Global Fleshmapping

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Global Fleshmapping
Global Fleshmapping

Global Fleshmapping: Prostitution in a Globalized World/ Les Draps Parlent: Prostitution dans un monde globalisé / La Resistencia de Las Mujeres: Prostitución en un mundo globalizado

Yesterday, approximately 2100 feminists from around the world converged in Ottawa for the 11th international Women’s Worlds conference. Women’s Worlds will host a variety of workshops, presentations, conversations, art installations, actions and more this week from July 3-7.

Featuring daily at Women’s Worlds is the multi-lingual, multi-media exhibit Global Fleshmapping/ Les Draps Parlant/ La Resistencia de Las Mujeres: Prostitution in a Globalized World. It incorporates interactive videos, games and 70 used bedsheets as canvasses on which women from across the country have expressed their resistance to prostitution and sex trafficking. On each day of the conference, 16 women from around the world will come together in spontaneous, public consciousness-raising discussions about the connections between global trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women in their own areas. This group includes women who have left prostitution, front-line workers, academics, community organizers and others.

Kicking off the four days of feminist strategizing during the Global Fleshmapping exhibit, the 90 attendees heard from indigenous women in Canada and Norway, as well as women who traveled from Haiti, Morocco, Mexico, Australia, South Korea, Okinawa, Bangladesh, Italy and Nigeria. The Aboriginal women who have provided leadership to Canadian feminists were united in their bold demands to recognize prostitution as a form of ongoing colonial violence against Aboriginal women, who are overrepresented in street prostitution. Jeannette Lavell, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), spoke about her organization’s recent decision: “The potential for legalized prostitution pulled us together in NWAC to take a very strong stand that this is unacceptable, and not what we want as Aboriginal women.” Fay Blaney and Cherry Smiley from the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN), as well as Michelle Audette from the Quebec Native Women’s Association reminded participants that Aboriginal people face systemic violence and poverty and that the continued dislocation and displacement of women has disrupted the passing of teachings and traditions.

The participants made clear the correlation between racism, poverty, and prostitution and trafficking. While Clorinde Zéphir from Haiti talked about the augmentation of prostitution in Haiti since the 2010 disaster, Esohe Agathise spoke about the normalization of selling women and girls in Nigeria and the myth of sexual liberation in Italy. Many of the women in the discussion connected increased prostitution with North American military bases, including Suzuyo Takazato from Okinawa and Teresa Ulloa Ziaurriz from Mexico. The latter explained that her “country is a clandestine cemetery” of women due to American and Canadian sex tourists, drug cartels, and local police and military forces. Rajaa Berrada from Morocco connected trafficking to prostitution by describing the women who visit the country in transit or as domestic or agricultural workers, but find themselves trapped in networks of prostitution. Young Sook Cho related her understanding of prostitution as a gendered human rights violation to her experience working with women in South Korean brothels because “again and again, women die no matter what site the brothel is in.” 

Sigma Huda’s description of the laws in Bangladesh sounded familiar to many Canadian women in the room: though prostitution is illegal, the laws are opaque enough to facilitate a similar debate in the country about how to create legal conditions that could better protect women. A decision by Justice Susan Himel last year struck down Ontario’s laws against prostitution and the appeal that was heard last month has resulted, so far, in a stay on the prostitution laws. The country now awaits the long battle that will no doubt be headed to the Supreme Court in the coming years.

Sheila Jeffreys from the University of Melbourne and the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women Australia shared some of her experiences in a country where prostitution is legalized. She described an increase in organized crime and corruption of local police, as well as little hindrance of the operation of illegal brothels. In contrast, Marit Smuk from Norway recalled her experience of successfully protesting the development of brothels in her community. She described fighting for what is now known as the Nordic Model, which recognizes prostitution as a form of violence against women by decriminalizing those in prostitution and criminalizing the demand - johns, pimps, and brothel owners. It is augmented by increased social welfare, such as a guaranteed livable income so that women are not forced into prostitution by poverty, or exit services for those who want out.

The women at the table today believe that this model creates the legal conditions necessary to establish real equality between the genders.

Global Fleshmapping is presented by Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter and Montreal’s Concertation des luttes contre l'exploitation sexuelle. The installation is open from 11:30 A.M to 7 P.M until July 7th, and the live global conversations will take place from 1 to 2:30 P.M on July 5 and 6, as well as from 11:30 – 1 P.M on July 7.

 

Fazeela Jiwa

 

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Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Thanks for this, GF. I hope the Women's Worlds conference is going well!

Global Fleshmapping

Day Two - July 5

 

This morning, hundreds of participants from the 11th international Women’s Worlds conference marched to Parliament in solidarity with the Sisters in Spirit initiative to condemn the unacceptable number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

The march set an appropriate stage for the topics of conversation at the Global Fleshmapping exhibit today. In the context of a racist and capitalist state system that women and especially Aboriginal women experience as oppressive, how can those who advocate for the abolition of prostitution use the government structure? Which reformist strategies, requiring feminists to work within the patriarchal state, are worth time and effort? Which strategies are truly transformative and meet feminist revolutionary standards?

