What makes a feminist in 2020?
We asked feminists all over the world to share their views on what we think are some of the crucial questions that we should be debating right now. The feminist movement is broad, diverse and sometimes divided. Is that a good or a bad thing? Please, share your opinion with us and your fellow feminists.
CAN YOU BE A FEMINIST AND WANT TO CRIMINALISE SEX WORK?
No, many sex-workers are working for decriminalisation of sex-work and feminists should listen to the voices of those affected by a given issue. Those who want to get rid of sex-work as a profession will not achieve that by criminalising it, it will only make it more dangerous.
It is very controversial, but I don’t think sex work should be normalized or advocated because it can have more problematic effects on the individuals willing to engage with sex work rather than protect all those minorities subject to sex trafficking. Yet criminalizing anything won’t exactly fix anything.
I can understand why feminists wouldn’t want sex-work to exist, because a lot of women, especially under-aged girls or women from an underprivileged social background, are forced into sex work. Also, for some feminists (including myself) it’s hard to understand why someone would be a sex-worker out of free will. However, criminalising sex-work would mean less safety and security for sex-workers, worse working conditions, no protection and potential less income. As a feminist I find it very important to create a safe environment for sex-workers, even if you wouldn’t want to do this kind of work yourself. It’s also very important to treat sex-workers with respect instead of shaming them. A feminist can disapprove of sex-work, but you can’t be a feminist and wanting to criminalise sex-work if that means endangering the lives of other women.
Yes, because sex-work is gender neutral.
Not the same type of feminist as I am. I think you can critique sex work as inherently exploitative because it exists within a patriarchal capitalist system that exploits women’s bodies, while working to protect the interests of sex workers and their ability to work safely and legally.
I think people who want to criminalise sex work are often misinformed about the benefits of decriminalising sex work: how that would positively affect the lives of sex workers and expand their resources towards care (medical, emotional) and safety. I recently wrote an article about the mobilisation of DecrimNY, an activist group advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work. A member, and former sex worker herself, Jessica Raven, told me that the desire to criminalise sex work comes largely from misrepresentation in the media of the extent of sex workers who are trafficked. While trafficking is a legitimate concern which many people believe can only be solved by wholistic abolishment of the sex trade, I personally don’t believe the solution is an essentialist criminalisation of sex work.
Being a supporter of sex work is about recognising and designating equal value to all professions, so long as they are entered into consensually and with total free will.
I myself cannot be a feminist and not support sex work. Any other ideology would seem blinkered and elitist.
Illustration by Svenja Heutelbeck
Watercolor art by Naya Katsi