Interview: Amber Rose’s SlutWalk Aims To Unite All In Divided Times
“Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” affirmed Constable Michael Sanguinetti of the Toronto Police Department to a small group of law students back in 2011. Albeit perverse, Sanguinetti’s comments sparked a worldwide movement known today as the SlutWalk.
Each year, the SlutWalk aims to protest rape culture, victim blaming, derogatory labeling and sexual assault in an all-inclusive, non-judgmental space. In its seventh year, the movement has found success in over 200 countries.
While Amber Rose didn’t personally begin the SlutWalk movement, her status as a celebrity, as well as her candor regarding the importance of feminism and sex positivity, have helped propel the message behind the SlutWalk to the forefront. Her third annual SlutWalk will take place in Los Angeles on Oct. 1, and will be hosted by radio personality, Big Boy. Other than a walk to L.A.’s Pershing Square, the day festival features live entertainment, vendors, and services regarding sex and health education such as free HIV testing, information booths and breast cancer exams.
This year, The Amber Rose Foundation has also commissioned USC Dornsife for the OPENed Women’s Conference, which will be held on Saturday, Sept. 30. The conference features guest speakers who will discuss five pillars of personal education: “Know Your Rights,” “Sex Talk and Relationships,” “Activism,” “Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy,” and “Policy.” The keynote speaker of the event is Debbie Allen. Rose hopes that the event as a whole will leave attendees feeling empowered and educated about about themselves and the world around them.
VIBE Vixen caught up with Rose to discuss the importance of events like the SlutWalk. She made a note to mention that especially in these trying, divisive times, women need to join together in solidarity, to ensure that messages about feminism are not drowned out.
VIBE VIXEN: There are SlutWalks all over the world. How did you take the reigns of the SlutWalk in Los Angeles?
Amber Rose: Like you said, SlutWalks have been going on all over the world, so I just decided to have my own. I live in Los Angeles, so it really just kind of worked out that way. It became the SlutWalk in Los Angeles, the Amber Rose SlutWalk, but I just decided to have my own under my foundation, The Amber Rose Foundation.
For those who are unsure of what happens at a SlutWalk, what are some of the things that people going to it can come to expect?
This year, we have a women's conference, which is on Sept. 30, so it's the more educational side of feminism; rape culture, finances, owning your sexuality. Then, the actual SlutWalk- this year we're walking a full mile, and then, we walk into Pershing Square, it's a big open space. We have a festival from 12-5, and we'll have guest speakers, poets, live entertainment. O.T. Genesis is our headlining performer this year. We have a full protest, and then we have a celebration for women at the SlutWalk.
The money raised at the event, is it donated to the Amber Rose Foundation?
Yes, it is. [The Amber Rose Foundation] is a non-profit. We're on our third year now, so we're not even profitable yet. Basically what that means is that all the money that we ever got for donations goes to the actual SlutWalk. We don't have any money left over for the next year. We basically have to start over every year, and it takes a year to put on. That's a misconception, I make no money from the SlutWalks ever! I just put in all my work. It makes me happy, babe, it's my life's work.
How else does this year's event differ from the previous two years?
Last year, we only walked about three blocks, and this year, we're walking a full mile. Also, it's only the third annual one, so it's really brand new. The first year, we didn't have any sponsors, we didn't really have anyone who wanted to work with us because they didn't understand what the SlutWalk was. It was really difficult because I asked all my friends with money for money to get us started, and that's how we got it started.
Now, it's pretty good! We have really great sponsors. Last year, we had Beats by Dre, we have Coca-Cola, Budweiser, and the first year, we didn't have anything. So, it's been growing every year. The first year was 2,500 people, the second year was 11,000 people! It was crazy. I was kind of running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I was trying to get things under control, and I had a lot of people to entertain that day. This year, I'm definitely more prepared. I think that we might actually have about 20,000 people this year.
For the OPENed Women's Conference, I read that you have a lot of panelists to come and discuss certain topics. There's people discussing activism, people discussing sex and relationships. Was there a formula when it came to deciding who would be speaking at the event?
We have about 24 interns, they're young girls. We sat with them and asked them 'what do you think we need to have at the Women's Conference?' and we all brainstormed together. That's how we decided. We have really strong women this year. We have Lisa Bloom, which is 'wow.' We have feminists who have been doing this for a long time who have been educating women over at USC. Tickets are still available.
I want people to leave with confidence, have a better education about their finances, sex and relationships, owning their sexuality and not conforming to society's norms. There's ways that men and women think we should be, and how we should dress, what we should say, and hopefully they walk away enlightened.
The speakers are also incredibly diverse, was that intentional?
Oh babe, of course!
