Reading in the Shade

Hood #formations and Ho shoes

I debated about writing this at all, but I think there is some conversation that needs to be had with the black community about Beyoncé.
I know we’ve spent the last few days discussing her activist cred, whether or not she is truly woke or truly radical. We pass judgments on people that are part of the ‘beyhive’ and those that are labeled as Stans.

Myself?

I am not and probably never will never be a major bey fan. Her music just isn’t my preferred genre, and stylistically I am not in love with what she does.

But Formation?
That song is my shit.

I’ve been called a stan, whacktavist, tumberlina, beyhive head, and on and on. What is interesting is that I am none of these things but I am called such because I like one Beyoncé song.

So I got to thinking *why* am I so obsessed with this song? Why do I love it so much?
And then I realized that my love of the song is based on a much larger discussion we need to have in the black community.

There’s cries that Bey isn’t really woke. She celebrates capitalism, she’s a thot, she needs to get rid of the blonde hair, she isn’t the only saying that she proud of her negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils. That truly woke revolutionaries have been rocking afros before Blue was even conceived. That bey thinks she is on a pedestal above us. She is multi-millionaire, show stopper, first name basis celeb. The average black person cannot compete with this, so she’s not here for us.
And you know what?
All that shit is 100% true. (Expect the thot part, because f**k slut shaming).

So if Bey isn’t the messiah, isn’t the ultimate activist, why are people obsessed with this song?

I cannot speak for others, But I can speak about what I see.

The video visually was great. The lyrics were good even if they weren’t terribly complex. The dancing was on point. But aside from all of that…
The song is ratchet as f**k.
Hot sauce in my bag, swag ratchet.
Wig shop ratchet
Talmbout how hard I slay ratchet.
Talmbout getting good d**k and rewarding him with red lobster ratchet.
Basically… my life kinda ratchet.

I am black. But I am sure as sh*t not respectable. I am sex worker. I am poor. Single parent. I spend money on ho shoes and fake nails. I’m bisexual. I drink too much, curse more than I should, and try to live life to the fullest.
I am the kind of black chick who will go to red lobster with my own hot sauce. I drink cuervo, no chaser, f**k training wheels.

I am not the girl you bring home to your mother. I am not a “good” girl. I will not go to church with you.

I don’t speak academics, I speak hood.

I do not act like a proper queen, I will never call my man kang.

And this leaves me on the outside of the black movement most of the time.
yeah, I went to Ferguson to deliver supplies. Yes, I have a trip to Flint in my future. Yes, I go to rallies and marches for ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬. I talk online about white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, and misogynoir. I blog, write think pieces, and podcast and talk about black shit. A LOT.

But I am always on the outside, because at the end of the day, my life is not compatible enough with the respectability that is required to officially be *in* the movement. I stay on the outside pushing for change because I think white supremacy is a threat, but I also know deep in my heart a lot of black people who are fighting for blackness aren’t fighting for my blackness.
My blackness is tainted with poverty, queerness, and too much sex. My blackness is judged because it involves anti-depressants and a latinx identity. My blackness is not middle class or college educated. My blackness is authentic, but often it’s not seen as good enough.

There’s a lot of black people who fight for blackademics, but not for high school dropouts.
They fight for nation building and black love, as long it isn’t queer.
They fight for black people who have a good backstory and were murdered by cops, but not for black addicts who get killed by cops
They fight for clean water, but not for those who need access to mental health medications.
They fight for respectable women who are done wrong by white supremacy, but won’t raise a finger to help rape victims and domestic violence victims.
They say BLACK LIVES MATTER at rallies, but not to the homeless, the sex workers, black people in prison.
I love blackness in general, but not everyone loves mine back.
In many ways, my inability to stay respectable has left me on the outside of the movement.

That is why this song speaks to me.
Even though I am aware that Beyoncé probably doesn’t live her life the way this particular video portrays, I appreciate the lyrics. Best of all because of the sound of the song + Beyoncé’s reach, this song will blow up.
I can go to a gay club and hear this song, and watch everyone flip their sh*t. There will be other queer girls and gay boys dancing to this song. We will feel authentically black while it plays. We can be black and queer and slay without being told we’re “destroying the black family unit” or “unnatural perversions”
This song will be in the background when black women get weaves and get their nails done. This song will be playing in a store where I get my ho… I mean… work shoes. And we will sing along and be black, and be happy for 4 minutes without being told we are the problem with the black community.

