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Two

Two years ago, it snowed here. I remember that because two years ago, Sophie was born. I’m her “godless mother”. Her mother prefers to call me Sophie’s “spirit mother” because it sounds more like hope, I think, and full, rather than ‘less’. Anyhow.  Today is Sophie’s birthday. It is also exactly two years since my first date (which I did not know was a date) with J, with whom I just broke up in October. She was here yesterday helping me clean up my place, along with my other J-name friend.

side note, here–i kind of try to not name people on account of this is a pubic document, and even if it’s benign stuff, not controversial, it seems important that they be in charge of where their name is used on-line. I dunno. Unless it’s in relation to a public event, or something public that is attached to their name, like a speech or a book or a paper or something, I try to not say who is coming in and cleaning with me,  hanging out with me, fighting with me or lovin’ me up, ya know?

Anyhow, so J and J, dyke renovation team were helping me excavate yesterday, and today was Sophie’s birthday and J and my “not-anniversary”. We are interesting together, J and I. There’s this intimacy but there’s also a bit of distance, as we move further from being lovers and closer to being friends…we have quite different lives, separated as they are by age and employment and other kind of intangible but real stuff… like, you know, she has a straightening iron that she knows how to use, and i don’t think she even owns a swiss army knifethere are not at all the same markers of “lesbian” for younger women, by and large, as there were for us who became lesbians twenty or thirty years ago.  Anyhow, I love that she gave me the opportunity to walk beside her for a while, and does still. She’s still teaching me a lot, and learning some things from me, too, i hope so…

She’s a hard-ass at cleaning stuff out, though, holy doodle. but my place looks much better. And my other J, she went through my ‘fridge and jeez, there’s room for LOTS of stuff in there now, it’s so much brighter and more spacious there, now, i could maybe have  a roommate!

Two year olds are interesting creatures, aren’t they? Uh-oh, should i not use Sophie’s name either now? oh bother and tarnation… she’s two. never mind. I’ll just tell ya the story–Her present was a box of building blocks–you know the kind–solid wood blocks with numbers and letters and pictures on them, right–but these ones are Korean! Because her mom is Korean, and she’s always in this tension of how to raise Sophie to know and understand and value her Korean-ness when they’re surrounded by mostly European-Canadians (especially English-speaking) whose experience of culture and language and all that takes precedence, and is the dominant class. It’s an ongoing struggle for my friend. To do this without tokenizing her own culture, eh, that’s the other thing. Plus, you know what, she’s homesick, dammit. She has not been back to Korea for a long time, and her parents have never even met Sophie and she’s kinda sad about that.

Anyhow, I got the blocks as much for my friend E as for Sophie. Who was, in any case,  much more interested in the bubble wrap i wrapped it in and the box the blocks came in. Sophie’s dad helped her pop every one of the bubbles and she giggled and giggled, and picked up the sheet of bubble wrap and showed all the popped bubbles to me and ran down the hall with it. She seemed to like her card, too, which i made myself, (very proud of that, i was)–I put a bunch of stickers on it and drew pictures with coloured crayons and wrote a little poem on the inside. I read Sophie a book, and she wanted me to change her diaper, and we had juice and scones and E and J (Dad) and I talked too about grown up things as Sophie coloured in her photocopied book of pictures and Korean children’s songs. What a fun morning. Just before I left, J put Sophie down for her nap and she chose a book for him to read to her. “That one?” he asked, “We just got this one yesterday, and we’ve already read it ten times, are you sure?” she was. I remembered when my brother and I were very small, we had a board game like snakes and ladders, but with astronauts instead, and we LOVED that damn game, and one day, we asked Mom if we could play it, and she burst into tears. I think she might have been kinda tired of playing it with us. I told E. that, and she laughed. Maybe there was a tinge of hysteria in her laughter.

But she’s got a life as well as mothering–she is one of my little school friends, too. so we get to talk about the sociology of everyday life. I told her about all the vitriol that was spewed about me after i posted that “feminist lesbian argument for the abolition of prostitution” that J and K and I wrote together. She was interested, (and interesting!), to understand how it is that people sometimes express disagreement with personal attack.  “That’s like cyber-bullying” she said. Yea, it is–and it’s an interesting phenomenon. I don’t want to go on and on about it, really, ’cause these on-line controversies kind of have the life span of fruit-flies, and who wants to revive them? Zombie Cyber-Fruit-Flies–eeeewww. But I do want to figure out how to influence people to change their minds about things, or at least have a conversation about ideas instead of attacking the people with the ideas, you know?

I’ve re-read some of the comments on the previous posts, though, and I don’t know if conversation is possible at present. We’re using different frameworks. Like, Completely Different. I tell ya. I had this conversation the other day with a woman who was once on the right side of this debate, but something went terribly sideways and now she’s all over with the “rights of sex workers” stuff. I tried to avoid her, god knows, but she found me and started talking, and she asked what i was workin on, with my PhD. Now I coulda lied, eh, and said something like, um, the life cycle of the salmon or something. but no. I told her. A critique of ideology and practice of harm reduction and prostitution as it is understood by women who do front line anti-violence and social services work. That’s a mouthful. And i said, fair warning, I told her, “we’re on the opposite side of most of the debates going on”. but still. She insisted on trying to talk to me about this, and it was the weirdest thing ever, because I kept saying, “we can do better–prostitution is unknown where there is gender equality” and she would keep saying, “where is that?” as if she hadn’t heard over and over the women of AWAN (Aboriginal Women’s Action Network) and the women of NWAC (Native Women’s Association of Canada) say, “there is no word for prostitution in our languages”, and telling the stories about pre-European contact–and she kept saying, “we have to make women safer”, but she wasn’t willing to agree that “out of prostitution” is the safest thing. Too judgmental, I guess. But that’s ’cause she wasn’t talking about the men–and it seemed to me that she had some negative judgments about being a bit idealistic. She said the word “Utopian” a couple of times as if it was poison in her mouth.

