The most powerful and emotionally charged moments of the World’s Oldest Oppression conference at RMIT University in Melbourne and the closing launch of Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survivor in the Sex Trade earlier this month, were hearing the stories of survivors in their own words. Some women spoke publicly for the first time. It was very beautiful seeing them support each other, finding strength and solidarity in their shared experience, harnessing their collective personal experiences into the emerging and fast growing global survivor movement calling for abolition of the sex trade.
New Zealand born Ally Marie, who now lives in Brisbane, was among those who decided it was time to go public with her experience. Conceived as a result of the gang rape of her teenage mother, with a history of child sexual abuse (starting at 4), by 21 she was easy pickings for the sex trade. Since then, she has clawed her way back to life out of drug addiction, mental illness, and suicide attempts. Her nine children have helped inspire her recovery. (More of her story on her website).
It was a big step for Ally Marie to speak to the packed auditorium. She explains:
Leading up to the conference I was extremely nervous and fearful. There were many times that I wanted to pull out, not to share this part of me that I had locked away and basically thrown away the key. I had endured a lot through my life but this was a part of me that I had never shared in so much depth with anyone. The voices of fear, despair, sadness, worthlessness, kept playing over and over on my mind like a broken record. But I pushed through, remembering my friends who were no longer able to speak on behalf of themselves. This wasn’t about me, it was about them, and all the women who are still in this life too afraid for their lives, for their own sanity and safety.
Sharing with these beautiful incredible women was so empowering, inspiring and most importantly healing. I finally felt that by sharing, all the pain was now worth something, so much bigger than me, that this would save lives. The support and love I have received has been overwhelming and in this moment I feel so loved and supported.
Now my vision to support survivors is so much stronger than it ever was before I shared my journey. I am excited for what the future holds, not only for myself and my children but for the millions of women’s lives that will be changed.
Fortunately, a friend captured Ally Marie’s speech on film and she has since uploaded it. You will see why she moved us all to tears. Ally Marie will share her story again at the forthcoming launch of Prostitution Narratives on the Gold Coast this Friday. She will be joined by two other survivors, including ‘Charlotte’, a contributor to our book. More info here.
Extensive coverage of Prostitution Narratives in Daily Mail
Autumn Burris from California, who is now the director of Survivors For Solutions, shares her story in a chapter entitled: ‘No life for a human being’, in which she explains how being a prostitute exposes women to violent attacks.
‘When a sex buyer rents your body he often demands more of you than agreed. If you reject him, more often than not, violence ensues,’ she recalled.
‘It is common for sex buyers to act out violently against prostituted women. Upon entering prostitution it is immediately clear that there is no such thing as respect for human rights or physical boundaries as soon as a client buys power over you.
‘They live out their fantasies through renting your body. Fantasies they wouldn’t think of asking their loved ones for, are requested of you.
A written testimony of suffering, pain – and resilience
Our new book, Prostitution Narratives: Stories of survival in the sex trade (Spinifex Press), was launched in Melbourne Sunday night. It was, I think, the most profoundly moving and affecting event I’ve even been part of. A number of contributors shared what being part of this book had meant to them. They felt heard and validated. They drew strength from each others stories. They resolved to join together together to fight for support and services to help other women exit the industry.
MTR with book contributors
UK feminist and journalist Julie Bindel launched the book, describing it as a “stick of dynamite”. The book was, she said “deeply disturbing and profoundly upsetting” and yet, also “a book about hope and resistance.” Irish abolitionist and survivor Rachel Moran also spoke (in her beautiful Irish lilt) about how the book echoed her experience and that of so many others and how it would help to bring about change. For those who couldn’t be there, here’s my speech delivered on the night:
Without these 20 women – almost half we are delighted to have here with us today – there would have been no book.
These 238 pages are created from your stories of survival. These pages are chiseled from the pain of your lives. Your trauma. Your suffering. Your strength. Your resilience. As we wrote in the opening lines:
Prostitution Narratives presents powerful stories by women who have survived the prostitution industry. The testimonies collated in this book bear witness to the effects of prostitution on women and girls, and bring to life its dismal statistics.
We must never underestimate what it must have taken out of you to re-live your experience. But we are so thankful you were willing to do it. To put every word down, to piece together sentences, building paragraphs and then whole chapters.
You were willing to endure nightmares, and flashbacks, and returning (in your minds) to the scenes of the crimes against you, to make this book happen – to render the harm done to you and so many others, visible.
And so we are grateful to you all, above all, for bearing witness in this written record.
Your presence in the book and in person, stands as a protest.
As does your presence at the gathering we have just had. The sex industry tried to stop you. They tried to de-platform you. They tried to intimidate and harass you. They couldn’t stand it – how dare we expose the true nature of their industry? There were nine protestors who went to the wrong venue but even then they were still trying to recruit with their ‘why be poor?’ posters.
A multi-billion dollar sexual exploitation industry built upon the backs of the bodies of real women and girls tried to stop you. They failed. The prostitution profiteers, the right-to-prostitution groups lost today.
Secondly, Caroline. What an honour to work with you. I cannot adequately express my admiration, though I tried, in the endorsements. You provided the academic weight and research heft to this book. You are possibly the most humble woman I have met. Last night when some of us were partying with Julie and Rachel at the Union Bar you were at home making vegan sandwiches for our conference. You always sound so surprised when I tell you how damn good you are!
Renate, Susan and Pauline and the rest of the team at Spinifex. My 4th book with you now. Thank you for all your support and for believing in my work – other authors with other publishers would be envious of the level of support and backing you’ve given me over two decades. And now this latest book. It was a difficult labour and delivery – but here is the new baby, thriving and well.
Caitlin, Meagan and Jacqueline who make up the appendix. Caitlin exposes the pimps and the johns without whom there would be no demand and no industry. Meagan gives us a tool for activism around the Nordic Model. Jacqueline, it can’t have been easy to come out with your role in the industry. But you have chosen to turn what was bad into good.
And all our endorsers – I was blown away by your words! And to have Julie Bindel launch our book is like a dream come true.
My friends here. Especially my Collective Shout crew – Coralie, Caitlin, Melinda are here and a number of CS volunteers and supporters.
Clearly there has been a shift. Growing in strength, and bravery, encouraged and supported by new survivor groups emerging around the world, refusing to be relegated to the margins, linked together by common suffering and common determination to change things for other women, today we launch Prostitution Narratives, with our 20 survivors.
Two of our key hopes in curating these accounts was that women would find solidarity and strength in their shared experience. Yesterday I was sitting at St Kilda beach reading Julie’s Guardian piece on the 11 year anniversary of Andrea Dworkin’s death and these words stood out: ‘Andrea healed her wounds by listening to the stories of other survivors, despite the pain that would cause.
Our other hope that women still in the industry would find a spark of encouragement to get out of it. (And here I have to say the status of funding for exit programs and other outreaches which help women leave the industry in this country is a blight and a shame – note the struggle of Project Respect, for example). The first contributor Linda told me her friends, still in the industry, were sitting around the brothel where she had worked with them, reading the copy she’d sent them. I love this image.
I want to end with a quote from a young survivor who I know personally and who has become special to me.
Near the end of the book, ‘Charlotte’ reaches out offering hope to other survivors.
To anyone reading this who is still involved in the sex industry – you are so much more than your body and your ability to provide sexual gratification. You are worthy, important and loved. You deserve so much more…You will survive this.
Tanja’s letter in Prostitution Narratives reprinted on News.com
Former prostitute takes aim at her clients in scathing letter
Dear sex customer,
If you think that I ever felt attracted to you, you are terribly mistaken. I have never had any desire to go to work, not once. The only thing on my mind was to make money, and fast.
Do not confuse that with easy money; it was never easy. Fast, yes. Because I quickly learned the many tricks to get you to come as quickly as possible, so I could get you off of me, or from under me, or from behind me.
And no, you never turned me on during the act. I was a great actress. For years I have had the opportunity to practice for free. Actually, it falls under the concept of multi-tasking. Because while you lay there, my thoughts were always elsewhere. Somewhere where I was not confronted with you sucking out my self respect, without spending as much as 10 seconds on the reality of the situation, or to look me in the eye.
If you thought you were doing me a favour by paying me for 30 minutes or an hour, you were wrong. I would rather have had you in and out as fast as possible. When you thought yourself to be my holy saviour, asking what a pretty girl like me was doing in a place like that, you lost your halo when you proceeded to ask me to lie down on my back, and then put all your efforts into feeling my body as much as possible with your hands. Actually, I would have preferred if you had gotten down on your back and had let me do my job.
When you thought you could boost your masculinity by getting me to climax, you need to know that I faked it. I could have won a gold medal in faking it. I faked it so much, that the receptionist would nearly fall off of her chair laughing. What did you expect? You were perhaps number three, or number five, or eight that day.