This song will be my theme, even if it on some levels it is basic as hell. But this not a problem with Beyoncé. This is a problem with the black community at large.
Instead of chastising us for feasting on basic scraps, you should be asking you never let us at your table.
You can complain that the song isn’t revolutionary enough, but then who else is mainstream and black and making dance anthems for the lgtbqia community and women in general? Woke male artists who mock weaves and only want “good” women? Respectable woke queens who call the lgtbqia community a perversion and are too polite to twerk?

Ratchet, ghetto, hood ass black women and femmes matter too. And we’ve done enough to be deserving of a theme song.
You wanna talk about how the song is not radical? How Beyonce is not a “real” activist? Address yourself first. Why did a simple statement about afros and negro noses over a beat resonate with so many of us? How did she manage to give us something the black movement at large has denied us?
Maybe Beyoncé isn’t a revolutionary. but she won this round because nobody within the black movement even fucking competed with her to include us.

 

Let that marinate while I get these shoes on. and remember.

I DID NOT COME TO PLAY WITH YOU HEAUXS. I CAME TO SLAY BITCH.

 

Elsie_Anita_Ru_Paul_Horsefly_Platform_shoe

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Voting is (a form of) Activism. Here’s why.

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Voting is one of my staple forms of activism. I engage in the political process, not because I think the system works, but because I am painfully aware the system is broken.

I don’t vote because of nostalgia or legacy, so please don’t encourage me to vote by using guilt or coercion tactics. Telling me black people died for my right to vote doesn’t get me to the pools, it just makes you an asshole.

I do vote, but it has fuckall to do with the “respect for those who died” argument.

Black people didn’t die for the right to vote, they were murdered because they were black and pissing off the white establishment. It wasn’t the idea of casting a ballot that infuriated racists; it was the idea black people dared have autonomy and opinions.

Being killed for voting isn’t a badge of honor in world where being black and whistling, talking, walking, being employed, going to university, sagging pants, wearing hoodies, Jay walking, having cigarettes, sleeping on a couch, or driving a car can also lead to your death. You can be murdered for anything if you’re black. No matter if you’re doing activism, engaging in a crime, or just trying to live your life. Your age, gender or income level don’t matter. If you’re black, you’re a target, both inside and outside of the voting booth.

I respect the sacrifices of past generations, but I will not vote because of it.

I choose to vote because it’s part of my activism and I believe in harm reduction- not guilt voting- as a strategy. It’s something I can easily do, something I can access, and becomes a bare minimum form of activism for me.
I may not be able to stop homelessness, but I will try to make sure the candidate who wants to close homeless shelters doesn’t get elected.
I can’t stop the war on reproductive rights, end poverty, make clean water, end lgtbqia discrimination, end the pay gaps, but I can at least try not elect officials who will make these problems worse. That’s the least I can do while we organize and try to improve our communities. And we do need to continue to fight. Voting at best will prevent problems from becoming worse, but they will not solve our problems. we need to be realistic about what voting can and cannot accomplish.

I know, I can hear the argument now,

“voting doesn’t change anything!!!”

 

I disagree. We many not be able to find an official who represents us, especially since we are not a monolith and have different ideas. we may not find a solid black candidate because white supremacy is powerful, but what about life outside of the election?

In many areas, voting can increase your odds of being called for jury duty. Of course jury duty isn’t fun, but would have happen if more black people showed up for jury duty? would the grand juries for Tamir or Mike Brown have made different decisions? How about a different outcome for Zimmerman? If voting can help us increase our odds of serving on a jury shouldn’t we take it? How else can we try to ensure our own are truly judged by a jury of peers?

Our elected officials have the right to nominate judges at different levels. Despite the corruption in the system, do we really think all candidates would have equally awful nominations? Do we think gerrymandered districts benefit us? Can having clearer district lines help us? What about the homeless, felons, and others who are routinely denied the right to vote? Can we help elect candidates who are more sympathetic to marginalized groups who can’t vote themselves? If nothing else can we at least try to reduce harmful impacts by keeping the most dangerous candidates out of office if possible? Would higher voter turnout have prevented electing a governor of Kentucky that lowered minimum wage and cost working poor thousands of dollars a year?

