https://theintercept.com/2017/12/11/sta ... wn-fallis/
American Dream wrote:AN ACTIVIST STANDS ACCUSED OF FIRING A GUN AT STANDING ROCK. IT BELONGED TO HER LOVER — AN FBI INFORMANT.
Standing Rock Documents Expose Inner Workings of “Surveillance-Industrial Complex”
20TH JULY 2018
RED FEMINISM IS TRANS FEMINISM: TOWARDS A SHARED PLAN C PERSPECTIVE
BY PLAN C LONDON
Now is not the time to remain silent on conflicts about trans rights and sex workers’ rights, which have plagued our movement for decades. As an organisation for which class struggle and feminist politics are crucial, we believe it is important for us to express solidarity with comrades both within and outside of our organisation who are currently at the centre of a toxic, divisive debate around trans inclusion in feminist and women’s spaces. We hope that, by sharing our perspective and also our beliefs around conduct within the debate, we can inspire other political groups, organisations and individuals to do the same.
At Plan C’s last Congress in Birmingham, May 2018, the organisation agreed analytical propositions for a shared red feminist perspective. These are not about developing a party line on what kind of feminist politics our members must have. Rather, we intend for these propositions to contribute to the ongoing discussion in Plan C about our shared feminist praxis. They grow out of our experiences in Plan C, the struggles which we have learned from and been shaped by, and more broadly from living our lives as embodied creatures in the world. The propositions are:
1. Reducing what it means to be a woman to a set of biological characteristics and reproductive capacities is a specific form of reactionary and misogynist politics which Plan C must oppose as part of its broader struggle against patriarchy and for joy. From decades of black feminist thought we have learnt that universalist, totalising claims about what a woman is and what it means to be one serve the interests of some women at the expense of others. Universalising claims about what it is to be a woman work against the possibility of meaningful dialogue, connections and solidarity being forged between women who experience womanhood in myriad different ways.
2. In order to understand each other and build red feminism together it is vital that each of us has full and final say on the meaning of our bodies: what they do, how we labour and what is done to us. This means that Plan C must recognise that trans women are women, trans men are men, and nonbinary people are nonbinary. We want to obliterate the gender binary, and in the meantime we demand healthcare for everyone who needs it; hormones for everyone who wants them; care for everyone; the ability to self-identify our genders and not let patriarchy do it for us; access to women’s shelters for all women who need them and not just cis women; bread; and roses.
3. We must look to the wealth of knowledge forged of shared experience, common struggle and solidarity across difference produced by black feminism, trans feminism and sex worker rights movements. We acknowledge that trans women and sex workers have a crucial role to play in dismantling the capitalist patriarchal systems of power that oppress us all and we know this because we struggle as them and beside them.
Alongside these propositions for a shared analytical perspective, we also agreed a set of principles for a shared red feminist practice, both for being together in the present and for building the future. Many confrontations have taken place in spaces in which we invest hope for our collective liberation, so these suggestions for shared practice centre on how we can talk about trans politics and the other things which matter to us, our lives and the ideas through which we live them, in a way which minimises harm and maximises our understanding and capacity to produce analysis together.
1. We need to be able to be a political home for trans as well as cis comrades. That means that we need to create an atmosphere where trans experience is valued, trans identities are believed in and trans comrades are actively supported, and harmful myths about trans people are challenged. This does not mean that we can’t discuss issues arising from feminist praxis openly and critically; this is vital to the development of our shared politics. But it does mean that, when trans feminist movements or politics are discussed, this needs to be done in a respectful, comradely and supportive way, where we practice mutual care and understand that debate is never neutral; that debate is real and important and has the power to cause harm and distress; and that trans comrades will always have a bigger stake.
2. When we discuss issues related to trans feminism, we need to do it in a way which doesn’t treat trans people as strange objects to be speculated about, mused upon, and explained. People who are at the sharp end of oppression should be listened to with care, especially when they are talking about that oppression. When we want to understand different ways of being, struggling, and living, we need first to listen to comrades living those lives and engaged in those struggles.
3. When we talk about potentially intense stuff, we need to be able to trust each other.
1. We need to be truthful. In discussions that have the potential to be emotionally charged, we need to say what we mean as carefully and deliberately as possible. This means reflecting on the difference between playing devil’s advocate and critical engagement. It also means avoiding passive aggression.
2. We need to be caring. We need to think about the effect what we say will have on the people who hear it. We need not to be defensive when people tell us we’ve upset them, to say sorry, and to actively try to de-escalate the situation. Beyond all else this means avoiding personal attacks and name-calling. At times we may need to consider stepping away from the discussion for a while. It is important to acknowledge that these discussions will often and understandably involve anger, upset, and other emotions, and that we need to make space for sharp emotion in our discussions, and not insist that everyone remains calm. That said, the ‘sharper’ these conversations become the more difficult it is to engage in them, especially for those socialised to avoid confrontation. Being mindful of these tensions and learning to navigate them together is a project of care.
3. We need to be vulnerable. We need to be open to what others say, and allow each other to change our opinions and ways of acting. We need to understand that being open to being changed by each other is far from a weakness, but rather a vital strength for all revolutionaries to have.
‘Kill All the Gentlemen’ — seven centuries of class struggle in rural England
Posted on July 22, 2018
In his insightful history of rural rebellion, Martin Empson shows how farmers and farm-workers across England have repeatedly risen against the rich and powerful
‘KILL ALL THE GENTLEMEN’
Class Struggle and Change in the English Countryside
Bookmarks Publications, 2018
reviewed by Ian Angus
Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
—Bertolt Brecht, “A Worker Reads History”
For centuries, Britain was ruled by landowners who never dirtied their hands, living off the backbreaking work of farmers and rural laborers whose products fed them and paid their bills. But in most history books, and in TV dramas like The Tudors and Downton Abbey, the men and women whose labor paid for the banquets, balls and battles of the very wealthy are nowhere in sight. They are outside of politics, outside of history.
For the most part, and at most times, those invisible masses accepted their subordination as inevitable and appropriate. The rural workers who shyly tugged their forelocks as the landlord’s coach rolled by might curse under their breath, but they didn’t revolt.
Except when they did.
Every once in a while, as Trotsky wrote, life at the bottom becomes intolerable, and the oppressed “break over the barriers excluding them from the political arena.” Their actions terrify and outrage the ruling class and its hangers-on, for whom “the direct interference of the masses in historical events” is contrary to the natural order of things, a direct threat to their power, position and wealth.
As you can tell by its title, Kill All The Gentlemen is not a BBC costume drama. That slogan was raised by rural rebels in at least three sixteenth century uprisings. As author Martin Empson says, “it neatly sums up who the lower orders blamed for their problems.”
In Kill All The Gentlemen, the rural poor are invisible no more. They are, as Empson dramatically shows, agents of change who have repeatedly risen in revolt against the rich and powerful. He rescues those rebels from what E.P. Thompson called the “enormous condescension of posterity,” recognizing them as essential participants in the long struggle for human liberation.
Beginning with the great peasants’ revolt of 1381, and concluding with the agricultural workers’ strikes early in the 20th Century, his narrative “celebrates the rural class struggle for equality, justice and a better life.” Again and again, he shows, farmers and farm laborers have risen to demand, as Digger leader Gerrard Winstanley wrote in the 1600s, “that the Oppressed shall be set free, prison doors opened, and the Poor People’s heart comforted by an universal consent of making the Earth a Common Treasury.”
As well as a history of rebellion, Kill All The Gentlemen is a history of agricultural society in England, of the long transition from classic feudal control to peasant farming to capitalist enclosures and the birth of a rural proletariat. At the beginning of his account, the great majority of working people in England were tied to the land, bound by a host of restrictions enforced by landlords — which included the Church, one of the most powerful and oppressive feudal powers. At the end, in our time, barely one percent of the population is employed in agriculture, and farming is “almost completely mechanized and highly dependent on artificial pesticides, fertilizers and fossil fuels.”
Changes in agriculture changed the nature of rural rebellion, from petitioning the king for help to burning the machines that took workers’ jobs to demanding the right to collective bargaining — each new form of struggle reflected a new reality in farm life.
Today farmers in the so-called developing world are being squeezed by agribusiness and neoliberal policies. They are fighting back with their own forms of struggle, part of the “long tradition of class struggle in the countryside” that Martin Empson documents so well.
Kill All The Gentlemen is well-researched and documented, but it is not, I’m pleased to say, an academic work. It has none of the pretentiousness and scholarly apparatus that makes most academic histories unreadable for working people. Martin Empson is a socialist, writing for people who want to understand the past in order to fight more effectively for our common future. He has done a great service by bringing the stories of these rebellions together in one volume, where they are accessible to a broad activist audience.
Bertolt Brecht wrote, “Hungry one, reach for the book — it is a weapon.” Kill All The Gentlemen is indeed a weapon, one that deserves close attention from everyone who wishes to be well-armed for the struggles ahead.
Sex work, migration and anti-trafficking
An interview with Nandita Sharma
by Robyn Maynard
“If we want to end the exploitation of women, we need to challenge capitalism, which is the basis for all our exploitation. . . We don’t give more power to the state to criminalize workers, we give more power to workers to end their exploitation.” —Nandita Sharma
Nandita Sharma is an activist, scholar, and the author of Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of ‘Migrant Workers’ in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2006), and “Anti-Trafficking Rhetoric and the Making of a Global Apartheid” (NWSA #17, 2005). In this interview, she addresses the effects of anti-trafficking on migrant women doing sex work. She critiques the notion of “trafficking” in the context of the increasing necessity of global migration and the tightening of borders in the global North. According to Sharma, border restrictions, rather than “trafficking,” are the biggest impediment to the self-determination of (im)migrant women in Canada.
Robyn Maynard interviewed Sharma in February 2010 for No One Is Illegal Radio’s edition “Sex Work, Migration, and Anti-Trafficking.” Edited excerpts of that interview were published in Upping the Anti #10, and are reprinted here with permission.
Maynard: How do the government and media use the idea of “sex slavery” to create moral panic? What are the consequences for migrant women doing sex work?
Sharma: Without a doubt, the moral panic against sex work is fuelling the push for anti-trafficking legislation. Most people who are pushing the anti-trafficking legislation also want to eliminate the option for women to enter into sex work. And they want to do that by further criminalizing sex work activity, especially by criminalizing the entry of migrant women into the sex industry.
For example, in Canada the migration of women into sex work is increasingly scrutinized by the state. Not only are there police who continuously raid sex work establishments like strip clubs and massage parlours under the guise of “protecting public morality” or public health; we also have immigration police who are raiding sex work establishments looking for so-called “victims of trafficking.”
Of course, the vast majority of women who migrate do not enter into sex work. But for those women who do, one of the greatest vulnerabilities they face is their status in the country. The lack of legal or permanent status makes migrant women involved in sex work more vulnerable. Many women who are migrants in the sex industry are employed on temporary work visas in the entertainment industry – the visas given to sex workers were recently squashed by the government – or they are forced to work illegally. It is impossible to legally get into Canada as a sex worker and enter as a permanent resident. You don’t get “points” for being in the sex industry, even though there is high demand. The anti-trafficking legislation is another way to attack women’s ability to work in the sex industry, and it does so in a way that further legitimizes (and relies on) the idea that no woman should ever be engaged in sex work. Ultimately, the moral panic against sex work makes migrant women more vulnerable in the sex industry.
What does anti-trafficking legislation fail to address in terms of women’s rights and agency? What are the root causes of what gets called “trafficking”?
The key issue is to understand why, over the last decade, national governments around the world have been pushed to pass anti-trafficking legislation. There is increased migration in the world today, largely resulting from practices of dispossession and displacement through political and economic crises and war. And yet, alongside increased migration, most states – especially in the so-called “First World” – have implemented restrictive policies that prevent more and more people from entering these states legally. The result is that most people who enter these states are considered to have “illegal” status.
Anti-trafficking legislation is used to target so-called “illegal migration.” Instead of placing the blame for migrants’ vulnerability on the restrictive immigration policies of national states that force people into a condition of illegality, it blames those who are actually facilitating their movement across borders. In today’s world, where it is increasingly difficult to enter First World states legally, it is also next to impossible to enter without someone’s help. It’s impossible to simply get on a plane, get on a boat, get into a car, or walk across the border, without some kind of official identity papers. It’s very difficult to get forged visas or forged passports, and to cross without someone helping you across that border. For many of the world’s migrants, the urgent need is assistance with their movement. Anti-trafficking legislation criminalizes people who facilitate migrants’ entry into national states. I think this is the underlying agenda behind anti-trafficking legislation. It offers ideological cover to target both the migrants themselves and the people who facilitate their movement. In this way, anti-trafficking legislation strengthens border policing.
How can we fight the exploitation of women that takes place in sex work without resorting to anti-feminist hysteria and characterizing women engaged in sex work as victims of trafficking?
I think that we need to take our cue from sex workers themselves. Sex worker organizations are very clear on the steps needed to ensure safe, dignified, decent working conditions for women in the sex industry. At the top of the list is decriminalization. The anti-trafficking agenda moves in exactly the opposite direction. It actually further criminalizes sex work by targeting those people, especially in the case of migrants, who are facilitating women’s entry into sex work. Basically, there is a fundamental disagreement between those who want to end sex work and those who want to make sex work safer for women. The fundamental disagreement is whether or not women have the right to engage in sex work. Most people in the anti-trafficking camp believe that there is no way that women can ever engage in sex work without being fundamentally exploited. I disagree with that, as do most sex workers’ organizations. Most of them point out that sex work can be made safer, can be made more dignified – and the way to do that is to stop demonizing those who are engaged in it. Along with decriminalizing sex work, we can support union organizing within the sex industry. This is exactly what some sex workers’ organizations in India, Bangladesh, San Francisco, and elsewhere have attempted. We need to understand sex work as one of the options available to women in a capitalist economy. We need to work, and sex work is a viable option for many women.
Ultimately, if we want to end the exploitation of women, we need to challenge capitalism, which is the basis for all of our exploitation. Whether we’re working in the sex industry, a restaurant, or in a university, we’re being exploited by those who are benefitting from our labour. So, if we want to end exploitation, we don’t give more power to the state to criminalize workers, we give more power to workers to end their exploitation. Of course, being a university professor is not demonized like sex work is. So we also need a major attitude adjustment. Feminists have long been demanding freedom for women, including control over their own bodies and sexuality. Supporting women in the sex industry and recognizing them as part of the broader collective of workers is part of this struggle.