Did you really think I was able to get turned on mentally or physically by having sex with men I did not choose myself? Not ever. My genitals were burning. From lubricant and condoms. And I was tired. So tired, that often I had to be careful not to close my eyes for fear of falling asleep while my moaning continued on autopilot.
If you thought you paid for loyalty or small talk, you need to think again. I had zero interest in your excuses. I did not care that your wife had pelvic pain, and that you just could not go without sex. Or when you offered any other pathetic excuse for coming to buy sex with me.
When you thought I understood you and had sympathy for you, it was all a lie. I had nothing but contempt for you, and at the same time you destroyed something inside of me. You sowed the seeds of doubt in me. Doubt as to whether all men were just as cynical and unfaithful as you were.
When you praised my appearance, my body, or my sexual abilities, you could just as well have vomited on me. You did not see the person behind the mask. You only saw that which confirmed your illusion of a raunchy woman with an unstoppable sex drive.
In fact, you never said what you thought I wanted to hear. Instead, you said what you yourself needed to hear. You said that, which was needed to preserve your illusion, and which prevented you from thinking about how I had ended up where I was at 20 years of age. Basically, you did not care at all. Because you had one goal only, and that was to show off your power by paying me to use my body as it pleased you.
When a drop of blood appeared on the condom, it was not because my period had just come. It was because my body was a machine, one that could not be interrupted by a monthly cycle, so I inserted a sponge into my vagina, when I menstruated. To be able to continue on the sheets.
And no, I did not go home after you had finished. I continued working, telling the next customer exactly the same story that you had heard. You were all so consumed with your own lust that a little menstrual blood did not stop you.
When you came with objects, lingerie, costumes or toys, and wanted erotic role-play, my inner machine took over. I was disgusted with you and your sometimes quite sick fantasies. The same goes for the times when you smiled and said that I looked like a 17-year-old girl. It did not help that you yourself were 50, 60, 70, or older.
When you regularly violated my boundaries by either kissing me, or inserting your fingers into me, or taking off your condom, you did it knowing perfectly well that it was against the rules. You were testing my ability to say no. And you enjoyed it.
When I did not object clearly enough, or when I too often would simply ignore it. And then you used it in a perverted way to show how much power you had and that you could cross my boundaries.
When I finally told you off, and made it clear that I would not have you as a customer again if you could not respect the rules, you insulted me and my role as prostitute. You were condescending, threatening and rude.
When you buy sex, it says a lot about you, your humanity, and your sexuality. To me, it is a sign of your weakness, even though you confuse it with a sick sort of power and status.
You think you have a right. I mean, the prostitutes are out there anyway, right? But they are only prostitutes because men like you stand in the way of healthy and respectful relationship between men and women.
Prostitutes only exist because men like you feel you have the right to satisfy your sexual urges using the orifices of other people’s bodies.
Prostitutes exist because you and your peers feel that your sexuality requires access to sex whenever it suits you.
Prostitutes exist because you are a misogynist, and because you are more concerned with your own sexual needs than the relationships in which your sexuality could actually flourish.
When you buy sex, it reveals that you have not found the core within your own sexuality. I feel sorry for you, I really do. That you are so mediocre that you think that sex is all about ejaculating into a stranger’s vagina.
And if one is not handy, it is never further away than down the street, where you can pay an unknown woman to be able to empty yourself into a rubber while inside of her.
What a petty and frustrated man you must be. A man unable to create profound and intimate relationships, in which the connection runs deeper than just your ejaculation.
A man, who expresses his feelings through his climaxes, who does not have the ability to verbalise them, but prefers to channel them through his genitals to rid himself of them. What a weak masculinity. A truly masculine man would never degrade himself by paying for sex.
As far as your humanity goes, I believe in the good in people, also in you. I know that deep down, you have a conscience. That you have quietly wondered whether what you did was ethically and morally justifiable. I also know that you defend your actions and likely think that you treated me well, were kind, never mean or did not violate my boundaries.
But you know what? That is called evading your responsibility. You are not confronting reality. You delude yourself in thinking that the people you buy are not bought. Not forced into prostitution.
Maybe you even think that you did me a favour and gave me a break by talking about the weather, or giving me a little massage before you penetrated me. It did me no favours. All it did was confirm to me that I was not worth more. That I was a machine, whose primary function was to let others exploit my sexuality.
I have many experiences from prostitution. They enable me to write this letter to you. But it is a letter, which I would much rather not have written. These are experiences I wish I could have avoided.
You of course, you thought of yourself as one of the nice customers. But there are no nice customers. Just those who confirm the women’s negative view of themselves.
This news.com.au feature by Emma Reynolds today is the first mainstream media piece on our new book Prostitution Narratives: Stories of survival in the sex trade (Spinifex Press) to be launched Sunday in Melbourne. We are so pleased to see the stories of five of our contributors – Rhiannon, Simone, Jade, Annabelle and Rachel – highlighted in this piece, given how rarely we see accounts like this in Australian media. Here are some extracts:
‘I clutched the cash while he used me’: former prostitutes on why they want the industry banned
AT RHIANNON’S lowest point, she agreed to sex for money with a man who found her drunk, high on prescription drugs and crying on the street outside the strip club where she worked.
Back at his home, she cut her wrists in his bathroom and stuck toilet paper on them.
“The man felt it was worth paying a hundred dollars to have sex with a woman who had a tearstained face and bleeding wrists,” she said.
“I insisted on clutching the cash while he used me.”
She told him she was going to kill herself and he should call an ambulance. He shrugged, so she went outside and did it herself, staring at Brisbane’s Story Bridge and thinking that if it didn’t arrive in 10 minutes, she would jump off.
It was the start of her journey out of the sex industry.
Her story is just one of the graphic first-person testimonies in Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade, a shocking book that will be launched at an anti-sex trade conference at RMIT University in Melbourne this weekend.
…a growing group of survivors and abolitionists say they are disturbed at pro-sex trade lobbyists painting the industry as a profession, chosen by autonomous women because it makes them feel empowered.
She said many of the prostitutes she has met have been single mothers or students looking for money. More than half of sex workers have been sexually abused as children or teenagers. Others have been raped, neglected or harassed. “Many women are trying to escape abuse or domestic violence,” said Simone. “They have nowhere else to go.”
Simone has been left with PTSD, anxiety and agoraphobia, so her advocacy work and travel has been challenging, but she’s desperate to create change.
Sexually abused as a child growing up in Melbourne, Annabelle* writes in Prostitution Narratives that her experiences “set her up for the sex industry.”
She believes the idea women enter the industry by choice is wrong, because they are often so young, and don’t have all the facts.
“I believe all prostituted women are held captive, not just physically as in the case of trafficked women, but by the lies of the sex industry.”
For Jade, working as a prostitute “was like experiencing a car crash every single weekend”. Eventually, she was diagnosed with drug-induced schizophrenia and PTSD, and she has counselling to this day. “It is hard to maintain relationships after you have been treated night after night with contempt. It is hard to value yourself when you’ve been sold for as little as a packet of cigarettes.”
“I couldn’t negotiate my own life in any sense without making that trade off: prostitution for poverty.
This week France became the latest in a growing list of countries to decriminalise sex workers while banning the purchase of sex.
The French legislation is based on what has become known as the Nordic Model, a form of decriminalisation that treats prostitution as a cause and effect of gender inequality and a site of violence against women.
The Nordic Model shrinks the market for prostitution by targeting demand: making the activities of sex buyers illegal while removing any punitive measures against prostituted persons. It has been effective in Sweden, and has since been adopted in Norway, Iceland, Canada and Northern Ireland. Read more here
‘World’s oldest oppression’ the first ever gathering of sex industry survivors and abolitionists in Australia, will be held at RMIT University in Melbourne next weekend.
The two day conference, April 9-10, will hear from survivors of the sex trade and abolitionist activists including Rachel Moran, author of Paid For, My Journey Through Prostitution and UK feminist and journalist Julie Bindel.
The conference will conclude with the launch on the Sunday afternoon of Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade, a collection of 20 personal accounts by women in Australia and internationally. Edited by Dr. Caroline Norma and myself, and published by Spinifex Press, we are so honoured that Rachel Moran and Julie Bindel will launch the book.
Here’s two of our contributors, Simone Watson and Caitlin Roper, having just received their copies of Prostitution Narratives. Simone wrote a powerful chapter about the reality of life in ‘massage parlours’ and Caitlin documented the attitudes of the punters and johns who purchase women for sex.
There’s nothing quite like receiving the first copy of the new book you’ve just had published, in the mail. You take it out of its packaging. You run your hands over the cover. You flick through (hoping no mistakes will leap out!). You turn it around in your hands. You read the back page, struck anew by the wonderful acknowledgements other writers, activists and academics you hold in highest esteem, wrote for you. You think of the friends who urged you on to the finish line. And how fortunate you’ve been to have a publisher who believes in your work and backs you all the way.
