CONTRIBUTED BY ALESIA BANI
On Saturday, September 29th, Philadelphia held its annual March To End Rape Culture at Thomas Paine Plaza. Hundreds attended, including Temple University’s Feminist Alliance, an organization that works to further the values of intersectional feminism within the organization, Temple, and Philadelphia. Hundreds marched the streets of Center City Philadelphia chanting, “no more hate no more silence,” “my body my choice,” and “blame the system not the victim.” Originally called Slut Walk, the event began in 2011 in Toronto after a police officer told a group of college students the best way for women to avoid being raped was to “avoid dressing like sluts.”
The March To End Rape Culture (MTERC) is an event to raise awareness in the community about rape culture and its effects across society. It is also a healing place where survivors can be supported, speak up, and find information about local resources. Rape culture includes many issues such as domestic violence, gender roles, slut shaming, street harassment, etc. According to MTERC, “All of these issues are amplified when intersecting with discriminations such as those based on race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, and gender.”
For the third year in a row anti-protests arrived at the scene carrying signs saying feminists belong in the kitchen and are whores. People worked to make a barrier between them and the event, and kazoos were passed out to counteract the sound of their protesting. After a few hours, an organizer of MTERC was elated to go on stage and announce for the first year the energy of people attending the march forced the anti-protesters to leave.
Senior Morgan Slutzky, the Public Relations Chair of Feminist Alliance said the organization attended, “because we are dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual assault and confronting the larger systems in America that silence victims. The March is an important statement that survivors have a voice that is important to be heard. As for Temple University, FA believes that there should be more resources available to those who want to report sexual assault or who are dealing with trauma related to sexual assault. Yes, there is the Tuttleman Counseling Services, but they are often overextended and unavailable. FA is in support of a dedicated sexual assault crisis center on campus that would be a resource for everyone who needs it, while destigmatizing reporting assault.”
Many speakers took the stage including Talia Mingey, a poet from FUSE who shared a spoken word poem about her sexual assault experience. In powerful lines of prose she said “do you know how they called me victim before they knew my name,” and “a walk down memory lane is a tar filled street for some.” Kempis Songster talked about rape culture in the prison system. He said “It’s men that need this message. As men we need to group up and talk about how we can change.” Nuella Cabral shared her message of teaching consent in Philly public schools, and Milan Nicole Sherry called for attention to trans women of color.
Posters included “no doesn’t mean convince me,” “I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford,” and commentary on Bill Cosby whos conviction marks the rise of the #MeToo movement. Feminist Alliance is currently working on the O’Connor Campaign, which according to Slutzky, “asks Temple to remove Patrick O’Connor from the Board of Trustees and remove his name from O’Connor Plaza. O’Connor served as Bill Cosby’s defense attorney during the initial trial regarding his assault of a Temple employee. By allowing O’Connor to remain the Chair of the Board of Trustees, especially after Cosby was found guilty, Temple University is perpetuating rape culture and not protecting survivors.” O’Connor’s role as Cosby’s defense has been criticized due to their former proximity on Temple’s Board of Trustees, and ethical concerns over his role in a case involving a Temple employee. Temple University has thus far defended O’Connor in statements made to Temple News.