Posts Tagged ‘male privilege’

Language Matters

October 31, 2015

Any valid points “allies” to trafficking/prostitution survivors otherwise make in articles like this one in Huffington Post, are fully negated by calling crime victims (trafficking survivors) “prostitutes.”

How we are labeled and named determines how we are treated by everybody else—for the rest of our lives. Because what was done TO us was used to define us and STILL is many years later, even into our 40’s and 50’s (if we live that long and have not died from unrelieved abject poverty and total social neglect in a country where the middle class/rich refuse to provide any real, decent non-discriminatory and uniform social safety net for the unemployable/jobless poor whom no one will hire)

Over 75% of the adults in prostitution were initially trafficked into it as minor children between the ages of 11-14, which means they are trafficking victims—victims of a crime. No magical Choice Fairy pays you a visit on your 18th birthday after you’ve been trafficked into prostitution since age 12 or 13, and gifts you with all the options and access to opportunity that middle class privileged NON-trafficked people get.

in 44 states here in the US, 12, 13, and 14 yr old trafficked girls are still arrested for prostitution, and that automatically slaps a 99-year “sex offender” status on them, rendering them unemployable for life. In other words, a 14 yr old trafficked child arrested for prostitution won’t be able to pass the background checks and be able to get a job, rent an apartment or even get food stamps (in many states) if she manages to exit and get any education or build any “in-demand” marketable skills in order to make herself “worthy” of a chance for a job. (Gee, ask me how I know this.)

In other words, in most states in the US, that 14 yr old trafficking victim won’t be able to get even a minimum wage job at McDonalds until she reaches the age of 113 years old—if she lives that long.

Which is a joke, considering that plenty of unemployed, NON-trafficked/prostituted women over age 40 with years of work experience and employment references to put on their resumes can’t get jobs because no one will hire them due to age discrimination.

So what chance does a poor marginalized 48 yr old woman who’s a trafficking survivor have after she was unable to get ANY job at all when she was younger due to her un-expunged/vacated prostitution record? The US only pays lip service to helping poor trafficking survivors.

When you refer to an adult trapped in prostitution, operating under the control of brutal pimps/trafficking rings, who initially got trafficked into prostitution as a homeless 12 or 13 year-old child, as a “prostitute”, that very damning and deeply stigmatizing label harms ALL the victims/survivors, everywhere.

It perpetuates oppression through the imposing of “middle class values” and top-down paternalism. And it puts the onus of responsibility for abject poverty on the individual poor marginalized woman instead of addressing the systemic and structural causes. (And let’s be honest here: Middle class/rich women can be victims of incest and have drug addiction issues, but they’re not usually trafficked into prostitution as a result.)

Especially in countries like the US where 12 yr old trafficking victims get arrested for prostitution and that prostitution arrest record results in them getting slapped with a 99-year “sex offender” status which renders them unemployable for life—IF they can ever manage to escape their trafficking situation alive (as opposed to leaving “the life” in a body bag only to lay unclaimed in some morgue).

The language used to describe us, whether in front of us or even when you think we’re “not in the room”, dictates what kind of helping hand up we get to rebuild our lives (if we get ANY help at all, since the majority of American trafficking victims in the US don’t get anything while all these anti-trafficking charities are making bank off of this trendy ’cause’).

For far too long, the voices of poor women and girls who always were traffickers’ and johns’ primary targets, have been ignored and once again, our voices are being shoved aside in this ‘movement’ for some long overdue justice for us.

Too often, poor women and kids who are trafficked are pathologized. As in, “there was/is something wrong with us.” And it was the very damning label of “prostitute” that caused that.

I was a human sex trafficking survivor DECADES before the term “human trafficking” became part of the public lexicon. The human sex trafficking of poor, disposable women and children was always a problem in the US and across much of the world, even during the “better” economic times.

But abusive social and economic policies (like Welfare Reform here in the US) caused it to reach a crisis level because NOBODY ever gave poor, marginalized women a fair shot in life. Instead, they blamed the poor for being poor and refused to take any responsibility for unequal opportunities and lack of enough jobs for all. Why? To preserve their own privileges and status by eagerly serving as “gatekeepers” to economic opportunity.

Fact: Human trafficking was not made an issue and concern for trafficking victims was non-existent until: (1) it started happening to middle class women and girls, and; (2) upper-middle class white Christian males were able to monetize this ’cause’ via Bush’s “faith-based initiatives” which he signed into law by Executive Order #13199 on Jan 29, 2001.

What that did was redirect any public tax dollars earmarked for “welfare” to private “faith-based” charities instead of giving that money directly to the poor who need it.

Being a trafficking survivor who gets referred to as a “prostitute” and who sees other victims of human trafficking labeled as “prostitutes” reinforces the message from society that I don’t deserve a chance for a good job, a chance at love, the experience of being treated like a princess (even if only for ONE night—like the prom I never got to have since traffickers don’t let their victims go to school, never mind go to the senior prom), to be treated like I mattered, to be wanted and to be socially accepted.

Calling women like me “prostitutes”, “child prostitutes”, or even “former prostitutes” reinforces the message so often said by pimps and traffickers: “Once a ho always a ho”—which calcifies the gutter and an early grave as the ONLY place in society we’ll ever be allowed to have.

Language matters. Make NO mistake about it: it is NEVER acceptable to refer to human trafficking victims/survivors as “prostitutes”, “child prostitutes”, or “former prostitutes.” There is only ONE acceptable accurate term for us: CRIME VICTIMS. You blame the victim, you become an accomplice.

Advertisements

Class Justice As A Cover For Preserving Male Privilege

December 6, 2012

by Jacqueline S. Homan, author: Classism for Dimwits and Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie

Some class justice activists claim that “rich liberals” have alienated white working class males and poor whites. There is an element of truth in that. Poor whites who have been economically excluded and socially marginalized are at the bottom of the pile: many class justice activists say that poor whites are not “cool” enough for the liberal elite who brag about their “nice African-American friends” but never about their “nice poor white friends.” But too often, class justice activists have a bad habit of using class justice as a vehicle for driving the interests of men to the front of the line with white men leading the parade while demanding that women and minorities — many whom are far worse off than poor white guys — shut up about our rights that are always getting trampled on by white males up and down the socio-economic ladder. Women and minorities are silenced in these Leftist class justice groups with the “Oppression Olympics” cudgel wielded by white dudes that are much better off than women and minorities within the same social class because white dudes have power over women and minorities and that power is the right to dominate — something that is conferred by white male privilege. 


Working class white males are not subjected to forced organ donation at peril to their health, wellbeing and lives — which is what forced pregnancy/childbirth really amounts to — as punishment for having sex and gratifying men’s sexual “needs”; or being raped. In fact, poor white males and working class white males who commit rape are more than likely to get away with it because our male-supremacist society holds that women and girls that are raped somehow “asked for it”, and are often forced to bear rape progeny against their will in “pro-life” America where access to abortion is practically non-existent since the Congressmen elected by white working class males claim that women can’t get pregnant from a “legitimate rape” because women’s bodies have a way to “shut that whole thing down” and if pregnancy should occur from rape, it’s a “gift from God.”

White working class males are not forced to suffer in utter agony for several days in hospitals and even forced to die cruel and torturous deaths that are entirely preventable as a matter of some moralistic policy that is selectively invoked to deny them preventive medical care that would ameliorate their suffering and save their lives. They’re not left to “bleed out” in emergency rooms because of “pro-life” laws and policies that deprive them of their right to life, liberty, bodily autonomy and bodily integrity. 

Working class white males are not targeted for police brutality simply for being out in public. Had Trayvon Martin been a working class white male as opposed to a black male, he’d be alive today because white men don’t get gunned down by neighborhood watchmen for walking home from the store because of wearing hoodies while packing cell phones, iced tea, and candy. 

White working class males also rape, impregnate and batter white working class women while supporting lawmakers, governors, attorney generals and judges who pass laws that force women to be vulnerable to unwanted and risky pregnancies, and force women and girls to give birth against our will regardless of how we feel about it and regardless of the harm to us.  And white working class men have the moxy to tell poor women that our basic human right to bodily autonomy is a less important “side issue” in the male supremacist scheme of things.

