Wednesday, March 05, 2008

International Sex Workers Rights Day was March 4.

Renegade Evolution recently posted on her blog her great frustration that this was not a topic that was discussed in feminist blogland. She wrote about it, as well, on AlterNet, and lest you think that what she is after is a celebration of sex work, here's an excerpt of her post:

"Nary you mind that the way things are currently, however many sex workers could get robbed and raped tonight and have it laughed off by the law, nary you mind that sex workers pulled over by the law will be black mailed into favors, nary you mind that sex workers of all races, genders, classes, political bent, religion, will still be seen by the majority of humanity as less than human themselves, nary you mind possession of condoms in the highly vaunted Swedish State is cause for arrest and possible immediate deportation."

While I do think that this silence around this topic this week is worth noting, even more noteworthy (to me) are the responses she got at AlterNet:

Why are you looking for women to support an organization that promotes an industry responsible for the rape and enslavement of women all over the world? Why is it feminist to promote the idea that a woman's body is a commodity for sale? Why is it feminist to teach this to our daughters?

Why should I spend my time supporting women or men who voluntarily support the patriarchal status quo? What ever ‘sex workers’ may claim - it is not a ‘job like any other’ fair enough do what you want to do but don’t expect me (as a father of two daughters) to give any of my energy to supporting men’s perceived right to female bodies. It’s just not going to happen.

Good get a celebration of a seasonal Pussy on a Plate.
Wow - can't forget about the menz - you know, the oppressed and forgotten lot...

See, these are classic examples of what NOT LISTENING looks like. Mention sex workers' rights, and people are hearing "promote prostitution" and "help men buy women's bodies." If there was ever any doubt about what anti-prostitution advocates think about sex workers, there sure isn't anymore - from these comments, they don't appear to think of them at all.

Which is why acknowledging sex workers' rights is important. When a woman is thought to be unrapeable, when she is unable to demand safe working conditions, when she is punished for exchanging sex for money but the people who abuse her are not - these are violations of human rights. Fighting for sex workers' safety, for decent working conditions, has nothing to do with how one might feel about prostitution. If one is really trying to help sex workers, then one ought to listen when they ask for help.

But somehow, it becomes about promoting prostitution if we do anything to help sex workers, right? Gah.


bobvis said...

Is it possible that they are so opposed to the idea of prostitution that it trumps their desire to preserve the rights of women who are prostitutes? (It is a cut-your-nose-to-spite-your-face kind of thing, but people make weirder arguments than that.)

Renegade Evolution said...

pretty telling isn't it? all these people sooo want to help the oppressed women, unless, well, it means actually helping them, because helping them, oh, be seen legally as human equals will just normalize the evil industry, and THAT cannot matter the cost...oh yeah, to you know, those women.

Fucking stuns and floors me.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Bobvis, I don't think it's that conscious. I think it really is about a particular kind of politics that sees the world as black and white, and that sees this issue in such a way that helping sex workers is actually helping women to continue to be oppressed or to contribute to the oppression of other women.

It is not unlike seeing Sanger and Planned Parenthood as above reproach because of the good that they've done.

It's a kind of thinking that leans heavily on universals.

When people start talking about the "normalization" of "pornstitution," what I hear is a patriarchal, dependent-on-dichotomous-thinking, religious rhetoric. And, as you know, I'm not unsympathetic to the anti-prostitution theory, so I think it says something that they bring out such a reaction in me.

Plain(s)feminist said...

And actually, it's not that I disagree that porn has become normalized in many ways - I think the culture is pretty sex-and-violence saturated, and the media sure is, and I think that System of a Down make some pretty good points on that score. But what bugs me about hearing this phrase from antis is that it has become a buzzword that is thrown out there every time a sex worker tries to talk about, well, anything. And yes, the point of putting it out there is to shut her up.

Nick Kiddle said...

I think the logic is that treating "sex worker" as a particular kind of person who has rights in need of protection is already a concession too far. And that women's rights include the right not to be raped on demand or whatever it is that prostitution supposedly entails. In other words, the first, last and only step for protecting sex workers' rights is "don't be sex workers (any more)". However poorly that logic may work in the real world.

Daisy said...

Yeah, very depressing drivel over there on AlterNet. I can't figure out how some people can subscribe to the concept of PATRIARCHY, yet at the same time believe they somehow got a pass from full participation. This is what pisses me off more than anything. Back in the days of early radical feminism (and I know you are aware of this), women who had babies, married men in traditional het marriages, et. al. were seen as "collaborators" also... how did everyone but sex workers get off the hook?

Nick Kiddle said...

how did everyone but sex workers get off the hook?

I don't think it's just sex workers - I've seen discussions on radfem sites where women who wear make-up or go down on their partners are assumed to be too brainwashed by teh patriarchy to see the problem with what they're doing. But funnily enough, it's always someone else that has this problem.