Bushfire makes dismal prediction

In December 2013, the Canadian Supreme Court struck down our prostitution laws and we have one year from that date to come up with new laws. This means the discussion of what to do to improve the lives of people in the sex trade is front and center here, and any newspaper you pick up has an article in it somewhere about either human trafficking or sex work. This could be a historic year in Canada where we really discuss why prostitution happens and how to help the people affected, but I predict that the discussion will take the form of a lot of vicious fighting and that in the end, women will lose.

There are three primary schools of thought about prostitution in Canada. The religious conservative view is that sex is immoral and women should stop leading men into sin by being whores. (Plenty of non-religious people also subscribe to the women-are-dirty-whores theory.) The feminists and exited women advocate for the Nordic Model whereby the women are decriminalized and helped out of the trade while the johns are punished. Then there’s the legalization group, made of up libertarians who claim that sex work is freely chosen and who want us to think of it as labour.

Since I’m a feminist you’ll assume that I’m on team Nordic Model. Not really, actually.  I believe in the sentiments behind the Nordic Model. I understand why people advocate for it. This model is based on the acknowledgment that prostitution is violence against women, that women are human and do not deserve this abuse, and that the men who abuse women should be punished.  Absolutely!  But the problem is, we live in a patriarchy, and merely punishing a few johns won’t change this.  The abuse and exploitation of women is so firmly entrenched in our society that it doesn’t matter what prostitution laws are on the books—women will continue to be abused by men until the feminist revolution.

There is no shortage of newspaper articles about the sex trade in Canada. Many of them are human trafficking cases.  It is absolutely terrifying to confront the fact that there is a demand for sex slaves in average Canadian cities.  There are men choosing to drug and enslave women, there are men choosing to pay money to pimps to rape women, there are men choosing to rape teenagers. Other articles are not about human trafficking but about empowerfulized sex workers who chose to do sex work and want their trade legalized and unionized. These articles talk about how many licenses there are for body rub parlours in their city and include pictures of smiling women who talk about their jobs. I read all of these articles, no matter what perspective they’re written from.  There appears to be an incredible paradox between the exited women who talk about being drugged and repeatedly raped and beaten and the smiling women who seem content to work in a body rub parlour for a while to pay their tuition, but there is a common thread holding these two groups together—the men who are buying them. There is an epidemic of men who believe they are entitled to use women’s bodies for sexual gratification despite the absence of consent or desire on the part of the woman.

Even in the articles about empowerfulized sex workers, it is abundantly obvious they’re being abused. They talk about getting into sex work after running out of money and then frame the situation as if sex work is a positive force keeping them out of poverty when actually poverty is a negative force keeping them in sex work. You get the impression that sexual abuse is inevitable so you might as well be paid for it. In this worldview everything is completely turned around and you forget one important fact: that women are fully human and deserve to be completely liberated from abuse. I really can’t explain why it’s all the rage these days to be pro-legalization.  My hypothesis is that women have accepted sexual abuse as inevitable, we’ve forgotten what consent really is, and it’s so horrifying to realize that our boyfriends, husbands, coworkers and bosses think we are subhuman masturbation devices that we just pretend this isn’t going on.

Not only is the acceptance of abuse firmly planted in our minds, but it is an integral part of our economy.  Businesses are promoting part-time, temporary work, they’re sometimes shutting down Canadian factories to move to other countries where labour is cheaper, and they’re exploiting the temporary foreign worker program in order to pay less than a living wage to employees. There is a sentiment that unions are at fault for companies setting up shop elsewhere—the unreasonable demand for living wages “hurts business.” Many workers cannot expect to be a permanent part of their company with a stable job and health benefits. Workers are the new commodities: we’re things to be used by companies to accomplish their goals and then discarded at will.  Businesses are the new people: they are to be protected from the unreasonable demands of workers.  The company-as-person and worker-as-resource worldview is dehumanizing and exploitative.

