delve a little deeper....
You may remember this post where I mused about feminism and I summarised that:
My version of feminism, if I had to sit in a feminist camp is that is means that women are free to make the choices they want to make.
I've discussed before about my anger that there are certain groups (usually those who call themselves feminists) who detest prostitution because they believe its is abusive and harmful to women. I've banged on enough about how I really really don't like that I am told how I should be feeling about my sex work, (see this blog about why I don't feel exploited and abused if you want to know why) so I don't really need to reiterate it. What I want to tell you about today is a story about a friend of mine who was attacked on Mumsnet for taking part in a campaign for Nivea.
The campaign was called 'Dare To Dip' and the premise is that if you feel good in your own skin you have the confidence to do anything. Of course, it's a marketing campaign. Nivea don't really care about this, it's just a tool to promote their products. Which is fine, every commercial organisation tells us our life will be incomplete without their product so I'm not crisitsing them for that!
Part of the campaign was to have a giant fish tank (minus the fishes obviously) in Covent Garden in central London where women would don their swimming cossies and have a swim.
My friend took part in this. Here are her reasons in her own words:
"I am finally healed from my horrific pregnancy and birth, and want to reclaim my body from medicine. I am making a stand to get healthy so that I can keep up with my amazing 2 year old, and wanted this to be a very literal splash into my project. I don’t care about corporate definitions of beauty, but I want to keep my fabulous spirit for the next 40+ years, and I cannot do that in this body. So, I need to make a healthy change, and that begins today."
So, it was something she wanted to do for very personal reasons. She knew it was a marketing campaign, she got some free products, she chose to do it when Nivea asked her, she didn't feel exploited, she did feel empowered.
However, many women on Mumsnet did not. The person who stated a thread about the Covent Garden event claimed she was disgusted at it because all these women were being letched at by men, that the women were objectified, that she should have been paid and all with total incredulous that she could possibly find it liberating or empowering. The refusal to accept my friends more accurate summary of the event and that yes she enjoyed it and did not feel exploited.
You can almost hear the following Mumsnetter use the same pseudo innocent voice Caroline Ahern used as Mrs Merton when she asked Debbie McGee "So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?":
"I must be a bit dense, but I still don't get it. What power do you and the other women have now that you didn't a couple of days ago?"
The refusal of these women to actually read what my friend was saying and comprehend where she was coming from was remarkable. It very much reminded me of the way the anti prostitution brigade like to shout over us sex workers who are happy and not exploited. They have their hands over their ears and their eyes tightly shut as they SHOUT and SHOUT about how we are doing all women a disservice. My friend was told:
"So is the idea that when I was a teenager, and felt disempowered when men stared, groped, or made lewd comments, the empowering response to that would have been to take my clothes off?"
"But to say this stuff is "empowering" is really very silly indeed. And a measure of how the media brainwashes all of us."
My friend summarises by saying:
"I was really, really insecure post baby about my very large size and physical issues (really, really traumatic birth that did a number on me internally as well as externally), but screwed up my courage and did something I loved to do but haven't been able to for quite a long time, take a dip in a pool. And, I got to do it in a grand, supportive environment. So, for me, that was a great big 'Hell yeah' to what I've gone through the last 2 years.
For someone else, it was an entirely different reason. For some, it may have been (gasp) just a fun thing to do. It's almost as if each one of us came to it with a different reason, and took something distinct away from it. Crazy, I know! It's almost as if we're all different beings with different needs and choices."
When she finally gave up with reasonable explanations of the facts of the event and why she felt good about doing it she stated that she didn't really care what these people thought, so of course the pack started on the attack by saying how awful it was that she didn't care about other women:
"You genuinely literally don't care about anyone else, just about you and yours?"
Sound familiar my sex work sisters?
Just because we're happy we're kicking the teeth in of those women who don't have a free happy choice to become sex workers. Yes, when our logical reasoning, explanations and examples of the very positive sides of sex work becomes too much those on the other side of the fence start to tell us we are uncaring bitches who don't give a toss about anyone else.
