We marched through streets declaring our bodies as ours, and collectively saying we do not stand for the culture we live in because it does not stand for us.
What is Rape Culture?
Rape culture is a culture that normalizes sexual harassment and violence, asks the victim if she was drinking and what she was wearing, sympathizes with perpetrators for losing their job/scholarship/status, and teaches women and girls to not get raped instead of teaching people to not rape and talking seriously about consent. Rape culture is insidious, sometimes subtle enough to be just a feeling that you shouldn’t talk about something because it will make someone else uncomfortable and upset the norm. Culture is human-made, and we can change this one. First we need to see it and talk about it.
On Saturday September 30, a small group of Own Your Awesomeness girls and women joined a few hundred people of different races, genders, and sexualities at Paine Plaza at the March to End Rape Culture. We observed creative and powerful signs, listened to speakers and poets, and then marched through Center City. It was a remarkable event to be a part of, made all the more powerful by sharing in the experience with our OYA cohort. Each of the four OYA girls who participated wrote a short reflection on their experience of the march.
Being an introvert, I originally had no clue what my role would be during the march. I figured that if I brought my camera, I could hide behind it and just film my surroundings. However, I didn’t expect to feel such an intense feelings of strength radiating off of the women around me. Although I am not a rape victim, I have been victimized by rape culture. Fueled by the people around me, I felt urged to finally speak up and join the chanting. It felt so empowering to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.
It’s hard to explain rape culture because it’s so woven into our society. It’s hard to point out specific examples of it and say “Here is the problem and then here is the solution.” It’s just a matter of experiencing it and at the March Against Rape Culture no one had to give an exact definition because we all had felt rape culture’s effects on to our lives. There was a communal understanding at this march that we were all there for the same reason and were creating an environment of love and acceptance. At this march we came together in intersectional sisterhood, to stand up against a culture that is rooted against women and against consent.
The day started off with multiple speakers and spoken word poetry, with dance parties, and sign making, and owning our space. It also started off with three people standing in the name of hate, with posters saying “Homos go to hell” and “Feminists are whores”. A man stood and screamed into his megaphone “you kill babies”. The amazing thing however was that these words were not a deterrent for anyone, they showed the importance of being there and marching with love and not hate because at the end of it all love will always trump hate. There will always be an abundance of love and it will drive out the hate. We marched through streets declaring our bodies as ours, and collectively saying we do not stand for the culture we live in because it does not stand for us.
The last day of September brought a field of new experiences, questions and answer for me to think about and learn from.. The March to End Rape Culture was an entire new environment and experience that the seventeen year old me has been craving and fearing for years. Participating in the march I was able to listen and observe the people around me, criticize my own logic and behavior as well as the behavior and logic of others, become vulnerable, question so many things and most importantly be in a safe place where I could voice my issues and have so many other people listen and stand with me.
The March to End Rape Culture was the first protest I participated in. I met up with my Camp instructor Kate Zipin and five amazing women that I went to camp with during the summer. We made the coolest signs we could think of, and all stuck together throughout the March. Before the actual marching happened, we all gathered around Dilworth Plaza. There were so many people there, all so different, so unique and so passionate I started to get anxious. There wasn't one person in that crowd who looked the same but we all wanted the same thing: equality. There were many motivational speakers, who spoke powerfully about their experiences with rape, being catcalled, abused and shamed. There was poetry, music, laughing and cheering. The march was an amazing experience that created a positive environment for me to enjoy and feel comfortable in.
Although the march had a lot of positive and joyful moments it also had a some negative moments. There was a group of protesters protesting our… protest. A women held up a sign that read “Women Belong In The Kitchen” as ironic as that might sound it's true. Observing that confused me. I questioned how so many people choose to deny other people their basic rights. I did not understand what possessed the men who held up signs that read “God Hates Homosexuals” and “You Promote Rape.” Their ignorance was just out of my limit. I realized that you cannot educate and help those who don't wanna be helped, and that's the sad reality of the march. It made me realize that their are gonna be people that come my way and don’t agree with me or don't want me to have BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS but as long as I am fighting for them, like I did the last Saturday of September, there is always a fighting chance for change. The beauty of that experience was watching some of the protestors make a wall between the ignorance and the ones participating in the march.
Overall, The March to End Rape Culture was an amazing experience for me. I was so happy to be able to march for an important situation and plan to go to as many in the future as I can.
I think it was great! I'm upset that I up late so I missed so much of the great stuff that happened as people prepared for the march. Although, I showed up about 15 minutes into the marching itself and it was wonderful.
I love the topic the most, the fact that so many showed in support of ending rape culture. It's a horrible thing that happens in our society and it's even worse that so many people aren't educated on it but all these people showed up because they were against it. And we got massive amounts of support on the streets, ranging from random people to Planned Parenthood. One kid saw and wanted to join just to join and it was so adorable.
But another thing that caught my eye was how unique the whole march was. From signs to the people marching beside me, all different shapes, sizes, genders, sexualities, all together. All these different people came together for one cause which I believe was beautiful. The signs said all different kinds of stuff, like "No to catcalling, Yes to cats" (absolutely adorableeee). All these unique people and signs, marching for one cause and in sync throughout it all made it more of a wonderful thing to witness.
The march had such high spirits and was, as I believe, very successful in spreading awareness since so many stopped to watch. I'd love to go back if I could and I'd definitely love to go to another march soon. Especially with my OYA group, they're the best 'march team' a girl could have :).
Jamie Walsh is a junior at Temple University and a lover of toaster strudel, beluga whales, and all things Joe Biden. She has a passion to write and explore the all possibilities Philadelphia has to offer as a student, a woman, and a dreamer.