A March to End Rape Culture and Gender Inequality in Boston this past Saturday

I share this story to illustrate how Boston Feminists for Liberation, who organized this march, moved us through the constructed landscape of the city to engage tangibly with intersectionality and to approach the challenge of dismantling rape culture from several different vantage points, literally.

Starting place: The Boston Common. One of the organizers introduced the march. She stressed movement-building without using “the word that may empower some while disempowering others.” Then a survivor spoke out: “I am not ashamed to say that I was sexually assaulted.”

We started marching.

On the gate: Massachusetts State House. On the poster: End Rape Culture/ Boston Feminists for Liberation.

First stop: The Massachusetts Statehouse. Pointing down the street, one woman recalled, “I came here 40 years ago to get underground referral to abortion services before the US allowed legal abortions.” Shifting topics, she spoke about violence and rape in prisons and urged us to find ways to fight sexual violence without building up the prison system.

We kept marching.

Second stop: Outside of a well-hidden crisis pregnancy center. Massachusetts has three times as many such centers as it does clinics that provide the full range of reproductive health services. These centers use lies and manipulative tactics to scare women away from contraception and abortion. This systematic manipulation, shaming, and blaming of women is part of the same system we call rape culture.


Third stop: The big Macy’s at Downtown Crossing. Two women spoke out against fat-phobia and their experiences of shame, degradation, and abuse from individuals and institutions. Companies “make billions of dollars off shaming women’s bodies.” Women are literally told not to take up space. And so, daring to take up space, daring to survive brutality, daring to be strong, is resistance and rebellion embodied.

We kept marching.

Fourth stop: The financial district. A speaker called for economic justice, valuing the labor of raising children, and looking directly at racial disparities. Equal pay for equal work. Paid parental leave. Paid sick leave. Jobs. Housing. Health care. We need all of these things in order to have autonomy, equality, respect, happiness. We ALL need all of these things. This movement to end rape culture, this movement for reproductive justice, this movement for our bodies must also be a movement for our homes, our jobs, our children, our paychecks.

Bottom left poster: Free abortion on demand. Far right: Slut 4 Consent. Top right: Destroy hetero-sexism, both!! (Bank of America sign in the background).

Last stop: Dewey Square, former home of Occupy Boston. Open mic time. Twelve people stepped up to speak. The first three were people of color. Before this, all of the speakers looked white and had not addressed racial injustice directly. The first speaker asked us to stop the use of the word “minority.” She finds it insulting, dehumanizing. A high school student told of street harassment. Others shared personal stories and expressed their anger.

We sat together.

We gathered in groups to debrief and talk about ideas for moving forward: more of this conversation about intersectionality, more voices for people of color, more communication, more connection, more outreach. And, next year, maybe a shorter name for the march.

I found myself left with one thought on repeat: Why weren’t more people here? I know hundreds of people in this city who want to dismantle rape culture. Maybe it’s something about marches—why don’t more people come to marches? Maybe the task feels too big. Maybe they’re already so engaged. Or maybe it’s because spending several hours on a Saturday afternoon at a march like this one may feel exciting and empowering and is also totally scary and draining and exhausting. I don’t know. But I wonder what that means about how we build a movement together.

Shout-out to the organizers, the speakers, the sign makers, and all who joined together to weave through the streets of Boston and proclaim how our city physically, institutionally, and systemically upholds rape culture and hurts us all.

Center: Teach “Don’t rape,” not “Don’t get raped!” Right: Consent rules! Rape culture drools! Hold up these signs at Miami University, please.

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  1. Posted October 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    This is a great recap of a cool event. I want to offer my own perspective on “why don’t more people come to marches?” Besides not living in Boston, I am not a marcher; For me to come out to an event like this, I need to be presented with a very clear and transparent connection between the format of the event and the bigger-picture of goal of ending rape culture. While I love walking outside on a nice day as much as anyone (and it looks like you had great weather) or even more so (sometime I spend money for this privilege for 5k), the marching aspect needs to be articulated to me. Is there really a need to be standing in front of a crisis pregnancy center to discuss why their tactics are harmful? Is it just some elaborate form of visual aid (like animations during powerpoint presentations)? Is the goal to increase visibility to the general public that might not be aware? Is it because of opportunities for casual discussion among attendees? Is it because people don’t want to pay fees for a venue? In the absence of a clear communal purpose for marching, I find it hard to get engaged. The idea of marching for an afternoon does indeed seem “scary/draining”, but if the more immediate outcome were clearly specified I’d be more enthusiastic about making the commitment – ending rape culture is a worthy vision, but not concrete enough as an outcome of a march.

  2. Posted October 15, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    This is a youtube video of one of the speeches made on body acceptance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qg7Vxrztjg

  3. Posted October 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    “Women are literally told not to take up space.” So true. I love the idea of organizing outside of Macy’s! It’s cool that this march had so many stops that addressed such different components of the movement-without-a-name.

    I think you’re onto something about hesitancies about marches- I think a lot of people (myself included) are very selective when it comes to participating in marches. I wonder if it’s the time commitment or an ability thing or that it’s cold outside? Or that the objectives are not clear? I have no idea.

  4. Posted October 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m loving this conversation. Please continue back at the version of this post on the main site– keep it going at http://feministing.com/2012/10/15/a-march-to-end-rape-culture-and-gender-inequality-in-boston-this-past-saturday/

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