Are you a union member, or a friend or family member of a union member? If so, please come out. Please identify yourself that way in conversations. Please stand up for unions and for the basic worker rights that they protect.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010, only 11.9 percent of workers in the US were represented by unions, and that number is only as high as it is because about a third of public sector workers are union members.
What does this have to do with sexuality? First of all, without unions there can be no economic justice in a capitalist society, and without economic justice, sexual freedom is impossible in any meaningful way. To fully realize our sexual freedom we need basic economic security.
Second, there is a lot to be learned from the coming out campaigns of the LGBT movement. When we are visible we reveal ourselves, making ourselves vulnerable, but we also become three dimensional human beings to those who have previously seen us as one-dimensional stereotypes.
Exactly one week ago I was preparing for a workshop at Creating Change in Minneapolis. The session was led by Ricci Levy, Executive Director of Woodhull Freedom Foundation, and consisted of a panel and story telling exercises.
Our goal was to show how powerful story telling is for building empathy and connection with a group of people and communicating about the kinds of change that you care about. Robert Perez, of Fenton (a stellar communications firm) talked about story telling in general terms and offered examples. I talked about the problems of jargon and identity politics. Ignacio Rivera, performance artist and educator, talked about the need to introduce new language and educate people. Carmen Vazquez, long-time activist and advocate for sexual liberation and human rights, talked about the need to communicate about desire, sex, and connection. Then participants had a chance to identify changes they wanted to see, and to begin to create stories that would help them talk about those changes. It was a powerful session.
This is what I said.
The notion of "queer" presents a challenge to the indentity politics logic of the contemporary gay rights movement and these young people get why that's a problem now. Listen to them.
I am going to get back to blogging soon, and if I can keep my head together, I may well start with this because it's a theme that's been on my mind for a long time. i think that the identity politics focus of the gay rights movement over the past decades has been truly helpful but I think we are outgrowing its usefulness. What's next? How do we fight for rights without attaching them to identities? I think the answer lies in a human rights framework, but shifting the movement is a bit like turning a ship - it doesn't happen on a dime.
More thoughts to come as I recreate some balance in my life.
I've been thinking a lot about the term "allies" as it is used in social movements these days. I particularly think about it as used in the sex worker rights movement, in the LGBT rights movement because of the way that "ally" has become an identity term instead of a political description. Then I came across this statement about allies in an entirely different context and wanted to share it here. It says almost everything I've wanted to say and been unable to find the words for:
Allies in the culture wars aren’t appreciably different than military or political allies, but somehow, the meaning of the word has changed online. We’ve gone from “In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them” to the assumption that the act of alliance comes with specific obligations and that people are “bad allies” or not allies at all if particular things are done or left undone.
This isn’t true, of course. There is nothing about an alliance that requires that one of the parties give up its sovereignty, or there would be many fewer alliances. Alliance is not allegiance. We do not set aside our own concerns and our own marginalization because we care about someone else’s. We don’t let someone else set the terms of our participation in the public sphere, simply because they call us allies, without going through the tricky act of negotiation. We don’t give up our autonomy as allies any more than we would, by giving aid that isn’t wanted or needed, usurp the autonomy of those we aim to help.
Student groups and others who are working to recruit allies understand this. They talk about the behavior of “ideal allies,” presenting aspirational goals and actions that can be adopted by allies. They recognize that learning will need to occur, and continue to occur, throughout the experience of being an ally, saying, “Ask lots of questions and talk honestly about what you do know, what you don’t know, and what you’d like to learn.” They don’t expect perfection, and they demand expect monolithic behavior.
It's about time! From the the Change.org petition site:
On June 15, 2010 the New York State senate passed a bill that, effective as soon as Governor Paterson signs it, enables survivors of human trafficking to vacate their convictions for prostitution-related offenses. This amendment to New York State Criminal Procedure Law grants those who were trafficked into commercial sex the opportunity to start over with a clean slate.
The Sex Workers Project (SWP) worked closely with Assembly Member Richard Gottfried to draft and introduce the bill in April 2009, which is also sponsored by Senator Thomas Duane. Supporters include the New York City Bar Association, the New York Anti-Trafficking Network, and Sex Workers Action New York.
The new legislation empowers survivors of trafficking by allowing them to move on with their lives, and function in society without the stigma of past exploitation. Survivors have a better chance of escaping re-victimization or further coercion when they do not have criminal records that often prevent them from obtaining work, getting stable housing, and adjusting their immigration status.
The message below was sent by PJ Starr and I'm sharing it exactly as it was sent. I hope you can help Desiree Alliance with a donation.
