Kenny Klein with Stapler

Kenny Klein with Stapler

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

No Means No: NOLA Slutwalk

This weekend I had the honor of marching in, and photographing, the second annual NOLA Slutwalk.

For any who do not know, Slutwalk is an international event that deals with issues of rape and sexual assault. The action began in Toronto in 2011, when a police officer told a group of girls and women "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." In response, organizers Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis stated:

"We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault."

Here in New Orleans, a group of about thirty women and men turned out on a beautiful Saturday morning to walk across the French Quarter, declaring that women must be safe no matter how they dress.

To reclaim the word "slut," women often dress in sexually expressive outfits. Other women dress in the clothes they were wearing when they were raped.

The event began like most events in New Orleans: with a brass band. The band, whose players were mostly women, entertained as slutwalkers assembled and danced in Congo Square.

Above and below, slutwalkers prepare for the action. 

 Then the march began, meandering at a brisk pace through an unsuspecting French Quarter.

Women and men carried signs that represented expressions of outrage against sexual assault, and also represented women's personal experiences.

Response from the crowds were mixed: many spectators were supportive. Others were confused. I imagine many tourists thought that this was simply something that goes on in New Orleans...

We ended up exhausted and exhilarated back in Congo Square.

If you are interested in the issues raised by Slutwalk, here are some books you might read:

For a look at the sexual landscape of growing up female in America, from objectification to fear of sexual expression, I highly recommend Promiscuities: the Secret Struggle For Womanhood by brilliant author Naomi Wolf. Wolf relates her personal experiences of growing up female in America, mixed with her vast knowledge of sociology and culture.

For a look at the issue of sexualized young women, I recommend two books by Phoebe Gloeckner: A Child's Life And Other Stories, and The Diary Of A Teenage Girl. Both books are graphic novels, illustrated by Gloeckner who is both a medical illustrator, and a keen social observer.

"Slut-shaming" is a horrible form of bullying among young women, some as young as preteens. Girls and young women will often bully a girl by singling her out, calling her a "slut" and shaming her, for no reason other than that she developed early, or is simply seen by her peers as "other." For an excellent look at this form of abuse and its effect on girls and women, I highly recommend Fast Girls: Teen Tribes And The Myth Of The Slut, by Emily White. I feel this is a book that every woman should read.

For more info on NOLA Slutwalk, to help sponsor the event, or to participate in 2014, look here and here.

From the streets of the French Quarter, this is Kenny Klein explaining it all.