We here at TLG are massive supporters of the Slutwalk movement, and are hoping to see as many people as possible in Wellington and Christchurch on Sunday.
So, I thought we’d have a talk with one of the organisers, Maria-Jane Brodie. She is awesome. Thanks for being so generous with your time, MJ.
Why did you decide to organise another Slutwalk?
Last year’s SlutWalk was, for me personally at least, a hugely empowering experience; something that obviously struck a chord with a lot of people (I’m assuming from the turnout in both Wellington and Auckland!). And for all that we generated some fantastic discussions, we still have a very long way to go. I never wanted this to be one march and then fade into the background – the movement has to be ongoing, it has to be loud, we have to make it clear we’re not going away until the victim-blaming culture we exist in checks itself.
What impact do you think last year’s had?
It got people talking. That’s the biggest thing. For all that the media had their own agenda, for all that we got a lot of hate, it got people talking about sexual assault, about victim blaming, about the diversity of survivors, and I think that’s really important. We’ve had this cloud of shame for too long, I think.
Last year, there was criticism that the Slutwalk movement hadn’t done enough to involve women of colour, or with disabilities. Do you think that has/can be addressed?
The accessibility of the route was a massive checking of our own privilege last year; and while it wasn’t our intended route and we did have issues with the double-booking of Civic Square, the responsibility for that ultimately fell to us as organisers and it just wasn’t something we were as conscious of as we should have been. It’s certainly been in the front of everyone’s mind as we planned the route this year!
In terms of the inclusion of women of colour, it’s been a really tricky one for us. We all read the open letter to SlutWalk and took it on board; at the same time, that was written for a North American culture and context and it’s not up to me as a white woman to decide how that should be applied to New Zealand culture. With that being said, we’ve always welcomed diverse participation and organisation, we do have a woman of colour on our organising committee (as well as at least two queer women!) and we would always welcome more input on the intersectionality of SlutWalk
Has your own thinking around SlutWalk changed in the past year?
I had the privilege of speaking at SlutWalk Perth in December last year and it was fascinating to see the different approaches in organisation and focus – we had a short, sharp planning time where they had a months-long build up; they also had a much bigger focus on reclamation of the word ‘slut’ than we did. It was really interesting, for me, to see so clearly that no two SlutWalks are the same, that it’s not a homogenous group (and nor should it be). Coming off the back of the criticism levelled at SlutWalk NYC for the “Women are the n***er of the world” sign that had quickly become criticism of the SlutWalk movement as a whole, that was really interesting to witness first-hand.
I’ve had a lot of time over the last year (time I didn’t have in the lead up to SlutWalk 2011!) to read the criticisms levelled at SlutWalk – and while there are plenty I don’t agree with, there are also a lot out there that I think have some really good points that have certainly given me a lot to think about. And while ultimately my feelings on SlutWalk haven’t changed all that much, I’ve certainly been able to take on a lot of things that have given me a lot of clarity.
What do you want people to get out of the march?
Ultimately, I want people to come away with a sense of empowerment – it can be a huge thing to talk about your own experiences, to hear about other people’s, but I really think that just walking amongst a crowd of survivors and refusing to be shamed or afraid can be an incredible, enriching experience.
What advice do you have for people that might find SlutWalk triggering or confronting?
Obviously, keep yourself safe first and foremost, whatever you need to do. Wellington will also have support workers from Rape Crisis available on the day, and the organising crew have also had training in dealing with disclosures.
And finally, what are the details people need to know?
We are meeting in Te Aro Park (in Wellington) at 2pm – marching along Dixon St, down Cuba St, along Wakefield St and into Civic Square for the speeches. There will also be a forum held the Saturday following – 26th May at 2pm – at St Andrew’s on The Terrace to discuss intersectionality and inclusion within the SlutWalk movement, koha entry, which everyone is welcome to come along to!
In Christchurch: From 2pm: Shand Cresent, down Riccarton Rd, then Riccarton Ave, then Oxford Tce to the grass opposite the central police station
[Tallulah here: I know that the boner-killers are also planning a pre-walk lunch, which some of the Lady Gardeners will also be at.