When we started calling it “Sex Work”

On Thursday, French MPs passed a law which criminalizes paying for sex. This follows the “Nordic” model where the criminal action is on the buyer not the seller (passed in Sweden, Norway and Iceland in 1999, 2008 & 2009 respectively), and awakens the ever ending debate on prostitution. Everyone has an opinion, from sex workers unions, to Amnesty International about the impact of changes in legislation.

Considering how we widely go on about giving those with the actual experience the space to lead their debate, it seems an astounding number of feminist circles (and Amnesty) are positive towards prostitution and think it entirely reasonable to let the most privileged set the agenda. Upholding the myth about the “happy sex worker” – when we know as a fact that 85% of sex workers are victims of trafficking. Let’s get something very straight here, this is not about the person who made a free choice to work in a specific industry, this is about the right that (some) men feel they have to women’s bodies. The feeling that make some men think they can touch you at the pub. Cause what is actually bought is not sex at all, it’s the right to control and to use another persons body.

So at some point we started lumping together all sex related work under one umbrella term. This seems really twisted to me. Can you hear what it sounds like? Sex work. The way this rhetoric works (the same way the nationalist parties across Europe have made racist rhetoric somehow acceptable) is that it’s reducing what’s actually happening and it’s making the real victims more invisible. How can you compare getting a tenner for blowing someone to sitting at the till in the local Tesco?

Ok, sex work. You work with sex. What about if you’re on crack, walking around the streets at night and selling favours for cheap? Or locked in a flat in some dodgy suburb and see multiple men every day? If your work for a luxury escort firm, or in a high end strip club where you can keep your pants on (yes, I know that even here the lines are blurred), you might feel perfectly safe. You might be there of free will. Maybe you can choose your customers and you make enough that you only do it occasionally, for some extra pocket money.

The thing is that it doesn’t work to listen to the porn stars, the strippers and the high end escorts who speak warmly about their industry (yes they exist, but represent a minority, and shouldn’t represent the whole group), about how well they’re doing because they’re selling an illusion. They’re supposed to like it. That way the customer don’t need to feel bad and they can make more money. The number of “high end sex workers” who’ve left the business and then changed their tune are many, and the stories are easy to find. Because unfortunately, when you’re in a situation where you have to close off your emotions, in a situation where you are vulnerable, exposed, and used, our basic self defense mechanism is to play down what we’re being subjected to. Reduce and defend, and convince ourselves that it’s not so bad, maybe we even like it. This is basic psychology that’s seen over and over in victims of multiple different crimes, defending the perpetrator, reducing their own emotional trauma and experiences.

I want to point out that I’m not trying to disempower anyone here, that’s not why I’m reasoning this way. It’s such neoliberal BS to be accused of disempowering women as soon as you point toward any female victimisation. I can be against prostitution AND still care about and respect women who prostitute themselves or are part of the “sex work” industry. The fault is never theirs.

Article (in Swedish): To be against buying sex is not to hate prostitutes

Knowing when to be quiet

A couple of months ago I ended up talking to a woman. She’s white, British and fairly upper middle class, the archetypal “I practice what I preach (because I have the financial means to do so) feminist”. We talk about women’s role in society, the struggles of breaking that glass ceiling and the societal norms that make so many women feel like they have to conform. She is steering and controlling the conversation entirely. I get the odd sentence in, but mainly it’s a very long monologue of stuff I’ve already heard.

I try to highlight why a lot of women might feel excluded from the debate, and feel like they are being punished in twofold; by the patriarchy for being a woman, and by feminism for not being a good enough woman. I try to interject that if you come from a different socio-economic background, or you’re part of an ethnic minority, there will be more obstacles in your way when trying to live up to the idea of what a feminist should do. I also point out that if we don’t belong to a certain group, say working class, mixed race, disabled etc. then we shouldn’t claim to speak on their behalf. We should listen, and try to understand their struggle, rather than try to explain their struggle to them, from our point of view.

But it seems some people find this really difficult. My attempt to point out that the woman I was speaking to only represented a very small (and privileged) group of feminism, was met by an even longer monologue about the struggles of being mixed race… I am mixed race. I grew up in a very white and homogeneous country (albeit very luckily with friends from all over the world)…. So I think I have an idea?

I see the same behaviour over and over on forums that are created for specific groups. Mixed race forums, Black, Hispanic, Arabic forums. Group discussion for disabled women, trans women, gay and bisexual women… The list goes on. And for each of these forums there are the “mainstream white upper class cis feminist” complaining about the fact that they are excluded. Complaining that there is a group that was created for people to share experiences and ideas, and they’re not part of it.