Canada is on the frontline of a new war against the rise of global organized crime
SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED JULY 27, 2018
Alex Perry is the author of The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World’s Most Powerful Mafia.
The idea that the Italian mafia is no historic legend but a murderous present-day global threat that earns US$50-billion to US$100-billion a year from protection, embezzlement, drugs and money laundering is news to most of the world, but not Canada. When a gunman shot dead Cosimo Commisso, 33, and Chantelle Almeida, 26, through the driver’s window of Mr. Commisso’s white Mazda SUV while they were parked in a suburban street of Vaughan, Ont., at 12:45 a.m. on June 29, the pair became the latest victims of an Italian mob war that has claimed at least 15 lives in Eastern Canada in the past decade.
The same period has seen Toronto emerge as a global hub for Italian mafia money laundering. The past five years, meanwhile, have witnessed a series of busts of cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and fentanyl traffickers, co-ordinated with more arrests in New York, Italy and Latin America. Those operations have exposed how Toronto-based clans of the Calabrian mafia, the ’Ndrangheta, are replacing those of the Sicilian mafia, the Cosa Nostra, as the dominant force in illegal drug trafficking in North America. The same picture emerges from the case of the three Coluccio brothers from Siderno in Calabria, bosses of a powerful ’Ndrangheta clan, two of whom, Giuseppe and Antonio, settled in Toronto for several years. In 2008, Giuseppe was arrested and deported to Italy, as part of a mass international arrest of a gang trafficking cocaine through Mexico to the United States and Italy. Last week, Antonio was sentenced to 30 years in Italy for extortion and mafia association. As the evidence accumulates, it’s becoming harder to argue with the conclusion of law-enforcement officials the world over: that Canada, especially Toronto, is now on the front line of a new war against the rise of global organized crime.
I spent the past three years researching the ’Ndrangheta for my new book, The Good Mothers, about four women born into the mob who rose up against it, and the female prosecutor who helped them. What I found was a criminal conspiracy of astonishing wealth and breadth. Just as stunning: Almost nobody had ever heard of it. Like Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Camorra in Naples, the ’Ndrangheta was founded a century and a half ago in Calabria, Italy’s toe. (Its name is pronounced un-drung-get-a and is from the Greek andrangheteia, meaning “society of men of honour and valour.” As well as Italian, many Calabrians speak Grecanico, a dialect left over from the 11th century, when southern Italy was ruled by the Byzantine empire.)
The funeral of Lea Garofalo in Milan in 2013.
For most of its existence, the authorities considered the ’Ndrangheta a poor cousin to the other two mafias, country bumpkins in dusty suits and trilbies who might shake down the local trattoria but never strayed far from their lemon groves. The testimony of Lea Garofalo, her daughter Denise, Giuseppina Pesce and Maria Concetta Cacciola blew apart that cozy fantasy. As a result of their evidence – for which Ms. Garofalo and Ms. Cacciola would later pay the ultimate price – and other investigations that followed it, Calabria’s prosecutors concluded that the ’Ndrangheta was the most powerful organized-crime syndicate on the planet. It had a presence in 120 countries and a global income that, at its upper estimate, accounted for 3.5 per cent of Italian GDP, beating Microsoft’s annual revenue by US$10-billion. It ran 70 per cent of the cocaine in Europe. It sold weapons to several sides in Syria’s civil war. It even dumped nuclear waste in the sea off Africa. But it was the ’Ndrangheta’s money laundering, cleaning their own wealth and that of other organized crime groups, that meant it was in everyone’s lives. We work in its companies, live in its buildings, shop in its stores, eat in its restaurants, trade in its shares and elect politicians it funds. Giuseppe Lombardo, a Calabrian prosecutor specializing in the ’Ndrangheta’s finances, told me that the group occupied a “fundamental and indispensable position in the global market … more or less essential for the smooth functioning of the global economic system."
The secret of the ’Ndrangheta’s success is secrecy itself – or, as they call it, omertà. That’s built on a claustrophobic, cult-like family culture that shuns outsiders and is meant to make betrayal unthinkable, since for an ’Ndranghetista to speak out means hurting their own kin and abandoning everything and everyone they have ever known. But with that 19th-century clan structure has come 19th-century morals. Girls are viewed as chattel. They are pulled out of school to be married off at 13 or 14 in clan alliances. They are prevented from leaving the house unaccompanied by a man. Beatings are routine. And if they are unfaithful, they can expected to be killed by their own father, brother or son and to have their bodies dissolved in acid to erase the family shame. Several prosecutors I spoke to drew parallels to the wives of jihadis in groups such as the Islamic State or Boko Haram.
In the 21st century, this murderous misogyny has turned out to be the ’Ndrangheta’s great flaw. Ms. Garofalo rejected the mafia culture into which she was born from the start. “You don’t live,” Ms. Garofalo said of the life of an ’Ndrangheta wife in her evidence against her husband and his clan. “You just survive in some way. You dream about something, anything – because nothing’s worse than that life.”
Ms. Garofalo testified to try to secure a new life for herself and her daughter, Denise. Encouraged by a female state prosecutor, Alessandra Cerreti, who, all but alone among her male colleagues, understood that the mafia’s women were not just its victims but goldmines of information with a genuine reason to speak out, Ms. Pesce and Ms. Cacciola also turned state’s evidence in return for a new beginning for them and their children. Ms. Garofalo’s statements exposed the world of the ‘Ndrangheta to the state almost for the first time. Ms. Cacciola helped the police solve several murders and find underground bunkers where ’Ndrangheta bosses lived on the run. Ms. Pesce’s evidence laid bare her clan’s inner workings in such detail that the most powerful family in the ’Ndrangheta – 64 members of the Pesce clan – was rounded up and destroyed and €260-million ($400-million) of its assets confiscated, including two soccer teams.
Since I finished reporting on The Good Mothers, I’ve begun researching other mafias. I’m increasingly convinced that, when we focus only on spectacular threats such as terrorism or a financial crash or a collapsing ice shelf or Donald Trump, we miss the quieter, more organized ones. From drugs to guns, cyberattacks to fake news, the dark web to the dark mystery of tax havens, and business, real estate and finance from Togo to Toronto, mafias are all around us. The lesson from Italy? If the romantic myth of the mafia is the chivalrous man of honour, the reality is a sexist, homicidal thug – and to that outdated macho culture, 21st-century feminism presents an almost existential threat. As Ms. Cerreti says: “Freeing their women is the way to bring down the mafia.”
Criminalising sex work won’t help victims of trafficking
Laws which target sex workers are supposedly set up to protect women. But really, they put vulnerable women in more danger.
By Stella Winter and Liliana Gashi from English Collective of Prostitutes
August 2, 2018
A rally for sex worker rights during the Women’s Strike, 8th March 2018. Photo by Juno Mac.
After the introduction of SESTA-FOSTA in the US set the precedent for policing online sex work, Sarah Champion MP led a Parliamentary debate on ‘Tackling the Demand for Commercial Sexual Exploitation’ calling for online sites where sex workers advertise to be shut down and for buying sex to be criminalised.
Sex workers’ warnings that these two measures would undermine safety have been dismissed. Advertising provides greater control in screening potential clients and negotiating services, rates and condom use. If we can’t advertise online and work independently many of us will be forced to work in other ways, including on the streets which is 10 times more dangerous than working indoors. A 2014, study found that 77% of violent incidents were experienced by street-based sex workers, 11% by inside solo sex workers and 6% by sex workers in brothels, parlours or saunas. Those of us who continue to work indoors will be pushed into the hands of exploitative brothel bosses who will know we have little alternative but to accept whatever conditions of work they impose on us.
Laws criminalising clients have been introduced in a number of countries. Sweden is held up as the poster child for such laws yet evidence there shows that since the law change, sex workers face increased stigma, are more at risk of violence, and are less able to call on the protection of the police and the authorities.
After Ireland’s sex purchase law was introduced, reported incidences of violent crime against sex workers rose by almost 50%. In France, a two-year evaluation of the law found 42% of sex workers were more exposed to violence and 38% have found it increasingly hard to insist on condom use. In Norway, sex workers have faced evictions, prosecutions and increased stigma – with migrant workers particularly targeted.
None of this evidence was raised at the debate last week. Instead Champion alleged that prostitution (which she calls commercial sexual exploitation) is inherently violent: “Offering someone money, goods or services for sex is sexual coercion. It is a form of violence against women.” Like many before her, she used the spectre of trafficking to justify calling for a police crackdown. Gavin Shuker MP, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution, repeated his oft quoted claim that “the single driver of trafficking into this country is commercial sexual exploitation”
Champion is wrong when she says that the trafficking of women into the sex industry is happening on an “industrial scale”. A 2011 ESRC study of migrant sex workers found less than 6% had been trafficked, many said they prefer working in the sex industry rather than the “unrewarding and sometimes exploitative conditions they meet in non-sexual jobs”.
This is also reflected in our own experience organising for sex worker rights and safety. At the time when the police were repeating claims that “every single foreign woman in the ‘walk-up’ flats in Soho had been smuggled into the country and forced to work as a prostitute” we were holding meetings in the basement of a café, of over 60 women who worked in the area, to organise against raids and deportations. Women spoke out in Parliament, met the local vicar, and gave interviews to the press about how “being foreign doesn’t mean we are forced”.
As for Champion’s unsubstantiated claim that “sexual exploitation of women and girls by organised crime groups is widespread across the UK” We’ve heard that story before. As far back as 2002, Soho sex workers said that “All this talk of Balkan gangs running the Soho girls is rubbish. We are freelances, working for ourselves. Apart from what I need to live on, I send all my money back home.”
Through all the misinformation and sensationalist reporting about trafficking one stark truth emerges, despite millions of pounds of funding, victims of trafficking get little or no help from the authorities.
Some of the women in the English Collective of Prostitutes’ network would fit the description of a trafficked victim – that is someone who is brought to the UK, held against their will and threatened or coerced to provide sexual services for somebody else’s profit. In every case the women weren’t “saved” by others, they escaped through their own ingenuity, courage and organising skills.
Two sisters who came to London from rural Moldova, where the family had “no running water, or gas for heating”, were promised work in a restaurant. They told us how “after a week the men said we must earn our keep by sleeping with other men. They beat us and said we would never see each other again if we tried to leave.” They escaped by recruiting help from the receptionist in the flat where they worked, who squirrelled away some money. They both faked illness on the same day and ran. They refused to go to the police because they didn’t want to be sent back. We came to us instead and we found them emergency housing for a few days. Eventually one sister got a job as a stripper so they could afford a market rent.
We have at least 10 examples like that: the woman who cultivated a relationship with a bigger gangster than the one holding her, who supported her to get her passport back. The young woman who jumped out of a car at the petrol station and was sitting on our women’s centre doorstep when we arrived in the morning. We helped her claim asylum and she was detained for travelling on false documents. It was our campaigning with Black Women’s Rape Action Project that got her out.
Trafficking isn’t enabled by online adverts, it is enabled by poverty and women’s determination to escape it. And it is enabled by the hostile immigration environment that make it impossible for women to cross international borders unaided.
Once in the UK, sex work can be the best or only option to prevent destitution. Should the successive British and other governments which wage wars shattering and impoverishing countries and forcing people to flee, be put on trial for enabling trafficking? Should a government that created the hostile environment for immigrants (so graphically exposed by the Windrush scandal), which denies people access to housing, health care, a bank account and benefits, be put on trial for enabling exploitation? Should a government which introduces austerity policies 86% of which fall on women be prosecuted for sexism? We think yes.
Traffickers escape prosecution not because of a lack of applicable laws, but as with domestic violence and rape, because protecting women is not the priority. Women Against Rape points to the appalling 6% and 5% conviction rates for reported rape and domestic violence. More often than not when sex workers report violence, the police refuse to act and may even threaten to prosecute them instead for prostitution offences.
An effective anti-trafficking strategy has to strengthen women’s hands. Decriminalising sex work would enable women who work in the sex industry to insist on the same labour rights as other workers and report violence without fear of arrest. Ending the hostile immigration environment and ensuring that women have access to money and resources so that they can feed themselves and their families would make them less vulnerable to those ready to exploit them.
But for women MPs looking to raise their profile as gender equality campaigners, none of these proposals are as attractive as cracking down on men who buy sex. It is much more fashionable to increase police powers and tighten immigration controls – activities much loved by all proponents of a repressive state.
Back in 2002 when Soho sex workers protested against being characterised as victims, only a few principled parliamentarians listened. But this time, judging from the hundred strong protest outside parliament last week, sex workers are determined to make our voices heard. Those who claim concern for our welfare should listen to us before they speak for us.
Beyond Strange Bedfellows
How the “War on Trafficking” Was Made to Unite the Left and Right
Melissa Gira Grant
Six months into the Iraq War, then-President George W. Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly.1“Events during the past two years have set before us the clearest of divides,” Bush declared, “between those who seek order, and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change, and those who adopt the methods of gangsters.” On the side of chaos and gangsterism, he continued, were terrorists. But he didn’t stop there:There’s another humanitarian crisis spreading, yet hidden from view. Each year, an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold or forced across the world’s borders. Among them are hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, and others as young as five, who fall victim to the sex trade. This commerce in human life generates billions of dollars each year—much of which is used to finance organized crime. There’s a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable.
Terrorism was the work of “evil,” Bush had said long before—now, a new crime would join his index of evil: human trafficking.2 The link between the two may have been lost in the moment; terror, “weapons of mass destruction,” and then-President Saddam Hussein were still the star of the show. But for the policymakers, diplomats, and advocates who had been fighting for years to get human trafficking a prime place on the global stage, Bush’s declaration was a major win.
Bush was, in some ways, merely taking the national temperature of his base. “Each year, two million women and children worldwide have sex with strangers only because someone kidnaps them and threatens to kill them,” argued a feature story in Christianity Today published that same fall of 2003, already inflating the figures Bush quoted at the UN.3 “You may have passed some of these victims on the street,” the story warned. Like terrorism, this “hidden” evil was now close to home.The prevailing narrative about “human trafficking” was shaped by a relatively small group of political influencers on the Right who had dreams of organizing Christian activists around winnable social issues.