Finally, I said something about “prostituted women” and she went off, “that’s such an offensive term” she said, and I interrupted her, “ya see? We’re speaking different languages–I cannot see prostitution as work, I can ONLY understand it as exploitation–to call it work is, to me, deeply offensive and dismissive of the lives of the women who are in prostitution–I’m not willing to accept that men can’t help themselves, that they deserve sex on demand–” and then i said, “you know what? I’m getting frustrated. I came here to have a nice time, and i’m not. Can we just shake hands and stop talking now? or at least change the subject?”

and she said okay. and then she said, “you know, frustrating as this conversation has been, this is the first time i’ve had a conversation with an abolitionist when I have not been shut down or dismissed”.

“Well. I guess that’s hopeful then. You have a nice night.” and we shook hands. Then i went to the dessert table. There was some peach cobbler that was MOST soothing.

But you know what, that thing Sister said about that being her first respectful conversation with an abolitionist? I don’t think that’s so, exactly. I mean, if that’s her perception, fine…but I’ve been to events where she’s taken the mic at the Q and A part and kind of gone on and on without either making a point or asking a question–and I’ve been to events where there have been exchanges, and they looked to me like they were respectful–but our perceptions are weird, eh? I see reasonable, and she sees threat.  Both may be true. How do we find a way to stand on the same ground together? How can we find the natural points of alliance and not get in each others way?

I want her to get out of the way of abolition, for sure. But she thinks that’s dangerous, abolishing prostitution–she hears that and thinks we want to abolish prostitutes–which is the common mistake–but we don’t of course–we want to abolish pimps and johns.  And I want to get IN her way of legitimating prostitution. Because decriminalizing the whole shootin’ match for sure opens the door to a whole bunch of predatory men–sniffing around for women to buy and sell. Don’t have to look very far to find ’em. You bet i want to interfere with that agenda.

points of agreement–sellers of sex must not be criminalized. There must be a range of comprehensive exit services and programs. Safety. then that’s all, far as I can see. But if it’s work, why would ya need exit services? And if it’s exploitation, how is safety even possible within it?

next post (maybe) I’ll pick up that dropped thread of bullying on the ‘net.

anyway, those two hours with Sophie and her parents were the highlight of my day. oh, and my women’s group tonight, too. that was lovely. so much love in a day. everyone should have this.

 

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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.

6 responses »

  1. Nice post, Erin. I’ve been where you are many times in this debate. As of late it is always, it seems, around ‘sex-negative’ vs. ‘sex-positive’ feminists. UGH. We abolitionists and anti-porn feminists obviously being ‘against’ sex. I have so little patience. Glad you seem to have some.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Meghan. Every once in a while I can scare up some civility. It helped in this case that we were in public, at a party and surrounded by women who mattered to each of us. Hey, I listened to your ‘F word’ show from last week! good work. Thank you for your work there, Meghan.

      Reply
  2. cyber-bullying, yes! please post on that! on the zombie thingees. I’ll quote you on that one hahahhah
    Interesting about the conversation with the “pro-sex-work” woman: I wonder if it’s possible that on a one to one level she might *not* have had a respectful conversation such as she had with you. Things do get ugly fast in such discussions. Trashing, flaming, bullying abounds. on *both* sides, and most unfortunately of all *within* “one” side. aiy. oiy.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Kathy–yes, you’re right. I think we behave better when we are in public…and REAL public, not crackbook or blog-world public. But not always…Canadian Parliament is often like a flame war but that’s in public too–people get vicious. well. Thought provoking, for sure…

      Reply
  3. Bubble wrap was one of my favourite things to play with as a child, hell, it still is 🙂 Home-made cards are the best, and I’m sure little Sophie will maybe hold onto it for the rest of her life and it will hopefully become a treasured memory for her. The cards I remember best are the ones that were hand-made, my grandfather and grandmother made me a mermaid one when I was a kid and it’s still so special to me, especially now as my grandmother is dead.

    As an ex-supporter of the pay-per-rape camp all I can really think is that some where along the line the idea of feminism being for advancing WOMYN and freeing them from oppression has turned into advancing ME ME ME and freeing ME ME ME I I I from oppression. There is also a lot of misinformation about us out there, we get called religious bigots a lot, which could not be further from the truth!

    Eventually though, you can only read so many cases of womyn being raped, murdered, tortured and abused due to pay-per-rape before something switches and you go “hey, this is a fucked up and very common occurrence, maybe those actual feminists were right the whole time”. Well, that was the case for me. It’s because there’s really no alternative depicted in male-stream/main-stream culture that isn’t being a conservative, religious, right winger. 😦

    Reply
    • Thanks, Aileen. yea. you’re right, even when we say “feminist” and “freedom” and “anti-capitalist” and all that–people hear “conservative” “right-wing” “market forces”. I was at a talk last week, and the three women presenting were three varieties of radical activist–including a representative of the Aboriginal Women’s Action Netowrk–and one of the first questins was from a man who said, “what do you think of being allies with the Conservative Government?”. Why, o why is the first place the lowest common denominator? was the man not listening? No. No he was not.
      sigh. bless him.
      Aforementioned AWAN woman answered him very well, though.
      sheesh.

      Reply

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