To eradicate abuse we need to do more than just put pimps and johns in jail.  I realize that advocates of the Nordic Model fully intend for the system to provide women with a way out of prostitution, and if this model is adopted, I hope this happens. But I’m looking at the Canadian situation and I doubt we can do the Nordic Model correctly.  We have an enormous amount of land and not a lot of people, we’re in an economic recession, and we have a conservative approach to government spending. What are the odds that the government will adopt a new prostitution law within the next year that will address poverty and exploitation properly?  Addressing poverty in Canada involves raising the minimum wage, spending money on welfare, employment insurance, and disability benefits, providing adequate child care, correcting racist, sexist and transphobic hiring practices, creating good jobs, treating workers humanely, taxing corporations, and correcting colonialist practices that keep Native people in poverty.  What are the odds that the government will take care of all this when they make a new prostitution law?  If all we do is put a few johns in jail, the sex trade won’t disappear. Women and trans folk living in poverty will still be desperate for money, and abusive men will continue abusing. The way to eliminate sexual abuse is to overthrow patriarchy and capitalism. You can’t overthrow one without overthrowing the other.

One of the following things will happen in the next year.  The government might make it illegal to buy sex in Canada, which will drive the sex trade underground and make it more dangerous.  The government might legalize the sex trade, which will provide a temporary band-aid solution to the empowerfulized sex workers while throwing everyone else under the bus. (Actually I would say that legalization even throws the empowerfulized sex workers under the bus, even though they say they want it.) Or it might try to address both human trafficking and so-called “consensual sex work” simultaneously (although I can’t imagine how that could work.) None of these approaches will leave us with a world in which the sexual and economic exploitation of women is unthinkable.  The only approach that will accomplish what we need is a radical feminist revolution.

Some sources:

Montreal man gets 6 years in Ottawa human trafficking case
Rosie DiManno: From body-rub parlour ‘wench’ to reporter
Meet Roxy: Student and massage parlour sex worker
Massage parlour or street: still sexual exploitation

Also read:

Why merry rapists are flocking to Britain by Twisty. My article here is partially inspired by this article of Twisty’s.  It is, in my opinion, the best piece of patriarchy-blaming of all-time.

What is consent?

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Gary Larson’s little bird seems to have “chosen” the huge cage with a lovely view after winning the lottery. Did Chico really “choose” this cage? Was there coercion involved?

There are women who claim they freely choose “sex work” and that they are not being coerced. These women will get angry if you insist that, yes, they are being coerced, as well as being abused. The argument goes, I Chose to Do Sex Work, I’m Not Being Coerced, How Dare You Tell Me I Don’t Have Any Agency, Why Do You Think Women Can’t Consent When There’s Money Involved, etc. This worldview comes from I Choose My Choice feminism, you know, the idea that we should validate any choice any woman makes ever (as long as we’re not liberating women from oppression) and it comes from viewing sex work purely in terms of labour, while ignoring the context of male supremacy and rape culture. The pro-sex work lobby convinces us that women can do whatever they want with their bodies and some of them choose sex work so who are we to question that?  If only it were that simple.

I’m all for women doing whatever they want with their bodies, but why are we pretending that sex work is what women want? Sex works means servicing men in ways that men choose, it’s giving men pleasure, it’s fulfilling men’s fantasies. Sex work is men paying for someone to get them off without them having to reciprocate. It’s men opting out of actually having to make a sexual experience good for her in order to get her interested: just give her some money instead. It’s not about what women want at all. This system of men getting whatever they want from women and not giving anything back exists in a larger context. Women are still doing most of the housework and child care and we’re still getting paid less money in the workplace. We do more than half of our society’s work and we get paid less than half of the money produced and we own less than half of the property. Men are literally getting free labour from us. I don’t know why we’re putting up with it.

If we can consider for a moment the funfeminists’ claim that sex work is just “work,” then it’s extremely one-sided work.  It’s a group of mostly women working for a group of mostly men.  If giving people orgasms is work, and if orgasms are a  necessary product that our society should produce, then why are all the orgasms being produced men’s orgasms?  It would seem that getting men off is a necessary public service that women “choose” to do, while nobody gives a shit about women’s orgasms.  If women were actually doing what they want to with their own bodies, then women would be the ones having the orgasms.

