Greensboro takes on sexism

September 14, 2011

GREENSBORO, N.C.--Three hundred people marched here September 10 as part of SlutWalk to protest rape culture.

Although organizers had originally planned a short route that circled the University of North Carolina-Greensboro (UNCG) campus, the enthusiasm of the marchers prompted us to change the route and not only march through campus, but also the downtown area.

As people cheered us from their stoops along the march, we called for them to come down and join us. Nearly 50 did. At one point, when two young women asked, "What's this about?" a marcher replied, "We're fighting rape culture." Both women immediately joined the march. One of them said, "We need to do this everywhere. Over the whole country."

Organizers understood what's ahead. "It can't just be one day," said Stephanie Sciascia. "One day, one march? That's not going to change anything. This has to be a movement."

From the beginning, one of the greatest strengths of Greensboro's organizing efforts was this acknowledgement. It helped activists to focus energy on the march, while seeing it as a way of building for the next protest and a larger movement against sexism..

Saturday saw the formation of a new ad-hoc group to fight for women's rights in the North Carolina Triad. In addition, an organizing committee was formed for a SlutWalk in Winston-Salem, another Triad city. Plans for a SlutWalk in Raleigh, the state's capital, are already in the works.

In addition, renewed efforts at defending abortion clinics, fighting for funding for reproductive health services for poor and working women, and winning LGBT-inclusive sex education on college campuses--projects which were already in the works--have an invigorated group of activists to take them to the next level.

Our movement must fight sexism on every front--the same way it attacks us--and this is precisely what the new ad-hoc group plans to do.

In North Carolina, women face greater restrictions on abortion access, including a waiting period, defunded Planned Parenthood, and forcing a woman to look at an ultrasound or have it described to her before she can have an abortion, as well as decreased funding for the Women, Infants and Children program. In between denunciations of sexual violence and victim-blaming, protesters at the march called for free abortion on demand.

SlutWalk organizers also found an ally in the Greensboro activists for marriage equality, many of whom came to the march. Most Slutwalk marchers planned to attend rallies later in the week to demand rejection of a proposed amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

Activists felt empowered and energized at the end of the Slutwalk--even after marching three miles in hot weather. A new generation of women--most of whom have never before lived in a world with a fighting women's movement--are becoming ready to strike forward with our own brand new fight.

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