Four days ago, the Women's March platform took the web by storm for being one of the most progressive and intersectional we've ever seen (https://plus.google.com/+AVFlox/posts/XdAiMgRGL1J
). Unfortunately, they seem to be backtracking. Or are they? In the past 12 hours, their position language has been modified repeatedly, without any acknowledgment of the changes.
At the time, the document discussed labor rights, saying: "We believe that all workers – including domestic and farm workers -- must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to a healthy and thriving economy for all. Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements."
These are the changes that +Kitty Stryker
"We believe that all workers -- including domestic and farm workers -- must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to a healthy and thriving economy for all. Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and
- "we stand in solidarity with those exploited for sex and labor."
- "we stand in solidarity with sex workers' rights movements."
- "we stand in solidarity with the sex workers' rights movement. We recognize that exploitation for sex and labor in all forms is a violation of human rights."
This momentary inclusion of sex work abolitionist language is troubling. Sex work abolitionism denies the relationship between economic necessity and sex work, preferring to see those who participate as victims of pimps and traffickers than to recognize the way that economic need factors into choosing sex work. Though often described as victims, sex workers are problematic to abolitionists, since "rescuing" them often does nothing to prevent their return to sex work. And so abolitionism is in fact not abolitionist at all, as those who see sex work as a social blight end up seeing prison as the only way to "liberate" sex workers. Let the Orwellian force of that hit you again: Raids are rescue. Prison is liberation.
This denial of the economic needs of people in the sex industry results disproportionally in women (especially women of color) and LGBTQ folks (who lack employment protections) being jailed and slapped with criminal records. Many receive felonies on their second offense in some jurisdictions. Many others, as a result of anti-trafficking hysteria, receive felonies right away -- for self-trafficking. You read that right. You can now traffic yourself.
If you are a feminist and you are not enraged at the idea of a woman being sent to prison for felony trafficking for trying to keep a roof over her head and food on her table by placing an ad on Backpage for herself, you're not a goddamn feminist.
Worse, these criminal records prevent sex workers' integration into the job market. You cannot even get a job in the gig economy with a prostitution conviction. And, by the way, even those whose charges are dismissed will still have arrest records preventing their employment. You have to pay up to have those expunged. Do you start to see how this traps people?
In addition to creating a hopeless cycle of recidivism, abolitionists vastly expand the types of interactions that vulnerable populations have with the state -- such as through coercive intervention courts and completely unregulated, often abusive diversion programs -- multiplying the likelihood of systemic violence they are likely to experience.
And I've lost count of how many stories I shared last year of law enforcement officers coercing sexual favors from sex workers with threats of arrest. I've even shared stories of sex workers who were minors at the time that they were coerced by officers, and whom officers knew at the time to be minors.
If you are a feminist and you don't support sex workers' rights, you're not a goddamn feminist. Supporting sex workers does not mean supporting trafficking. It doesn't mean you have to like that some people see sex as the most viable option for making a living. You can be angry as hell about the fact that people have no better options, even. This is fine.
But don't participate in this gaslighting. Capitalism is what's inherently coercive. Capitalism is the pimp and trafficker. The state is a source of violence and injustice. Raids are not rescue. Prison isn't liberation.
Fight for women. Fight for LGBTQ. Sex workers rights are human rights, are civil rights, are labor rights, are LGBTQ rights, are women's rights.
I look forward to seeing more transparency from Women's March organizers about this.
Edit: I've received more information about this. Journalist Melissa Gira Grant, Brooke Magnanti (author of Diary of a Call Girl),
and others reached out to Janet Mock, who is listed as one of the organizers and pointed out the back-pedaling. Mock jumped in and fought to get the line she originally drafted (about standing in solidarity with sex workers) back into the document.
"It's staying," Mock said. "Sex work is work. We must be free to make choices about our bodies, our lives. We must respect one another's agency. Period."
See the thread: https://twitter.com/janetmock/status/821483904485965824