Cherry Smiley from the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN) told the group that AWAN is well aware of the contradiction of looking to the state when it has been an oppressor to Aboriginal women in the form of residential schools, criminalization and imprisonment, and foster care, among other genocidal policies. “However,” she continued, “often what is left out when people ask for the removal of all laws is that we are then still stuck with unregulated capitalism and the destruction that comes with it.” Considering that many of the women participating in this discussion link prostitution with the sexist commodification of women’s bodies under capitalism, they agreed with Teresa Ulloa Ziaurriz from Mexico when she said that prostitution must be treated as “the oldest expression of patriarchy.” She advocates for what is known as the Nordic legal model, which does view prostitution in this way and thus decriminalizes those in prostitution while criminalizing the demand for women’s bodies from johns, pimps, and brothel owners.

Kim Pate from the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies reminded the participants that this legal change would not be enough. From her experience working with criminalized women, she is concerned that a strictly legal agenda could be co-opted by law enforcement officials to promote the rigourous criminalization of certain people. She cautioned participants to be clear that the abolitionist position does not only demand legal change, but is also “clearly linked to anti-capitalist strategies like a guaranteed livable income,” an anti-racist understanding of the link between prostitution and the trafficking of women of colour internally and across borders, as well as a class-based understanding that “brothels will not eliminate the street trade at all” since the most marginalized women will remain on the dangerous streets. Her organization has recently replaced their long-standing support for total decriminalization of prostitution with a perspective that denounces the actions of those who promote and profit from prostitution and trafficking as criminal.

Other participants stressed the need for transformative strategies like direct actions and public education. For example, Suzanne Jay from the Asian Women’s Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP) spoke about their strategy of exposing massage parlours to Asian women in Vancouver to build awareness about the racism operating in this type of indoor prostitution. In building a map of massage parlours the group found that “out of 81 massage parlours, 50 of them advertise Asian women.” The group aims to change the social conditioning that tells their community that Asian massage is “a cultural thing” and promote the understanding that rather, it is the exploitation of Asian women.

Similarly, many women invoked myths that might be exposed as such with direct actions and public education. The words and strategies of women who had left after years in the sex industry were powerful. Vednita Carter of the U.S group Breaking Free problematized the separation of child prostitution from adult prostitution because “when she grows up and is still involved in prostitution, we say it is her fault – that is not a choice. When you make a choice, you know what is involved in that choice.” Trisha Baptie of Formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating talked about the ideology of harm reduction: “In a way, I want my girlfriends to be safe tonight and have a condom, but we have to think bigger…abolition is bigger than harm reduction because it is harm elimination.”

From Global Fleshmapping’s international conversation today, it is clear that feminists consider the state a patriarchal institution. However, it seems that most women at the table today do not consider reform and transformation as mutually exclusive; in conjunction with other strategies, the enactment of legal and social changes can be used to expedite the possibility of a world free from violence against women.

 

Fazeela Jiwa

 

 

Global Fleshmapping

Day Three - July 6

 

 

July 6th was the second-last day of the 11th Women’s Worlds conference, held this week in Ottawa with the attendance of thousands of feminists from around the world.

Yesterday’s Global Fleshmapping conversation started by acknowledging the leadership that formerly prostituted and indigenous women have provided to the abolitionist movement in Canada. Participants from various places and nations in this land, as well as from Haiti, Morocco, Bangladesh, Denmark, South Korea, America, Mexico, Japan, and Italy were asked: considering that the women who are active in this movement have various levels and types of privilege, how can the movement best work in alliance with women who have left or are currently in the sex trade, women of colour and indigenous women? How do women display solidarity in a way that is not tokenizing, patronizing, or exploitative?

Women had many answers, but what came across most clearly was the importance of listening and respecting the leadership of women who are affected the most by prostitution. Trisha Baptie and Veronique Bourgeois both started by suggesting that while they as survivors have a very specific voice in the conversation, all women are affected by prostitution because it encourages the commercialization of women as objects. That said, both of these women stressed the need for feminists to have objective and non-judgmental views toward women in prostitution in order to ally with them. Corroborating this sentiment, Teresa Ulloa Ziaurriz told the table that women in prostitution in the Latin American abolitionist movement demand to be treated as absolute equals: “They are not the subject of studies, they are not objects to be classified.”

