What makes a feminist in 2020?
In this series, we invited 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.
CAN YOU BE A FEMINIST AND BE AGAINST ABORTION?
No, I don’t see how you can be a feminist and at the same time be against a woman’s right to her own body.
Yes, if you only apply that principle to yourself and as long
as you’re not taking the choice away from other people
to have abortions (e.g. through passing laws). I also wouldn’t see
trying to talk people out of aborting in a way that doesn’t
shame them for their choice as something going against feminism.
To put it as bluntly as I can: people forget that they are just animals; rather than viewing themselves as a body that has functions, they attach symbolism and sentiment to everything. They can’t view anything practically, like that a woman may not have the finances to care for a child. They would rather attach more importance to the life of an unborn being rather than think about the individual woman who has her life that she has developed or about the homeless person they just passed on the street. Saying you are against abortion is an easy way out to feel morally high for people who are unable or too lazy to actually consider and do something about the suffering and societal injustice that happens in front of them every day.
No. Nobody has the right to police another person’s body.
A pillar of feminism is the right to choose: in dress, work, religion, and absolutely
in sex and reproduction. Being anti-abortion is demanding that pregnant
folks give up their bodily autonomy, a right that remains
with us after death. It’s saying if you’re pregnant,
you have less ownership of your body than a corpse.
Yes. There are all sorts of complicated reasons why people might be against abortion and I do not consider myself, or others, in a position to police that. However, what is certainly not feminist is curtailing the actual legal and material rights for people with wombs to choose whether they will have an abortion or not. I’m 100% pro-choice but I respect that some people would not have an abortion because it goes against their beliefs, religious or otherwise. In that sense, it is possible to be a feminist and be against abortion. But, for me, what is not possible is to be a feminist and be against abortion rights for people with wombs.
Illustration by Svenja Heutelbeck
Watercolor art by Naya Katsi