August 25, 2014

My Body, My Choices- Thoughts on the Chicago SlutWalk

Over breakfast on Saturday morning, I reminded the children that we were going to a rally. To protest, as I simplified for the children, when people are mean and hurt other people, then say it's the other person's fault because of what they were wearing. I told them, as I often told them, "You're in charge of your body, and nobody is allowed to touch your body without your permission."

"There will be lots of people with signs there. I think most people will have signs. Would you like to carry signs, too?"


"What would you like them to say?"

DD answered in typical DD fashion: "You should wear whatever you want to wear because you get to wear what you want and people shouldn't be mean to you because of what you wear and you get to wear what you want and if people are mean that's not okay because they don't get to choose what you wear and you do get to choose what you wear and they don't get to be mean to you."

"That's an awful lot to put on a sign. How about, Wear What You Want To Wear?"

"Yes! Can it be pink?"

"Yup! SI, what do you want your sign to say?"

"How about, I'm in charge of my body?"

And so I made the kids signs, and RH freaked out. "I want a sign! I want a sign!"

As we were on our way out the door, I grabbed a sharpie and whipped up a quick little sign for her, without asking first. Considering that RH is the most stubborn kid I've ever known, I thought a message she's approve of was that she makes the decisions regarding her body. This is already as true as it can be for a two year old. "What's it say, mommy?"

"My body, my choices."


"Good enough."

Forty minutes later, we were at the fourth annual Chicago SlutWalk.

Of course the kids were a hit. Everybody who stopped and asked what their signs said got an earful. SI especially loved telling people EXACTLY what her sign said, and what that meant. She got a lot of high five from essentially topless women.

I was so proud of them. I was so proud of them for asking intelligent questions all afternoon, and being patient through over a mile of marching. I was so proud of them for being polite and kind to the people there.

I took a picture of them with their signs, and when we got home, I put it on the Becoming SuperMommy facebook page and twitter.

Within hours, the backlash came.

Let me be clear- I have taken my children to SlutWalk twice before. I have published pictures of my children at SlutWalk twice before.

Never have I experienced anything like this.

Maybe it's because all the responses I've had to previous year's SlutWalk posts have been so positive, I was blindsided. And more than that, I was hurt.

Because, knowing full well that one should NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER engage with a troll... I responded to them.

And what they said pained me in my soul. Not because of the personal nature of the attacks, that didn't bother me at all. It was their profound blindness to reality.

What got to me was knowing that in attempting to help my children escape and change a culture that devalues them for being female, that will condemn them for what they wear and blame them for their own victimhood, I have exposed them to a form of that violence.

I knew it was possible that as we marched people would shout unkind things. I was ready to talk to them about it. To teach them.

What I wasn't ready for was being personally attacked for teaching them. And I realize now how profoundly naive that was.

The fact is that we live in a culture where events like the SlutWalk are still necessary, because we live in a culture where college students are devoting their time to inventing nail polish that detects date rape drugs. We live in a culture where thousands of people think it's a good business idea to produce rape-proof jogging shorts.

And there IS a need, and a market for those things, because sexual violence is RAMPANT.

When they go to college, I don't want to have to take my daughters shopping for anti-rape pants and nail polish that changes colors when exposed to roofies. I don't want my children going to high school and being able to relate to a new generation of teen political anthems, like this punch-to-the-gut country song:

Yes. There's a country song about Steubenville-esque high school date rape. Because this story is so damn common that it's horrifically relatable.

THIS is the world we live in.

This is the place I have to teach my daughters to navigate. To survive and thrive in.

This is the world I have dedicated myself to changing so that the burden my daughters bear will be lighter.

I took my children to a place where women were dressed provocatively, some wearing only thongs and pasties. Because the point is that IT DOESN'T MATTER. It doesn't matter what a person wears- they are STILL a person. They are STILL in charge of what happens to their body.

It doesn't matter if they expose their body, that's not an invitation to ignore their autonomy. It's not an excuse to dismiss their ability to say 'no.' It's not public property, even when it's visible.

After the hate mail started coming, I asked M if he was glad we took the children.

"Of course I am," he said. "While I was walking, and reading all the signs and everything, it really hit home for me in a way it never had before. How one out of three women... and we have three daughters..."

