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18-year-old girls who drove hours to be there marched with handmade signs wielding messages such as "Drinking was not my crime, rape was his" and "Showing my legs doesn't mean I'll spread them." Amber Rose, donning a fitted black nightgown and a pair of her signature sunglasses, carried a poster reminding us that "Strippers have feelings too" while her mom Dorothy Rose responded to Kanye West's now infamous slut-shaming remark by carrying a poster boasting "Fuck yo 30 showers!"
By now, we know that Rose is shameless. As a model, businesswoman, and activist commonly identified in the media solely by the famous male rappers she's been romantically involved with, Amber is no stranger to the way female sexuality can simultaneously be shunned, manipulated, and exploited for profit. She is well aware of the collective humiliation women feel because of the way our bodies look and are looked at. She also knows the humiliation women still feel as sexual beings in 2015, diminishing our own capacities for confidence and pleasure as we try to process federal reproductive injustice, the rampant sexual violence epidemic in American colleges, and violence against women online.
Amber Rose knows she's sexy, smart, and powerful. She knows many of her "Rosebud" fans have been called "thots" and "whores" like she has. For her, SlutWalk is a way to make sure those same women know they're smart and powerful, despite whatever names they've been called.
Rose is shameless, and that feeling is contagious. This spirit made SlutWalk a diverse and inclusive, sex and transgender positive, feminist space in which we all felt safe. At 3pm, we "flooded the feed" by posting our #AmberRoseSlutWalk and #JoinMuvasMovement photos to Instagram and Twitter. By 3:09pm, it was announced that we were the number one trending topic in the world. #HoesBeThirsty suddenly became #HoesBeThirstyForDiscourse.
At Slutwalk, participants and panelists alike didn't have to explain their credentials or validate their truths to naysaying skeptics. The conversations this resulted in deserve to be remembered and preserved as one of the most meaningful uses of celebrity in the millennial age so far-reflective of one woman's ability to combine celebrity, politics, and digital literacy into an accessible social movement. One panelist called it a "social justice intervention." Amber, with her pink acrylic nails wrapped around a Coca Cola bottle and surrounded by her best friends, nodded passionately in agreement.
SLUTWALK PANEL STORIES
Heather Jarvis, SlutWalk co-founder:
"This movement is more about necessity and less about choice. We are out here fighting for our lives. We're having fun doing it, but these issues are real. Four and a half years ago, a Toronto police officer was speaking at a university about safety. He thought he was giving good advice when he said, "Women need to stop dressing like sluts" to avoid being victimized and sexually assaulted. This wasn't the first time we heard that and it wasn't the last. These messages are presented to us as if they are fact, as if they are universal truths. And we know they are not. We were angry. We had had enough and wanted to do something about it. So we took it to the streets and decided to have a SlutWalk in Toronto. Really, the name of it was not us. It was him. We picked up his language and said we are going to talk about the language, because this is the language that is helping to keep us down.
So on April 3rd, 2011 we had a SlutWalk in Toronto and thought it would be a one-off, one-time event. Before we knew it, other cities in Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Germany France, were saying "We have the same problems with sexual violence." This is not one person's movement, it is all of our's. This is an evolution of something that all of us own, that all of us take part in...We can actually make a difference and keep each other safe, so let's just fucking do it."
Amber Rose, model, actress, and SlutWalk host:
"The first time I ever got slut-shamed I was 14 years old. I was still a virgin. My friends and I had started making out with boys at the time. I was at my friends house, people were cutting school or something like that, and we were playing the seven minutes in heaven game in the closet, a very dark, little side coat closet. I was in there with some boy, Darnell. Hi Darnell, I hope you've changed for the better. So yeah, we were kissing, and he said, 'Get down on your knees.' And I said, 'Why? Why would I do that?' I was fourteen. I didn't know what get down on your knees meant. He asked me again and I said, 'Ok.' I got down on my knees and he opened the door.
All my friends and his friends were outside the closet door, waiting for us to come out, and he had his penis out. Or dick. I want to say dick. He had his dick out and I was on my knees and he opened the door, and still, even at that time when everyone gasped and said 'Oh my God, ok Amber damn, alright girl' I was like "What are you guys talking about? Why is your dick in my face?' It didn't even occur to me that he was insinuating I was giving him head when I wasn't. I went to school the next day and was extremely slut-shamed by the entire school. It was very difficult for me. I wanted to change schools. I felt like my life was over.
"I decided to have this SlutWalk for women that have been through shit."
Then, in 2009, I met a very famous man. He was about seven years older than me. We fell in love and it was awesome, and we were together for almost two years. We traveled the world together. We went to fashion week and we were fabulous. Everything just looked so amazing. And then we broke up. Shit happens. You have relationships, you break up, shit don't work out... Unfortunately, I was extremely slut-shamed. I was called 'nothing but a stripper.' People asked why he would be interested in me, a bald-headed stripper from Philly. I was a golddigger. Apparently he had to take 30 showers after being with me, that's what he said.... So, I guess, that just washed all my sexy bald headed-ness off of his ass.
Then I met my husband Wiz and he came in my life like a big ton of love. He was just the most amazing guy I ever met in my entire life and now we have a beautiful son. We are separated now, but we still love each other...But in the midst of being hurt, if anyone has been going through a separation or has ever been divorced, you know that there's a lot of feelings involved in that. It's a very difficult time. He went on to make a song saying 'He fell in love with a stripper but fell out of love quicker.' As you can imagine, him being the love of my life, regardless if we were going through a separation or not, that was really hurtful. All I ever did was love him. I just loved him so much, and gave him a beautiful son. To be told that I was nothing but a stripper, it hurt.
