by Furry Girl

01.19.12

"Browsing through the most gorgeous ties I'd ever seen I realized what was bothering me.  Growing up I was taught that the worst thing you could be if you were a man was a queer, and the worst thing you could be if you were a woman was a whore.  Then came my moment of epiphany: It was now my mission to have the time of my life being both.  No one but my closest friends would ever know I was doing this - it's not like I'd ever write a book about it.  And doing something so stigmatized, detested, and illegal, which already described my life as a gay man, also felt like a way to accord my country the same disregard it accorded me.  It wasn't as if being a monogamous gay man in love was seen as any better, so fuck it, I'll be a gigalo.  I took two ties to the cashier and handed the clerk a hundred-dollar bill.  Good riddance to the hungry years."

-- Richard Berkowitz, in his book, Stayin' Alive: The Invention of Safe Sex.





by Furry Girl

11.21.11

"Over the past half century, women have steadily gained on—and are in some ways surpassing—men in education and employment.  From 1970 (seven years after the Equal Pay Act was passed) to 2007, women’s earnings grew by 44 percent, compared with 6 percent for men. In 2008, women still earned just 77 cents to the male dollar—but that figure doesn’t account for the difference in hours worked, or the fact that women tend to choose lower-paying fields like nursing or education.  A 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 found that the women actually earned 8 percent more than the men.  Women are also more likely than men to go to college: in 2010, 55 percent of all college graduates ages 25 to 29 were female...

As Hanna Rosin laid out in these pages last year (The End of Men, July/August 2010), men have been rapidly declining—in income, in educational attainment, and in future employment prospects—relative to women.  As of last year, women held 51.4 percent of all managerial and professional positions, up from 26 percent in 1980.  Today women outnumber men not only in college but in graduate school; they earned 60 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded in 2010, and men are now more likely than women to hold only a high-school diploma.

No one has been hurt more by the arrival of the post-industrial economy than the stubbornly large pool of men without higher education.  An analysis by Michael Greenstone, an economist at MIT, reveals that, after accounting for inflation, male median wages have fallen by 32 percent since their peak in 1973, once you account for the men who have stopped working altogether.  The Great Recession accelerated this imbalance.  Nearly three-quarters of the 7.5 million jobs lost in the depths of the recession were lost by men, making 2010 the first time in American history that women made up the majority of the workforce.  Men have since then regained a small portion of the positions they’d lost—but they remain in a deep hole, and most of the jobs that are least likely ever to come back are in traditionally male-dominated sectors, like manufacturing and construction."

-- Kate Bolick, in All the Single Ladies on theatlantic.com

The point of this piece wasn't feminist-bashing, but I love seeing factual information like this in a source as widely-read by lefties as the Atlantic.  It doesn't mesh with the feminist fantasy that they are constantly oppressed in all areas of life, and I'm sure they'll still keep harping on their lie of a vast income disparity.

Feminist propaganda claims that women "earn 70-something cents for every dollar that a man does," which makes it sound like there's some kind of payscale drawn up by The Patriarchy that dictates salaries for people of different sexes doing the same job.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The reasons that men have been earning more money than women is not because of sexism, but because men work longer hours at more dangerous jobs which require more education.  In other words: men make more because they deserve it.





by Furry Girl

08.26.11

WikiLeaks has released tens of thousands of new US embassy cables this week, and I spent almost every waking hour of Thursday looking at the results.  I don't have the time to read everything, but you might be interested in getting a peek at how diplomats talk about both sex workers and relevant policies in foreign countries.

See the results for sex work, whore, prostitut*, stripper, porn, transgender, transsexual, transvestite, LGBT, lesbian, bisexual, and homosexual.  (Most of the ho-related results are about the US Trafficking in Persons Report and horror stories that conflate all sex work with forced trafficking and slavery, or mention it alongside drug addiction as a social ill to fix.)

WikiLeaks' crowdsourcing effort invites you to post stories of interest to Twitter with the hashtag #wlfind.  Find something interesting?  Share it!

Some bits I found about sex work, plus one odd one about a trans woman:

* Out of 10 mentions of the word "whore," 6 are quotations of someone using it as an insult.  Two are mentions of a women's rights NGO called "Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores nor Submissives)."  Two more uses the term to refer to stigma.

A report on people organizing against sex work criminalization in Rwanda from a January 2010 cable.  "Rwandan civil society is weak and neither its members nor the government fully understands its role.  These recent efforts may be an indicator of increasing strength and organization."

According to a January 2010 cable, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, "German government funds" have been used to establish "rehabilitation centers for women engaged in prostitution."  (I wonder if these centers are anything like the forced rehabs in Cambodiawhere sex workers report violence, sexual assault, and even rape at the hands of their "saviors"?)

In a report on "women's issues" from the Czech Republic in January of 2010, the author praises, without even a hint of irony, a government conference on reducing prostitution which had lectures on leadership from female entrepreneurs.  (As though prostitution and female entrepreneurship are opposing concepts!)