The story of human trafficking as President Bush told it in 2003 has become the dominant narrative found in media accounts, activist campaigns, and fundraising appeals to this day. But Bush didn’t craft this story; he merely delivered it. Its characters and moral dilemma were shaped by a relatively small group of political influencers on the Right—with dreams of organizing Christian activists around winnable social issues—and their newfound allies: liberal feminists whose longtime opposition to prostitution and pornography had, by the turn of the 21st Century, fallen far down the women’s rights agenda. What both groups sought, from different ends of the political spectrum, was a chance to adopt a new identity: neither preachers nor scolds, but defenders of human rights.
Together, this new coalition popularized the anti-trafficking fight as a moral crusade on par with the abolition of slavery in the United States, even adopting its language: abolition. And the “crisis” Bush placed on the world’s stage in March 2003 became an opportunity: to change their image, and to build a broader consensus, from Right to Left, that both recognized their moral authority and widened their appeal. And so they began, first by declaring war on what came to be known as “human trafficking,” and then by dedicating themselves to defining what this war would mean so that their aims and authority were always at its center.
Uniting the Bunny and the Hatchet Man
“You’ve got soccer moms and Southern Baptists, the National Organization for Women and the National Association of Evangelicals on the same side of the issue,” Michael Horowitz, senior fellow and director at the Hudson Institute, told Bob Jones at World magazine in 2002.4 “Gloria Steinem and Chuck Colson together.”Horowitz envisioned a coalition like this before he zeroed in on trafficking as the vehicle to achieve it.
Today, nearly 20 years have passed since Horowitz managed to align onetime Playboy Club muckraker Steinem with Nixon’s “dirty tricks” man Colson under the banner of fighting human trafficking. But the fact of these “strange bedfellows” coming together despite their differences isn’t the whole story. From the outset, Horowitz’s goal was to unite conservatives and liberals, including religious and secular leaders. He had envisioned a coalition like this before he zeroed in on trafficking as the cause—the vehicle—that could achieve it. He’d tried before, in 1998, when he helped pass the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), to protect the human rights of persecuted Christians outside the United States, with support from Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).5At the time, Horowitz saw the religious freedom issue as one that could galvanize Christians to political action in the name of human rights, without appearing as stereotypical moral scolds. “Horowitz has almost single-handedly transformed persecution of Christians into a major issue,” deemed The New Republic in 1997.6
Not long after, he envisioned the fight against human trafficking as another joint cause, framing the terms of the battle so as to best draw disparate groups together. From the beginning, he saw the anti-trafficking issue as an opportunity he offered to lobbyists, politicians and the media—a chance to be on the right side of history. “Don’t try to join the establishment,” he said then. “Let them join you.”
He would use the same appeals to human rights he’d employed for the IRFA to push the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), again working with Congressman Smith. “The sexual component of trafficking, rather than its coercive nature, was what attracted Smith and other conservatives to the issue,” observed Alicia W. Peters, an anthropologist at the University of New England. “For conservative Christians and evangelicals, the issue of trafficking, and sex trafficking in particular, was an example of depraved moral behavior that violated the principle that sex should be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman… Debates around the TVPA became a way for conservatives to engage in ‘human rights’ work and put a moral spin on trafficking that reinforced a particular conception of sexuality.”
The movement to combat human trafficking, as conceived by Horowitz, would use that “moral spin” to attract more conservatives to this “human rights” cause. Allen D. Hertzke, a religion and politics scholar at the University of Oklahoma, says from their first meeting in 1998, Horowitz encouraged him to “be the chronicler of the movement,” including the passage of the landmark TVPA, in order to make trafficking into a major issue. “The legislative campaign built upon the earlier alliance against persecution,” as Horowitz worked to further his goal of Right/Left consensus, Hertzke writes in his book, Freeing God’s Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights. In May 1999, “in a hideaway room in the U.S. Capitol,” Hertzke continues, Horowitz convened a strategy meeting, which Charles Colson opened with a prayer.7
Also in attendance, Hertzke writes, were some familiar conservative faces: Rep. Smith and House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), who promised to get a vote on Smith’s trafficking legislation, as well as conservative pundit and former Education Secretary William Bennett, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals. But there was also David Saperstein, a prominent liberal rabbi (about whom Horowitz joked, “David’s constituency pays him to right the Christian Right, but with considerable courage he took on the persecution issue”), and Laura Lederer, a veteran women’s rights advocate, and, at the time, a convert to the anti-trafficking fight.
Lederer would be central to Horowitz’s mission to transform trafficking into “the human rights issue of our times.” He would use her, Hertzke recounted, “to get women’s groups behind the effort.” Lederer thought Equality Now would be the best group to recruit: through their connection to Gloria Steinem, perhaps she could use her influence to bring other prominent feminists into the trafficking fight. “That is,” writes Hertzke, “in fact, what happened.”
As a Bush administration official once characterized Lederer’s new ally in Washington to The American Prospect, “Horowitz is the Charlie to their Angels.”8 Alongside Lederer, he attracted Donna M. Hughes, a contributor to the National Review and a Chair of Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island. Like Lederer—editor of the 1982 book Take Back the Night: Women on Pornography—Hughes was a veteran of the feminist anti-pornography cause. She was also a neoconservative. Since 9/11, Hughes had entreated fellow feminists to look to the Right as allies on causes such as “Islamic fundamentalism” and “anti-Zionism.” As she argued in a Washington Post op-ed exchange with feminist activist Phyllis Chesler:In the past, when faced with choosing allies, feminists made compromises. To gain the support of the liberal left, feminists acquiesced in the exploitation of women in the pornography trade—in the name of free speech. The issue of abortion has prevented most feminists from considering working with conservative or faith-based groups. Feminists are right to support reproductive rights and sexual autonomy for women, but they should stop demonizing the conservative and faith-based groups that could be better allies on some issues than the liberal left has been… Human rights work is not the province of any one ideology. Saving lives and defending freedom are more important than loyalty to an outdated and too-limited feminist sisterhood.9
This line of argument wasn’t unique to neoconservatives like Hughes who were seeking new ground on which to reposition their anti-prostitution politics as human rights concerns. It was also the position of Equality Now, an international women’s rights organization that campaigned to expand laws against prostitution in the United States and abroad.10 The group’s founder, Jessica Neuwirth, had once worked at Amnesty International, and she was quick to admit to The New York Times that she’d modeled Equality Now in its image.11 But she’d left Amnesty frustrated that they didn’t focus enough on women’s issues like female genital mutilation and prostitution. In Horowitz’s network of religious right influencers, she found a new set of allies willing to prioritize these issues as they made their own claim to human rights defense.
Organizations like Equality Now, writes Barnard women’s studies and sociology professor Elizabeth Bernstein, believed that by moving the field of debate on prostitution and pornography to “human rights,” they could finally emerge from the contentious sex wars victorious. In the “humanitarian terrain,” Bernstein writes, “the abolitionist constituency was more likely to prevail.”12 In seeking support for their rebranded anti-prostitution politics, such organizations would answer Horowitz’s call.
Capitalism and freedom are contradictory.
The evacuation of human emancipation, identity politics, and ‘ressentiment’
How did we get to a moment in which lesbian feminists, radical feminists, sexual abuse survivors, transgender and transsexual people, and others, are locked in a war over who has the deeper wound and the bigger pain? Here, it seems, deliberating the power differentials between various oppressed groups has become more important than questioning the bourgeois ideal of capitalist social relations. In a battle over power asymmetry, power is thus let off the hook.
