Building Solidarities through Separate Women’s Movements- SlutWalk Toronto and the Question of Scale

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Building Solidarities through Separate Women’s Movements- SlutWalk Toronto and the Question of Scale

Introduction

SlutWalk Toronto took place in April 2011 as a response to a Toronto police officer’s sexist comment. SlutWalks were organized and participated by numerous women in different parts of the world starting with Western cities of Canada, United States, Australia, Europe as well as Mexico, India and Morocco. The movement focused on a “universal” identity of women, who are in a form of coalition and solidarity and aim to free themselves from sexual oppression through expression of their individuality in the demonstrations by posters and clothing. Even though SlutWalk was started as a critic of the role of the police in perpetuation of the rape myth and blaming the survivors, it turned into a “fun” parade. Furthermore, the claim to re-appropriate the term “slut” created reaction within and outside of the movement. However, the main critiques come from black feminists in the United States who sent an open letter to SlutWalk Toronto (ST from now on) organizers on September 23, 2011, and claimed that SlutWalks carried racist features and the white women claimed themselves as the owners of the negative sexual connotations that were used against black women and that they were not sensitive to women of color’s real life experiences.  The racist incident that happened on 1st of October at NYC SlutWalk, confirmed the concerns of the black feminists. ST organizers responded to black feminists and declared that they were ready to fight racism within the movement. The Open Society Forum that was held in Toronto by ST organizers on November 20, 2011 aimed to hear critics and questions from the public and to make SlutWalk Toronto more inclusive.

This essay will note that ST defines itself on the basis of urban scale and denies responsibility and accountability for racist attacks that took place in different contexts. It will be argued that ST is unlikely to turn into an intersectionally inclusive social movement. Inclusivity will be operationalized through Black Women’s BluePrint’s inclusionary list. Even though the movement does not seem likely to turn into an inclusive movement that can provide safe spaces for marginalized groups; as a result of responding to critics that came from women of color; white participants of ST already launched a self-transformative experience thanks to women of color.

 

The birth of SlutWalks and Criticisms

In January Toronto Police Const. Michael Sanguinetti told at a personal security class at York University that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Toronto police officer apologized for his comment and the official spokesman of the Toronto police noted that the police officer had been disciplined. Toronto police Chief Bill Blair noted that if such points of views exist among the police officers, more training and sensitization was needed on the realities of victimization (CBC, 2011).

Two white women came together and creatively called the future movement SlutWalk. They rightfully mentioned that the Toronto police had perpetuated the myth and stereotype of slut, and played a negative role in drawing back the victims of sexual assault to report to the police. They keenly added that “Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim”. They continued that the term slut was historically used negatively, and women who are sexually promiscuous were insulted. Since this word is an insult and aims to wound, they said, they were taking it back, and slut was being re-appropriated.  They called for an end to “slut shaming and victim blaming”.[1]

Black women were hesitant to SlutWalks and the way they were delivered from the very beginning. Their worries came into existence through a young white woman in New York City. As a participant of NYC SlutWalk a young white woman proudly raised the sign which read “The woman is the nigger of the world” as a reference to 1972 Lennon and Ono song.[2] This sign showed that there was racism in SlutWalks and the and they did not provide safe spaces for women of color. The potential of oppression through a walk that was supposed to be emancipatory were only safe for white, mainstream members of the society: not for oppressed members or groups.

In various platforms, black feminists, aboriginal feminists as well as Chicana feminists (women of color) express their concerns about SlutWalk’s character as a white girl’s thing, which is based on privilege, supremacy and self-involvement. First of all, women of color mention that, they find the movement bold and welcome it, and in some sense attempt to understand the valid impetus of using the term “slut” “as language to frame and brand an anti-rape movement”, however, they believe that the attempt is coming from “women who are in fact not used to being fully defined by negative sexual referents”[3] and that is problematic. Through the use of “slut”, the white feminists claim that that is a universal experience of women, just because of their gender and irrespective of race.[4]

Black feminists note that their historical experiences in relation to slavery, oppression and discrimination and the use of terms such as jezebel, mammy, sapphire as well as slut, bitch, ho are different than white women. They also add that they do not have the privilege to walk through the streets of North America half-naked or fully clothed while self-identifying as sluts and assume that they will be safer is not realistic. It misses the point, they add, ignores the collective memory of black women.  White women have not experienced the name-calling or sexual attributions as women of color have.[5]