A December 2009 cable from Kenya is surprised by a survey's findings on gay/male prostitution.  "...a 2007 Kenya Aids Indicator Survey found that male prostitution occurs throughout the country and that eighty-one percent of the clients are Kenyan.  These findings run contrary to the perception that LGBT activity is concentrated in Coast province and initiated by tourists."  A 2009 cable from the Philippines reports something similar: "about 70% of prostitution clientele are local Filipinos, and only 30% are foreigners."  (Gasp!  You mean it's not just evil white Westerners, high on their internet porn "addictions," who buy sex in foreign countries?)

A December 2009 cable from Tanzania explains how anti-prostitution laws are selectively used to persecute homosexuals.  "Dr. Emmanuel Kandusi, Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights Promotion, told Poloff that 39 individuals arrested on prostitution charges on October 7 were targeted for their membership in gay and lesbian support groups. [...] Gay rights activist and CPSS member Ali Semsella related to Poloff other incidents of harassment and arrest.  For example, a group of seven individuals arrested in January on charges of prostitution continue to be held in remand prison because they could not make the Tsh 500,000 bail (USD380)."

An October 2009 cable from the Philippines covers how a police officer moonlighting as a pimp got caught in an NGO sting and convicted under anti-trafficking laws.  The cop apparently said "that he was the club's manager and that he had four underage girls working for him that they could take out of the club for sex.  [He] told [the NGO workers] not to worry about any legal problems because he was a police officer and could protect them.  He even offered to escort them to a hotel to ensure there would be no problems."  At trial, though, one of the teenage girls in question said that she had never been forced to have sex with anyone.

An April 2009 cable from Vietnam posts some snark on the subject of how to prevent prostitution in karaoke bars.  It quotes an unnamed local blogger who suggests, "To prevent prostitution, all women entering a karaoke bar must be accompanied by boyfriend or husband; an official inspector will check her certificate of marriage or certificate proving girlfriend or boyfriend-ship."

A December 2008 cable from Turkey makes a rare mention of sex workers' rights activism, even going so far as concluding, "MEASURES TO CURTAIL LEGAL PROSTITUTION MAY EXPOSE PROSTITUTES TO GREATER ABUSE... While concerned about the plight of trafficked women in Turkey, these sex workers and advocates emphasized the need for protection, fair housing and respect for Turkey's prostitutes, who are often abused by residents, clients and police."

A September 2008 cable from Turkey reports that a trans woman helped overthrow the previous government.  "Actress Nurseli Idiz, her manager Seyhan Soylu and lawyer Levent Temiz were taken into custody in Istanbul... Papers recall that Soylu, a transvestite, is believed to have organized a scheme which sparked a political scandal ahead of the 'February 28' process in 1997, and led to the collapse of the government of the Islamist Prime Minister  Necmettin Erbakan."  (When not plotting coups, Seyhan Soylu developed a reality TV show about pitting various faiths against each other in a competition to convert atheists.)

* An April 2007 cable from Korea reports that even though prostitution was criminalized in 2004, it still exists, and was only driven underground.  "As pressure against the prostitution industry mounted, brothel owners began to shift their work to alternate venues such as massage parlors, barber shops and singing rooms although a few traditional red-light districts continue to operate.  The Internet also became a popular method to arrange sexual encounters because it provided protection for business owners who wanted to keep a low profile."  Here's an interesting tactic in the quest to end demand: "A serious debate on the issue erupted late last year as MOGEF introduced a plan where men would be paid if they promised not to engage in prostitution as part of the traditional end-of-year parties hosted by their employers."

A September 2006 cable from Cambodia questions the effectiveness of arresting suspected prostitutes and forcing them into "rehab" centers.  "Targeting sex workers alone is not a viable solution to ridding Cambodia of prostitution nor is it particularly effective in addressing trafficking in persons. The fact that no pimps or brothel owners have been held responsible after the raids on nine brothels raises questions as to the government's motivations. Police could have done a better job identifying and arresting the pimps and closing down the brothels, instead of only rounding up the prostitutes and turning them over to AFESIP."  (AFESIP is an NGO founded by Somaly Mam, who has come under fire by sex workers in Cambodia for violence and abuse in her "rehabilitation centers.")

A July 2006 cable from Armenia reports disappointment at the unexciting realities of "trafficking" of Armenian women. "We went to Vanadzor expecting to hear stories of illicit smuggling across borders and of girls lured into prostitution under false pretenses. What we heard was significantly more pedestrian... And while the prostitutes and the NGO employees we met said sometimes women are abused in the brothels, or aren't paid in full, they said the greater part of women generally understand what they are getting themselves into, and may already have worked as prostitutes for years."  The cable concludes, "...fist-banging won't change the fact that many prostitutes work simply to get food on the table, and that they believe they will be paid better in Turkey or the UAE.  The Armenian government cannot improve a bad economy with stricter laws and harsher sentencing.  While both are needed here, Armenia has to offer these women an alternative to turning tricks if it is to eradicate trafficking."

