Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Different History

     Even though SlutWalk seems to be a revitalization of certain parts of the feminist movement, it has still managed to fall into some of the same ruts as its predecessors. One of the criticisms against the Second Wave Feminist movement was that it played mainly to white middle class women. Entire demographics were left out due to this unequal focus and as a result the Third Wave of Feminism was lead mainly by African American women who wanted a movement to address issues that either were relevant or familiar to them. One of the critiques of Second Wave feminism is its assumption that all women, despite ethnicity, age or class, are the same. Instead the goal was equality with men. Though at the time there was an anti-racist feminism movement, the focus of Second Wave Feminism was on the issues of  middle class white women.

     In the article "SlutWalks vs. Ho Strolls", the author explains that she is, like many critics, skeptical of SlutWalk's mission to redefine slut. This is grounded in her experience as a Black woman along with her lack of familiarity with the term slut. She admits that though in Western society Black women are seen as sexually loose or as "sexual sirens" (Woodward 2005: 271 ) and despite being referred to by various derogatory labels, slut is not one of them. So though she finds the shocked outrage of  SlutWalk to be "very much like the protests of privileged white girls who still have an expectation that the world will treat them with dignity and respect" (crunktastic 2011), she is of the opinion that words used to control and harm should be left to those they are used against. Instead solidarity should be shown to movements which are similar in nature but are more specific in the history of the group they support.

Courtesy of Mike Wood

     Black women bear the burden of " four dominant and oppressive stereotypical images... the mammy, the matriarch, the sexual siren, and the wel-fare mother or queen"(Woodward 2005: 271). The mammy characterizes the Black woman as dedicated servant to her White family. The matriarch represents a Black mother in her own home, she works outside the home and this negatively affects her children. She also controls both her children and her husband or partner. The sexual siren image portrays Black women as a "bitch or whore...[who] cares for nothing but her own sexual satisfaction"(Woodward 2005: 272). The welfare mother is said to be too lazy to work and instead lives off the state, usually with her many children. These stereotypes all originate from the the slavery era, yet are still for the most part, continue to be portrayed by the media. Because of the vast difference in histories of those of different backgrounds it can be difficult to completely identify with those of different historical and ethnic backgrounds. During the Second Wave feminist movement White feminists had to learn that they could not always assume that their problems were shared by every ethnicity and that the different ethnic groups could not be clumped together.

    SlutWalk does indeed focus mainly on slut shaming and the like, which could be seen as White woman issues. Though SlutWalk's other messages may seem relatively universal, maybe not everyone can relate to their message. Instead, like  'SlutWalk vs. Ho Strolls' suggest it maybe more effective that they march with those who relate to their message and show solidarity to those who may not be able to relate exactly with their issue, but are working toward a similar goal.

For more information:

References Cited:

      2011. SlutWalks vs. Ho Strolls. The Crunk Feminist Collective.

Thompson, Becky
      2002. Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism.
      Feminist Studies. 28: 2.

Woodard, Jennifer and  Teresa Mastin.
       2005. Black Womanhood: "Essence" and its Treatment of Stereotypical Images of Black Women.
       Journal of Black Studies. 36: 2.

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