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On the London Slutwalk

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WHATEVER WE WEAR, WHEREVER WE GO
YES MEANS YES AND NO MEANS NO!

The main chant of Saturday afternoon. Also: THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKING, especially from the impressively ambulatory stiletto-heeled contingent.

HIJABS
HOODIES
HOTPANTS
OUR BODIES OUR CHOICE

THIS VIRGIN-WHORE DICHOTOMY IS GETTING PRETTY FUCKING OLD

RIVER SONG WOULDN’T STAND FOR THIS SHIT!

TWO WOMEN MURDERED EVERY WEEK BY PARTNERS OR EX-PARTNERS

WHAT WERE WOMEN WEARING IN LIBYA, CONGO, DARFUR WHEN THEY WERE RAPED?

Hundreds of red heart-shaped SLUTWALK STEWARD balloons.

Even more hundreds of the Socialist Worker contribution, in the usual SW fonts and format: NO MEANS NO b/w CLARKE MUST GO

Tourists on open-topped London tour buses, waving and cheering. Tourists sealed inside a yellow amphibious London Duck, nonplussed. Big cheers outside Fortnum and Mason, not that you can get anywhere near it at the moment, what with roadworks for the Piccadilly Two-Way and this also being the day for the Queen’s Birthday Trooping the Colour, which means that all the streets around the Mall are completely blocked off.

WE ARE ALL CHAMBERMAIDS. Carried by a woman with an Afro hairdo and a short gold sparkly pinafore worn over her dress. The idea goes viral over the course of the afternoon: more and more posters and hand-made placards, sometimes with a picture or a mention of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Turn Off The Blue Light: Sex Workers Need Human Rights, Not Legal Wrongs.

NO BAD WOMEN, JUST BAD LAWS

Huge pink banner, English Collective of Prostitutes, carried for a while by a woman in pink frilly underwear with hold-ups: ‘Haven’t you ever worked as a prostitute?’ she says. ‘Amateur!’ The Women Against Rape activist wants to give her a leaflet. ‘Stick it in my stocking-top, love.’

Just after the English Collective of Prostitutes: GLOBAL WOMEN’S STRIKE

An elderly woman, big hoop earrings, smart shades, white hair in bun, walking supported by a younger woman, herself using a stick. Selma James? I wonder, but no: a friend later shows me a picture of Selma on her iPhone, walking with Claire Glasman of WinVisible, who uses a wheelchair. Glasman’s poster says CARE CUTS = VIOLENCE VS OLDER AND DISABLED WOMEN. James’s says PENSIONER SLUT, with a little heart.

SLUTIDARITY!

Wigs, dos, locks, Mad Hatter hats, plastic Alice bands with stuck-on bunny ears.

Huge turquoise banner: BLACK WOMEN’S RAPE ACTION PROTEST.

Low-key young white woman, customised white T-shirt: I’M A RAPE SURVIVOR AND I’M NOT GOING TO STAND FOR THIS SHIT.

PRO-CHOICE: ABORT THE TORIES

Middle-aged white woman, deep tan, big silver earrings, black T-shirt with logo I HAVE THE PUSSY SO I MAKE THE RULES, black miniskirt in all-over red SLUT print, lacy black tights and pointy shoes; marching, laughing, hand in hand with a plainly dressed white man.

Middle-aged Asian woman in Home Counties wedding-guest garb: big white hat, white linen shirt, long print dress; box-fresh trainers just visible underneath. And the green-and-lavender suffragette sash over the top.

Woman in white headscarf with Palestinian colours, Arabic writing, and in English: HIJAB LIBERATES; FRANCE OPPRESSES. Not many women in hijab present; the odd individual, no groups.

The other old favourite demo-chant:

What do we want?
LIBERATION!
When do we want it?
NOW!

– except when done by a small group just behind me, who are demanding SEX instead.

A young woman with breasts bared over a green satin cutaway basque, pink love-hearts painted over nipples, shocking-pink suede chaps.

Two New York Dolls lookalikes: black Johnny Thunders wigs, red satin basques and devil horns, sachets of ketchup tucked into black fishnet hold-ups, and sensible Teva walking sandals. The crotch of each adorned with an enormous inflatable pink penis, with NO MEANS NO scribbled on.

MY CLOTHES ARE NOT LOUDER THAN MY VOICE

An impression, perhaps mistaken, that an unusually high proportion of the crowd wear spectacles – or is it just that there are lots of sunglasses, which isn’t surprising, what with all the sun?

JUST COS YOU CAN SEE MY BUTT
DOESN’T MEAN THAT I’M A SLUT!

