Where usual constant traffic ensues, not a car is in sight on Saturday October 6th. Instead, as far as the eye can see scantily clad (and some fully clothed) bodies and protest signs line the sidewalks of downtown Los Angeles. Crowds begin their march at First Street and Hill and loudly make their way to Pershing Square, a quick half mile march in which hundreds of men, woman, or anyone in between can have their voices heard. This is the scene Amber Rose’s fourth annual SlutWalk is comprised of.
“The Amber Rose SlutWalk aims to raise awareness about sexual injustice, domestic violence and gender inequality,” the official SlutWalk site states. “To impact and uplift, while shifting the paradigm of rape culture. The event provides a safe, all-inclusive space to entertain, educate, and empower.”
In a time of the #MeToo movement where more sexual assault victims are being vocal on such a large scale more than ever before, the SlutWalk has always had a mission to show that no matter what anyone wears they are never asking for unwelcome sexual advances.
Showcasing that, multiple women were shirtless with the words “Still Not Asking For It” painted on their bodies while marching towards Pershing Square. Other signs read: “No does not mean convince me,” “Don’t tell me what to wear, tell them not to rape,” and many more. The long held rape culture questioning of “What were they wearing?” or of attention seeking accusations when a victim comes forward have caused generations of women and men to remain silenced about their experiences.
While aiming to provide an equal space for sexual assault survivors, trans people, LGBT, sex workers, all races and gender, the festival and even Amber Rose herself sometimes miss the mark. During the march this weekend that leads to the ticketed festival event, Amber Rose posted a sign reading “Wife a slut. We’re more fun.” Some protesters did not approve of this and more than one said it went against the festivals message of uniting people. Rose was criticized for secluding or pitting “sluts” and “non sluts” against each other.
Other protestors had only good things to say about the march.
“The SlutWalk is important to me, and all women and survivors because it is a symbol of pride and brings sexual assault victims together in solidarity,” McKenna Palmer, a protester said. “It is important now more than ever to let your story be heard.”
In light of Dr. Christine Ford’s history making testimony and even some major wins during the #MeToo movement where men in power were held accountable for their actions, it is clear there is still more to be done.
Lorien Hunter, protester who attended this year’s SlutWalk is a writer and co-founder of an online publication, Queer Majority, which is set to launch later this month.
“The current narrative surrounding sex, sexuality, and body, particularly as it pertains to women is incredibly negative, restrictive, and problematic,” Hunter stated. “The motivation behind the SlutWalk, to challenge this narrative, call out rape culture and ultimately subvert both in favor of a more realistic, positive and inclusive approach to sex, sexuality and consent is important. It is not just for women, but for a healthy society in general.”
In the midst of the SlutWalk, Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court Justice nominee who has multiple sexual assault accusations against him, was voted into office. Some protestors felt heartbroken and defeated at the news while others, such as protester Chrissy Montegomery felt the opposite.
“Kavanaugh being voted in made this event even more special,” Montegomery stated. “Victims everywhere are feeling invalidated by this blatant look into how those with higher power think of women as liars claiming sexual assault to further themselves somehow. Women bonding together during such a publicized slap in the face to women’s rights was great.”
The parallel of this march, which started in support and as a safe place for sexual assault survivors, to occur the same day an alleged perpetrator is voted into one of the highest forms of office is an unfortunate coincidence.
“It is sad and ironic,” Hunter stated. “I think it underscores the deep divide that continues to widen in this country between the white, wealthy, cis, straight men and young folks, POC(people of color), queers and basically everybody else who doesn’t belong to or identify with the first group.”
While the ruling did vote Kavanaugh in, perhaps the narrow margin (50-48) speaks to the possible turning tide towards women and sexual assault victims.
“The festival may have ended but the message lives on,” SlutWalk LA tweeted. “#KeepFighting.”