The participants from the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN) told the room that indigenous women are often ignored or spoken for by researchers, academics, and non-native women, and thus speaking for themselves is important. Fay Blaney from the same group reminded the attendees that while some of them speak about prostitution in the second and third person, “we discuss this in the first person…There is no struggle to bridge the divide between us.” Cherry Smiley quoted another member of their group: “We don’t need you to give us space – we have it, and you are in it. We don’t need you to let us speak – we have a voice, and you need to listen.” This statement recalled the words of Jeannette Lavell, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada when she said earlier this week: “We native women have had a hard time getting our voices heard and we need non-native women to help us stop the legalization of prostitution, for native women’s sake and for your own sake as well.” Many women at the table demanded a space for women to organize themselves, rather than patronizing offers of “sandwiches, counseling, or advocacy,” as front-line worker Erin Graham put it.

Other topics that participants mentioned included the need to keep the discussion of prostitution focused on the demand from pimps, johns and brothel owners, as well as the importance of the language used in the rhetoric of the pro- and anti-prostitution positions. For example, if “poverty is often what causes women to prostitute themselves,” as Bourgeois says from her previous experience in prostitution, then calling this coercion “sex work” implicitly legitimizes her situation as a viable solution to women’s poverty, which stems from systemic inequality.

Among all of the various topics discussed, it seemed unanimous among the participants that to ally with the most marginalized women is to stress the necessity of social programming that benefits anyone who needs it. Vednita Carter, founder of the group Breaking Free and a survivor of prostitution, stated that above all else women need tangible things to be able to leave prostitution, like a place to live and food to eat. But Esohe Agathise from Nigeria and Italy noted that “these resources are just not there because women’s issues are not on the agenda.” In response to the same reality in her area, Clorinde Zéphir from Haiti made a powerful call for support: “We need to ask people to support the necessary changes to our society…The abolition struggle takes root in basic demands that are unavoidable…We need to dare to dream of this world; call on people, writers and media, to help us develop this vision and go against the current of the past centuries where prostitution seems to be, for most people, a natural reality.”

 

Fazeela Jiwa

 

Global Fleshmapping

Day four - July 7

 

The organizers began the last session of the international conversation at Global Fleshmapping by introducing a declaration written and signed by some of the indigenous women at Women’s Worlds. The declaration condemns prostitution as a form of colonially imposed patriarchal violence against Aboriginal women. Responding to an open invitation to all indigenous women to read and consider signing this declaration, women from the Sami region in the North of Norway, the island of Okinawa that has been annexed by Japan, as well as women from the nations of this land came to the table to sign their names. Jeanette Lavell took a moment to explain that she was signing to oppose the legalization of prostitution on behalf of all of the organizations that form the Native Women’s Association of Canada, because “as Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit and Metis women, we know through our traditions and teachings that this is not who we are.”

For the last conversation of Global Fleshmapping, the organizers opened a discussion of how to maintain and build the international solidarity that had been constructed over the course of organizing the multi-layered exhibit. Many women spoke about strategies like writing and publicizing declarations such as the indigenous women’s declaration; in particular, Young Sook Cho from South Korea told the group about a large meeting of survivors of prostitution in the Asia Pacific region who produced such a declaration together.

Others stressed the need to understand prostitution and other forms of violence against women in different parts of the world in their own cultural context. For example, Esohe Agathise explained the “desperate condition” in sub-Saharan Africa, where she is harassed for speaking out about the trafficking of women because feminism is considered by some to be a Western imposition, or because some consider the cause of trafficking to be that “women are not giving their daughters sufficient moral training.” Among other topics of concern, many women drew attention to the connection between militarism and prostitution.

Suzuyo Takazato from Okinawa described the growth of prostitution as a result of the U.S military base that has remained on her island since the Vietnam War, suggesting that “militarism is the core element in maintaining prostitution.” Clorinde Zéphir from Haiti confirmed Takazato’s sentiment in telling the attendees about the destruction wrought on Haiti by the militia and weapons trade: “We know how rape and prostitution are linked to militarism. Everywhere where there has been troops, brothels are born. And then when the army leaves, the prostitution becomes naturalized.” Both women proposed that the abolitionist movement develop solidarity with anti-militarism groups, and should “be particularly dynamic in mobilizing countries where militarization is a problem in poor countries” as Zéphir said. Sigma Huda from Bangladesh nuanced this analysis by referring to the example of the indigenous women of Bangladesh that suffer “rapes at random with impunity by the army” in the area to remind the participants that “militarization is not just limited to external forces, but internal as well.” Trisha Baptie from Formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating corroborated the international voices with her experience on the West Coast of British Columbia, where the military personnel “were a huge part of the economy and abuse that happened when they would come into port.” It was clear from this global conversation this past week that, as organizer Lee Lakeman said, the abolition of prostitution “cannot be a single issue campaign” because prostitution is deeply connected to systems of militarism, capitalism and colonialism.

