The Political is Personal - on the SlutWalk

khulud khamis
Posted June 9, 2014 from Palestine

The political is personal

My daughter, having grown up in a radical feminist environment of the Haifa Women’s Coalition house, mainly surrounded and supported by the community of Isha L’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center and Aswat, has grown up to become an assertive young feminist herself. It is a wonder seeing her growing up and forming her own opinions on different issues. I always learn from her, as she keeps reminding me in so many ways that there is not one feminism, but many feminisms. We have discussions on issues affecting women; sometimes we agree, other times we don’t.

The most recent disagreement between us reflects the disagreement within the radical feminist movement in general, and that is the use of our bodies in our struggles. Women have chosen to use their bodies throughout the years in different political struggles, which can be seen in recent years in the protests surrounding the Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot and the SlutWalks.

My daughter took part in this year’s Haifa SlutWalk, and she decided to dress in a certain way, thus using her own body to make a political statement. For those who don’t know the history of the Slut Walk, it started in January 2011, following a remark by a “representative of the Toronto Police” who “gave shocking insight into the Force’s view of sexual assault by stating: ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.’” (http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/).

When I saw what my daughter chose to wear, my first reaction was to try to persuade her not to dress in this way. Here I had to negotiate my own identities as a feminist and as her mother. Here I also realized that the feminist saying we always stress, “the personal is political,” also works in the opposite direction. In this case, the political became the personal.

Of course we both agree that women should have the right to dress whichever way they want and not be sexually harassed. Our disagreement was on the way we each choose to make our political statement. I myself don’t use my body in my activism, but I respect women who choose to do so. And thus, ultimately I had to respect my daughter’s choice. She is, after all, a grown young woman who received feminist education and all the tools to make her own choices. She is free to choose to use her body in her activism.

It was not easy seeing her during the SlutWalk procession as on the personal level I had mixed feelings about it. However, I was so proud of her. Proud of her courage, proud of her assertiveness, proud of her choice to stand up for women’s rights.

Comments 10

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Rudo Mungofa
Jun 11, 2014
Jun 11, 2014

Thank you so much for sharing this story, I have only just begun on my journey of mothering a girl child, my daughter is 7 months old and as I read your story I saw my future! I am strong and assertive in my feminism which is a life style or a life choice rather than a serious of activism 'events'. I have a clear vision of how I want to raise my daughter and by and large my husband agrees, the fear is always that your child will be more radical and more vocal than you are and you want to protect them even from themselves so I look forward to what my experience will be of having a young feminist in the home and I thank you for honestly sharing your feelings on your experience.

‘women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.’ <- Its a sad day when a man can make this his excuse for rape & violence against women.

khulud khamis
Jun 11, 2014
Jun 11, 2014

thank you rudo, and I wish you the best of luck with raising your daughter.

Rudo Mungofa
Jun 11, 2014
Jun 11, 2014

P.S You did the right thing to raise her to be strong willed, focused and a visionary willing to personalise the causes closest to her heart. You should be very proud!

Maya Norton
Jun 11, 2014
Jun 11, 2014

Appreciated reading this, Khulud.

When did the Haifa event take place? (As much as I appreciate the intent of the event, I despite the word "slut.")

~ Maya

khulud khamis
Jun 11, 2014
Jun 11, 2014

Hey there! nice to connect here as well. It was on May 16th. I also have mixed feelings about the terminology used, but it's such a complex issue... the language is also an issue being taken up by feminists, some agree on the use of Sharmuta (slut), while some don't.

Nusrat Ara
Jun 13, 2014
Jun 13, 2014

Thanks for sharing your dilemma Khulud.

Love

Aurore
Jun 20, 2014
Jun 20, 2014

I think my mother is also experiencing those kind of "Feminist Mom Dilemmas" with me.... She always raised (with my father) to work for something I believed in and to fight for women's rights, but sometimes it is scary for her to see me working in a field where job security is definitely not ensured and where contracts are not very long. I'm working in sexual and reproductive rights field, something I'm passionate about, but i'ts definitely not the easiest field to find jobs ever.

So I guess feminist moms have a lot of dilemmas, but on the other hand, I'll be eternally grateful for what she raised me to be and how strong she made me. And I think that's something we share and that is much more important than the little fights we can have sometimes about that job topic!

Keith Johnson
Jun 20, 2014
Jun 20, 2014

Reports about Paul McCarthy’s “Life Cast” exhibition in New York and the accompanying pictures set me thinking [and feeling] again about gender differentiation, image and 'love' from a man's viewpoint. In particular, his 'nude' silicone life casts of actress Elyse Poppers [see: http://galleristny.com/2013/05/pauls-uncanny-valley/ ].

Hopefully your readers may enjoy the attempted subtleties of my layered response in sonnet form: [see:http://kjohnsonnz.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/those-girls.html ]

Zahra.Zephyr
Jun 24, 2014
Jun 24, 2014

Thank you for sharing your story. it was the first time i read about a mother who had shared her thoughts about her feminist daughter. Love!

Aurora-Transformation
Jul 08, 2014
Jul 08, 2014

Thanks for sharing that here ! :)