REPOST: SlutWalk SF and #WhiteLiberalTakeOffThatBurqa

So this post got taken down by Tumblr the first time citing a “copyright violation” - they never explained what was the problem. I know the woman in the story had been trying to get this story offline so I’m not terribly surprised. I’m reposting this again, without the photo (in case that’s what they’re claiming as the copyright violation - it was from a Facebook events album) and quoting lines of emails instead of the whole thing. Also I got this utterly vicious comment from a “Gertie Hooter” - come on, you aren’t fooling anybody.

So here goes. Feel free to share this story.

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So SlutWalk SF was, for the most part, awesome. It was good weather, the crowd was a bit smaller than the other ones I’ve been too but no less passionate and powerful, peppered with a blessing from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and spiced with one part sex positivity, one part socialism, one part self-defence, and one part the coming out of Jane Doe from a case of gang rape gone without justice in 2007 or so - she decided to come out and own her story at SlutWalk and it made so many people just about cry. I took advantage of an SF law about being able to walk around topless/naked legally (as long as I don’t “disturb or threaten” apparently), a law I saw most commonly used by naked men at fetish festivals - though I wore shorts because my period thought that afternoon was a good time to show up. Bah.

So anyway. SlutWalk was awesome…except for the lady in the burqa.

I was curious about her motives and went to ask her if she also came from a Muslim background like me. First red flag: she lifted the whole of the front of her burqa. (You can speak fine in there, if maybe a bit muffled, but lifting it in public kinda defeats the purpose of a burqa.) She wasn’t; she was just a bog-standard Western White woman.

I asked her if she would be able or willing to articulate the complicated position Muslim women and those of Muslim backgrounds face in terms of sexuality, hijab, and aurat (the set of laws that govern modesty and covering up). Second red flag: she said “well I don’t think covering up is good for anyone”.

While I tried, kindly but firmly, to tell her that the burqa was not a costume for her to wear willy-nilly and that her presence was troubling me, she kept quizzing me about my relationship to it - something that would take ages to explain, and it didn’t seem like she was interested in listening.

I called over someone else from the Slutwalk SF Bay collective, who also helped me in telling the woman that what she did was deeply problematic and offensive, and talked about how Muslim women in the US face major challenges that White women don’t have to deal with. WhiteBurqaWoman then goes off on tirades that were honestly word-for-word the sort of stuff you’d get on an Internet debate about cultural appropriation. Seriously, I was dumbfounded that I was having this argument in person.

“I am a woman! I have been raped! Therefore I have the right to wear a burqa!”
“I resent the idea that I am privileged because I am white! I am NOT privileged because I am a woman!”
“I am not racist!”
“I experience the same thing people in burqas do!”

After some time of her talking over me only to claim I was yelling at her, she called me a “little bitch” and huffed off. I was in tears. I’d already had to deal with people who said SlutWalk was not of concern to Muslim people or brown people - hurrah cultural and religious slut-shaming. I’ve had to keep asserting the work of people like myself and the various SlutWalk crews (this one was largely POC based) who were being ignored in the chatter over whether SlutWalk was just a white person’s thing. This felt like a slap in the face.

Some of the SlutWalk SF Bay people, with my permission, did confront her directly afterwards - either she took it off and joined the march, or she left, I don’t know. but I was glad that I did not have to deal with turning around, herding the crowd in, and seeing an utterly painful insensitive reminder, and was thankful that the crew respected me immediately and took my concerns seriously. Thank you.

Her antics didn’t stop there though. There has been a lot of emails back and forth with her and some of the SlutWalk SF people, claiming that I have been bullying or brutalising her. This really takes the cake though:

It is ridiculous to accuse me of being a racist.  If anyone is a racist, it’s you and your creepy Muslim friend.  But “liberal” idiots in this culture believe that only white people can be racists, and with that excuse, people like you are free to abuse a rape victim who suffers from PTSD.

…yeah.

Note to other SlutWalkers: Please for the love of God, if you’ve never been a Muslim woman, don’t wear a burqa thinking you’re making a smart political statement.