Of course voting is not a magic bullet, it cannot solve our problems, or fix things at a structural level. Voting is the least we can do, but it still needs to be done. Let’s be frank- we are overwhelmed as it is. Trying to end police brutality, end racism, classism, and ableism is daunting. we try our best, but we are worn down and have few resources. So if we can at least slow down the bad legislation being thrown on us, I say we try.

So I will vote. I don’t vote because of  nostalgia or out of obligation, but I vote to try and give back to the community in all ways possible. and that includes reducing harm whenever possible.

The Jazz Party

We have these parties a few times a year. They are always in the city. In one of “those neighborhoods” the type devoid of whiteness and respectability. The sort of neighborhood where white kids from the suburbs come and try to buy heroin from any black person they see. Where the police patrol extra hard, but only during the day, where everyone knows someone in a gang, someone who has been shot, or been to prison. It’s grimy, it’s dark, but it’s still home, it’s still where I was born.

It’s my safe space, the place I go to when I need to feel secure. Tonight is no exception. I am on the platform waiting and waiting because the el* is late and I’m getting cold, and I am going to be late to my own damn party.

Tonight the main event is a jazz party. Where we get together. All of us. The rejects, the undesirables, the unlovable, the poor, sex workers, drug users. We really could be a propaganda poster to either increase social services or eliminate social services entirely depending on where your political allegiances lie. The el finally comes, and I get on before I can decide to leave and go back home. I have the next few minutes to avoid the drunk man trying to hit on me, and I am worried when he gets off at my stop.  I ignore his words while trying to gauge how far behind me he is. He follows me for a half a block yelling “hey ma” and finally “ugly bitch”. I avoid eye contact with the homeless man on the street feeling guilty for not having anything to give. A solidarity nod to a woman leaning up a against a brick wall wearing very high heels and very tight pants. She’s probably working, and suddenly I’m in tears again for the third time today. I finally make it to the apartment. I take a deep breath and knock on the door. When I get inside its all small smiles and gentle, hesitant hugs, and quiet chatter.

We are a room full of women. All shades of brown and black. Full of melanin and life. Beautiful. And we are having a party. It’s a party they put on for me, but nobody knows what to say or how to treat the guest of honor.

“Did anyone bring empanadas?” I ask loudly throwing my arms up and smiling in an attempt to break the tension.

Everyone relaxes, I have set the mood, for now we will all be happy. The party is very casual the sort of thing you would expect on a girls night out, or rather a girls night in. drinks, catching up, talking about kids, works, college, news in the neighborhood, favorite TV shows. The only difference is we’re all here because we are part of the same club- sex workers who have been raped and are in need of solidarity and understanding. Influenced by the funerals of New Orleans, we have a party where we walk in sad, but leave happy and try to make the best out of the worst. There’s little else we can do if we don’t to be consumed by the pain of the world, so we enjoy this party.

After a while I need the bathroom. I realize I’d forgotten tampons. I ask my host for one. Most everyone hears the request and cheers. This is a good thing. I have my period. I get a hug. My friends are relieved. They would’ve crowd funded an abortion if I had needed one, but it seems that won’t be an issue- this is a good thing for poor people when Christmas on the way.

I laugh and make a quip about silver linings. Could be worse right? I could’ve ended up pregnant.

“Or you could have ended up all fucked up in the hospital”

“Or dead”

That comment creates a moment of silence we all know. We all could’ve ended up dead at one point. The moment where a cop pulls out the night stick, where someone puts their hands around your throat, when your ex shows up feeling drunk and mean, when someone approaches you for services and you tell them no and they don’t appreciate your answer. Death is a very real part of the day here. In truth, many of us have ended up dead. This life is a hard life. There is no glamour, relaxation, or days off. The misery sticks to you the way smoke sticks to your clothes to remind you how close you were to the fire.

And suddenly for the fourth time today I cry. Ugly cry. Loud bawling, should shaking sobbing cry. Everything hurts. I’m angry, I’m upset, and I am tired.

“Cry it out, get it out”

Good advice. I nod and keep crying and then I cannot help myself, I launch into the long ramble. The ramble we all know because we’ve all been there, we have all said, lived it before.

It isn’t right men can just go around raping women. It isn’t fair that men can just go around raping sex workers. They only do it because they know I can’t tell. I don’t deserve this type of treatment. I can’t report to cops because I’ll be admitting to a crime by admitting I was selling sexual services. Not that cops would care anyways, since the last time I got raped it was a cop who did it. I can’t tell my other friends or family because if I do then the questions will start “why were you out so late?” “What were you wearing?” “Did you fight back hard enough?”

