by Furry Girl

04.29.11

When it comes to strategic planning around politics, outreach, and activism, reader Miss C brought up a good point in a comment on a previous post.

I've been thinking a lot about things people have done that have personally helped me in my activism. Maybe an interesting thread if it hasn't already been done here- who's been an effective ally for you, and what have they done? Sometimes it's the little things - whenever my primary partner's buddies get on him about not "controlling his woman" ie my whoring about, he always says "she's great at what she does, she enjoys it, and I'm proud of her."

It's an excellent topic to think about.

As sex workers (or members of other marginalized groups), what have people done to be a good ally to you? It could be something overtly political, like working together with another human rights organization towards a shared goal, or as Miss C notes, having a partner or friend stick up for you.

Here's an example from my life: after having one (now former) friend/lover callously drop out of co-presenting with me at the Desiree Alliance conference last summer (because he suddenly decided that being associated with whores might ruin his career), another friend gladly jumped in.  I grant big props to sexy geek / computer security rockstar Alex Sotirov for taking the time to speak as a part of our panel, "Safety for Sex Workers Through Personal Privacy: Digital and Real-World Techniques For Safeguarding Your Identity and Your Life."  It was genuinely heartening to see someone with a non- sex industry job come to the conference, and response on Twitter to his mention of presenting at a sex worker event (from other computer professionals) was amused/positive - not career-ruining.

A related question to the above: What have political causes done to reach out to you and get you interested in their issues?  If you're involved in activism, who or what lit a fire under your ass to try and change the world?

The reason I ask, of course, being that I'd love to employ those same smart and effective outreach techniques to get people interested in the sex workers rights movement.





7 Comments

  1. I only have an answer for the first question: My Boyfriend absolutely supports my decision to work as an Escort (of course also when I don't want to). I can talk with him about everything work-related, that keeps my spirits up. If more of his friends knew about my job, I'm sure he would react the same way as Miss C's partner if they would be critical about it.

    Comment by SIna — April 29, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  2. Sina: I totally agree that support from friends and partners is one of the most important forms of being an ally to a lot of sex workers. Dating those who are publicly supportive of me *always* means a lot. I've only had one guy out-and-out be against my work (he was older and had staunchly second wave feminist views on sex work and porn), but I've had more partners who are supportive in private, but not in public. Having someone defend your work to their friends or family is awesome.

    Comment by Furry Girl — May 1, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

  3. Wow, this is so cool to see this topic here! Just reading about other people's experiences feels supportive, I have to say. Thanks Furry Girl!

    To question one: Having people, especially fellow activists, behave when I'm talking about my work as tho I am *just* talking about my job. Being able to participate fully in conversations about work, with stories / trials&tribulations / funny shit from my job, with people who more often than not aren't sex workers, and having it just be a conversation about the working world we're a part of, that we need to talk about so we don't get too stressed and blow up. Talking that talk that we do as working people in order to not go round the bend, supporting each other, etc, without it becoming either an indictment of what I do, a teach-in, or all focused on me uncomfortably. Just being able to be another working person, with my good days, my bad days, and occasionally crazy bosses. Holy crap, how hard is that for people to do, but it seems rare for me, and I appreciate it when it happens.

    Also having people stick up for my on feminist blogs. I know, I know, why am I still going there, but the politics of things like reproductive justice are important to me personally, so I hang around. And every once in awhile, I feel the need to chime in in order to correct some crap said about sex workers. Those who defend me from the backlash are appreciated. Recently I even had a customer post in my defense - wow, even if it is on the internet, it kinda took something for him to write in on an explicitly feminist blog "from the buying side" in my defense. Maybe it shouldn't have been a big deal, but it was, and I am grateful.

    The second question, about activism and political causes, is a great one... and I don't have a great answer. I am so sick of being expected, from both the right and the left, to make dogma rather than effeciveness the priority. Basically I believe in, oh, things like human rights, and I believe being less poor would help the people I know and probably lots of people I don't, and I believe that it's obscene that such a small percentage of people have so much of the worlds wealth, etc. And I'd like to do things to advance those goals. And I really, really don't care if what I do is considered the most "radical" or "on message" or "patriotic" or "polite" or whatever. I care if it works. And because I haven't found a whole lot of organizations interested primarily in effectiveness, I am mainly doing music when I'm not doing sex work. Maybe some day, I will be mostly an activist again.