The irony is that women's toughest battle is not with men but with other women.
1. Why when people are disgusted by sex work, they can't accept that for some people it's an enjoyable, freely chosen job.
2. Why people can't rationally listen to each other and learn.
3. Why trading insults is considered a debate or that it will achieve understanding.
4. That's it's considered acceptable to decree sex work as degrading and abusive when many who do it clearly don't feel that way.
5. If I can accept that monogamy or religion is a choice for some and wouldn't dream of telling them that it's stupid and unrealistic why can't others accept and respect my lifestyle choices.
6. How sex work can be bunged into one great big 'It's awful and wrong' lump when like many other fields and issues is multifaceted. It's like considering well paid haute couture designers in Paris and exploited sweat shop workers in India are the same.
7. That sometimes I have to stop and think 'Am I actually fucked up, degraded and abused and I don't realise it yet?' This only lasts a few seconds, but it happens!
8. Why feminism is even a word that is required in the 21st century.
The Scene: Daily Mail offices
A group of white heterosexual men in suits sit around a board table.
There is an air of unease. Circulation is down, The Mail Online aren't getting the hits they used to, advertisers are getting twitchy and rumblings from Dacre were getting louder...
'Any ideas anyone?' a white heterosexual man said hopefully.
Everyone looked thoughtful.
'Any gays died lately?' another white man asked 'We could get Moir in, she gave us no end of publicity when the poof from Boyzone copped it'
The room fell silent...
'You would have thought Littlejohn finishing that tranny off would have worked' someone else added.
The room filled with murmurs and headshaking. They were all most disappointed that that one hadn't made more of an impact despite the best efforts of those liberal lefties on Twitter.
'I suppose there's only one thing for it!' a white man who occasionally liked his bottom smacked by his Nigerian gardener announced. 'We'll have to get Brickie in!'
As she entered the room, the atmosphere changed. Air was sucked in through teeth, hard ons were hastily rearranged and the sound of wildly beating hearts could practically be heard as sweat glistened on many an upper lip.
'Fuck, she's so beautiful' one white man who had spent the night wanking over the Evening Standard's Thatcher pull out special said breathlessly.
She was a vision. She sat at the head of the table, her blonde hair spread across her shoulders like an angel. Her perfect legs crossed and the vacant look in her eyes was quickly changed with the smug self satisfaction that all these men would leave their wives for her.
'What can I do for you boys?' she said knowing the words on her lips were like a summer breeze across their fevered brows.
'We need something from you, we don't care who you upset but we need more readers, even readers who only read us because they hate us.'
'But, I already gave you my IVF trauma and heartbreak piece last week when you wanted me to do an obit of that IVF man who didn't give me a baby'. The pout on her lips was like the sweetest cherry.
'We know most pretty one, and we appreciate that but we need something more. Something to get the femin-lezzies going'
Samantha Brick looked thoughtful. The collective of white heterosexual men all waited, cocks still hard, pulses still racing.
'Well, you know how beautiful I am?'
'Yes!' a loud cry in unison was heard, each man hoping his affirmation was loud enough for her to notice him, even for just a second.
'Well, I thought I could share my secret of how one stays so beautiful. It's all about being thin.
The white hetreosexual men all removed the passing thoughts that they liked women with a healthy appetite, how they adored to see a pair of big bouncing boobs, slap a round peachy arse and any worry they had about their teenage daughter's eating disorder.
The beauty continued.
'Yes, that shall be my gift to you. I shall tell the world that being slim is the only way to be. Everyone should realise that only fit women will do well at work, I mean...'
She laughed daintily like a twinkling fairy flying by a crystal clear waterfall.
...'we all know dear Maggie never would have done so well if she'd been a lardy heffalump. I shall share the secret of my special polo mint diet and that it's OK to faint from hunger.
Samantha stood up, her dress rippling across her creamy (not that thin actually) thighs. She was getting into her stride now.
'I shall tell them to choose houses without kitchens, to holiday in predominantly vegetarian countries! I shall tell them to pick men who will DUMP them if they gain any weight!'