All the things that are irrelevant. Nobody deserves to be raped. Not even sex workers, not even women in heels, not even me. I struggle to remind myself of this. It’s hard and I am grateful for my friends who understand. I am grateful for this night, one small slice of safety and sanity in the middle of the hurricane that is currently my life.

And of course they understand. They have all been here before. We have these party more often than we should because this is the reality of our life. Rape is just something that happens. All you can do is move on from it, because there is little choice to do anything else.

If we tell cops, they’ll rape us. They will put us in prison, most likely a prison with male guards who will rape us. Or in the case of J., who is a Trans woman, she’ll go to a men’s prison and the inmates will rape her.

We can’t tell other family and friends because they think the problem is prostitution! Not rape culture. Not that men target us because they can. Not that the stigma around sex work leads predators to find. Stigma is nothing more than blood in the water and predators are adept at following the scent. Our churches will tell us to leave the life of sin, our mothers will cry and ask why we’re so immoral, our fathers will say we need a strong husband to keep us on the straight and narrow, the rescue organizations will try to cure us even though we aren’t ill, and the courts will put us into prison, and cops will rape us on the way to booking. The rest of the world will just wait for us to go public with our stories so they can make a joke about how it wasn’t rape, it was theft of services. I debate going reaching out to feminist organizations I know, but ultimately I decide against it. I’ve been told one too many times that I’m a collaborator on the oppression of women, or that I am too stupid to understand consent. I’ve had sex before, consensually, for money. It didn’t leave me bruised and bloodied like this did. I can’t talk to someone who make slight of my trauma. It will just be this party. This will be my only place because I do not have access to safe resources outside of this room.

At this moment I am surrounded by the dearest of friends but I feel isolated and alone because I can’t help but dwell on how much the world hates me. Really truly hates me, will dance on my grave when I die hates me.

  1. tries to make me feel better “at least you don’t have as many injuries as the last time”

This is true. Last time I had cuts in my palms, arms, and legs from the bottom of an alley way. Gravel in my knees, glass shards in my palms, filthy rain water from a pothole in my hair.

But I cannot dwell on that now. I only have a few hours to unpack as much of this trauma as I can. So the mood lightens again. Hugs. Drinks. Twerking, makeup swops, hair tips, what we’re buying our children for Christmas. For a few hours we look like normal women just having fun. You wouldn’t know how much baggage we carry in our souls. That we’ve all been raped, most of us more than once, that we do sex work or have other hustles to pay bills. That we’ve all thought about quitting life, that we don’t know how to make it around the rules of a society that hates us. That we have nightmares about past attacks sometimes. That sometimes we cry ourselves to sleep.

No. tonight we’re a group of friends watching movies and having a party. The night ends far too soon, and I have to leave to make it back to my own home. I feel sad as I walk out the door.

  1. reminds me that I did my job- “you made it home alive. That’s all that matters” and gives me a final hug.

I did make it home alive, I have won yet another round of this game where the grand prize is not dying. I wonder what kind of world I live in but suppose I will have the next few train stops to figure it out.

 

 

*el- elevated train, public transit in the city of Chicago

Why Are White People Saying #FuckParis – By Phoenix Calida

Source: Why Are White People Saying #FuckParis – By Phoenix Calida

The case of the Missing Bedfellows

Bedfellow:

noun

an associate or collaborator, especially one who forms a temporary alliance for reasons of expediency:

Politics makes strange bedfellows.
I remember some WW2 propaganda that has always stuck with me. It was the image of a Russian soldier running and leaping into bed with Uncle Sam and a British soldier. I was still a child sneaking Time Life books, so I smirked at the unintended(?) homoeroticsm of Uncle Sam and big strapping masculine soldiers in bed together. Despite my initial juvenile sexual humor, the larger implication wasn’t lost on me.

Our new bedfellow!” the poster proclaimed, reminding Americans that the war had shifted. Russia was on our side. The Nazis were still evil, but the Russians had seen the light, come to Jesus, and suddenly loved American liberty. They were our friends and allies. Sort of. 

