On Saturday, October 3rd, Amber Rose marched through the streets of Los Angeles on her #SlutWalk - an event that sold out with over six thousand tickets to condemn our culture of slut shaming and victim-blaming.
The event raised more than $55k for the Amber Rose Foundation, a foundation that “is specifically geared towards women empowerment and fighting against victim blaming.” A handful of celebrities donated to the cause, most notably Nicki Minaj, with a quick $5000 donation, and Rose’s manager Nick Cannon, who donated $14,000.
While she comes from humble south Philadelphia beginnings, she’s no stranger to the spotlight. Rose spent two years in a relationship with Kanye West, and then married Wiz Khalifa (from whom she’s now separated). Rose and Khalifa have a son, Sebastian. Her split with West resulted in a feud with the Kardashian clan and with West confessing that, after dating Rose, Kim Kardashian made him “take like 30 showers.”
“I guess that just washed all of my sexy bald-headedness off of his ass,” Rose playfully responded this weekend to her throng of screaming and supportive fans. Addressing the crowd, she explained her first experience of slut shaming at the age of fourteen after an innocent game of Seven Minutes in Heaven gone wrong. Going back to school for Rose was difficult, she says, “I felt like my life was over.”
But her experiences with slut shaming were just beginning - Rose began stripping at the age of 15 to support her family, and the title of “stripper” and the attached stigma have followed her around everywhere she’s gone ever since. In an emotional moment during her speech, Rose confessed that even Khalifa, the love of her life and father of her child, referred to her in a song with, “fell in a love with a stripper, but fell out of love quicker.” In the same speech, Rose said she forgives Khalifa and West and encouraged all in attendance to do the same.
But she’s done so much more beyond this one event. Rose has long been an ally to the LGBT+ community by being involved in the NOH8 campaign and encouraging her two personal assistants to push their gender nonconforming boundaries as far as they wish to go. Her longtime assistant Benji Carlisle has credited Rose with accepting him for who he is, telling Cosmopolitan in an interview that, “Miss Rose embraces me being myself however I look, physically. Because I would say in society, to be who I am is very difficult.” Never one to take herself too seriously, she was featured in Amy Schumer’s “Milk Milk Lemonade” satire of the current cultural obsession with the female ass earlier this year. Just last month, she collaborated with Funny or Die to star in a “Walk of No Shame” video, in which she takes a cheerful stroll home in her skin-tight black dress, heels in hand, after a romp with Orange is the New Black’s Matt McGorry. (I can’t decide which one of them is the luckiest.)
The best thing about Rose’s “women empowerment” movement is that it’s intersectional and inclusive. A panoramic shot of those attending the #SlutWalk will show you the diversity of her followers, of those who chose to show up. Her low socioeconomic background - a background that’s particularly marginalizing for female survivors of sexual violence - is also why she’s such a necessary role model. She’s down to earth, and she’s unapologetic about her roots and where she comes from. Take a particularly endearing part of her #SlutWalk speech where, in reference to her first slut-shaming experience, she says that, “I was on my knees and he had his penis out. Er, dick, I’m gonna say dick. Fuck it.”
Her grit and her honesty are what make her such a breath of fresh air amongst the celebrity feminist elite: she’s not Paris-born, Ivy League-educated Emma Watson giving a speech at the UN in a Dior coat-dress. She’s not Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette lambasting Hollywood’s payment gap while simultaneously holding a net worth of 24 million dollars. Her feminist movement deserves to be taken seriously and should not be left out of the conversation simply because she’s not formerly educated or stereotypically ladylike, and certainly not because her career began at a south Philadelphia strip club. It’s her background that makes her so influential and important, and by being unapologetic about who she is and where she comes from, she encourages all of us to be the most unapologetic versions of ourselves that we can be.
In a culture where political figures think sex workers can’t be raped, where women of color and women with low socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to be taken seriously when reporting an incident of sexual violence, Amber Rose’s call for solidarity amongst women, her encouragement to own our bodies, her work to end double standards and slut shaming, and the fearlessness to stand up in front of thousands of people and followers to say, very simply, “fuck it,” is why her presence is so important in the feminist movement.
Photos via Instagram/Amber Rose and Benji Carlisle