I was approached by SlutWalk Ottawa and asked to speak on diversity. On August 25th 2015, I was honoured to speak to a group of remarkable, courageous, and warm individuals, unified to fight for change. Below are the words I delivered. Stay connected with SlutWalk Ottawa on their Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Then, head out to the streets on September 13th at 2pm, at the Ottawa Human Rights Monument. For my viewers outside of Ottawa, make sure to Google where your SlutWalk will be taking place. Thank you xx
Question: How To Include More Diversity Into SlutWalk Ottawa?
The question I was asked to answer was how to include more diversity into slutwalk? I felt the first step in answering this question was first defining the role of diversity in general.
So I asked myself, what is diversity?
Diversity plays a role as intersectionality plays a role. Understand everyone is different, and in using that difference, make change. Feminism, speaking on a movement closely related to slutwalk, feminism is rather pointless without the utilization and acknowledgement of intersectionality. Intersectionality is a term coined by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. It is the view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. In easy words, intersectionality is that each individual requires feminism in different ways and varying degrees. Things like race, gender, sexuality, religion, culture, etc. all add to why. Diversity similarly encourages the thought that we are all different and our differences must and should be paid attention to. That’s why when speaking on race issues and people say they don‘t see colour, it is equally as damaging. We are not all the same and that is good. Addressing and understanding our differences, helps us move forward.
My next step in answering the initial question was to ask myself, with all of this information and understanding, what the hell is diversity’s role?
Let’s discuss hair types. Imagine walking into a hair salon and discovering that, that hair salon was only versed on one type of hair. Imagine that ever hair salon adopted this way of styling. Imagine now that, that hair type was not yours, but instead was that of a tiny sector of the world. The end result would be to either walk away, not ever having your hair addressed, or to sit down and walk away still dissatisfied. Either way, you would be on the losing end. Now apply that act of blatant ignorance, and the tiny but crucial effect it had on your life, to a larger scale issue.
Patricia Arquette, American actress and Oscar winner, upon receiving her Oscar this year, made a crucial statement during her acceptance speech. Patricia said, and I quote, “It’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of colour that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.” Now, even with the passion used to deliver this statement, we must speak on the wrong doing. No hate or shade to Patricia. When you spend your life privileged, surrounded by those who are privileged, with history books re-written by those who were privileged, your mentality adds up. 1+1 does in fact equal 2. Patricia first problem was in her lack to include of intersectionality. She separated people into groupings without realizing that those groupings are not limited. Again, that damn circle of privilege, as I call it, took effect. The media uses groupings defined and highlighted by stereotypes – limiting those groupings to how they are defied. Black women are loud and catty. Asian women live to be dominated by white men. Most recently, thanks to teen television drama series, Pretty Little Liars, we now know that trans individuals have a demonic trait to them, dehumanizing their sense of normality and toxifying their mental state. Patricia asks men that love women, and all gay people, and all people of colour, to fight for “us.” Us meaning white women. As though we have not been fighting and violently loosing. As though there are no men out there who love women but can also love men. As though there are no gay and bi-sexual people of colour.
I digress. The second issue is the avid concern white feminists have for such issues they find daunting, and placing these issues above all else. That is not to say the wage gap is not important but white women make 58.7% to the white man’s dollar whereas black women make 48.2%. If black women are not on the streets fighting for the wage gap, knowing we make less, it’s proof enough that we have other more daunting issues at hand. Like staying alive.
This awareness of the difference diversity makes is crucial when deciding where to channel aid and how. How you may help black women with the wage gap will not be the same way you help white women. The urgency of helping white women is not the same urgency for black women. The urgency for the wage gap is not the same urgency as education for other women. Or rights. Or safety.
As I wrote this I realized I had defined diversity’s role from the beginning. Earlier I stated, Understand everyone is different, and in using that difference, make change. When you see past your circle, when you address issues that stretch further than your eyes can see, it has this circle effect. Not the circle of privilege as earlier mentioned, but the circle of justice and the result of change. When we are all fighting for causes, equally motivated by our thirst for change and a better tomorrow for all, we are able to reach a unified glory stand point. A win win win, as Michael Scott would call it.
Now let’s speak on slut walk and the role diversity plays with Slut Walk Ottawa. Historically, speaking of black women, our bodies have been hyper sexualized, disrespected and belittled and mocked, and yet copied, idolized, and praised. But, the positives are only deemed positive, when on women who are not black. Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, being key examples. Women of Japanese decent are lusted after as they are made to appear weak throughout media. All across the board, women’s bodies are objectified and sexualized but in different ways within different contexts with different historical meanings. Our bodies are objectified and as Jean Kilbourne says, ads sell more than products. They sell values, images, and normalcy. They tell us how and who to be. They tell us a black woman’s ass is to e smacked upon. We are there to catch whatever value of money you deem us worthy. They tell us that the white woman’s body is an object. Often shaping our bodies onto beer commercials. With every image put out of us, altered. We have absolutely no control. So, this tells men, that our bodies are theirs to be played with and toyed with. Most recent example being the Nicki Minaj sculpture at Madame Tussauds. Slut Walk is here to end that narrative. But, in ending that narrative, it is important to note the varying degrees of struggle. When you are carrying a bag of books, another is holding a plastic bag of stones. Same path, different variations. When we fight for our bodies, we must note exactly what our bodies mean to each of us and how to defend our fellow fighter. Knowing that we are different, knowing our struggles, keeps us going together.
Affirmative action or positive discrimination (known as employment equity in Canada) is the policy of favouring members of a disadvantaged group who suffer from discrimination within a culture. Affirmative action in the United States tends to focus on issues such as education and employment, specifically granting special consideration to racial minorities and women who have been historically excluded groups in America. Created as a means to aid all disadvantaged groups, but due to the ignorance of those in power, forgetting the diversity within groups, and intersectionality, affirmative action resulted in aiding white women more than other groups, like black women. These are the obvious consequences when a movement fails to include diversity. White women have the most privilege and are helped more as a result of their inherent privilege. This is not bad. It is just good to utilize this privilege properly. Like, understanding everyone is different. Use that difference, and make change. In the end, lets all stand up together on that pedestal we call change.
The question was, how do we include more diversity into slutwalk. It starts with a listening ear, and welcoming arms.