This image has always stayed with me, and even as an adult I recall it when I see groups at polar ends of the spectrum joining to together for a powerful- albeit usually brief- project. I’ve seen Radfems (descriptor not slur!) join with conservative patriarchal christians to chip away at sex worker rights. I’ve seen gay white men join hetero conservatives in racism. I’ve seen liberal white feminists ™ join up with republicans to complain about how #alllivesmatter #blacklivesmatter is racist. I’ve seen adults who make very strange bedfellows manage to tolerate each other long enough to take down the greater enemy- that enemy usually being non-white people and/or “bad” women.

Which leads to me note exactly how cold and empty my own bed is right now. I have no bedfellows. I speak as an afro-latinx. A sex worker. A person in poverty. A person with mental health issues. Physical health issues. I have many beds because of who I am, but right now, only one bed remains unoccupied. The bed that should have all the anti #holtzclaw organizers in it. The black males who fight white supremacy should be here. White feminists who fight patriarchal values should be here. Sex workers who fight to end stigma and queers who fight for legal rights should all be here. Anarchists who fight the police state should be here.

And yet, the bed where I plan on how to approach the #DanielHoltzlcaw case remains empty. Holtzclaw is a cop. He appears to be white. He raped 13 women, I believe all were black, and most were sex workers. I have no doubt more victims will come forward as time goes on. I am not certain what the verdict will be, but I know black women who do sex work have nothing to profit from lying, so I believe the man is a rapist. His trial proceedings begin this week, jury selection began yesterday, and I am watching.

But I am watching alone. I have no bedfellows. The black men who decry racism and white supremacy are strangely silent when the topic is black WOMEN brutalized and assaulted by police. There are no hashtags, no marches, no fiery speeches about white devils. The white feminists are silent as well. None of the resources created to end patriarchy and systemic misogyny are being applied to these black bodies that bear the ultimate price of being born a woman in this world. The anarchists, police watchers, and those fighting the system must be out fighting another system today, because I can’t seem to find them. Even fellow black women have turned their backs because the victims are only hoes, not respectable queens living a pure lifestyle.

Perhaps everyone is too busy coming to the aid of fake black woman Rachel Dolezal to care? Perhaps society has convinced itself that pretending to be a black woman and stealing resources from actual black women is the one true activism? Perhaps the white feminists and black men are too busy praising Ms. Dolezal to be concerned about actual black women? After all, there are only so many resources to go around and white women still outrank black women on the social ladder by several rungs. Perhaps black women should be forgotten in this moment because someone who has a higher rank and more social capital has requested backup?

And yet the people who have abandoned me today are the people I have marched for. The people I march with. The people I have fought for. I go to feminist events, try to provide comfort in black women’s spaces, try to heal wounds of racism in black spaces. But none of these people are here now. They’ve all gotten out of bed, and I find I have no bedfellows to help me plan a course of action.

This case should be “the thing”, the topic du jour, the hashtag on everyone’s lips. It has everything we as a collective fight against.

Racism.

Slut shaming.

Misogyny.

rape culture.

Militarized police state.

And yet I have no bedfellows. Could it be that our movements are dishonest at their core? Black men don’t really want black liberation, they want black male liberation? Certain Black women have bought the idea of respectability politics and queendom, hoes be (literally) damned. White women who fight to end patriarchy only mean to do it in such a way that protects white women, but not all women from harm?

Is that why there is so little outrage or support for the victims of this case? Is that why nobody cares?

So again I’m reminded that racism is bad- when men of color are the targets.

sexism is bad- when white women are the targets.

Rape is bad- if the victim isn’t a sex worker.

Police brutality is wrong- if the victim is respectable and has a great back story.

But for black women, black sex workers, non-respectable Negresses, police brutality and rape are just part of the risk of being alive. We have no bedfellows, but perhaps we can whisper our pain and fear to the pillows and bed sheets. It seems nobody else has the desire to listen.

In a roundabout way, it does remind me of my initial sexual thought of the term “bedfellows”. As a child, I’d thought the term was sexual by nature, even though I know now this isn’t the case. But perhaps in an metaphorical way it applies here-

black women are seen as so unfuckable and undesirable nobody will get into bed with us. We are destined to remain without allies or support systems. This is price of being black and female and living in a very hellish place where racism and misogyny meet.

Eternal solitude. And a lack of allies, co-conspirators, or even bedfellows.

“I told you so” and other bittersweet musings

I need to finish this post before the news story changes again-

I started writing this last night because the story (and backstories behind) the #springvalleyassault were keeping me up. The original footage of the cop slamming that child was bad enough, but then standard operating procedure kicked in and the racists came out. 

