This is our truth, tell us yours
Some of you may have seen this before, after the events of the weekend I think reposting it is timely
Edited to add. Apologies for any language fails, I am a cis woman and always learning feel free to let me know any problems.
I have had quite a few conversations on twitter about the similar ways some rad fems attack trans* women and sex workers, how the same arguments and techniques are used. Reading this today whilst on one level I was thinking about how I as a cis woman can ensure I do not fall into any of these traps, on another a series of light bulbs were going on in my head. To head off the haters before I even start, this is not about the oppression Olympics or saying this group hurts more than that group, but about seeing parallels and connections that highlight how different groups have the same methods used against them.
Of course, this is a specific attack on trans and/or non-binary people. Sex workers do often get told we must be pimps or men or inventions of some shadowy underworld that wants to silence all the real victims1. However I was struck by the trans panic defence used to excuse behaviour. From the Green River Killer to living under the fear of loosing their children to social workers having attacks on them seen as OK or even lauded by a section of society is something sex workers live with. Attacks on sex workers are seen as less important than those on good /real women. There is often an attitude from the Police that these things only matter when real/good women are involved. This leads very neatly into…
2.” Patriarchal Privilege “
Sex workers are used to being attacked as handmaidens of the patriarchy. Burchill perhaps expressed it most bluntly, but she was merely honestly expressing what many rad fems feel:
“When the sex war is won prostitutes should be shot as collaborators for their terrible betrayal of all women, for the moral tarring and feathering they give indigenous women who have had the bad luck to live in what they make their humping ground – “
Yup, that wonderful patriarchy that means sex workers are more likely to be raped, and have their rape ignored, or their compensation for rape cut in half2 or their belongings seized, or leave them open to online threats, real life threats, dog shit through the letter box, murder and generally being treated as scum. Constantly fearing outing, knowing you can never put sex work on your CV, that your family might disown you, that partners may use the fact you are a sex worker to abuse you themselves. Wow being a collaborator is so much fun, we certainly earned those death threats from a leading feminist.
Confession time, I had to look up what reify means, it’s not a word that I have often had cause to use. Apparently both trans* people and sex workers set all the bad stuff in concrete, the bad stuff that I thought feminism declared to be structural and imposed by patriarchy? This is when I start to get very confused. Not by reify, which is a word I intend to drop into every conversation from now on, but by the concept. I have come across more times than I can count the “Nice women get raped because of you” argument. Basically all the ills of the kyriarchy, sexism, rape, the pay gap, the cost of tampons (OK I haven’t been blamed for that one yet, but I am sure at some point I will be) are down to the behaviour of sex workers. Just like trans* women apparently reinforce the gender binary in some magical way, sex workers magically make men rape, even while the very same feminists chant #ibelieveher and #nomeansno.
“And of course there’s the unending stream of strawmen, false dilemmas, question begging, catch-22s, double-binds. Logic must be sacrificed to
explain away the existence of a trans person who can speak for herself and himself and refuses to accept definitions imposed on them. People are threatened by the simple assertion of personhood, of agency. Of saying, these theories you apply to me, they do not work. They’re not true, and I refuse to accept them.”
Can we pause while I say “Hallelujah”? Of course all the blogging whores are not representative, all the people who choose sex work, the only voices that matter are those who agree with the theory and the rescue industry. The rest of us are just trolls, socks and disgusting beasts.3
This is of course very specific to trans* women. What struck me reading (other than how some fecking good manners are needed by some people) and thinking about writing this piece was this linked to article
The original headline was Fooled John Stabbed Bronx Tranny, her occupation, sex worker, not hooker, only alluded to, because to follow the headline writers priorities the important fact is that a man was fooled, not a person murdered.
“Transphobia doesn’t work on the level of literal sense, instead it proceeds along a path mapped out long before, relying more on a cis common sense of how things “should be” (and therefore are) than on any real knowledge of trans lives. And so, this trope appears again and again and again – in Kellie Telesford’s trial, she was described as possessing a man’s strength (ludicrously unlikely given the time she’d been on hormones), yet simultaneously she was able to deceive the defendent into having sex with her.
The double blind of both being a scheming whore and agencyless victim is one that comes out over and over again. We cannot be trusted to make decisions, yet as Burchill and others assert we are willing collaborators, deliberately making life worse for all other women. Quite an achievement for a group who apparently just sits around chained to radiators waiting to be rescued.
Like number four Tefs and Swefs seem to have no problem with holding two contradictory thoughts in their heads. Whores are evil, leading women astray, encouraging trafficking, and secretly pimps and abusers, whilst at the same time suffering from PTSD4, and barely able to function, what with the being raped every time they have paid sex.
Disablism is rife in the attacks on sex workers, Mia Freedman got quite rightly attacked for it in her latest pile of shite she calls writing for saying she supposed women who were able bodied, had no history of abuse, and no mental health problems could be sex workers, if they really, really wanted to. Just as trans* people are accused of having a mental illness to deny them the right to be who they want to be, so sex workers are forced to hide any problems they may have, as it is used as evidence than sex work is damaging.
What is it with TEFS and SWEFS that they are such Freudians, everything apparently goes back to childhood! Sex workers were of course all abused as children5, which for some reason makes them congenitally unable to make a rational decision ever again. I have covered this several times, if you think being a survivor means you can’t be a sex worker you are reading the wrong blog.
There was another issue which occurred to me, the erasure of men. Trans men and male sex workers do not apparently exist in any of these arguments, or if lip service is given they are simply dismissed as victims of patriarchy too, clever since men are supposedly building the whole structure to enslave women at every opportunity.
Is there any point to this, other than as an academic exercise? I think there is, we can learn from each other, and other marginalized groups such as women of colour. The tactics used are so similar that seeing how one group had dealt with it can be a pointer as to how it can be challenged by all. One thing that occurs of the top of my head is how more and more sex worker activists are talking of their problems, their rapes, their intersections of oppression to counter the happy hooker myths. Yes they are saying, this sucks, but it is my choice. It infuriates the SWEFS no end, and is a tactic that perhaps others can adapt. I am sure people can think of their own examples.
Perhaps more importantly though as natural allies we must have each others backs, there is already a lot of cross fertilization, International Trans day of rembrance is marked by many sex worker orgs because so many of the victims are were sex workers. On an international, local, or one to one level we share so much othering, are hated by the same people, we need to be there for each other, when one of us gets attacked using these arguments, it strengthens the other side. When one of us stands tall, refuses to be beaten down, we all win.
1; Ironically this happened to me today, where I was told by merely existing I silenced women. @pastachips (what do you mean you don’t follow her!) has recently been accused of being a multi national, and it is a common tactic.
2. The link to the latest stats on sexual assaults are herehttps://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/143910/sexual-offending-overview-jan-2013.pdf.pdf
3. What the ever delightful C. Brennan called me when she discovered I was a sex worker who was not ashamed of my job.
4. It’s a bullshit Farley fact, as all her so called facts are, in fact bullshit Farley facts should be a Tumblr. This is one of the hundreds of critques of what she calls work.
5. More Farley, she is it must be said productive.
SWEF= sex worker excluding feminist Tef = trans excluding feminist