The feelings evoked are right up there with the birth of your children. OK, not quite. Four children. And now, five books, safely delivered.
Prostitution Narratives Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade is my fourth book with Spinifex Press (Defiant Birth, Getting Real, Big Porn Inc, now this one). And my first co-authored with Dr. Caroline Norma. When I first had the idea for a collection of first-person accounts of formerly prostituted women, I knew it couldn’t happen without Caroline, who is a leading authority on prostitution and trafficking globally.
Harm rendered visible
With a prologue by Irish abolitionist Rachel Moran, who tells her story in her autobiography Paid For. My Journey through Prostitution (2013), then introduction by myself and Caroline, the essence of the book is the 20 survivor stories who render visible the harm done to women in the global sex industry. Their intensely personal accounts are followed by three commentary pieces – one by an ex-pimp, another on the johns and punters, by Collective Shout’s Caitlin Roper, and finally, a case for the Nordic Model by Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow at RMIT, Meagan Tyler. The cover artwork Legal Slave, is by survivor and contributor Genevieve Gilbert. With official publication date April 9, our book will be launched in Melbourne April 10 by UK journalist, author and broadcaster Julie Bindel. A number of contributors, including Rachel Moran, will also speak at the launch. It will come at the end of a 2-day conference at RMIT University on ending global sex trade abuse.
Here’s an extract from the introduction:
Prostitution survivors speak out
Caroline Norma and Melinda Tankard Reist
Prostitution Narratives presents powerful stories by women who have survived the prostitution industry. The testimonies collated in this book bear witness to the effects of prostitution on women and girls, and bring to life its dismal statistics.
Such stories are rarely published. Instead, it is the profiteers who are most dominant and influential in speaking and writing about prostitution. This billion-dollar industry seeks to persuade the world that prostitution is a service like any other that allows women to earn vast sums of money, and to travel and enjoy life’s luxuries. In large sections of the media, academia, public policy and the law, the sex industry has had its way. With money no obstacle, its polished representatives repeat the mantra: sex work is work, prostitution is a job like any other, and the sex industry should be treated as just another business enterprise.
Right-to-prostitution groups present women in sex businesses as ‘escorts, hostesses, strippers, dancers, sex workers’. Prostitution is euphemistically described as ‘compensated dating’ and ‘assisted intercourse’ with women who are ‘erotic entrepreneurs’. But the sex industry’s public relations campaign makes little mention of the damage, violation, suffering, and torment of prostitution on the body and the mind, nor of the deaths, suicides and murders that are common. It is in its economic interest to do so. As long-time abolitionist Melissa Farley observes, much of the business must be concealed and denied in order for it to continue:
There is an economic motive to hiding the violence in prostitution and trafficking … prostitution is sexual violence that results in massive economic profit for some of its perpetrators … Many governments protect commercial sex business because of monstrous profits …
This information [on the harms of prostitution, pornography and trafficking] has to be culturally, psychologically, and legally denied because to know it would interfere with the business of sexual exploitation.
In critiquing the business of sexual exploitation, the accounts in this book sit outside the sphere of mainstream publishing in exposing the prostitution trade for what it is: violence against women.
Prostitution Narratives begins with, as mentioned, Rachel Moran’s Prologue where she identifies the ideology of ‘sex work’ as a dehumanizing force that conceals the reality of prostitution. The survivor testimonies which follow then unpack the reality of commercial sexual exploitation. From the streets to strip clubs, to brothels and escort agencies, from web-camming to the filming of prostitution for the pornography industry, from underage girls groomed for prostitution through child sexual abuse, to young women caught up in a criminal world of gangs and drugs, to students, artists, and single mothers desperate to survive, the chapters of this book have a unifying thread: their contributors survived, got out, and want the world to know what being prostituted was really like…
In order to better understand and respond to the global human rights violation that is prostitution, we must first comprehend what the sex industry looks like and does to the girls and women most affected. For this, first-person accounts by survivors are the only way to begin.
It’s not every day you get a magazine and a song dedicated to you.
But this week, my friends and I received both.
Now defunct Lad’s Mag Zoo Weekly devoted its final issue to us with this cover.
Apparently, protesting the objectification of women and messages promoting violence against women (drunk girls are a ‘green light’, for example) makes you a killjoy now. We didn’t find much joy in the mag’s pages, as documented in Collective Shout’s storify.
