Tag Archive | politics

WHY ARE SEX WORKERS AND THEIR ALLIES OCCUPYING WALL STREET?

By: Melissa Sontag Broudo and Penelope Saunders
October 27, 2011

In the last four weeks, many have been wondering what has driven people to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and bring attention to the economic situation that has developed in our country. Critics have argued that so many issues are being discussed and that so many disparate groups have joined forces, that the occupation has no cohesive message, purpose, or goals. As our group of sex workers and allies stood in solidarity with our fellow revolutionaries Wednesday, October 5th at the rally at Foley Square in New York, it was apparent that we were included in that critique or question. What were we doing there? What was our purpose? What was our message? And how do sex workers’ rights connect to the larger OWS movement? Those of us who were there, or who are active in the sex workers’ rights movement generally, have no doubt about how we fit within OWS and how OWS fits within our movement. United, in solidarity, with everyone coming together in Zuccotti Park and in all the plazas nationwide, we can bring about greater change. After the rally, we decided to highlight the points that bring together our intersecting movements and realities.

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Rejected Ads for Sex Workers Find Venue

After being rejected by two billboard companies for failing to meet community standards, an ad campaign advocating sex workers’ rights is running on 50 Muni buses in San Francisco.

The campaign, which runs through Nov. 11, is sponsored by the St. James Infirmary, a comprehensive health care clinic in San Francisco run by and for sex workers and their families. The clinic was founded by Margo St. James, the prostitutes’ rights activist, in 1999.

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Why anti-john laws don’t work

A young woman works the corner of Gerrard and Jarvis Streets. (Oct. 21, 2009)

The Ontario Court of Appeal is due to release its decision on the constitutionality of Canada’s criminal laws around adult prostitution. Last year, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice struck down these laws, finding that they significantly contribute to danger for sex workers. If the current laws are unconstitutional, what comes next for the regulation of prostitution in Canada?

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Anti-prostitution laws targeted at Pickton inquiry, not failed police probe

VANCOUVER – Canada’s prostitution laws have quickly become the focus of the public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case, not the police investigation that failed for years to catch the serial killer.

Yet another witness Tuesday questioned the wisdom of making sex work a crime.

Kate Shannon echoed earlier testimony that the law and the police officers who enforce it have made life more dangerous for the poor, drug-addicted prostitutes in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where Pickton hunted for his victims until he was arrested in 2002.

Shannon, a researcher with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said police tactics designed to enforce the law push sex workers into dangerously isolated areas, which significantly increases the risks they face.

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Sex Werk – article by Morgan M. Page

Being a trans hooker is hard work these days. Not only do you have to navigate a potentially dangerous work environment, try to stay out of the criminal justice system, possibly deal with being HIV+, often live precariously without immigration status in the country you work in, worry about violence and harassment from other sex workers, and deal with a society that puts so much stigma onto your profession that you might not be able to get stable housing, you also have to hear just about every non-sex working trans person alternately use your existence as a political pawn in their campaigns for middle-class privileges (often called “rights”) and condemn you for either being a victim or making the movement look bad. As I said, it’s hard work.

Here are some of the dumbass things you’re probably going to hear regularly when you enter non-sex working trans spaces, especially trans activist spaces (and these activists will, of course, lament the lack of involvement from sex workers in their efforts).
Sex work is perfectly fine as a choice, but we need to talk about how survival sex work and “trafficking” are hurting our community!

What they’re actually saying here is that sex work is fine if you have an MA in Women’s Studies and work in queer feminist porn (which they can happily jerk off to without feeling like bad feminists). These same people usually have only a tenuous grasp on the concept of trafficking, probably don’t have any sex workers in their close circle of friends (unless they have the aforementioned MA in Women’s Studies). They are quick to become angry if you suggest that coercive sex work is actually rare, statistically, or that you chose street sex work because it made sense for your life at the time.

All sex work is survival sex work, in exactly the same way that I could describe all jobs at McDonald’s as survival food service jobs.

I wish the media would stop making it look like we’re all hookers!

I actually hear this as: you sex workers are making the rest of us look bad! How will my parents/grandmother/best friend/dog ever accept me if they think that I’m a HOOKER?

Let’s be real for a minute. Media representations focusing on a single stereotype suck for every oppressed or underrepresented group. That’s totally fair. What’s not fair is when the rest of the community backlashes against this by trying to distance themselves entirely from those represented by the stereotype. At the end of the day, I don’t care if the fact that I and a lot of my friends are or were sex workers makes your grandmother uncomfortable. What I care about is the fact that sex work is still illegal in so many countries, leading to more violence, stigma, and murders of trans and cis sex workers, yet there’s been little effort by mainstream trans (or queer) organizations to help sex worker organizations fight for their rights. Nevermind that our entire movement in North America was founded by sex workers. Do the names Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson mean anything to you?

Trans Day of Remembrance is about the murders of transgender people simply for being transgender.

This happens a lot. I try to come from a place of compassion when responding to this, but my first thought is usually “You must be new here.” Trans activists will be more than willing to “fight for your rights” as long as you’re dead and they can list you on their TDOR list. Most of the organizations that hold TDOR events, especially those on college campuses (organized by the army of Aydyns), won’t mention that you were a sex worker. They won’t mention that you were murdered while doing sex work. They won’t mention sex work when they speak at the event about how hard it is to be a white, male, queer, trans University student. Won’t somebody please think of how hard that is for them?!

I am often the only person in the room at trans organizing events who has sex work experience. I know that I am there because I hold a position within the community that is seen as important and because I’m a former sex worker, rather than a current sex worker. The trans men in the room (who inevitably make up 90% of those in attendance) will often ask me, together or in private, how they can make the space more accessible to trans women and to trans sex workers. And I think about the things that they say about sex work, the way that they treat having their cis femme girlfriends in the room as being “inclusive of women’s perspectives,” and the fact that almost all of them either have degrees or are students. And I just smile say “I really don’t know.”

http://www.prettyqueer.com/2011/10/17/sex-werk/#more-2445

Nova Scotia Group Creates Ads to Humanize Sex Workers

This isn’t actually new, but I only recently came across this ad campaign from Stepping Stones Nova Scotia via Sociological ImagesStepping Stone is a not-for-profit charitable organization offering supportive programs and outreach to women, men, and transgender sex workers and former sex workers. Their website states they are “the only organization in the Maritimes that deals specifically with street life and sex work from a harm reduction model”.

The ad campaign is designed to tackle some of the stigma surrounding sex workers, to humanize by pointing out in the bottom tagline, “Sex Workers are Daughters (Brothers/Mothers) Too.” Margo at Sociological Images notes:

Stepping Stone’s executive director, Rene Ross, points out that every time a prostitute is killed—sex workers have a mortality rate 40 times higher than the Canadian national average—media accounts emphasize that the victim was a prostitute, but not that she (or he) was also a mother, daughter, friend or, for example, animal lover.

The motivation behind the ads is laudable, but the shocking language in the headings, using terms like “tramp” and “hooker” means it’s going to be controversial. Margo at Sociological Images wonders whether it’ll end up having the unintended effect of turning sex workers into a punchline. On the other side, a marketing professor quoted by Rabble said he thought the shock value was a good strategy to get people to really take a look at the issue.

Now that it’s been a few months since the ads were released (they came out in July), does anyone know how they were received in Nova Scotia? Does anyone have thoughts about the advertising tactics?

-Jarrah

http://www.gender-focus.com/tag/sex-workers/