When one looks at the photos of SlutWalks, read the placards and the texts written by participant women, it can be seen that it is about to be comfortable in public and to dress how they want without fear of judgment, harassment or violence. Even though SlutWalk Toronto was born as a reaction to a comment made by a police officer, therefore as against the police as one of the state institutions, we see no real conversation with the formal institutions. Furthermore, one does not see a critique of oppressive informal institutions either. Can this mean in engaging an easier conversation with sexism: in some sense a claim of “leave me alone, or I can do whatever I want, nobody tells me what to do”[6] instead of thinking institutional inequalities and discrimination? Simply claiming individuality and individual choice is wrong and misses the point and ignores the reality and experiences of women of color.[7]

Finally, another group of women (including women of color and radical feminists) claimed that it would be better to get rid of the word slut, instead of trying to re-appropriate it. They keenly asked: Why celebrate a word within which many women are uncomfortable? In the comments they made, and in the articles they have written women of color insistently noted the exclusionary character of the word “slut” and the inability of white women to perceive what “slut” means from the positionality of women of color. Still, SlutWalk organizers did not mention any consideration about a change in the name of the movement.[8] Even one of the co-organizers of the movement had said that she would describe herself as a slut, more than a feminist, since she enjoyed (in her terms): “sex, hot sex, consensual sex”.[9]

The data on sexual violence against women

Women of color argue that racism is embedded in societal institutions and structures, and they are more likely to be subjected to sexual violence and not receive equal treatment. Furthermore, disabled women were noted to experience violence in more significant terms compared to able-bodied women. Finding intersectional data on sexual violence against women is akin to impossible. Population surveys are considered to be the most reliable sources by feminist scholars since less than 10 percent of women report sexual assault to the police and many do not contact to services such as rape crisis centers. On the other hand, the surveys that are conducted by crisis centers or research purposes do not have a large enough sample size to produce reliable estimates for many groups. Yet, they constitute the only reliable data on the subject.

Crenshaw (1991) argues that even though discriminatory laws were eradicated in US Criminal Law traces of racism and sexism in popular discourse and criminal law continue to manifest themselves. Sexual violence against women of color does not attract media attention as much it does against white women (Meyers, 1997). This understanding shows that some female bodies are seen as superior to others. According to a study in average prison terms for rapists in 1990, Dallas, the average prison term for a man accused of raping a black woman was two years, five years for Latina woman and ten years for the rape of a white woman (as cited in Crenshaw, 1991, 1269). Furthermore, it is noted that in the court context, black women struggle much harder to convince the judges and the jurists. Lafree (1989) quotes a white jurist: “Negroes have a way of not telling the truth. They’ve a knack for coloring the story. So you know you can’t believe everything they say” (Lafree, 1989, 220 as cited in Crenshaw, 1991, 1280). Considering the representation of black female body, unequal racist history suggest that the black women’s rape becomes less likely or less believable. Lafree’s study suggests that black women are racially discriminated against, and their rapists weather black or white are less likely to be charged by rape, and when charged and convicted, receive lesser jail times compared to the rapists of the white women (Crenshaw, 1991, 1277). Therefore, in cases of rape, black women are discriminated against on both sexists and racist grounds.

According to a survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2009 called “Criminal Victimization in Canada”, note that 7.1 percent of aboriginal people self-report sexual assault while 2.3 percent of non-aboriginal people report (Perrault & Brannon, 2009, 22). The citations of SACHA Ontario Sexual Assault Center, women with disabilities are more likely to experience sexual violence: 83% of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime (Stimpson and Best, 1991); 0f women with disabilities 63% were sexually assaulted by someone in the medical system (Doucette, J. Toronto, 1986); Of rape survivors who do not report to the police, 44% state that it was because they were concerned about the attitudes of the police or courts towards this crime (Leaf Lines, 4(1), Nov. 1990).[10] Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (2002) also notes that racialized women are more likely to experience sexual violence and not access to justice.

Even though the presented data is very limited, it can be concluded that women of color and disabled women experience various processes of marginalization, which prevent them from linking their experiences with white, able-bodied women. In that sense their position against SlutWalk which claims a universal identity of women based on gender, becomes very pertinent.

