Open letter to rabble.ca from the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution

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Sineed

shartal wrote:
I am disturbed by the fact that the entire discussion around choice is abstract. Choice is never abstract. We choose between options that are realistically available to us.

That is precisely my point. Choices that are available to us are contingent upon our wealth, privilege and in general, freedom from oppression.

Quote:
Perhaps my experience is skewed but the women I have known who work in the sex trade have chosen this work because it was the least horrible available to them.

As I work in addiction treatment, my experience is with women who turn to sex work to pay for their drugs.

Quote:
I do not walk in their shoes and do not feel I have the right to criticize their choice. It seems to me that a progressive approach to the quandary of the sex trade would be to work at providing realistic alternative choices for the women involved.

Yes, though I would say framing it as not wanting to disrespect the "choice" of engaging in sex work is missing the point. After all, many (most?) people who engage in sex work do so out of economic coercion rather than a free choice. Rather than cringing at the prospect of possibly disrespecting an individual's personal choices, we need to focus on eradicating those systemic injustices that lead to women ending up in sex work.

For instance, amongst women crack-addicted sex workers, the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse approaches 100%.

mark_alfred

Sineed wrote:

shartal wrote:

I do not walk in their shoes and do not feel I have the right to criticize their choice. It seems to me that a progressive approach to the quandary of the sex trade would be to work at providing realistic alternative choices for the women involved.

Yes, though I would say framing it as not wanting to disrespect the "choice" of engaging in sex work is missing the point. After all, many (most?) people who engage in sex work do so out of economic coercion rather than a free choice. Rather than cringing at the prospect of possibly disrespecting an individual's personal choices, we need to focus on eradicating those systemic injustices that lead to women ending up in sex work.

For instance, amongst women crack-addicted sex workers, the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse approaches 100%.

A suggestion that shartel made in her post for eradicating systemic injustices was the following:

shartal wrote:
I cannot see how more policing and More jail can never [sic] be good. The same is true of the drug trade. Prohibition has never worked in human history. Legalization, Regulation and unionization are about as good as it gets.

Could the empowerment of sex workers help in the eradication of the systemic injustices that lead to women ending up in sex work?  IE, could a better regulated sex work industry that allowed for the workers themselves to organize, administer, maybe unionize, etc., their own businesses lead to a higher self esteem that may promote many to access health services like addiction treatment w/ counselling (if need be) and thus may promote many to seek other work?

quizzical

if you are addicted to crack and reeling in dispair from being sexually abused as a child, how in the hell are you going to run a business?

and don't tell me standing on a corner to give a 20 buck blow job is running a business.

how about a guaranteed annual income to empower women, and actual universal health care which includes access to counselling and treatment, along with serious commitments to decrease child abuse. oh and revamp social work degrees to actually fit a egalitarian model as opposed to patriarchy and colonialism.

normalizing women's sexual exploitation will not decrease violence against women and young girls.

 

hookstrapped

Sineed wrote:

left turn wrote:

I want women who choose prostitution, or to wear a niqab, or to wear spaghetti straps ect. to not face harassment for their decisions.

It isn't harassment to point out that some of women's choices are not inherently feminist. When I shave my legs, I am capitulating to our society's norms regarding body hair on women. It's not a feminist choice. Ditto for the wearing of high-heeled shoes. A woman may feel empowered by making herself look attractive according to what men like, but if I put on shoes that hobble me and prevent me from running away (and I do sometimes), I don't pretend that the affirmation I get from being beautiful somehow cancels out the male privilege that defines what constitutes female beauty in the first place.

When women "choose" prostitution as a career, is it really a free choice, or is it economic coercion? When I worked at a methadone clinic in downtown Toronto, and the crack-addicted sex workers presented themselves at my counter with eye infections from gonorrhea-infected men ejaculating onto their faces, I wonder how anybody can so blithely proclaim that sex work is just another job where some people are exploited, but otherwise the most progressive position is to consider it an option that women can explore in a world of possible choices. It's as if "choice" was a candy counter, and we are all the wide-eyed children standing before it while a benevolent parent waits for us to select whatever we like.

"Choice" feminism privileges individual preferences over any sort of contextual analysis that attempts to cast a light upon imbalances of power and the role of the patriarchy in determining what we think we want out of our own free will, but actually may be a form of subtle or not-so-subtle coercion.

And using terms like "harassment" or "violence" to describe feminist critique is another way women are silenced.

