I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received the assignment to cover the Amber Rose SlutWalk for Cosmopolitan a few weeks ago. I had no idea what a SlutWalk was, nor did I really know who Amber Rose was. A little research turned up that Rose is a hip-hop model and entrepreneur who is probably most widely known for the tabloid attention her romances with Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa have brought her. SlutWalks, I learned, are actually a widespread movement started in Toronto in 2011 in response to an officer’s response that women shouldn’t dress like sluts to avoid being assaulted by men. Since then there have been organized rallies throughout the world and in numerous U.S. cities where people – mostly young women, but a few men – have gathered to protest the ideas that society should dictate what people wear and that what people wear can be used as a valid excuse for matters such as sexual assault and rape. Rose had decided to organize this walk in part as a reaction to the slut-shaming she has endured from Kanye and Khloe Kardashian.
Though the event at first appeared poorly organized and the turnout was far less than the 15,000 organizers had promoted, by most accounts it turned out to be a success. By my estimates around 1,000 people, many of them dressed as provocatively as current laws permit, gathered that Saturday morning at downtown’s Pershing Square. From there they moved a block or two south on Olive Street where they made signs and officially kicked off the with a greeting and rallying cry from Rose and a couple of guest speakers. Following that they made short walk back to the square, chanting and hoisting their signs. I joked that it wasn’t much of a “walk,” but was also thankful, as we were still in the middle of a heatwave. The rest of the afternoon was spent in front of a much larger stage where a series of speeches, performances and a fashion show kept the crowd engaged.
Over the course of the day I covered the general event and also collaborated with the writer to create a portrait series of individuals who were willing to share their stories. Many of them had experiences being slut shamed at some point in their lives, either for how they dressed or for their own sexual activities, rumored or not. It surprised us though – and really drove home the importance of this event – how many had been victims of assault and rape. I was impressed that so many of them were willing to come out to directly confront the matter in such a public way.
In the end I was glad I was there and that Cosmopolitan decided to cover this story. Though the events are not without critics, I hope we can all agree that the central point of this – that no one “deserves” to be attacked or raped – is as valid as they come. Hopefully these events will have a positive effect on public attitudes.