* Three cables from June 2006 talk about the sex trafficking scare around the World Cup in Berlin.  One notes, "Over 20 NGOs throughout Germany have received government funds to conduct dozens of trafficking prevention and awareness campaigns."  It goes on to report on the raid of 48 Munich brothels in search of said trafficking victims, though it couldn't find any.  Another cable reports on raids in Hesse, where hundreds of police officers were involved in a massive sweep that saw 74 women detained.  A police officer "pointed out that many women do not initially see themselves as victims but come to that realization after counseling and assistance." [...] "Regarding the large-scale raids on May 10, [police chief] Thiel said police findings demonstrate there has been no substantial increase in TIP and that the oft-repeated figure of 40,000 prostitutes converging on Germany for the FIFA World Cup is a gross exaggeration."  A third cable declares that in spite of being unable to find trafficking victims, the whole mess is a victory anyway.  "Extensive pre-World Cup police raids of brothels and other venues around Germany (reported refs C through F) sent a clear message to traffickers that police are watching and likely dissuaded many traffickers from expanding their operations."

A December 2005 cable from Turkey expresses concern about the growing popularity of trans prostitutes, giving a very detailed rundown on where trans prostitutes can be found.  "Transvestites have taken over the streets.  In recent years the rate of transvestite prostitution has increased, in particular on Istanbul streets.  Until ten years ago, they were seen only on the Cevizlibag-Merter portion of the D-100 highway; now they are everywhere... On weekends there is a transvestite prostitute every five meters from Tarlabasi Boulevard to Harbiye."

A November 2005 cable from Thailand paints popular vacation spot Pattaya as filled with prostitutes, fugitives, crazies, drunk Americans wandering into traffic, and "heartbroken loners".  "Thailand has one of the highest rates in the world of death by non-natural causes for Amcits.  After Bangkok itself, most Amcit deaths in Thailand occur in Pattaya: this year 21 of the 106 non-natural Amcit deaths in Thailand have occurred there.  The leading causes of death are traffic accidents (usually involving alcohol), drug overdoses (ranging from laced cocaine to using Viagra without a prescription), suicides (from heartbroken loners) and homicides... Many American fugitives have taken up residence in Pattaya over the years, along with people who should be getting treatment for mental illness, but are not."  The cable's conclusion: "As Pattaya continues to grow, so will the numbers of American citizens that go there to work, play, retire, and die."  (Best tourism slogan I've ever read!)

A November 2005 cable from the Czech Republic is pleased that left- and right-wing members of the Czech Parliament came together to reject a bill taking steps towards legalized prostitution.  "Though clearly a positive development, the defeat of legalized prostitution still leaves the sex trade in a highly ambiguous position in a country where trafficking in persons remains a problem.  Although the Czechs are clearly unwilling to legalize prostitution, there is also little will to adopt more stringent steps to criminalize the practice."  (Another 2005 cable on the subject mentions MPs being lectured by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, an international feminist anti-sex worker group, which also lobbied against San Francisco's Proposition K.)

A bizarre August 2004 cable from Nigeria details the case of "juju men" (shamans/witch doctors) convicted of sex trafficking.  "The two juju men, Prince Omoruyi of Ehengbuda shrine and Goddy Akhimeon of Uromi, were brought into the press conference and asked by NAPTIP's head of investigation to describe the items on display, which had been confiscated from their shrines.  Clippings of women's pubic hair and fingernails would be kept in the shrine until the 'curse' was lifted.  The juju men explained that they 'blessed' the semen of male customers of prostitutes in order to prevent the transmission of AIDS; a pile of semen-stained tissues was displayed among the evidence."

An April 2004 cable from the Netherlands expresses annoyance at the country's legalized prostitution, but notes we need their troops for our wars.  "We don't like their social policies, but even G/TIP admits the causal link between legalization of prostitution and trafficking has not been proven."  The cable author begs its reader to not downgrade the Netherlands' ranking in the Traffickings in Persons index.  Doing so would "undermine the forceful public outreach we have been making to strengthen the alliance.  The Dutch are extremely valuable allies to us, providing troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and supporting us on transatlantic and global issues.  In the next month, the government faces a delicate vote in parliament over extending Iraq troop deployment and the MFA Political Director told me Friday that a decision to put the Netherlands in Tier 2 would be damaging and could not come at a worse time."

