The Slut Shaming of White Women in the Civil Rights Movement

On 12 August 2017, a single white 32-year-old legal assistant and civil rights activist named Heather Heyer was murdered by a radicalized Christian white supremacist terrorist, James Alex Fields Jr, when he drove his car into a crowd of people who were peacefully counter-protesting the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA.

Heather Heyer

A further 19 people were injured in the terrorist attack.

On 25 March 1965, a married white 39-year-old homemaker with five children and civil rights activist named Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo was murdered by a radicalized Christian white supremacist terrorists — Collie Wilkins (21), William Eaton (41), and Eugene Thomas (42) – members of the Ku Klux Klan who shot her to death at a stop light because she had been ferrying fellow civil rights protesters to the Selma to Montgomery marches.

Viola_Liuzzo

It is hard for white supremacist terrorists to “justify” the murder of white women (who not only aid and abet male white supremacists, but are usually the excuse given for the violent actions and rhetoric of white supremacy). The white supremacist terrorists have to quickly come up with a “reason” why the murder of a white woman in the civil rights movement was acceptable, or perhaps even necessary.

Cue slut shaming.

Being a ‘slut’ makes white women legitimate targets because sluts do not belong on the pedestal reserved for Good White Girls. Calling a woman a slut dehumanizes her to the point where taking her life in a brutal crime is not quite as bad as a real murder. Sluts don’t belong to any particular man and have forfeited the right to male protection by their sexual conduct, and without the blessing of a male affiliate they aren’t accorded the same fully human status in a patriarchy as someone’s “wife/mother/sister”. The implicit message is that it was only a slut that died, and since sluts get what’s coming to them what’s the big deal when they get killed?

The slut shaming of Viola Luizzo began almost instantaneously, and it some of it was done by none other than the very people who were supposed to punish her murderers – the FBI.

“Within 24 hours after Liuzzo’s assassination by the Ku Klux Klan and the FBI’s informant Gary Thomas Rowe, J. Edgar Hoover began a smear campaign to the press, to subordinate FBI agents and to select politicians, claiming the cut marks from the car’s shattered window were “puncture marks in her arm indicating recent use of a hypodermic needle; she was sitting very, very close to that negro in the car; that it has the appearance of a necking party.”  … Hoover further insinuated to President Johnson that Liuzzo was a drug addict, that she had sex with Moton, and that her husband [Italian last name! Must be a mobster!] was involved with organized crime. The FBI leaked the allegations to the media, and several newspapers repeated the claims. Liuzzo’s husband attempted to defend his wife’s reputation; his daughter Penny states that the disinformation campaign “took the life right out of him .. he started drinking a lot.” Autopsy testing in 1965 showed no traces of drugs in Liuzzo’s system, and that she had not had sex recently at the time of death. The FBI’s role in the smear campaign was uncovered in 1978 when Liuzzo’s children obtained case documents from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act.

The FBI was covering its own ass, since they had an informant, Gary Thomas Rowe, Jr., was in the car when his fellow Klansmen murdered Luizzo. Rowe “may have been involved in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 … and in 1980, an FBI file revealed that Rowe had clubbed Freedom Riders and that the FBI had paid his medical bills and given him a $125 bonus”, so the FBI knew that Rowe was as dirty as a bus station toilet. They just wanted to keep him safe to provide them inside intelligence, and they didn’t care if they needed to sacrifice Luizzo and her family to do it.

The other slut shaming of the time, that spread by word of mouth and in the media, was simply to excuse Luizzo’s murder. The Klan didn’t murder a white woman; they killed a slut. A slut is not much different from people of color, vis-à-vis their value to the patriarchy, so we can let that slide, right?

An all-white, all-male Alabama jury certainly thought so, because Luizzo’s murderers were acquitted.

viola-liuzzo-black-cotton

A similar attempt at slut shaming is being made against Heather Heyer by modern white nationalist terrorists, with the American neo-Nazi/white supremacy/alt-right site The Daily Stormer running a headline claiming:

Heather Heyer: Woman Killed in Road Rage Incident was a fat, Childless 32-Year-Old Slut” and criticizing her for being “fat and a drain on society” … for being “too fat to dodge a Dodge,” and for “protesting white men.” The article goes on to now describe the killer driver as a “straight player” and wonders whether the outrage over the incident is “simply player hatred, rather than actually concern over the death of some useless sow.”

Heather Heyer 2

The Daily Stormer article also claims that regardless of the “feigned outrage by the media, most people are glad she is dead, as she is the definition of uselessness … A 32-year-old woman without children is a burden on society and has no value.” It should surprise no one to learn that The Daily Stormer:

“which calls itself “The World’s Most Genocidal Republican Website,” has been identified as the the “top hate site in America” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential bid in 2015, posting a story titled “Heil Donald Trump – The Ultimate Savior” after Mr Trump proposed introducing a total ban on Muslim immigration. The site publishes content denigrating Jewish people, Muslims, people of colour and women.

Meanwhile, President Trump has refused to condemn the alt-right neo-Nazi white supremacist movement because they are his die-hard fan base.  The mother of James Alex Fields , Jr believed “her son was attending a rally for Donald Trump” when he went to Charlottesville to Unite the Right. Trump protects and coddles white supremacists because they are the reason why his approval ratings haven’t gone even lower than their already-record breaking nadir. Trump’s father was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan riot, so perhaps Trump’s tied to the KKK aren’t just political? Trump’s election has certainly helped radicalize Christian terrorists.

Radical Christian terrorists like the ones who murdered Viola Luizzo and Heather Heyer.

counter protesters hit by James Alex Feilds Jr photo by Ryan M. Kelly

One thought on “The Slut Shaming of White Women in the Civil Rights Movement


  1. When sex workers are removed from the slut shaming narrative

    They totally missed the mark. Slut shaming was created in relation to shaming prostitutes and to separate the good women from bad women and to teach society that a woman’s worth was based entirely on her sexual behavior. Now when slut shaming has grown to attack all women, they exclude sex workers from the narrative. It is really sad that sex workers have even been removed from this narrative when 65 of them were murdered in the US in 2016.

    http://www.kyrackramer.com/2017/08/14/the-slut-shaming-of-white-women-in-the-civil-rights-movement/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *