Having defended SlutWalk Toronto and its successor demonstrations with all the curmudgenliness I can muster I want to touch on a dissenting point. It's something that’s really been overlooked by too many people who’ve been looking at the Toronto thing as a ready made template for social action.
Specifically, I thought Aura Blogando’s well-reposted dissent was off the mark in one regard: there’s no way the best response for women in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to take against an asshat Toronto police officer’s aspersions about Toronto women’s attire would be to organize a protest in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A.
But she is on the mark that what was probably 100% appropriate for protestors in Toronto would not be appropriate for a similar protest in New Orleans. In fact even the name, which was perfect for circumstances in Toronto (where the word the cop used, “slut,” does not have such deep-rooted historical connotations in race, class, and legal proceedings) would be a disaster in New Orleans (where the word “slut” absolutely does have those connotations and according to Blogando, quite a few more!)
But where I think she, and a lot of other people, got their wheel in a rut is over the expectation that any initiative in one location must be a complete, branded template for every other location. On the planet. Or, worse, that one quickly-spun website in Canada should become the clearing house for all future local initiatives along those same lines.
It would just be a mistake if Blogando were the only one to make it, but she isn’t — since maybe the early 1980s rubber-stamped protests have been the norm not just in feminist circles but most progressive-left ones. (Nowadays it's protesters on the right who at least seem the most spontaneous, motivated, and self-organizing.)
But here’s the thing I think is important, which I think everyone else who’s enthusiastic thinks is important too: it sounds like a “well-intentioned” New Orleans cop would have used a different word to pre-emptively blame and shame rape victims. But it would have still been the same implication and so even using different word than “slut” it would have been just as major an insult. And so there’s pretty much 100% likelihood that flashmob-like initiators in New Orleans (who would not have been primarily white, Asian, east-Asian, and first-peoples Canadians but instead would be white, African-American, mixed-race, creole, central- and South-American, Caribbean, and southeast Asian) would have named their initiative after the word their local asshat cop used instead. Even if that word either had odd or irritating connotations elsewhere in the world.
And the point, which I think is more important than almost anything else, is that that’s what everyone could be doing! Responding in local parlance to local events taking local conditions into consideration in order to produce the highest local impact!
Out of context “SlutWalk” is a dumb name. And I think it’s kind of silly that everyone else is kind of reflexively imitating it title and all. And heck, if as Blogando and others suggest the word “slut” doesn’t have the same resonance in New Orleans or elsewhere then not only does it annoy some people it also isn’t going to resonate with local authorities who’ve been getting away with trafficking the same victim-blaming “advice” for years. So, yeah, in that case rubber-stamping the same name isn’t just uncreative it’s counterproductive.
Which raises the question: how can Blogando and others pioneer real, local initiatives that do will work where it’s needed most?
Because, yeah, why should anyone feel obliged to use terms in their protests that might have worked in the original location but have zero, or even negative meanings locally?
I haven’t been working on Slutwalk in part because I don’t like the name and I'm not sure I have anything to offer anyway that would offset the minor point that I'm a six foot four inch tall man. But I’d be the first person to get behind a more visibly decentralized movement the minute someone starts one near me. And I’ll be the first to get behind a public initiative you or Blogando initiate near you. Because name notwithstanding that’s what I think it exciting about the Toronto event and it’s successors.