Feminist protest movement “Stomps and Hollers” in Noho
Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 15:10
While parents and Smith students window-shopped downtown during Family Weekend, a crowd gathered in front of Northampton City Hall, dressed in everything from jeans to Guy Fawkes masks. They chanted "Blame the system! Not the victim!" and many waved cardboard signs bearing anti-rape messages. This was Stomp & Holler Northampton, an event modeled after the international Slutwalk demonstrations.
The Northampton event drew about 200 participants, although people came and went throughout the day. It began last Saturday at 11 a.m., with sign-making in Lampron Park. Participants made signs that said "A ho can say no," "When a girl walks in with a round thing in your face you RESPECT HER," "Ask me what I'm asking for" and "It's not sex without consent." Then the crowd marched to City Hall, where nine participants gave speeches.
Andrea Bredbeck, the keynote speaker at Slutwalk Washington D.C., who is currently working on a documentary called "Life After Rape," spoke about her personal experiences as a rape survivor and urged the crowd to educate the next generation.
"There is no little boy who kneels to pray at night and says, ‘Oh God, I will be the best little boy in the world if only you will let me grow up to be a rapist,'" she said.
Lorelei Erisis, another speaker, spoke about creating a more inclusive feminist movement and her experiences as a straight white male before she identified as a woman. "When I decided to transition, all of that privilege [I had] went away," she said. "Trans women of color have it a hell of a lot harder than I do, and what I'm talking about today is lifting up those people who have it harder than we do. I see people who are being oppressed turning that oppression on their brothers and sisters!"
Slutwalks first started happening last January, when a Toronto police officer giving a campus safety information session at York University told students that they should avoid "dressing like sluts" to prevent sexual assault, sparking a series of demonstrations now known as "the Slutwalk movement." Slutwalks have been held in New York, Austin, Montreal, Mumbai.
In a departure from other Slutwalks, the Northampton Slutwalk was not a "Slutwalk" at all. Instead, organizers chose to call the event "Stomp & Holler; Because We've Had Enough Northampton: In Solidarity with Slutwalk." Pamphlets passed out at the event stated that "out of respect for, and solidarity with, the organizations and people who have issued critiques of Slutwalk, we have officially changed our name." According to the "Stomp & Holler" Facebook fan page, "There have been multiple critiques of Slutwalk in the past few weeks including, but not limited to, the letter from Black Women's Blueprint. These critiques state that SlutWalk has not made room for people of color and has been predominately gender-normative."
"An Open Letter from Black Women to the Slutwalk" questions the use of the word ‘slut' as a tool to draw attention to victim-blaming, stating, "We do not have the privilege or the space to call ourselves ‘slut' without validating the already historically entrenched ideology and recurring messages about what and who the Black woman is."
One of the organizers of Stomp & Holler, Stephanie Fleury, said the Northampton event was more about ending victim-blaming, rather than reclaiming the word ‘slut.' "The Black Women's Blueprint was the primary reason we decided to change the name. We felt that any impediment to women of color being involved should be consciously removed," she said by email. "There were also several local women's rights groups refusing to be involved due to the use of the word ‘slut.' None of the organizers were personally interested in trying to reclaim the word, but rather were speaking out against rape culture, [and] it did not make sense to exclude these groups and individuals on the basis of a word."
Flyers and pamphlets handed out at the event included resources for rape survivors and organizations that promote sex positivity and consent. The next organizational meeting for Stomp & Holler Northampton is on Sunday, Nov. 6, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Media Education Foundation on Masonic Street.