A February 2003 cable from Canada tries to clumsily quantify the amount of local prostitution and sex trafficking.  Their methodology?  Noting that there are 20 pages of escort ads in the phone book.  "THESE ADS, UP FROM 17 PAGES IN 2002 AND 2 IN 1998, HIGHLIGHT WHAT A BIG BUSINESS THE SEX TRADE HAS BECOME IN QUEBEC."  The report concludes that motorcycle gangs are the kingpins running the sex industry in Quebec.  The guesses in the cable reads like a 1970s sexploitation novel: "IN THE OPINION OF POST'S POLICE CONTACT, ONCE GIRLS ARE BROUGHT INTO A TRAFFICKING RING, THEY FACE A SLIPPERY SLOPE.  VULNERABLE GIRLS, DRAWN TO OFFERS OF PROTECTION AND CARE, OFTEN THINK THEY ARE IN LOVE WITH THEIR "PROTECTOR."  COERCED INTO NUDE DANCING, THEN PROSTITUTION, THE GIRLS QUICKLY BECOME PART OF A SEAMY WORLD..."

 

[A few more items in my post on 1970s diplomatic cables.]





by Furry Girl

08.22.11

The New Victorians: A Young Woman's Challenge to the Old Feminist Order
by Rene Denfeld
Copyright 1995

★★★★

I loved this book, and I don't know how I didn't discover it until recently, because it's very me in many ways.  It has so many of the issues that I would cover if I were to write an entire book about why feminism is stupid and counter-productive, to the degree I'm actually relieved someone else has already done it so well.

Having been published 16 years ago, Rene Denfeld's references to leading feminists and prominent areas of feminist concern are, as would be expected, a bit dated.  (It is pre-internet, pre- sex-positive, and at the end, briefly notes a newfangled area of feminism showing hope in its youthfulness: riot grrrl.)  For example, there's an entire chapter mostly about the growing irrelevance of NOW, but in 2011, I honestly can't think of the last time anyone mentioned NOW, as it has become fully irrelevant.  Some stale issues aside, like NOW and lesbian separatism, the overall tone of the book, criticism of core portions of feminist theory, and the good framing device of comparisons to the morality of the Victorian era are all still valid.  (Even more so now in some matters, with feminist books like "A Return to Modesty," as well as a general increase in hysteria about "the pornification of our culture.")

Denfeld decries victim feminism, man-hating behaviors such as painting all men as potential rapists and dangers, the expansion of definitions of rape and sexual assault to include cat-calling and sexual comments, the obsession with new age spiritualism, that omnipresent mysterious force called "the patriarchy," and even some older embarrassing dirty laundry like feminist opposition to abortion and birth control (because they turn women into consequence-free sex holes for men).  Overall, I love the book's relentless questioning of feminist ideas (whether it be banning porn or adopting goddess religious) with, "...but what good will that do for the majority of women, especially poor women?"

While most of the book has nothing to do with sex work issues, the section on the feminist campaign against porn was solid, doing well to exemplify the vast schism between feminist concerns and the issues that impact average women.  When discussing porn, the book doesn't quote sex workers or consider our perspectives/rights at all.  The anti-anti-porn arguments in the book are about censorship and time-wasting moral crusades.

By foregoing political and economic activism, current feminists have created a campaign that smacks of classism.  Many of the feminist activists working against porn are middle-income and well-educated women.  The subjects of their attacks (porn actresses and nude models) are predominantly lower-income and less-educated people - and usually not boasting choice jobs at magazines or universities.  It must be recognized that many women freely choose to enter the porn field.  And some of their choices are no doubt influenced by the fact that it pays more than flipping hamburgers.

But the antiporn activists don't seem interested in helping lower-class women - try telling an impoverished mother on welfare that outlawing Playboy is the answer to her troubles.  And try telling a porn actress that it's better to starve on minimum wage than it is to pose for pictures that middle-class women find immoral.  Lost in the rarefied world of academia and backed with cushy jobs, these feminists forget that women can't feed their children on censorship.

[...]

Just as in Victorian times (when respectable ladies condemned unrespectable lower-class strumpets), a select group of middle-class women have bestowed upon themselves the title of saviors of female virtue.  And just as Victorian ladies blamed prostitutes for their husbands' faithlessness, today's feminists implicitly blame women in pornography for the most reprehensible crime: rape.

Another thing I love is the chapter on feminism's promotion of new age religions, although this has died down a bit since the book was published in the 90s.  As someone who angrily bit my tongue as a pagan religious ritual opened last year's Desiree Alliance sex worker conference, I appreciate those who share such annoyances.  Denfeld's book rightfully hammers home that there is no historical evidence to suggest that a magical war and weapon-free matriarchy ever existed, though new agers are always quick to rebut that inconvenient truth with conspiracy theories about how The Patriarchy has suppressed the evidence.

A snippet:

The religion is based on theory that reeks of old fashioned sexist stereotypes.  Women, again, are held to be the gentler, nurturing, compassionate, and clearly unassertive sex.

This vision of women as spiritually superior - and spiritually pure - has led to devastating inertia.  Political and economic activism is suddenly portrayed as quite unnecessary, even distasteful.  Instead, goddess aherents are convinced that witchcraft rituals of chanting, burning sage, sending spells, and channeling Aphrodite with effectively advance women's rights.