Participation in social movements

Mobilization through social movement organizations are thought to be essential for democracy process and having representative effects for the society (Williams 1998, as cited in Weldon, 2011b). Organizations that represent women, racial minorities and low-income people aim to give voice to the voiceless and represent these groups and advocate on their behalf (Strolovitch, 2006). However, the inequalities that characterize the society will also shape the social movements. Those who are better of socioeconomically are more likely to participate to civil society organizations compared to less privileged. As noted by Armstrong and Bernstein (2008), some of contemporary social movements seem to be composed of ‘wrong’ people. The movements of gay, environment and women are primarily composed of middle class white people (Epstein 1996; Evans 1979; Rose 1997 as cited in Armstrong and Bernstein, 2008). These people are not disenfranchised in economic and political realms. Conversely, those whose social locations are most marginalized and stand at the intersections of numerous axes of marginalization will also take less space in social movements (Berry, 1999; Walker, 1991; Schlozman et al. 1999 as cited in Weldon, 2011a). As very keenly presented by Strolovitch (2006; 898):

“Organizations cannot represent every member at all times, nor can they focus exclusively on disadvantaged subgroups to the exclusion of majorities. The notion that it is altruistic to work on behalf of disadvantaged subgroups of a constituency rests on the assumption that these members are not a part of the group and that it is an act of charity rather than one of responsibility and common interests to advocate for them. Unless organizations qualify their claims and say, for example, “we speak for white, heterosexual, middle class women,” their claims to represent groups such as women, Latinos, and low-income people include disadvantaged subgroups of these populations.”

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a concept that describes the interaction among systems of oppression (Weldon, 2008). Intersectionality became the theoretical buzzword of feminist theory lately according to Davis (2008). From late 1980s feminism fragmented not as a result of white women’s realization of the non-workings of essentialist woman or sisterhood discourses as argued by Zack (2005), but more as a result of black feminists’ addressing of the issue of racism in white women’s movement. However, black feminists note that it was them, who began to publicly address the issue of racism in white women’s movement since white women showed that they were incapable of addressing the issue of racism as well as sexism (Hull et al. 1982).

In 1989 Kimberlée Crenshaw used the concept intersectionality to account for the numerous ways, in which race and gender interact to shape multiple dimensions of black women’s lives. Her aim was to illustrate the fact that many of the experiences of black women live are not included within the traditional boundaries of race and gender. Indeed, the intersections of racism and sexism must be looked at together in order to fully capture the experiences of black women. Patricia Hill Collins (1999, 2000)  developed the standpoint theory which gives primacy to voice of women and marginalized groups and reformulated it as “black feminist thought” by pointing out the multiple forms of oppression experienced in particular social locations.

Yuval-Davis (2006) notes that an intersectional relationship can only be possible through hearing the differential positions and perspectives of individuals within a dialogue but not treating them as representatives of any specific groups.” She adds that “the boundaries of the dialogue should be determined by common political emancipatory goals while the tactical and strategic priorities should be led by those whose needs are judged by the participants of the dialogue to be the most urgent” (206).

By ignoring the intersectional nature of women’s lives, we systematically overlook the experiences of different groups of marginalized women, and only focus on the most privileged women (white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied). Movements or politics that try to organize as women indeed exclude the women who are constructed as different than whatever unites that privileged group of women who are unaware of the privileges their class, race, heterosexual, legal. able-bodied position confers (Weldon, 2008).

Therefore, intersectionality is not a concept that only applies to marginalized groups, it does not exist simply to explain the specifities of disadvantaged women. Rather “Intersectionality is an aspect of social organization that shapes all our lives: gender structures shape the lives of both women and men, and everyone has a race/ethnicity” (Weldon, 2008, 195). Groups may be intersectionally marginalized or intersectionally privileged. Indeed social relations are so complex in different situations anyone is privileged in some ways and disadvantaged in some others.

Zack (2005) argues that intersectionality complicates the category of women by multiplying genders beyond necessity and that it has a segregating effect on feminist political movements. She was responded by the practitioners of intersectionality on the grounds that Zack’s idea of inclusive feminism generates an oversimplified account of empathy and thus fails to engage the tensions among feminist movements that intersectionality makes visible (i.e. Bailey, 2008).

