Amber Rose has spent the last few years making her mark on the fight for gender equality.
The Philadelphia native held her third annual Amber Rose SlutWalk in Los Angeles on Oct. 1. Dressed as “Captain Save A Hoe,” Rose stood before thousands of attendees ― alongside activists and other celebrities (including boyfriend 21 Savage and friend Blac Chyna) ― to promote women’s rights, sex positivity and sexual health awareness while condemning slut-shaming, victim-blaming and rape culture.
The walk aimed to help women reclaim agency over their bodies. But that doesn’t come without critics, especially for a controversial star like Rose.
“If you’re more offended by the word slut than the act of slut-shaming then you’re a part of the problem. Period,” the model told HuffPost before the walk. She continued shutting down naysayers post-walk, especially those who ridiculed 21 Savage for attending and holding a “I’m a hoe, too” sign.
Like SlutWalk, Rose’s sex-positive message has expanded over the years to include speaking out against sexualized bullying and rape culture. She said this year’s SlutWalk put an emphasis on the educational aspect of feminism, teaming up with USC’s Center for Feminist Research for a conference the day prior.
Rose told HuffPost that her goal with SlutWalk and overall mission is to empower and “make a difference,” whether it’s at home with her 4-year-old son or online with her millions of followers.
What impact have you seen SlutWalk have since you first started it?
I would definitely say the first two years were extremely hard because I was just shouting out from the rooftops and going [in] on ... any guy or girl that was online slut-shaming. I would kinda speak on it and try to educate them that that wasn’t right and so now it’s actually really cool to see men online saying, ‘You can’t say that’ or ‘You can’t call her a hoe’ ... they’re kinda like sticking up for us in a way ... I feel like I somewhat helped with that. One hundred percent. Cause I threw it in their faces until they couldn’t take it anymore.
Why do you think it’s so important to speak out against slut-shaming and victim-blaming?
There’s feminists that really go in on me. Like, “How are you a feminist and you post a picture of your bush? That’s not feminism.” That’s exactly what feminism is. Feminism is equality. Feminism is literally doing whatever the hell you want and not living up to society norms and what people want you to do. Like if you look at my bio on my Instagram and on my Twitter, it says “Fuck your opinion, I’ll do whatever I want,” and that’s exactly how I feel. I’m a compassionate person, I don’t hurt people, I don’t use people, but it’s my body and my choice and I can take whatever picture I want. And also I’m not really a conservative girl. I’ve never been conservative, I like to push the envelope. I’m controversial. I also like to piss people off to bring awareness to exactly what’s going on in the world. It’s like my thing.
How do you think the SlutWalk and the surrounding conversations will change now that Trump is in office?
I think we need to continue to use our voices. At least that’s the most important thing. I refuse to let one man dictate how I’m supposed to live my life and what I’m supposed to do. I tell girls that all the time. Just because Trump is in office, life isn’t over and you can definitely make a difference in your own community. You know, even using social media to make a difference. Protest against it. Go out there and help people. Raise money. Figure out how, even if it’s just a little bit, a little bit goes a long way. Hopefully he will be out of office the next election, we can get him the fuck up out of there, but ... for now we just need to continue to protest against it.
Why do you believe your brand of sex-positive feminism is so important today?
Sometimes I go overboard with my pictures on Instagram and what I say in my captions cause I wanna give women the confidence to be like, ‘You know what, I can really do whatever I want. I actually have a voice. It’s OK if I’m into this. It is OK if I’m sexually liberated.’ So I’m willing to take the punches for all of us. I’ve been taking the punches for all of us for years now. You know, people are just starting to recognize it. But I’ll take all the punches so you guys don’t have to. And I’m comfortable with that and I’m cool with that cause I’m strong enough to take it. And so if I could make a difference just by doing that, then we’re on our way to being more confident in our sexuality.