And so feminism today has taken a distressing step away off the path to equality onto a detour down the yellow brick road.  Feminist leaders are now telling women to perform the modern equivalent of the Sioux Indian Ghost Dance, to spend our energies frantically calling upon a mystical golden age in an effort to create a dreamlike future - because such rituals are better suited to our superior nature than fighting directly with men for our rights.  This ideal of feminine spiritual purity was used effectively against women in the Victorian era; they were told that, for the more spiritual sex, prayer was the only appropriate means of improving the world.  Then, as now, it's striking that the more ineffective an action, the more it's said to reflect "female" values.

Meanwhile, millions of women - young and old - have to cope with unequal pay, lack of affordable child care, nonexistent job opportunities, and raising families without health insurance.  Countless more face unavailable birth control and abortion, sexual harassment in the workplace, or no workplace at all.  And many face the trauma of rape and domestic violence under a judicial system that too often slaps offenders lightly on the wrist.  Goddess worship does absolutely nothing for these women.

If this sounds like embellishment to you, perhaps you're not old enough to remember the massive popularity of one particular nutter who goes by Starhawk.  She was devoted to distracting the west coast left during the 1990s and early 2000s, admonishing activists to focus on spell-casting and sending out magic spirit vibes rather than engage in protests or directly confronting businesses/governments.  Thankfully, Starhawk gets thoroughly ridiculed in the book, including a "blockade" of hers where a bunch of witches shined flashlights in the direction of a nuclear power plant in an attempt to shut it down.  When the power plant later had a temporary technical issue causing some downtime, Starhawk took credit.  (You can't make up stuff this funny!)

In the chapter rebutting the notion of a patriarchy that's somehow a sentient force and conspiracy to oppress women through the evils of science and rational thinking, Denfeld gets a standing ovation from me yet again.

Patriarchal theory appeals to many feminists because it takes the onus off women when it comes to problems such as racism, sexism, and violence - although female Ku Klux Klan members to abusive mothers, women have done their share to add to these ills.  It is also appealing because it acts as a rallying cry, allowing feminists to condemn a common enemy  while ignoring class and cultural differences among women.  By asserting that all women are oppressed under the patriarchy, feminists often implicitly dismiss the experiences of minority, poor, and working class women: A single mother on welfare and Gloria Steinem are portrayed as having more in common than not.

What makes this ironic is that oppression is defined solely from the viewpoint of current feminist leaders, who tend to be well-educated, affluent white women enjoying careers as authors, speakers, and tenured professors.  For instance, in The Beauty Myth, a 1991 book detailing how there is a "backlash" against women via beauty standards, Yale graduate Naomi Wolf likens the beauty methods of upper-middle-class women to the medieval torture instrument known as the iron maiden, a spike-lined body-shaped casket in which victims suffered slow, agonizing deaths.  When women who exemplify the American dream and the fruits of feminism - educated in the finest universities, getting paid for the careers of their choice, well-respected, and enjoying all the freedoms and comforts life has to offer - write books comparing their lives with medieval torture, it's not surprising that many lower-income women don't find much in common with the movement.

In the nineteenth century, as feminist concern moved on from fighting for the right to vote to fighting to repress sexual materials and female sexuality, a familiar issues played out in the wake of a new law passed to prevent - you guessed it - child sex trafficking.

Rather than used to halt child prostitution, this legislation was mostly enforced against poor adult women.  It dramatically changed the structure of prostitution, with devastating effects for the women involved.  Full-time prostitution up to that time was largely a brothel industry maintained by women.  While these brothels varied from squalid shacks to fancy houses, they at least offered prostitutes a degree of safety and economic autonomy: Many women were assured food and a roof over their heads as well as protection from the authorities.  But under this feminist-driven law, the brothels were closed, forcing prostitutes to work on the streets, where they had to rely on male pimps for protection... Far from eradicating prostitution, these feminists only drove them underground -- and once out of sight, the prostitutes suffered more.

Where the Denfeld and I sharply diverge, however, is that at the end of the day, her book is about inspiring young women to "reclaim" feminism and make it a part of their identities, and insisting that anyone who supports birth control or equal pay is a feminist, whether they like it or not.  Despite being written to get more people to call themselves feminists (though it's never explained why on earth that matters), I still consider this a great read.  I took a bunch of notes, and will be reading some of the source material and using it in places in my own book, if and when that ever comes to fruition.

 

Buy The New Victorians through this Amazon link and a portion of the sales price will go to SWAAY.





by Furry Girl

08.09.11

"It is striking that in the year 2001 women should so overwhelmingly be seen as pushed, obligated, coerced or forced when they leave home for the same reason as men: to get ahead through work.  But so entrenched is the idea of women as forming an essential part of home if not actually being it themselves that they are routinely denied the agency to undertake a migration.  So begins a pathetic image of innocent women torn from their homes, coerced into migrating, if not actually shanghaied or sold into slavery.  This is the imagery that nowadays follows those who migrate to places where the only paid occupations available to them are in domestic service or sex work.  The ‘trafficking’ discourse relies on the assumption that it is better for women to stay at home rather than leave it and get into trouble; ‘trouble’ is seen as something that will irreparably damage women (who are grouped with children), while men are routinely expected to encounter and overcome it."