White working class males in the class justice camp deliberately play the class card to ensure that women and minorities who are oppressed by male privilege and white privilege respectively are once again side-lined, back-benched, and marginalized while the concerns of white men are made more important. And it’s also these same “poor, put-upon abandoned” white men that put their “right” to have sex ahead of women’s right to not be made pregnant when they don’t want to go through it, or suffer other harm and injuries as a result of satisfying men’s sexual “needs.”

Many of these same white working class men consume women’s bodies as disposable sex commodities through porn use and the patronizing of strip joints. And these same working class men defend their “right” to use their pursuit of an orgasm to dictate women’s oppression by white-washing the sex trade in terms of “choice” and “female empowerment.”

Working class white men have an ongoing miserable track record of dominating women and minorities and they feel entitled to keep doing it. This “abandoned” voting bloc throwing mantrums any time oppressed people’s rights are given attention were not abandoned by the Left. They brought a lot of it on themselves. They shove the valid claims, rights and needs of women to the end of the line and act like the only people deserving of anything are men — white men. And they don’t care if their comfort comes at the expense of women and minorities (as always).

To demand that women cede our long overdue valid claims for social justice which remain unaddressed and telling us to shut up about our rights and needs in order to avoid being “divisive” to assuage the egos of those who use their male privilege to dominate us and keep us disempowered under the deceptive guise of class justice is beyond selfish and narcissistic. It is the motherlode of injustice at best, and at worst it is a license to perpetuate oppression with the intent of ensuring that men remain at the top and in charge.

All the ballyhooing about the “abandoned working class white male voter” really amounts to the preservation of unearned white male privilege and white male supremacy. Liberation from “the 1%” and a bigger piece of the pie but only for white dudes while women should just shut up and be grateful if we’re even acknowledged at all. Class justice has become a cover for white working and middle class men’s usurpation of victimhood status at women’s expense, with working class and poor women bearing the brunt.

White working class men have no right to demand that women defer to them in the name of social justice. And class justice activists have no right to expect women’s capitulation to that unreasonable demand, which is precisely what they’re doing when they chastise radical feminists for refusing to comply with the agenda of the Almighty Penis Parade.

Saying that women should just shut up about our issues because addressing our need for justice is “divisive” when we’re fed up with being expected to just take more ongoing misogyny on the chin after centuries of being marginalized — all for the sake of building bridges of solidarity with those who actively participate in depriving us of our rights — is like saying that Jews in Nazi death camps should have sympathized with the working class Nazi guards and put those oppressors’ comfort first because those working class Nazi guards were equally oppressed by “the man” as the Jewish slave labor prisoners slated for extermination. Think that would go over well with Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren? Yeah, me neither.

The fact is that we really can’t “just move on” as if centuries of ongoing oppression did not happen while it’s continuing to happen today, despite the malestream media downplaying or denying it. Until reparations and restorative justice is made to women as a class, we really can’t all “just get along.” For class justice activists to expect that from radical feminists is ludicrous, given that women have far fewer rights and opportunities today than we did in 1973. As long as women are subject to laws and policies that are male-centric and forced to live under a hierarchy of ongoing male domination with white males at the top, any talk of class justice is moot.

White working class union men with middle class paychecks and health and dental benefits and retirement plans never wanted women to have anything. They begrudged poor women the same jobs that they felt entitled to while also begrudging us paltry, inadequate welfare checks on “their hard-earned tax dollars” in order to survive. I recall in the 1980′s with the Reagan Revolution aiming its Hotchkiss guns at poor women on welfare who, in many cases, were economically and socially excluded for generations due to sexism on top of classism, and it was white working class union MEN who voted for Reagan TWICE as they drove around in new Ford trucks sporting bumper stickers that read “Rush is right!”

These white working class men — who were/are far better off than poor women of ANY race — blamed “women’s libbers” for women “taking away (white) men’s jobs” while saying that care-taking and motherhood wasn’t real work and was of no importance or value (not enough value to even be worthy of an inadequate welfare subsistence check) because giving men sexual gratification on demand and bearing babies is what women are for and if a woman ended up being a poor single mother it was her own fault. Even though it was MEN who passed the Hyde Amendment and chipped away at poor women’s access to reliable birth control, and even though it was MEN who impregnated all those women and then abandoned them, or forced them to flee with nothing but their kids and the clothes on their backs after abusing them.