Are you interested in supporting sex worker rights through performance art? Go to http://kck.st/96VUMQ. We are seeking supporters to pledge to donate as little as $5 to support the July 2010 Desiree Alliance conference scholarship program and performance art event "If it happens in Vegas... it's still illegal." The performance “IF IT HAPPENS IN VEGAS… IT'S STILL ILLEGAL" will be our most visible event during the conference and will reveal that not only is sex work unjustifiably subject to law enforcement across the United States that the same applies in the “wild” “party” town of Las Vegas.
Donors will not only get the pleasure of supporting sex workers in a cool way but also get exclusive access to a bunch of photos and video about the conference/performance and event via a passcoded website. People donating $25 or more will be able to access a special blog where we spill the beans about how we organize and strategize. Other supporter premiums include the Soixante-Neuf package (for donors of $69, we send you our underwear!) and the Art Lovers Special ($100 or more, we send you movies made by sex worker advocates and a CD from Mariko Passion).
We have to raise $2500 in total by Friday June 18. Donations are also tax deductible.
I am just getting home from a long day at work and have not yet blogged about International Sex Worker Rihts day. But I sat down at the computer with a cup of tea and tried to collect my thoughts, and the first thing I saw as I browsed was this:
Today (March 3) is International Sex Worker Rights Day. I would like to observe the occasion here by listing and highlighting some things pertaining to sex work/sex workers’ rights lately that I find cool/uplifting/heartening/lovely. The t-shirt I am wearing in the picture, by the way, was produced by the fabulous and local-to-me organization HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive).
Please Join Us December 17, 2009 for the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Event in Tucson, Arizona!
November 11, 2009
Dear Friends & Supporters of Sex Worker’s Rights:
In 2009, sex workers from around the globe met gruesome deaths and endured unspeakable violence. Some died at the hands of a solitary perpetrator; others were victims of serialprostitute killers. While some of these horrific stories received international media attention ( Boston, Grand Rapids, Albuquerque, Tijuana , Hong Kong , Moscow , Great Britain ,Cape Town , New Zealand ), other cases received little more than a perfunctory investigation. Many cases remain unresolved, sometimes forever.
In fact, most violent crimes against sex workers remain unreported. Stigma and criminalization facilitate this violence; when sex work is criminalized, prostitutes can't turn to the police for protection without risking prosecution themselves. Sex workers remain one of the largest marginalized populations in existence without the benefit of the basic civil rights that everyone else takes for granted.
Each year, December 17th marks the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Last year’s event in Washington, D.C. was a big success and this year, sex workers and their allies from across the U.S. will gather together in Tucson, Arizona to remember and honor sex workers who have been victimized by virtue of their chosen profession - including rape, assault and murder.
Last week 50 academics signed on to a letter written by Ron Weitzer and myself. It was a collaborative effort and required compromise and you can read the letter here. Today there have been several news stories about this letter. If you support the overall mission of keeping prostitution in RI from being criminalized please comment on the stories listed below, or blog about the same. Here are some links:
Boston Herald - Boston,MA,USA
Providence Journal - Providence,RI,USA
FOXNews - USA
Update: More news coverage! Please comment on these stories if you can!
Providence Daily Dose: (author is a state rep)
WJAR 10 Providence:
WBZ Radio (Boston):
News on Feeds:
Today is Workers Memorial Day.
As always, when it comes to work and sex and society, I am thinking about some of the most vulnerable among us: sex workers. Sex workers are a large and diverse group. I don't mean to use the term as a euphemism for prostitutes, though I do include them. I mean to include all whose labor is in the providing of sexual or erotic services. I mean to include them whether their work is legal or criminalized, whether they are migrants or not, whether they have a great deal of autonomy or are working in exploitive conditions. No matter what, all those workers deserve to be safe.
The serial killings of prostitutes in places like Ipswich (UK), Vancouver, and Washington remind us of the particular dangers faced by prostitutes (or women suspected of being prostitutes) but it is important to remember that workers in the legal realms of erotic work are also put at risk as we've been tragically reminded recently by attack on Roberta Busby, who was set on fire outside a strip club in February or the murder of Julissa Brisman in a hotel in Boston earlier this month.
Three simple thoughts, then, on Workers Memorial Day:
1. No women are safe until prostitutes are safe. As long prostitutes are targets of violence, and as long as that violence can be perpetrated with much less risk of sanction, and as long as all women are potentially identifiable as prostitutes by virtue of owning our sexuality, no women are safe until prostitutes are safe.
2. An injury to one is an injury to all. When we don’t speak up to protect the safety of other groups, we cannot expect much support when we ourselves are targeted. Solidarity is important across groups of workers. Stigma and bias only serve to divide us. Whatever work we do, whether erotic or otherwise, whether legal or not, whether chosen or not, we need to stand up for each others rights to self determination and safety.
3. Those of us with more privilege (greater safety, more autonomy, more money, more education, more access to power) need to use it to improve conditions for those with less.
Workers deserve to be safe.