-- Dr Laura Agustín, in Leaving Home for Sex: Prostitution, Sex Work, Travel, Trafficking on lauraagustin.com





by Furry Girl

06.20.11

"At least the Salvationists are up-front about their religious motivation.  If anything they tend, as individuals, to be considerably less judgemental than their ideologically-driven counterparts in the feminist movement.  As regards their motivation and objectives, there's little to choose between the two groups: they use the same language of degradation and objectification, and they share the same fundamentally conservative view of a woman's "proper" sexual role.  When it comes to sexual illiberalism, religious and feminist groups have long been in covert and sometimes overt agreement.  Yes, the Salvation Army probably at some level want to convert the women they rescue to Christianity.  But [British anti-sex worker group] Eaves want to convert them to their brand of doctrinaire feminism.  Is that really any better?"

-- The Heresiarch, in Feminists and Evangelicals compete to rescue fallen women on heresycorner.blogspot.com





by Furry Girl

03.23.11

"I'll tell you what, we were tough faggots." -- Ed Mead

Ed Mead spent 18 years in prison after being a part of an armed revolutionary group in Washington state called the George Jackson Brigade, which was similar to the Weather Underground.  Author Daniel Burton-Rose wrote of him,

Ed Mead was arrested relatively early in the Brigade’s trajectory, so he spent much of his organizing time behind bars.  In his close to twenty-year sentence, Mead led work strikes, filed petitions, and generally did his best to fan the flames of discontent wherever he went.  This made him something of a scourge to prison administrators, who bounced him through state and federal penal systems, moving him along whenever his organizing efforts began to bear fruit.

One of his more notable efforts was Men Against Sexism (MAS), a group of "tough faggots" who forcibly stopped the buying and selling of prisoners by prisoners for the purpose of sexual exploitation [violent pimping of weaker prisoners by stronger ones] in Walla Walla.  During the group’s zenith in 1978, MAS proved so effective that a feminine male prisoner could wear a dress around without threat of violence.  MAS backed up their work with homemade grenades, single-shot rifles, and a willingness to die to stop prisoner-on-prisoner rape.  "Of all the political work that I’ve done," says Mead, Men Against Sexism is what I’m most proud of.  (The group effectively disbanded after a foiled escape attempt in 1978 involving Mead, several other prisoners and an array of homemade weapons.)

Yes, Mead and others actually had smuggled weapons into the prison, including a gun Mead was ready to use on at least one occasion.  According to Burton-Rose, the two men you see below holding hands debated killing members of a prison gang who defied their ban on "owning", selling, and raping other prisoners.  Only under threat of death did the gang release an effeminate gay prisoner over whom they had claimed "ownership".

Tough faggot, indeed.

Writing on the back reads, "MAS [Men Against Sexism] member Ed Mead + Danny Atteberry (misidentified as "lovers" in CM ["Concrete Mama", a nickname for the prison]) walk the tier of Big Red, the isolation unit at Walla Walla State Pen.  77 or 78 <probably."

Download a 300 dpi high-quality scan here.

Writing on the back reads, "Photo from the epic struggle of prisoners in Walla Walla's Intensive Security Unit, '78, in which Ed was involved.  The [George Jackson] Brigade attempted a bombing of the Capitol Complex in Olympia in support of the prisoner's strike."

Download a 300 dpi high-quality scan here.

These are scans are from copies found in a friend's musty old box of activist stuff from the 1970s and 1980s.  As far as I could tell from poking around on Google Images, this is the first time these have been posted online.  I can't help but love the fuck out of these photos of queer resistance from inside prisons in the 1970s.

UPDATE: One of my lovely readers, Michael, posted the source for these images:

These photos are from the book "Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles From Walla Walla" that came out in the early 80's. It's really great, but rare and hard to find. There are some on Amazon but they're kinda spendy. There's a whole chapter and set of photos (these included) about political prisoners and Ed Mead. Also a ton about transvestites behind the walls. Buy it if you can afford it. I believe John Mccoy took these photos.

* * *

For even more forgotten radical history from my area, one of the other members of the George Jackson Brigade, Janine Bertram, was a co-founder of the Seattle chapter of COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics), an early sex workers rights group.  Janine wanted the government out of sex workers' business completely, and was quoted as being opposed to compromises that "would have made the state the pimp."  The Seattle chapter of COYOTE later changed its name to the Washington Association of Prostitutes and created a job training program to teach women male-dominated skills, such as welding.