White working class men who claim they’ve been abandoned as a constituency need to first take responsibility for deliberately voting for Reagan (twice) and Congressmen like Newt Gingrich, Todd Akin, and all the rest who ran on platforms of opposing Affirmative Action (which never went far enough), eliminating welfare for the very poor (most whom are women), and supporting measures that have basically returned most women to the status of male-owned reproductive chattel. Men need to take responsibility for causing their own economic demise by voting for those who destroyed their unions and off-shored their jobs while assuring them with every dog whistle speech that their “right” to maintain power and domination over women and people of color would be unfettered in the name of “freedom” and “personal responsibility.”

Men need to take responsibility for using their penises like loaded weapons. They need to take responsibility for all the unwanted pregnancies their sexual selfishness caused and the childbirth injuries (including maternal death) to women they inflicted, for all the rapes they commit, for the abortion clinics they bombed, and for the abortion doctors they shot. They need to take responsibility fpr the violence they resorted to in order to force women and minorities out of good-paying union jobs that were — and still are — white male dominated. And they need to take responsibility for all the porn they consume as if it’s their right to objectify and commodify women and children. They need to take responsibility for the domestic terrorism committed by the anti-woman, anti-black, anti-Jewish gun-toting, tax-protesting jerks they supported and sympathized with. They need to take responsibility for the MRA bowel movement which gave us 31 states that grant rapists “fathers’ rights” over the children they sired by rape with visitation and joint custody. And they need to take responsibility for being war hawks and bullies. They need to do their part to dismantle patriarchy and all its systems of unearned privileges. And they need to ditch their sense of entitlement.

It was all these things that men refuse to take responsibility for that caused their alienation and earned contempt from feminists, racial justice activists, and “snobby libruls” whom they blame for problems that they brought on themselves.

Women don’t owe white working class men in the class justice movement a pity party with milk and cookies when men never even apologized for all the shit they did to women, and are still doing to women, to keep women at the bottom of every pile. It only takes a critical number of members of the oppressor group to dismantle the system of oppression they created and that number boils down to about 25% of men. Which goes to show how little men care about women, and how rare and scarce decent and fair-minded men really are.  Sorry, but there are some people that you just can’t build coalitions with because they are not your allies and don’t really care to be, either. Men need to get their own house in order by setting their male chauvinist ‘homies’ straight and working on dismantling the patriarchy they created and maintain before expecting women to be considerate of their delicate feelings in the name of “class solidarity.”

Men who sacrifice the human rights of their own wives, sisters, nieces and daughters on the altar of the phallocracy just to animate their ‘uniform’ of race and sex that they share with rich white sexist men like Mitt Romney don’t need a pity party — they need a good swift kick in the ass for having the moxy to cry “abandonment” after they’ve been sticking it to women, minorities, and the very poor for the better part of the last three decades.

The brutal and horrific oppression of women by men through all of the forced pregnancy/childbirth laws passed in nearly every state, including the federal defunding of Planned Parenthood, was not the work of just a “few bad apples”; it was the coordinated effort of entire state governments — from governors to attorney generals to the majority of state legislatures. The War on Women was launched, and for the most part won by men, because the majority of states have state governments that are full of men like Todd Akin and Rick Santorum. And it was working class white males acting in solidarity with their bourgeois brethren who propelled these selfish, narcissistic and sadistic male supremacist pigs into prosperity and power by voting for them without giving a shit about what it meant for women and how we feel about it.

Depriving women of any social class of the right to an abortion and access to reliable birth control is depriving women of basic human rights over our own bodies. Denying rape victims the right to an abortion is exceptionally cruel because for many women, pregnancy after rape means that the rape isn’t over and will further traumatize them with extreme pain, disfigurement, and debilitated health. It means compounding an already unspeakable trauma. It is cruelty and torture aimed solely at women by men for the sheer damn hell of it. And no, working class white males cannot lay all of this at the feet of the 1% and a few crazy Congressmen. Lawmakers, governors, and attorney generals don’t get into office without votes and campaign volunteers. And all of these anti-woman laws — which have yet to be repealed — are no excuse for working class white men inflicting unwanted pregnancies on their bed victims because their penis feel-good time is somehow more important than having any consideration for women’s human rights.

