In the beginning of October on Sunday morning, hundreds of people marched in Los Angeles to protest slut shaming, victim blaming and gender inequality at the third annual Amber Rose Slutwalk.
The march began on 1st and Hill street and concluded at Pershing Square with festivities such as live DJ sets, art displays, vendors, and speakers, all to encourage women empowerment and raise awareness of sexual injustice.
This movement started back in 2011 when a Toronto police officer spoke at Osgoode Hall Law School and told the crowd that if women wanted to stop being sexually harassed then they shouldn’t be dressing like “sluts”.From this point on a movement was born and the first ever SlutWalk was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This movement has spread all across the United States and to countless countries like Brazil, London, Paris and Honduras. The Amber Rose Foundation coordinates the SlutWalk in Los Angeles which is an all-inclusive non-profit event.
Encouraged to freely express themselves and dress however they wanted, there was a mix of outfits throughout the event. Everyone contributed to the colorful vibrancy of the festival, from casually dressed people in jeans and statement t-shirts to full on glitter extravagance and platform heels, wigs, lingerie and everything in between.l.
It was evident that most people thought and planned out their outfit to be a statement against “slut shaming” or gender inequality. Many girls were seen in outfits showing a lot of skin and written on their chest was, “Not asking for it.” Some outfits seemed to express that women want to wear what they want and not be ashamed of it. Almost every person had a message, either written on their shirts, bodies or simply held up by posters and signs; “Rape came before miniskirts”, “Girls just wanna have fundamental rights”, “Intoxication does not mean consent”, and “The way we dress doesn’t mean yes”, were a few read from the crowd.
As a drumline marched with the crowd, a group of dancers lead in the front while many shouted, “My pussy my choice!”.
“I love the message,” said Muneerah Cook, an attendee from Los Angeles, “no slut shaming or victim blaming”. Cook and her friend, Kimberly Rochard, were a pair that grabbed attention with their signs and appearance. “This sign, ‘ Street harassment is not a compliment,’ is like everyday life for us,” said Rochard,“why is it that I’m minding my own business and you can come up to me and just start saying derogatory comments”.
It appeared that many of the females attending this event have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives and they are trying to do something about it. 29 year old, Taylor Morley from Beverly Hills was sexually assaulted for the first time at the age of 15 and was raped by her boyfriend at the age of 25. “I’ve been slut shamed since I was 15 so I can understand the systemic slut shaming”, said Morley, “but I don’t understand how in 2017 it’s still going on”. Both times Morley was sexually assaulted, no one believed her for what had happened. After refusing sex several times, he chose to force himself on her instead.. “At 25 it was my boyfriend and my friends didn’t even believe me, so I thought if they didn’t believe me, why would police officers and the justice system believe me when I know it it is the system that blames the victim,” Morley said as I asked her if she ever reported him. As of today, Morley works with a women led social movement that attended the SlutWalk to support the cause. “I work with Code Pink and we wanted to come out here today to show support for victims of sexual violence and slut shaming,” said Morley. The organization started as an anti-war movement but have grown to fight many problems that women face everyday.
A district attorney investigator from Kern County, Greg Jehle, explained how the justice system would deal with rape victims. “Women would be questioned on the stand on what they did to make someone rape them,” said Greg Jehle. His wife, Lisa Jehle, added to the answer saying, “What did you do? What did you wear? How did you act? The victim is victimized again.” Greg Jehle explained that in court the defense side would question the victim’s history rather than focus on what has happened and try to find ways to blame the victim for the case.
“You can’t rape anybody. I don’t care who they are,” said Lisa Jehle,“You can’t rape a prostitute, you can’t rape your wife. You don’t have the right to just touch someone”.
With everyone that I had spoken to, all of them had something to say about the unfairness of gender inequality in this country. The SlutWalk is truly a movement to shed light on those that have troubles standing up for themselves in a society that shames the sexuality of women. It did not surprise me that along the side of the march and across the street of Pershing Square, a small group of Christians had their own protest against the SlutWalk. With a microphone they shouted out to the crowd, “All faggots will go to hell. All sluts will go to hell. No sign is too much to save you”. Earlier in the march, I passed by the group and one of them shouted to me, “Control your woman’s mouth.” A lot of the attendees shouted back at them or simply laughed at their comments. One attendee was heard yelling, “Jesus loved everyone! He hung out with prostitutes and with criminals!”.
Besides the Christian group that was going against the event, the whole walk itself was a really peaceful and enlightening experience. Even though the word slut was in the title, it was definitely not a sexual event. My experience at this event has really expanded my understanding of gender inequality and has truly gained my support to attend another SlutWalk as an attendee rather than a press reporter. Slut as a word, is easily thrown around in today’s culture and I would say that people should attend a SlutWalk and actually understand what a woman feels by the term slut.
“Men go out and get some all the time, without anyone making a fuss about it,” said Amber Rose, “It’s not our problem there’s a double standard in our culture”.