Today was the long awaited SlutWalk Melbourne. The most recent instalment of the global SlutWalk movement (Brisbane also had their SlutWalk today). I was there with my mummy (love ya mum!) and a colleague. I didn’t dress up, but I did wear my most fabulous red boots with diamantes and silver piping, so I was feeling festive.
There was an incredible turn out of fabulous men and women and some children waving a plethora of interesting and insightful banners and signs, many of which I managed to grab a photo of and will splatter across this post. My favorite vision of the day was as we walked down Swanston Street, the absolute stream of people on ahead and behind. It was a quieter protest than I might have hoped for, the PA system wasn’t as good as it could have been so I missed most of the speeches. Karen Pickering was vocal enough to be heard introducing Monica Dux and the representative from the Scarlett Alliance was VERY good at getting her point heard, but in the end, we knew what we were there for, to protest against the culture of victim blaming and slut shaming which permeates our world.
There was some lovely and creative costumes on offer, although as I looked around me at the crowd I couldn’t help thinking that the young women who I had seen on Chapel Street the night before would have been more representative of the modern use of the term “slut” than some of the caricatures on offer at the State Library. This was a reminder that sometimes these rallies, really are opportunities to preach to the choir and that as can be seen in a lot of the media surrounding the event over the last few weeks, misinterpretation is rife and speculation is unlimited. In fact, last week at work I found myself having two very different conversations on the same topic within a few hours of each other.
The first was with the Executive Director of a national women’s organisation who had called me to chase up a SlutWalk organiser for an interview as she had been getting regular calls and not being an organiser, couldn’t answer their questions. She wanted to know my opinion (knowing that I have one on everything) and we proceeded to have a good chat about the idea of the reclamation of words and the process that the Australia feminist movement was going through across the country in homes and workplaces and online of conversing and contradicting and contrasting each other. We were both celebrating the joy of an active, vocal and creative movement of women, the like we had not see in years. However at the same time, the dissent and debate surrounding the event and its beginnings has been somewhat disappointing for those of us who like to make some noise. Which leads me to the second conversation I had last week, with a volunteer at my work who talked about not wanting to set a bad example to her younger sister by attending an event which encouraged women to dress “inappropriately”. Now I have a great deal of respect for this young woman and really value the contrast she brings to a lot of our discussions however I couldn’t help but feel like she, along with a huge number of the general population (including card carrying feminists) had completely missed the point of the whole exercise. I seem to be having the same conversation on repeat. That SlutWalk is LESS about reclaiming a word and dressing in skimpy attire and MORE about refusing to accept the status quo of “women are to blame for their own assaults”. And let’s be honest here… if you don’t agree with that, you need a good talking to!
SO, I will be honest when I say that I had some disappointment not to see a few faces outside the State Library this afternoon, but my disappointment was more than surpassed by my excitement by the diversity of people present at the march. These young women (photo) were resplendent with their colourful and demanding slogans, there was an excellent ratio of men to women, with hardly any indication that this was a march for a “women’s issue” and when we reached Treasury Gardens the organisers had some final words for us followed by vocal cheering and hollering. My heart skipped a beat when the core organising team turned to each other with a massive sigh of relief and had a mini-celebration of their own achievements. And WHAT an achievement. You brought together, not only a fabulous group of women, but an amazing line up of speakers, some incredible supporters and the spectrum of sluts and allies including MY MUMMY!
We at feminaust SALUTE YOU! xxxxxxxxxxx