The white hetreosexual men all stood and cheered! Not caring that their trousers were still bulging and ruining the line, they whooped and yelled and cheered for their goddess!
'I don't care if even more women hate me, it's only because they are jealous of me, the fatties will all die of a cardiac arrest soon anyway!' she trilled like a bluebird on the first day of spring!
'Teenage girls need to know they won't be loved or get a job if they get fat. Starving yourself is the only way to be as perfect and beautiful as me!'
The cheering reached a crescendo. The white heterosexual men all knew that this one would be a winner. Tweets would be tweeted, blogs written, links posted on Facebook, commentary made in the lefty commie press (aka The Guardian) and general loathing and criticism across the land would fall at the feet of dear, beautiful Samantha and the advertisers and Editor would be happy again.
For those who are hard of thinking, the Daily Mail articles relevant to this post will not be linked here.
Yesterday was International Sex Workers Rights Day. I forgot to send any cards and nor did I get any but I was following the many tweets on Twitter about it including the
#whenantisattack hashtag. This was basically those tweeting about the general nastiness they have received, whether personally or collectively from those who are in the anti prostitution camp aka Feminists who really aren't. Do have a look at the link to see what kind of nonsense is spouted in the name of 'saving' women from prostitution and the kind of vitriol aimed towards those who have dared speak out.
Todays blog is inspired by Dr Brooke Magnanti (Belle de Jour) who has put up with a tonne and a half of crap and who posted this link on Twitter. It's a prostitution research website started by Farley and a 'hilarious' article by Melissa Farley and Nikki Craft. If you don't know any better, Farley is one of those 'feminists' who is radically opposed to prostitution and perpetuates the notion that all men who pay for sex are vile rapists and thinks that prostitution is a form of sex inequality related to gender-based violence yadda yadda...
Her refusal to accept there are many happy, well adjusted prostitutes in the world and those that claim to be are letting down all women is a concept that annoys many *insert rolled eyes emoticon*
Anyway, back to the link, have you looked at it yet? Well go on or else this won't make much sense. If you hadn't noticed the list of reasons why women become prostitutes is meant to be satire (I think).
It pissed me off, so I have in a counter attack listed my reasons based on her 18 point list.
I became a prostitute because . . .
1. I have never seen Pretty Baby and even I had I wouldn't confuse a 70's film set in New Orleans in 1917 with my own life. Also, my very conventional upbringing and amazing (non prostitute/pimp) parents has made me strong, grounded, independent and savvy therefore ideal for escorting.
2. I saw Pretty Woman again a few weeks ago, having forgotten it (oh, I'm so not easily led) and laughed a lot, and rolled my eyes and decreed it all bollocks.
3. I saw a Demi Moore movie and I thought, Wow, a shit film and nothing to do with prostitution, but something salacious to make a film about.
4. I like getting fucked by lots of men in a safe consensual environment because I get off on it and actually the men are really quite nice, and just happen to enjoy group sex. Note: Have never done this as an escort, only for fun because I choose not to.
5. I figured that laying on my back and getting fucked by hundreds of men, and getting on my knees and sucking thousands of dicks, was the most profound empowerment a woman could have. Yes, really, it's been incredibly liberating. Oh sorry were you being ironic Ms Farley? I'm not.
6. I've had a career elsewhere, circumstances changed and prostitution seemed the most rewarding job option available. Why would I want to go back to working for someone else 60 hours a week, a horrid commute and crap money?
7. I worship noone and still found myself in a life of sexual liberation.
8. I avoid men who see me as a piece of meat. I'm lucky enough to be able to make that choice and lets face it the Hugh Hefner's, Larry Flynt's, and Bob Guccione's of the world wouldn't want me!
9. My boyfriend wanted me to do it. He loves me and supports me and knew I'd make a good job of it.
10. My father doesn't discuss it with me but I know if I'm happy he is happy.
11. I have met loads of nice men. Yes really!
12. I believe feminism is very much about women making their own choices and therefore becoming a prostitute was the right thing for me to do.