The radical feminist and trans activist deadlock is the privilege production of impasse. On the one hand, we have a camp of people insisting that those born into biologically male bodies carry privilege regardless of their identification as a women – privilege over women who have an entire lived experience of being women and of its related oppression. On the other hand, we have a camp of people arguing that there are those who are cisgendered (whose gender aligns with their sex at birth) and who carry cis power and privilege – privilege over those who have a lived experience of being transgendered (whose gender doesn’t align with their sex at birth) and of its related oppression.
Privilege theory activist Mia McKenzie (2014) prescribes four ways to push back against one’s privilege: one, relinquish power; two, don’t go (she uses as an example women-only events that exclude trans women); three, shut up; and four, be careful what identities you claim (“consider”, she says, “how your privilege […] gives you access to claim identities even when your lived experience does not support it”). There is an irony here that McKenzie advocates a ‘no turning up’ protest against the radical feminist exclusion of trans women from women-only spaces, while failing to notice that radical feminists are employing their own argument against claiming identities when lived experience (seemingly) does not correspond. But perhaps most importantly, McKenzie’s prescription encapsulates how a political project to allow a plethora of voices to be heard carries the potential for the opposite, that is, silencing: ‘I speak, you shut up’. The impasse between radical feminists and trans activists is just this, a silencing, either of trans activists or of radical feminists.
Anti-Trafficking Laws Are Hurting, Not Helping, but Sex Workers Are Fighting Back
Victoria Law Truthout
Three years ago, Kristen DiAngelo met a mother in a desperate situation. The mother was being coerced into sex work by the father of her baby. He had threatened her and her family’s lives and had recently kicked in the door to her mother’s house.
“I can’t leave you out there,” DiAngelo, the co-founder and executive director of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Program) Sacramento, remembered thinking.
She paid for the mother to stay in a hotel room for a night. Later, the mother stayed on her couch. DiAngelo also took her to the local domestic violence shelter, which required her to file a police report. From her own experiences with local law enforcement, DiAngelo knew that local police would do little to protect the mother, who had numerous arrests for sex work. In contrast, the man trafficking her had no arrest record and a college education.
The women approached the FBI about pressing trafficking charges against the woman’s exploiter. They shared emails and voice mails in which he threatened her. But, while the agents they spoke with were sympathetic, DiAngelo recounted, they said that, because the woman was over 18, the FBI would not investigate her claims.
That was the start of SWOP Sacramento’s safe house, a six-bed house where sex workers could live and find support services. Since then, the safe house has provided safe housing for dozens of sex workers. Some are fleeing exploitative and abusive situations. Others needed a safe and supportive environment to address drug addictions or mental health issues. Sex workers learned about the safe house through the organization’s website.
Then, in April 2018, Congress passed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). These laws amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, now making it a federal crime to operate a website “with the intent to promote and facilitate the prostitution of another person.” The laws also allow state attorneys general to bring civil actions against website operators. Though FOSTA targets website operators, not sex workers, they have still resulted in a chilling effect on sex workers’ safety and survival options.
“Many people find us [and the safe house] through our website,” DiAngelo explained. But with FOSTA, advertising a safe house for sex workers might mean a 10-year prison sentence. “What does facilitating prostitution look like?” asked DiAngelo. “Is it giving a girl three to six months in a [safe] house to detox and get healthy?” None of the attorneys or legal advocates they consulted could tell SWOP Sacramento about what constituted the promotion and facilitation of prostitution. Volunteers and staff began scrambling to find beds elsewhere for the house’s residents. Less than two months after FOSTA became law, SWOP Sacramento closed its safe house.
Without the Internet, She Might Have Remained Trapped
It was the internet — and the ability to advertise on-line — that enabled Cecilia Gentili to escape her trafficker. Gentili, a trans woman originally from Argentina, met a man who convinced her to engage in street-based sex work. “He said it was for us, but really it was for him,” Gentili told Truthout. “There wasn’t much of an option [not to work],” she continued. “It would have put me in a dangerous situation.” Not only did her exploiter threaten to call immigration authorities on Gentili, but he also played on her insecurities as a trans woman. “I felt I needed a masculine figure validating me and taking care of me,” she explained, before adding, “I also didn’t understand the definition of trafficking.”
About a year into what she describes as “the situation,” Gentili realized that she could advertise online — and, with the ability to screen potential clients — didn’t need to rely on someone to physically protect her. “I was able to break from that situation because of advertising online,” she said. “I was able to procure my own clients without having someone else ‘take care of me,’ and by ‘take care of me’ I mean take all my money.” But, had FOSTA existed at the time, shuttering many of the sites where she might advertise her services, Gentili might have remained trapped.
Increased Reports of Assaults Against Sex Workers
Websites have been an invaluable tool for sex workers to not only screen clients, but also share information with each other about violent or dangerous clients. “Before, you could go into an [on-line] database to see if this person had been reported for violence,” explained Ceyenne Doroshow, founder and executive director of GLITS (Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society). “That database is history.” Doroshow has a long history of working with trans sex workers, a population that was already particularly marginalized, criminalized and vulnerable to violence before SESTA and FOSTA became law.
Even before SESTA/FOSTA took effect, websites began removing content from sex workers while others shut down altogether. In 2014, the FBI shut down MyRedBook.com and SFRedBook.com, two sites where sex workers had exchanged safety and community information, in addition to being able to advertise for free. In October 2017, the crowdfunding site Patreon changed its guidelines to prohibit fundraising “to produce pornographic material such as maintaining a website, funding the production of movies, or providing a private webcam session,” resulting in suspensions and bans of many adult content creators who had relied on the platform for regular income.
On April 6, 2018, even before the president signed FOSTA into law, the Department of Justice seized and shut down Backpage, where many sex workers advertised. FOSTA is the latest removal of online options for sex workers, but the effects have been immediate—and, in the words of sex worker rights groups, alarming.
Coyote (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics) RI, a sex worker rights organization, conducted a survey of 262 sex workers between April 14 and May 25, 2018. Seventy percent (or 188 people) reported that sex work had been their primary source of income before FOSTA and 77 percent (or 207 people) were the sole providers for their families. Within a week of the laws’ passage, 70 percent noticed a drop in their income, rendering them unable to pay for rent, food, utilities or phone. In one instance, Doroshow told Truthout, the decrease in work forced one of her clients to give up her car, thus decreasing her mobility and safety, and also to forgo health care for her chronic illness, which, without treatment, is now worsening.
This decrease has forced many to compromise safety and boundaries, whether by accepting clients they might otherwise decline or agreeing to acts — including riskier sex and taking drugs — that they would have previously avoided. Sixty percent (or 157) of the people that Coyote RI surveyed said that they now take on less safe clients in order to make ends meet. Sixty-five percent (or 170) reported that someone had tried to threaten, exploit or get free services from them.
Now, with websites shuttering, more and more of the sex workers that she works with are reporting being pushed into dangerous situations. Doroshow told Truthout about one woman who was raped, choked and beaten “within an inch of her life.” She survived, but remains haunted by the attack.