(I learned about this little piece of the ho revolution from Guerrilla USA: The George Jackson Brigade and the Anticapitalist Underground of the 1970s.)





by Furry Girl

02.21.11

"Then I became a sex worker.  A new identity took over the old one.  Another wave of liberation washed over me the first time I danced topless around a pole at the Gold Club in San Francisco in 1999.  Hours before my audition, I plucked out my armpit hair and pulled out the most femme dress I owned, a not so shapely silver rectangle with straps that nevertheless got me my first job in the industry.  Within a week, I had rediscovered all kinds of long repressed gender specific elements that my newly acquired income was now allowing me access to.  [...]  I became a high femme in no time.  I had always had an eye for clothes and fashion, but had been rejecting notions of constructed femininity for the last two years, wearing mostly men’s clothes and nothing on my face but lip liner pencil which I used to both line and shade my lips.  I was a heterosexually identified femme in high school but started to morph into something more androgynous because it seemed to me that femininity did not and could not equal power in a man’s world.  Suddenly, as a new stripper, femininity now equaled power and money.  I became even stronger and more confident.  The color pink represented this new found power to me and it has been my favorite color ever since."

-- Mariko Passion, in Professional Bisexual on marikopassion.wordpress.com





by Furry Girl

02.04.11

(A sampling of images of covered women in the midst of Egypt's revolution during the last week.  More photos of women in this gallery and this one and here, too - not all of whom are Muslims or wearing headscarfs, niqabs, or chadors.  There's also an album for Facebook users, requires login.)

Before reading my post, you should know a bit about the situation on Egypt.  If you have not been closely following international news, I made a comic/infographic explaining the January 25h revolution through Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, so at the very least, go read that for the basic context.  If you want more information, here are three short videos that I liked, with totally different tones - the first has upbeat scenes from Egypt and Tunisia (which ousted their dictator recently), the second is a heartwarming look at Egyptians taking care of each other and the city of Cairo, and the third is a serious vlog made by a brave young woman who helped start this revolution.  For stuff specifically about women taking part in the Egyptian revolution, see pieces from Slate, Matt Cornell, Newsweek, Global Voices, Democracy Now, and The New York Times.  Lastly, you can watch ongoing events on Al Jazeera English's web stream - this is still unfolding!

I made my most controversial and widely re-posted tweet on Twitter a week ago.  Here's a sentence that proved even more polarizing than I expected:

I hope that western feminists who infantilize Muslim women see photos of Egyptian women in burqas rioting against a dictatorship.

Aside from some angry stupids, my statement received good responses from both cool Western folks and residents of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  (As an aside, for those calling me out for using the term "burqa" when the photos from Egypt show women wearing scarves and chador/niqabs/hijabs: yes, I knew that.  Accessible language is important to me, and everyone American has an idea of what "burqa" means.  And, Twitter only allows for so many characters.)

For most people, the idea of a sex worker supporting covered Muslim women sounds absurd.  What could we possibly have in common?

I do feel a sense of solidarity with Muslim women who are belittled for choosing to wear an abaya, chador, niqab, burqa, or what-have-you.  As a sex worker and a devout atheist, I am hardly what you could consider an apologist for the injustices women suffer in the MENA region and how Islam views women/sexuality in general.  But, that doesn't mean Muslim women are feeble-minded weaklings.  I know what it feels like to have other women decide that you're too stupid to be allowed to make your own decisions.  Western feminists, by and large, claim that I have been brainwashed by the patriarchy, and must be "saved" from my decision to work in porn.  Likewise, the same people tend to impose their judgments on Muslim women, arguing that they need to be "saved" from the religious brainwashing forcing them to adhere to Islam.

It's easy to feel paternalistic towards Muslim women - the more covered, the more pitied - and they are definitely a caricature in the West for what "oppressed" and "sexism" looks like - just like sex workers.  The same people who say it's hypocritical for covered Muslim women to demand freedom in Egypt will also scoff at sex workers demanding respect in the states.

One of the things I often remind people is to remain conscious of is whether their desire to "help" others is rooted more in solidarity, or in paternalism.  It's a troubling dynamic to me, and not only because I'm in a group of people greatly affected by it.  It's a very slippery slope to start deciding that other adults are incapable of deciding what they want to do with their lives.  Would you have any interest in building bridges with someone who condescendingly believes you can't be trusted to decide what to do with your life and what clothing (not lack thereof) to wear?

When dealing with social issues like Egypt's revolution, you have to look at things first not through the lens of feminist gender analysis, you have to get basic and consider Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  (For those unfamiliar, it's a pyramid setting up human needs, starting from food/water/shelter, and being topped out with self-actualization.)  Think of it also as a "social change hierarchy of needs": you can't lecture people about how they should focus on pondering whether wearing head coverings are sexist, when paying for food is a daily struggle for them.  This might come as a surprise to some, but when people don't have money for bare necessities, live in daily fear of the police, and have no hope for their futures, they're not laying in wait for middle and upper-class liberals in America try and dictate a political agenda to them.  I would love to see full gender equality in the MENA region, but I'm sick of seeing people doing the "let them eat cake" thing in regards to Egypt.