The problem Weldon sees with this group of scholars is that they see the intersections of axes of oppression of gender, race and class but see it as an only social structure which does not have autonomous effects alone as gender, race and class. This perspective assumes that race, class and gender always work together as a single system and has no independent effects of each other. So she calls this intersectionality-only model. However, these axes can be analytically separable. But there are other ways to think of this. We might think of gender and race having some independent and some intersectional effects, or race and gender might be mutually reinforcing while class may be undermining these systems. This intersectionality plus approach makes us recognize the fact that, through the limited sexual violence against women data presented above, some women are more likely to be subject to sexual violence and get unequal and unjust treatment, yet all women are vulnerable to this form of violence. The important thing for this research becomes, if women of color can find safe spaces in the movement and where they do not feel marginalized. Therefore, in this essay, intersectionality is applied to white women within the movement.

Findings

People think that we are this huge group who has money, lawyers, all sorts of resources, but we don’t. We are a handful of people who volunteer and try to organize this event. People criticize us and expect us to be perfect. But we can’t. Another misconception is that people think that we deal directly with other SlutWalks, but what we only care about is our community, Toronto. People saw it, taught that it was necessary and took it (A white woman who is involved with the ST movement from the very beginning).

I was present at the open forum organized by ST organizers as a participant observer. My aim was to observe the positive and negative features attributed by the public to the movement. Further, it was significant to observe the discussions and the ways the criticisms were handled. Furthermore I was expecting to hear the participants’ intentions, ‘mainly from the point of view of their motivation to act, their self-understandings and subjectivity’ (Hamel et al. 2011, 5). More and more researchers recognize that movement identities and meanings are more complex than what is conveyed by their leaders. Furthermore, building collective identity through the movement, makes us attentive to the experiential nature of social movements (Hamel et al. 2011). Fillieule (2009) also draws attention to the fact that the researcher has to be careful not to assume homogeneity and coherence among the activists. He notes that the movement can be formed, delivered and maintained among heterogeneous actors not necessarily with the same objectives. The significant thing is the sentiment of belonging to a collective which is more or less precisely defined.

The forum took place with the participation of twenty women: two transwomen, three women of color whom one was a visually impaired woman and three men. The forum was very respectful and no one tried to dominate the discussions. The meeting started with each person’s familiarity with the SlutWalk and what they thought of it. Men did not speak for the second time. Afterwards, whoever wanted to talk shared their perspectives. It was very interesting to find out that almost everyone had a different opinion what SlutWalk meant to them, even though most of the present women had attended the demonstration.

First of all, a Rape survivor told her story that she was raped when she was 14, Christmas 1985- and that she did not talk about it for many years. One day she saw an ad for Vagina Monologues and that they were looking for rape survivors. Within that framework she heard about SlutWalks and she said that her participation was the most liberating experience she has ever had. She was holding a sign ‘“Xmas 1985. 14 years old. Bundled in layers. How did I deserve it?” ‘ When other rape survivors saw her, they came and hugged here and she said to herself that she did not have to feel ashamed any more. In the simplest sense, her experience was emancipatory.

Secondly, in terms of the use of the term slut, all women noted that they did not like the word ‘slut’. The visually impaired woman of color said that “I cannot even relate to the word, I am not sure how I can reclaim it.” A radical, queer feminist said that she felt like a bridge between loving and hating it. One of the transwomen said that using the term SlutWalk was a fantastic marketing strategy, and if the word was not used, there would be no such media attention. Another white woman noted that the aim of using Slut is making it less hateful. The movement is about joy, comradery and in some sense about positive learning experience in terms of whiteness. The second transwoman claimed that if the meaning of the term slut changed from derogatory language to something that we can embrace and say that we use it as a beautiful word than it is the end of the discussion. “When I was a child, when I was called queer, I was ashamed, now I am proud.”

Thirdly, for the aim of SlutWalk a white woman claimed that SlutWalk can give the message that we are sexual and we want to have sex. At a young age we are conditioned to thing that it is not ok to have sex, not with multiple partners, not with different genders. SlutWalks can be a platform which changes the way society sees sex. Yet the white rape survivor believed that it can turn into a platform for survivors of sexual abuse. Another one said, it was her first activist experience, she took part in it, since as a woman she felt vulnerable to sexual violence. This is to say that each participant had a different understanding of the movement. They note that one does not need to identify with the word slut, but with the logic of the movement, which is against the understanding of “some women are rapeable and deserving because of what they wear”.