As another example, Alice Lee from Asian Women’s Coalition Ending Prostitution asked participants to pay attention to immigration policies in their own countries. She was concerned about the divisive effect of Canada’s current immigration policy that legitimizes legal immigrants and jails illegal migrants; “it sets a divide between them and is hard to bridge that gap.” This was a particularly salient issue in the context of the fact that the Canadian government did not process the visas of several women from African countries who were to deliver presentations at the Women’s Worlds conference. Participants suggested that Canadian women could have lobbied their government more on this issue, which underlined the connecting theme of the last Global Fleshmapping conversation: feminists with more privilege by way of geography, race, or class are obliged to use that privilege to advantage their sisters. In order to build international solidarity, abolitionists must support each other in global campaigns to end prostitution by whatever means they have.

Unanimously, the participants stressed the need to continue the conversations that had been started this week. However, all agreed when facilitators Diane Matte and Lee Lakeman suggested that the situation for women will not change without an autonomous feminist movement that is not indebted to government, corporations, or any other institutions, economically or ideologically. To achieve a woman’s world, the kind that this conference invokes with its name, feminists must build a global, independent women’s movement in which the central objective is to call upon women around the world to participate in the liberation of all women.

 

Fazeela Jiwa

 

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

This is so illuminiating, Fazeela. Thank you for keeping so rigorous a record of the talks!

Global Fleshmapping wrote:
The declaration condemns prostitution as a form of colonially imposed patriarchal violence against Aboriginal women. Responding to an open invitation to all indigenous women to read and consider signing this declaration, women from the Sami region in the North of Norway, the island of Okinawa that has been annexed by Japan, as well as women from the nations of this land came to the table to sign their names. Jeanette Lavell took a moment to explain that she was signing to oppose the legalization of prostitution on behalf of all of the organizations that form the Native Women’s Association of Canada, because “as Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit and Metis women, we know through our traditions and teachings that this is not who we are.”

A very compelling argument against prostitution.

 

remind remind's picture

Excellent thread, thank  you GFM, for providing this and the information on how women of world need to unite, and are, to eradicate patriarchy's sexual exploitation and abuse.

 

And thank you to all the women of the world and here at home, who joined together to hold this most important event.

Freedom 55

Here's quite a different take by some of the pro sex work activists who participated in the conference:

[url=http://www.xtra.ca/public/Ottawa/Hostile_clashes_dominate_womens_confere... clashes dominate women's conference: Pro sex workers beaten down in name of feminism[/url]

Quote:
"I have been a feminist for 35 years and refuse to let that go. I am, however, profoundly disturbed by what I saw and experienced at Women's World. This was a silencing of the voices of marginalized women and unprovoked verbal violence - I am at a loss to define this as anything other than second wave feminist imperialism."

remind remind's picture

So these 10 white sex workers and their allies are claiming more marginalization than close to 2000 indigernous women who attended this event to try and stop global patriarchial sexual exploitation of women, especially WoC?

 

Amazing, and all the while being agist, whilst disparaging anti-prostitution feminists, and indigenous women of the world, for being imperialists.

 

LMAO

Freedom 55

 

remind wrote:

So these 10 white sex workers and their allies are claiming more marginalization than close to 2000 indigernous women who attended this event to try and stop global patriarchial sexual exploitation of women, especially WoC?

 

Amazing, and all the while being agist, whilst disparaging anti-prostitution feminists, and indigenous women of the world, for being imperialists.

 

 

That's an interesting spin on the article.

I don't see any reference to the women in the article being white. Are they all acquaintances of yours?

I don't see where anyone claimed to be more marginalized than others. 

Nor do I see where the have been ageist and disparaged indigenous women.

There's certainly some criticism of the actions of some of the abolitionists. I don't think I'd label that as "disparaging", but I suppose that's a matter of opinion.

remind remind's picture

Labelling people as "2nd wave feminists" is ageist. Believing that 10 persons, this is including "allies", know better than the 2000 indigenous women from around the world who came, as detailed above, is disparaging, at best. Others might call it racist. Also at best. Labeling the feminists there as imperialists is throwing stones whilst standing in glass houses. And it shows an extreme lack of understanding in respect to oppression, imperialism and whom it targets, and also a lack of feminist thought and knowlege.

The snippet you posted above states right in it; "silencing the voices of marginalized women" which indicates quite clearly that the  less than 10 Canadian women, representing pro-prostitution, feel they are more marginalized than the 2000 indigenous women of the world who were attending. Seems that they, and perhaps others, do not realize that the indigenous women of the world are way more marginalized than they ever thought of being.

This is kinda like minimizing the Holocaust, to me.

It is pretty damn sickening that white Canadian women would place themselves before the indigenous women of the world, whom all Canadian feminists would/should know have suffered true imperialism. What is heartening is it is only a handfull who think/state they are worse off, at the hands of feminists of the world, than are the indigenous women of the world, who are in the hands of patriarchial imperialists.

One can only LTAO in the face of such unmitigated hubris and lack of awareness.

Freedom 55

remind wrote:

Labelling people as "2nd wave feminists" is ageist. Believing that 10 persons, this is including "allies", know better than the 2000 indigenous women from around the world who came, as detailed above, is disparaging at best. Others might call it racist. Also at best. Labeling the feminists there as imperialists is throwing stones whilst standing in glass houses. And shows an extreme lack of understanding imperialism and whom it targets.

The snippet you posted above states right in it "silencing the voices of marginalized women" indicates quite clearly that the  less than 10 Canadian women, representing pro-prostitution, feel they are more marginalized than the 2000 indigenous women of the world who were attending. Seems that they and perhaps others do not realize that the indigenous women of the world are way more marginalized than they ever thought of being.

This is kinda like minimizing the Holocaust, to me.

It is pretty damn sickening that Canadian women would place themselves before the indigenous women of the world whom all should know have suffered true imperialism. What is heartening is it is only a handfull who think/state they are worse off  at the hands of feminists of the world, than are the indigenous women of the world who are in the hands of patriarchial imperialists.

 

One can only LTAO in the face of such hubris and lack of awareness.

 

I still don't see how describing something as second wave feminism is necessarily ageist, rather than a descriptor. For what it's worth, the woman who described it as such is the same age as many of those second wave feminists.

 

I also don't see where anyone is claiming to "know better" or be "more marginalized" than indigenous women. Stating that one feels marginalized does not negate the reality of someone else's marginalization. Stating that one has different experiences and points of view than someone else, and that they would like to be treated with the same dignity and respect does not automatically mean they believe they know better than everyone else. 

 

At least you're having some laughs. Maybe you'll get a chuckle from these women too:

[url=http://inciteblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/indigenous-peoples-in-the-sex... Peoples In the Sex Trade - Speaking For Ourselves[/url]

remind remind's picture

Well, we will have to agree to disagree, as I see xtra's piece as pretty blatent propaganda for the sex industry and dislike its attempt to trivialize 2000 women's experiences.

It plays into and with, the social patriarchial  trope that "middle aged women" aka 2nd wave feminists, are worth nothing to society. And thus it is ageist. Plus sexist. Plus imperialistic", if one goes by the measure of the person writing the article in xtra.

What a laugh that you do not "see" anyone claiming to know better, or that they are more marginalized.

When you have an article stating they, this  amount under 10, are amongst the most marginalized, and it is a compare of less than 10 Canadian women, to all the indigenous women attending said conference. It is pretty obvious.

Never chuckle at the plights of those actually marginalized,  but I certainly will over the article on the less than 10 who were at the conference claiming to be victims of the marginalized women of the world.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Freedom 55, the second wave of feminism rose in the late '60s and continued on into the '70s.  I'm decidedly middle-aged, and I'm too young to be a second wave feminist.  Those of us who came to adulthood in the '80s saw the beginnings of the third wave, which developed into the '90s.

Suggesting it is only "second-wave feminists" who object could be construed as saying that only older women are critical of their point of view - this is patently not the case.

Freedom 55

remind wrote:

When you have an article stating they, this  amount under 10, are amongst the most marginalized, and it is a compare of less than 10 Canadian women, to all the indigenous women attending said conference.

 

They're not claiming that they're the most marginalized people in the world. They're talking about feeling marginalized at this conference. Laugh at them if you want, but based on the following statement, it doesn't look like the organizers of the conference are so dismissive;

Quote:
"We now recognize that pro sex worker activists felt unsafe at the congress - we take this very seriously and have plans to dialogue with representatives of that community about how to ensure the situation is not repeated at future Women's Worlds and similar gatherings."

Freedom 55

Timebandit wrote:

Suggesting it is only "second-wave feminists" who object could be construed as saying that only older women are critical of their point of view - this is patently not the case.

 

I read this as an - admittedly general - critique of certain positions within second-wave feminist thought; not as a suggestion that only older women are critical of sex work (or that younger women are uniformly pro sex work), which I agree is not the case.

Freedom 55

double post

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I didn't read it that way.  No, that was a slam.  Calling current abolitionist positions "second-wave feminist imperialism" isn't critiquing the thinking of 30+ years ago, it's colouring a current position as hopelessly outmoded and out of date.  Also, the comment about hostility to sex-positive feminists is another sideswipe, an implication of prudery - there are a lot of us who hold the position that as long as prostitution exists, the commodification of women and the inherent oppression of that commodification will continue.  I consider myself a sex-positive feminist and I also support abolition of prostitution.  These are not mutually exclusive.  It isn't the sex that's wrong, it's the commodification of the sex act vis a vis women's bodies.  Men's too, come to that. 

Freedom 55

Timebandit wrote:

I consider myself a sex-positive feminist and I also support abolition of prostitution.  These are not mutually exclusive.

 

I understand and respect that. I also understand that being a feminist and being pro sex work are not mutually exclusive.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

No, just misguided.  ;-) 

But ultimately, I think being feminist and pro-prostitution are mutually exclusive.  You cannot be pro-prostitution without condoning the objectification of the female body as a commodity, which is, at its heart, an anti-feminist position.

remind remind's picture

Freedom 55 wrote:
remind wrote:
When you have an article stating they, this  amount under 10, are amongst the most marginalized, and it is a compare of less than 10 Canadian women, to all the indigenous women attending said conference.

 

They're not claiming that they're the most marginalized people in the world. They're talking about feeling marginalized at this conference.

You are in error again, as they most certainly and I quoted the snippet from the article  as above where it stated "silencing the voices of the most marginalized"

helloooo...the indigenous women attending the conference are "the most marginalized" and apparently this handful were trying to silence them in perhaps the first and only opportunity they had to have their voices heard on a international stage.

Quote:
Laugh at them if you want, but based on the following statement, it doesn't look like the organizers of the conference are so dismissive;

Read my words again, I was laughing, and not in actual hilarity, at the article's portrayal of things.

Quote:
"We now recognize that pro sex worker activists felt unsafe at the congress - we take this very seriously and have plans to dialogue with representatives of that community about how to ensure the situation is not repeated at future Women's Worlds and similar gatherings."

Perhaps they will ask them to stay away given the ageist, and sexist manner in which they have conducted themselves.

Freedom 55

remind wrote:

Freedom 55 wrote:

They're not claiming that they're the most marginalized people in the world. They're talking about feeling marginalized at this conference.

You are in error again, as they most certainly and I quoted the snippet from the article  as above where it stated "silencing the voices of the most marginalized"

 

You're mistaken. I may be in error about many things, but not about that statement. It is you who for has grossly distorted this woman's words by inserting the word "most" into her quote, which is not what she actually said.

Chris Bruckert wrote:
This was a silencing of the voices of marginalized women

 

I'm glad I was able to clear that up for you.

remind remind's picture

The 'most' stands as being there irrespective of denials otherwise.

When you have someone claiming that the most marginalized women of the world, namely Indigenous women who mainly comprised this conference, were being imperialistic and silencing towards marginalized women, namely those there constituting a handful supporting pro-prostitution, then it is setting them up as to appear as more marginalized than Indigenous women the world over. Thus they, the handful of white women which are pro-prostitution who were there, become the most marginalized.

Really, the article tried reverse positions and make WoC the world over appear as the oppressors of "marginalized white Canadian women". Apparently because the Indigenous women of the world stood up for themselves in rejecting their sexual exploitation and objectification, as was being encouraged by this small handful. It, the article, even had the audacity to further label those against sexual exploitation of women as prudes and old biddies, whilst judging them to be no type of feminists at all.

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I appreciate the concillatory note the conference organizers took--it's definitely a contentious point and the conference seems to take a positive approach to abolition: recognizing that prostituion in its current form is a vile expression of patriarchy, imperialism and masculine entitlement on one hand; but also acknowledging the desire of sex workers to improve the living and working conditions they find themselves in. We live in a patriatchal world and feminists must work to eliminate patriarchy, but not at the expense of those who are most at risk from its more immediately dangerous aspects.

remind remind's picture

Catchfire wrote:
We live in a patriatchal world and feminists must work to eliminate patriarchy, but not at the expense of those who are most at risk from its more immediately dangerous aspects.

What do you mean by this part in bold?

 

ETA: Please could you move this to the feminist forum?

Freedom 55

Like or hate it, the article was written as it was. That's what I'm interested in. I'm not sure what's to be gained by insisting on misquoting someone, re-imagining an admission by the organizers that pro sex work delegates felt unsafe as a rebuke, and erasing and assigning people's identities and politics (i.e. apparently the delegation was comprised of 2000 abolitionist indigenous women, and 10 pro sex work white women?).

Bacchus

Shouldnt this be moved to the sex workers forum>?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

This thread is custom made for News by the Rest of Us. It's fine here. 

remind wrote:
What do you mean by this part in bold?

I mean that sex workers feel the brunt of patriarchal violence, and sometimes abolishment activists forget the lived experience of sex workers on the ground. If we want to abolish patriarchy, we can't do it by silencing the voices of those at risk who favour harm reduction.

remind remind's picture

Thank you catchfire, though I appreciate your perspective, as I respect you, it diverges with mine and millions of other women, including sex workers, either former or current.  One need only read what globalfleshmapping so clearly wrote about above. This divergence comes about IMV, from a misguided approach that you perceive may help.

There is absolutely no evidence that a harm reduction model of de-regulated objectification and exploitation of women for sexual patriarchy, is successful as a reducer of patriarchial violence, as opposed to abolishment. All the models that the harm reducers have used from across the globe, to promote their viewpoint are crumbling under evidence that states otherwise. Truth is there is an ever increasing amout of women unwillingly entering into the sex trade in order to survive, with many more being forced or coerced into it. There is also standing evidence that clearly shows violence has grown against women in  many countries that have legal prostitution. Also, it is increasing within other countries that have lessened the penalties on prohibition, including Canada.

The Netherlands now have to report to the UN on how their stopping violence against women programs are working. This is because violence against ALL women there has soared since the development of legalized prostitution areas.

Pandering to patriarchy is not going to get violence against women and sex workers stopped.

Freedom 55

I came across this note on Facebook, which I thought was an important addition to this discussion. I decided to quote it in its entirety rather than excerpt it and provide a link, because while I did get permission from the author of the letter to share it, a link would show comments belonging to other people as well.

 

Quote:

Feminism, Sex Work and Women's Worlds 2011 - Letter to the Conference

Attn Women’s Worlds conference organizers,

 

I attended the Women’s World conference as a representative of FIRST, the national coalition of feminists that works to support sex worker rights and the decriminalization of sex work.

 

I am writing to express my deep frustration and disappointment in Women’s Worlds approach to the issue of sex work and to the attacks on sex workers the Conference allowed and, in many ways, facilitated.

 

After reading the following statement on the official website, I feel it imperative that I write an official letter of complaint to add my voice, backed by the voice of all FIRST members, to support every sex worker who felt neither valued nor respected at the conference.

 

"By all measures, this historic congress itself broke barriers and ground by raising the bar for how women can converge in ways that value and respect the participation of under-represented communities."

 

As a feminist and an ally to the sex worker movement, I felt deeply alarmed

by the levels of hostility and dismissal present at the conference towards sex workers whose perspectives did not conform to the “prohibitionist” stance on sex work. As the most prominent example, the “Fleshmapping,” project was given a dominant amount of space and resources amidst statements that it was intended to create a global feminist response to prostitution.

 

The Fleshmapping project was organized by two prominent prohibitionist groups and included only perspectives that conformed to the prohibition of sex work, yet it was highlighted on the website and within the conference. In addition, the huge number of workshops given to anti-sex work facilitators and organizations made it absolutely clear that Women’s Worlds organizers were not interested in listening to the voices of all sex workers.

 

From my perspective, the most important aspect of feminism is the belief that people are the experts on their own experience and have the ability and right to speak for themselves. I strongly believe that the voices of sex workers who support sex worker rights were sacrificed at this conference because the organizers were afraid of being accused of being racist and/or perpetuating colonialism – two accusations that were relentlessly shouted at me as I sat in the small demonstration outside of the “Fleshmapping” exhibit on the last day of the conference. It is long past the time that we understood that it is not acceptable to allow one group of marginalized people to erase the voices and experiences of another group of marginalized people. This is not feminism.

 

While exploitation does exist within the sex industry and no one involved in the sex worker community denies this fact, no one works harder to address exploitation than sex worker organizations. We must accept that there are many diverse experiences within the industry, some include violence and exploitation, and many do not.

 

As feminists, our work is to create a feminism that enables everyone to share their experience without fear of moral crucifixion. As feminists, we do not have to choose between two groups or sacrifice anyone for some mythic greater good. We must move away from this kind of false dichotomy because it guarantees an increase of harm for those sex workers who are the most vulnerable. We have to approach this issue through an intersectional lens to understand the diversity of agency and experience within this huge and complex industry to begin to develop complex solutions for reducing harm and supporting sex worker rights.

 

The Simone de Beauvoir Institute’s Statement: A Feminist Position on Sex Work explains the importance of hearing everyone’s voice:

 

“One of the most important lessons of feminist politics is the necessity of genuine consultation. Feminists have argued that women need to be given the vote if a democratic state can claim to have consulted them as citizens. Labour feminists have maintained that women workers need to be consulted if we are to understand how a particular work environment affects women. Just as feminists before us have insisted on the importance of consulting with women, so too do we underline the importance of genuine dialogue with women who work in the sex trade. Our commitment to feminist politics requires that we speak directly with the women who are living a specific reality, and that we work with them to improve their situation as they see fit.”

 

The above statement is a truly feminist perspective on sex work and if Women’s Worlds is to create any kind of meaningful relationship with sex workers - if this is even possible after the huge damage committed against the sex worker community - this perspective is the starting point future Women’s World organizers must fully embrace. As feminists we must advocate for law reform, policies and services that are created through respectful and ongoing consultations with the groups affected so that we are meeting people where they are, rather then where our ideologies or theories would prefer them to be.

 

The following excerpt is from “Indigenous People in the Sex Trade: Speaking for Ourselves,” a summary of a talking circle comprised of indigenous peoples who have had past or former experience in the sex trade. The discussion was facilitated by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and outlines the importance of this approach for indigenous peoples.

 

“We collectively and steadfastly resist the so-called “rescuing” and “saving” approaches to the issues going on in our lives that comes from the (in)justice system, social service agencies, prohibitionist groups, and many other areas.  What we are asking for is not to be saved or rescued or consistently painted as victims – we come from generations of peoples who have resisted this approach for the last 500+ years so we could be here today. We are asking for support that is unconditional and meets us where we are at.”

 

An overriding theme in the sex work debate is choice. People assume women enter the industry only out of financial destitution and ask questions like, “How could anyone really choose to work in the sex industry?” and equate all sex work with rape. While it is true that some people enter the industry because of poverty and marginalization in the labour market we must acknowledge that when we take away someone’s ability to make choices and to say “yes,” we also remove their ability to say “no.” Sex workers do experience rape, and this is very different from their experiences of consensually working in the industry. To conflate sex work with rape is to erase this act of agency and this has incredibly important legal ramifications for sex workers. Sex workers need to be able to report rape to the police and receive victim services, two things that are denied to them if their work is criminalized and they are seen as the victims of patriarchy. If we, as feminists, are truly concerned with choice, why are we working so hard to take away a choice instead of working to provide more choices?

 

My sex worker friends do not wish to be rescued. They suffer because of laws that encourage stigma and force them to work in unsafe and stressful conditions. They are often powerless to improve the conditions of their work environment because they do not have access to the protection of any labour laws due to the fact that their work is criminalized. I don’t want to be included in a feminist movement that doesn’t make room for the experiences of ALL sex workers in a respectful and meaningful way. When someone states they wish to see the end of prostitution, which was stated openly by two prominent members at the final plenary, where exactly does this leave sex workers? Their voices are not only silenced but their experiences and existence are erased, as it is made completely clear that they were never welcome in the conference.

 

I hope the organizers of Women’s Worlds 2011 can use this experience as a lesson on the importance of constantly challenging and questioning the practices of feminism in organizing and in developing our movement.

 

I will gladly participate in any discussions that could contribute to amending the gross amount of harm, insult and profound injustice done to sex workers who were attending the conference. We must seriously work towards reducing the harm suffered for future conference attendees who are sex workers.

 

Sincerely,

 

Justine Little

On behalf of FIRST – Feminists Advocating for the Human Rights of Sex Workers

 

Documents Referenced

 

Simone de Beauvoir Institute’s Statement: A Feminist Position on Sex Work

Located Online Here: http://www.concordia.ca/now/what-we-do/research/20101101/feminist-positi...

 

Native Youth Sexual Health Centre - Indigenous People in the Sex Trade: Speaking for Ourselves

 

Located Online Here:

">http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/notes/the-native-youth-sexual-health-...

fluidity

i was at the conference, and I'm not sure it is correct to say that there were over 2000 indigenous women there (unless all women there were indigenous), nor to say that all but 10 were abolitionist in respect to sex work.

a point was raised that abolitionists were perhaps overrepresented at the conference, coming from many different countries, while the people who have different approaches than abolition of sex work seemed to be all from canada (and it shouldn't be necessary, but i will point out that there are sex workers and allies in other countries who aren't abolitionist, they just didn't seem to have come to the conference - whether due to finances or lack of awareness/interest or whatever other reason)

an interesting article detailing the problems with the abolitionist-driven swedish model in practise: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/07/23/on-the-swedish-model/

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Thanks for your perspective, fluidity, and that link. A very illuminating article.

Quote:
I hear a lot of supporters of the Swedish model say that the legislation does not target sex workers because we are not the ones who are criminalised by the laws. To me, this buys into a long history of treating sex workers like we exist independently of community, clients, family and other human beings. When law reform occurs around sex work, politicians and law makers are always saying that they need to take into account the concerns of ‘citizens’ and ‘residents’ (usually in terms of ‘protecting’ them from sex work or keeping it out of their backyards). This is phrasing that ignores the fact that sex workers are also citizens and residents. We are members of communities, we vote, and when we are allowed to we pay taxes. We should not be treated as though we exist outside of society.

The main reason this is relevant to the Swedish model is that while the legislation does not specifically criminalise the sex worker, it criminalises everyone around the sex worker. It becomes illegal to rent a room, house, hotel room or apartment for anyone to do sex work out of, or the land lord risks being charged with pimping. The real world implication of this, of course, is that if a sex worker’s sex work status is revealed, they are most likely going to be evicted even if they are not working from that property, as the land lord will fear being charged under Sweden’s strict pimping laws. ‘Pimping’ is also a charge applied to anyone who assists in finding clients, provides security services, or allows advertising for sex workers. Sex workers cannot work together or they risk being charged with pimping each other, which dramatically decreases our opportunity to look out for each other’s safety, reduce overhead costs, and establish peer support networks, which are known to be our most effective method of reducing the STI rate. Services which provide support to sex workers risk running foul of legislators who oppose anything that looks like ‘promoting’ sex work, which may even include distribution of condoms to sex workers. Sex worker organisations do not receive condoms from the government and are not able to buy them in bulk, so have found themselves forced to obtain them from organisations that provide them to men who have sex with men.