I decided to have this SlutWalk for women that have been through shit. Even though I'm up here crying, I want to be a strong person you guys can look up to. Wiz actually apologized to me already, so I have forgiven him. I suggest that you guys do the same and I'll tell you why... People are ignorant. You have to be the bigger person and be the positive person [in order] to forgive, move on, and help other people around you that have been through the same thing. It still hurts. That's why I'm up here crying. Because it still fucking hurts. But let's all come together and be positive role models for each other, and really just let that negative shit go."
Mickaila, Amber Rose fan, 17:
"My friend and I really wanted to go to the SlutWalk today, but there was no way our parents would have let us. It's actually really relevant right now because I'm being slutshamed by one of my best friends for having sex with a guy at a party. Now she talks to people, including her boyfriend, about how I'm a slut. It surprised me because friends aren't supposed to judge you by the guys you kiss or have sex with.
For these onlookers, what I did is not acceptable, but I don't think I did anything wrong. I wanted to have sex and so I had sex. Guys get praised for this. I get shouted at by guys in the hallway every Monday morning. I think people who shame women are just insecure with their own sexuality and are threatened by the women who know that they want and aren't ashamed to fulfill their needs. It's crazy to me that as women we have to be so nervous about our sexual reputations and how they might be used against us."
Kim Katrin Milan, activist and SlutWalk panelist:
"So often when women experience sexual violence, people rush to wonder 'What was she doing? What was she wearing? What was she drinking?' But we don't ask those questions about the people that were raping: What were you doing? What were you wearing?
"The idea that our clothes have anything to do with the sexual violence we experience is bullshit."
Is there a specific kind of T-shirt that I should look out for that all the rapists are wearing? If you know you're that kind of guy, shouldn't you walk with someone to make sure you don't commit those acts of violence? The idea that our clothes have anything to do with the sexual violence we experience is bullshit. Men get raped. Children get raped. Older women get raped. Were their tits showing? Are we really continuing this dialogue where people don't have to be responsible for the people that they are? We need to ensure that the education that we're having is about teaching people not to rape instead of teaching people not to get raped. And this isn't about one particular kind of women.
This is about disabled women. This is about migrant workers. This is about trans women. This is about the hierarchy of people who don't get to be valuable. We have to support each other. We have to reject this idea that any one of us are deserving [of sexual violence]. When do that, when we say that there are certain ways to be respectable, ultimately what we're saying is 'rape the other girl.' I'm not saying 'rape the other girl.' We all have to be safe. It has to be all of us. Our liberation and freedom can't leave anyone behind. When I see y'all on social media with your really amazing ways of interrupting those narratives-celebrating your sex, celebrating your desire, and celebrating your power-that's how we affirm each other. Women, we need each other, so let's go hard."
Napatia Tromshaw, psychiatrist and SlutWalk panelist:
"As a psychiatrist working with victims of sexual violence, I'm able to see the fear that exists. There is a fear to tell their own truth, worrying about whether or not people are going to judge them and look down upon them because of their experiences. That is why I'm here...Stigma, judgment, labeling people are beneath us. As humans, we're able to do a lot better than that. We don't understand each person's experiences. We don't know their struggles. We don't know what life they've lived. Because of this, we use words to try to capture what we think they are.
But we really, truly don't know. It's ignorant. At this point, I believe if people actually take the time to learn about one another and understand our own individual experiences, then we can find the ability to accept our own diversity.
Most people think that murder kills us more than anything else, but suicide is more common than murder. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in this country. Murder is the 16th leading cause of death in this country. I'm glad to see everyone here. I'm glad to see everyone supporting each other. If we can continue to do that, we can create an impact the mental wellness of our community and our world.
Jenny, SlutWalk participant, 18
"Amber Rose brought us here. For me, when Kanye called Amber a slut while being married to Kim Kardashian, it comes down to an issue of race. In the feminist community, there's a marginalized group of people that face slut-shaming and exoticism more than the average woman. I think it's important to uphold figures like Amber Rose as valid people that are part of the feminist movement. She shouldn't ever be discredited. Amber Rose is the shit."
Bonnie Rotten, porn star and SlutWalk panelist:
"On social media, I can post a picture of my dog, I can post a picture of my baby, I can post a picture of my husband and people will still use it as an opportunity to say whatever they want to me.
"Extremists tell me I deserve to go to hell and that I deserve to burn."
They ask me inappropriate questions and send me dick pics. People have threatened to shoot me in the San Fernando Valley, which is pretty crazy, considering I'm not hurting anybody with what I do. Extremists tell me I deserve to go to hell and that I deserve to burn. I hear countless awful things on a daily basis. I really try hard not to let it bother me, but it eventually gets to me. So I ignore people the best I can and just continue to embrace myself. Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do. Use your bodies as you want to use them. Be safe about it and keep having fun."
Michelle, SlutWalk participant, 23
"Feminism is usually only discussed in academic settings or in very white, elitist ways. In my experiences, it's never really of the people and by the people. That's what has made SlutWalk the most impactful for me. It's overwhelming and really emotional to be in a non-intellectualized but very feminist space. A lot of celebrities say they're feminists but once they talk about their definition of feminism, I don't identify with it. It's usually a perspective that's very upper class and anti-sex work. Slutwalk has been one of the most diverse spaces I've ever been in.
Usually when I'm in a politicized female space, I'm looking for the women of color and I'll only see a couple or a few. This event feels like a space primarily for women of color, where white people are also embraced. I think people that are suspicious of Amber Rose's feminism or her politics are gross. If you're attitude is "she's just a slut and she's doing this to make that ok," that in itself is slut-shaming. Thinking like that only proves this is a necessary movement. Even if you've never been a huge Amber Rose fan, to not recognize the larger impact of what she's doing is shortsighted.