The situation in Egypt is exciting to me not only because the revolutionary spirit started in Tunisia is spreading, but because so many of the protesters seem to be young and less conservative than previous generations.  This gives me hope that this is a win for women - both in the long and short term.  American conservatives are busy fear-mongering about radical Islam, arguing hyperbolic nonsense that if Egypt's president leaves, sharia law will be instituted and women will be beheaded in the streets of Cairo.  After seeing so many women boldly rising up, screaming at male police, demanding the present leave, organizing a revolution, and getting involved in changing their country at the grassroots level, I don't think the women of Egypt would stand for it.  We Enlightened Western Liberals don't need to save them.  They're saving themselves.

(I don't want the comments on this post to turn into a debate abut Islam or religion in general, so save it for one of my posts that specifically address religion and sexuality, okay?  PS: Tracy Quan has also written about covered Muslim women.  See her 2006 piece here.)





by Furry Girl

01.25.11

I've had Toby Clark's Art and Propaganda in the Twentieth Century sitting on my shelf for ages, but only finally started reading it.  There were two stories in the women's art section that I thought were especially interesting and worth sharing with readers of my blog.  The book appears to be out of print, but I'm thus far enjoying it, and would recommend tracking down a used copy if you're into art and politics.  Here's excerpts on two people I liked, with the accompanying imagery:

Most of those who produced propaganda for the suffrage movements were not professional artists, through the implications of their work sometimes challenged dominant ideas about art.  Some even took on the art institutions directly, and adopted them as the stage for political actions.

The British campaigner for women's suffrage Mary Richardson did this in 1914 when she took a small axe into the National Gallery in London.  She used it on The Rokeby Venus (c. 1650) by Diego Velazquez (1599-1660), smashing the glass and slashing the painting a number of times before being restrained and arrested.  She explained at her trial that her motive had been to draw attention to the treatment of the suffragette leader Emily Pankhurst, who had been on hunger strike in London's Holloway Prison.  It was not an isolated event but one of many propaganda activities which the militant wing of the suffrage movement had carried out in Britain since 1905 to gain the vote and oppose wider discrimination against women.  The attack on the painting would have been partly understood as an extension of the suffragettes' tactic of smashing department store windows, which assaulted the feminized spaces of consumerism like a parodic inversion of shopping.  By moving the battle to the nation's foremost art museum, Richardson brought the values of the state's guardians of culture into the line of fire, and choosing a famous picture of a nude woman, she targeted the point of intersection between institutional power and the representations of femininity.

Richardson's act provoked a complex set of meanings and effects.  At first sight, it looks like an attack on the control and exposure of the female body as an object of male erotic pleasure.  Richardson remarked that she had disliked the way the way men in the gallery had "gaped" at the picture.  But she admired the painting itself, comparing Velazquez's Venus with her own political heroine, saying, "I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful women in mythological history as a protest against the Government destroying Mrs Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history."  Yet Richardson had not destroyed the picture, but altered it, making a new image - the slashed Venus - which was widely reproduced in photographs in the national press, as Richardson had surely anticipated.  Though the newspapers' response was hostile, demonizing "Slasher Mary" as a monstrous hysteric, Richardson had succeeded in using the mass media to disseminate "her" picture of a wounded heroine, in effect a metaphorical portrait of the martyred Plankhurst and of the suffering of women in general.

And:

Born as Lucy Schwob to a family of Jewish intellectuals, [Claude Cahun (1894-1954)] engaged in a varied career of art, acting, poetry, and political activism.  She became involved with the Surrealists after meeting them as members of a group of communist artists in 1932.  At this time, there were serious tensions in the Surrealists' relationship with communism.  [...]

Cahun left the communists in 1933.  Much of her artistic activity depended on the radical transformation of her own appearance.  She had worked on montages and photographic self-portraits since 1914 as a student at the Sorbonne, and from 1919 she wore dramatically short hair, sometimes dyeing it pink, green, and gold.  Alongside her adoption of various pseudonyms, her self-portraits explore a repertoire of playfully shifting identities, portraying her as a soldier or convict with shaved head, or as a wild parody of the Hollywood good-time girl, or as a circus acrobat.  Like Hoch's art, Cahun's work was closely allied to her lesbianism and to a practice which involved a parodic masquerade in a series of stereotypically feminine roles which only emphasized her adamant refusal to conform to them.  Until recently, these activities lacked a context through which they could be widely understood as "political."  As a form of propaganda, they are certainly oblique, although at an everyday and popular level the adoption in public of a non-conformist appearance has been readily understood as a form of political statement since long before the age of the hippies and punks.  As it transpired, Cahun's most explicit propaganda work would be as a member of Resistance forces against the Nazi occupation of Jersey, where she lived during the war, engaging in four years of anti-Nazi activities which included flying a banner from a church which read, "Jesus is great, but Hitler is greater - for Jesus died for the people but people die for Hitler."  She was arrested in 1944 and condemned to death by the Gestapo.  Despite a reprieve, she spent nearly a year in prison from which she never fully recovered, physically or mentally.





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