Messy Monday May 28: Slutwalk, Catholics and a very fast puppy

Photo by Vikram K Mulligan

Good-day, tired and slightly ragey cubicle dwellers (and those of you still eating Pillsbury Cookies at home in your PJs.) It’s Monday. I was hoping to write this a few hours ago, but I wasn’t expecting this weekend to be so slut-tastic.

Slutwalk Toronto took the streets yet again Friday evening for a 2012 encore of their previous protest. The march originally became a worldwide phenomenon in 2011 after a police officer at York University said “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Some brave women came together and organized a counter-march against slut shaming and police victim-blaming. It was fast, it was angry, it was awesome. The next thing you know, people were having Slutwalks all over the world.

Slutwalk 2011 had its share of critics. Criticism from social conservatives was to be expected, of course. But feminists were concerned, too: people wrote about their issues with the way marginalized people, particularly racialized women didn’t see their experiences represented at the event.

I was not involved with the planning of either Slutwalk, and wasn’t in town for the first. So I’m only speaking on what I hear and see. But what I saw was a Take 2 of Slutwalk that took last year’s discussions into account. Instead of getting defensive, co-organizer Colleen Westendorf actually gave props to certain critics, saying in an interview with Xtra! that one particular letter—in response to the racial privilege of the opportunity to take back the word slut—“made some very good points and it sparked a huge dialogue.”

On Friday, as we stood in Queen’s Park under the still-blazing sun, Westendorf was not afraid to say that “we are still angry at the police.”

Trans activist and sex-worker advocate Morgan Page gave a gripping critique of feminist and queer circles. Page bravely described her own experiences dealing with assault and with (what she called) cisgender “radical feminists” who’ve brushed aside those experiences and described her very identity as an act of rape.

And Planned Parenthood Toronto’s Michele Chai spoke about the need to offer up new options for how to perform masculinity—giving guys and masculine folks a space to talk about their feelings, process their own experiences with assault, and become feminist warriors instead of perpetrators.

I left Queen’s Park feeling excited about the next generation of feminists in this city. Slutwalk 2012 made me realize that a movement’s capacity for self-criticism is a barometer of its strength. Good on you, Slutwalk organizers, for having the confidence to keep pushing back against victim-blaming, as well as the integrity to build a movement that learns from its mistakes.

In other news, Catholic school boards say they will fight back if the Ontario government legislates that gay kids in schools are entitled to name their own gay-straight alliances. Woe, the injustice! You keep speaking truth to power, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.

Less depressing:a stray dog ran across China in a race!

More depressing: U.S. congressmen are still arguing over whether pizza is a vegetable.

Katie Toth is a journalist, writer and and social media addict, usually typing about about reproductive politics and LGBT issues. You can find her at Religion Dispatches, Xtra! Canada, or her own friendly lil’ blog, No Pomo. She’ll be blogging weekly with news roundups from the forefront of LGBT/lady-business to soothe your Monday soul….well, if you find political antagonism soothing.