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lez’hur ledger: SlutWalk 2011
Lafayette Square has never seen so much skin. As I wandered into this designated meeting place to march in the SlutWalk, I was relieved to note my outfit—we’ll call it a costume—fell in the mid-range of concertedly slutty ensembles. That put it just above the leopard-print-bra-and-stiletto combo and slightly below the same combo overlaid with a mesh dress borrowed from the Village People.
Two men with canes and fur coats swaggered past me, holding signs declaring, “Pimps for Women’s Rights.” They captured the sentiments of the day: the SlutWalk is a somewhat playful protest of sexism and what organizers deem the “rape culture” that excuses—and even subconsciously encourages—sexual assault. Since the inaugural SlutWalk in Toronto, people have donned their “sluttiest” garments to march in protest of the victim-blaming attitudes that consider assault a natural result of a woman’s outfit, persona, or profession. My contribution to this simulated brothel was a slip, my approximation of “the morning after,” as a fellow slut deemed it.
Someone with a blow-horn announced that we would be marching to the National Mall. I had committed to march with a group that came equipped with some impressive signage. Someone decided I looked strong enough to escort one-half of a banner proclaiming “We’ve Had Enough, Demand Women’s Rights, Demand LGBT Rights.” I somehow didn’t share their confidence, but for empowerment’s sake, I took the banner anyway.
Somewhere en route to the Mall, I was simultaneously blinded by the flashes of media cameras and the realization that I could end up in next week’s Washington Blade in a slip. I also dashed any hopes of being hired by a reputable establishment (here’s to bartending!).
Several blocks later I handed off the banner and devoted my full energy to campy feminist chants (“Hey hey, ho ho, sexual violence has got to go!”). Eventually we reached what struck me as an incredibly ironic terminus for this particular march: the largest phallus in the metro area, also known as the Washington Monument.
At that point it started to rain, putting a momentary damper on the feminist outrage. The third-wavers rallied, though, and embraced what had become an impromptu wet T-shirt contest. The T-shirts fared a lot better than the pasties that some had foolishly chosen to wear.
The speakers delivered optimistic messages about the capacity of humankind to erase our differences and bring an end to violence. Some retold stirring personal accounts of rape. This racy, unconventional rally provided a heartening demonstration of human endurance, unity, and compassion—and proved just how intimidating a marching mob of women in high heels and underwear can be.