Man, I Don’t Really Feel Like A Woman

ann tagonist

Being treated like a girl when I was nine meant being the only one in the class who needed to wear a bra and hearing the boys make comments about it every day.

Being treated like a girl when I was ten meant having to carry a sanitary towel in my schoolbag in case my first period started at school and being terrified that anyone would see it and think I was dirty.

Being treated like a girl when I was eleven meant vowing never to run in public again after relentless comments from men, women, boys and girls about the way my breasts moved when I did.

Being treated like a girl when I was twelve meant going to the temple with my church and not being allowed to perform certain rituals because I was menstruating.

Being treated like a girl when I was thirteen meant getting fucked in…

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If full decriminalization will protect women in prostitution from these men… why do these men want it?

A Trick Of The Trade

     The Argument

The Nordic model? It won’t work. You can’t decriminalize women and girls but criminalize the men who buy sexual access to them. It drives prostitution underground and puts them at risk of violence. Decriminalize ALL aspects of the sex trade to protect women and girls against violence and exploitation.”

Human rights group Amnesty International is currently risking everything it stands for to endorse The Argument. But if The Argument is true, why do violent and exploitative men want decriminalization?

LikeRedHeads

‘LikeRedHeads’ is the name used by a man on the Toronto Escort Review Boards (TERB). He has written over 1000 posts on the site, including reviews of the women he pays for.

He is John No.9 in The Invisible Men Project (Canada). [Read the full review here]

If the Nordic model would just facilitate him doing this to women, and full decriminalization would stop him – he must support the Nordic model. Right?

Actually…

1. He petitioned against…

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Do you care about my daughters?

On facebook my posts tend to either be cute quotes from my daughters (ages 8 and 10) or links to articles discussing feminist, race, or human rights issues. You can guess which posts get the most attention. Without fail the cute kid quotes get a massive response (50 likes! 10 comments (all of them nice)!). The response to the human rights articles tends to be more like 3 likes (from those faithful same people who give a shit) and 0 comments. The articles dealing with feminism or race generate a bit more response with a smattering of comments, some encouraging, but always some disgruntled. It’s as if everyone is fine with, though disinterested by, human rights, until we are talking about women’s rights or Black people’s rights, and then it becomes controversial?!

I am particularly interested in the phenomena of a person liking the quotes from my daughters, maybe even saying how cute or smart they are, and then turning around to resist all of my attempts to shine a light on misogyny–they deny rape culture, deny male privilege, deny that porn is harmful, deny that there are any sexism-related problems at all, or purport that all of our problems are just from sin and not the above list (so by gum, there’s nothing we can do???)(I’ve never understood that argument).

I understand that when people sit down to look at facebook, they usually want funny memes, pictures of kids, cat videos, and generally positive and harmless content. I understand that that is  the main reason cute kid quotes get more attention than bummer articles.

However, I think something else is going on, too. I think that most people have not connected the dots that those cute little girls in their leotards or their soccer jerseys or their tiaras or their Girls on the Run T-shirts that everyone cares about and values are the same girls who in just a few years will be date raped and then called a slut. They are the same girls who will get cat-called on the street at such an early age they will feel dirty. They are the same girls who will have to fight twice as hard to be taken seriously in interviews, meetings, or social settings. They are the same girls who will be relentlessly told through social interaction, TV, magazines, video games, movies, music videos, pop music lyrics, porn, and most boys they know, that their only worth is in how they look (to please men) and what they will do sexually (to please men).

So there–I connected the dots. They’re there. They’re real. And my point is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You don’t get to value little girls when they’re little and then view them merely as sex objects when they reach adolescence or their twenties. You also don’t get to value little girls while also consuming media (regularly, on purpose) that treats women at best as ornamental and at worst as vehicles to satisfy the formidable male sex appetite.

You can’t value my daughters and turn around and watch porn, much of which depicts underage, coerced girls as objects to be used, however roughly, however callously, to get guys (and women) off, while perpetuating the lie that this is how women like to be treated. You can’t value my daughters if you have any part in minimizing famous athletes who beat their significant others. Or if you minimize the rapes that college athletes perpetrate. Or if you ask, “what was she doing at that party?” or “where were the parents?” or “had she been drinking?” or “why was she dressed like that?” Or if you say “those poor boys’ lives are going to be ruined,” or “that’s really going to look bad for that college, or that team.”