Young designer and activist Laura Pintur, 23, led our campaign. It was great to see her face on ABC’s Media Watch Monday night, in an extract from the video she made for The Guardian. The facts she presented stand in contrast to the depiction of the mag as just for a laugh and ‘schoolboy humour’. Such nudge-nudge-wink-wink depictions trivialized Zoo’s actual content. The kind of content which caused 20-year-old Coles employee Shannen to protest to management through her union.
When asked by a journalist on twitter for her reaction to Zoo’s final cover, Laura replied:
Zoo’s closure was reported on our website as follows:
Goodbye Zoo Weekly, you won’t be missed
We were pleased to report that after our successful campaign to get sexploitation mag Zoo Weekly out of Coles supermarkets Bauer Media announced the sexist lads mag was closing.
This week Zoo Weekly released their last edition ever. We’re glad that pornographers will have one less outlet now to push porn to underage boys. See content from inside Zoo mag (warning, graphic).
ABC’s Media Watch referenced our campaign, quoting Collective Shout’s Laura Pintur.
In May a young woman called Laura Pintur began a campaign backed by Collective Shout to persuade Coles and Woolworths to take Zoo off their shelves on the grounds that it was fostering hostile and aggressive attitudes to women:
“LAURA PINTUR: A British university compared lads mags with comments from convicted rapists. It found that people could not distinguish the source of the comments. That is, Zoo users’ language practically indecipherable from that of sex offenders. It also asks readers to send in pictures of their girlfriends’ breasts to win a boob job.” — The Guardian, 21st May, 2015
Coles stopped selling the magazine two months ago as a result.
And when news then broke of the decision to close Zoo altogether the campaigners were quick to claim the kill.
“Collective Shout takes credit for hastening Zoo’s demise: Coles dumping title was ‘catastrophic for sales’”
Here’s an extract from Tyler the Creator’s (@fucktyler) new release ‘Fuck It’. (I was interviewed by Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne Tuesday about the song. So replete is this ditty with expletives, our national broadcaster could only play a six second extract). Here are some of the lyrics:
Tell Australia I’m sneaking in with a mic in my damn hand
Instead of the vegetables that I packed in my backpack
When Marshall had this problem what the fuck was they telling him?
Is it cause of status or his melanin lacks black?
Huh? I think people love to be mad
How can I be misogynist? I love titties and ass…
Only thing they gave me was an opportunity and a pen
Look, freedom of speech, my freedom is breached
Border Patrol put me on streets immediately
For shit I said when I was a virgin repeatedly
Posted on Hypebeast cause nobody would listen to me
Collective Shout’s campaigns manager Caitlin Roper gave these comments to media:
Tyler has had an opportunity here to pause, reflect on his behaviours and promotion of misogyny, and make a commitment to real change- to creating art that doesn’t rely on the exploitation of women to generate profits.
Instead he’s essentially had a tantrum to music.
While he may have been a young man when he wrote music describing raping women, mutilating their bodies, locking them in his basement and raping their corpses, he’s not a child anymore, and he is yet to grow up and take responsibility for what he has put out into the world.
Our calls to deny Tyler a visa were never solely based on his sexually violent and misogynistic lyrics, but his real life behaviours- his history of inciting violence against actual women. It was only a few months ago that he singled out and tagged Collective Shout’s Coralie Alison in a tweet, blaming her for his cancelled tour and essentially directing his 2.5 million fans to go after her with horrific threats of violence. He sat by and watched, and finally denied he held any responsibility.
We too would like to know why Eminem was granted a visa. Collective Shout partnered with a coalition of domestic violence organisations in 2014 calling on the government to deny Eminem a visa.
But we must be wrong – he loves titts and arse, so couldn’t possibly be a misogynist!
I responded on twitter. Jane Fraser (@feministbirther) added her wondrous response.
So you’re not a misogynist – because you love titts and arse? Pornographers, pimps, and perpetrators of violence love titts and arse too – so what?
And someone should tell Tyler you can’t bring vegetables into Australia either.
Brothel legalisation: a Top End race to the bottom
…Tollner’s proposal to brothels is particularly cynical, given the population demographics of the Territory. As LNG development proceeds in Darwin, the city will host increasingly large numbers of white, cashed-up men who are a well-worn target consumer group of the sex industry.
Only a small proportion of these men (roughly 15 per cent) are likely to seek out a woman for prostitution, but a greater proportion are vulnerable to “opportunistic” patronage facilitated through semi-prostitution venues like strip clubs, advertising and touting, and all-male group activities like visiting a brothel after a night out drinking.