Fourthly, everyone wondered about what had to be done to encounter with racism within the movement. The organizers noted that they wanted to bring some speakers from women of color but they were responded by the women of color as: “we are tired of talking about oppression and racism why do we have to be present there to discuss your racism? It is the responsibility of the privileged person to understand and act upon her privileges.” When the organizers reached out to some organizations that represented women of color, they were told that just because of the name of the movement, and the way some women are dressed, some women of color noted that they understood the aim beneath the movement, but they would not want to put themselves to the risk of being seen by people they knew. At that point one of the organizers –who seemed most sensitive and knowledgeable about racism- noted that “Instead of claiming that we are representing the universal woman, it will be more legitimate to say that we are a group of white women who organised the movement, and we are responsible about it, acknowledging this fact is significant”. Yet one of the co-founders of the movement said that she had never heard of white privilege until very recently, and then she added thoughtfully “most probably because of my privileges”,

Fiftly, the organizers said that they had received critics from the representatives of organizations that defended the rights of marginalized people. These representatives mentioned that the protest ended at the police headquarters and their members did not feel safe around the police. Ending the protest at the same place would mean exclusion of most marginalized people. However, the organizers pronounced that they had to be in a dialogue with the police, hence it would be ended at the police headquarters at the second demonstration as well. This position shows that the organizers are only likely to take into considerations that will not significantly change what they have done so far. The change will come within their, own terms, not other critics.

Finally, most women noted that they would like the movement to flourish, improve and represent more women and include different kinds of opinions. With the change in four coordination level positions who include more knowledgeable and sensitive women on racism issue, a self-regard and redefinition of movement on the basis of white women is likely.

Question of scale

A geography sensitive approach, makes us attentive to spaces and spatialization of the movements, this in turn will reveal the fact that “places are neither homogenous nor closed upon themselves: they are permeable to outside influences, for instance in terms of discourses, priorities and strategies” (Masson & Dufour, 2010, 236). This example can be seen in the response of SlutWalk Toronto and its attempt to address racism. Even though the activists do not accept accountability for the racist act that has happened in the United States, they felt the necessity to engage in a dialogue with the black feminists in the U.S.A. Furthermore, discussions of white privilege and racism within the movement shows the permeability of the context. Yet, the organizers think that they are only responsible from what has occurred in Toronto, but anywhere else. Even though activists have a global understanding of sexual violence against woman, they operationalize it as a place-based issue.

According to 2006 Census, 16.2 percent of Canadians identified themselves as a member of a visible minority (statistics Canada, 2006). Aboriginal people constitute 3.8 percent of Canadian population (HRSDC, 2008). This means 20 percent of Canadian population defines itself as non-white. This is significant because, the organizers said Canada is not United States and the contexts are very different.

SlutWalk movement must be seen as an ongoing, construction process (like Dufour et al. Call transnationalism, 3) and a location at the same time which limits its activities to urban scale. In some sense it can be said that the movement was inflamed by the gender attack and gender solidarity, but it was “not propelled by a single motor” (Masson & Dufour, 2010, 231).

Masson and Dufour (2010) address the questions and concerns of solidarity building within transnational movement and the approaches of equality, effectiveness and workability indeed may be applied to SlutWalks, “strategies for addressing differences and constructing solidarities are thus significantly inflected by variations in understandings of feminism and preferred modes of political intervention, both of which, in turn shape the substance of the feminist politics of coalition favoured by transnational actors” (233). Even though SlutWalks were diffused to different parts of the world, there are no solidarity construction efforts among them. Yet, even at the Toronto urban scale, ST movement needs to find strategies to address differences and respect to demands for different forms of action.

Assessment of Inclusivity

There are no ready-made tools to assess inclusivity in a collectivity. In this essay, I am using BlackWomen’s BluePrint’s use of inclusion as consulting, considering women of color and centering equally the experiences and the communities in the construction, launching, delivery and the sustainment of the movement. ST movement was launched by two white women, who did not consult or consider women of color in the design of the movement nor equally centered the experiences or concerns of women of color. The movement was constructed, launched, and delivered principally by white women. Only in the sustainment of the movement section, inclusivity seems to be a possibility. Yet, the organizers insistence on ending the demonstration at the Toronto police headquarters and not changing the name of the movement shows that the movement will be continued in the way they see fit.