13. It would pay my bills. Well, don't we all need to do that somehow?
14. I didn't want to work at some shitty job in a place I hated.
15. I get to be treated like a lady. And a slut depending on my mood.
16. I get to swank off to nice hotels and in my very limited capacity to feel glamorous this is when prostitution feels glamorous In fact I often say to friends from the back of a cab whilst off to a booking 'I'm having a Belle de Jour moment'!
17. Working in the sex industry would increase my self-esteem. I get told I am sexy, beautiful and lovely all the time. I am comfortable with my own sexuality and my body (mostly!) these days.
18. And then, ya know, even though it all sounded really good, and selling fucks and blow jobs sounded really empowering, I realised that talking about it, blogging about it and thinking about writing books defending it would be even more empowering.
There are more reasons, but am keeping in line with the list of doom.
How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?
The above is to be taken tongue in cheek, but I think it says something about how feminism is viewed.
I think as a woman I am supposed to be a feminist. It's one of those things that most women want to be, but sometimes don't want to say they are because to them it (not me) conjours up images of shaven haired, man hating lesbians who shout at men who politely hold doors open for them. We all know that's bollocks (although I am sure such stereotypes exist!), but I do believe that feminism gets a bad press.
When I was at school, I had an art teacher who insisted on referring to a walkman (OK, that's just dated me somewhat) a walkperson. She proudly called herself a feminist, but I didn't and still don't think this was helpful in any way. Mind you I never even get upset about the generic assumption/use of policeman or chairman so maybe I am a bit rubbish. I suppose I just think that there are better things to get wound up about.
In simple terms, and according to he Oxford English Dictionary Feminism is defined as
"an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women"
This seems fairly straightforward and of course the nitty gritty will depend on the time and place of the feminist or feminist movement.
Often cited as 'the first feminist' Christine de Pizan was born in Venice in 1363, but was relocated to France where her father was appointed as court astrologer to King Charles V. As a noble women she was given an education, but it seems she was also educated in
Latin, philosophy, literature and the sciences, subjects usually reserved for boys.
She married at 15 and had three children in what appears to be a happy marriage. When she was widowed at 25 and had lost her father four years previously she turned to writing to support herself. She did well at this, writing ballads, poems and prose for the French court and thus supported herself, her children and her mother which in itself was unusual for noble women of the time.
Much of her work challenged stereotypes and misogyny in the works of male writers and most famously critisised Jean de Meun’s allegorical poem "Querelle du Roman de la Rose" (The Romance of the Rose) which depicted women as nothing more than seducers. She argued that the poem denigrated the proper and natural function of sexuality, and that such language was inappropriate for female characters. Her critique primarily stems from her belief that Jean de Meun was purposely slandering women through the debated text. She continued to write in defense of the way women were portrayed and about women's rights. Simone de Beauvoir wrote of her, "...the first time we see a woman take up her pen in defense of her sex"
So, whilst Pizan wasn't writing about equality in the same way that the suffragette movement was fighting for the vote, she was probably an early Dorothy Parker or Virginia Woolf, giving women a voice and using her wit on paper.
Other feminist icons include Amelia Earhart, who proved that women could do anything men could do as well as encouraging other women to do the same. She said “Now and then women should do for themselves what men have already done — occasionally what men have not done — thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action.”
The first organised movement for British women's suffrage was the Langham Place Circle of the 1850s, led by Barbara Bodichon (née Leigh-Smith) and Bessie Rayner Parkes They also campaigned for improved female rights in the law, employment, education, and marriage. They had something specific to fight about, but now that women are equal in terms of the law, although it could be argued that we are still not truly treated equally despite of legislation what is feminism today about?
On a personal level I get cross at the fact women are judged in the media by what they wear. Stupid article to make point. Famous women get asked about their relationships, desires to have a family and what they are wearing over questions about their career. Newspapers and magazines still over analyse women's bodies, pointing out whether she is too fat or too thin and how much cellulite she has.