The sex industry stands to commercially benefit from Tollner’s proposal to legalise brothels through capturing this segment of the market that isn’t inclined to ring one of the NT’s legal outcall agencies.
The sex industry is keen for Tollner’s amendment to be made to the NT’s Prostitution Regulation Act because it would acquire a legitimate shop-front in the Territory. According to research, legalised brothels hamper efforts to detect illegal venues, normalise and encourage public acceptance of the pimping of women for prostitution, and foster an environment that is welcoming of sex tourists for economic gain.
Legal brothels act as “hidden-in-plain-sight” housing for trafficked women, and the Queensland Government has been forced to issue guidelines for “sleeping accommodation for sex workers” to stop the practice.
The Territory is a prime destination for women trafficked from South-East Asia, and also for homeless women, particularly from Aboriginal communities. Sex industry entrepreneurs in the Territory currently run into legal trouble setting up groups of women in apartments to be housed and pimped, but legal brothels would solve this problem….Read full story
Dr Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, and member of Amnesty Australia.
An article was published in The Guardian today about the campaign calling for Snoop Dogg’s visa to be revoked. Titled ‘White singers deserve the same scrutiny for sexism as Snoop Dogg‘, it implied that Collective Shout’s motivation for the campaign was race, not misogyny, sexism or violence against women. The Guardian declined to publish Dr Caroline Norma’s response. So we did.
Dr Caroline Norma
So often, when women speak against sexism, misogyny and women hating in general, they are accused of having a hidden and secret agenda. They’re ‘anti-sex’, they ‘hate’ men,’ they have other secret agendas. We’ve just witnessed a classic example of this in the framing of Collective Shout’s campaign led by 24-year-old activist Talitha Stone, calling on Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to recall the visa issued to well-know U.S rap artist Snoop Dogg, who is about to land on our shores.
Francis Lockie, writing in The Guardian today, fits within this camp. Collective Shout activists couldn’t possibly believe that women and girls are intrinsically worth enough that they would selflessly spend time, money and energy in their service. Other false claims have been made about this grassroots movement in the past – why not add ‘racist’ to the mix?
In Frances Lockie’s view the female activists of Collective Shout have another agenda – and it’s racist. They find the energy to launch campaigns against sexist male singers not out of a desire to stop hate speech against women, but because deep down they are racists, whether they realise it or not. Their racist impulses allow them to work together. In the absence of agendas like racism, why else would they bother?
Criticising feminists as ‘racists’ is easy, because no-one believes women’s activists are genuine in what they believe or do anyway. Everyone is ready and willing to hear an alternative explanation for why women are getting together to do things on their own behalf. Lockie need cite just a sample size of three campaigns–one against Kanye West, one against Tyler the Creator and one against Snoop Dogg– to successfully persuade every one of the ‘real’ agenda driving the tireless work of Collective Shout supporters. Inevitably there is another agenda, so a little evidence goes a long way. (As an aside, there’s no mention of the success of the Tyler campaign in forcing Twitter to establish a ‘report abuse’ button as a result of rape and death threats against Talitha Stone, no mention that the campaign against Kanye West was global and supported by a coalition of international women’s groups, not just Collective Shout).
Lockie spent hours painstakingly gathering up evidence of white men singing sexist things and brutalising women to show how Collective Shout members had given them a ‘free pass’. She wanted to make the point that racism acts as a decoy in diverting attention away from the sexism of white men, and how Collective Shout members had fallen into this trap. So, whether they realise it or not, the women in Collective Shout are actually working on behalf of the world’s most powerful men–this is the real agenda of the group. Through forming a group that sticks up for white men they probably think they can get themselves a better deal in life, and rise above the downtrodden masses of women.
When feminists and their organisations are imagined to have ‘another agenda’, sexism does not just cause us to doubt their loyalty to other women. It also leads us to think women are incapable of acting in anyone’s interests other than men’s, and especially white ruling class men. Even when women tell themselves they’re trying to get a better deal for women, they’re actually trying to protect men, or push down other women so men can rule more easily with more perks.
Lockie probably thinks she’s done Collective Shout members a favour in pointing out their folly. Without Lockie’s good instruction, these women could have carried on their whole lives running campaigns, lobbying and working together on behalf of women–totally oblivious of the fact they were inadvertently protecting white men and covering up their abuses. Collective Shout has said nothing about Axl Rose! Or John Lennon! Our younger members have no idea who Rose is. And the fact John Lennon is dead seems to have escaped her. She ignores our campaigns against Robin Thicke and Brian McFadden for their rape apologist lyrics.