The good news is there is a way to value my daughters or other little girls. Here’s how. 1) Don’t do the things I just mentioned. 2) Picture my daughters all grown up, with boobs, with curves, with dreams, with goals, with feelings, with original ideas, with ambition, with empathy, at job interviews, in classrooms, at their house watching TV, doing volunteer work, eating cheetos, challenging assumptions, socializing. If you still care about them at that stage, you’re almost ready to care about my daughters. 3) Now, picture the woman who is running for president, the woman walking in front of you with the revealing dress, the girls who will play that video game and wonder why she can’t find a game that doesn’t sexualize and minimize women, the middle-aged moms who have much more important things to worry about than their appearance, the women who “dress like boys.” Can you picture them? Do you care about them, too? Do you value them as people of worth apart from anything they can do for you?

You do?!

Huzzah!!!

You get to care about my daughters. I mean really care. If you didn’t pass that little test, sorry but you don’t care about my daughters–or anyone else’s daughter. You’ve got work to do. Godspeed.

Amnesty International is Missing the Point

Amnesty International is Missing the Point

On August 11, 2015, Amnesty International voted to promote the decriminalization of prostitution. Their intentions are good (we hope), but I fear Amnesty International is not looking at the bigger picture, and thus is promoting a system that keeps “women in their place” worldwide. Their reasoning is that if prostitution is legal, theoretically prostitutes would have access to protection and rights they didn’t have before. Sounds great. Too bad it’s not the whole story. 

So much attention has been paid to “sex workers’ rights” in the last several years. On the one hand, this is a good development. People working in the sex industry have traditionally been at the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak–the last people whose rights would be considered. So the dissemination of the ideas that sex workers are people of value and that they should enjoy the same rights and protections as anyone else is important and long overdue. With sex workers’ rights promotion, however, inherently comes an approval of and social legitimization of the commercial sex industry.

Some people have a problem with the sex industry because it promotes promiscuity, behavior they believe to be incompatible with God’s will. Some people have a problem with the sex industry because it warps one’s ability to have real romantic relationships. Some people have a problem with the sex industry because of the public health risks. These are points you may consider at your leisure, but the problem with the sex industry I would like to highlight is that it keeps women in a position of subjugation, objectification, and subservience.

Nowhere is it clearer than in the sex industry that men’s desires and needs are valued more than women’s. Although the sex industry is made up of men, women, and children, the vast majority is and has always been comprised of women. Let’s take a moment to think: why is that the case? Men have a higher sex drive, you say? Women are so much more desirable than men? It’s a function of evolution and the drive to reproduce?

I’ve heard all of the arguments. And ok, fine. Men have a higher sex drive, etc. But why is the notion that men get to have what they want  (no matter the reason) so widespread? Taken for granted even. “Prostitution will never go away,” I’ve been told. Perhaps. But why? Because men have come to believe that they have a right to be sexually satisfied and their right to be satisfied is more important than a woman’s right to dignity and body boundaries.

Another reason prostitution may never go away is that women traditionally have had few other options. I have spoken with several women who were coerced into the sex industry when they were teenagers. They were managed by pimps for a time, but even after they were no longer under the rule of a pimp they chose to stay in prostitution. They said they felt they could make more money doing that than any other job they could think of. Being systematically raped every day felt more feasible than college and career. Ken Roth, Director of Human Rights Watch, recently tweeted, “All want to end poverty, but in meantime why deny poor women the option of voluntary sex work?” How magnanimous of you, Ken Roth. Poor women everywhere thank you for the permission to sell their bodies for a living.

Jokes aside, this is another example of not looking at the big picture, of not focusing on the most beneficial solutions. Human rights groups should divert the energy they are putting into promoting a system that devalues, dehumanizes, and disempowers women, into dismantling that system in a nuanced way. No method of approaching prostitution is perfect, but the best I’ve seen is the Nordic Model. This model still tries to discourage the sex industry by criminalizing pimps, brothel owners, and johns. This model says to pimps and johns, “we don’t condone prostitution and we know that targeting you is the way to reduce it.” At the same time, the Nordic Model decriminalizes sex workers. The point of this is that many of the people in the sex industry are there because they have been coerced, forced, or because they feel they have no other choice. Criminalizing them disenfranchises them further. Decriminalizing them also encourages law enforcement to stop arresting prostitutes (mostly women) and start arresting pimps and johns (mostly men).
When it comes right down to it, if Amnesty International was interested in protecting women, they would spend more time on challenging the belief that makes prostitution flourish in the first place: that men are more important than women.