A woman's looks are used against her. When Hilary Mantel made her superb speech about the monarchy all hell broke loose as the media turned it into a bitch fight, with Mantel insulting The Duchess of Cambridge. I won't go into the fact that the stupid people missed the point of what Mantel was saying (but this says it pretty well) but many of the outraged were too blinkered to actually read and understand the speech and instead critisised Mantel's physical appearance and dismissing her educated, intelligent words as sour grapes because she wasn't as young and thin and Kate. *sigh*
The brilliant classicist Mary Beard has also been repeatedly attacked for her looks, most famously by AA Gill, who said in 2012 she 'should be kept away from cameras altogether', this was after in 2010 writing about her "corpses' teeth", describing her hair as a "disaster", and her outfit as an "embarrassment". Oh and this is the same man who dismissed Clare Balding as 'A dyke on a bike'.
So, whist women can now be educated to a high level, chose to live alone, have careers and so on they are still attacked for not wanting to be dumb, pretty and breed. Ask any childless woman in her 30's how many times she has been asked when she have babies and any single man in his 30's the same question the chances are the woman will have been asked a thousand times more!
I could rattle on for much longer about the more subtle (and not so subtle) inequalities that do still exist in society, but I would be here all day and I want to get back onto what feminism means to me personally.
I was fortunate enough to work for a company for ten years that treated women well, the ratio of men to women in the senior head of department positions was very equal and included women at the head of 'traditionally' masculine departments (IT, accounts, and maintenance). My family have never pressured me to get married and have babies and I have a good mix of friends who are career women and stay at home mums, I know stay at home dads and couples where the women earn more than the men. My relationships have been equal in terms of who does the cooking and cleaning (ie if they don't do it, nothing would get done!). So you could say I have skipped through life not needing to be outraged by the way me or my peers have been treated.
I get cross at the whole notion women are judged on by their looks, but I myself feel better wearing make up, love clothes shopping and am forever in search of a foundation that will make me look ten years younger. I wear heels because they makes my legs look better and I shave my pussy because not only do clients tend to prefer it, but so does my man.
I don't have traditionally male interests such as rugby, cars and maths, although I know plenty of women who do. I never wanted to do 'boy' subjects at schools and chose Home EC over metalwork.I quite like the traditional that men propose to women, I'm afraid I have used my feminine wiles to get my own way and I'm so rubbish at DIY and techie type things I do often ask a man to help out (although to be fair I have also asked female friends). Does this make me a lousy feminist?
Maybe I'm not a feminist, maybe I don't want to be a feminist. The notion that the word feminist is still in use kind of annoys me. Is there a male alternative? Some would argue that we don't need an alternative because the whole world is male orientated anyway. I do think however, that men do have a different set of expectations and pressures though.
Why can't we all just be striving to be able to do what we want (within the realms of legality and morality, I obviously don't mean if you want to punch someone in the head or rob a bank you should be free to do so)?
This brings me to the issue of feminism that most effects me. A wave of feminism who are anti prostitution. Many of those who shout the loudest about the need to end prostitution are 'feminists'. Those who see prostitution as a form of violence against and exploitation of women, and a sign of male dominance over women.
The current battle (and yes, it has turned into some kind of war) regarding the legislation around the criminalisation of paying for sex in Scotland and Ireland is packed full of examples of how some women (and men) feel that all forms of prostitution are wrong, and that all women involved are exploited and the only way to 'save' us is to criminalise our clients. Now, you know my views on this well enough. If not read my previous entries here, here and here.
Many of the anti brigade are known as feminists or are 'Women's Groups'. The kind of feminism that tells me I am exploited pisses me off, what pisses me off more is the use of skewed statistics, anecdotes from badly treated, forced women to portray an entire industry and the implication that those who are 'happy hookers' are damaging the fight to save the abused.
I don't want to sit alongside these feminists thank you very much.
My ideal is that people (whether male or female) should be allowed to do and be what they want. That noone is exploited or at a disadvantage based on their gender (or race or sexual persuasion or, well, anything).
My version of feminism, if I had to sit in a feminist camp is that is means that women are free to make the choices they want to make.
As a quick aside, this blog from Coin operated girl is great!