It's interesting to me that "choice feminism" is called out for critique only when the choice does not involve reproductive rights.  When the choice, as in the case of Muslim women wearing a hijab, is denied on the basis of fighting an oppressive social structure, or in the case of sex workers choice is denied on the basis of fighting sexual objectification and exploitation, choice is deemed not genuine because it is done in the context of coercion, economic or social.  Well, gains have been made in reproductive rights without overturning patriarchy or capitalism.  And the gains fought for and legitmately valued have much to do with preventing the harms, the individual harms, that denying reproductive rights have caused.  And many of those individual harms originate or are abetted by women's economic position.  It could be easily argued that abortion for a poor woman is not real choice but a matter of economic coercion.  Here is a story from France on the harassment and violence suffered by Muslim women due to the ban on hijabs, niqabs, and other forms of dress, bans that are not only supported by French secularists but by many feminists

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/world/europe/muslim-frenchwomen-strugg...

It's of a pattern.  It reminds me of the sex work debate.  When confronted with the fact that some women choose to be sex workers, prostitution abolitionists will counter that they are not really choosing, they are coerced by pimps and traffickers; when confronted with evidence that the vast majority are not coerced by pimps and traffickers, they counter with the argument that economic necessity is a form of coercion; when it's pointed out that this makes sex work, in fact, like every other form of work and not distinct as the abolitionists argue, they point to how it's damaging to all women -- and here we scratch the surface of what it's all about.  It's never about the freedom of Muslim women or the freedom of sex workers -- that's just a cover -- it's really about how their stigmatizing view reflects back on themselves as women.

And why is a cover needed for the true motivations?  Because the true motivations entail denying some women choice over what to do with their lives, what to do with their bodies.  And for western feminism in which the right to reproductive choice, to abortion, was key, denying choice to other women is a bit unpalatable.  So, they go out of their way to dismiss, deny, and silence women who choose to do things they would not choose to do, and which they believe hurts the larger struggle for women's equality.  That Muslim women or sex workers are subject to increased limitations on their freedom and subject to increased levels of harassment and violence as a result of the policies they advocate is just the price "we have to pay" for the greater good.  This calling out of "choice feminism" ignores the manner in which reproductive rights have been largely won in the west (though still under attack from conservative religious groups) based on the same principles of individual choice.

The other commonality of these critiques of "choice feminism" might offer a clue. The objects of the critique of "choice feminism" are invariably religious minorities, transgender women, women of color, or economically marginalized women.  Now that middle-class white feminists have gained what is most important in their immediate private lives regarding patriarchy, gains made not through overturning the patriarchy but through making an accommodation with patriarchy and capitalism (reproductive rights are good for business), they work tirelessly to deny other forms of choice to other groups of women, because such choices "lack contextual analysis."  For many feminists, feminism has become just a form of white class privilege. 

takeitslowly

sex work is good for business too. A socialist might be opposed to sex work because they do not believe that women  should be able to make a profit from having her body exploited. In theory, a woman can have as many sex with as many men as she want, as long as she doesn't profit from it, then no one would be opposed. It seems a bit strange to me to deny women from making a living with her body.

 

 I think some people dont believe that women should be able to make money with their bodies.  I do think it has alot to do with slut shaming and its a systemic way to control and police sexualities.

MegB

quizzical wrote:

"slut shaming" do you people never get tired of a tired and proven wrong trope? also, there is the case of your expropriating minds and voices by saying this what is going on and what feminist abolishionists believe.

stop it!!!!

 

 

 

 

You need to rethink your use of the phrase "you people". It's an oppressive use of language and is very marginalizing.

Sineed

OK then. Game on.

hookstrapped wrote:
It's interesting to me that "choice feminism" is called out for critique only when the choice does not involve reproductive rights.  When the choice, as in the case of Muslim women wearing a hijab, is denied on the basis of fighting an oppressive social structure, or in the case of sex workers choice is denied on the basis of fighting sexual objectification and exploitation, choice is deemed not genuine because it is done in the context of coercion, economic or social.

Other than the obvious straw man - nobody is "denying" anybody's choice to do anything because feminist critique does not take away anyone's personal agency and indeed does not have the power to do so - the problem here is the lack of contextual analysis. "Choice" first became the rallying cry for feminism when women's reproductive rights were being literally and actively denied; when Morgentaler was going to jail for offering abortions outside of the legal context where women had to prove themselves unworthy of motherhood before a panel of men; when women were dying from illegal abortions.

Conversely, women are not dying from being denied easy access to working in the sex trade.