Solidarity for the Few

November 12, 2011

By Jacqueline S. Homan, author: Classism For Dimwits and Divine Right

This movement struck me as being centered on young middle class white males, and they’re not welcoming or receptive of older people — including older people who have a lifetime’s worth of experience and battle scars from fighting the oppression created by unearned privilege. And according to Reena Walker, a seasoned older black woman and veteran activist, male privilege and how it is used by men in the 99% to beat women down and oppress us is ignored or rationalized by a busload of mansplaining. As a black woman who suffered a lifetime of poverty, sexism, racism and misogyny, Ms. Walker is hardly one of the 1% and yet the way she and other women are being treated at OWS sends the message that women (who make up 51% of the 99%) aren’t viewed as being human enough for harm against us to matter. Funny how freedom and economic justice is only for a few which usually does not include women. Some 99%ers are more equal than others.

It is no accident that women comprise over 70% of those living below poverty worldwide. The status quo of local and global capitalism depends on women’s unpaid/under-paid work. It could not survive without women’s unpaid work as primary caregivers, the childbearers, and the child-raisers. Capitalism is patriarchal to the core. The poorest of the world’s poor are women who also do upwards of two-thirds of the world’s work and own only 1% of the means of production and reproduction. Women hold up half the sky on our unpaid/under-paid backs.

Despite all of the claims by Occupy facilitators that rapes are not occurring at the Occupy Toronto camp at St. James Park, a few men from the Aboriginal community who are staying in the camp full time say otherwise. One of those men, identifying himself only as “Davine”, who is half Blackfoot and half Arab, said that the camp’s marshals have not been able to minimize or prevent sexual assaults on the women there and that “these [white] people are coming to us Natives for help.” What is really tragic in all this is that one of those Natives — Jayson Fleury — is a real opportunistic shmuck and sociopathic grifter who has ripped off poor and marginal women to support his lifestyle of partying across Canada 3-4 times a year. And he is one of a tiny handful of men who is willing to protect the women from rape. How sad is that?

What is supposed to be a movement about unity of the masses against the 1% is really looking more like the same ol’ same ol’: freedom and economic justice and a bigger slice of the pie for men; rape, invalidation, exploitation, abuse, oppression and discrimination against the poorest and most downtrodden victims of capitalism — poor women of ALL races. Somehow, I don’t find that very unifying, uplifting, or liberating as a poor and marginal woman.

And please don’t tell me that women’s human rights — including the right to a job with dignity, the right to an education, the right to food, housing, and healthcare, and the right to reproductive/sexual enfranchisement and bodily autonomy/self-determination, and most important of all, the right to NOT be raped and impregnated against our will at peril to our health, well-being, liberty, and lives — is less important that “the big picture” of those traditionally privileged members of the 99% getting their justice at poor and destitute women’s expense in the name of “social justice.” Sorry, but I’m not down with that.

As a woman from deep poverty who suffered more under capitalism than poor men due to institutionalized sexism, misogyny, and the social acceptance of patriarchy and its culture of rape, I have no interest in “taking one for the team” for the sake of the 99% movement (which is looking more like a Rapists’ Rights bowel movement) just so men can get a bigger slice of the economic pie while nothing changes for the better for women, especially poor and marginal women of all races.

Since colonization of North America, women in the US and Canada have been told to wait until after the men got all the more important issues resolved and then we women would eventually get our turn. But our turn never came — at least not for those of us in extreme poverty that never got to make it to even the lowest rung of the middle class. But then this Occupy movement has never been about us, has it?

A glaring example is the Occupy Vancouver list of demands included a call for the legalization of prostitution. Prostitution is rich white male-centered. It exists because capitalism is patriarchal and there’s a direct link between that and human trafficking and rape. Also at the crux of it is the larger societal view of women as non-persons, as cheap commodities that exist solely for male self-gratification.  These issues cannot be bifurcated.

Desperation, poverty, abuse, addiction, job and pay discrimination, lack of opportunities and a need to pay the rent and feed the kids, a history of colonialism, racism, sexism, and a misogynistic culture that devalues women and reduces us to disposable products to be bought and sold — all act in synergy to create a society where prostitution and sex trafficking exists and flourishes with men being the prime beneficiaries of it while women are further victimized.

