October kicked off in Los Angeles with The Amber Rose Slutwalk, which takes the transnational movement of protest marches that began in Toronto in 2011 and expands it into a festival. The original protest was organized when a police officer stated, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts” if they didn’t want to be sexually assaulted. Now, that lingering bit of victim blaming is just one of many that Rose’s event aims to address.
Amber Rose ascended to fame in the late 2000s as the girlfriend of Kanye West, though the former stripper was also signed with Ford models and appeared in a number of music videos at the time. After her split from West, she began dating Wiz Khalifa and the two were married from 2013 to 2014, during which time they had a son together. Now, she is paired with Atlanta rapper 21 Savage. She’s one of those odd personalities who is famous for being famous, and she’s making the most out of it. Rose has published a book, launched an emoji app, hosted a talk show, opened a clothing line, and starred on Dancing with the Stars (she came in 9th). Though, she’s not without controversy, like the time she tried to shame Kanye West by sharing his alleged kink or the time she flouted Instagram’s nudity policy to announce this year’s SlutWalk.
The broad scope of the event should be no surprise as Rose said the following when she announced her first SlutWalk:
My Slut Walk will be about every Woman Equality issue we deal with everyday. U can walk and make signs for the issues ur passionate about. I’m in the beginning stages of putting this together but with ur help this could be an amazing liberating experience for us women. Stay tuned for more info in weeks to come. #AmberRosesSlutWalk
On the even of the 2017 walk, Amber Rose took some time to speak with us about the festival, her role in it, what healthy sexuality looks like, and what she thinks of people who are skeptical of her cause. She’s crazy honest and clearly committed to what she is doing. We’ve also included some pics from this year’s SlutWalk because people who attend do the most. There’s a performance aspect of attendance in the march and it’s worth observing and incorporating into the larger message.
Plus, 21 Savage said it was “fun than a motherf—er.” So, there’s that.
For people who aren’t familiar with Slutwalk, what is it?
SlutWalk is a movement against derogatory labels, slut shaming, victim blaming, rape culture, and double standards. What we do is we walk, we march, we protest against the inequality issues that we deal with as women. There are SlutWalks all over the world, but my SlutWalk is an all-day festival to celebrate women. We have live performances. It’s just a safe place for women to come, wear what they want, dress how they want, and talk to other people that can relate to them and what they’ve been through, and for them to know that they’re not alone. They’re not the only people that are going through these things.
For people who are familiar, maybe they went last year or the year before, will this year be any different or is it the same?
I think every year we grow. We learn from our mistakes in the previous years. We grew so much from the first year to the second year. The second year was difficult because I had so much to do that I just looked up and SlutWalk was over. I just missed the whole thing because I did a million interviews, I just did so much that day. Now, I’m preparing myself in a different way this year. I learned a lot. This year we have bigger sponsors, more money. The walk is much longer. We have the open women’s conference the day before for the more educational side of activism and feminism. We did not have that last year.
You said there are a lot of different events around the world. You didn’t originate the walk. How did you end up being the namesake for the L.A. branch of SlutWalk?
There’s no L.A. branch of SlutWalk, it’s just my SlutWalk. Basically, you can have a SlutWalk wherever you want, at your college campus, in your neighborhood. What I decided to do was take my platform, and have the Amber Rose SlutWalk. Because I live in Los Angeles, it was easier for me to be hands on for a SlutWalk in Los Angeles and that’s what I did.
We just started from scratch. We started it very grassroots. We asked for donations; I asked my friends for donations. I put in my own money. It costs a lot of money. You need permits, you need first aid, you need security, you need toilets, you need fans (actual fans to keep people cool). Rules and regulations. There’s just so much that goes into actually putting on a full event. I decided to use my platform to get that done.
It sounds like you’re doing a lot of stuff, like legitimately involved in it, not just a namesake. Do you feel like people don’t give you enough credit for the role you’re playing?
I’m used to that. I don’t really do it for credit. This is my life’s work. The Amber Rose Foundation doesn’t just do a SlutWalk once a year. It’s like, “Oh, let me just make this SlutWalk” on October 1st. It takes a full year to even develop it, get sponsors, marketing, interviews, everything like that. We also have counselors. We have HIV and AIDS testing, thanks to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. It takes a lot to put this on. I also did a small tour when I spoke at colleges because these people can’t get to L.A. It’s a year-round thing.