Quote:
Because a woman chooses to work in a strip club, for example, the factors that could affect her choice to do this work—which may include class, colonialism, education, abuse or the reality of living in a culture that objectifies women’s bodies—are neatly erased. No one is forcing her to be there, choice feminism says. If men will pay, why not take the cash?

http://www.herizons.ca/node/526

hookstrapped wrote:
The objects of the critique of "choice feminism" are invariably religious minorities, transgender women, women of color, or economically marginalized women.

While it is important for us white folks to be aware of our privilege, this statement is simply completely false. The discussion in this thread was started with a letter written by an organization of Asian women opposed to sex work. And you ignore the aboriginal women's organizations who also oppose sex work both because of the dangers (and the high mortality rate) amongst aboriginal sex workers and also the historical context of the sexual exploitation of aboriginal women:

Quote:
Prostitution of Indigenous Women: Sex Inequality and the Colonization of Canada's First Nations Women in Jacqueline Lynne, Melissa Farley Ph.D, Violence Against Women, Prostitution and Trafficking

    Friday, February 1, 2008

    by Melissa Farley, Ph.D & Jacqueline Lynne 

    Theft of land and destruction of traditional ways of life left many First Nations people in extreme poverty that has lasted for generations.

    ...

    First Nations women were considered “ exotic” sexual commodities and were assumed by colonizers to enjoy that status, not only because they were viewed as primitive but because they were female.

    ...

    Prostitution requires a devalued class of women (Barry, 1995) which Canada produced by means of the combined forces of the military, the state, the church, and market capitalism. During Canada’s first 100 years, the Hudson’s Bay Company prohibited European women from emigrating to Canada. British brothels were established around military bases and trading posts. Just as men today purchase “mail order brides” in servile marriage, British military officers in colonial Canada acquired “country brides” in marriage-like prostitution that provided men with exclusive sexual access to First Nations women.

    hookstrapped wrote:
    For many feminists, feminism has become just a form of white class privilege.

    Speaking of privilege, there's picking and choosing which voices you choose to exemplify as marginalized. For instance, you used the example of niquabi women in France who are being targeted (and wrongly so). But generally, atheist women of colour such as ex-Muslim Ayan Hirsi Ali are denigrated on babble as "racist." But the men of babble continue to put up pictures of women in hot confining clothing that they celebrate as a symbol of diversity, ignoring the brutal enforcement of these dress codes as is protested by women of colour who don't get quoted on babble (except by rude women like me).

    Part of acknowleging privilege is working at hearing all the voices of marginalized communities, and not just the ones with whom you agree.

    Here's a photo of an Iranian woman at the beach in 1960. Tell me again how head to toe coverings are so emancipating.

    quizzical

    "slut shaming" do some of the decriminalizing supporters never get tired of a tired and proven wrong trope? also, there is the case of your expropriating minds and voices by saying this what is going on and what feminist abolishionists believe.

    stop it!!!!

     

     

     

     

    quizzical

    point taken MegB thank you as i hadn't thought when i said it. and it is in appropriate and othering.

    Sineed

    A critique of choice feminism from Geek Feminism:

    Quote:
    Freedom of choice is a broad term and includes several ideas associated with feminism (such as reproductive choices), but it has a couple of specific usages in geek circles which defend sexism:

    • that low numbers of women in geek activities are simply a matter of women exercising freedom of choice as to their career and hobbies and that no one should criticise such choice, since it is an example of the goals of feminism that women be able to freely choose careers
    • conversely, that sexism in geek activities is not a problem because complainants could choose to avoid that conference/hobby/person in future

    The two arguments oppose each other: the first says that there are simply less women geeks because of prior choice, the second that there should be less women geeks (or feminist geeks of either gender) in many areas because they should be avoiding communities that they don't like, rather than trying to change those communities.

    http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Choice

    MegB

    quizzical wrote:

    point taken MegB thank you as i hadn't thought when i said it. and it is in appropriate and othering.

    Smile

    Pondering

    http://rabble.ca/babble/rabble-reactions/we-demand-rabbleca-end-your-ass...

    post 470

    Pondering wrote:
    Your post 140 drew parallels between abolitionists, racists and homophobes. You also stated that abolitionists don't care about "collateral damage" in another post. You also drew parallels between prostitution and marriage or other relationships that have an economic aspect to them. I don't buy your offended innocence act.

    Slumberjack wrote:
    If they did give a hoot about collateral damage, they'd offer suggestions instead of condemnation and the cops.  The statement about not caring is either true, or it isn't.  I happen to think it's true.  The parallels are not figments of my imagination.  They present themselves as concerns within feminist discourse itself.  It's not my fault if you are unwilling to come to terms with that.

    Come to terms with what? What "collateral damage" are you referring to? The "collateral damage" and direct damage I see comes from prostitution.

     

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