What kind of social justice movement seeking to rectify the injustices of capitalism and the inclusion of women in the name of solidarity is this, anyway?

Why is the response to the rapes, the abuse, the exploitation, the trauma and the deaths that many poor and marginal women suffer as a result of being prostituted to simply treat this as “just another job”? What other job demands that the worker be raped, impregnated against their will, infected with an STD, violated, abused, and maybe even murdered? What kind of person supports that this sort of treatment should be legitimized? What kind of person seeking solidarity with women — especially poor and marginal women — would agree that women’s bodies should just be another disposable commodity available for purchase by men and that every woman should be OK with that?

Women need to be safe, but how safe are women when we’re not even viewed as full human beings? Yes, prostituted women deserve rights. But they also deserve to have real choices. Why would anyone think that johns will provide equitable treatment and respect for women? No man who thinks he has the right to trade in human flesh or take a woman against her will is a man who believes in real equality. A man who can do this is a man who doesn’t see women as being human enough for harm against us to matter. We should not have to accept and legalize exploitation and oppression from men in order to decriminalize the women being prostituted in the name of “unity.”

Legalized prostitution neatly sweeps under the wraps the insidious human rights catastrophe of the global human/sex trafficking industry. Women ensnared in that are literally forced into brutal sex slavery; bought and sold, beaten and raped over and over and over. Approximately 80% of those trafficked are women and girls. The average age of a trafficking victim is 14. The average life span once trafficked is 4 years. The victims usually die from HIV/AIDS related complications after being forced (often violently) to give unprotected sex to their male purchasers. Legalizing and sugar-coating the exploitation of women does not protect our human rights. It undermines them.

A genuine unity and people’s movement doesn’t consider women’s suffering irrelevant, or as a trivial “special interest”, or as titillating grist. Nor does it function as a microcosm of this capitalist economy with men competing for all the power, wealth, and status at the top while women serve as mere cheerleaders and poster children only to be trotted out for the convenience and benefit of male privilege.

Women deserve safety and decriminalized from doing what they have to do in order to survive, but women also deserve to have real options. As 51% of the population, women should be 51% represented in all mainstream jobs, instead of being herded into pink collar-ghettos, and the sub-poverty glass ceiling of Wal-Mart with the exploitative sex industry as the only other option available for poor women for whom college and grad school is as out of reach as a day trip to Sedna while male high school drop-outs and ex-felons get all the good-paying blue-collar union jobs in the skilled trades and all of the opportunities and hope for a better life that goes with that at the expense of women’s exclusion.

Women make up more than half of the 99%. Where is our liberation from male oppression and domination through rape, “honor killing”, FGM, hiring and pay discrimination, sexual and reproductive slavery, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and domestic violence which are the all too common realities of women’s lives every day?  These are the realities that are disproportionally inflicted on poor and marginal women by men in the 99%. Yet these are all dismissed as “special interest issues” that are accepted as part of “the price of being born female”, which is why anti-oppression is needed.  And that is why a movement of unity for real social and economic change must be willing to accept constructive criticism and not get offended when male privilege is challenged.

What is uplifting, unifying, or liberating about Occupy camp facilitators designating untrained peers as “marshals” to serve as the “sexual assault response team” to deal with the rapes — not by offering rape kits that include emergency contraception and STD testing/treatment, and the arrest/removal of the rapist, but by counseling (read: pressuring) the women who’ve been raped against going to the police? (Not that the criminal justice system has ever been any panacea for women, especially rape victims — police, lawyers, and judges are products of the same patriarchal, misogynist, fetid capitalist sepulcher that has always oppressed and abused women through unearned male privilege at women’s expense. )

I have no interest in being ill-used and thrown under the bus for the sake of “solidarity” with fauxgressives just so that men can get justice while nothing changes for the better for poor women of all races.

If destitute and marginal women of all races are at these camps, it is because this shit is real for us. We have been the most oppressed, the most excluded, the most downtrodden, and the most harmed by the inherent injustices of capitalism which is inherently a gender war. Chronically poor and marginal women don’t have the safety nets that young working class and middle class white males have: the freedom from potentially life-threatening unwanted pregnancy, or the privilege of a job and/or families with resources to return to at the end of all this.


%d bloggers like this: