Workers Memorial Day 2009
Today is Workers Memorial Day.
As always, when it comes to work and sex and society, I am thinking about some of the most vulnerable among us: sex workers. Sex workers are a large and diverse group. I don't mean to use the term as a euphemism for prostitutes, though I do include them. I mean to include all whose labor is in the providing of sexual or erotic services. I mean to include them whether their work is legal or criminalized, whether they are migrants or not, whether they have a great deal of autonomy or are working in exploitive conditions. No matter what, all those workers deserve to be safe.
The serial killings of prostitutes in places like Ipswich (UK), Vancouver, and Washington remind us of the particular dangers faced by prostitutes (or women suspected of being prostitutes) but it is important to remember that workers in the legal realms of erotic work are also put at risk as we've been tragically reminded recently by attack on Roberta Busby, who was set on fire outside a strip club in February or the murder of Julissa Brisman in a hotel in Boston earlier this month.
Three simple thoughts, then, on Workers Memorial Day:
1. No women are safe until prostitutes are safe. As long prostitutes are targets of violence, and as long as that violence can be perpetrated with much less risk of sanction, and as long as all women are potentially identifiable as prostitutes by virtue of owning our sexuality, no women are safe until prostitutes are safe.
2. An injury to one is an injury to all. When we don’t speak up to protect the safety of other groups, we cannot expect much support when we ourselves are targeted. Solidarity is important across groups of workers. Stigma and bias only serve to divide us. Whatever work we do, whether erotic or otherwise, whether legal or not, whether chosen or not, we need to stand up for each others rights to self determination and safety.
3. Those of us with more privilege (greater safety, more autonomy, more money, more education, more access to power) need to use it to improve conditions for those with less.
Workers deserve to be safe.