SlutWalk Los Angeles 2011 is in the books. On a lovely spring day, some 2500 Angelenos gathered in West Hollywood Park to rally against rape culture and for safety, for pleasure, for joy, and for healing. My fellow steering committee members and I have been working night and day on this for weeks, and right now, I’m totally zonked. For now, I’ll just thank the wonderful speakers, volunteers, sheriff’s deputies, musicians, and marchers who made this afternoon magical.
A longer follow-up coming Monday.
There’s plenty of media coverage available. See this link for a video news story and a radio story (scroll down for the radio) featuring an interview I did yesterday. (Google “Slutwalk” and find much more.)
Jessica Valenti’s magnificent piece in the Washington Post is perhaps the definitive analysis of SlutWalks to appear so far.
I threw out the speech I’d written and spoke from the heart, genuinely. I don’t remember what I said, but below the fold, the speech I had planned to deliver.
I’m here today as an organizer, as a feminist, as a husband, a father, and as a teacher. But I’m also here as a man.
When that Toronto constable told women that they should avoid “dressing like sluts”, he was telling a lie about rape. We know that what women wear in public has nothing to do with their likelihood of being sexually assaulted.
But he was telling another lie as well: one about men. Call it the myth of male weakness. It’s the all too prevalent idea that men are incapable of self-control.
I joined the international SlutWalk movement because I believe in men’s capacity to do two things at once: be turned on by what we see while honoring the humanity and dignity of the woman whose body attracts our eye. The worst lie about men is that because of our biology, lust and empathy can’t coexist within us. If you want kind and compassionate men who will respect women’s boundaries, the myth of male weakness tells us, women need to conceal the parts of themselves the sight of which will turn a man into a savage beast.
We live in a world where far too many men rape and commit other kinds of verbal and sexual assault. It’s a world where an even greater number of men feel powerless to stop other men’s violence. As fathers, husbands, brothers and boyfriends we warn the women we love to “cover up” because that seems the only solution to the terrible problem of sexual violence. But there’s a better solution: challenging the guys in our lives to check themselves and each other.
The myth of male weakness becomes real because we repeat it. We need to start repeating a “counter-story”. In our words and in our actions and in our activism, we need to live out the truth that men can be both sexual and safe. We need to acknowledge that rapists rape for many reasons, but what a woman wears is never one of them. We need to stop telling our sisters to cover up – and we need to start challenging our brothers to respect every woman’s no, no matter how much skin she shows or how many people she’s slept with.
Respect is not something we give only to the prudish or the virginal. Respect is owed to everyone by reason of their being human. Whether she’s in a bikini or a burqa, whether she’s a nun or a porn star, a virgin waiting for marriage or a woman whose number of sex partners is higher than Einstein’s IQ – EVERY woman deserves to have her “no” heard and respected, every time.
That’s not too much to expect, and it’s not too much to ask. And if men want a world where the women they love are safe, and if they want a world where men are trusted more than they are feared, they need to stand up, step up, and speak out against the myth of male weakness. I’m so glad so many are doing just that today.
I’m proud to stand and march with all of you. Thank you.