In a world where being white/western and straigh is the norm that everyone strives towards, these women (and men) have forgotten (or never known) what it’s like to be excluded from a group. It’s like a school cafeteria where you’ve told some kids that they can’t sit with you, then be upset when they form their own table and don’t let you in (the most typical example I can think of is the #allivesmatter vs #blacklivesmatter campaign)

i-feel-left-out

If you truly care about the struggle of other groups, rather than taking over, share what’s already being said, lift articles and forums by these groups, don’t presume to know what it feels like if you haven’t been there. And don’t get offended when you’re asked to just listen. You’re voice can’t, and doesn’t need to represent everyone.

Not all men?

Hello world. It seems you still exist and I guess I do too! Recent weeks (or maybe months) I’ve been through a revival or sorts, found a new energy to discuss things that for a long time made me very tired. For a long time I felt like whenever I wanted to get an opinion across on women’s rights (or diversity in general – but lets focus on gender here) or whenever the subject was brought up, I had to spend more time explaining myself rather than whatever the topic was.

Then a couple of things happened, independently of each other. Firstly, I noticed a person (man) in my close proximity really take an interest in what women were saying. This wasn’t entirely out of the blue, but for the first time I had the feeling that at least some of the message was getting through. Reason for hope #1.

Secondly, my amazing bestie posed this on FB:

FB

and the replies that came pouring in were amazing! Reason for hope #2. It made me realise that it wasn’t just me who felt disheartened. All over homes, in offices and out and about, it seemed to come as a surprise to many men that they somehow had an advantage over women, due solely to their penises.

Thirdly (and I can’t remember exactly what prompted this now), I ended up in a “heated discussion” (read: full out shouting match, which might have been fueled by generally being in a shitty mood) with my beloved husband-to-be about the “not all men” bullshit. Either way, later that day after spamming him with articles about why he was wrong (great tactic to win a fight btw), he admitted it! For the first time, I think he understood why the “not all men” response is such a shitty thing to say, and totally irrelevant. Reason for hope #3!

So with new found hope in humanity I’ve decided to return. There are so many things I want to write about, so stay tuned. Ethnic diversity, gender roles at work, “not all men”, subconscious bias, and positive discrimination. All coming up!

 

The Danish Girl

I went to see the film The Danish Girl the other day. Eddie Redmayne plays the role of Lili Elbe, the first identifiable recipient of gender reassignment surgery. The film was really emotional to watch, and if you haven’t seen it, do! It gave a really good perspective of what it might be like to question your gender identity and also what it might be like to be in a relationship with someone trying to find themselves.

Now, I’m a cis-woman, so obviously don’t know what it actually feels like, but I did grow up in an environment in which I had a lot of contact with trans-women and trans-men, and where people were generally very open about being “non-mainstream” when it came to gender and sexuality.

I think it’s so important that more of these stories are highlighted and told. It really does contribute to a continuously more open society. Anyway, I just wanted to give a shout-out to the film, go see it!

2 weeks in

It’s been two weeks now since the boy, aka Dave, moved over. It’s been a good two weeks. Learning to speak to each other face to face again, and not with a screen between us. Settling into a routine that I so needed. Making the place homely, together.

At the same time it’s a bit strange to go from living independently for 10 months to being a half of a whole again. I mean physically, cause we were obviously always together anyway. Re-learning how to compromise, and how to be less selfish. Re-learning how the other thinks and acts in different situations. Being considerate and inclusive.

But the benefits far outweigh all the difficult re-learning bits. Waking up in the same bed, having dinner together, lazy weekend mornings. I have a good feeling about this. I think it’s going to be  good experience. I feel grown up…

Autumn thoughts

It’s just after 6 am and for the first time after this summer, I notice my breath condensing as I walk down the street. Autumn has arrived in Amsterdam. It’s been raining every day this week, and there’s a definite chill to the air. I’m heading to the airport for the 7th time in 8 weeks, a combination of planned weekend trips, and some not planned trios home.

As much as I’ve enjoyed these trips, London, Copenhagen and Malmö, Lisbon and now Barcelona, all I want at this point in time is for it to be Tuesday afternoon. On Tuesday Dave gets here, finally. After almost 11 months of flying back and forth, of living a half life, a fake life, I am looking forward to waking up in my own bed, our own bed, for the foreseeable number of weekends. With him next to me.


Starting over

The last 10 days have shaken me a bit, understandably I guess. I’m sad inside, but life moves forward. One day at the time. I’m still mid challenge and this week has taken me past the half way point. I have to admit that I cheated a bit, but sometimes you have to feed the soul as well as the body. No use regretting or lingering for too long. Back on the saddle and continue where I left off before life showed me how unpredictable it can be.

So, just under 3 weeks left. I can definitely see the results so far, and my motivation is still on top! The healthy eating has become routine now more or less, and even eating out has become easier, as it feels more natural to make certain choices.

I pulled my left glute last week, so skipping leg workouts for a week… But on the other hand I’m starting proper half marathon training again, so will definitely be using my legs. Not sure how that’s gonna go.

I’m a bit hesitant about posting actual progress in terms of pictures and numbers. Don’t want to focus on that too much, but we’ll see how I feel at the end of all this.