Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After Red Umbrella

Red Umbrella Day is over and done. I love that so many people showed up in the freezing freeze. I'd like to thank the UVic Women's Centre and the Anti Violence Project for their help in this and particularly I'd like to thank Sinead, Tracy and Gina for all their hard work getting it together.

It was a small gathering, Red Umbrella Day is still relatively new in Victoria. But everyone there walked and yelled in the march. Everyone stayed for the speeches afterwards and I think everyone had a sandwich and tea. We sold a couple happy sex boxes and had some great conversations in the Outreach RV.

What I was particularly impressed with was the men.

I've been immersed in sex work issues on 'this side of the counter' since 1995. This was the first time I'd seen men stand up for us in numbers. I think, for a long time, violence against sex workers & violence against women has been seen as a 'woman's issue' with only single, lone men involving themselves. Lately, over the past few years, the "Walk a Mile In Her Shoes" campaign has been taking off - a march of men in high heels, walking against violence against women. Now, of the speakers that stood up to the open mike, the majority were men.

This is a difference of some import.

I asked the crowd, when I was talking, to come up and tell us why they came to the Red Umbrella Day event. One of the men who stood up said "Violence is wrong for anybody". True story. I'm in agreement with him, but for so long I've heard "what do you expect when you work in that profession" or "you make your bed" or "people who put themselves out there are kind of asking for it". My favourite is the acknowledgement "Of course it's wrong that people do that to sex workers... but don't poke the tiger. It isn't right, but you already know what's going to happen". I've heard that from men and women alike.

I am heartened to see men stand up. In fact, all but one of those at the open mike were men. This makes me feel like things are changing. It makes me feel like we, as a community, are standing up to the violence and not sloughing the responsibility for solutions on the people who are most affected by the crimes.

I'm not interested in placing responsibility where there is no culpability. But I'm pretty sure that none of the guys that got up to talk had beaten up a hooker lately. I feel safe in that assumption. The fact that non-sex workers got involved was the first piece of the community puzzle. And I thank all of you for doing your part. The men are the next piece of this. Individually, personally deciding that this is an issue that negatively affects all of us.

Thank you. All you dudes. Thanks for the insight, sense of responsibility, and compassion that allows you to be part of the solution to this problem. Thank you for not taking it so personally that you don't want to touch it. Thank you for assuming your place in this fight without getting defensive, or simply paralysed because you don't know what to do. Thank you for acknowledging that we are all human beings. 

Now, go talk to your friends.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Re/Max Victorial Idol 2011 Finale!

This is going to be a night you don't want to miss with red carpet, paparazzi, contestants, judges and entertainment arriving via LA Limo. Be there early to take pictures. 
Raffle, Silent Auction
Come on out for an evening of entertainment. Special guest performers, celebrity judges, and more. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fuelled By. Not Caused By.

Red Umbrella Day is this Friday. It's a big deal. Red Umbrella Day is the march to end Violence against Sex Workers.

I've been fielding interviews for a couple of days now. I've heard it a lot: "violence is an occupational hazard in sex work" or "well you know what you're getting into when you start doing that kind of thing".

It galls me. It rankles. It makes my teeth itch.

Violence against sex workers has increased by 56% over the past three years in Victoria according to the Victoria Police Department. When I say violence I don't mean some abstract "bad things" are happening. I mean sitting with someone who is crying, scared, with angry red welts on their face. I mean someone walking with a limp because they were kicked so hard in the leg that the muscle is bruised and swollen and cramping. This is real. It is appalling.

I would like to argue that sex work is not dangerous. The work itself I mean. Instead, I'd argue that there are a tiny percentage of people (almost exclusively men) who are violent to sex workers. These particular individuals are dangerous. They are dangerous. They are dangerous to everyone. And the more vulnerable you are, the more dangerous they are to you. It seems like we're laying responsibility in the wrong direction again.

The violence many sex workers face is fuelled by, not caused by, the vulnerability of their position. Our job, as a community, as a society is to collectively come to the conclusion that we value each member of our society. Our job is to ensure that our children are well taken care of instead of blaming the families that fall while leaving them to sink or swim. Our job is to ensure that life's upsets don't end up trapping people where their dignity gets stripped away layer by layer. Our job is to explore the stereotypes we belief and the stigma we hold and our part in perpetuating both.

It is our job. Our job as human beings who care what happens to other human beings to fight against the forces that create environments where sex workers are more vulnerable, instead of less. Ridiculous laws, outdated ideas about women and sex, misunderstandings, and laying responsibility for violence at the feet of those being beaten has to stop.

There are many sex workers who won't show up to the march on Friday. The fear of being publically recognized as a sex worker is a valid one. This recognition could result in their children being taken away - even if they are fine parents, or losing a 'straight' job, losing family & friends. It saddens me that they can't show up to the march that is about making things safer for them because of fear.

Did you hear that?

"I can't go to a public march because I'm afraid of the consequences".

In Canada.

Victoria, can you hear that?