Why men can’t lead the women’s movement

By Jen Thorpe

As many of you have heard, there was further violence against women at the Noord Street Taxi rank earlier this month. Two young women were assaulted by a mob of violent men, justified by the premise that they shouldn’t have been wearing revealing clothing. We have been here before, and this violence is evidence that women do not have access to their constitutional right to safety in South Africa.

The movement against violence against women in South Africa has been primarily driven by women, and by women-led NGOs.  This is simultaneously obvious and problematic. It is obvious, because in a fight for women’s rights, a women leader is essential. It embodies the principles of self-definition, ownership and empowerment. It is problematic because women led movements aimed at empowering women can only go so far without speaking to the primary perpetrators of violence against women – men. That is not to say that speaking with men will stop the problem of violence against women, but only that it seems logical to assess the root of the cause whilst empowering women to stand up for themselves. In addition, male role models who speak out about male-led violence against women are important in order to dispel excuses for violence against women. Slowly and reluctantly, the violence against women sector in the NGO world has begun to work with men, and men’s organisations. We have yet to see the results, but I think that this is an essential step.

At the same time, working with men’s organisations risks some of the very real gains women’s organisations have made. It is common to fall into comfortable (read patriarchal) patterns of gendered leadership and discourse. Men often aim to be the spokespeople, when there are equally suitable women who could perform the job. This may or may not be because of men’s desire to regain dominance, but it certainly does have an effect on the ability of the women’s movement to encourage psychological freedom (rather than psychological oppression in the Bartky sense of the word).

I think that the question of ownership of the feminist movement is one that will necessarily be a painful one to all those who are invested in a better and more gender equal world. The world that I would like to invest in IS one where men are able to participate in the women’s movement.  This week a Facebook debate took place over the violence against women at the Noord Street Taxi Rank. Walter Pike, who you might remember from Slutwalk Johannesburg, has been incredibly vocal about the need for the eradication of this violence, and its undesirability in South Africa. In response, Gillian Schutte, a documentary film maker  and activist, slated Pike for his attempt to equate the feminist movement to advertising/airtime goals and for his attempt to lead a movement that is in her view, not his to lead.

He responds:

“Apparently this fight, the fight against patriarchy, against woman abuse, against victim blaming is a woman’s fight and that a man should be one of the leaders of this fight is unacceptable. I don’t think so I think this is everyone’s fight and that my presence makes it easier for mainstream of society to identify with it.”

Whilst I commend Walter Pike for being ahead of his time in wanting to get involved in the women’s movement at all, I am uncomfortable as is Gillian Schutte with the idea that this movement would be led by a man or have a male spokesperson. I thought it was rad that Pike was at the Slutwalk with his daughter and her friend, showing them that they need not be afraid to speak their minds or get involved, I was irked that a white man had been chosen to MC a movement that in South Africa, lets face it, needed to be led by a woman. I also don’t think that the presence and leadership of a white man ‘makes it easier’ or more desirable to be part of any movement in the new South Africa.

In South Africa it is natural for men to feel that they are the best, or most able, or just the most genuinely interested spokesperson. They have been given this position for centuries. The women’s movement, in contrast, requires that women build themselves up and take ownership of their struggle, and that women lead and are respected as leaders. If we fall back to letting a man, regardless of his good intentions, lead our movement we will make losses. Imagine a black consciousness movement with a white leader, or a gay rights movement with a straight leader. I think the role of men is most certainly in supporting, getting involved, and in speaking to other men.

Remember that in patriarchy it is not only women who lose, though it is women who lose most significantly. In patriarchy men live in a limited world where only half the population is worthy of engagement. In this master-slave state of affairs, men want the respect of women, whilst not given women’s respect any value. So in order to truly change the status quo, women and men must both be freed. Women from their physical, sexual and psychological oppression and men from their dominance.

These movements must be owned by the people whose interests they represent, or they will only partially liberate participants.


46 thoughts on “Why men can’t lead the women’s movement”

  1. Whereas I understand your point and understand your concern it is important for there to be perspective;

    1 I am one of the spokesmen – not the spokesman.
    2 Slutwalk is set up as an inclusive movement and not a woman’s only movement.
    3 My voice is not as a representative of woman but of an idea – the idea that the victims of sexual assault can never be blamed for the assault.

    On the blog of slutwalk in toronto, where this all started, is an eloquent argument why slutwalk should be inclusive.’s-all-this-about-“privilege”

    So whereas as a general comment regarding woman’s movements I accept your view but as a representative of slutwalk I feel that we are making fantastic strides forward on the issue we are working on, and one of the reasons is our approach.

    I am preparing a blogpost for you with my views and will forward in the next day or so.


  2. Jen … you have left out a vital aspect of my argument. I do not argue with Pike for speaking out against the Noord Street Taxi violence. My argument is against his self-appointment as spokesperson and leader of the SlutWalk. I then argue all the points you bring up in the body of your essay. To reduce my stance to one sentence is rather unrepresentative of my view.


  3. Excellent article though. Pike continues to claim he is part of a collective … yet the collective is invisible. Sass Schulz was not on the ChaiFM feminist bashing ‘discussion’ this morning. She is referred to as a black woman survivor but no one cares to ask where she is and what her views are. Pike is comfortable taking the lead. It may as well be a fronting scenario. Nonetheless … women will speak on behalf of women’s movements … we demand it. Move over Pike. Take a back seat. Your failure to do so indicates patriarchy. In standing your ground you are actively taking away, usurping, a much needed platform for women’s voices. Why do you not want to budge?


  4. A claim that it would be *ideal* for women to lead feminist causes is perfectly sensible. But the claim that it’s *wrong* for men to be spokespersons for those causes goes too far. Pike is right on this one, because even if women are disproportionately harmed by sexism or patriarchy, they are not the only ones harmed. We all suffer in unequal and discriminatory societies, and we can all protest or campaign against inequality or discrimination. It’s legitimate to have different strategies, and it’s legitimate to take on a cause you think important, regardless of your ‘identity’.

    Even though we have to grant that background issues of privilege shape the political and rhetorical landscape, we shouldn’t forget that the aim of a reasonable and rational society is for ideas and arguments to be based on their merits, not on who has or utters them. It’s detrimental to that long-term goal to privilege an identity-politics based viewpoint. That’s what seems to be going on here (and also, incidentally, in the strapline “A blog for women by women”).


    1. Hi Walter,

      For the sake of correct information, can you clarify who you were appointed by exactly? In your Facebook status you state that you were one of the organisers. Is there a committee? How was the appointment formalised?


      1. Hi Jen yes there is an organising committee, there are 6 members on it five women and one man, the members are from a number of backgrounds and age and represent a broad range of communities, we operate on a totally egalitarian basis and all our decisions have been made by consensus although technically I suppose I have 1/6 of the vote.

        There are two spokespersons the one a woman of colour and a rape victim and I am the other. We decided on that split so that we could represent the interests of the cause because it needs to be inclusive to quote your final para “In patriarchy men live in a limited world where only half the population is worthy of engagement” and because I already have a large following on social media and other media.

        I was the MC because I am a professional speaker and felt comfortable doing so and Sass was going to make a speech and could not do both and it just seemed logical.

        Slutwalk internationally is not a franchised movement and there is no central control – we found each other and set out to organise the event. Without funding mind you and some of the organisers are still personally out of pocket.

        Slutwalk is very focussed on a specific idea as I have mentioned and all the organisers buy into the inclusive nature of the goal.

        I need also to respond to Gillian regarding her comment regarding the Chai FM interview was that I was there because the initial attack and I call it attack because of the level of vitriol was directed at me – That was the story they were covering – the attack on me including being called a stupid white man.

        I am uncomfortable with Gillian’s side show – I believe that we all have a lot to do and that there is no correct way of doing it – the problems we face as South Africans in education, patriarchy, basic services, poverty and corruption too name only a few are too urgent for us to mess about.

        I think its entirely appropriate that we utilise the passion of everyone who will contribute because we are in the business of idea diffusion and this idea needs to spread to everyone – so next time a young lady walks down Noord Street – the community and not necessarily metro cops will come to her rescue.


  5. Hi
    I completely disagree with this article on so many levels, and I hope I can put my point succinctly.

    1. “irked that a male was MC-ing slutwalk” – Is Slutwalk only a female movement or it is a movement against victim blaming and shaming? Last I checked, victims weren’t only one gender, race, age or social standing.

    2. There are 6 organisors of Slutwalk including myself, a black woman, and each of us represent a group of people who are against victim blaming and shaming, against the scourge of sexual abuse of all people, by all people.

    3. Are you saying that unless someone has experienced something they can’t speak for / against it. So I guess because I’ve never been a victim of petty crime I can’t take a stand with and for other humans

    4. Your view point here (to me) is unfair to men who want to get involved. Also it reiterates the idea that sexual abuse is ‘woman’s’ problem, and by doing that, you’re almost saying it’s okay that “women’s” problems aren’t dealt with in a stricter manner in this country, because they are just that “Women’s problems”

    Take support where you can and leverage that support instead of trying cull people who actually want to help. We have big issues around sexual abuse in this country and maybe if we stopped beating our chests as women trying to say we are better for the job, and we’re the only ones who can do the job, we should just come together as humans, as South Africans, and say enough is enough.

    Attacks on Walter and men such as himself who are vocal in their stand against the sickness that is sexual abuse are unnecessary; we should give them a nod and allow them to stand beside us. Alienating them only leaves a sour taste in their mouths and guess what, we need to fight this TOGETHER.

    Unfortunately, there is more than enough space for movements and causes in this country to fight the good, and do it your way. We are all trying to end injustices and until that happens, this silly bickering about who is allowed to do what is waste of time, energy and distracting from the real problems we’re facing.

    Finally, and this may be a puerile on my part, I’m thoroughly disappointed in a) the quote you chose from Walter from the many many valid points he made and b) that you would defend someone who thinks it’s okay to call someone trying to help a “stupid white man”.



    1. Akona,

      Thanks for the clarity about who organised the slut walk, I think that was very important. I agree that Slutwalk is a march against victim-blaming, but I do not agree that is should have been MC’d by a man.

      With regards to 3, I do believe that it is difficult for people to become spokespersons for a movement without being part of the group that the movement most represents. I don’t think it is possible to fully understand what a survivor of sexual violence has gone through unless you are a survivor yourself. That being said, I do think that the support of people who are just interested in a more just and non-violent society is incredibly important and I apologise if that did not come through clearly across in my article.

      4. I did not make the point that men should not be involved, only that they should not lead the women’s movement. Perhaps you’d like to re-read the post?

      I did not intend this post to be an attack on Walter, nor pro-Gillian piece. This piece was an attempt for me to articulate what I had been feeling about the movement since I participated as one of the speakers, and to discuss the complexities of this issue.


      1. Jen – I am in solidarity with Akona’s feelings – I however don’t think that your piece is an attack on me – that I have been attacked of that there is no doubt but I haven’t felt attacked in what you have said.


  6. Hi

    1. You should ASK before making assumptions. AND there was no committee. Sass, the founder, asked people she knew and had strengths in certain areas to join in creating a movement in SA based on worldwide Slutwalks.

    2. Who is to say that a white man was not raped because of the way he was dressed? Who is to say that that white man didn’t go through hell trying report this case and was laughed at by Police / Nurses? Who is to say that white man was told he deserved it? See where I’m going? Can you tell by looking at someone’s skin, dress, age, job that they have been sexually abused?

    2. b) Let’s say my best friend is raped – am I not allowed to speak on behalf of survivors or even as a ‘friend of survivors’ – so you are saying that only people who have experienced something can have a say? That’s a little flawed! again, my example about petty crime

    3. I did read your post Jen. Did Walter ever say led Slutwalk? Over and over he’s stated he was ONE of the organisors. And way back when he and the other Slutwalk organisors were doing interviews and writing articles and posts about the movement, none of you protested, and YOU, Jen, even agreed to speak for the movement not having raised the fact you are uncomfortable with Walter “MC-ing”. Oh and do you remember that Sass spoke, that I spoke, that Gillian did too? Was that MC-ing? One of the reasons so many people held that mic to show the different faces and thoughts of the varying people supporting anti-sexual abuse cause and anti victim blaming

    Maybe you need to rewrite the complexities of this issue because I don’t understand why it is so wrong to garner and accept support from varying people on issues that affect all of us.

    Again. This dictation of who is allowed to do what is distracting from something really important, and it saddens me to no end that we’d rather spend energy bickering about this than actually trying to make a difference.


    1. 3. To be honest, I was only approached the week before. Nobody informed me of who else was speaking.

      For more information on how women maintain preferences that further their oppression, feel free to read Sandra Bartky. Link is provided in text.


  7. I see that Akona and I are contradicting each other as to whether there was a committee or not – there was an organising group, whether its called a committee or not is semantics – The way i joined was interesting. I asked a question on twitter as to whether there was a slutwalk in SA – Sass and others answered – I met with Sass and she asked whether I would get involved I initially offered to give advice only but soon found myself completely involved.


  8. I would like to respond to the article and comments above.

    Firstly: “I don’t think it is possible to fully understand what a survivor of sexual violence has gone through unless you are a survivor yourself. ” – how do you know whether or not Walter has been a victim? You have no way of knowing whether he is a survivor, and I cannot understand why you assume he is not? Perhaps he is fighting this cause for reasons you had never considered. And if that is the case, consider the damage you and Gillian may have caused.

    Secondly: Slutwalk is not, and never has been, a feminist movement. From the beginning we have been a movement against victim blaming and sexual violence. In no way, anywhere, have we claimed this is feminist or exclusively about women. In fact, we have strongly argued against this. We challenge the idea that only women are victims. We all know that is not true.

    Thirdly, I do not understand why Gillian is so adamant that Walter Pike is the only person involved in Slutwalk? Let’s explain the process to you:
    Angel Conradie mentioned the Slutwalk to Sandi Schultz, Sandi then contacted Akona, myself and a third person to get involved. This person was unable to participate due to work commitments. Walter then came on board to help with marketing and getting our message out there, bringing with him Gina and Sam. Yes he has been a voice, but that is because he is known and has been approached. In several of the interviews we have all discussed who should be the person to handle the interview, and Sandi has been that person most of the time. In fact, she was on ChaiFM in 2011.

    Fourthly, the problem of Walter being an MC. Does this detract that all the speakers were women? I cannot understand how Walter introducing the speakers impacts on Slutwalk in any way. Surely the poignant speeches by all the other women overpower the fact that a man introduced them?

    And finally, by making this a gender issue you have brought in the aspect of patriarchy. If you believe in Discourse as defined by Foucalt then you know that by naming it and bringing in the conflict you are in fact ensuring it is a patriarchal issue where it needn’t have been. Instead of thinking about how using a man would help with the “gaze” as Foucalt called it, by challenging the norms and society’s expectations, you instead have chosen to give him “power” by labelling him, and giving the position of “man” a powerful place where it wasn’t necessary.

    We are all humans, we are equal. Black, white, green, blue, purple. It doesn’t matter. If your issue is about feminism perhaps you should remove Slutwalk from the equation – because Slutwalk has absolutely nothing to do with gender.


  9. Oh poor Walter. I referred you to a book written by a man about men like you. Yes the book happens to be called “Stupid white men” and explores the multiple ways in which white males assume domination of everything around them … including women’s discourse.

    I was going to add … are you being deliberately obtuse? … but I don’t think you are.

    Jen … let us agree that Walter ‘leads’ (a word he is fond of) a conservative constituency of ‘followers’ (another word he is fond of) who either have liberal/conservative feminist ideals or none at all. He has an ephemeral committee of women who claim to not want to be feminists or activists.


  10. …they also claim that the slutwalk is not a feminist movement and never has been .. that there is no such thing as gender and that everyone is equal. I guess this means then that they too live in a shack with no basic services on less than R700 per month.

    That Foucault is so thoroughly misunderstood does not bode well either. That panoptical patriarch has got everyone by the brain cells too
    it would seem.

    I fear there is a George Bush Virus on the loose.


  11. On a more serious note … when they approached me to talk I inquired as to who else would be speaking and was told it was you and Fiona. I did not agree to this and asked them to organise a more representative front. They could not. I then suggested Shafinaaz Hassim and Akona … whom they then invited to speak. Unfortunately Shafinaaz could not make it.
    Please note Jen: We, the lunatic radical feminists,
    stand accused of doing a lot of damage. Methinks the damage was done the moment the SlutWalk fell into the hands of conservative people with no real feminist agenda.


  12. Gillian, in case no one else says it, you are being puerile.

    There’s absolutely no need to stoop to name calling, even if cleverly disguised, because people disagree with you.

    Now I dare you to respond like an adult, without insults, to any of the above valid points.


  13. I also organised the interview on the Redi Show. Guess who wanted to be on the show? If it was not for the producer (a politically aware white man) insisting on representation for South African women, the majority of whom are black, Walter saw no problem in taking this forum too. Akona did a wonderful job of representing the SlutWalk … thus I insisted that she share the stage on the day of the SlutWalk too. Walter said they did not invite her because she was not contributing much to the organisation. I then assured him that it was in the interest of the movement to have her speak.


  14. Gillian – I shall not respond other than to acknowledge that I have read your last post – it appears that now you are taking responsibility for being an organiser of #Slutwalkjhb.


  15. May I address a number of points here – most of it in response to Gillian? Walter became MC the day of SlutwalkJhb because at the last moment 5fm dj and ardent SW supporter, Kim Schulze was no longer available. I was obvious next choice to be MC, but seeing that I was going to be one of the speakers, we (the 6 organizers) decided that Walter should be the MC – besides the fact that it’s something he’s good at, we also thought that it would support the original Slutwalk Toronto vision of being inclusive and point out that the event was not only aimed at women.
    Also, Walter, by no means leads SWJHB. What you call our “weak” leadership is consensual and equal and he is a valuable part of that team. He has never tried to change the agenda for his own purposes and neither would the other organizers let him. There are 6 of us who have been working democratically towards the same objective and some people actually feel that we are achieving something – maybe the slew of messages I personally deal with from survivors breaking the silence and gathering courage from knowing they are not alone, is a sign that things are changing.
    As for SWJHB “falling into” our hands – I don’t know if you can call 6 months of tireless work organizing and thousands out of pocket, “falling into” our hands.
    As for the speakers: Akona did not want to be one – she spoke because we needed her to. I personally made a number of calls to possible “representative” speakers and spent a lot of time on the phone trying to get as varied a range of voices as possible.
    I refuse to apologize for not being the brand of feminist you require me to be. According to my understanding, the SW was always meant to be inclusive. I initiated SWJHB not because I wanted to play politics, but because I am a survivor who knows what it’s like to be a statistic and because I feel passionate about a cause, one I was personally actively supporting even before SW happened.
    Gillian, I have wanted to stay out of this (besides the fact that I’m on one of the rare breaks I get a year and that I’ve needed to recover from the last year) because I have had great respect for you and your passion for what you do. However, right now I am feeling bullied and badgered. Do only revolutionary feminists get raped? Are they the only ones who get called sluts? The irony is that your campaign against Walter is making you his personal PR and taking the focus off of much more important issues.


  16. For my part, being a Canadian, the ‘movement’ was first brought to my attention by fellow Canadians, and then strengthened by the article run in the BBC News at the beginning of May 2011 about the SlutWalk in London. I mulled over the idea of trying to organize one here in Cape Town, mentioning the possibility to a close friend of mine who eventually worked with me as co-organizer. I am a middle-class white male (some might say that in a relative sense that I am upper class because of my earning potential in Canada), who had lived in South Africa less than one year. So one could say not only was I male and had never been a victim, but I knew nothing about South Africa.

    On the other hand, I believe that rather than go down the road of the immediate injustices that SlutWalk tried to deal with (as the gist of most of the arguments but organizers went down), perhaps my different point of view made it so that I did my best to point out (perhaps because I am a ‘logical male’ with a background in political theory), that the situation in South Africa is a completely different game to the situation in any ‘Western country’, because if the problem is to be curbed in South Africa, it must be stemmed at its source, which is rank socio-economic inequality, poverty, and the manner in which—to use John Howard Griffin’s term—the ‘sorry nigger’ can find no way out of the coffin that society has placed him in except to make the most of the only things he can get his hands on that can distract him from his sorry state.

    [“The Negro, too, fares better in the country. But most are deprived of education. Ignorance keeps them poor, and when a town-dwelling Negro is poor, he lives in the ghetto. His wife has to work usually, and this leaves the children without parental companionship. In such places, where all of man’s time is spent just surviving, he rarely knows what it means to read a great book. He has grown up and now sees his children grow up in squalor. His wife usually earns more than he. He is thwarted in his need to be father-of-the-household. When he looks at his children and his home, he feels the guilt of not having given them something better. His only salvation is not to give a damn finally, or else he will fall into despair. In despair, a man’s sense of virtue is dulled. He no longer cares. He will do anything to escape it—steal or commit acts of violence—or perhaps try to lose himself in sensuality. Most often the sex-king is just a poor devil trying to prove the manhood that his whole existence denies. This is what the whites call the ‘sorry nigger’.” — John Howard Griffin, “Black Like Me”].

    Is this a feminist issue? Personally, I believe that it is far more a socio-economic one. If someone’s throat is sliced, you cannot expect that they will survive if you apply a band-aid. So what does SlutWalk in South Africa really accomplish? In the immediate, hopefully a stronger voice for women and a cornerstone from which they can argue against individual cases of mistreatment. But, from my point of view, that of a privileged white male, this is a very feeble effort that will likely have little long-term positive effects unless the real problem is attacked at its source.

    Do I condone when men do these things? Of course not. But I understand that it largely stems from their being trapped in a vicious cycle of violence and hopelessness. Perhaps it is just my ‘male’ opinion, but simply pointing fingers across the gender divide will not get us very far if we really want to make a dent in the cancerous epidemic of rape in South Africa.

    For us to go forward, the cycle must end.

    —Stuart MacDonald, SlutWalk Cape Town


    1. I wanted to edit my post slightly as it probably looks like a mish-mash of different ideas, so basically here is the thread. I, as a male, appointed myself as an organizer not because I was a male but because I got the heads up from friends in Canada who had spread the word on this, and thought ‘this might be interesting to bring to South Africa, if possible’. I talked to a female friend of mine who encouraged me to do it. At the time, I contacted various other female friends of mine, but, having only a small network of friends, the limited replies I got did not seem to be particularly optimistic with regard to success, so I ‘took the lead’, thinking it an interesting project and also with my closest ally, who was co-organizer, largely inundated with her graduate studies.

      On the other hand, knowing full well that it was not possible for me to take a ‘woman’s angle’, focused on my the area of expertise that I could afford the project, having just completed a Masters in political theory. I came at it from a theoretical point of view on the one hand because that’s what I knew, and on the other hand because I thought it might be a fresh idea to push into what too often became an emotional battleground.

      In other words, I did what I could and I contributed what I could, and as much as my input might have been swayed by my gender, I sincerely believe that my contribution as a human being was invaluable to this project going ahead as it did and being as successful as it was. During my time in Africa, I contributed opinions as a male against male violence on behalf of SlutWalk, I contributed opinions as a Westerner against Western neo-colonialism on behalf of Africans, I contributed opinions as a individual from a capitalist country against capitalism on behalf of socialism, and I spoke as an upper-middle-class individual against economic inequality and the plight of the poor on behalf of the poor who largely don’t have a voice. And I did none of these things because of my gender, race, or economic class, but rather because I felt that I was informed enough to have something valuable to contribute to the socio-political discourse. I can only hope that something good came of it.


  17. It is simple. None of the feminists are comfortable with a male taking over the platform and speaking on behalf of women. Jen points this out quite succinctly in her essay above. Walter’s last response to my msg about my contribution to the SlutWalk publicity as an ardent supporter, is petty and competitive. This illustrates where he is coming from and how he refuses to engage in the issue of representation. I am not claiming to be an organisor … I am pointing out how you Walter, want to be seen as the face of SW when it is not exactly the appropriate or representative face for a women’s movement.
    Stuart … will respond to you after all my proposal writing. Just to say that your politics are at least in line with a progressive approach. Neoliberal conservative politics make it that much worse. Though, do not be mistaken that the poor do not have a voice or that you speak for them. They do have a voice! They organise on a daily basis. My point is the same. Work in solidarity with the poor. Find platforms to bring their voices to the public space ,,, but never presume they do not have a voice. Walter’s save the rhino, save the tree, save the women approach is bullshit as far as I am concerned.
    I really have to write proposals so have to leave this discussion for a while. Though it is far from over. Sass … I respect the energy you put into the organisation. I am disappointed that you did not think through the representation issues and that your exhaustion allowed Walter to take over the reins and become the public face for this movement. I phoned you early on to say we need a meeting with a group of representative and diverse women to take the SlutWalk where we wanted it to go as a women’s movement.
    This is a feminist movement whether you like it or not. Feminist men are welcome. Please take note of the misogyny and chauvinism displayed in Walter’s defense of himself .(and his feminist-bashing cronies)… his absolute inability to engage in the issue in a solution based manner …and tell me if you are comfortable as a woman to have this type of man as a leader of a feminist movement.
    Get over yourselves SW organisors and engage in this issue in a less defensive and more problem solving manner.


  18. Stuart … as a social justice activist I totally agree that this encompasses socioeconomic issues too. .. and that is the field I work in as an advocacy filmmaker.

    SlutWalk is a social activist movement in which women claim back their bodies, their voices & as I have said time and time again … male solidarity and voices are welcome. Just do not take over a movement and speak on BEHALF of women’s bodies. This is a case of one conservative/liberal white middle aged privileged marketing business man who is out of touch with progressive politics and feminist politics… representing the movement … some have said that it has become entangled with his own brand. We do not relate to this approach. That his ‘team’ allow this is also counter feminist.


  19. Case in point. Wakling around Khayelitsha, I was motioned across the road by a group of youths sitting together chatting and drinking their homemade spirit. I went across and the guy who did most of the talking said to me ‘what are you going to tell people when you go back to your country?’ I said I’m not sure. He said ‘tell people we have no jobs and nothing to do. It is impossible for us here to make a life for ourselves because we have all the energy and none of the resources, etc.’

    Case in point. When people ask me about Canada, they think that everything is all rosy. They are absolutely astonished when I tell them about the plight of Native peoples in Canada being similar, if not worse in some ways to the situation regarding blacks in South Africa. Why do they not hear of this? Because the Native peoples have no representation in International media.

    When I say ‘they don’t have a voice’, I mean in terms of regular representation and support of their views in mainstream media. And I think this is an honest assessment, because even when there are stories about the situations in the townships, they are largely negative and result in ostracizing these people further from a concerted push to solve the problems that plague them: ‘too dangerous to go there,’ ‘their problems are theirs and we have our own.’

    “But the situation is changing,” I said after a time. “The Negro may not understand exactly how, but he knows one thing—the only way out of this tragedy is through education, training. Thousands of them sacrifice everything to get the education, to prove once and for all that the Negro’s capacity for learning, for accomplishment, is equal to that of any other man—that the pigment has nothing to do with degrees of intelligence, talent or virtue. This isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s been proved conclusively in every field.”
    “We don’t hear about those things,” he said.
    “I know. Southern newspapers print every rape, attempted rape, suspected rape, and ‘maybe rape’, but outstanding accomplishment is not considered newsworthy. Event he Southern Negro has little chance to know this, since he reads the same slanted reports in the newspapers.”

    –‘Black Like Me’

    But yes, I agree with your assessment about neoliberal conservative politics, and that it was very prevalent in both Johannesburg and Durban. It must be recognized that at the root of the problem is a dialectic of violence and counter-violence, not always physical, and now increasingly economic. I personally felt (and my co-organizer agreed) that the approaches of both Durban and Johannesburg were not radical enough, but instead simply somnabulated through a ‘model parliament’ scenario, grafting the prevailing neo-liberal political approach onto a movement that, especially in South Africa, must be incredibly radical in order to break the shackles of a history of patriarchy and economic inequality.

    One need only compare our responses to Dot Parker’s questions about SW South Africa. I composed my answers to attempt to critically penetrate the prevailing issues as deeply as possible and lay some foundations for something radical to work from. I found the responses from the other too disappointingly passive, but unsurprisingly typical of a apolitical, conservative approach.

    And that was one of these reasons why I tried to ‘take the reigns’, not because I wanted to lead as a male but because I wanted to lead as a radical. It soon became apparent to me that my co-organizer and I in Cape Town were the ones with a deep appreciation for radical politics, and if we had simply fallen into pseudo-egalitarian step with the others, SW South Africa would have found it difficult to find a critical voice that went beyond simply banging the drum of ‘rape, victim blaming, etc. is wrong’.


  20. In addition, let me say my reservations about Johannesburg and Durban seem to have turned out correct. I was a little worried when I found out that the original organizer knew very little about politics and a lot about marketing (having her own fashion label), but did not realize that this neo-liberal thinking would mean that the Johannesburg ‘committee’ was dominated by (a group of?) neo-liberal free market capitalists and whose ‘spokesman’ owns a marketing company and gives advice on public speaking (as I just found his website via a google search). I did not realize that when I looked for a representative in Durban in order to make it a three-pronged approach for maximum benefit and came across the Jes Foord Foundation that it might have been better if they had stuck with their original decision of not getting involved with a movement ‘containing the word ‘slut” because after they took the reigns it largely descended into an advertising scheme, and even the manner in which they conducted the ‘protest’ in Durban meant that you actually had to get permission from the moderators to be involved by facebook.

    In Cape Town our entire outlay for everything consisted of our time (which was a fair bit) and paying for the materials to make a few signs here and there and buying a roll of ribbon to identify marshals. The Cape Town police service was admirable in their assistance in helping us organize what we needed for the protest, making it known that it would cost us nothing to do so, and exchanging congratulations on a job well done on both sides after the fact. I was surprised and rather disturbed that in Johannesburg they were calling for donations on the one hand of of money to ‘help with administration costs’, and on the other hand of ‘Jes Foord rape survival kits’ that only added to the increasingly commercial nature of the whole thing, and detracted from what was important, namely the politics.

    I am proud of what Cape Town achieved, because we ran a tight ship and stuck to politics. We did our research, tried to keep the issue as broad as possible, and tried to stay as informed as possible in terms of dealing with the media and sticking to our guns (which, it seemed, isolated us from the other two, who seemed to run what I saw as largely uninformed, apolitical marketing campaigns).

    Gillian, I believe you are right in your assessment of the situation, but you are wrong in directing your anger/disappointment at men. The real subversive element here (and in most things political these days) is not men, but (deliberately or not) self-serving capitalists and/or people who know nothing about politics except what has been drummed into their heads as ‘socially acceptable’ by the same people who throw around buzzwords like ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ without any real substance.

    And let me say that, despite ‘being a man’, I am, in principle, wholeheartedly on your side on this one, except perhaps, for your sometimes ambiguous targeting of ‘men’.



  21. Last point here – I am being attacked by Schutte over and over again on the same and totally inaccurate point – I have tried over and over again to point it out to her in public because as she was actually there knew it all along.

    But once again. I have not taken over slutwalk, I am not self appointed, I was invited to join and asked to help. I am part of group of 6 people who set out to organise a protest. We all as has been stated by the others on this thread worked together as a team. I am in no way the leader of the team – I had a role – and one of those was as one of two spokespeople. I carried out the role – we were extremely successful in our goal except for one thing we didn’t cover our costs.

    I will submit my article, although I am considering whether I should disengage completely – but I will no longer engage on this thread – does Schutte really honestly believe that people will fall for her stuff just because she repeats it over and over. Gillian Schutte you are not entitled to your own facts.


  22. I am leaving this discussion with these words from bell hooks – a feminist icon. In understanding this perhaps something would have been achieved.

    As all advocates of feminist politics know most people do not understand sexism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.

    Feminism is not simply a struggle to end male chauvinism or a movement to ensure than women have equal rights with men; it is a commitment to eradicating the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels—sex, race, and class, to name a few—-and a commitment to reorganizing … society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires. (bell hooks)


  23. To sum up my ‘facts’. Walter Pike has become the dominant face and dominant spokesperson of the SlutWalk Jhb. This translates into an assumed leadership. The team he refers to, have admitted that they prefer him to speak on behalf of the Slutwalk Jhb thus they obviously approve of his face being the face of the SlutWalk Jhb. What I and other feminists are saying (read Jen’s article) is that we do not approve of Walter Pike or any male, speaking on behalf of women’s issues, for women and about women especially when there are plenty of strong and willing women for the job. He, with the help of his team, is usurping a much needed social platform for women’s voices to be heard. I, like Jen Thorpe, was irked by the male MC at the initial SlutWalk. His language was all about the marketing output his company had quantified (he mentioned big figures of how much their advertising has come up to) which did nothing to further the protest against mainstream linguistics which serve to entrench patriarchy. Furthermore, we are against the commercialization of protest politics. This walk should not incur the type of costs they keep referring to. It should be held in public spaces that do not cost money. All it requires is for people to show-up and make a statement. There should have been public meetings called to decide on the way forward for SlutWaqlk Jhb … as there were in other countries. A social movement does not belong to a committee … it belongs to society. This benevolent-autocratic, top-down ‘leadership’, ‘follower’ marketing approach is really not in keeping with protest politics. The ‘committee’ only defend their positions in this forum – instead of asking what sort of processes could be put in place to make this a satisfactory and representative movement. Pike has consistently labelled me and other feminists, radical, irrational, extremist, man-hating. He has also labelled my concerns as an attack and has not once spoken out against the feminist-bashing and misogynistic invectives from his ‘followers’ – thereby approving the content. Furthermore Walter is keeping his Pike focused only on me because this is another way in which he can ignore the fact that this is a collective argument against his position. He stubbornly refuses to engage in the actual debate. Thus this is counterproductive and in fact a great example of why men should not take on leadership positions in women’s movements.

    Sass, you keep saying how out of pocket you are. Could you make public the list of expenses that this event accrued? You also say it took 6 months of your life. There were plenty of women out there willing to take on roles and responsibilities. Perhaps if you had welcomed a larger committee of women this would have taken some of the weight off your shoulders. I do need to inquire also, as to why you asked a women’s survivor group to remove their poster from the walls on the day of the event. I heard about this and am not sure of the details.

    Let me reiterate. This is not an ‘attack’ on men. I personally like men. I’m in a wonderful relationship with a man and I have a boy child. That men and their voices in solidarity are most welcome in feminist movements has been said over and over again. My feminist husband would never assume to take over a platform for women’s voices… just as I would not become the face or voice of his ex-political prisoner forum.



  24. Slutwalk is a radical movement that was bound to cause debate amongst all sorts of diverse groups. It’s expected that feminists will have a lot to say regarding Slutwalks. My point is that even though there is so much discussion about the several views of Slutwalk, Slutwalk itself has never claimed to be a purely feminist movement although I can most definitely understand and respect the feminist opinions.

    I have my own view just like everyone else. Rape and sexual violence is not only restricted to women because of the simple fact that it happens to men and children. Yes, it may not happen as often to men but that doesn’t mean we must completely ignore it as if it doesn’t exist.

    Slut-shaming too. It is not restricted to woman victims and in my experience the meaning hasn’t changed when it is aimed at males. I have also seen girls cat calling and wolf whistling after a male. Once again, just because it doesn’t happen as often to men as it does to women, it doesn’t mean that we can ignore it altogether as if it doesn’t happen at all. In fact, I hear women slut shaming other women on a more regular basis than any other gender combination. How can Slutwalk be a purely feminist cause? The definition for “slut” has, in fact, changed to include members of both the male and female genders – Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure.

    “WE ARE COMING TOGETHER. Not only as women, but as people from all gender expressions and orientations, all walks of life, levels of employment and education, all races, ages, abilities, and backgrounds, from all points of this city and elsewhere.” – Slutwalk, Toronto

    There is also nothing that states how much someone (a man or woman) can or can’t contribute to the cause. Walter has done nothing wrong. I would be furious if Walter were the only organizer of Slutwalk but I would also be equally angry if a purely female committee was responsible. The same goes for Gay Pride as mentioned in the article. The diversity is vital here.

    Just because I’m a woman it doesn’t mean that I understand any better than a man what it feels like to be raped or sexually assaulted. This is not to say that feminists have never been sexual assaulted or slut shamed but why has Gillian not been focusing on that? She has been pushing for a feminist representative but not someone who has been raped? If a man who has been raped or assaulted were to take Walter’s place then how is that not ok?

    Male speakers have also appeared in Slutwalks other than Johannesburg, these include Los Angeles, Cape Town, Baltimore and even Toronto where the first Slutwalk occurred. My point is that if Slutwalk is a fixed feminist movement then this shouldn’t be happening at all. What confuses me the most about this whole issue is that Gillian seems to be focusing her energy in the wrong direction. The arguments here are based on whether or not Slutwalk is a feminist movement which is discussed all over the world.Slutwalk has never claimed to be a feminist cause. Why has Gillian decided that her opinion is correct and then taken it upon herself to ask Walter to step down from his position on the Slutwalk committee?

    Although I’ve now stated my thoughts on the situation I’m not here to try and change anybody else’s view on the issue, including Gillian’s. We are all entitled to opinions based on what we observe and I must be able to respect the opinions of others. What I would like to point out is that Gillian is not respecting the people that have opinions that differ to hers. If Gillian is going to be the self appointed representative of the other side of the argument then I think she needs to be an adult about it. Just in one of the above comments she states that Walter has labeled her “and other feminists, radical, irrational, extremist, man -hating” She was the first one to describe herself as a “radical feminist” as well as in her original post. I also don’t blame Walter for referring to her as something she claimed herself to be and who also stated that: “SlutWalk Johannesburg does not seem to have the same radical feminist politics as the global movement.” I’m now unsure as to if she welcomes the word or finds it offensive. As for the remaining words, I can’t seem to find any example of Walter using these words to label Gillian. Yes, others may have commented on his facebook wall post that Gillian’s argument “sounds like a “burning bra” brigade” and stating “the whole concept comes across to her” as “man-hating” but I can’t see any examples of Walter describing Gillian in this way unless Walter has done so in a private conversation with Gillian.

    I know how much this must sound like an attack on my part, but I’m simply pointing out what I have been following the past week or so. Basically, if you are going to have someone representing a feminist view on this situation then I expect him or her to be completely honest here. I also don’t think that it’s suitable to have a representative that has selective hearing and ignores the facts that Walter and several others have had to repeat over and over again. I don’t feel as if I need to repeat the already stated facts that one more time because it seems as if Gillian is simply going to ignore them that one more time.

    I made sure I got up on time to catch the radio conversation on ChaiFM and it further convinces me that Gillian Schutte is not a suitable speaker (self appointed or not). Her interrupting the DJ during the voicing of his opinion after she had finished speaking was evident of a poor speaking on her part. She has since then stated that the interview was “ feminist bashing” discussion and that ChaiFM needs to do more “research into the history of feminism”. If Gillian’s argument were strong enough then I don’t think she would need the opposition to carry out more research on her argument. At least Walter is able to get a message out there correctly without becoming defensive. He is a vital member of the Slutwalk organization because he is honest, engaging and isn’t inflicted with selective hearing when it comes to facts that may weaken his argument. Slutwalk needs that aspect in a diverse committee.

    Gillian stated on the facebook post that Walter has “become the laughing stock of thinking women.” I’m insulted by the insinuation that anybody who shares the same opinion as Walter is not a “thinking woman” regardless of his gender – As a woman I can derive my own opinions based on what I observe and that doesn’t make me any less of a “thinking woman” just because it differs to Gillian’s view. That alone is discrimination and I feel it contradicts to what Gillian stands for – The right for me, a woman, to have my own opinion and be able to speak up for myself. This is not feminist behavior.

    A few weeks ago Gillian Schutte also wrote on Ster Kinekor’s wall stating:

    “we object to your Steve Hofmeyer advertising campaign in the Ladies Toilets – utterly tasteless and politically ridiculous to sanction a known racist. We demand that you remove the campaign – men are not allowed into the ladies loo … why is he there????”

    I don’t think it’s right for Walter to have to stand down from his position on the Slutwalk committee for supposedly speaking on behalf of women for a supposedly feminist cause when Gillian has spoken on behalf of another race regarding racial discrimination. Her use of the word “we” indicates that she is speaking on behalf of more than just herself. I find this hypocritical.

    Unless there is another who can stand up for the same feminist views who is honest, respecting and doesn’t behave in a manner that indicates double standards then I don’t think Walter, the Slutwalk committee or anybody else should waste any more time responding to Gillian Schutte.


  25. I suppose Jess, I should have said .. of critically thinking women. If you were able to engage in the debate on a critical level it would be so much more interesting and there would be a way forward perhaps. As for Steve Hofmeyer … I speak as a white person against white supremacy and racism – not on behalf of black people who are quite capable of speaking for themselves. You will notice that many black people did raise their dissatisfaction with Steve Hofmeyer in general. So your point is mute. I am, though, married to a Xhosa man, and thus my children are not white. I think any mother has the right to speak against things that affect her children, no?

    As for the Chai radio interview, any woman who was unable to hear the chauvinistic, misogynistic, male supremacist subtext (and earlier on … downright insults) coming from the radio jerk … would be a woman who is clearly not able to engage in critical thinking. It is (or should be) unacceptable to any women, feminist or not. The fact the Walter, has on occasion, pressed the like button on, as well as not spoken against, the insults you mention, means that he implicitly supports the lexis used against feminists. He has not once spoken out against the outright insults towards women on his page has he? What does this tell you?

    You may have been taught that it is not lady like for a woman to speak her thoughts and express her anger and passion … but I will not be forced into using subservient language and polite terms to please men and women like you. It is very interesting that you find the insults coming from men so much more acceptable than my outspokenness. The world, is indeed, still skewed towards the male voice being acceptable and the feminine voice being silenced.

    I have not regrets about anything that I have voiced. You, are assuming that this is me against the world. There are plenty of critically thinking women engaging in this debate despite your invective that this is the voice of me alone. This is not about me alone. It is about women. It is about the collective. It is about the future for our daughters, a world in which women’s engagement and public platforms are the norm, rather than the exception.


  26. Feminist bell hooks, says it best.

    “I am passionate about everything in my life–first and foremost, passionate about ideas. And that’s a dangerous person to be in this society, not just because I’m a woman, but because it’s such a fundamentally anti-intellectual, anti-critical thinking society”.

    “As all advocates of feminist politics know most people do not understand sexism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.”

    And finally from an enlightened man …

    “…whenever accusations of “man-hating feminism” enter into a debate, our suspicions should be immediately aroused. For more often than not, the temptation to close down debate by tossing around accusations of man-hating radical feminism is caused not by a fear of debate, but by the deeper fear that feminism might actually have something important to say.” (Johnathon Dean)


  27. This all assumes that men and women have essential and irreconcilable identities that can be represented faithfully and exclusively by a member of either group. I thought feminists traditionally demonstrated how both male and female identity were constructs. Anyway, what ever happened to the idea of solidarity?


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