. and I’ve never witnessed something like this and believe that these ‘$lut walk$’ are actually a finger up to men. They always feel drenched in ‘Fuck you’ to us mean radfems.

    #infuriating

  • asialita

    Dear goddess, I hadn’t heard anything about these Slutwalks in a long while and I was hoping against hope that it had died down. It’s only gotten worse! I feel so sick.

  • Harper Jones

    Ugh, one giant step back for women. Thanks….sluts?

  • Nom Nom

    Regarding the article I agree to a point, but the word slut doesn’t only do harm to women who are victims of sex slavery, it harms all. In my country(It is not USA or Canada) just an implication that you are slut can ruin your social, private and even work life. To be brained as slut is worse than being branded as rapist or pedophile here. And criteria for what constitutes a slut is so low, that 99 percent of the women can be called like that. You don’t even have to sleep with anybody, you can be a virgin and if someone lies that they have slept with you(and men do this often) everybody will believe him no matter how impossible story sounds. I would like to see an article about MEN who call women sluts, lie about them to destroy their reputation in small non western countries when something like that can cost you a life, family and job.

    I would really like to see writing more articles about MRAs, I mean they are the biggest enemies of women, their members already murdered few women just in this tear. It is the same when radical feminists always complain how liberal feminist trash only other women and than call them “white feminists”. This blog does the same and trashes mainly liberal feminist, I think there is more article blaming them than MRA terrorists.

    And you used word privileged for women, just same story when liberal feminist use the word privileged for any woman who is not 100000 percent on their side.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I agree that the word ‘slut’ harms all women? Was I unclear about that? If so, apologies.

      I personally don’t actually think MRAs are the biggest enemies of women… I think they are mostly silly… I think the cooptation of feminism by corporate America and the sex industry is more dangerous as it is more insidious… Playboy Feminism has successfully destroyed our movement and we need to take it back. Liberal ‘feminists’ have made the commodification of women and of our movement ok. It is patriarchy that is behind all this, of course, but as feminists, these women should be pushing back, not shoving it down our throats…

      The women who organized and support Slutwalk ARE privileged. That’s why they have no class analysis and think they can ‘reclaim’ the word ‘slut’ like it’ll change anything.

      Liberal feminists use the word ‘privilege’ to lie about/trash/dismiss radical feminists. I’m using it as part of a class analysis. Liberal feminists have no class analysis…

  • andeväsen

    Meghan, a very belated thank you for your work in 2011 deconstructing slutwalks. I remember reading your article and being very glad that you had the clarity of thought to see through the propaganda and the energy to speak out.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you! I appreciate that! And I appreciate you reading along/contributing to comments all this time!

  • Meghan Murphy

    I agree that they are a hate group. And I don’t blame MRA groups for male violence, I blame masculinity and misogyny — things I write about all the time. MRA groups are relatively small. Misogyny is everywhere and very much a deep-rooted part of our culture.

    • mklo

      I think that is better to say I blame male violence on MEN, not on masculinity and misogyny. We never blame them and they get away with everything, they even started to use I didn’t do that because I wanted patriarchy made me do it, I am a victim too, as a out of jail card. And they go out and again harm women. If we don’t start naming the right culprit- MEN, we are going to to be second class citizens.

    • Sally

      Hmm I’m not sure what to think about this. Yeah, they are definitely a tiny minority, but are also very vocal. In fact, it seems like I see them nearly everywhere online, even in the most innocuous places. Nearly every website I visit that allows comments seems to attract MRA’s. It could even be a topic that’s not even about feminism, and somehow, someway MRA’s will manage to co-opt the topic to blame feminists and women for all the world’s problems. It’s like day in, day out, I’m continually reminded that not only is the average man entitled and inconsiderate, there is also literally an entire group of men dedicating their lives and efforts to hating me, outright HATING me, for simply being born XX instead of XY (and they are ironically the ones with the mutation lol). But yeah they are silly, I just wouldn’t discount the influence they can wield over young minds. I mean the fact that there are some WOMEN who are mra’s is disturbing as hell to me… Liberal feminism has been extremely damaging, but I also think that the MRA movement is definitely a symptom of it, or at least related somehow. Obviously there was always going to be men who hate feminism, but it’s like even more intense now, it seems to me anyway.

  • Lucia Lolita

    I wish I had read your 2011 article back when you first published it. I would have perhaps avoided being one of those advocates for taking back the word “slut”. Ugh, I am cringing. Amazing what a few years (and a healthy dose of free range thinking) can do.

    I attended one “Slutwalk”, and I was all for demanding how the rapists were the ones who needed to be held accountable, not us sexy, sex enjoying women. I remember being taunted for not walking topless by some idiots who thought they’d get a free show, encouraging me to do so while bemoaning others who did but didn’t fit their idea of “sexy”. I was angry at the time, but angry that my fellow marchers who weren’t picked out as attractive were being made to feel bad and the whole purpose got lost in the screaming match that ensued…

    Ugh. I cannot stop cringing from the memory.

