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That Bill C-36 post

Last month I had seen a post about Bill C-36 and reblogged it. Here is the excerpt I quoted, from “The world’s oldest ‘profession’?” by Paul Pesach Gray at Vision: Moving Towards a Better Future which initially read:

According to sex trade activist and opponent of Bill C-36 Emi Koyama, in War on Terror & War on Trafficking:

Many more (sex trade workers) cannot get or keep other jobs because of mental health issues, addictions, criminal record, immigration status, or discrimination (and a severe lack of social resources to help them with these issues).

Basically, what Koyama is saying is that prostitution is the saving grace for people suffering from mental health issues, addiction, discrimination (which must be proven on a case by case basis) and people who might stand to be deported from Canada, or at the very least must clarify their immigration status but haven’t done so for reasons unknown.

What an un-compassionate and short-sighted argument. This line of reasoning actually re-victimizes these categories of people. In essence, Koyama and others who agree with her are defending the practice of having vulnerable people put themselves in harm’s way, because, as they see it, prostituting oneself is their only “way out”.

Why doesn’t Ms. Koyama and others who share her opinion put more energy into improving the social resources which they say are lacking so severely? Why defer to the “soft bigotry of low expectations”?

As a black man myself, I am keenly aware of this type of reasoning and it just doesn’t cut it with me or my circle of friends. I am running for city council because I want to improve the overall context within which prostituted people live and provide them with productive forms of social recourse.

While I agreed with the argument being presented above, Emi Koyama came herself to comment on this post, saying:

Hi – In the blog post you are promoting, Mr. Gray is dishonestly mischaracterising my work. Please read http://eminism.org/blog/entry/433 for the full context of the quote.

Also, Mr. Gray is under criticism for his comments about Michael Brown, an unarmed young Black man who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, MIssouri. Mr. Gray calls him a “thief and gangster” with “deviant mindset,” suggesting that he deserved to be shot. I don’t know much about Canadian municipal politics, but it appears to me that Mr. Gray is a ultra-conservative political candidate who is not a friend to feminists or progressives.

Sorry, I forgot to link this: http://metronews.ca/news/london/1129142/london-candidate-stands-by-comment-about-michael-browns-deviant-mindset/ for Mr. Gray’s comments re Michael Brown.

Paul Pesach Gray came in and commented:

I have updated my blog and removed the misquote which I attributed to Emi Koyama: [link]
I had been misinformed about Koyama’s work and am currently in the process of drafting a public statement of apology.

Anyway, I used to totally support Bill C-36 initially, seeing many trafficking survivors speaking in support of it. Now, it’s clear it has some obvious problems that need fixing. After that as well as reading This abolitionist does not support Bill C-36 by Going Radical (the comments are also relevant) I think radical feminists really need to be more careful who they are allying with. The below is also important. Whoever is backing the policy is just as important as their specific political motivations, their whys. Trafficking survivors may support a policy, but they are not the ones creating the policy, and when prostituted women talk about a bill harming them, they’re not all talking out of their ass. Americans should get really familiar with the bill or ask someone who is actually a Canadian. When it mentions that prostituted women can’t advertise in a public place where there might be minors, then you know it’s really about shielding children from “those evil women.” People have children, and children can’t be kept from every place. If it’s a red-light district or a beat, then it’s easier to accomplish, so I’m not sure what the fuss is. What about criminalizing johns who solicit in places where there might be minors, instead? Soliciting children and non-prostituted women is sexual harassment, isn’t it? Don’t pimps and traffickers solicit children and teenagers, especially the homeless?

Surely, we can’t just automatically support  every single anti-prostitution bill by assuming each actually prioritizes the prostituted women in whatever it claims to be helping, and keeps them from being criminalized in any way. Since radical feminists already get accused all the time of being in league with religious people, it would be a blow to the movement for the accusations to be true. I know conservatives have huge social and political clout, but ultimately it is not in our best interests. If a politician cannot see how police brutality is a huge problem, how can we trust him to understand the issues of prostitution? Prostituted women are often victimized by police! Arrest the johns, sure, but don’t forget that cops often blackmail prostituted women for sex so that they don’t arrest them, too. And what’s being done about migrant women? Do the cops round them up and deport them?

Reasons matter: why allying with the right wing harms gender criticism

From the Facebook page Stop Trans Chauvinism

Yesterday, a reader of the page sent a blog post to the page. The post, http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/09/24/man-or-woman/, was written by Matt Walsh. Walsh is a conservative Christian who hates women, homosexuals, and, apparently, trans. Our reader wanted to know what we thought about Walsh and his position. The answer is simple: not much. This brings to a common sticking point: do we pragmatically ally with people who may agree with a specific outcome, even if their reasons are diametrically opposed to ours, as gender critical feminists? Again, we have a simple answer: no. Why? Because our reasons matter as much as our goals.