In our system of two distinct sex classes, the men in the ruling class, the women in the oppressed class, the concept of consent does not mean the same thing to the same group.  Men can get almost anything they want almost any time.  Wives and girlfriends are expected to be sexually available any time, and in the absence of a wife or a girlfriend, a man can still find a prostitute. Consensual sex for a man means doing or getting whatever he wants; a woman is always around to give it to him.  On the other hand, for a woman, consensual sex doesn’t necessarily mean sex that she desires.  Women can “consent” to sex, the funfeminists claim, even in the absence of desire.  She can “consent” to sex if there’s an external reward, like money, to be gained.  The last funfeminist I spoke to about consent said to me that I must have never been in a long-term relationship because, and I quote: “Longterm relationships often involve people doing something for their partners they may not feel like doing, whether it’s sex or taking out the garbage.” Let’s just dissect that quote.  Taking out the garbage is not done just for your partner, it’s done for the whole family, including yourself. Further, taking out the garbage is a stereotype found all over popular culture of the only job a man is supposed to do around the house.  However, tons of work needs to be done around the house, and chances are everything in that garbage can was either cut, peeled, chopped, dusted, wiped or swept by a woman.  Even though women are doing most of this work, the work is done for the whole family, including the man.  He doesn’t even want to take out the garbage, which means he doesn’t even want to do the tiniest bit of the work involved in feeding himself and cleaning up after himself.  And when he does this tiny portion of the work involved in keeping himself alive and healthy he’s a “good husband.”  The wife, on the other hand, is supposed to do all the cooking and cleaning plus perform sexual acts for him that she “may not feel like doing”.  The funfeminist who said this to me sincerely believed she had made a good point about her pro-sex work position and did not notice that she had just actually made a point about women’s oppression.  From a quick glance, maybe it looks like a fair trade, women giving their husbands sex and their husbands taking out the garbage, why not?  But that’s not the whole picture.  She’s expected to do almost everything for him that there is to do, whether she desires it or not, and he may or may not take out the garbage in return.  It’s an excellent example of what consent means for men and women in a patriarchy. For men, consent means doing whatever they want to do and also not doing whatever they don’t want to do, and consent for women means just “agreeing” to whatever she was going to be expected to do anyway.  It’s okay, she agreed to it, it’s consensual, says the pro-sex work lobby, why are the silly radfems claiming that women can’t consent and have no agency? None of them seem to be asking the question about why it’s okay for men to feel so entitled to sex that it doesn’t matter whether their partner desires it or not.

Not everyone is in a traditional heterosexual marriage, and not everyone falls into the category “man” or “woman.” But a great many people do, and our culture produces media image after media image of women agreeing to do what men want, so much so that we don’t even notice it.  See my post about “heterosexual pronging,” for example. I don’t want there to be a special version of consent for women.  I want it understood that sex is something people do together because they both desire it, and that the absence of desire means the absence of sex.

If women had fully human status, we would be free agents choosing to release our own sexual tension the way we see fit, with partners who desire our pleasure too, not just their own.  We wouldn’t be a class of people who are coerced through social norms and financial distress to just “agree” to whether the ruling class wants from us.  You can really tell who’s in control when you look at whose pleasure matters and whose does not.

Bushfire disappointed by 30 Rock

I have been catching up on 30 Rock lately and just reached season five.  I have always loved the show, but I was shocked to discover a rape scene portrayed as sex in the first episode of season five.  The context of the joke is that Pete has a lot of free time now that Jenna is doing some of his work.  While expressing to Liz how much free time he has now, he says, “Yesterday, I went to the gym!  And this morning, I made love to my wife!  And she was still asleep, so I didn’t have to be gentle!” Then we see a shot of Pete’s wife, Paula, who is both sleeping and rocking up and down as if having sex.  It’s a shot of her from Pete’s perspective.  Liz’s answer to this is “That’s one of the most upsetting things I have ever imagined.”  That would be my response too, because rape is certainly very upsetting, but Liz’s response is not the same as mine.  She is responding to Pete’s perspective, not Paula’s.  She is expressing that it’s upsetting to think of Pete “making love” to someone who is sleeping as if this is a bad experience for him.  The fact that penetrating a sleeping person is rape is completely non-existent.  Also non-existent is the realization that if Pete has to be “gentle” when Paula is awake, then presumably that’s because she wishes for him to be gentle, and in this case he is not. So not only is he “having sex” with a sleeping person, but he is directly going against what he knows she wants.  It is so obvious that this is rape that I cannot believe no one on the show wanted to edit this.  It means either no one knows that this is rape, or that they don’t care.  Either of these possibilities is terrible.

When you present rape as sex, you contribute to rape culture.  You enable men who do this to believe that what they’re doing is normal.  It’s not.  Sex without consent is rape.  Shame on you, 30 Rock.

A radical change to public education

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A place where children are “educated.”

Public education, despite its name, is not about educating the public.  Its purpose is to babysit children during the day while their parents are at work and to create a new generation of workers – people who find it normal to sit at a desk all day doing whatever their boss tells them to do in order to create wealth for someone else, and then never questioning the validity of this system.

