Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The re-criminalising poor sex workers bill

It has another, more euphamistic name (Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill), but what it is actually doing is re-criminalising poor sex workers.

This bill will make it an arrestable crime, punishable with a $2,000 fine, to buy or sell sex outside of a brothel in areas decided by the Manakau City Council (if it goes through it'll be the Auckland super city council).

It is specifically targeting street sex workers. Street sex workers do not generally have $2,000 to pay a fine. The fines, when they're awarded, won't have the magic power to stop someone being poor and working as a sex worker, it'll just make them poorer. It won't make street sex work disappear, it'll just make it harder, more dangerous, and more marginalised.

It'll give police officers, like Peter Govers and Nathan Connolly more power over some women. And whatever else your politics, that is reason enough to oppose this bill.

I would like to take a brief moment to draw your attention to a new reactionary tendancy on this issue within the Greens (who block voted for prostitution law reform). Two of the Green MPs voted for the bill and Russell Norman abstained (because he thought I needed another reason to hate him).

Three parties block voted (Act and National supported the attacks, the Maori party opposed them), Labour and the Greens split their votes. Nanaia Mahuta was the only woman from either of these parties to vote for criminalising poor women who work as sex workers. Now it physically pains me to say nice things about Labour and Green MPs, but I want to give credit to the feminist analysis and solidarity that those who opposed these bill showed. It shouldn't be noteworthy that women MPs voted the way they did. But the extent to which their male colleagues accepted criminalising women who were already marginalised as an acceptable side effect of protecting small businesses (as the rhetoric in defence of hte bill is all the poor shop owners whose lives are made harder by the fact that sex work happens near them), means that it is noteworthy in the context in which they're operating.

The contempt that those who voted for this bill have for sex workers comes through in the parliamentary debate. George Hawkins uses the language of 'plague' to describe street sex work - which is about as dehumanising as you can get. Others demonstrate their contempt through sneering and patronising - and claim that this bill is necessary to stop underage sex work.*

A few months ago I read this article about American criminal approaches to sex work, and I was horrified. How can anyone who stands in solidarity with women say that being criminalised in this way helps anyone?

I understand that there are nuanced feminist positions on sex work. But I don't think good feminist analysis of any kind, can possibly endorse life being made harder for poor sex workers.

* No I don't get it either. How driving street sex work underground magically stops kids from being sex workers wasn't explained.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Abortion Rights Events in Wellington

There are a couple of exciting abortion rights events in Wellington this week, which it'd be great to see lots of people at.

The first is a meeting, organised by WONAAC, to talk about abortion action:

Monday 12 September 7pm
Mezzanine floor of the public library

WONAAC (Women’s National Abortion Action Campaign) is holding a Public Meeting to discuss and take action regarding Steve Chadwick's proposed decriminalisation bill and the Right To Life vs. ASC court case on October 5-6.

Meeting is open to everyone; bring all your friends that would interested in joining the discussions and taking ACTION.

On Thursday is BE FREE an awareness/fundraising gig for abortion rights:

Watusi (6 Edward St) 7pm

Come along to Watusi to support freedom of choice for all women. Drink some tasty beverages and listen to the sweet sounds of Diana Rozz (swoon) and special guests (excite!). Free drink for the first 40 people!

Ticket price: TBC, but will be kept low, so note it on your calendars, on the mirror in lipstick, on the back of your hand, in the dust on your windowsill, and invite your friends!

Friday, September 03, 2010

What progress looks like

A minor shit-storm has blown up over on Feministe where a guest blogger called Monica posted an fat-hating rant.* I'm not going to quote any of it - it was an inane, illogical post - and the point of this post is not to refute her nonsense (she actually talks about how people need to put down the donuts - that's how unoriginal she is).

Instead I want to talk about another post on feministe that was written almost four an a half years ago. It was a better written, and more coherent. But it was also arguing that fat acceptance activists went too far, and that we needed to talk about the unhealthyness of fat.

There were 122 comments on Monica's recent post - a good 95% of which are people telling Monica exactly how ridiculous and offensive her post is.

Four and a half years ago, there were just a few of us who spoke up for even moderate fat acceptance (and if you read the comments - which I don't actually recommend - I was being embarrassingly moderate and conciliatory).

In four and a half years the number of people talking fat and politics at feministe and feministe adjacent spaces has increased exponentially. Every person who says "I'm fat and there's no shame in that", makes it a little easier for the next person.

That a few moderates has become 100 angry radicals gives me such hope, and it really shows the value of continuing to talk and fight for what I'd still prefer to call fat liberation.

*Prompted by of all things a Jezebel post - if Jezebel is too fat accepting for you I recommend you don't read my archives.