Saturday, June 16, 2007

On the dubious advantages of "straight" work

"...What [prostitution/sex work] is is societaly coerced and that makes it slavery."

Then flight attendants are also slaves. I have to wear at least 2 inch heels, pantyhose, even though by the airline's own admission, they are dangerous on a flight in the event of an onboard cabin as they melt to the skin at a very low temperature and by SOP, any threat of onboard fire we should take them off, yet they are required with the wool/polyester blend dress that is horrible in 90 plus degree heat with an acrylic scarf around my neck, which any psycho or terrorist can use as a method to strangle me. None of which are articles of clothing I would wear on my own in the summer. All ultimately because it is the societal norm for what is expected of a female airline employee to look professional. Which ultimately means the airline feels men will appreciate seeing female employees dressed this way and our comfort is irrelevant as how many women care that another woman is wearing an acrylic scarf and pantyhose in the south in the summer?

I won't even go into my other job. Both of which are considered mainstream. Both make the the constant targets of frustrated travelers who want to take out their aggression and frustration on the first available person, which that is often me. Did I cause the blizzard that screwed up their travel plans? Or the thunderstorm? Or the declined credit card? Or their own stupid asses that got to the airport too late and missed their flight? Or the mechanical problems that could cause the aircraft to crash thus delaying their flight rather than risking killing 140 people. Of course who cares about the crew or the airport employees in general. The only concern you ever hear about is how passengers are effected. It's a job. It has drawbacks. If I didn't need the money I would quit both of them without notice.

Bad news to all the feminists who call the straight job such a damn improvement over sex work but I take more abuse working two jobs in the aviation industry than I did as a stripper.

But these same radical feminists are the ones who get to their conferences pissed off about their flight delays, that their hotel room wasn't exactly what they wanted, that they got a ford taurus rent a car rather than a lincoln town car because they paid only for the taurus and didn't get a free upgrade just because they felt they were entitled. The same feminists who rip a new ass to the flight attendant forgetting they are one of 150 passengers, not the only passenger, because the airline discontinued pillows to keep fares down, same feminist who ripped the ticket agent a new ass because she told them they were too late to make their flight or that their flight was delayed because God forbid it was determined by the airline or the FAA for whatever reason it was unsafe for the aircraft to push and they'd rather everyone live than take the risk of a crash. Or the waitress who has to tell them the kitchen is backed up and their meal will be 3 minutes late. The same feminists who feel their conferences about sexual slavery and human trafficking should be held only at 5 star hotels with plenty of costumed employees at all levels of their journey who they consider beneath them to serve them and to be the recipient of all their travel frustration because their day wasn't perfect. Where is the feminist respect for these employees?

These same feminists who think the world revolves around them, who feel that because they have their huge degrees, their big honorariums for speaking, their anthology publications, that they should speak about and for sex workers even though they have never done sex work, the same feminists who feel that sex workers shouldn't have a voice or be allowed to speak because we are speaking about work, they are speaking about slavery. Well, screw that! Even if I am a slave, shouldn't I be heard? And those who arrogantly state that I and other sex workers shouldn't be heard because we can't differentiate sex work from slavery,,,,,,,,,,, that sounds remarkably like oppression to me. Oppression by false rescuers. How exactly does a conference or another anthology help anyone in prostitution more than condoms, more than computer skill training when they want to leave sex work, more than STD education,

God fucking forbid but SWOP East is coordinating a harm reduction based project with a sex worker rights activist org in South America to get condoms to sex workers who can't get them, which I know, here we go, is pro prostitution, pro slavery and all that feminist shit, well, I'd rather see the women in South America stay alive and not die of a horrible disease than withhold resources until they agree to give up sex work. Great, according to TVPRA US Law we can send condoms to sex workers pledging not to do sex work. That's constructive. Ok, now that you don't need it, here it is, greetings from your feminist rescuers en Los Estados Unidos....


--Jill Brenneman

21 comments:

Mandos said...

Is her characterization of radfem travellers based on experience?

belledame222 said...

ask her.

Amber said...

*applause*

(Also, applause to BD for that rather obvious, but apparently necessary, response to mandos)

Mandos said...

I was vaguely hoping that she was a regular reader here because myspace makes my eyes hurt and it's throwing strange programming exceptions anyway.

belledame222 said...

yeah, I don't like reading myspace either, honestly, i'd probably be over there a lot more often if she had a blog or even an lj.

little light said...

Damn.

As a current service employee at a very liberal institution who constantly takes piles of shit from self-identified radicals and progressives--the sort of people who direct abuse at my work uniform and fail to take into account that they're 'fighting the Man' by being nasty and imperious with a brown queer woman working a blue-collar job--just...

damn.

There's a progressive/radical organizing conference going on at my workplace in a bit. I will be fascinated to observe how they treat the service staff. I'm kind of hoping to identify which of them read me, at some point, so I can shock them if they give me any guff.

CrackerLilo said...

This is terrific. I've never been a sex worker, because nobody wants to pay to see me naked. However, I can't think it's *that* much more degrading than working in a McDonald's or taking customer service calls, both of which require you to take tons of crap with a smile. I hope some self-righteous radical feminist read and understood this.

Louisefeminista said...

I thought it was a good post from Jill as I too am sick of this too. I had an argument with a comrade about this very issue and "respectable/acceptable" work. He saw sex work as pure exploitation and there was no point of unionisation.

His arguments were worrying as it's getting into whole area of "proper/improper job" and hierarchy of "acceptable" work.

People make a living and have to get by and I hate these judgemental attitudes. Aren't we all exploited and being screwed by capitalism? And why highlight sex work in particular?

I worked a cleaner and the trade union had been smashed therefore terms and conditions were appalling, health and safety non-existance, basic pay, and worked split shifts. It was back breaking tiring work.

But hey, according to this comrade and rad fems, this is a "proper job"..

Sassywho said...

um.... golf clap!

yeah, what she said.

A. J. Luxton said...

I can't say how true this is without totally blowing my cover. Just, it is.

andi said...

I think it says a lot about people when they treat folks in the service industry as "less" then they.
and it makes no never mind to me if that service is sex related or "straight work" or on some imaginary hierarchy of good/bad/worthy/moreworthy.
I have to wonder what anyone gets out of treating another person badly just because they think that person has a "worse" job.

Louisefeminista said...

Andi: "I have to wonder what anyone gets out of treating another person badly just because they think that person has a "worse" job".

I agree totally. I think it is called the moral high ground (just watch they don't fall off!)

Also to be judged as having a "worse" job but the fact you can get a "proper" job. This "prolier than prole" acceptable job reasoning is utter bollocks.

I really wish people would stop judging and lecturing people about how they make their money. What I argue for is unionisation and that workers get good representation, support, collective bargaining and know their rights. Unity strength and all that jazz...

atlasien said...

I don't really have a stake on either side of this debate, but I guess I'll give a view from the middle.

I used to work in a strip club as a cocktail waitress and have also had several other kinds of service jobs. I don't want to withhold the right to judge that certain jobs are better than other jobs (although I agree it is not right to judge the people in this jobs).

I put up with less garbage from customers in the strip club than at other service jobs, because there were two large bouncers keeping customers in line. In terms of money, effort and having to put up with insults from customers, the working conditions were better.

At the same time, I grew to really hate working there. I would advise any relative or friend, especially if they were a woman, not to do what I did and go for the easy money. I just felt like I was exposed to a lot of ugly stuff, and if I had been less independent-minded, I might have gotten sucked into a really depressing lifestyle. The service jobs where I got more direct humiliation were less psychologically damaging.

I went into that job feeling that sex work was just the same as any other kind of work, but I don't feel that way anymore at all.

It's got to be better than multi-level marketing though.

Renegade Evolution said...

I couldn't take the BS over there anymore, especially while on vacation...I am glad Jill said something...

Joan Kelly said...

To me the advantage of sex work over any other kind of service work I've done is that I could tell a client to fuck off when I was doing sex work, and not get "fired" from the job for it. Sadly not so when I waited tables, etc.

I have seen people who are supposedly into human rights and whatnot be obnoxious in the way this post describes. Sometimes I feel like it's "the political is impersonal." There is someone who I really like and respect who does a lot of amazing work here in L.A. and all over the world. But I am uncomfortable meeting him for lunch unless I can cover the whole bill, because he is a demanding and perpetually dissatisfied customer, and he leaves horrible tips. I don't yet have the words (or the balls) to talk to him about why it's good to do the work he does, but acceptable to shit on women of color who are food servers at the restaurant we go to.

At the same time - I have seen this type of thing in all kinds of people, not just stupifyingly hypocritical "radical" types. I worked briefly with a woman while I was doing sex work who knew down to the dollar what anybody else owed her for her work. But when we would go out to eat she would feign "ignorance around money and math" and undertip. I got tired of making up the difference so stopped going out to eat with her, too.

Which is not to say I am always the best person out in the world. I have been a jerk to people sometimes and had to go back and apologize. But I'm a jerk sometimes in every situation of my life, and I never think people deserved it when I behave poorly. I feel like some people have a deep seated belief that there are some people on this planet who are just meant to serve others, that they really don't see people in any kind of service job (sex work or non sex work) as being the same kind of human being they are. And it becomes okay to bitch the people in those jobs out because after all, being a recipient for someone else's need to vent is such a valuable service.

assembling words to armory, she waits... said...

God fucking forbid but SWOP East is coordinating a harm reduction based project with a sex worker rights activist org in South America to get condoms to sex workers who can't get them, which I know, here we go, is pro prostitution, pro slavery and all that feminist shit, well, I'd rather see the women in South America stay alive and not die of a horrible disease than withhold resources until they agree to give up sex work.

isn't this the same argument that those people promoting abstinence-only policies in schools use? yeah, let's just leave people out there with NO aid, help, resources or protection just because we're 'morally opposed' to what they're doing. how effing inhumane.

and, to add in my two cents:

one of my best friends from childhood has been working in the sex industry for years (and with whom i worked for a short while), and always used to tell me that she thought every woman should have to be a stripper for just one night, so they could experience what it's like. all the bullshit, all the power exchange, all the good and the bad that goes along with dancing, believing that then, when walking around in the light of day, in the 'straight' world, she wouldn't have to hide herself and be forced into a false sense of shame. a naive idea, perhaps, but there you go. thoughts?

andi said...

one of my best friends from childhood has been working in the sex industry for years (and with whom i worked for a short while), and always used to tell me that she thought every woman should have to be a stripper for just one night, so they could experience what it's like. all the bullshit, all the power exchange, all the good and the bad that goes along with dancing, believing that then, when walking around in the light of day, in the 'straight' world, she wouldn't have to hide herself and be forced into a false sense of shame. a naive idea, perhaps, but there you go. thoughts?

Why should only women have to? I'd say that things would change right quick if everyone had to.

assembling words to armory, she waits... said...

Why should only women have to? I'd say that things would change right quick if everyone had to.
true true. that would be VERY interesting. i was just relaying her statement. not trying to be gender-inclusive :)

andi said...

assembling words to armory, she waits..., can you ask her that sometimetime, I'd love to hear her thoughts.

belledame222 said...

thanks, atlasien, and welcome-and to assembling words, and Joan, if I haven't already.

louisa said...

*applause*