Sunday, May 20, 2012

Walking off the anger: SlutWalk Christchurch 2012

**This post is not about writing**

I joined a SlutWalk today.

I was brought up in a small town and social culture where protest was not the "way" to get things done. Even though I was experiencing my formative years during the Springbok and anti-nuke protests, they happened "somewhere else"; mere thought experiments on the six o'clock news. When I hit the years where one would normally find their purposeful anger, I still rejected anarchy and raised voices. I didn't go to university, the usual hot bed of enlightenment. So yeah, I'm a latecomer to my anger. As a friend so succinctly put it, I'm experiencing my early twenties almost twenty years late.

I blog, I tweet, and I channel most of my needs for social justice into my writing. So actually joining a protest is a big thing for me. With my propensity for social awkwardness, turning up takes effort.

And even though I have my issues about inclusion with SlutWalk, I'm really glad I went today.

While SlutWalk is in it's third year worldwide, this was the first year Christchurch held a Walk, as last year was too soon post-earthquake to organize and negotiate physical and emotional landmarks. Approximately 60 Walkers made the trek through Riccarton, Hagley Ave, down Oxford Terrace to end outside the central police station. It was a generally quiet group, with only a few slogans shouted along the way at the major intersections, and everyone seemed cheerful and were friendly to introvert noobies like me.

The good things:
  • Two police cars were in attendance to make sure we were okay.
  • The police stopped traffic for us so we could all cross as one group at one major intersection Thanks Blues!
  • There were lots of lovely women, some men, and one awesome kid.
  • Deadend Derby ran a sign making bee before hand for anyone who hadn't brought a sign. Thanks DED!
  • The sun was shining.
  • Some women were very brave with their outfits. They all looked awesome, no matter whether they were wearing jeans and sneakers, low cut tops, bras n panties, or suits (me).
  • The people who smiled, honked or waved at us.
  • The elderly gentleman who watched us all pass by with his jaw on the ground. It was the funniest facial expression all afternoon.
  • The people who simply looked, curious. If just one person looked up SlutWalk or rape apology/culture and got better educated because of us, then I'd count the day a success.
The bad things:
  • The guy who flipped us the bird. I flipped him back.
  • The young women at the bus stop who called us cunts. Get some education, you two, because if you ever have the misfortune to be sexually assaulted, that's exactly the slur people will want to shame YOU with.
  • The middle-aged male cyclists who yelled "Good for you all, but I don't like your ripped tights". Well howdy, thanks for proving our point there.
  • Guys hollering obscenities out their car windows. Prove our point MORE why don't you.
  • The group of young men who gathered to gawk at us prepare, three of whom who snuck up behind us as the leader was doing the departing speech to giggle. Gentlemen, very kindly, grow the hell up.
  • The creepy cyclist who rode beside us for a way, muttering and grinning, filming us on his phone. Ew. Prove our point of ignoring our bodily autonomy why don't you.
  • One of the cops exerted his authoritah on a protestor, saying she wasn't allowed to take a sign that had the word "fuck" on it into a public place...three quarters of the way through the protest.
SlutWalk Christchurch was small but we can't let our voices go unheard. It's the rapist, not the clothing. Rape victims wear clothing for all genders: mini skirts or pyjamas, low cut tops or sweat pants, skimpy underwear or suits, tight pants or long skirts, school uniforms or work uniforms, jeans or ethnically relevant outfits. It's time to stop with the apologia, the arbitrary rules, the shaming. It's time to investigate the rapist, not what the victim was wearing or doing. It's time to tell the rapists "don't rape", rather than tell the victims "don't get raped". There are no Buts.

I am conscious of some of the shitty elimination SlutWalk has done worldwide: there are people who don't wish to reclaim "slut" as a descriptor, and we have to be fine with that; there are people with concerns about race and how sexual slurs and blaming have more historical weight for certain marginalized people, and we have to include this in our dialogue too; how do people with physical disabilities get to be involved in a "walk" if we're not more accommodating?; there needs to be a bigger and better dialogue for queer and trans people who feature higher in rape statistics.

It's an uphill fight, and I might be climbing this mountain for the rest of my days, but I'll push and pull anyone and everyone along who needs it.

My fave suit and tie I wore to the protest. I'm sure if someone really tried hard enough
they'd find a way to disparage this as "slutty" and "asking for it" - and I'd like to think I look good in this outfit, since that's what the disparaging connotation of "slutty" means; a woman feeling comfortable in her clothes - because that's what rape apologists and gender/clothes policers do.


  1. Oh yay! This makes me so happy!
    You have no idea how nervous i was about the walk this morning when i woke up! I am glad it went well though!
    Thank you for coming, and thank you for writing this great blog entry, it has put a smile on my face! :)

  2. Great to hear that you were walking today too. I slutwalked in Wellington, in middle-aged woman garb... with my wonderful 13 year old daughter. There was about 200 of us, with some great clothes and great signs. I'm so pleased to have been there again this year.

  3. Good on you for walking, Amanda.