Skip to content

BadRep goes SlutWalking!

2011 June 20

Bad Reputation had its second Team Protest Outing on 11th June (the first was March for the Alternative on 26th March, which many of us went to as part of various different groups). This time, for SlutWalk, we were bigger, with almost all of Team BadRep and their friends arriving in various states of dress, undress, latex dress, fancy dress and get-me-into-this-corset-dress. None of us wore high heels, for the record. Unless you count the large stompy New Rocks of our editor Miranda.

We were also better organised, having managed to create a proper banner and it was great running into other feminist and activist groups such as bloggers from The F Word and the Queer Resistance crew.

Team Bad Reputation holding up a printed banner reading'My Hemline Does Not Equal Consent'

Look at our banner! It

Most importantly, we were also a little wiser, having learned to pack water, snacks (wholemeal scones with dried fruit have been designated the official protest food) and weather-suitable clothing, which in this case meant sunblock and waterproofs.

We gathered outside the tube station to co-ordinate ourselves and our outfits before filtering over to Hyde Park Corner where the marchers were being gently herded by stewards. It’s estimated that over 5,000 people marched on the day, far more than originally thought. The sun beat down on us as the air filled with a festival air of drumming, and SlutWalk London banners: “No Means No” and “My Dress Is Not A Yes”. Homemade banners told a range of stories, from the extremely personal (“I was wearing jeans and a jumper”) to the slightly Dadaist (a hand-drawn image of a breast crying black tears).

After a little longer in the sun than we might have liked, we eventually set off to a chorus of cheers, chanting “yes means yes and no means no”. The well-dressed folk outside the Ritz, combined with the builders digging up the road, added a slightly surreal quality to the proceedings.

Along the march we were able to look around at our fellow slut-walkers, who all seemed to have arrived from a wide variety of backgrounds, and many of them newly politicised and newly interested in feminist activism. The variety and number of people present was impressive. Men and women, cis and trans* people, old, young, queer and straight. But sadly, that hasn’t been precisely how Slutwalk has been addressed or represented.

The march has been depicted as a “women’s protest“, with most articles leading on the high volume of women and only skirting over the fact that there were plenty of men at the march. This attitude was sadly widespread on the day itself: we were referred to as “ladies” by other marchers despite the fact that we had men in our group.

Here at BadRep Towers, and partly hidden by the veil of the internet, we are often assumed to be a group of women, whereas we are in fact variously women, men and bugger-off with-your-gender-identification. Whilst on the march, we were very visible (especially with our amazing banner!) and yet we still faced the same problem. The men walking with us were either ignored, or even more tellingly, assumed to be women in later writeups altogether. And there was persistent misgendering going on too, even after people were set straight. It’s pretty awkward and upsetting to witness people being excluded on a march because of how they look, when you are marching to remove prejudice over how people look.

The other challenge here is that if SlutWalk is viewed as a man-excluding club then it falls too easily into the trap of accusations of man-hating, rather like common judgements of feminism itself. So, for the record, there were plently of chaps and not just the ones that write for this website. And hurrah for them!

Team BadRep holding up their banner.

Other media responses included criticisms of the reasoning behind the march itself. The blogosphere exploded into hackneyed analogies along the lines of “people who leave their front doors open should expect to get burgled”, and the media started to generate all sorts of ways to stir up other reasons why SlutWalk is a bad idea.

The Mail (of all places) criticised Slutwalk for being too middle class in its focus. We (much like the Mail) did not conduct an in-depth survey of the class background of all 5,000 protesters, so I’m going to let the image of women holding a Socialist Worker sign used in that very article attest to the class conscious values of those present. Irony points, indeed.

And, as was sadly bound to happen, some members of the press completely missed the point or just concentrated on the titilation aspect.

Media response aside, the general mood on the day was very positive and there are plenty of articles out there that are just as upbeat, just as expressive of the wide range of people who support Slutwalk: lesbilicious offers an eyewitness account, or if you don’t feel like doing any more reading, there’s a huge collection of photos that show the range of people at the Slutwalk over at Urban75.

Bad Reputation banner in the crowd. Image source http://www.urban75.orgWe met a lot of cool people and heard a range of inspiring, heartfelt and amazing stories from speakers when we landed in a jam-packed Trafalgar Square. In the bustle, it was hard to see the speakers, so we let a wave of different voices wash over us. We listened to plummy, stately tones deride the idea that only working class women get raped, then the quiet voice of “Just Jo” deliver her life story about the experiences of being a trans woman subject to verbal and physical abuse. We heard the shocking facts about abysmal treatment of sex workers in instances of rape, delivered by Sheila Farmer of the English Collective of Prostitutes and activist Sanum Ghafoor angrily berated the catch-22 situation of living in a society that criticises women and dubs them “terrorists” in the street when they don the hijab and “wear too much”, yet casts them as “slags” when they wear too little. She was ably supported in this by the presence of Counterfire’s Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants block.

Personal stories told by all kinds of people, but all pointing to the same conclusion. Rape happens to people regardless of what they are wearing. Rapists, not those who are raped, and certainly not the clothes of those who are raped, are to blame.

SlutWalk London still need some extra cash – organising protests costs a lot of money. You can help them by donating here.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS