This Saturday, thousands of women will march through downtown Los Angeles to Pershing Square to take a stand for gender equality; as with most feminist marches, there will be loud chants and witty signs. But this event will look a little different from the others: Marchers of all shapes and sizes will hit the streets in itty bitty bikinis, short-shorts, pasties, fishnets, lingerie, stripper heels and whatever else they feel like wearing. This is the Amber Rose SlutWalk and it's a judgment-free zone, even if you show up fully dressed. Amber Rose, the woman behind the event, says, “You don’t have to wear pasties! We have zero tolerance for bullying or anything like that.”
Rose first became known as partner to Kanye West and then wife of Wiz Khalifa but has gone on to create a platform as an entrepreneur, model, activist and proud ex-stripper. She founded the Amber Rose Foundation to fight victim blaming and to promote equal rights, and the SlutWalk is a way to draw public attention to those issues. Marching in lingerie isn’t about being an exhibitionist, as some might assume — SlutWalk started as a response to people who try to blame sexual-assault victims by focusing on what they were wearing at the time.
Now in its fourth year, Rose's SlutWalk has grown into a daylong event with speakers and live performances. “It’s not just a walk — we have a whole festival as well. You’re gonna cry, you’re gonna laugh. You’re gonna scream, maybe,” Rose predicts. “There are protesters outside, and you’re gonna be fuckin’ pissed. It’s a very emotional day, and amidst all the heavy trauma that we’ve been through, it’s a celebration for women as well. And it’s inclusive. We invite the LGBTQ community, nonbinary, whatever gender you identify with. Everyone is welcome.”
As a prelude to the big day, Rose partnered with Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, Dean’s Professor of gender studies and chair of gender and sexuality studies at USC, to host “OpenED: A Fireside Chat” at USC’s University Club on Tuesday. A panel of experts came together for a candid conversation about gender equality and social justice. Panelists included Nicole Beckett, co-founder of Sameside; Liz Havstad, executive director/chief operating officer of Hip Hop Caucus; Genie Harrison, a trial lawyer who represents victims of sex abuse, sexual harassment and retaliation; and Shafiqa Ahmadi, associate professor at USC and co-director of the Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice.
One topic that obviously came up several times was Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against him. Rose echoed what most women have been feeling about Ford — that she was amazingly brave for going public — during the discussion and told L.A. Weekly afterward, “I think there are misconceptions about, ‘Why is she coming out so many years later?’ Sometimes it takes that much time to be like, ‘You know what, I’m more comfortable coming out and saying exactly what happened to me [now] and have that clarity, and [I will] not be scared anymore.’”
For Rose it's not hard to understand why Ford would come forward after staying silent for so long. “When somebody does something so evil and traumatizes you, and then all of a sudden they’re getting such an amazing opportunity in their life, you’ve got to be like, ‘No. No way,’” she adds matter-of-factly.
Would Rose advise other victims to speak out sooner? “It’s such a difficult question, because I can say, ‘Come out and tell your truth!’ but a lot of times, your family’s at risk,” she replies. “People are threatening your life if you tell. You bottle those things up to protect your family, but internally, you’re dying inside. You have to do what feels comfortable. When you’re ready to get the justice that you want and deserve, that’s when you’re going to come out. Especially nowadays, there’s a lot of people that will have your back.”
In the wake of the Supreme Court hearings and President Trump's disregard and judgment of women, victims and survivors, Saturday’s Amber Rose SlutWalk feels more important than ever. Rose intends it as a chance to take a stand against sexism and victim blaming, while partying in the streets with like-minded souls and supporting one another. The event brings out a huge mix of people (see L.A. Weekly's coverage from past years here and here). “You’re gonna have strippers and porn stars, conservative feminists, activist feminists and male feminists,” Rose promises.
Female empowerment drives the event, but Rose emphasizes that it isn’t just for women. “I encourage you to take male family members,” she says. “I encourage you to take your mom. Have further conversations after the SlutWalk. Talk to other people. Listen to their stories. Realize that you’re not alone.”
The Amber Rose SlutWalk kicks off at 10 am from First and Hill streets downtown, and is followed by a festival in Pershing Square, 532 S. Olive St., from noon to 5 pm. Performers include Spice, Foxy Brown, Toni Romiti, Seth Baer and Saweetie. DJ Carisma, Saint Clair and DJ Dirty Draws will be spinning.
For free general-admission tickets to the festival, use the code “thankyoufashionnova” (online retailer Fashion Nova is a sponsor) on the Eventbrite invite.