Slutwalk Paris – 1 October 2011

They couldn’t have picked a better day: sunshine, 28 degrees, a gentle breeze. Everyone would be outside on this last weekend of summer, so why not walk through the city and make a statement?

Having missed out on this summer’s Slutwalk in Berlin, which drew a large amount of people and even more media attention, I was excited to find out that Paris would have its own Slutwalk and that I would be able to participate. I was curious to see how it would turn out, what impact it would have in the city where Second Wave feminism originated in Europe.

all photographs taken by clemens porikys

Unfortunately, my first impression was disappointing. Not many people had shown up (sixty to eighty perhaps, not counting the press(wo)men) and the gathering of young women in short skirts wearing heart-shaped balloons resembled more a birthday party than a group of militant activists. It stood very much in contrast to my memory of the protest against the media response to the DSK affair, which had been a lot more energetic, unifying and angry, though not aggressive. The cause had been quite similar: fighting sexism and violence towards women, stop blaming victims and trivializing rape. So what went wrong?

I certainly appreciate and applaud everyone taking on the responsibility of organizing such an event, but in the case of Slutwalk Paris it could have been executed a bit more cleverly. What struck me as particularly odd was that hardly any of the well-known and well-organized feminist associations in Paris seemed to be present. Ni Putes Ni Soumises had sent some delegates; others such as Osez le Feminisme and La Barbe did either not know about it or ignored it deliberately…(?) The inclusion of these as well as other activist groups would certainly have been beneficial, not just regarding the number of participants but also to their diversity. The homogeneity of the protesters (most of them young, white, slim and able-bodied, myself included) does not represent the vast majority of victims of sexual violence, which subtracted from its potential significance.

But there we walked, down Boulevard Montparnasse and Boulevard St. Michel, where we did get some attention from pedestrians, including spontaneous participation. When a middle-aged woman asked about the motive for this demonstration and it was explained to her, she immediately expressed her support. Those were the highlights of a protest, that could have benefited from a couple of inspiring speeches to create the passion and energy needed to really get the movement started here in France.

Overall, the atmosphere was good and everyone seemed to have good time, even though I am not sure that that is the desired effect of a protest. In the end, everyone let go of their balloons in an attempt of symbolism, satisfying both the photographers and curious tourists. In any case, there is room for improvement and I hope that next time I can contribute more than just post-event criticism.


6 responses to “Slutwalk Paris – 1 October 2011

  1. Hi. Thanks for writing this post, I was at the event and agree with your observations. It was disappointing to see so few participants, but I was glad that the few who showed up did. I think that there were some powerful moments during the march, and it got some attention from the press and people on the streets. I hope the movement grows and the next one will be even bigger and better!

  2. Nous avons la chance de vivre dans un (des) pays(s) où les femmes ne sont pas obligées de porter une burka ou un voile…
    Je suis un homme, mais je découvre ce mouvement en y adhérant. Combien d’entre vous sont obligèes de porter des pantalons et de se couvrir pour éviter les regards à l’école, la fac ou au boulot? Je souhaite que beaucoup d’entre vous trouvent enfin le courage de s’abiller comme elles le désirent pour faire barrage à ces moeurs plus barabares que française.
    Plus vous êtes nombreuses en mini jupes, moins on regardera ces mini jupes de travers, moins on ne pourra vous critiquer à tort..
    Nous avous tant combattu pour notre liberté qu’il nous faut combattre pour conserver toutes nos libertées.

    • Thank you for your comment. I would like to reply to it, but I think it is unfair to my readers (who are primarily not French) not being able to understand what you have said. I urge you to translate your comment into English, otherwise I will have to assume that you didn’t even read and/or understand the text and my critique of the Slutwalk. Slutwalks are not about being able or allowed to wear short skirts and “sexy” clothes. Maybe I am just lucky, but I have never felt compelled to cover up in order to avoid sexual harassment or else. The whole point of Slutwalk is, in fact, that you are never able to escape sexual harassment, catcalling and rape, regardless of what you are wearing. And yes, women wearing burkas and veils get raped too, in France as well as anywhere else.

      • We are fortunate to live in a country (ies) (s) where women are not forced to wear a burka or a veil …
        I am a man, but I find this movement and approve it. How many of you are obliged to wear trousers and cover themselves to avoid the glances at school, college or work? I hope many of you finally find the courage to wear as they wish to block these morals babaric more than French.
        The more you are many mini skirts, the less you look through these mini skirts, the less one can criticize you wrong ..
        We so fought for our freedom we must fight to keep all ours freedoms.