In the last seven months, tens of thousands of women have taken the streets as part of Slutwalk demonstrations across the world, standing up for women’s rights and resisting systemic violence against women.
While welcoming this fresh outpouring of protest, within Socialist Alternative there were also many concerns voiced about the Slutwalks. We began to discuss positive solutions to building and strengthening the movement to adequately combat women’s oppression.
The Minnesota Socialist Alternative Women’s Caucus proposed that the local branch organize a public forum titled “Dismantling Rape Culture, Dismantling Capitalism” on October 4, following the Minneapolis Slutwalk event on October 1.
We attended the Minneapolis Slutwalk, which drew about 1,000 people, and saturated the crowd with flyers advertising our public forum. Almost everyone that we approached took a flyer, and many eagerly engaged in conversation with us about combating women’s oppression.
The public forum, held three days later, drew 50 people - mostly young, new faces we met at the rally. For two of our three panelists, this was our first time speaking at a public event. But we had spent months studying, sharing experiences, and preparing our ideas, and we felt confident we had a crucial socialist perspective to contribute. We spoke on the depths of rape culture in our society, the roots of women’s oppression under capitalism, and what steps were needed to build a women’s movement that could fully dismantle rape culture and capitalism.
The crowd responded enthusiastically to the three speeches, and the open discussion portion of the meeting was filled with inspirational contributions. Most of the women and men in the room participated in the Slutwalk event, and those who spoke shared our political concerns.
It was generally agreed that the Slutwalks movement, while speaking out against the oppression of all women, has mainly attracted a certain layer of women and ignored the histories of others. Reclaiming of the word “slut” is a tactic that might feel empowering for many middle-class white women, but this has resulted in a mostly white, middle-class-led movement.
The overarching conclusion of the discussion was that in order to really stop the oppression of women, we have to combat the capitalist system that ferments oppression. We cannot end rape culture without demanding an end to the profit-driven media industry which systematically objectifies women; without demanding reproductive justice, or health care, or education, or ending poverty.
Furthermore, we cannot tackle the oppression of women generally without linking our struggle to the wider class struggle, the fight against racism, for LGBT rights, and against all the divide-and-conquer tactics used to maintain capitalism.
Out of this event, a number of young women have agreed to join Socialist Alternative. We have since been asked to put on the same public forum at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, by the LGBTQ Pride Club. As a new generation of women move into struggle against their oppression and the wider evils of capitalism, we are confident that Socialist Alternative will have a growing role to play.