Thursday, May 28, 2009

Live-blogging the sex workers' debate in the feminist collective's house

Our speaker is Sarah Bracke a gender studies background. next generation, a feminist network in europe, there were an issue with sex work.

At some point NG, first network that evolved in europe in the social forum.

The conflict started in the 2nd forum, in 2003, in paris. That social forum started with the women's day. The day became de-politicized, which was a problem for us. The 2 great issues were: the headscarf and the sex-work. There was a law-project against "passive soliciting. It was supported by many feminists in the forum. We had proposed a woman that worked a lot on trafficking for a panel. They wanted a young eastern european woman from a trafficking issue.

Then they asked about an abstract, so she was going to talk about how this problem is used for anti-immigration. SHe was excluded.

Then there was a workshop about gender-based violence. As we predicted there was a lot on sex-work (more than work).

We found it problematic that sex work is only discussed as a form of violence against women. So when one woman of our group that wanted to voice her opinion they cut the electricity from the mic.

There was a final report that was very miserable and negative, so a couple of us (in the mass of 3000) stood up and started shouting that they are not saying everything.

A group from barcelona, that had pink umbrellas (for another project) so those who couldn't shout they opened the umbrella... and then women with other umbrellas started opening theirs.

So they had to give us the mic, so I spoke and said that there is an official line before the debate. Then we started talking about the scarf and sex work.

So on the spot, we improvised a position and we refused to answer that, but they wouldn't listen and it degenerated into a "you take our husbands" kind of conversation.
After this we had to go home, over the years we tried to continue the conversation and to reflect on the issue.

Definition of trafficking:
There are different legal definition of traficking. It's usually when people are exploited because they are smuggled or helped by traffickers to come and lose their papers. This work can be anything, but it is usually associated with sex work.

We had a position about trafficking, since everyone has "policies and position" about it. The woman, (get her name) would explain to you, how these women that wish to migrate, they don't have access to routs of migration other than trafficking. They don't want to go home! These women keep on coming back, time after time.

For us it is clear to us, this "saving" project is a feminist political issue. So we decided to go and talk to them, to inform them if they don't know or expose their complicity with anti-migration policies.

There is a great problematic gendered view on trafficking.

It was clear for us that this position of "saving the poor other" holds a very sad history, colonialism and such.

But still we were not prepared to the prostitute debate. People concluded that we were the "prostitutes collective".

A dichotomy emerged for us: it's either you're a pro-prostitution or you're an abolition. For us this was not interesting. We said, wait maybe the problem is the way we see it. Sex work is an umbrella term for very different situations. So we voiced our interest in looking at it different.
In feminism it matters a great deal how you imagine the source of gender oppression. This is why there are so many feminisms.

This fear of economics and this fear of sexuality, are both represented as two separate things. This separation is something we could say really works against the feminist debate. hence the sex-work's difficulty.

If you combine these fears, we start looking at other things, like marriage where economics and sexuality come together. So sex-work is not just this marginalized groups, it's maybe marriage.
And when you start looking at it this way, you start seeing it differently.

Marxist feminism also looks at reproductive rights. And this idea that all the affection and care, that are seen as unpaid work, and it is very much gendered.

What we also see in europe, as women start entering the working field, where the traditional women is replaced by another "type" of women, that are economically and ethnically inferior!

We start seeing things differently, we look back at marital love is not so just affection, economics come into the picture too... and sex-work is not that isolated from marriage after all.