Inclusion must not be perceived as reached when diversity is attained. This diversity simply hides an implicit norm of whiteness or heterosexuality (Choo & Ferree, 2010). Feminists seeking coalitions must see all participants (each other) as ‘contextualized subjects’ instead of ‘essentialized stereotypes’ (Hancock, 2005, 245).

The existence of a few women of color in the movement and their magnification as a proof of the movement’s inclusivity will not help to politicize the particular types of violence they experience. As reminded by Ortega (2006) only looking and listening as the feminist epistemology urges us to do, may result in loving, knowing ignorance, where the white feminist does not really pay enough attention to women of color, but by making knowledge claims about them, can contribute to ignorance on women of color.

Ellen Pence reminds how as a white feminist, it was hard to admit and act upon the criticisms of black and aboriginal feminists on white racism:

…I began to see how white women ignored the need to re-examine the traditional white rigid methods of decision-making, priority setting, and implementing decisions. Our idea of including women of color was to send out notices. We never came to business table as equals. Women of color joined us on our OWN TERMS (Hull et al. 1982, my emphasis, 46)

Joining to white women on their own terms manifests itself in ST as well. If ST movement aims to broaden and deepen solidarity among women, as they claim, broadening solidarity as spatial expansion seems unlikely for the near future, since, action level is constructed as limited to urban scale. The deepening of solidarity would involve “mutual recognition and the constitution of stronger ties among activists. It also opens up the possibility for the establishment and cultivation of shared understandings of situations, problems, and sometimes solutions” (Dufour et al, 4). This deepening within the movement seems unlikely.

Separate roads to solidarity?

Mohanty (2003) says “solidarities involve “mutuality, accountability, recognition of common interests as the basis for relationships among diverse communities” (Dufour et al., 3). Building these solidarities is the heart of the analysis, similar interests and different identities. On the other hand organizations even individually cannot represent each of their members at all times, nor can they focus on disadvantaged members for the exclusion of their more advantaged members (Strolovich, 2006). What is more, homogenization of women of color who come from diverse locations and collapsing them to the same category within the ST movement will do little to address their problems, may only dehumanize their experiences (Crenshaw, 1991).  Brown (1991) notes that the fear of not being able to pursue a common feminist project and the fear of losing “the voice of gender” is problematic, since it assumes that all women have the same gender and requires that some women’s voices are silenced while some others’ are privileged and given the center stage.

Strolovitch’s (2006) study is based on survey data with 286 national organizations which women’s, racial minority and economic justice organizations which represent more disadvantaged groups of the society. She finds out that while these organizations provide some representation for disadvantaged members of the society, she also finds that these organizations are significantly less active on issues that affect more disadvantaged subgroups, but more active when it comes to the issues effecting more disadvantaged subgroups. Her interviews with the officers of the organizations show that they are concerned about representing the subgroups and they do feel a responsibility for effective representation. Yet, issues effecting more disadvantaged some groups are framed as narrow and exclusive, the issues that affect more advantaged groups are framed as if they influence most members. Does this mean women need to organize on the basis of their differences?

There are studies that show that separate organizing for women’s movement indeed can encourage feminist solidarity and the movements’ effectiveness. Weldon (2011b) argues that group specific movements are necessary for the representation and demands of particularly marginalized groups. Even though some scholars are concerned with increasing fragmentation within social movements and find it balkanizing (Tarrow, 1998 as cited in in Weldon, 2011b; Zack, 2005),some others have adopted a more nuanced view and argued that separate organization can be “critical for empowering and engaging marginalized groups in democratic political life” (Young, 2002; Gutmann, 2003; Weldon 2006 as cited in Weldon, 2011b, 109).

Weldon (2011b) focuses on the relationship between the organizational efforts of women’s movements to recognize racial divisions and policy responsiveness to violence against women across 50 states in the US. She finds that the degree of separate organizing does not seem to have a direct effect on policy responsiveness of state governments to violence against women (in general), but the strength of the women’s movement (in terms of the numbers of women’s organizations) is significantly associated with greater responsiveness to violence against women. Yet, she notes that indirect effects of separate organization to policy responsiveness are positive, since separate organization increases the representativeness and the strength of the movement and the likeliness of the government responsiveness. This means that diversity reinforces instead of undermining strength of the movement (Bailey, 2008). Indeed separate organization can be good on the grounds that it creates stronger affiliation with the movement, renew social movement organizations and prevent internal divisions (Weldon, 2011b). Separate organization can also generate new information which was unavailable before, create a better understanding of the issues organized around and lays the groundwork for sounder and more representative policies as well as the possibility got alliances (Weldon, 2011b).

