Slutwalk Tehran Isn’t What You Think

We all knew this would happen, appropriation and misuse of a positive movement is usually inevitable when it becomes big enough. Flags went up when this was posted on their facebook page though I would say was wary when I saw that it was a project helmed by two men:

Thank you for all your comments and questions! Slutwalk Teheran [sic] does not encourage the women of Iran to participate owing to the ever-present threat of reprisals by the antiquated patriarchy of that Islamic Republic. What we are encouraging is for ever grrrrl from the US, Canada, Sud America, Europe and Oceania to swoop down on Azadi Square and RECLAIM the term “slut”! Spread the word!!

Victimization and cultural encroachment bingo, standard.

A great response directly to them by Tiara:

how’s Iranian immigration/visa systems like? It’s hard enough getting visas on a Bangladesh passport tho the Muslim country thing may be a bonus. Also wouldn’t the idea of having mostly foreigners protest be seen as “foreign entities enroaching on local culture” (and therefore offensive and self-defeating) rather than empowering for the local women? Iranian women have plenty of strength and energy and courage – it’s not up to us outsiders to *save* them, just *support* them when they ask.

Who went on to say on her own blog:

I’m sure there are plenty of Iranian women who can work out how to make SlutWalk locally-relevant and make it work for themselves while also protecting themselves from harm. I think the fact that this particular branch of the event is run by a guy means that there’s quite a bit of gender-privilege-denial here – the only folk he’s talking to on Facebook are Western.

Then it turned out that it may have all been a troll or scam:

His idea of SlutWalk is, rather than get the Iranian women involved (for their “Safety”), he wants all the foreign chicks to come over and stage a protest there.

But really, there is a message in all of this, How Not To Organize A Slutwalk. No, really.

OK LISTEN. There is NO WAY this is going to work UNLESS you engage with the Iranian people. You can’t just pick and choose a random city, specifically state that you WON’T engage with the locals there, ask people to just arrive on a random date and time, and expect things to go well. This is neo-imperialism. This is imposing your values on others. Not only will this fail, it will fail HORRIBLY, and the people that will suffer the most are the very same Iranian women you’re supposedly trying to protect. Not to mention that events like these take time and planning and effort; it’s not just a matter of “pick a time and date, tada!”

The only way for this to work is for the Iranian women to be a CORE COMPONENT in SlutWalk. Right now you’re treating them as weaklings that need saving and it shows. Your heart may be in the right place, but this is causing more harm than good. MASSIVE harm. You basically don’t know what you’re doing.

Reconsider, stop, and give control of this event to the Iranian women. Let them decide if, when, and how they’ll do SlutWalk. In the meantime, STAY OUT OF IT – this is NOT your battle to fight. Go support other people’s SlutWalks if you like, go support your local rape support centers, but don’t start one in a culture, place, identity alien to you until you’ve received the support and welcome of the local people and you know what you’re doing.

Major props to Tiara for engaging and deconstructing this mess.

-EDITED to correct names


13 Responses to Slutwalk Tehran Isn’t What You Think

  1. Marcus says:

    Dear TRH, I fully understand your skepticism as well as that of Ms. Creatrix, with whom I have had a series of intelligent back-and-forth. Our concept and movement is an extension of the momentum already generated in major cities such as Toronto, Brisbane, London, Boston. The wild popularity of the walks as well as the decisive reclamation of a derogatory term in this big cities has left us no doubt that a similar movement, populated by the very masses who made the other walks such a global phenomena (phenoWOMENa!!) , would go a long way in reclaiming that word in the Middle East, in Congo and other parts of the world where the women (owing to the repressive nature of their respective antiquated patriarchies) may not have the means, the force to walk up and reclaim the word on their own. That is why we will definitely NOT encourage the women of Iran to participate. Veterans from Toronto, Indy, Boston slutwalks (to name a few) will swoop down on the streets of Teheran and reclaim it. Join us. We have the time, the resources, the think-tank and experts and most importantly the WILL to make this a success. Where will YOU be on April 2, 2012? Join us. Be there. Spread the word. Reclaim.

    More details, slogan/video/pic submissions visit and like us:


    Cheers. Grrrrl Powrrrr. Pow!!

