Culture

The Feminist ‘Slutwalk’ Movement Just Landed The Perfect Celebrity Spokesperson

CREDIT: YouTube

Amber Rose, middle, shows off her new clothing line at the 2015 VMAs.

Four years ago, the first-ever SlutWalk kicked off in Toronto after a police officer commented that women should “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” On Saturday, model and budding entrepreneur Amber Rose will lead the largest ‘walk’ in history.

The original SlutWalk aimed to take back the normally derogatory term and challenge the notion that women are responsible for the violence committed against them. Women were encouraged to show up in protest wearing whatever they wanted. Soon the walks spread across the globe, as women in Colombia, India and South Korea staged their own protests.

Flanked by performers, poets, and panelists in Los Angeles, Rose’s event is expected to draw at least 15,000 marchers. As in the past, participants are encouraged to wear whatever they want and walk in solidarity. But Rose’s involvement in 2015 shows how the campaign has evolved over time.

According to the Amber Rose SlutWalk website, the event — featuring Frenchie Davis, singer Marsha Ambrosius, actor Matt McGorry, and several DJs — will have “a zero tolerance policy on all hateful language, racism, sexism, ableism, fat-shaming, transphobia, or any other kind of bigotry.” It also identifies marginalized groups, “including women of color, transgender people and sex workers,” that are victims of sexual violence.

Heather Jarvis, co-founder of the first-ever SlutWalk in 2011, couldn’t be more thrilled about the visibility that the celebrity has brought to the movement. In addition to organizing the event, Rose has largely funded it with her own money, meaning her walk will reach a lot more people than smaller walks that don’t have the resources for a large marketing campaign.

“With her status, she’s using it to really create some amazing conversations. It’s all we’ve really ever wanted,” Jarvis told ThinkProgress. “When we first organized it in 2011, it was in our mind a one-off event in Toronto, speaking to a Toronto context. We never envisioned that it would go anywhere beyond that, even in our own city.”

And as the subject of much public scrutiny, Rose is, perhaps, one of the best people to take on double-standards, patriarchy, and rape culture that hurts women and girls nationwide. She has modeled, appeared on several TV shows (including Inside Amy Schumer), and is a soon-to-be published author. But despite those accomplishments, she is most well known for her sexy image and stripping background — both of which have made her the target of vicious slut-shaming and criticism. She’s been publicly attacked for her sexual history and willingness to show off her curves by Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa, who she was romantically involved with in the past.

“It’s very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that’s with Amber Rose…I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim,” West said of Rose, earlier this year. She’s also been called a slut and dragged through the mud by the Game, for defending a woman who was allegedly raped.

slutwalk

CREDIT: Amber Rose Slut Walk

Rose has always been conscious of and recognized for her body. Talking to Larry King about feminism last June, she explained that she used to cover her body so that she’d only attract boys with her personality. At a certain point, her attitude changed. “But then I got older and I got to the point where I was like, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay to be a sexual being. It’s okay to be feminine and beautiful and still have a great personality — and that can shine through, also,” she said.

Rose is now organizing the Los Angeles event and launching a SlutWalk clothing line that turned heads at the VMAs. She’s become a full-fledged member of the feminist movement, and by focusing on marginalized women in particular, she’s highlighting how the SlutWalk movement has matured.

Since 2011, Jarvis said, the original SlutWalk organizers have been criticized left and right, as the event grows in size and scope. “We’re too feminist or not feminist enough; we’re too slutty or we’re not slutty enough…it’s not intersectional enough.” Backlash is unrelenting, but its also been instrumental in crafting an inclusive message.

“SlutWalk has also been a huge learning curve for a lot of people involved in feminism. You have to make sure you’re having complicated conversations because we’re complicated people,” Jarvis continued.

“Initially [SlutWalk] for us…was very trans-inclusive. It was about recognizing sex workers as a part of our community. It was about being gender-inclusive and feminist and intersectional, but that wasn’t necessarily…what the media took away from it,” Jarvis explained. “A lot of people say, ‘why can’t you simplify?’ We have to say, ‘because people are women of color when they’re assaulted — and trans and sex working…and sometimes undocumented. These are all the things that happen at the same time.'”

Rose is making sure those complexities are front and center. And with a lineup of primarily black artists and speakers, she’s catering to women of color who may not otherwise have been involved in the movement.

Today, the event has spread to 250 cities across the globe, highlighting just how universal sexual violence and victim-blaming is. But even though gender inequality and degrading treatment is common across the board, the annual walks have elevated these issues — and Rose’s participation will only bring more visibility to them.

“We can say that tens of thousands of people have been having more conversations that they weren’t previously having — about sexual violence, slut shaming, victim blaming, the embedded ways that people talk about sexual violence,” Jarvis concluded emphatically. “Victim blaming and rape culture — these were terms that were not widely accepted in 2011. Now they really are…Now when you google the word ‘slut,’ SlutWalk comes up!”

Check out Rose’s recent Funny or Die sketch, titled ‘Walk of No Shame.’