Alternatively:

IF YOU WANT TO STOP OUR RANTS
KEEP YOUR DICK INSIDE YOUR PANTS!

Laurie Penny, blogger and columnist, showing off her graffitoed tummy: RIOTS NOT DIETS!

Zoe Margolis, blogger and author of Girl with a One-Track Mind, wearing a ‘Girl with A One-Track Mind’ tank, doing an interview at the side.

Young woman, backless dress, scribbled-on arrow proclaiming: OMG! BRA-STRAP!

A little tan dog – a Staffs – in a pale-green lacy camisole.

A young woman with a snuggly fake-fur cuddly-animal head-dress – she must have been boiling! – and matching backpack. Who is this animal? It was sort of familiar looking and there were a few of them around.

QUEER RESISTANCE: thick black caps on pink chiffon.

TESCO BRAN FLAKES. MEGAVALUE 800g PACK WHOLEGRAIN CHEERIOS: cereal-packet branding on the folded-out placard backs.

Surprisingly few children – why? Fear of kettles? A pity, and maybe something to work on for next time.

Middle-aged white man in black Smiley Culture T-shirt: POLICE OFFICER, GIMME A REASON! Quite.

Rococo drawing of a putto, a colouring-book picture of a little blond boy with a red trainset stuck on. LIVE NOW, DIE LATER, it says. I ask the man holding it what it means. He says it’s an all-purpose placard, he took it on the TUC march too, and it always comes in handy for letting his children see where he is.

NICE MEN DON’T RAPE: a young man in a smart dark business suit with a pink satin tutu over the top.

A boy, plainly dressed, with a home-made placard: DON’T CUM IN UNLESS YOURE ASKED!

MY BODY IS MY SEX TEMPLE: scribbled in eye-pencil on a young man’s chest.

A plainly dressed young man – a voyeur, a rubberneck, I wonder, then notice his boring-looking khaki T-shirt, which has a Banksy picture of two policemen on it, snogging.

Scattered women, older, distinguished and familiar-looking, in the bright-pink WOMEN AGAINST RAPE T-shirt, with the old clenched-fist-on-a-uterus Women’s Liberation colophon. It turns up a surprising lot today, on the chests of older women, and very young ones, and men, and it’s great to see it back like this.

A woman in hijab maybe, a beige loose-weave scarf – or maybe it was a pashmina worn overhead as sun-protection. Why don’t more women do this? Doesn’t it make sense, particularly at the moment, when so many women of so many ethnicities habitually wear big silky scarves round their necks?

A very cool woman in an extraordinary outfit, half City skirt suit, half tart kit, split strictly down her middle – one posh stocking, one tart one, one black shoe, one scarlet patent. Holding hands with a small girl wearing a fairy dress.

BUFFY WOULDN’T STAND FOR THIS SHIT EITHER

At the rally in Trafalgar Square at the end: a young black woman in orange high-vis waistcoast: LEGAL OBSERVER. She’s got her rucksack on under the waistcoat, making her look like she has a hump.

One more hijab – plain black jersey al-amira. Worn, I discover, by Sanum Ghafoor, who is a speaker. Ghafoor tweets as @Strange_Sanum and posts short films on YouTube: The Best 5 Minute History Lesson on Egypt. Ever; March 26th London Protests – What Really Happened; You Know You’re a Muslim When…

Other speakers, I later check on the Slutwalk website, include: Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project; Chitra Nagarajan, Gender Action for Peace and Security; Claire Glasman, WinVisible; Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape; Niki Adams and Sheila Farmer, English Collective of Prostitutes; Kitty Farmer, Rape Crisis; Vicki Simister, UK Anti-Street Harassment; Jane Fae, Caroline Coon; Caitlin Hayward-Tapp, Elizabeth Head, Anastasia Richardson, Slutwalk organisers.

Then suddenly, like the cavalry, it’s the World Naked Bike Ride 2011 – hundreds of nudists, some in body-paint and novelty headgear, all of them on bikes. Most of the men – including, dismayingly, several on Boris bikes which they will later pass on to other people – really aren’t wearing any pants whatsoever. Pretty well all the women are.

I asked a woman in a red bikini why this was. Is it a legal thing, is it comfort, or what? She said it’s because she did the ride two years ago completely naked, and she hated getting so many cameras shoved right up at her crotch. Most of the other women agree with her, she says, but the men either don’t mind or seem to quite like it.

Comments on “On the London Slutwalk”

  1. alex says:

    What about KEEP OFF THE SPROUTS!

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