Website closures have also affected organizing for labor rights. In New York City, one dancer, who spoke to Truthout anonymously, said that even before FOSTA, the fear of being fired and blacklisted made many strippers and dancers hesitant to join organizing efforts for improved working conditions. At the club where she worked, dancers began talking about the need for more security to prevent dancers from being sexually assaulted. They also wanted cleaner club conditions. “We never talked about strikes or a union,” she clarified. Still, fear of being fired –and blacklisted among the city’s club owners — made many hesitant to press their demands. With the passage of FOSTA and fewer websites, dancers see fewer work options if they are blacklisted in retaliation for organizing. “If you can’t dance, you can’t just put an ad online anymore,” she said.
The websites’ closures and censorship of sex workers’ content also means that many are turning to street-based sex work. In Sacramento, DiAngelo notes that the number of sex workers in the city’s three strolls (areas for sex-based street work) has increased, including people who have little to no experience working on the streets. Engaging in street-based sex work forces them to make a snap judgment about potential danger from a prospective client.
It also increases vulnerability to predators, including police harassment, arrest and violence. Many cities have ordinances against loitering that are used against street-based sex workers, particularly women of color. “As people are being pushed onto the stroll and off the Internet, cities are continuing to enforce ordinances against loitering,” explained Andrea Ritchie, a police brutality attorney and author of Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color. “Sex workers are being arrested and fined even though the reason they’re doing this work is because they need money. This just drives them into the crosshairs of the criminal legal system and the revolving cycle of fees and fines.”
Street-based sex work, with the accompanying risks of arrest and prosecution, also increases risks of HIV and STIs. In some cities, police and prosecutors use condoms as proof of prostitution, explained Gentili, now the assistant director of public affairs at GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis). Though some cities, such as New York and San Francisco, have eliminated condoms-as-evidence of prostitution, Gentili pointed out that sex workers new to the city — or to street-based sex work in the city — may be unaware of the change. “They don’t know about the laws changing and so they continue to go out without condoms.”
At the same time, support services and advocacy are being taken offline — and thus becoming less accessible to those who need them most. Gentili, who worked at HIV prevention organizations, explained that she and other service providers often identified sex workers through their online ads. They then sent them emails with information about HIV prevention, testing, and health and social services. In addition, she noted, “most of the sites [with sex workers’ ads] had a lot of ads about preventing STIs and HIV.” With these sites gone, those working around HIV prevention and treatment must find other ways to reach their target audiences.
The Desiree Alliance, which hosts the country’s largest annual conference for sex workers, announced the cancellation of its 2019 conference. The conference page explains, “Due to SESTA/FOSTA enactments, our leadership made the decision that we cannot put our organization and our attendees at risk. We hope you understand our grave concerns and continue to resist every law that exists to harm sex workers! Keep fighting!”
“New Zealand Is an Important Model”
In 2003, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Prostitution Reform Act, which decriminalized sex work and expunged past arrests and convictions for sex work-related acts. “Under this model, you can do sex work in any setting and it’s not criminalized,” explained Sienna Baskin, former co-director of the Sex Workers’ Project at the Urban Justice Center and now the director of the NEO Anti-Trafficking Fund. This means that sex workers can legally work out of their homes, on the street, in a collective setting or on the Internet. Trafficking, however, remains a crime. So does promoting a minor in prostitution, though if a person under the age of 18 is engaged in sex work, the child is not arrested or prosecuted. Basically, explained Baskin, who received a Fulbright grant to study the results of New Zealand’s decriminalization model, “you cannot harm others and get away with it.”
Baskin notes that it’s hard to say whether decriminalization resulted in a decrease in violence against sex workers, in large part because of a lack of data about assaults before the 2003 law. However, she noted, “The relationship between sex workers and the police was completely transformed. The police went from being a potential enemy to becoming a potential source of support and safety.” Sex workers were able to report incidents of violence without fear of arrest and with the knowledge that their complaints would be investigated.
“New Zealand is an important model for everyone around the world to understand,” Baskin stated. “It doesn’t solve everyone’s problems all the time, but it has eliminated one source of harm and stigma.”
But, she cautions, the US political structure means that decriminalization would have to happen on a state-by-state basis, in the same way that gay marriage or marijuana legalization have taken effect.
Sex Workers Keep Fighting
While sex workers and advocates have long fought for their rights and safety, the federal law has galvanized even more people. “FOSTA politicized a lot of people,” noted Lola Balcon, a community organizer for sex workers’ rights. That politicization has taken many forms — from rallies to lobbying representatives to door-to-door canvassing.
On June 1, dozens of sex workers took to the halls of Congress to talk with their representatives about the impact of FOSTA on their lives and safety. “We spoke about how these laws were directly impacting marginalized communities, how sex workers used the internet to stay safe,” Phoenix Calida later wrote in Motherboard/Vice. “We talked about how sex workers used websites to screen clients, and now not only was that option gone, it was illegal to share our bad date lists with each other because of how broad and vague this bill is. Even the staffers who knew about the bill seemed shocked to learn that harm reduction practices like handing out condoms or emailing names of dangerous clients to other sex workers can be seen as criminal.”
The following day, hundreds of sex workers took to the New York City streets, commemorating International Whores’ Day, the anniversary of sex workers’ 1975 occupation of churches in France, and denouncing SESTA/FOSTA.
Less than two weeks later, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, 200 sex workers, advocates and allies skipped the city’s annual Mermaid Parade to gather inside Dreamland, a DIY queer arts venue in Queens, for a town hall where they aired their concerns to congressional candidate Suraj Patel, who was challenging incumbent (and FOSTA sponsor) Carolyn Maloney in the Democratic primary. (Patel lost by 11 percent or approximately 7,200 votes).
Undeterred by Patel’s loss and galvanized by the idea of sex workers as a force in local elections, many have shifted their energy to campaigning for Julia Salazar, a Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) candidate running for New York State Senate. “The State Senate is where piecemeal parts of sex work decriminalization often get stuck,” reflected Balcon, who helped organize sex workers to support Patel. On August 1, sex worker organizers threw a pizza party in which Salazar met with and listened to 150 sex workers. More than half of the attendees have signed up to knock on doors and canvass for the candidate around her northern Brooklyn district.
On the federal level, FOSTA is facing its first legal challenge. On June 28, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Human Rights Watch and the Internet Archive, along with individual sex worker rights advocates, filed a federal lawsuit charging that FOSTA violates the First and Fifth Amendments and requesting a preliminary injunction to stop the law from remaining in effect until the suit is decided. At an injunction hearing the following month, federal judge Richard Leon made no decision on the request; he also did not set a date as to when he would issue a ruling.
As the lawsuit winds its way through federal court, sex workers and their allies continue to organize and to create their own financial safety nets. Sex workers and their allies have organized emergency relief fundraisers for those most impacted by FOSTA. One fundraiser raised $17,000 in one night. But, noted Balcon, “it’s not a new job. It’s not a new economic opportunity. Even if you had ten times the relief that you have now, it would not be enough.”
Put another way, she said, “Say that 90 percent of mining jobs were eliminated tomorrow. Would five figures of donations be enough to stymy the jobs lost?”
Despite the ravages of the law, Gentili remains hopeful. “I see sex workers fully engaged in organizing,” she reflected. “Sex work has always been under the shadow of stigma and shame. So, to see sex workers coming together to find solutions rather than having senators make decisions for them is really important.”