Originally, the 2011 SlutWalk in Canada was about survivors of abuse, but the more contemporary SlutWalk’s seem to be more focused on defending a woman’s right to dress how she wants or behave how she wants. Do you think that transition has happened, or do you think that’s just a misconception?
I know at my SlutWalk we touch on every issue. From rape culture, double standards, slut shaming. Yes, also addressing how you want to dress. You should not be victim blamed. It is not your fault. We’ve talked about body shaming, body image, body positivity, sex positivity. We literally touch on every single thing. It’s not just one sided. My SlutWalk, we talk about everything.
Do you think that the message about what’s being talked about has changed at all? Do you think sometimes it reflects things that are happening in the cultural atmosphere?
Has it changed for the better?
Or worse. Have you seen changes since you first started doing it?
Absolutely. I’ve seen changes. I’m very prevalent on social media. Although I still see a lot of slut shaming and victim blaming, I also see a lot of progress as well. I like to think that I was a part of that. Just me not shutting up about it and calling people out on their bullshit brought more awareness for sure.
Do you feel like the SlutWalk is needed now more than ever? Do you feel like right now there’s a really big need for it?
I feel like there was always a need for it. I think people just think SlutWalk, and they think of all the wrong shit because they hear the word slut. Really, I went to the women’s march in L.A. It was the SlutWalk. It was the same exact thing, literally the same exact thing. Even other feminists have a problem with it as well. There’s always a need for it.
I’m not going to say just because Trump is in office and he’s a dick, I’m not going to give him that credit to say we need to because of Trump. He’s just one guy. We can make a difference in where we live in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our workplace, if we just constantly come together as women instead of being so judge-y with each other. We can spread the word and make a difference.
How do you think the event will change over the next decade?
I plan for my SlutWalk to be equivalent to Coachella for SlutWalk, that big for women. I want it to be that huge. Also, I have to get out of Pershing Square, where we held it for the past three years, because this is so big that we just can’t fit everyone there anymore. The bigger it is the more awareness we bring, the more people we bring on board. It’s full of positivity and enlightenment.
How involved are you with the conference part of the event? Do you get to decide who speaks? What’s your role?
I’m not a dictator when it comes to my business and people that I work with. I started out with four girls that I just hired, and then we’re up to 30 girls, a full SlutWalk office, 24 interns. I really value their opinions. It was a collective brainstorming session of who we ideally want and what we want to learn. I’m going to be sitting in all the workshops. I want to learn some things, too.
Do you have a lot of representation from people like male allies at the event?
Yeah. My boyfriend is coming. I have O.T. Genasis that is performing; he’s a headliner. I also have a lot of straight male feminists that come out to SlutWalk. There was a lot of them last year. They walked on behalf of their mothers, their sisters, their daughters. It was really nice to see that.
Do the men who attend really get it?
Oh, yeah, definitely. We have a zero tolerance for bullshit at SlutWalk. Our security is insane. We don’t have just guys coming in trying to pick up sluts, as they would say. Every guy that’s in there is really there for a reason. Then not even that, there’s guys that come with their girlfriend. They really don’t know much about it, but they leave inspired.
Do you get sons coming with their moms?
For sure. We had little babies there, we had toddlers.
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For you, what does healthy, progressive sexuality look like?
Healthy, progressive sexuality is literally doing what you want to do and not judging other people. I talk about that a lot, because I have a lot of porn stars that come to my SlutWalks. People frown upon that, but they use porn at their convenience. Then they are disgusted with them if they see them in public or after. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your thing, but respect what women do and what they’re into and don’t be judgemental.
It sounds like the event still faces a fair amount of judgment. What would you say to the people who give it side eye?
Yeah. Because if you give it a side eye, that means you’re not even interested in knowing about it, researching it. Most of the people that I talk to that have a problem with SlutWalk have never been to my website, have never looked it up, have never thought about their sisters, their mothers, their cousins, their nieces. I really don’t give a shit about anyone giving a side eye to it. They don’t have to come.