That’s another reason why I put out the bush picture, because it is so natural for us to have pubic hair. It’s healthier for us to have pubic hair, but men and other women will scrutinize us and say that we’re unclean, that we smell funny, that we’re unkept or we’re poor. It’s so much that goes into just being a woman, like we have to wax or get razor bumps ... really just to please other people because who the fuck wants to have razor bumps and be itchy down there? You don’t want to have to do that but we do that because society taught us that we had to, that it makes us cleaner. It makes us smell better. It makes us more kept and it’s all bullshit. That’s why I do stuff like that. I cause the controversy, I get people to talk, I get people to talk shit and I’m cool with it. But there’s a bigger picture. There’s more of a conversation that happens after the fact and that’s the conversation that changes things.
“I feel like we get frustrated about racism and feminism, that we’re just like, ‘How the fuck do you not know this?’ Because we’re enlightened but we have to not forget to educate because not everyone knows.”
People have used your sexual freedom and photos you post or have leaked onto social media to comment on your ability to be a good mother. What do you have to say to those critics?
They’re not famous, so they don’t know what it’s like for your nude pictures to be leaked to the internet or a sex tape that you made 13, 14 years ago when you were young and stupid [get] leaked to the internet. They’re never gonna know what that’s like or maybe they do and when they do find out what it’s like they’ll understand that a lot of things are out of our hands. That’s one.
Two: It doesn’t matter if your mother is a crack addict or a prostitute or a stripper or a church-going mom, you’re always going to love your mom. If your mom is there for you; you’re always going to love your mom ... I have a friend, he’s in his 40s now and his mother’s much, much older now but his mother used to be a stripper back in the day and he thinks it’s the coolest thing on earth that his mom used to be a stripper because he’s never really seen her like that. Moms are allowed to be sexual beings. So if you don’t make it a bad thing to your child, if you talk to your child and your child is your best friend, your child is gonna love you regardless.
Are you teaching your son, Sebastian, about feminism yet?
My son is 4 years old. I don’t hide anything from my son but it’s also hard to explain every little detail because he is very young. But it’s funny, my son is very young but he knows about my period. He asks about my period all the time because I don’t hide that from him. I let him know what it is but I feel like a lot of men, they grow up and they’re grossed out by it and it’s a big deal for them and they’re weirded out by it because no one’s ever talked to them about it. And I talk to my son about it, he knows everything at 4 years old.
21 Savage has talked about the ways you’ve helped him grow since you two have been dating. How do you think your relationship with him has changed the way he thinks about feminism?
As a society, we teach our boys to treat women a certain way or you treat women with respect, but if a woman is promiscuous ― which, I literally hate that word ― but if a girl makes a conscious decision to have multiple sex partners or has had multiple relationships or has a reputation of having sex, she’s a “hoe.” Period. It’s just how it is. She’s a hoe, she’s unwife-able, you can’t take her seriously and she’s disgusting, right? That’s what society teaches boys. So when I came in, I said, “OK, that’s not how it is and let me explain it to him.” And I would explain it to him and his team, I mean we literally have ... hourlong conversations about feminism with him and his whole team. So now when they’re so used to being like, “This hoe ... I meant ... sorry, Amber ... this woman that I talk to.” They’ve been kind of correcting themselves because their entire life that’s all they knew.
I feel like we get frustrated about racism and feminism, that we’re just like, ‘How the fuck do you not know this?’ Because we’re enlightened but we have to not forget to educate because not everyone knows. And so now, he fully gets it ... He totally understands everything that I do as an activist and he gets it and he even asks me because the lyrics in his music are really offensive but you know, it’s also entertainment ... So I could never just block him from being creative and relating to his fanbase. So we work those things out.
What have you learned about the power of women since you began your journey with SlutWalk?
I’ve learned that a lot of men will try to tear you down. If you were in or going toward a higher position, trust me, they will tell you you are not good enough, you are not capable enough, you’re not smart enough. They’ve done that to me. “You’re a stripper, you’re an airhead, you’re not capable. You’re just some rapper’s girlfriend. You don’t have talent, you can’t possibly pull this off.” And I did and I refuse to let anyone bring me down and tell me I can’t do anything. If anything, it fuels the fire inside of me to make me go harder. And they’re gonna try to tear you down but you just gotta keep going and know that it’s not gonna be easy; it’s much, much harder for us as women. I’ll tell you that now, but you gotta stick to it and you gotta really, seriously not give a fuck.