Social Justice Thoughts

We Can Do Better – Part 1

In these trying times of fascist dictatorship, we have to be vigilant about protecting women’s rights for all women. Historically, this thing called feminism has not always been on it’s A game mostly because of white people, who can’t help but ruin everything (they totally could help it, but you know what I mean). When we are celebrating women’s history month we need to more Pacific about which women. Are trans women included? Women, who stay at home to raise children? Women with disabilities? Black women? How can we build a movement for all women? Should we create a movement for all women or should everybody just slide into their own thing? I am surely not going to answer that in a single post on my silly blog, but I can think of a few ways we can be better.

Stop equating the presence of a uterus with womanhood.

The image below was very helpful to me when I was a baby organizer trying to wrap my head around gender, sexuality, attraction, presentation, etc., etc.

If I know one thing, I know that the revolution will be lead by trans women of color and gender non-conforming people of color or it will fail miserably. I used to do a lot of work on reproductive health, rights, and justice and over and over and over again I saw people advocating for abortion access who refused to expand their messaging to include all individuals with a need for reproductive health care. Not all women have a uterus, not all people with a uterus are women. If we do not make our messaging inclusive, we are handing the anti-abortion groups this fight, and we are perpetuating some fucked up, fake gender binary shit that we should have left behind years ago. What reproductive organs you have has 0% to do with gender. One more time for the people in the back: sex assigned at birth, menstruation, how you dress, who you are sexually attracted to – none of that shit has anything to do with gender. This month and every month following, let’s uplift that in our work.

Sex work is work.

Not to get too Marxist (jk, I love getting too Marxist), but because we are socialized in a capitalist society, the human body and its ability to produce goods and services are linked to the acquisition of money. Every single person who has even done even one day of labor in exchange for monetary compensation, regardless of if that was at a desk or on a construction site, has traded their body and its ability to produce either a good or service for money. Every. Single. Person. Who. Has. Ever. Worked. Now, please, tell me why sex work is somehow different from other types of work? I’ll wait. Women’s movements are always trying to dismiss sex workers like most of them don’t do the same shit under slightly different circumstances. Until the revolution, we all have to engage with capitalism, and so our body is always linked to acquiring things we need or want.

There is no “ethical” labor under capitalism because there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. You might think that sex work is unethical but neither is your job at Payless, so please take a seat. Similar to deciding to have an abortion, some people believe that because sex work is not a type of work that they would choose to do, it is an immoral choice and/or non-choice for all individuals. *eye roll*

Whether we do our jobs fully clothed or not, all work is shitty because capitalism, the one thing that can help to liberate us from this evil is to have autonomy over how our bodies are used in capitalist society and make choices in the type of work we do. These anti-sex work people are out here doing the most trying to make sure that their job is more respected than other people’s jobs.

Forced prostitution and sex trafficking are serious issues that impact too many women in this country and around the world, and we should all be fighting against it in all the ways that we can. And we need to recognize that becoming a sex worker by choice is just that, a choice, and so those workers are deserving of the same rights as other workers in our society. I used to be heavily involved with Amnesty International who released a statement on its support of decriminalizing sex work as a means of protecting the human rights of sex workers. People had their pitchforks out quickly, but I noticed that in all the debate about ‘are they criminals or are they, victims?’ the voice of actual sex workers was being silenced by a bunch of old white ladies who firmly believed that it is impossible to have sex in exchange for money by choice because it is a choice they wouldn’t make.

Sex workers should be front and central to deciding what work protections they need. Would you let my liberal arts degree having, social justice organizing ass sit on a board that decided what protections heart surgeons need on the job? No. We keep leaving sex workers rights off of our agenda when we talk about women’s and workers rights. Stigmatizing sex work just puts sex workers in greater danger on the job. So does criminalizing sex workers, who already have to face unbelievable amounts of shit in reporting assault. When we are talking about the rights of women at work, we have to start including sex work in that conversation.

Be critical of ads that are trying to sell you things by playing with your values.

Recently there was an excellent article in The Guardian about how social activism is a new marketing tool being used by companies to sell us things. This is true, but it is also not new. I used to work for Media Literacy Project, and we had been tracking the rise of feminism and women’s rights as a marketing tool for some time.

Dove was one of the first to use the ideals of feminism to sell products. In 2004 Dove put “normal” looking women in an ad as part of their ‘real beauty’ campaign and women all over the country were overjoyed because they were finally seeing people who looked like them on television. That is how hard up we were. We let a commercial with mostly straight sized and able-bodied women convince us to buy some mediocre soap (their shampoo and conditioner are actually pretty great tho). This trend has continued. Barbie, Secret Deodorant, Pantene, CoverGirl, Verizon, Always, Kellogg, Audi, and much more have all jumped on the bandwagon. Hell, even Virginia Slim was in on the action back in 1968.

I would far rather see women who look like me and not be sold sexist tropes every time I turn on the television, but we still need to be critical of these ads. At the end of the day, these are still companies trying to make a profit, and they are turning your values into a marketing tactic to get your hard earned cash. Don’t forget that companies like CoverGirl and Dove and Pantene and Barbie were the one who sold us unhealthy body image in the first place. And now they expect us to forget about that because they put someone who isn’t white and bigger than a size 5 in an ad? Don’t give them your money so quickly. Make them work for it. Look into a company’s hiring records, where they donate money, how they impact the environment. Don’t give them points for doing the least. We can turn their efforts into something really meaningful if we continue to push them to embrace feminist values in all of their product development and business practices.

Alright fam, that is all I have for today. Stay tuned for a Part 2 later this week. Do you have ideas for how we can build a better women’s rights movement? Let me know what they are.