They claim she deserved it, she was a thug, she was defiant, she was disobedient and assaulted an officer. In short, racists brought the standard arguments. There wasn’t anything we shouldn’t have come to expect from a scenario like this. The black child is assumed guilty because her level of melanin is directly linked to her assumed level of criminality. 

I wanted to push for her. She didn’t deserve this for having the nerve to  be born a black child. She was sitting at a desk, she was in no way able to seriously harm the hulking man- equipped with a gun, badge, handcuffs, taser, and bulletproof vest- that beat her. This was going to be an opportunity to discuss racism, police brutality, and the over aggressive and militaristic tendencies of police. The racists would stay racist, the anti racists would stay anti racist, and the fence sitters would see the force was excessive and pick a side.

Then the heartbreak- this child was orphan. In foster care. Having spent some time waiting to be adopted myself, I understand the special level of hell that is foster care. I understand what foster care means specifically to black girls. My heart went out to this child, but I couldn’t help but having feelings of anger at the people really leaning in on the orphan foster kid story. This was a discussion about fighting for racial equality, not a re-reading of a modern day Oliver Twist. 

I know how callous that sounds, but stick with me a moment. I was livid at the people who

called her a thug one minute but were in tears over her orphan status the next. the folks who claimed she “had it coming” turned into “what a tragic story” literally overnight. 

I was concerned. I didn’t want this story to become the respectable perfect victim story of a young black girl brutalized and beaten by police. Cause thing is- she was a victim either way. 

she could be light skin, have “good hair” get good grades, be an orphan and be a model for respectability that tugs your heart strings.

BUT

she could also have been a dark skinned, booty shaking, crop top wearing, nappy headed child who filled every negative hood stereotype about the black community- she still would’ve been a victim.  

None of  that bullshit matters. this crime was atrocious and tragic because a white male cop who is paid to represent the interests of white supremacy assaulted and seriously injured a black girl by putting her in her place to reinforce a social hierarchy that uses her back as a stepping stone. There is no  tale of a  perfect victim. a respectable black girl. or an orphan black girl. This is a cautionary tale of white supremacy does to any black girl it can find.

We need to step up and protect black girls from the world they live in. It doesn’t matter how respectable the children  are, how often they sext, how often they twerk, if they have a sulky demeanor,  smart mouths, or what their GPA is. Respectability politics do not help us, they harm us. They do not save us, they get us slaughtered. Respectability politics gives us the false hope that if we just perm out hair, don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t be loud, don’t look white folks in the eyes, don’t stand up straight, don’t have a 3-syllable name they cannot pronounce, we will be safe. But in reality, safety isn’t in the cards for us. 

Which leads us to the problem we have now. As it turns out, there was a miscommunication somewhere- the child isn’t an orphan. Her mother isn’t dead. Now all the people who only felt sympathy for a fleeting moment because they pity orphans are back to calling her a thug, a brat, an arrogant teen. 

As much as we may have wanted to humanize this girl by talking about  family tragedy, we have failed her. We’ve also failed all the other black girls who stories didn’t go viral because they didn’t ooze respectable clickbait headlines that appeal to white sensibilities. If the only reason white allies feel concerned about a black girl’s story is because it’s sad enough to humanize her, the reality is these “allies” don’t care at all. Their compassion- and ultimately help- is conditional on how well we can sell a story that justifies our humanity. 

and you know what? Fuck that. Black girls are humans. Back girls deserve respect. Black girls deserve love. All black girls. not just ones that make good clickbait, or ones who make you grab kleenex to wipe your tears. All black girls matter. So like I been sayin- lets focus on the real problem here. 

A cop. A white male cop. A white male cop with handcuffs, authority, a gun, and bulletproof vest  hurt a black girl. He slammed her down so hard she broke bones and had to go to a hospital. And the world is justifying it because she was a threat because she said no to that white man who hurt her. 

That’s crime. That’s the story, and it could have happened to any of our daughters because its dangerous to be black. 

Sex Work vs. Bills vs. Empowerment

I do sex work. It is a job I have. It doesn’t empower me, but I am not exploited. Now I know people automatically think that because I am sex worker I must either be a 14 year old trafficking victim in a brothel or a high end escort in Manhattan. In reality, I’m neither. I am just a person who happens to be in real poverty and sells sexual services to pay bills. I could go into my chronic health conditions, how I’ve battled depression, how scheduling is practically impossible as a single parent, how I don’t have a degree… all the reasons I can’t just get a regular 9-5 job and make my bills. But truth is, none of that matters. I need money, just like everyone else. Why I’ve chosen one job over another isn’t’ anyone’s business.