Wilmot (2005) notes that when white activists think of combating white privilege and taking responsibility to overcome it, they perceive taking responsibility as “taking over” (12) and believe that they can solve things by themselves, by taking leadership. However, one needs to “seek out, follow and encourage the leadership of” women of color. Since they encounter structural racism in their everyday lives through class exploitation, other forms of oppression and sexism, developing real, long-term relationships – will lead to coalition work. When white women stop thinking that they know best, and stop homogenizing women of color on the basis of identity or culture, and work around shared political goals of combating racism, relationship and solidarities can be built.

Conclusion

As there is not a single outfit or label for the victims of sexual violence there is no single outfit or label for the people who stand in solidarity with them, and who attempt to change the attitude of the society in general and the police in particular. Participants of SlutWalk Toronto departed from this promise. They defined their capabilities of action only within Toronto and denied responsibility for other cases. They acknowledged the fact that; ST was organized and participated by mostly white women (no attribution was made to sexuality, socioeconomic status, able-bodies) who were not aware of their privileges. They found it problematic that they had to discuss the question of inclusion, not that is was unimportant but that they could not pay attention to it before the construction, planning and during the delivery of the movement . They all noted that racism within women’s movement is not tolerated. On the other hand, they admitted the fact that they were very new to the concept of white privilege and that they were willing to learn more to address the issue. The activism around peer-learning of white privilege issues through ST website and facebook webpage seems promising. This movement has the potential to transform the white participants and make them understand the society with its inequalities, but inclusivity will very likely not to be attained. Since, the stages of inclusivity have gone by. Only solidarity with different women’s movement is likely and desirable. Yet, one must recognize that white feminism is the founding power of SlutWalks.

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[1] SlutWalk Toronto, Why, Retrieved from http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/about/why on 16 Oct 2011

[2] The Implosion of SlutWalk and My Apology, Sustainable Mothering, Retrieved fromhttp://www.sustainablemothering.com/tag/slutwalk/ on 20 Oct 2011

[3] An Open Letter from Black Women to the SlutWalk, Black Women’s BluePrint, Retrieved fromhttp://www.blackwomensblueprint.org/index.php/an-open-letter-from-black-women-to-the-slutwalk/ on 25 Oct 2011

[4] From Guest Contributor Crunktastic, “SlutWalks vs. Ho Strolls”, 25 May 11, Retrieved from ,http://www.racialicious.com/2011/05/25/slutwalks-v-ho-strolls/ on 27 Oct 2011

[5] See note 3.

[6] Jeannette, “Nobody tells me what to do”, 12 May 2011, Retrieved from http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/nobody-tells-me-what-to-do on 29 Oct 2011

[7] “Four Brief Critiques of SlutWalk’s Whiteness, Privilege and Unexamined Power Dynamics

Retrieved from http://www.peopleofcolororganize.com/activism/slutwalk-whiteness-privilege-sex-trafficking-women-color/ on 27 Oct 2011

[8] A Stroll Through White Supremacy, 13 May 2011, Retrieved from http://tothecurb.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/slutwalk-a-stroll-through-white-supremacy/ on 23 Oct 2011 and Jill Psmith, “Toronto activists take back the slut”, Retrieved fromhttp://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2011/03/31/toronto-activists-take-back-the-slut/, 31 March 2011, Accessed at 27 Oct 2011

[9] “BLOGSPOT: Being a Slut and Getting Pissed Off”, 3 May 2011, Retrieved fromhttp://www.slutwalktoronto.com/being-a-slut-and-getting-pissed-off on 27 Oct 2011

Murphy, Megan, “We’re Sluts, Not Feminists. Wherein my relationship with Slutwalk gets rocky.”, 7 May 2011, Retrieved fromhttp://www.feminisms.org/2585/were-sluts-not-feminists-wherein-my-relationship-with-slutwalk-gets-rocky/ on 22 Oct 2011

[10] SACHA Sexual Assault Statistics, Retrieved from http://sacha.ca/fact-sheets/statistics on 3 Dec 2011

 


Note: This is a paper I wrote for my Collective Action class.

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