A movement divided: SlutWalks, protest repertoires and the privilege of nudity

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Abstract

The use of the corporeal female body in social protest has a long and complex history, particularly in anti-gender based violence movements. From early 20th Century suffragists in international coalitions circulating images of women protesters withered by hunger strikes to the more contemporary staging of nude protest by groups like FEMEN, women’s bodies have certainly functioned as powerful symbols. But such repertoires have also been controversial within the movement, as conceptualizations, norms and security surrounding female bodies can vary so much depending on culture and socioeconomic status. This paper uses the 2011–2014 SlutWalk movement to explore the use of female bodies in mobilizations staged by actors across those differences. It investigates the varying degrees of privilege associated with the choice–or choicelessness–protestors encounter when collectively considering effective repertoires. As the discourse unfolded around Slutwalk and who had the ‘right’ or ‘privilege’ to practice nudity as a protest repertoire, it illuminated deep divisions within anti-sexual violence and feminist activism. I argue this created important opportunities for the movement to integrate analysis of structural inequalities beyond gender, particularly in attempts to improve processes of deliberation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-557
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Movement Studies
Volume17
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 3 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science

Keywords

  • Protest repertoires
  • feminism
  • intersectionality
  • nudity
  • sexual violence

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