Posts tagged: sex work

SWERFin’ and TERFin’

When it comes to the sex work industry commentary on social media, it seems like the critics are big on speaking about the dangers of trafficking (many times conflating trafficking and sex work) but very quiet when it comes to the underlying causes of why the most toxic parts of it exist.

I really can’t give much space in my head to those who voice their concerns about coercion in sex work but refuse to acknowledge the primary pillar of that coercion. Capitalism is at the core of the coercion they are constantly concerned about, but they never acknowledge it. Sex work is an industry for a lot of vulnerable people who wouldn’t be able to survive without it. The root of that coercion that they’re SO concerned about is based on actual material need. The ignorance of the root cause and focus on the people impacted feels like “I don’t want to see you exist because of how I feel”. It’s a mixture of privilege and sanctimoniousness without genuine care or sympathy for the people doing it or providing a real alternative.

I’m not a sex worker, but I find a lot of reasons to form solidarity bonds with them. It’s a common theme put upon marginalised communities, saying, “I feel icky about sex work (or trans people, or gay people, or immigrants, etc.), and they should just go away so I don’t have to see them.” Be clear about your intent: you don’t want marginalised communities to exist, but if we do, you want us to suffer.

Reactionaries, TERFs, and Bodily Autonomy

A couple of things have been stewing in my brain for a while, and I can’t stop thinking about them.

First off is a term that describes people who don’t believe in the right of individuals to make decisions about their own lives and bodies. Radical feminists (TERF or not) don’t think that sex workers have that right, in much the same way that US Republican conservatives. Whether drug use, transition care, sex work, assisted suicide or abortion, the resistance to it being allowed in society is that the person doing it cannot or should not consent. They want to impose their values on the lives of people they don’t know or care about. Reactionary kind of fits, but not really.

The other thing is that the resistors of bodily autonomy are rarely honest in their assessments/debates. They will use a rhetorical trick of treating a systemic issue as an individual issue and vice versa. A good example is the issue of mass shootings. The fact that cis white men commit the majority of mass shootings routinely gets treated as a “lone wolf” or as a “mentally ill” rather than it being a systemic, societally based issue.

On the other side of this trick, TERFs use individual trans people being awful that have no systemic/institutional/societal base at the root. TERFs will claim that self-identification of gender will cause harm, say this is a “valid question”, and repeat it ad nauseam. But they never respond when the question is answered and that their “valid question” hasn’t resulted in the systemic harm they claim in the 18 countries where it’s the law (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Switzerland and Uruguay).

And that’s just it; the people at the centre of the question never want to answer it. Like Young Earth Creationists, they have a belief that is centred and anything that agrees with it is true; anything that counters it is false. It isn’t a debate, as it is a propaganda campaign that tries to get more people to try and command other people’s bodily autonomy.

Renee Zellweger, Abortion, and Trans Bodies

Wading through all the comments on Facebook about Renee Zellweger’s “new look” have made me think a lot about a common thread between abortion rights, trans bodies, and body modification through surgery. The common issue is between them all is bodily autonomy, the right to make choices about what happens to you your own body.

“But she looked good/better/different before the surgery!”

“She looks ok, but I think she was more attractive as a guy!”

According to who? I’m kind of dumbfounded when someone agrees a woman should have the right to choose what do concerning an unplanned pregnancy, but will comment on a person’s choice for elective body modifications. Why is that ok? It seems to me that it’s Feminism 101 to say that women should have the right of bodily autonomy.

I find celebrity culture to be a tad bit creepy. People will comment freely about a woman’s body as if it’s something of theirs to critique? It’s objectification at its highest level. They probably wouldn’t appreciate the same level of critique of their mother, sister, or partner’s bodies, but they seem to feel they have a right to comment on the body of someone they’ve never met and don’t know? How far is this from the religious fundamentalist (or TERF) who will say:

“The writers of Scripture viewed any attempts at overriding one’s birth-sex as abhorrent, a sacrilege against the structures of maleness or femaleness created by God, and ultimately a rebellion against the Creator who made our bodies,”

The underlying theme is the same, regardless of who it’s coming from. It’s an assertion of ownership, outside of one’s own body. It’s an assertion that bodily autonomy is harmful, and that any change to the “natural body” is mutilation:

“Now one of the things I find puzzling about it is that, when I look at the House of Lords debate on this legislation, those I agree with most are the radical right. Particularly the person I find that I agree with most, in here, and I’m not sure he will be pleased to find this, is Norman Tebbitt… Tebbitt also says that the savage mutilation of transgenderism, we would say if it was taking place in other cultures apart from the culture of Britain, was a harmful cultural practice, and how come we’re not recognising that in the British Isles. So he makes all of these arguments from the radical right, which is quite embarrassing to me, but I have to say, so called progressive and left people are not recognising the human rights violations of transgenderism or how crazy the legislation is. – Sheila Jeffreys

My belief (regardless of if we’re talking about trans people, sex workers, Renee Zellweger, or someone who is pregnant) that it is “my body, my choice.”  The right to make choices about your body is a basic, fundamental human right.

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