Some may remember the story of a woman who went to Toronto police after she was raped and was told by an officer that "women should avoid dressing like sluts." This incident sparked a movement and here in Philadelphia the March to End Rape Culture. Loraine Ballard Morrill spoke with one of the organizers Robin Strough about the event which takes place September 24, 2016 at the Thomas Paine Plaza, Philadelphia starting at 11:00.
"Whether it be something as seemingly benign as cat-calling or as extreme as a rapist receiving a lenient jail sentence because their accuser was intoxicated or the rapists’ privilege, rape culture is a persistent and serious problem in today’s society. On the front lines of the battle to expose and eliminate rape culture is Christie Eastburn, organizer of Philadelphia’s annual March To End Rape Culture."
On the cold and windy morning of October 3, I bundled up in two shirts and a jacket to march through downtown Philadelphia. But beside me, dozens walked naked as part of the 2015 March to End Rape Culture (MTERC), also known as “my body, my choice.”
Spearheaded by the Haverford Women*s Center, a group of about 20 Bryn Mawr and Haverford students went to Thomas Payne Plaza to take part in the MTERC rally. Formerly known as the “Slutwalk,” the march was, according to the official website, “rebranded as the March to End Rape Culture in an effort to be more inclusive and appeal to a wider audience.” Walkers were welcomed by local organizations such as “Philly Queer” and “Philadelphia Socialist.” ...
The March to End Rape Culture, formally known as the “Slut Walk”, is an event that has been occurring in cities all throughout the country for the last five years. For Philadelphia, thisyear’s march occurred on Oct. 3rd at 11 a.m. beginning at JFK Boulevard. It is the 3rd consecutive year that Philadelphia has participated in holding the event. Each year has had much larger turnouts than the previous, as well as more experienced speakers. The event attracted a widely diverse group of men and women and a wide range of guests, speakers and sponsorships. Many of the speakers had colorful voices all with unique perspectives on the event’s cause and future fights. Some told stories, others read poetry, and powerful speeches were given at the beginning and end of the march.
After the speakers were finished there were several dance and musical performances. One dance troop, “The —— Regime” featured group of talented young women who did routines to songs “featuring strong female leads” such as Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, and Rihanna. By adding musical guests and performers, the organizers really added a modern touch that had been missing among previous years.
Under gray skies at the 2015 March to End Rape Culture, Nellie Fitzpatrick relayed the story of Chrissy Lee Polis, a transgender woman who was beaten in 2011 after attempting to use a women’s bathroom.
“This happened to Chrissy because of how these people perceived her,” said Fitzpatrick, the city’s director of LGBT Affairs. “Because she wasn’t good enough to simply do what every single person here does every day: go to the bathroom.”
Three days after the march, Philadelphia witnessed the 18th murder of a transgender woman of color in America this year when 22-year-old Kiesha Jenkins was attackedin Logan. Police arrested a man in connection to the murder yesterday.
Supposedly, our culture is opposed to rape. We like to think that all good people are as offended by sexual assault as they are by, say, cannibalism. Yet, rape happens every day to people of all ages.
And the perpetrators aren’t all barbarous, dead-eyed monsters; they’re other humans, often close to those they abuse. Rapists can have loving families and respectable jobs; they are simply people who choose, for some reason, to disregard consent.
Pretending that rape only happens in specific communities or is a crime committed by certain types of people is a fairy tale that allows us to avoid looking at how our culture allows sexual assault to happen.
“Rape culture” is increasingly being used to talk about the ways we implicitly condone rape, make it easier for it to happen and harder to combat. It refers to the ways that we talk about sex, gender, relationships and power that inadvertently contribute to a climate where people are put at risk and disbelieved when they try to report. What are some examples?
Just this past Saturday, Thomas Paine Plaza was flooded with over 1,000 feminist activists and supporters for Philly’s March to End Rape Culture. Many walked around topless, some wore tight-fitting, short dresses which are the garments that rape is often blamed on, and others wore the clothes that they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted. What did I wear this weekend amongst the sea of half-naked, beautiful, powerful activists? You guessed it! A Thor costume.
It’s strange to think that cosplaying Thor is a multifaceted and complex decision or functions as anything more significant than simply demonstrating an admiration for a fictional character. Thor is the god of thunder, child of Oden, heir to the throne of Asgard, and owner of a powerful hammer called Mjolnir that can both create force fields and destroy anything in its path. It’s simple — Thor is kickass, who wouldn’t want to dress up as this demigod? But being Thor this past weekend was as symbolic and as substantial for me as the march itself.
The March to End Rape Culture is an annual march through center city raising awareness about rape culture and how it affects everyone in society today. This event will be a monumental occasion for Philadelphian’s to learn about the widespread issues related to rape culture and what can be done to put an end to it. It is also a supportive and empowering place for survivors of rape and abuse to speak out and discover local resources that are ready and willing to help everyone overcome the obstacles that society has placed in front of them. Lastly, the march is the perfect opportunity for allies to join with survivors in taking a stand against rape culture and say ENOUGH!
“Sluts are like unicorns: They are both imaginary concepts.”
“My clothes are not my consent.”
“Only yes means yes.”
The participants of Saturday’s March to End Rape Culture carried signs speaking out against sexual violence and objectification. More than 500 Philadelphians, 50 Penn students among them, gathered at Love Park to protest rape culture. The Philadelphia march, formerly known as the SlutWalk, started in Toronto in 2011 as a response to police comment that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to avoid unwanted sexual attention. It has since spread to cities around the U.S. and the world.