Slutwalk Speech 2013

****Content warning: rape, rape culture, victim blaming***

I have been pretty busy over the last few weeks so haven’t managed to write anything new, I am hoping to put up something this weekend around prevention. I read and write rape prevention content all day at work and sometimes it’s hard to do it again in the evenings!  However, what’s on my mind today is the Select Committee Inquiry into Sexual Violence in New Zealand, the oral submission dates have been posted and I will have 5 minutes to speak to the personal submission I wrote as a sector worker. Whenever I need inspiration for speeches for work I always go to the writings of Andrea Dworkin and bell hooks as they have helped me many times before. For now I am posting the speech I gave fior Slutwalk last year which incorporates some of the teachings of these two great feminists.

Kia ora and thank you all for coming along today, and to those of you who turn up each year to make a stand against rape culture.

According to Rape Crisis tikanga, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge those women who have come before me, who have struggled and fought on our behalf so that we may be here today. For those of us in the now, for the mahi we all do in carrying on this legacy. And for those who are yet to come, partly for whom we stand here today in the hope that this mahi will no longer be necessary.

I would also like to acknowledge that the words I speak today are a compilation of the knowledge of Rape Crisis womyn and many other feminist womyn who have said all of these things before, and more elegantly than I.

As many of you will know the Slut Walk began in 2011 in Toronto when a male police officer told a group of women that they should avoid dressing like ‘sluts’ in order not to be victimised. Since then SlutWalk’s have taken place each year all over the world. Each of these marches has a different Kaupapa or ideology depending on where they are, so today I will speak to you about what this march means for us, the women of Rape Crisis.

Our aim for this march is not to call ourselves sluts, as we do not believe that such a thing exists. It is useful here to note that ‘reclaim’ has multiple meanings. Reclaim has its origins in the Latin reclamare: “to cry out” or “appeal” in protest. Our SlutWalk movement is about ‘crying out’ against a word that is used to police women’s sexualities according to sexist binaries. We want to highlight that ‘slut’ has no meaning beyond what patriarchy imbues it with. Our aim is to highlight the way slut is used against many women to police our sexuality and behaviour, to degrade and humiliate us. We want to draw attention to the way that slut is used to justify sexual violence, to wrongly blame survivors for sexual abuse and minimise the actions of perpetrators.

We want to highlight the way ‘slut’ contributes to a culture of victim blame. The way slut contributes to rape myth and the false belief that survivors are to blame for sexual violence because of:

the way she dresses; the way she walks; the way she talks; the way she sits; the ways she stands; she was out after dark; she invited a man into her house; she said hello to a male neighbour; she opened the door; she looked at a man; a man asked her what time it was and she told him; she sat on her father’s lap; she got into a car with a man; she got into a car with her best friends father or her uncle or her teacher; she flirted; she got married; she had sex once with a man and then said no the next time; she is not a virgin; she talks with men; she talks with her father; she went to a movie alone; she took a walk alone; she went shopping alone; she smiled; she is home alone; she is asleep… 

And so it goes on.

We are here today because we oppose this rape culture that blames survivors for the crimes of offenders. We oppose this rape culture that makes excuses for perpetrators and fails to hold them accountable for their choices. We are here because we oppose this rape culture that tells women what we should wear, where we should go, who we should socialise with, that our sexuality is equal to our worth and value as individuals. We oppose this rape culture that tells each of us that we are not valuable just as we are.

Rape culture teaches us to be afraid. A culture of domination relies on a cultivation of fear in order to ensure societies obedience. So as we come together today we do the work of challenging rape culture, we choose to move against fear, against the alienation and separation that rape culture encourages and we choose to love. The choice to love is the choice to connect and find ourselves in one another. As bell hooks has said we have to be courageous. When we learn to face our fears we embrace love, and while our fear may not go away it will not stand in the way. Love is a practice and when we act, as we do today, we do not feel inadequate or powerless, we foster light within ourselves and when we shine that light we draw to us, and are drawn to others with that light, and we are not alone.

I stand here today knowing that the way we are going about sending this message is for many people controversial. I acknowledge that for many people this march is not part of their pathway towards ending rape culture. But there are many feminist pathways towards this goal, and this is only one of them. Each of us can, do, and should, act in ways that support the multiple pathways of creating a world free from sexual violence.

When my colleague and I spoke of this day we imagined a festival full of families, music, dancing and colour. We talked about a celebration of our community, a practice run for the day when not one person is raped. Here today we practice for that day but we also help to create it. We walk towards that day where rape no longer exists and we will begin the real practice of equality. And on that day we will for the first time in our lives begin to experience freedom. Here today we help to make that day a reality, and I hope that each of us will be able to experience at least one day of freedom before we die

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Rape Crisis Philosophy and Te Ao Maori

I’m still working on my condensed version of the piece I wrote about the Turangi rape case, but hopefully I will get that up this weekend! In the meantime, in respect of the acknowledgement of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi last week, I thought I would write a brief piece about Rape Crisis philosophy and the influence of two pūrākau or stories on this philosophy. This is recounted from my Tauiwi understanding of these stories so am happy to hear if anyone has a better understanding.

Rape Crisis philosophy is based on a bi cultural and collectivist philosophy formed in the early 70s during the survivor movement. Here are two stories from Te Ao Maori that I have been told that discuss sexual violence, there are probably many others with different interpretations.

One pūrākau that discusses rape and incest is that of Tane and Hine Ahuone. Tane, who was an atua (a godlike entity) went in search of a female entity. No female form existed at this time except the female essence of mother earth. A female form was created from this essence by Tane and the other atua, when Tane took clay and fashioned it into the form of a woman. He breathed life into the form and invigorated it, creating Hine Ahuone. Tane and Hine Ahuone had children together, one of whom was called Hine Titama. Over time Tane and Hine Titama had a relationship together. One day, Hine Titama  asked about her father. When she discovered that Tane was her father this caused her great distress and she ran into the realms of the night. Tane followed her to bring her back and she replied to him through karanga, she told him to look after their children in life and she would look after them in death and she became Hine-nui-i-te-po, the guardian of death. This story highlights (in my understanding) that the relationship between Tane and Hine Titama was not right, and required action to be taken in order to return balance to that relationship. Hence why Tane was to be the kaimanaaki of their descendents in life and Hine the role of kaimanaaki in death.

One other aspect of Rape Crisis philosophy that pertains to one of these stories, is the fact that it does not distinguish between bodily rape and the rape that many women feel of their land and their culture. This acknowledges that in New Zealand colonisation forced the separation of Maori wahine from their land. Within Te Ao Maori women are considered as te whare tangata (the house of humanity) and therefore are treated with the same consideration as Papatūānuku, who is the creator of all life. This separation of Tangata whenua and the land, parallels the separation of Ranganui and Papatūānuku by their children in the Maori stories of the original sin, this separation was considered a rape, and act of violence as the parents were separated without their consent (Taonga, n.d.).

Hinetitama by Robyn Kahukiwa

Hinetitama, 1980, by Robyn Kahukiwa (1940– ).