This is our truth, tell us yours
I came across a post by a supposed leading light of feminism last week (aka Gia) and it opened with the disclaimer of pub bores everywhere, “They wont let you talk about this”. Then, like the UKIP representative on question time bemoaning the fact that they cannot mention immigration while doing nothing else, she went on to talk about the thing she couldn’t apparently mention.
It would be funny the way all bigots operate to the same script if it didn’t do so much harm. In her piece and in the comments it was claimed people were too scared to be openly transphobic. Really? Are there trans hit squads hunting people down when they misgender? I wish there were, but of course the reality is that all that will happen is a few people on twitter will be hurt and angry by transmisogony. Not to dismiss that hurt and anger, it is real and they may express this anger. However, that’s it, that’s what white feminism calls being silenced, a hashtag or an angry tweet. I can see them nodding along with my Nana who actually complains about the name change in Dambusters. How dare the world change and see that some words and belief systems are oppressive and hurtful.
Want to talk about what being silenced means? There was a radio show with Mary Honeyball on LBC last week. I was asked if I would participate, in light of my open letter which she has refused to respond to. I would dearly love to look her in the eye and have her explain why being gang raped is the same as being paid for consensual sexual services. I would have loved to have done it but of course I couldn’t. Being an out sex worker is a huge step. Talk to Laura Lee about the refusals to serve her in shops, the dog shit though the letter box, or Brooke Magnanti about the death threats. I wish I were as brave as them, but I am not. Even less so when I read reports like this from Belfast where simply having your pics stolen leads to an investigation by social services because of the all-pervasive stain of whorephobia. So yeah, this is just like someone tweeting in anger, I mean how silly of me to think that not being able to confront women who erase my ability to consent matters!
I am just one woman, silenced by the real world implications of speaking out, this goes far further than me. If you are a researcher into sex work you risk having your career and work destroyed by swerfs if you do not toe the party line. Daniela Danna is an Italian sociologist who was commissioned to report on sex work laws across Europe for the EU. This kind of research is vital as there is very little good, peer-reviewed and independent research. However those in power did not want an independent report, as she makes clear here.
I was forced to retreat from the project because my work has been rendered impossible by the abolitionist stance of the Gender Equality division officers to whom I had to deliver the report. Their fanatism (personnally experienced during the only meeting we had in Brussel in late June – after lots of hostile and unreasonable comments on my written work) was deaf to all empirical research demonstrating that prostitution acts do not necessarily amount to violence against women, and that sex work is different from trafficking.
What I was to understand is that my role should be simply to give them reasons to justify the extension of the criminalization of clients to the whole EU. (I don’t know how they got this power over a document that was commissioned and should be presented to the EU Commission.) This is contrary to our national Sociological Association’s ethical chart, that prohibits us from being influenced in drawing our research conclusion by requests from committers – and I totally agree with this article.
The coordination role was given to Liz Kelly and Madeleine Coy.
This was a sociologist being told to break the rules of her own organisation, and only research sex work through the whorephobic and consent erasing lens of it being violence against women. Want to talk about silencing? (The fact professor Liz Kelly is a respected feminist in the UK with a huge voice and opposed to sex workers rights says all you need to know about white feminism in the UK) Danna is not alone, choosing not to side with the swerfs in their war against sex working women (men of course get a free pass) is a brave step for any academic.
If sex workers dare to speak to these self-appointed guardians of moral purity, the new junior anti sex league, then their treatment is even worse. Laura Lee wrote of the abuse she received giving evidence to Northern Irish MPs. Apparently being asked intimate details about your sex life, including what your father thinks of it (patriarchal much!) is perfectly acceptable to the feminists who have a fit of the vapours if someone tweets at them in disagreement. Never mind that by revealing lauras full name they put her, and her child at risk.
This isn’t limited to the UK, some brave Norwegian sex workers tried to speak out against their countries laws, which include the aptly named operation Homeless (yes you guessed right that is a law aimed at making supposedly vulnerable women homeless.) Trying to get your point across when feminists who oppose your very existence scream at you to shut up, is silencing, it is bullying and it reveals the abusive and hateful nature of those opposed to sex workers rights. Sex workers are used to having to fight even to be heard though, and a fashmob is being organised for March 8th by those Norwegians. That’s the thing about people who face stigma and silencing daily, it’s very hard to gag us.
You can read more about the flashmob here, it’s the sort of event allies are vital at, check out the facebook page and see it there is an event near you, help break the silence. The only alternative is agreeing that our voices, much like our lives dont matter.