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accountability

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Okay. so i’m working on my proposal and I’m thinking about lines of accountability. here’s the thing, i will interview women who work in front line social servicey work, you know, drop in centres, outreach, shelters, advocacy, soup kitchens, this n that. and i’m looking for how they understand their work. the policies of their agencies, the structural supports or interferences (mostly the latter, for sure) of  the state, law enforcement, the culture of patriarchy. And i’m looking for what they think of the application of ‘harm reduction’ tactics to women in street prostitution. so, like that’s free condoms, ‘bad trick sheets’ (new more euphemistically called ‘bad date sheets’, coffee at night from a van, referrals (if requested), ‘beauty night’ (pah–lesbians? there are no lesbians here! and certainly no woman who actually doesn’t WANT to get all tarted up if she’s taking the night off–christ on a cracker–) — and agitation to repeal Canada’s solicitation laws.

See, if we tell women they deserve better; if we say, “do you want to go to detox?”; if we call the men who buy them “tricks” or “johns”; if we say–“prostitution is male violence against women”– we are interfering with her choice. We are depriving her of an income. We are judgmental.

“Harm Reduction”, on the other hand, meets the women where they are–on the street, entrenched in ‘the life’, perhaps addicted, ‘choosing’ to sell sex–and offers her a little more–a place to clean up. A condom given to her by another woman who used to be in prostitution (but who is not allowed to tell her how she got out–). A coffee and a few minutes to sit in a warm van and talk to nice people. A warning about the guy, between 23 and 42 years old, blond, scar on his left cheek, drives a Toyota Celica, demanded anal, raped and then didn’t pay the last girl he was with. Band-aids.

Hell YA, i’m judgmental. I judge the men who buy these women. They’re abusive. To a man, they are abusing their unearned power, every woman who crosses their paths, and every woman they don’t know, to boot.  I want to know why the blond guys male friends don’t hold him to account, tell him to stop buying women. Why are men abandoning each other all over the place? I know it ‘s because we do their emotional work for them, we are the ones to blame for their loneliness and disengagement, we feminists, who insist that they do the dishes and move over and make room and don’t cry on my fucking shoulder buddy, you raped my friend…my mother my auntie my sister…stop it, stop it get out of my way, get out of our way.

To whom am I accountable when i do my research? when i write up my findings, and make my decisions about analysis? I think it’s mostly to radical feminists. the women’s liberation movement. to an ideology, a vision, a social movement, an uprising of women. That kinda makes it easier, in a way. i don’t think i have to agree with someone in order to be accountable to the struggle for her freedom. She wants to get in my way of fighting for her freedom, well–okay, but i’m fighting for your freedom anyway, ya might just as well move over.

There are women who call themselves feminists who work in these agencies. hell, i’m one. or was. But it always weirded me out that my pretty good slaray depended on other people having jackshit. and part of my job was to be a liason between The Beautiful People (the folks who called the lines, used the drop-in centres, needed the help) and the State (social services, medicine, law, cops–you know, Institutions of Power). In everything I did, I was implicated in sustaining systems of inequality. Oh sure, i sat on boards, and hollered at Demos and advocated for women to get more than the meager crumbs “the man” threw their way–but if I wanted to keep my $20/hour job, I ‘d best not hand over the keys to the clients, ya know?

To whom am i accountable? The Beautiful People, but not if they are going to be complicit in their own exploitation and oppression (which most of us are, in some ways–we wanna hold to the bits of privilege we have–if we’re white, north american born, university educated, middle-class, or working-working-class or –) — I want to be brave enough to call it. To say, “well, no. I am not going to go along with your ‘choice’ to suck cock for money. I want you to stop, I don’t think it is a choice you would make were you really free”. I think I have a responsibility to interfere with the trade and barter and traffic of women’s bodies for men’s sexual gratification. Cause i’m accountable to the women’s liberation movement, and when this movement gets us to REAL land of the free, well–them boys are not even gonna think to ask their sisters for a blowjob. let alone demand it.

Alright. but am I idealistic? what about when i talk to women who work in social services and they are accountable to the board, to their bosses, to the union, to the funders–but less so to their co-workers, to the women to whom they provide shelter, outreach, “advocacy”–band-aids. I have to get the story. I have to understand how they see things, what they think, how they feel. we are the same, we are different, we are trying to be good. maybe. but we’re also trying to hang on to the stuff we have. the stuff we earned, and the stuff we didn’t earn. especially the latter. i think. We have a lot to answer for. Work to do.

The cherry blossoms are curtaining the streets and snowing in the wind onto the asphalt. another spring time.

We carry on the undefined work of freedom.

ah, dear me. I think i’ll go get my hair cut. then go do some squats.

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About easilyriled

My mom was Edith, my dad was John. I have a brother, who is Shawn. I have many friends and allies and mentors in my life. I'm white, over-educated, under-employed, messy, funny, smart, lesbian, feminist "Not the fun kind", as Andrea Dworkin said. But I, like the feminists I hang with, ARE fun. I play accordion better than I did, and i'm learning the concertina. Slowly.

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