At this point in time, especially if you are involved in any type of activism, you have heard and internalized the phrase “the person is political.” I think it is important to know and internalize but I also think, much like the “master’s tools” speech, it is used and abused by those who have decided their interpretation is right and be damned what it actually meant.
I have avoided much of the Radical Feminist blogosphere after seeing all the flak Natalia and Ren deal with just for trying to engage but after witnessing two posts, one by Cara about Natalie Dylan and one by Renee about legalizing prositution I’ve finally been able to put my finger on what bothers me about the anti-porn and radical feminists.
To me, the statement about the person being political means that who you are and your actions say something about the world you live in and how you navigate it. When Jessica at Feministing posted about her engagement she was honest in that she is unsure how she can wade through the tense waters of engaging in an institution that others cannot experience and that has some patriarchal roots. She is a feminist and she’s also partaking in something that gives her the opportunity to express who she is and her beliefs. There are reasons that people get married and have a wedding that have nothing to do with patriarchal or religious reasons but there are some that say you can never divorce this involvement from it’s negative and discriminatory ties, no matter how hard you try.
Nowhere else does this mindset show up as with sex work. Are there ugly sides to Sex work? Of course. Does the concept of males thinking they can purchase women’s bodies play a role? Definitely. Can this possibly enforce in some people’s minds the belief that women are only good for sex? I’m sure it can. Do I think any of this gives someone the right to tell sex workers and their supporters that they are a disgrace and causing the rape and murder of “innocents” (aka not sex workers) by their actions. Absolutely not.
The person is political and there are plenty of women in the sex work industry that are using their actions and beliefs in kink and porn and sex work as a very empowering and political tool. It is their body and their right to do so and the area of sex work is better off because of them,for they are the ones marching for acknowledgement of the violence that occurs in their line of work and getting the word out about possible legislation that can hurt them and the other women involved in sex work who may want to get out. They are doing much better work than those who are just more concerned about how they assume sex work negatively affects them. The main issue is of course the fact that they are selling a service (not their body, it is still theirs and to suggest otherwise is bullshit) which many believe shouldn’t be for sale because it supports beliefs of sex being something men can buy from women. These objectors argue that you cannot engage in sex work in a positive, feminist way, if you are operating in a system that is based on the male gaze and objectification of women. Some even go as far as saying what type of sex you like or porn you watch is selling out to “the man”. In other words, recognize the person is political and follow our strict rules about how you should interact with the patriarchy.
My biggest problem with this is the way it discounts sexual agency. The detractors don’t want to hear that someone likes engaging in sex work. That messes with the belief that it’s evil. So they discredit and call names and ignore good deeds by those who go against their beliefs. Instead of acknowledging that some women enjoy these actions and using their voices as a way to work from within the movement and make is safer and more equal they silence them and continue the hand wringing about sex trafficking without acknowledging that if legalized (properly) a lot of the problems associated would diminish. By refusing to allow women the right to say that sex work can be a fun and safe place for women they help keep it in the hands of so many men and help continue the view that women who engage in it are damaged and property.
To quote Renee “my truth may not be your truth.” To assume otherwise prevents proper dialogue and working together.