Saturday 27 April 2013

Fan Mail!

TW for violent language

Many sex workers, at some point in their careers, have dealt with the abusive masturbator. That's someone who apprehends you, is not a paying client, and spews obscenities at you whilst masturbating furiously (clearly audible when they phone).

Obviously, on Twitter it's impossible to keep track of where everyone's hands are. But I couldn't help but be reminded of the abusive masturbators when yesterday I had this:

Of course, as it was an account created specifically to abuse me (it has since disappeared, more's the pity), it's difficult to say what exactly the motivation was. Weirdo who gets off on abusing people? Angry critic thwarted by the blog's lack of comment box? Misguided attempt to defend MamaMia? Does it matter?

By the way, where are the nice lady bloggers who claim to "care" so much when this happens? Nowhere to be seen. They seem to think their systematic shaming and casual dehumanisation doesn't matter or is, somehow, beneficial. That it doesn't implicitly endorse a system putting people in danger. Tell that to the Green River Killer, who used the widespread revulsion and rejection of sex workers to get away with so many murders for so long.

So on the one side, you have the Nice Ladies saying, 'it's okay to disrespect sex workers, because they get abused' and on the other you have  the Creepy Fuckwits saying 'it's okay to abuse sex workers, because they are disrespected'. See how that works?

But I don't believe in censoring either of them, or making it a crime to say whatever hateful, ignorant, damn-fool thing comes into your empty head. I believe sunshine is the best disinfectant. I believe if those who have these thoughts don't feel free to speak them, we can never effectively challenge them. I know this is not a popular stand but it's one I've come through after a lot of thought and a lot of dickheads like ol' Hadtosay1 up there.

In any case, I'll be giving a talk on trolls - the history of anonymous criticism, and why freedom of speech is important (even for airheads and dickheads) - at the How the Light Gets In Festival in Hay-on-Wye in June. @Hadtosay1, there'll be a ticket on the door especially for you. Don't miss this valuable opportunity to say anything you fancy to my very noticeably scarred face. I look forward to seeing you there!

Friday 26 April 2013

Should Mia Freedman Apologise?

I went to Australia last month as a guest of the Opera House for the All About Women symposium.  As part of the event, I agreed to do some media appearances on ABC, including the Drum and Q&A.

All About Women was a fantastic day and I feel privileged to have met so many interesting and talented people there, including people I would put in the category of genuine modern heroes

As for Q&A… this is the Australian equivalent of Question Time, so I went anticipating a varied panel with a wide variety of opinions jostling to be heard. I was told Tony Jones was a strong moderator, so I went expecting him to rein in the conversation if things went off-piste. This was to be Q & A's first all-woman panel and expectations were high. The topics they circulated beforehand indicated I was in for a grilling while everyone else got softball. I went, not to put too fine a point on it, loaded for bear.

I thought it went pretty well. Opinions differed. Points of view were exchanged. Margaret Thatcher died. All in all, a good night. The producers seemed very pleased with the outcome.

So imagine my surprise, weeks later, that fellow guest Mia Freedman is still flogging her commentary about the appearance as content on her site MamaMia. The topic: should she apologise for continually insulting sex workers?

During the show Mia kept falling back on sloppy, ill-thought, and pat little lines that were easily countered. I found to my surprise a lot of common ground with Germaine Greer, hardly known as a fan of sexual entertainment, on the fact that conditions of labour and not sex per se are the most pressing issue for sex workers worldwide right now. Then in comes Mia with her assumptions about the people who do sex work (men AND women) and the people who hire them (men AND women). With Tony backing her up. So much for the disinterested moderator, eh? Maybe he felt bad for her. I don't know.

Here's the thing. I agree with Mia on this: I don't think she should apologise.

Why not? Because if she did it would be insincere. My first impression when we met backstage was that she was insincere, and damn it, a successful lady editor like her should have the guts to be true to herself and stand by her opinions no matter what they are.

Because the general public needs to see what kinds of uninformed nonsense that sex workers who stick their heads above the parapet get every single day.

Because for every 100 people who visit her site, there is one who is both a parent AND a sex worker, who knows what she is saying is nonsense. Yes, that's right Mia: sex workers raise families too. It's almost as if we're people.

Because she is a magazine editor who cares deeply about hits and attention, and clearly this is delivering on every level.

Because the sort of people who think sex workers should be topics of discussion rather than active participants are fighting a losing battle.

Keep digging, Mia. I ain't gonna stop you. Keep writing off other people simply because they didn't have the privileges you did or didn't make the same choices you did, and you can't accept that. Get it off your chest, lock up your children, whatever you think you need to do. Perhaps you have some issues about sex you want to work out in public, or this wouldn't be the biggest issue on your agenda weeks after the show went to air?

Mia, you have my express permission not to apologise. No, don't thank me… I insist.