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”  -Charles Bukowski

There is not much difference between the classroom and the workplace.  In both places, there is one person in charge and a group of subordinates who have to take orders.  In both cases there is a plan of action for what has to be accomplished which is decided upon by people who may not be present at the school or work site.  The subordinates, as well as the teacher or boss, have to arrive at a specific time each day.  The teacher or boss has to enforce that these tasks are completed as decided upon by the (sometimes unknown) decision maker.  They have specific times scheduled for breaks, and cannot take a break at any other time.  They have a half an hour to eat a bag lunch. Using the washroom when it is not break time is often forbidden.  This is a rigid hierarchical structure where someone is in charge, and this someone is always a privileged person with wealth, and this someone gets to dictate what other people will do during the day based on his own needs.  It’s not about the needs of the people involved.  School is not about the needs of children.  School is about the needs of the dominant culture.  The dominant culture is controlled by the people in charge, who are rich and privileged, and who are very few in controlling a great many.

Children do not need to sit in rows all day taking orders.  They do not need to complete a prescribed set of tasks just because they’re in a period of life labelled as “grade three”.  They do not need to learn how to walk down the hallway in a straight line without talking.  These are things the bosses need. The bosses need a set of compliant workers to do their work for them and thus create wealth for them.  The only way a whole generation of human beings will submit to authority and do work for someone else is if they spend the first 18 years of their lives in captivity learning that they must submit and obey, and that there is nothing else in life besides submitting and obeying.

I was a public school teacher.  I lasted less than two years.  The job broke my heart.  The people who thrive at teaching are usually white and heterosexual and usually women.  I meet two of those criteria, but I have not bought into the dominant culture, nor the dominance and submission paradigm.

I love the idea of public education.  I love the idea of free education for the public.  It’s probably my favourite out of all ideas.  I resigned from a permanent position in the public babysitting and indoctrination system, and went to work in an office instead.  I’m less miserable there.

I like to dream about what “public education” would look like, if we had such a system.  This would be a system that actually educates the public.  We are capable of creating such a system immediately, but we aren’t going to, because it would not serve the ruling class.

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Cisgendered: not an offensive term.

Thanks to blamer Kristal for this wonderful quote on the silliness of being offended by the word cisgender.

 

 “The word cis is oppressive” shit gets on my last nerve! If they think a word is oppressive they are not oppressed or rather they dont understand wtf oppression is. N*gg** is not an oppressive word because “I didn’t choose it for myself”. I didnt choose my name for myself either. The word is only oppressive because there is a history of dehumanization and violence that comes with that word. The word tr*nny is  a slur because there is a history of the trans* community having their humanity disregarded, them being murdered, and them being denied healthcare among other things. That goes for using trans* for some people and real man/woman for others. There is no oppression that goes along with the word cis. Cis people were not made slaves for being cis, cis people are not killed for being cis, cis people are not beaten for being cis !”

 

I’ve heard several people claim that cis is offensive, but there is no reason why it should be.  Cis just means that society labelled you the correct gender identity.  It’s a morally-neutral observation.  Finding offense at this term comes from not understanding what gender identity is, and a simple google search can solve that.

I love Scully

She’s brilliant and highly educated.  She has a very demanding, dangerous job.  She is very courageous.  She is committed to standing up for what is right and true.  She bases her beliefs on facts and scientific truth.  She does her own research.  She loves Mulder, saves his life over and over, and in the end, lives with him, but she remains her own person with her own career interests and never becomes his wife.    She breaks rules if it’s necessary to accomplish a greater good.  She faces murderers and fights them and brings them to justice.  She makes the world a better place every day.

I still watch the X-Files.  I don’t actually care about the aliens or the conspiracies, I just love Scully and Mulder.  I love their relationship- they have a really strong bond based on mutual respect and having been through hell together over and over.  And I love Scully especially – she’s the most amazing female character in pop culture.

Quotation Corner #4: bell hooks on sisterhood

Sisterhood could never have been possible across the boundaries of race and class if individual women had not been willing to divest of their power to dominate and exploit subordinated groups of women.  As long as women are using class or race power to dominate other women, feminist sisterhood cannot be fully realized.

hooks, bell.  Feminism is for Everybody.  Cambridge: South End Press, 2000.  pp. 15-16