What you need to know is that I do sex work because I am in an economic situation where I have to make money. I am not empowered, and I personally will never be empowered through sex work. I know people think that sex work isn’t valid if I’m not “empowered”, but what the fuck does that rhetoric even mean? I am not empowered as a human and sex work has fuck-all to do with that. I am not empowered because I am not white, or male, or hetero, or wealthy, or healthy. Sex work will NEVER empower me as a person because I live in a world that was created to strip power from me. I will not feel empowered in any job I work because sexism, racism, and lgtbq harassment are ever present around me.  People opposed to sex work like to say “we don’t make choices in a vacuum” and they are absolutely right. We don’t make choices in a vacuum because no matter what choice I make, I will pretty near the bottom of the privileges list, and never be empowered on a socially recognizable scale. Don’t blame the sex industry for that. Lay the blame where it belongs- oppressive power structures that deny the humanity of people based on race, gender, and sexuality.

I worked plenty of straight jobs, but I never felt that I was in an “empowering” climate. Sexual harassment, racism, and bi antagonism were a part of every job. Even though I was being the proverbial good girl, working regular jobs, and getting promoted and making money, I still had to deal with micro aggressions in the workplace. Employers telling me how well I spoke for being a colored. People touching my hair. Touching my butt. Telling me to smile and offering to fuck me into a better mood. Asking if I would put on a show with female partners. That was not empowering to me, but nobody has questioned if being a waitress, retail employee, secretary, customer service rep, or teacher was a “real job” because of course, we all know those things are real jobs.

So yes, I will say it again- I am not empowered and I sell sexual services for money. But that doesn’t mean I need or want rescue. I’m not a trafficking victim, nor am I a victim of the industry. I don’t have an abusive pimp like you see in the movies. I have never been locked up against my will in an illegal brothel full of sex slaves. If I am victim of anything, it’s a shitty economic system that gauges your value based on how much you can produce, and deciding you do not deserve basic human needs if you don’t produce enough. Even though I can’t work a steady full time job, I still need money, so I had to find something to make some money, and that something happened to be sex work. A lot of times my job isn’t fun. It’s rarely something I would consider empowering. And that’s where people on the left side of things need to better. let’s acknowledge sex work is real work, and not just because some people find it empowering. sometimes, sex work is just the best fit based on personal circumstances.

turn-blu

Fellow sex workers and allies- I’m looking at you on this one.

We’ve have a surge of blonde bombshell sex kitten escorts, post-secondary degree students, and sugar babies bragging about how “empowered” they are. They fuck senators and judges, and make a few grand a night and only 3 days a week. Those women might very be empowered. Hell, if they are feeling good about themselves, and feeling empowered, I am happy for them.

But I am not one of them, and I am not alone. I am poor. I am black. Latina. Sometimes I work in dangerous neighborhoods. Sometimes I can’t afford to say no to clients or certain sex acts. I am not empowered, but I am still a sex worker, and my life still has worth and my work is still work.

I know the sex workers as whole tried to push back against the exploited down trodden victim image swerfs and abolitionists played up. Suddenly every sex worker was an empowered white woman with a college degree who had a world full of other options. I get it. I understand why it happened. For a while I even fell into it myself, thinking I was a bad sex worker and not showing solidarity if I ever mentioned that I’d probably leave if I had other options. But I’m over that- and you should be too. We need to be real about who sex workers are and what we look like. Representation matters. Visibility matters. All of our stories matter. Not just high end workers and porn stars, but survival based workers, Trans sex workers, p.o.c. sex workers, street based sex workers, sex workers in illegal apartment brothels. Because we are all doing legitimate work. Work that deserves to be valued as work. Work that does not negate our humanity or right to safety.

So please remember we don’t need to be empowered to have worth. We don’t need to have access to a free world full of other choices to make our current choices valid. We don’t have to love our jobs. We don’t want to be saved and rescued. We aren’t obligated to help you fulfill some weird savior fantasy.

All we want basic human dignity and respect, and we’ve deserved that whether or not or jobs make us feel empowered, and whether or not you approve of what we do.

-Phoenix Calida

#sexworkiswork #respectsexworkers #notyourrescueproject

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