I will not apologize for taking my daughters to SlutWalk.

If I had sons, I would be even more determined to take them. Because it is our sons more than our daughters who constantly hear messages that women exist for their pleasure. While I've had many fears about raising girls in my years of motherhood, until Saturday I hadn't really understood what it must be like to fear raising boys. To fear the mechanism of our society that wants to taint them, to train them, to pat them on the head and permit them to become abusers.

I would take my sons to the SlutWalk, and say to them- "These are people. All of these people are PEOPLE. And when you see somebody in next to nothing, or naked, they do not stop being people. They don't suddenly lose their right to control what happens to them. Remember that for the rest of your life."

I will not apologize for teaching my daughters that they control their bodies, and their fates.

But I will apologize for this world, because I am a part of it. And until I can be confident that I have more than done my part to make it safe for them to exist here, as girls and then women, the guilt that has plagued me most of my life will continue.

I am responsible for them. For now. For a short window in time, I am in charge of keeping them safe- and more importantly, teaching them to remain safe.

I'm going to keep doing it the best way I know.

At SlutWalk '14

At SlutWalk '12

At SlutWalk '11


  1. I am stunned. Open-mouthed, slack-jawed, speechless STUNNED at the responses you got on Twitter. I don't understand how someone can have facts in front of their face and still say something doesn't exist. Just because you don't personally have experience with something, DOESN'T mean it's not real. I also have three daughters, and your husband's comment just sent chills down my spine. Also, I recall the statistic being 1 in 4 when I was in college. What the hell happened that now it's 1 in 3? How did we go from 25% of all women will be sexually assaulted to 33% of all women will be sexually assaulted?? How did that number INCREASE in the 10 years since I was in school? Clearly something is broken and seriously needs to be fixed before that number increases any more.

    1. The percentages change depending on who you talk to, of course... To some extent, the increase may be due to changes in what is called sexual assault now - even 10 years ago, I'm not sure we included all the non-consensual touching that is being called out now, or the verbal assaults. And there is still a contingent that declares rape to be different than sexual assault ( I have no idea what, if any, legal difference there is between those words, but in layman's terms it seems to be rape/physical intercourse as a subset of sexual assault/any sexually oriented attack). Even if it is a matter of definitions, though, that number is ridiculously high; it just underscores the need for this type of awareness and reteaching.

  2. I'm disgusted at those responses. How dare they?! Do not feel like you're a bad person. Your daughters deserve to know that they have control over their bodies and what they wear.

  3. During the first Gulf War, we took our daughters -- you might know them -- to some antiwar protests, but we stopped because not only were passersby shouting obscenities at us for protesting, they were also saying our children should be taken away from us, and throwing stuff at us -- at children under 7! Yet these same people don't seem to mind children holding signs at abortion protests that say "I'm glad Mommy didn't abort me." Haters will hate, but we can't let them win.

  4. I was at slut walk, and saw your family! I was wearing spider man nipple tape and rainbow suspenders, and was questioning my outfit choice (this was right at the beginning and I hadn't seen many other people topless), and to top it all off there was a creepy cab driver driving slowly along, leering and video taping the people around me. So I was already not in a happy place, BUT then I saw you kids holding signs, and one of them looked me over and beamed and waved her sign, and it just made me so incredibly thankful for the families coming out and standing with all of us, and lending their voices and support. I'm sorry for all the horrible messages. But I for one am so thankful I saw your family there, and that your kids recognized that it wasn't about what we were wearing but what we're told about our outfits.

  5. This made me cry. Because it is an important thing to teach our daughters. Because of the ignorance of the people who put you down for what you did. And because it is a sad thing that it still has to be fought about like this. One in three is probably an underestimated statistic because most women don't even report abuse and rape. I'm proud that your WHOLE family took the time to do this walk and support the idea that it doesn't matter what you wear, you are still a person who deserves to have their body treated with respect.

  6. Proud to be your reader! Proud you're on my home screen! I've got a daughter, one son and another son on the way. Keep writing so I can remember how to be smart and positive and joyful and aware as I parent these goofy kids--you're right about reminding our sons about their role in our patriarchal society.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Vote for me!

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!