    I guess there is one thing that inspires me. I started a band with a guitar player from Venezuela a couple years ago - we do boleros, romanzas, and working class ballads from latin america, and then we got with an Armenian bass player and an Italian violin player, and started doing english language songs too along a similar vein. We've developed a pretty mixed audience, in a part of the country where racial tensions are shall we say unpleasantly high at times. It wasn't intentional, but its been cool to see the people listening to Guantanamera and Moliendo Cafe and the people listening to Stormy Monday basically look at each other and go, wait... I like that... whats that about? Oh wait you think poverty / your boss sucks too? Word... It was supposed to just be about the music, but when that happens... it feels like activism, starting those conversations. Sure it's not enough but... the beginning is when we start listening to each other, right?

    That last one wasn't explicitly sex work oriented I realize. But when I think about the sex workers labor movement, and messaging, I'm thinking about how others are listening to us, or to use a weird phrase, "how we are occuring in the listening of others" - and in terms of shifting people's listening of each other, the band has been the most effective thing I can think of in my recent life on any issue. I keep thinking again and again about Harvey Milk saying something like "they'll vote against us until they all know one of us". Of course, this is totally pot and kettle on my part - I'm not out publically (tho I keep moving closer!) But the messaging conversation is a good one.

    Comment by Miss C — May 2, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  4. To answer my own second question, I wanted to say that I personally dislike activist/political outreach that is meant to get at your emotions, rather than appeal to you with facts and information. I'm vegan, but I don't like that if you see a vegan protest, it's going to be posters with photos of various animals (mink, cows, beagles) covered in blood or with their insides hanging out. Maybe I'm just more sensitive than other people, but those images don't "fire me up" in a good way, they make me sad and make me look away. It's the same thing with those ads in magazines for the charity that fixed cleft palates in children. I don't want to be browsing a magazine and suddenly having a deformed face of a baby staring at me, with text guilting/begging me to finance its surgery. I don't personally respond well to shock tactics in outreach materials, and I resent when people try to emotionally manipulate you into agreed with them. (Of course, the anti-abortion movement does the bloody creepy chock tactic thing better than anyone else.) At least the sex workers rights scene doesn't do things like this. I'd hate to see the day when people carried big color reproductions of autopsy photos of murdered sex workers on big signs at public events.

    Comment by Furry Girl — May 2, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  5. Miss C: Thank for your comments. I especially like what you said about being able to talk to other sex workers about your job. It's never quite the same with people that don't have the experiences, and rather than being able to vent, one can get sucked into providing explanations, caveats, defining your terms, and defending yourself. It can get exhausting to always be doing 101-level education if you want to talk about your work, and having other sex workers as a support system is great. I've met some other sex workers in my own city, but didn't closely click with any of them, so my sex work friend network is more online/email-based.

    Comment by Furry Girl — May 2, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  6. In answer to your first question, when we were first getting to know each other, and I mentioned to my (now)boyfriend that I'm a stripper, he just treated it like I'd said I do any other job-as opposed to the extreme interest, or awkwardness/trying to justify it that I often get. Now he lets me vent/whine about the shit nights and sucky aspects of my job (people trying to grope me/nights where I don't make any money, etc.) without judging my job or thinking I should quit or anything like that, and he listens to me rave about the good times (feeling like I've really connected with a customer, made someone's night/week/month a whole lot better, learning new things, etc.) without getting jealous or thinking that because I like my job that it's more than a job or whatever.

    Having people treat me like my job is a job, albeit with its own dynamics and rewards and challenges, like any job, is something that really helps.

    I don't have an answer to your second question, as I wouldn't call myself an activist. Although reading a lot of sex worker blogs like yours has made me realise that there is a lot of common ground, and that there are a lot of us, as well as given me new ways of thinking and arguing and justifying my work to sex-negative people.

    Comment by Natalie — May 6, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

  7. Natalie: I agree that having a supportive or understanding partner is an amazing help. I hope you find a type of activism that works for you - there's something everyone can do, and you don't need to be a full-time campaigner. (I certainly don't have the time to do so.)

    Comment by Furry Girl — May 19, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

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