There is a concept within socialism and anarchism called frontism. The basic idea is that groups who have different end goals can forge a temporary alliance to meet a more short term goal that both consider valuable. This has been an effective strategy in a few cases. However, it is also true that once the short term goal is met, the two sides will have to part. This is the weak link in frontism. Historically, the fight for the short term goal makes one of the two groups stronger. When the temporary alliance ends, that group, strengthened and emboldened by the common fight, can quite easily turn on its former ally. The weaker member of the alliance can find itself crushed under the oncoming wheels of the former political friend. This is exacerbated if one group started out stronger to begin with.

When we consider conservative Christians and feminists, any temporary alliance to address a common concern will always come back to haunt the feminists. The cause of this is quite simple: our underlying motivations are diametrically opposed. We also know that conservative Christians already have more social power than gender critical feminists, so they have a head start from the get-go. This can only lead to disaster for us. We must always remind ourselves and other feminists of this fact.

In the case of the gender critical feminists, our opposition to gender identity theory and practice is that it obscures the underlying causes of female oppression. We believe that the gender hierarchy is used to oppress women and girls for the direct benefit of men. We believe that queer theory is victim-blaming in its focus on performance and identity. We can’t “perform” or “identify” our way out of oppression. We believe that the insistence that males can “feel female” reinforces the old prejudices against the female and her supposedly weak mind. What does it mean to “feel female”, after all? What does it mean that someone is born with a “female brain” and “female feelings”? To us, all of those things are just repackaging of age old misogynistic stereotypes. To most gender critical feminists, the very concept that there is a “nature” of women is wrong and dangerous; it will keep us from attaining liberation.

In contrast, the conservative Christian believes that gender is a natural part of the sexes. Women are naturally “feminine”, while men are naturally “masculine”. In short, they are arguing a very similar position as the one espoused by many trans. The Christians merely believe that gender is innate and biologically tied to sex, while trans theory holds that gender is innate, but not tied to sex. The conservative Christian opposes trans theory because he wants to return the natural order of things—the compliant, submissive female and the dominant, powerful male. In his view, trans threaten this natural order by allowing men to adopt the behavior that the Christian ascribes to the female as her natural way of being. With this in mind, we can see that the conservative Christian wishes to force women back into this submissive role, as well. To ally with him would be cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

In the 1980s, there were feminists who made the pragmatic choice to ally with conservative Christians in the fight against pornography. We are still dealing with the repercussions of that alliance today. Not only did the fight fail, but it was and still is used to undermine the fight against the sex trade, specifically, and feminism, in general. This is a lesson we must take to heart. We cannot sell our souls to the devil and hope he will be our friend. Not in the 1980s with porn, and not now with gender criticism. Our goal is to liberate women, not to hurt those who identify as trans. Allying with people who are anti-female and anti-homosexual simply because they are anti-trans is not about liberating women; it is merely about hurting those who identify as trans. Our politics must be stronger, smarter and more humane than that.


2 thoughts on “That Bill C-36 post

  1. Ugh, I wish I had chosen a different title for my post. I’m not against the whole bill obviously, I am in favour of criminalizing johns so that aspect I agree with. I should have called that post “This abolitionist is critical of Bill C-36”. I just think some parts of the bill criminalize women and the other parts of it don’t do enough to help women. But abolitionists don’t think the sex trade will magically disappear with the passing of this law. Of course it will continue, and the law criminalizing johns is supposed to gradually change the culture over time to one where people realize the harms men do to women. In the meantime, we need to fight a lot more battles.

    BTW they apparently changed the bit about “communicating for the purpose” and now it only says you can’t “communicate for the purpose” in front of schools and daycares. So it’s a little less likely to criminalize women. But law enforcement is sneaky and abusive, they find ways of criminalizing and abusing prostituted women anyway. Changing police culture is a real need.

    • It’s okay. I definitely agree with your criticisms of the bill. It’s just so apparent how conservatives feel the need to restrict prostituted women instead of simply focusing on the johns. I’d love to know exactly how a john gets arrested if politicians and cops are also johns. IMO they should be fined in addition to being arrested so their money can be used for restorative justice – like going towards programs to help women exit prostitution, or the communities of indigenous people who struggle with poverty. Canadian politics are not a subject I’m too familiar with since I’m an American, but here in the South there are plenty of conservatives and they’re frustrating. It surprised me to hear about Canadian conservatives – I thought Canada was better!

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