Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Song to Sing

    Songs, signs, and chants have long been part of the make up of protests and actions. Holding signs allows those who are marching or protesting to show their audience, as well as the cameras, why the are there. This ensures that any photographs taken of the action will not simply look like a group of people standing around or walking in the streets. Instead it conveys the message of the movement to those who only see photos of the action, whether in the newspaper or on the internet. This means that anyone interested in the movement can look back and know the intent, thus allowing the movement to, in a sense, transcend time.

    Chants and songs are also incredibly important, though more for the activists themselves than for the observers. According to Graeber, chanting with hundreds of other people "provides the most immediate and powerful experience of sociality" (2009:484). It allows participants to stop being individuals and be a part of a whole. This seems to create a greater sense of solidarity than simply walking down the street with a group of other people.  This phenomenon is not limited to social movements and protest, chanting at a game in support of a sports team or during religious services. I experienced this during first year orientation at my university. The faculties all have their own set of cheers and, as the first years were being given campus tours, anyone could begin a cheer and anyone from the same faculty within earshot would join in. It would get to the point where one would find themselves unconsciously repeating a response to a cheer that one barely registered hearing. It was like in that one moment individuality was stripped away, leaving one as only part of a collective.

     SlutWalk also makes use of chants and signs. For example, during the Toronto march they chanted "Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no" (Loriggio, 2011). In addition, SlutWalk also uses a variety of signs and slogans to proclaim their intent. Some of the main points or messages on the Toronto signs were: the fault for a rape does not lie with the victim, the type or style of clothing a woman is wearing should not be the determining factor of whether or not she is raped, and if anyone says no to sex it means no, no matter how many sexual partners they have had previously. Other signs were the personal accounts of rape victims and how they were either blamed for their rape. These provide an account of what SlutWalk represents and what it wants to see changed in our society.

Courtesy of Graeme Davis

References Cited:

Graeber, David.
     2009. Direct Action: An Ethnography. AK Press. Zine Library.

Loriggio, Paolo.
     2011.  Thousands march in Toronto 'slut walk'. MSN News.


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