    • You cannot claim ally-ship with women and then stomp all over their agency. Women “in the Middle East, in Congo and other parts of the world” have the right to organize their own feminism for their own needs and it doesn’t require Western ‘think tanks’ to walk all over their right, our right, to do so. My official position on your particular project is condemnation since you’ve obviously made a decision to ignore calls to recognize your privilege and your mistake made by others more patient than I.

    • Dan Waters says:

      Hey Marcus, stfu and stop man-splaining.

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  3. Thank you for signal boosting! I was nearly taken in – it’s easy to assume that this was an outpost of Tehrani women wanting to take the streets if you don’t look too closely.

    [the name differences are because I’m changing persona names atm]

    • No problem, thank you for engaging with them. I’m sure I couldn’t have done it quite so rationally. Is there a name you’d prefer to be referred as? I can change that in the post.

      • Tiara’s fine :)

        • Thanks for laying bare these morons. What’s crazy to me is that, while they may think this is hilarious, I’m sure that so many people who have left comments and/or “liked” their facebook page actually think this is real and that this is a worthy “cause.” So many kinds of ill-informed! My favorite is the misspelling of “Tehran” though.

  4. Marcus says:

    Dear TRH and Tiara,

    It is unfortunate that you seek to vilify our cause. We have stated from the very beginning that our movement was inspired by SW Boston that we had the good pleasure to attend and participate in. At this stage we are only drumming up support for the cause and God knows we have a few wrinkles to iron out! That said, once everything is resolved and we have a concrete blueprint for the event we will officially submit a request of affiliation (as a satellite) with SW Toronto. The final decision is of course theirs. I would also like to point out that the movement started out as a grassroots, DIY-er and any attempt to excessively centralize and stifle similar endeavors is something that one would hope doesn’t happen. This is about free speech and peaceful protest. This is about making a point, taking a stance and doing it in a manner that is sexy while also being engaging and instructional.

    We would love to have both of you join our cause and express solidarity, just as we have been expressing our solidarity with ALL the other satellites. When skepticism turns to negativity, it harbors the same detrimental emotions that lead to repression and a stifling of one’s rights and free speech. Negativity is what has resulted in the all the antiquated patriarchies in the world and the time is ripe to make a difference.

    Best wishes,
    Slutwalk Teheran 2012

    • I have told you multiple times where your efforts have gone severely misguided, and how they can bring harm to Iranian women (and even the foreign women you want marching on your behalf). Until these issues are resolved, it is in everyone’s best interest to *not* participate in SW Tehran. You have shown no concern for other women, you are imposing alien ideology onto cultures that you don’t understand and don’t respect (as the burqini photos on your profile and your anti-burqa stance shows), and you have not given us any reason to even believe who you say you are.

      • This is about making a point, taking a stance and doing it in a manner that is sexy while also being engaging and instructional.

        Marcus, it’s amazing how much you keep missing the point and end up being exponentially offensive.

        I have already pointed out that Slutwalk is a western movement that no one has any right to impose on on anyone else; it’s been pointed out elsewhere that Slutwalk is not a movement for every westerner to participate either (not that there is one particular way to do Slutwalk, as your organization have unfortunately shown). This is not a one size fits all deal, and you can’t arbitrarily make that decision for Tehran’s women- again I say, you are just reinforcing the problem.

        Participants in Slutwalk did not protest because they were trying to be sexy. Asking for victim’s rights to not be blamed for being raped is not sexy, it’s just a request for a bit of human decency. Whether or not the other organizers choose to endorse you is on them. My bone to pick is with your continued perceived entitlement of our support.

        Good intentions, and I will freely admit that I am skeptical that you and your project’s are in fact good, do not excuse you from criticism. The best intentioned plans, even within widely acclaimed movements can still cause a lot of hurt. I have had enough experience as a woman of color with well intentioned people with no concept of their privilege though they deigned to teach me about what my rights were.

        I do not want to join your cause, and I have been clear about my reasons, so has Tiara for that matter. Expect no solidarity while you trample over other’s voices.

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  6. Nikoel says:

    I’m extremely relieved if SW Tehran really is fake. It’s such a spectacularly bad idea I’m not sure why I believed it was real in the first place. Not to mention, that it’s not even easy for Persian-Americans to enter Iran (The US no longer has any Iranian embassies) let alone a bunch of foreigners wanting to stage a protest. And if they actually were able to get in somehow, they’d very likely be beaten and arrested by police.

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