Amber Rose walked the walk, but now she’s talking the talk. Upon wrapping up her “Slutwalk” in Los Angeles, the model, mother, and activist was invited to lead October 14th’s episode of the webcast series Larry King Now. The episode was a panel on feminism, revolving around its meaning, its resurgence, and its relation to sexual violence. The talk met with critical reception. While some writers have recognized Amber Rose’s involvement in the feminist movement, calling it “unapologetic” and “brave”, others disregard Rose as a spokesperson for feminism, highlighting her “racy” image and her past as an erotic dancer. Additionally, Rose’s involvement in the movement has been covered chaotically in the media, with many news outlets focusing on her Instagram posts or attire (specifically that of the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards) rather than her actual statements. However, this vague objectivity and one-sided portrayal of Rose’s commitment to feminism is exactly what makes her Larry King Now appearance a must-watch.
By sharing the experiences that made her join the movement, Rose informs us that she’s not your ordinary feminist. She’s the openly sexual, “feminist monster” who has yet to be heard. Rose stands for an aspect of feminism that often goes unspoken: sexual freedom and confidence. While most feminists promote women’s right to education or equal pay, and rightly so, Rose promotes women’s right to feel comfortable as sexual beings. “Society teaches us that if you’re sexy, you can’t be smart, or if you’re confident in your sexuality, then you’re asking for it,” Rose says. She also extends the movement beyond its typical spokespeople of political leaders or women of well-respected fields by reaching out to women who have worked in disrespected circumstances to make ends meet, are single mothers, or are young mothers. She uses backlash from an Instagram video of her and her friend Chyna “twerking” as an example: “It was like, ‘We are the worst moms ever, we’re about to go and have this crazy orgy’…really we were just two girls, having a good time, dancing.” Rose both owns up to her actions and challenges women to own their sexuality. Part of the reason behind the educational and economic oppression of women is the idea that women’s only worth is in their child-rearing and nurturing abilities. Yet women are simultaneously expected to subdue the sexual charge that gives them these capabilities. Rose leads the talk by emphasizing the need for sexual equality and sexual ownership.
Rose does not do so alone. The panel featured various guests: Broadway performer and LGBTQ activist Frenchie Davis, UCLA professor Juliet Williams, female sexual medicine specialist Dr. Jennifer Berman, and How to Get Away With Murder star Matt McGorry. These guests did not simply fill the seats but filled the gaps that exist in discussions of the movement. “You said we have to continue to talk to women about how they conduct themselves when they’re out in public, but why are we not having the same conversations with men?” said Davis, who consistently promoted erasing double standards-especially those that exist in the prevention of sexual violence. The panelists spoke of society’s habit of warning women to take precautions. Dr. Berman emphasized that instead, boys should be taught better respect of women while they’re young. Matt McGory agreed, adding the need to make consent an unquestionable aspect of a night out. While the panelists had various viewpoints, they were all equally adamant.
Lastly, an important part of the panel were the comparisons made between feminism and race-most of which can be attributed to Matt McGory. Not only did he discuss the problem of white feminism versus intersectional feminism, but he compared discomfort with the word feminism to discomfort with the phrase #BlackLivesMatter. “I think feminism has a negative connotation with most men, but I don’t think that’s for a very good reason,” stated McGory. “Just the same way as the Black Lives Matter movement …if you don’t like that phrasing, I’m sorry, but this is something people have been working towards doing…if you have problems with the semantics of it in that way and you’re not someone who’s actually on board with the cause, then I think it’s your problem.”
This comparison imitates why discomfort with Amber Rose as a spokesperson for feminism is objectionable. Rather than focus on the semantics of a “racy” or “promiscuous” spokesperson, we should be questioning how we define these terms, and why their definition seems to only suit women. Discomfort with a woman as a spokesperson for the feminist movement on the grounds of “promiscuity” is a form of misogyny itself. Rather than oppose someone unafraid to show her body, perhaps we should start wondering why the female body, regardless of what that body says or stands for, bothers us so much in the first place.