Amber Rose SlutWalk fights sexual injustice

Eileen Toh | Daily Trojan

More than 15,000 scantily clad attendees lined up underneath the sweeping pink balloon arch on South Olive Street on Sunday. At 11 a.m., they began to strut through Pershing Square and wave in the air their vibrant posters, targeting issues such as slut- or fat-shaming, bigotry and racism. Leading the march was socialite and activist Amber Rose, who came dressed as her superhero alter-ego “Captain Save A Hoe,” on a mission to keep the streets free from sexism and slut-shaming.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Amber Rose Weekend in downtown Los Angeles united male and female feminists alike to raise awareness about social justice issues. The weekend consisted of the inaugural OPENed: The Women’s Conference on Friday, with the third annual Amber Rose SlutWalk taking place the following day.

The OPENed conference was commissioned by the Amber Rose Foundation and USC Dornsife Center for Feminist Research to create a space where “unedited conversation meets education, compassion and a sheer desire to enact change.” Throughout the day, the conference, held in Ronald Tutor Campus Center, featured panelists, keynote speakers and various workshops that served to empower women.

The event started with a welcome address from Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, chair of the gender studies program at USC, who has been active in various gender equity, black equity and women of color movements.

Rose then kicked off the rest of the conference, giving her own backstory and reasons behind bringing back SlutWalk and weaving an educational component into the weekend. For her, slut-shaming is more than projecting hurtful words to others — it’s ingrained in human culture.

“I am a mother now, but before, I used to call women ‘sluts’ and ‘hoes’ all the time because society taught me to think that way and talk that way,” Rose said.

Following Rose’s introduction to the conference, guests were split into workshops held at Fertitta Hall. For the rest of the morning, people attended three one-hour workshops, which covered five categories: Know Your Rights, Sex Talk and Relationships, Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy, Activism and Policy. Each workshop was hosted by a different speaker, ranging from entertainment lawyers to social workers to songwriters.

One workshop in the activism category featured Napatia T. Gettings, an expert in the field of mental health and wellness from the University of Chicago. In her practice, Gettings has delved into advocacy, legislative policy, mental health awareness and education. According to her, fewer medical students have been specializing in psychiatry due to the stigma that comes with working with people with mental health issues.

“We need to create more conversation about mental health issues because they are not uncommon and people are still dealing with them,” Gettings said. “Psychiatry just has an awful history in the past too because some people don’t think we are trustworthy, and this only worsens the problem.”

With these new workshops adding an educational component to the Amber Rose Weekend, many attendees felt more empowered and motivated to speak up about social injustice.

Anaya Frazier, a high school sophomore from Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in Chicago, enjoyed how each of the workshops shed light on certain topics that were overlooked or considered taboo. Back in Chicago, Frazier is a program associate for Project HealUs, which delves into reproductive justice awareness.

“Just to be here and experience people who are also involved with this kind of movement is really eye-opening, and I plan to take what I learned here and apply it to the conferences I will be organizing back at home,” Frazier said.

After the workshops, the rest of the conference took place in RTCC. During the luncheon, mistress of ceremony Audrey Bellis played several videos for the audience, including Subversal’s short film series “Free THOT,” singer Isabelle Pasqualone’s official music video for “Unlabeled” and a clip featuring Rose interviewing former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton about sexism in politics.

Eileen Toh | Daily Trojan

The conference then shifted gears to a panel discussion and fireside chat. With Alfaro and Bellis co-moderating, the panel featured Rose; Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion at USC Debra Langford; author and leading sex expert Christopher Donaghue; assemblywoman Autumn Burke; YouTuber and activist of the #GirlLove campaign Lilly Singh; and Los Angeles County Board of Education President Alex Johnson.

After the panel, Alfaro and Rose presented several “Disruptive and Proud” Awards to some of the panelists, workshop hosts and others who have been heavily involved in the leadership and activism in the movement to empower women.

At the end of the conference, Rose thanked the coordinators for its overall success and detailed the schedule for the SlutWalk the next day. She also encouraged her guests to take what they learned and to bring more awareness in their own communities to social issues.

“Just remember this: You don’t owe anybody anything,” Rose said. “You can say no at any point. And I refuse to just let one man dictate how I decide to live the rest of my life.”

The following day, thousands of people flooded Pershing Square for the third annual SlutWalk. After a kick-off party with performances by Jenzi, Margie Plus and Just Brittney, the march officially began, with crowds holding up signs and chanting “Rosebuds,” the official nickname for Rose’s fans.

The weekend proved empowering for attendees hailing from near and far. For Meghann Smith, a dancer from Portland, this was her second time marching in the SlutWalk. In her life, she said she has experienced several instances of sexism, racism and ignorance, and the Amber Rose Weekend was able to give her an outlet to express her opinions without judgment.

“I’ve been womanized, and I experienced a lot of wage gap where I worked while I tried to achieve my goals,” Smith said. “I just couldn’t accept that in my life every day. Here at the SlutWalk, I’m glad that other women here understood how I felt, and I want to be here to make my statement.”