Thank you for following me. I know I’ve been sort of silent the past months, only echoing other blogs. I appreciate those of you who have stuck it out, listening to my occasional tweets and reblogs.
My silence took me by surprise. I was completely amazed at what shut me up and frightened by how thoroughly it eventually quieted me.
Late Fall/early Winter, Julie Bindel popped a quick tweet out, with a link to some reporting she had conducted 2-3 years earlier. Saying: yeah, there’s this thing out there, it might be relevant to what some of you are talking about, have a look.
I looked. I’m pretty sure everyone who reads this blog looked.
It left me speechless.
Amnesty International wants to legalize prostitution. Amnesty International. Legalized prostitution. Amnesty, that granting of protection from persecution, doesn’t apply to women. Amnesty International, the largest global human rights advocate that exists, now supports widespread international commercial sexual exploitation, an exploitation which overwhelmingly targets girls, women, the impoverished, the oppressed.
Money in richer days; letters written; evenings spent on folding metal chairs with a phone pressed to aching head; long hours riding in cramped carpools and church vans; hot wax burns on hands-the scars of which I still bear today; the deadness, the utter deadness, sinking into the soul from accepting that a human being, no matter how heinous their actions, had just been coldly, systematically killed – in my name. All for Amnesty, my contributions towards protecting the persecuted.
Amnesty International supports the commercial sexual exploitation of girls and women. I really didn’t need a lot of facts, figures and statistics to know that this was wrong. I knew it, already.
I also knew that facts, figures and statistics (best when presented in trendy infographic imaging) are expected, no, demanded, as support for anything a woman says about any topic. I knew me saying “This is wrong” was not going to get much visibility or encourage questioning of Amnesty International’s policy. Facts. Figures. Statistics. As existing feminist quotes were tweeted I assiduously retweeted. As links to various web pages were tweeted, I read the short versions, picked a couple of stats, and tweeted those out with the link. As the #QuestionsforAmnesty hashtag was introduced, I began tagging all my tweets, riding that higher visibility. I was confident an apology and retraction were forthcoming. I knew Amnesty, hell, I wore the T shirt once a week in middle school – and that was a loooooong time ago. This would be clarified and corrected. It wasn’t. They doubled-down.
This damaged me. It hurt. And I had only recently recovered from heartsick at closer quarters, so the hurt felt a little more painful than it might have otherwise. I dwelt in that pain for a while, then emerged, recharged, with a personal challenge to find those facts, figures and statistics which, even if they never changed Amnesty’s mind, would at least publicly prove them wrong.
I am not a feminist scholar. I had never even read a feminist/women’s studies book until about a year ago. My position on women’s rights has always been self-informed. I live my life. I know how oppressive it is, and always has been. I have been punished – physically, financially, emotionally – at times quite severely, for my many transgressions against male domination. I have observed that only women share these oppressions and punishments. I know this. But fighting an issue like prostitution, specifically in opposition to such a human rights giant as Amnesty International, was going to take more ammunition than I possessed. I started reading.
An internet friend had provided a copy of The Industrial Vagina, by Sheila Jeffreys. I requested Paid For: My Journey through Prostitution, by Rachel Moran, from my county library. They didn’t have the book in their collection. It took them over a month to find a copy they could borrow in their USA national network of sharing libraries. I feel this is a very telling point. Your, not just my, local library does not feel that the stories which are told by survivors of prostitution are a necessary contribution for them to make to their communities. I ask that each of you request these books from your library, even if you own your copy. Check it out, and return it two weeks later. Create a demand for this knowledge, and someone will be forced to provide it.
Much like prostitution itself.
Reading The Industrial Vagina was rage-inducing. Women are nothing to men. Nothing. Nothing but a hole to fuck. And do not even think about responding to this post with “not all men” in any written configuration whatsoever: if men wanted women to be free from oppression they would have eliminated prostitution and all our many, many other oppressions centuries ago. That they have only continued to add to our oppressions, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, tells you everything about their intent and expectations.
So, I came into the new year angry about the machine that devours women. Angry at my local community services, which along with their national brethren, provided social complicity to this woman-eating machine, in the name of “protecting us from ugliness”. And while waiting for the real story, for Rachel’s heart-breaking words, I stumbled across some research commissioned five years ago. I scanned the 50 page “summary”, saw a plethora of facts, figures and statistics, and went back to pickup the full study.
In 2009, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center commissioned a study of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of American Indian Women and Girls. “Shattered Hearts”. You can find the study here http://www.miwrc.org/about-us/reports-publications/
I had a mission. I had a rage, actually a double rage, to fuel me. I had facts, figures and statistics. I started tweeting, tagging as much as possible with #QuestionsforAmnesty #TORL and #HoneyballYes. But the process of reading and digesting information then summarizing it into 140 character tweets began to wear on me. That skill of internalizing knowledge which had benefitted me so much during years of education was now traumatizing me.
The facts, figures and statistics were overwhelming me. My growing understanding of the deliberate mechanization for normalizing paid rape, cultivating a demand for ever increasing exoticness, marketing the lies of entitlement and naturalization to men, calculatingly identifying targets to be prostituted, the coordinated efforts to secure targets and enslave them, and finally the ease of evading the pitiful sham of criminal law enforcement – all this hate. There is no other word for it, than hate. Hate of women. Hate for women. Hate towards women.
Hate. Hate. Hate, because we are women, born female.
Confronting this, seeing it for what it really is, took my breath away. It smothered me. I felt as though I had contracted a virulent flu. My body ached, to the bone, with this knowledge. My muscles grew tired and sluggish. My joints burned with every motion. My bones ached, with a cold, heavy deadness. Trying to understand why we are hated was fruitless. There is no reason, we just are. Trying to feel the pain of women on the frontline of this hate was like taking a blow to an already wasted body – it was just dead, empty thuds. Trying to reconcile my own history with where I am and why I wasn’t there was terrifying. You can’t absorb this. Their trauma, my trauma, our trauma. It’s just too much.
So I had to lie still, recover, regroup, renew. I feel clearer now. Not necessarily stronger, yet, but I have some sense of clarity. I’m hopeful it will help me, help us.