That's what the SlutWalk is all about! [laughs] It's about body positivity, and we've incorporated the LGBT community. We don't really believe in labels, but if I had to say it, it would be gay, transgender, non-binary, tomgirl, lesbian, straight girl, bi, it doesn't matter, fat, skinny, tall, short...we embrace everyone and love everyone, and we want everyone to know that they're not alone. We support everyone, and we definitely wanted this to be extremely diverse, for sure.
Do you think that there can be power in the word "slut," or is it merely used in the derogatory sense?
That's the controversial thing about it. There are some feminists who are like, 'we need to stop using the word 'slut,'' and so, I agree. In a perfect world, that would be amazing. But that's why I refer to myself as a slut, for the girl that is in high school and is being called the school slut. If a slut is because I kissed a boy, then you know what? Fine. I'll be a slut. If it's because I had sex and I don't wanna be with that guy anymore, and I made a conscious decision to not be in a relationship with someone who treats me like sh*t, and they want to call me a slut because of that? Fine. I'll be a slut.
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Me personally, I embrace it. [People] called me a slut all the time because of the men that I've dated, that I've loved, that I have been with for years. They still won't let that go. For me, that's an easier way to just embrace it, instead of sitting at home and crying over it. I definitely helped a lot of girls around the world to just be like, 'I'm not gonna drop out of school because of this, I'm not going to be depressed and want to kill myself because of this, I'm gonna embrace it.'"
Use those words as motivation.
In your own words, do you think that you're the best person for the job of educating people about sex positivity?
You know, I really think there's a lot of women out there who can do that as well. I don't feel that I'm the poster child for it. I just feel like I'm one of many, and if I can help the cause, then I will.
Do you think some female celebrities are afraid to take this particular approach to educating other people about sex positivity?
Yeah, absolutely. For the people at home...when you become famous, it's a very weird thing. You have a manager, you have a publicist, you have an image. You see celebrities, and they came out in a certain light, and it's their team behind them who are making them look this way. Then all of a sudden, you start seeing who they really are as a person. They kind of lose their fanbase a little bit, and they gain a different fanbase. 'Oh, that's not the person we initially knew,' but that was never them anyway! They kind of have people around them saying 'that's not good for you, you can't talk about this, 'your image' that, you're a mom, you can't possibly talk about sex, you need to cover up, act accordingly.'
They tried to do that with me, but I rebelled against it, I was like 'this is complete bullsh*t.' I'm going to be exactly who I am, and for the people who love me for it, for the people who don't like it, they don't have to follow me.
Given our political climate this past year, what do you think is the most powerful thing about the SlutWalk and the Women's Conference?
I just spoke about this with PBS, and they asked me, "racism and sexism are very similar, but what's more important?" Obviously, I don't feel like one is more important than the other. I feel like racism has been going on since the beginning of time, and it was so prevalent at one time. It never really went away, but we've had little spurts throughout history, especially with what's going on right now, where it's extremely prevalent. Sexism has been going on since the beginning of time, but a lot of people sweep it under the rug, and they don't like to talk about it, because it's taboo and it's uncomfortable.
Bringing back the bush and the picture that everyone was talking about, people are uncomfortable with a real woman's body and a woman owning her sexuality. Also, rape culture and victim blaming, how people can ask questions like 'well, what did you have on? Why were you at his house so late? Why did you text him that you wanted to have sex with him, but you didn't have sex with him, so how did he rape you? You told him that you were going to,' not knowing that you can change your mind at any moment. That's why I'm here to talk about those things, those touchy issues. Everybody talks about racism, but not a lot of people are talking about sexism. That's kind of my thing, where I'm bringing that out into the light.
That's a good thing to bring about, because this administration is just diminishing the dangers of sexism and saying all of these awful things, not noticing that these sentiments are triggering to some people.
"Grab her by the pu**y."
"When I run into a girl, I can just grab her by the pu**y."
You can't do that. You cannot do that just because you're powerful and have money. What happens with that? Who the f**k is she gonna tell? She's gonna call 9-1-1? She's gonna go to the cops in her local neighborhood? They're not gonna do sh*t if a powerful man rapes her.
Bill Cosby. Women waited 20 years to say something because in Bill Cosby's prime, he was equivalent to President Obama- he was everyone's father figure and everyone loved him so much. So when someone like that rapes you, who are you gonna tell? No one will believe you. He's an amazing person, he's married, he's happy, he's done everything perfectly. So you wait 20 years, because one lady came out, and these women are at home watching TV like "oh my God, he did something to me, too. I can't let her be alone in this." Now, there's 52 women who don't know each other from all over the world. It's not a conspiracy to get Bill Cosby in jail. They get nothing from that.
They just want justice.
They want justice! So think about how many women all over the world who are getting raped and victimized by powerful men like Donald Trump, and they don't say anything, because they can't. No one will do sh*t, no one gives a f**k, and it's horrible.
Registration to the Third Annual Amber Rose Slutwalk is still open. If interested, you can register here.