    I was in my teens then, and confused and a long way off from knowing what was going on in terms of feminism and what radical meant, and liberal, and sex negative/positive, etc. I was pissed that I was made to feel I deserved to be potentially raped because of how I dressed and was just happy to be amongst others, mostly women, who felt the same. It was easy to get caught up in it, and I did. Oh, the arguments amongst my group of friends, sluts this and sluts that. It was a word we wielded with viciousness against other girls and that too was another reason I wanted to really, really support Slutwalk. Taking back the word was such a cool idea, to go beyond the playful teasing it was sometimes used amongst us. I am so glad I am not that ignorant person any more. Well, not as ignorant, haha.

    Thanks, Meghan. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Here I was thinking I was comfortable in my position in terms of how I express my personal journey as a feminist, and I’ve learned, yet again, there is so much more to consider and digest.

  • Meghan Murphy

    If objectification were so empowering you’d think men would be doing it, eh?

  • Meghan Murphy

    I thought it was a brave speech, too! And I felt her pain, big time. But we have to DO something about the root cause of that pain. We can’t just do self-help/positive energy stuff. We can’t just take on all that misogyny and make it our own. It simply won’t work and the pain will continue. (I know I’m preaching to the choir, here and I’m glad to hear you may have gotten through to your friend!)

    • Sabine

      Megan, that’s absolutely it! Liberal “feminism” does seem to be basically all about taking on all that misogyny and making it our own. It’s pathological self denial which I can understand to a certain degree when the truth is so utterly horrifying….

  • Meghan Murphy

    What does ‘living their lives’ do for the fight for women’s liberation from patriarchy and male violence?

  • DeColonise

    I can highly recommend trying to get a copy of the book The Politics Of Reality: Essays in feminist theory by Marilyn Frye if you are able too.
    It clears a lot of confusions up that you might have in this modern age in which feminism (or at least the term) has, like so many other movements of the left, become more of a brand for capitalist society to capitalize on.

  • Men showing their abs is not a submissive act since abs convey physical strength, which suggests physical power. When men display their abs they are not submitting to anyone instead they are demonstrating (consciously or unconsciously) that they have the power to beat people up or sexually conquer women. The fact that women (and some gay men) are encourage to find displays of brute physical power sexy further cements their subordinate status. They are supposed to see a man display power, go into some kind of super aroused trace and mindlessly submit to the first muscular dude they see.
    Meanwhile men are encourage to remain confident and conscious of their surroundings, while being aroused by women with absurdly thin waists which look as if they could be broken in two, enormous breasts which get in the way of everyday activities and high heels shoes which weaken their ability to run and walk. I try not to make assumption about the personalities of real life people based on their appearance (many “prudish” women wear sexualised clothing because it is the norm), but a lot of communication is symbolic, so when we see men and women depicted this way in the media we should pay attention to what is symbolically being suggested.
    Sorry if this comes of as nit picky. I totally agree with the general point that lapis made (if it is so empowering why are men not doing it?), but I think it is important to acknowledge that a sexualised depiction of a man is not equivalent to a sexualised depiction of a woman. The only way they could be equivalent is if we drastically changed the culture so that vulnerable bodies were considered sexy for men as well as women, but if we going to do that, we might as abolish the whole idea that domination and submission are sexy to begin with, which is what I actually advocate.
    I do not believe that things which make women more physically vulnerable, like wearing high heel shoes or corsets, or symbolically suggest vulnerability, like hair removal, are ever going to empower women, or does encouraging people to focus on how you look, rather than on what sort of person you are, which is what these women are doing when they deliberately dress in a highly sexualised manner with no regard for pragmatic concerns. Slut walk happens at the same time in Melbourne as in other parts of the world, even though our coldest winter days happen at that time and a few people who attend it still decide to dress like pornography performers. Who cares if these women all get nasty colds, so long as they look pretty, right?

  • Buzz kill

    But this is NOT empowering! This is patriarchal phallocentric misogynistic propaganda! These acts they’re doing is just that, an act! It’s a display. A male gaze view of how womyn should act. These are not natural acts, we’re so indoctrinated by the male supremacist view of sexuality that those womyn believe their acts are genuine and different and liberating, when in fact they’re doing the exact thing they’ve been taught to do since birth! ! They wouldn’t no true sexual liberation even if it was stamped on their heads. And this is how patriarchy works having the oppressed so submissive that they believe any decision/choice they make within the confines of a Male centred world is their own choosey choice. Look at HBO look at the misogo shit they produce¿ it’s so endrenched in misogyny and sexual exploitation that the smallest micro of Female strength is read as a Feminist act/character/show. And womyn are starved of these acts of strength being projected that even they fall for the lie, that what they’re witnessing is good for womyn. #ThisisFauxEmpowerment/liberation

  • Sally

    ” It won’t just go away because you throw a party.” THANK YOU.