Luckily, Lockie stands apart from women working hard in feminist organisations, so she can objectively assess their agenda and intentions, and deliver pronouncements to the benefit of all. Her aloof impartiality would have been compromised if she’d joined Collective Shout, and donated the research she did on the sexism of white male singers. Lockie might have found herself leading a campaign on behalf of members to stop one of them coming to spread hate speech in Australia. Perhaps she will join us in our efforts against rapper Eminem who brings his special brand of women hatred to Australia next month?
If Collective Shout isn’t prepared to launch official campaigns against every artist who profits from misogyny does that mean we shouldn’t campaign against any?
This debate on violence against women, as glamourised by the music industry, isn’t about colour. Collective Shout (in the face of limited resources and its volunteer nature) addresses this where it can. Two high profile rap artists have toured recently. That they were black was irrelevant. Eminem will receive the same welcome from us when he lands next month. To turn this into a debate about race and not misogyny is to wilfully miss the point and, in a rape culture in which all women and girls have to live, this is something we cannot allow to happen.
Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University
“The attempt to dress this up as black v white issue is beneath contempt”
Here are a selection of comments on The Guardian site which condemn attempts to turn our campaign into an issue of race.
OneManIsAnIsland: The objection to Snoop Dogg, presumably, is that ALL of his songs seem to be extensions of his own persona, and ALL seems to include a casual misogyny which is not contextualised. And finally, before you make it a race thing, remember that Robin Thicke is very, very white.
Jahlion: The attempt to dress this up as black v white issue is beneath contempt.
SidusVitae: Many rap songs that feature violence and misogyny are not figurative – that’s the problem, isn’t it? People have politely tried to point out above, under the guise of ‘context’. Snoop Dogg/Lion actually does have a history of problematic dealings with women.
WinstonThatcher: Have you ever listened to the lyrics on ‘Doggystyle’, Frances? I suggest you do so. They’re astoundingly disgusting (on a whole other level of disgusting), and Collective Shout, if anything, should be admired for not letting the big bad wolf that is accusations of racism cloud their judgement.
SamBeckett2: Are Cave, Dylan, Pink Floyd et al ex-pimps who’ve made porn videos? The vast majority of lyrics you quote are clearly telling stories representing misogyny rather than promoting it.
Timcw: So if a black singer refers to a woman as a ‘ho’ or a ‘bitch’ then anyone who complains at the content of the song is being racist if they don’t research every past instance of a white singer using misogynist lyrics and complain about that at the same time? This article is nonsense even in its own terms. Look at the criticism Robin Thicke rightly attracted recently. More seriously, it reflects a type of thinking that implies any criticism of men who aren’t white over the way they treat women is racist.
StVitusGerulaitis: What an utterly absurd article. This is not a race issue, and trying to make it so is disingenuous and rather desperate.
Sexism is more common, widespread and aceptable in modern hip hop….If anything, people give hip hop more of a free pass.”
NewsfromNowhere: I think that this is the problem. Hip hop is used to play by its own rules and black hip hop artists can always play the race card to get a free pass. White hip hop-ers) have to retract and apologize or lose their gigs. I am seriously concerned about this perspective that white feminists (if Collective Shout are white) can’t protest against misogyny from black men or they are racists.
Robthablob: The Prodigy “Smack my bitch up” and Eminem (many early tracks are both misogynistic and homophobic).
However, I remember both of these being heavily criticized at the time, which kind of goes against the author’s contention.
Luxrothchop: A colleague tells me he’s also a pornographer. Is that also true of any of the performers in the author’s list, and don’t you think that makes something of a difference? Seems to me one can’t do right for doing wrong on this question. When I and other posters criticised Robin Thicke on another thread earlier this week those who leapt to Thicke’s defence retorted that “you wouldn’t say that about a black artist for fear of being called a racist”.
ID2099454: Violence against women is an important issue, and this article makes it sound ridiculous. So thanks a bunch for undermining the hard work of lots of people trying to make a difference
DoctorPeppa: I can’t help but wonder if the author actually bothered to get in touch with Collective Shout with her concerns before publicly insinuating that their feminism is a smokescreen for racism. Why does it have to be their job to police the music industry for hate speech against women – if you have noticed other artists contributing to public misogyny, why not pick up your bat and have a swing for yourself? Other women doing feminist work are not an enemy who deserve to be shot down like this.
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