American Dream » Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:57 pm wrote: http://libcom.org/library/poverty-privilege-politics
The poverty of privilege politics
In this text from September 2012 the authors argue that privilege politics may not lead us towards a revolutionary perspective.
Privilege. Now there’s a word we are hearing a lot. The concept and finger-pointing of privilege is coming to increasingly concern us as a problem and a poor semblance within the alternative left. We feel not only embarrassed by the simplicity of this undisclosed and undefined overarching theory but concerned that it further leads a stagnant movement down more dire dead ends. And yet our disquiet is not because we believe interpersonal politics are less worthy of our attention, nor because we are without awareness and rage about the oppressive power structures within our lives and political milieus. We do not believe that these are minor details that can wait til after the revolution. Whilst we are currently organising what is suspiciously like a women’s consciousness raising group, we dismiss those laughable and cringeworthy lists that have gone viral in the social networking world. These might appear as conflicting positions, but as we hope to explain, we do not find them so.
As mentioned, we are confronted with endless lists asking us to ‘Check our Privilege.’ We have encountered the ‘heterosexual privilege checklist” the “cis privilege checklist” and the “able bodied checklist.” (examples of these checklists are included at the end of the article- the Eds.) We think you get the picture? Soon we will be carrying around score cards wishing to be the most victimised person in the world. This sort of privilege scorekeeping is tallied in our everyday encounters but most often called out in a certain political context, such as a political meeting, discussion or lecture. We now are presented with the ‘manarchist’ who uses his male privilege taking up space in meetings. Taking up space is not seen as only about the amount a person of privilege speaks but often the language used. We see a growth in these subcultural movements in the UK of an adherence to a new political language and analysis with a centrality of privilege as an overarching ideology. We find an anti-intellectualism where both theorising and militancy are seen as a privilege in and of themselves, as if acting on the front line as WELL as analysis are only weapons of the oppressive rather than weapons of the oppressed. We find this dangerous because it evokes that the most ‘oppressed’ are helpless and weak, encourages a lack of activity and analysis away from ‘make do and mend’ circles, and further rarefies the notion of resistance.
Another vagary is the self-flagellating groups emerging that prop up a culture of shame. For example, recent workshops have emerged under the theme of ‘Men dealing with their patriarchal shit.’ Whilst we want individuals to examine, analyse and challenge their own behaviour in political terms these punkier than thou equal ops sessions reinforce the holier than thou attitude of the attendees….and the ones who could do with it rammed down their hairy throats wouldn’t dream of attending. These examples of new emerging themes demonstrate that on one side of the coin you have a points based oppression outlook (we’ve made the complexities of power into a handy ticklist for you!) and on the other you have individualised guilt and self- victimisation (which is another way of re-focusing on the ‘more privileged’ ironically). This focus on the individual and self as the problem is a product of privilege leading us nowhere. It’s a dead end. We feel a political lens of privilege is divisive and unhelpful when we are part and parcel of a system that already thrives on the division of the working classes, through gender, class and sexual oppression.
So how then do we divide these concepts so we neither become a self parodying shell of victim politics nor replicate the power structures we seek to destroy? How does this differ from an analysis of power? Does it permit spaces for movement and resistance? Or does it revert back to the activist quagmire of guilt, shame and stagnation? These are questions that should be discussed within our wider political groups.
We recognise the well meaningness of checking your privilege. We too understand that people are silenced not just as individuals but due to identities. However, we perceive wrong footed attempts to right this balance. In meetings we witness call outs where someone will announce that six men have spoken and no women. This is an attempt to expose the hidden subtleties of patriarchy and male dominance, and to empower women. We have never seen this work to readdress power relations. This call of male privilege may serve to quieten the six men who have spoken, but it does not give more voice to the silenced. More awkwardly, it is often uncomfortable for the women in the group who may feel, as we do in this scenario, an obligation to speak, but with it comes an unnatural sense of representation. The opposite usually takes place; a silencing of people rather than the growth of new conversations. One that is forced, fake and full of disdain. Whilst the next person, woman, is to speak but feels an artificial pressure of representation that we are supposed to be speaking on behalf of all women, from an identity as ‘woman’, and only as ‘woman’. And when we, or she, speaks, it is of course as a woman within patriarchy and to a room where she is being observed and judged by the six men who have spoken, under a political male gaze. Because of these things, and more, we do not see these clumsy attempts moving any steps toward challenging sexist oppression. To do that we need first to acknowledge intersectionality of power, history and privilege. With a singular identification of privilege we reduce the myriad of power relations within the group to a straightforward visible one. We don’t want a politics that reduces and simplifies power into an ideology of privilege. Intersectionalities of power, oppression and privilege need to be examined mixed with relations of capital. Analysing and pinpointing privilege to an obsessive extent in political circles can be demobilising as well as futile. But most damaging of all, these performances of privilege call out, mislead us into believing that challenging patriarchy within our interpersonal relations occurs within the formalities of a meeting and it is who speaks rather than what they say.
Because ultimately, it is not woman’s voice we should be seeking but feminist voice. A feminist voice is not one based on identity but rather on a shared transformative politics. A feminist voice is a stance rather than a given. As bell hooks reminds us; feminism is the struggle to end sexist oppression. We suggest this will often be best realised through those most facing sexist oppression but also we are vigilant to note that not all oppressed are resisting, subverting or fighting this oppression, nor are those who seem to benefit in ways from it always or automatically in alignment with the oppressive forces. So where does that leave identity and privilege in the struggle for freedoms? Understanding politics through the lens of privilege is intrinsically entangled with identity politics. And, for reasons stated, we find identity politics a monolithic and restrictive way to understand the world. We are our identities but we are never just one identity, we are a complexity of them. And identities do not line up in a straightforward ABC of oppression, no matter how much the privilegists want them to. This just falls into binaries that we are attempting to escape from, or creates more. The queer movement challenges the notions of “men” and “women” yet seems to be opting instead for “cis” or “trans” giving new permanence and boundaries to our gender. This is not to downplay the struggles but we believe that these fixed linear positions are not just unhelpful but often false. Cis gender may not seem intrinsically a privilege to the women killed by domestic violence or childbirth. Nor male privilege to a gay Ugandan. The relationality of power has to be optimistically understood if we are to move beyond an idle determinism and singular identity code. But, also, to resist we must understand our power; the strength in our collective power rather than this frugal analysis of power where privilege divides us into mundane categories of oppression. We need to galvanise on our power as a class, as this class being fucked over by capital within all it’s facets of everyday life. Rather than creating new prisons and new boxes to further tear ourselves to pieces within, we need to analyse and act with fluidity and creativity in terms of our intersectional identities in the kitchens, the bedrooms, the meeting spaces, the pubs and in the streets we demand to occupy.
http://queersunited.blogspot.co.uk/2008 ... klist.html
http://manchesterafed.wordpress.com/201 ... anarchist/
Tabitha Bast and Hannah McClure are engaged in the following crimes of passion; mostly together, but some as singular adventures – the Space Project (a radical education Space), as writers (latest article in “Occupy Everything: Reflections on Why its Kicking Off Everywhere), New Weapons Reading Group, various Queer ventures, Plan C, Footprint Worker’s Co-operative, working with domestic violence perpetrators, parenting, and general Leeds/Redhills based agitation.
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