From the moment the first call for a SlutWalk in the US went out, the AF3IRM membership – transnational women who are im/migrants or whose families are im/migrants from Latin America, Asia, and Africa – has been analyzing and discussing this burgeoning movement to address the issue of sexual violence and continuing victimization of rape victims by police, the justice system and other agents of authority.
It is a testament to the compelling nature of SlutWalk’s call against women’s victimization that we hung fire for months, hammering out our position and analyzing why, while we applaud the effort of those who organize SlutWalk, we remain uneasy about responding to such a call.
We realized that we compose the majority of sex trafficking victims in this country, who comprise the majority of those sold in the mail-order-bride system, who are the commodities offered in brothel houses ringing US military bases in and out of this country, who are the goods offered for sexual violation in prostitution. We who are and historically have been the “sluts” from whom traffickers, pimps, and other “authorities” of the global corporate sex trade realize $20 billion in earnings annually cannot, with a clear conscience, accept the term in reference to ourselves and our struggle against sexual violence and for women’s liberation.
We therefore feel it is our responsibility to address the organizers and participants of SlutWalk and remind them that Women’s Struggle Cannot and Should not Be Monochromatic.
We call upon the SlutWalk steering committee to reassess language use and re-examine how it is, in a sense, offensive to our history, how it is neglectful of historical and cultural sensitivity and competency. Indolent ideology only further pushes transnational women, women of color, away from the current mainstream feminist narrative. It prevents us from establishing a broad front that can create a powerfully dynamic and long-lasting women’s movement. The ebb-and-surge of the women’s movement in the US is clear enough an indictment of such neglect of the historic particularities of the condition of transnational women and women of color.
Our collective transnational histories are comprised of 500 years of colonization. As women and descendants of women from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, we cannot truly “reclaim” the word “Slut”. It was never ours to begin with. This label is one forced upon us by colonizers, who transformed our women into commodities and for the entertainment of US soldiers occupying our countries for corporate America. There are many variations of the label “slut”: in Central America it was “little brown fucking machines (LBFMs), in places in Asia like the Philippines, it was “little brown fucking machines powered by rice (LBFMPBRs). These events continue to this day, and it would be a grievous dishonor to our cousins who continue to struggle against imperialism, globalization and occupation in our families’ countries of origin to accept a label coming from a white police officer in the city of Toronto, Canada.
There are two pervasive pejorative words used for women globally, and “slut,” puta (in Spanish, Tagalog), sharmoota (Arabic), Jendeh (Farsi), Ahbeh (Lebanese) – is one. This label has become integrated in our languages and cultures, and has followed us across oceans into our own communities here in the United States. It has followed the poisonous spread of feudalism and capitalism into the economies and ultimately cultures of the global South, building its own systems of power and exploitation of women’s bodies. It has followed us into migration and still plagues us in our communities here in the United States. Women are treated and dismissed as “sluts”, “putas”, etc., as a product of both the structurally racist and sexist US society, as well as transplanted cultures from our families’ countries of origin.
We invite you, organizers of SlutWalk, to study how many times im/migrant women of color have been coerced into sex by immigration personnel, by border patrols, by jailors. Surely that will suffice to underscore why even the idea of joining a SlutWalk is like a massive boulder on our chests, squeezing out our breath, killing us, in effect.
We invite you, SlutWalk organizers, to peruse the catalog of women offered to men by mail-order bride agencies. Surely that would suffice to underscore why joining a SlutWalk would be equal to accepting an identity conferred on our being by this sexist, exploitative society of violence.
We invite you, SlutWalk organizers, to walk the brothel houses and see how our women are treated truly as “sluts” – i.e., mindless flesh with orifices from which profit can be made. Surely that would suffice to underscore why every fiber in our mind and being scream in protest at the word.
AF3IRM rejects this label; AFIIRM refuses this identity; AF3IRM views it as an abomination. It has been used to exacerbate class-exploitation, race and gender discrimination. AF3IRM prefers to work to eradicate it from the common vocabulary, along with other five-letter, four-letter, words derogatory of the humanity of womankind. More, AF3IRM works to eradicate the material social conditions which have made these words possible and acceptable.
We are not sluts. We are women, whose struggles are very much layered, trying to end the pervasive view of women as objects and commodities for profit and entertainment.
AF3IRM hopes this will serve as a basis for a dialogue with the Slut Walk organizers, because to achieve the egalitarian society we all aspire for, we need, will need, and have always needed a movement of women of all colors.
Thank you and we await your response.
In order to reach AF3IRM, please feel free to contact its officers from various regions:
National – Jollene Levid, AF3IRM National Chairperson, [email protected]
New York/New Jersey – Leilani Montes, Coordinator, [email protected]
Boston – Emelyn De La Pena, Coordinator, [email protected]
San Francisco/Bay Area– Katrina Socco, Lauren Funiestas, Co-Coordinators [email protected]
Los Angeles – Angela Bartolome, Coordinator, [email protected]
Irvine – Mona Lisa Navarro, Coordinator, [email protected]
Riverside – Gayle Palma, Coordinator, [email protected]
San Diego – Olive Panes, Coordinator, [email protected]