  • Sally

    Yep and the rest of us who choose not to flaunt our bodies will be called “not in touch with our own sexuality”, “prudes” or judgmental. I have experienced this with the nudists in the supposed “body positive” movement. Like hey, I think if you want to go walking around nude in your own little community, go right ahead, but when I’ve expressed I’m simply not interested, I’ve been demeaned, several times. Why is their choice okay, but mine isn’t? Oh right, because they’re not actually interested in choice, only their own fun. Everyone else can go to hell as far as they’re concerned. Neoliberalism is so selfish.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “and the rest of us who choose not to flaunt our bodies will be called “not in touch with our own sexuality”, “prudes” or judgmental.”

      Yes exactly.

    • Sabine

      Right. It’s like the very worst thing one can accuse somebody of these days (particularly females of course) is being a “prude”. It’s just another indicator of how sex-sick our society has become. It’s as if it’s all that really matters, this all pervasive thing that is actually just another facet of life like so many others. What passes for sex nowadays is enough to put many people off. Porny performance fucking? No ta. If that makes me a prude, okey doke!

  • Tired feminist

    You seem very much invested in asking repeatedly and insistently why women “don’t notice” their oppression. Smells like victim-blaming to me.

    Why don’t they notice. Why don’t they leave. I can’t believe they do this. They’re so stupid. Why are they so submissive. Why don’t they. Why do they.

    Let’s talk about men’s behavior instead?

    • will

      I don’t fully disagree with you, however, I can’t get comfortable with saying that no women should be held responsible for undermining feminism because we all live in patriarchy. Surely we still have responsibility to think critically and to understand that our own actions have an affect on the world?

      I think it’s fair to ask people who agitate for “equality” why it is that they do not recognize a hugely unequal set of behaviours and meanings within the central message they are disseminating.

      • Tired feminist

        I agree that it’s a valid question to ask, I just think it has to be done the right way… scorning women who’re trying to be pleasant to men, imo, isn’t quite the most productive way (if anything, because at the end of the day most of us are trying to be pleasant to men, to a higher or lower extent, more or less consciously, more or less willingly, because we’ve been all socialized as women…). Perhaps it wasn’t lapis’ intention and perhaps I’m just too burned by anti-feminists trying anything to fuel disagreements between feminists (you know, people loooove when women have a fight…). But the language we use to criticize women matters.

  • Anna

    Slut is a gender slur and i’m so sick of seeing women act so incredibly irresponsible by using it. I know that it doesn’t carry the same history as the N-word, but these two words should be retired from the English language.

    I stopped calling myself a feminist because I don’t want to be associated with these third wavers. Today’s feminism is about women embracing misogyny while screaming out about how much they like it. This is so disturbing and disappointing, because if the feminists won’t stand up for women, then who will?

    I wonder if there will ever be a day when women will considered fully human instead of objects.

    • Goddess of the Universe

      OWN the word ‘feminist’. Don’t allow third-wave idiots to undo the sacrifices of Gloria Steinem, Betty Freidan, Margaret Sanger and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
      Feminism isn’t the property of these flea-in-the-ointment 3rd wavers, but rather, the legacy given us by those fine, fearless fighters who forewent their comfort, reputations and often liberty so that we may take these last few steps to equality of opportunity and worth. Let’s not surrender to the misappropriation of the cause for the blatant financial profit of Madonna and Miley.
      Reclaim your birthright if for no other reason than to honor those who have given their life-force so that we can vote, get an education, control our fertility and choose to be something more than ornaments or property.

      • Anna

        I really appreciated this. Thank you so much. Lately, i’ve become so demoralized seeing this legitimate movement turn into a joke. I can’t believe that I live in a time where 3rd waver feminists are actually lauding prostitution and stripper culture as empowering. I never thought that i’d live to see the day where saying that a woman has uterus could be interpreted as hate speech. I’m not even exaggerating on this last part, some libfems lost it when I said this, because according to them “not all women uteri. Saying this is cisist.” I felt like I had entered into The Twilight Zone.

        Sometimes it just becomes so overwhelming and feels like we’re fighting a losing battle. It’s one thing to be dealing with sexist men but it’s a whole other mess to deal with these deluded women who are competing with men to be the best at misogyny.

        Sometimes I wonder how first wavers would react to seeing what feminism has become today. I doubt that they’d react with anything less than disgust.

  • I don’t think modern society wants to discourage women from having sex (or being promiscuous). I think the word “slut” is just an excuse used to justify women-hating and blame women for sexual assault.
    Accusation of prudery are used in a similar way. If women refuse to give men the sex they “need”, they are accused of “sexually repressing” them. Sex liberals then argue that “sexually repressed” people (read “men”) will inevitably go on savage sprees of raping and killing (or commit suicide), because sex is just that bloody important to human welfare (according to sex liberals). So prudes are also blamed for rape and in general women are blamed for their subordinate status no matter what they do.
    It is like when tobacco companies blame people for getting lung cancer (as a result of smoking). It is not because they want to discourage people from smoking. They just want to shift responsibility onto those that were harmed, which is needlessly cruel, even if someone did make imperfect decisions, which caused them to be in a vulnerable situation. Who can honestly say that they have never made a bad choice in their lives? Most of us are more lucky, than prudent.

  • Tired feminist

    It can be, radwonka.