On Thursday night, two weeks after the NYC SlutWalk, a group of 50 activists gathered in a dim meeting room in downtown Manhattan to discuss how to push the feminist empowerment movement beyond a single day of collective action.
“From the beginning we’ve said, this protest is not going to stop rape; [it] is not going to stop sexual violence,” meeting chair Natalia Tylim conceded to the intent crowd. “[SlutWalk] brought us together in Union Square, where we could look around and say, ‘I am not the only one who is outraged, I am not the only one who wants to fight.’”
In stark contrast to other activists, like the protesters of Occupy Wall Street who have stormed Manhattan in recent weeks, SlutWalk’s activists determined that educating the public about feminism was key to building the movement. Still, they said the Wall Street protests have paved the way forward in building attention for their own movement.
Protesters agreed that in order to move beyond an initial outcry, SlutWalk would have to use education to dismantle social perceptions on rape.
“Obviously, the SlutWalk is about sexual violence, but it’s so much deeper than that,” Allison Norman, another participant of the meeting, said.
SlutWalk activists proposed a range of methods to help spread their education message, from school-based workshops to using social media. Many agreed that it was key to partner with Occupy Wall Street to spread their own message.
Occupy Wall Street seems to have become a cluster of activism, attracting different causes while also revitalizing diverse movements like the SlutWalk. One of NYC SlutWalk’s organizers, Stephanie Shwartz, encouraged participants to think about ways to get involved with anti-Wall Street protesters in order to further propagate their own message.
“People are rightfully angry about police [brutality],” she said. One of SlutWalk’s key points is that the NYPD seems sexist against women in rape cases. “I feel like we can contribute to the discussion down there,” she explained.
The event also drew a number of feminists who were a part of the original movement in the 60s and 70s. Betty Maloney, a feminist who worked at one of the first rape crisis centers in Seattle in the 70s was glad to see the feminist movement re-emerging in light of the general air of discontent in the city.
Speaking about the recent DSK case, Maloney said, “Nothing has changed — we still have to take this movement back to the grassroots and make it militant. From when I was working in [the movement] till now, the police never responded in time.”
The air of discontent and need for social reform emanating from Wall Street has clearly propelled other movements forward.
Activist Julie Keefe drew the parallel between the two movements by articulating the common thread of grassroots activism that put both forward.
“I’ve never been a part of a movement like this,” she said. “So many people, especially young people, are [starting to understand that] We see ourselves as the ones that have to try and build a movement and not just politicians.”
Photo Credit: garryknight