Advertisement
feminism

Amber Rose on Unlearning How to Slut-Shame

Rose reflects on a decade spent reclaiming the narrative surrounding her career and personal life.

by Leila Ettachfini
Dec 30 2019, 2:28pm

Image courtesy of Amber Rose

Amber Rose is a very different person than she was 10 years ago.

Like many of us, her experiences over the past decade have shaped the person she is today. But unlike most people, many of those moments have occurred in the public eye, garnering the attention, and judgement, of the masses.

Rose entered the decade as a 26-year-old model, best known for her music video appearances. Occasionally, she starred as a guest on popular reality TV shows like RuPaul's Drag Race. But as her fame grew, she began to receive attention for her personal life too, especially her relationships with rappers Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa. Soon enough, she became the frequent target of slut-shaming attacks from tabloids and even former partners like West.

When Curve Magazine interviewed Rose in 2011, it neatly summarized exactly how Rose was seen at the time: “She’s been painted as the bad girl, the seductress, as fame hungry and sexually promiscuous.”

Nearly a decade later, Rose has successfully flipped the script, becoming a figurehead of the anti-slut-shaming movement. The shift started around 2015, when she launched the Amber Rose SlutWalk, a march to end slut-shaming. That same year, Rose published a book called How to Be a Bad Bitch. Today, she’s known as a sex positivity activist.

VICE spoke to Rose about how she unlearned slut-shaming and created a movement in the 2010s, and what’s next for the Amber Rose SlutWalk in 2020.

VICE: This was the decade that the term “slut-shaming” really entered the mainstream. As it’s become more acknowledged have you noticed a change?

Amber Rose: I think that 10 to 15 years ago it was just what life was and we just dealt with it and we didn't really talk about it. It wasn't really a thing. I do feel like now we talk about it. We bring it to the forefront on social media, and we have these difficult conversations.

When I first said [SlutWalk] on the internet, girl, I got torn apart. They tore me up. They were like, What the hell is a slutwalk? You just want to make an excuse to be a whore. It was really terrible. But I didn't give up. I stuck it out and I made it happen. Eventually, I watched it get bigger and bigger.

Did you ever imagine a decade ago that you would become an icon of the anti-slut-shaming movement or sex positivity?

Absolutely not. I'll be honest with you: Around that time I was still trying to find myself. I feel like I was still slut-shaming girls. That was probably towards the end of that [behavior]. I always say that I'm a former slut-shamer. I feel like society teaches women and girls that when you feel insecure about another woman, you slut-shame them. I feel like I had to have more life experience and as I got older things just didn't seem right to me. I would kind of be like, Why do I feel this way? How can somebody say that about me or a girl just because of what we have on or who we dated or whatever. I started feeling like something wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t equal.

Was there a specific moment that pushed you to unlearn slut-shaming or was it something that happened more gradually?

After my divorce [in 2014], I was getting slut-shamed on the internet, as if [the divorce] was my fault when nobody knew whose fault it was. Anybody that goes through a divorce knows it's a very devastating time. I feel like it was just on me because I was the woman and it had to be my fault and I was the one that was in the wrong. Then I started seeing other women in the industry going through it. That kind of just started to change my perspective on equality. I was just like This is crazy!

I feel like society teaches women and girls that when you feel insecure about another woman, you slut-shame them.

I think I just got over myself. I got to the point where I was like, you know, this doesn't feel right anymore. And if I see a beautiful girl, she's beautiful. If she slept with the guy that I liked, and I wanted him, I don’t have to slut-shame her. You don't have to put this other person down in order to make yourself feel better. So, I just got over myself and I started complimenting girls more, instead of being insecure about other women. Then I started being preachy, to be honest. I would see it happening and I would be like Woah, you can't say that. It was kind of like how the gay community band together when they were like, you're not gonna say the F word anymore because people are dying and people are committing suicide, and this is not cool. There's derogatory labels that you just can't say anymore. And all of these people band together to make these things happen. So when I started my SlutWalk, I was like, women have to band together in order to stop this. The gay community did it. The African American community did it with the N-word. People make movements and make it happen. We have to stop slut-shaming each other and knock down these derogatory labels because it's going to continue if we don't take a stand.

Your SlutWalks predated the #MeToo movement, obviously another massive feminist milestone of the last decade, by a couple years. Do you think that MeToo and the anti-slut-shaming movement are connected in any way?

Yeah. I mean, listen, there's a lot of different variations of feminism. I feel like we all want equality, we all want things to be done right. We all kind of go about it in different ways. But I feel like our end goal is to have equality and justice.

I talk to girls every day. Regular girls, celebrity girls, celebrity women—they call me when they go through shit [like] slut shaming or, let's say for example, when dealing with [abuse from] a powerful man. There will be some times where I just give them options, and I let them know what their options are going to bring to their life. If you speak out, you're going to get criticized, they're going to tell you you're a liar. They're going to tell you that you just want money. These are things that are going to happen. If you're able to deal with that, I have your back and I'm here with you and we can do it together. But if you're not able to deal with that, I will not blame you for just moving on with your life. I cannot pressure you to say something that you have to live with for the rest of your life. So what's the lesser evil, you not saying nothing and going back to work and being like, You know what? I'm better off just not saying nothing at all or coming out and trying to get justice? A lot comes with that as well. Either way it's not easy. I don't believe in pressuring women to come out. I don't believe in that at all. And that's what I said earlier, every movement is very different. And we want the same end goal, but I want the best for these women. I want them to be able to move on with their life, whatever, makes them more happy.

You had to cancel the SlutWalk this year for personal reasons. Should people expect to see you back on the street in 2020?

This year I didn't do it because I went through a lot of abuse with my friends and people I work with. I just had to clear my mind for my own mental health. Plus I brought a beautiful new baby into the world on October 10.

This year I think I might move it to Miami. Every walk is much bigger and more expensive [than the last], and it is a nonprofit. It's not like I charge people to come to the SlutWalk so it's really all on me. There's a lot that goes into it. I feel like I have more connections in Miami with sponsorships and stuff in order to get more money to be able to put it on.

Looking forward to the next decade between now and 2030, do you hope to see the end of slut-shaming?

I think we'll have to deal with this until the end of time. Unfortunately, that's what it is. But I think that we can make it better. With racism for example, I mean, god, how long have we been trying to get rid of that? Sometimes we think it gets better, sometimes we feel like it almost gets worse. I think it's just a constant fight for the rest of our lives. And if we can make somewhat of a difference, we're making a difference. If we can do that, that's all for the greater good.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Tagged:
Amber Rose
2020
Slut Shaming
Sex positivity
#metoo
muva