April 25, 2011
okay. paper, check. memory sticks, check. medications, check. Tasmanian Devil necktie, check. Camera, check. Big suitcase with room to bring home Turkish Delight, radioactive figs and stuff they’re gonna sell me in the markets, check.
oh, never mind. I’m gonna forget something. And I’m gonna pack along a whole bunch of stuff that i’m not gonna look at. like seven books–two Bourdieu, one “understanding Bourdieu”; one Nancy Fraser; Lois Weis; two guide books; one book of lesbian short stories; good lord, do I NEED all that? No. No I do not.
I’m nervous. I’m going to a conference in Istanbul. Some of my friends from the school I went to last summer in Denmark will be there. And one of my friends from UBC who is now working at another Canadian University–I think I present my paper on the 28th–it’s an initial analysis of some of the interviews I’ve done so far for my dissertation on how front-line workers in women’s services (mostly anti-violence, some shelter, or advocacy or drop-in centre-basic-needs providers) understand the impact of harm reduction policies in relation to their work with women in prostitution. The conference is about research on the education of adults–so the link is that front-line workers are charged with providing not only direct service and crisis intervention and some advocacy, but also education to women they serve–but it isn’t so much “education” as it is “reproduction” these days. you meet the woman ‘where she is’–‘no judgment about how she lives her life’ –and while she may not resist your aid, neither does she join you in working toward your shared liberation.That’s kind of what the paper is about. What women in front-line work are telling me about their work, lives, practices and thinking…What women are telling me about their feminism.
Whose life is this?
I’m going to Istanbul! And i’m going to talk about my work — the work I do to understand, to figure out what happened, what is happening to the women’s liberation movement. From this spot here, looking at how we have come to treat women who are engaged in street-level prostitution, and how we have come to understand prostitution as a social phenomena, an institution, a ‘cultural practice’–and how ‘we’ (not all of us, but ‘we’ as a generic, as ‘society’) think of it more and more as a public health problem. This is because we live in a misogynist patriarchy, which amounts to a ‘structuring structure’–the minute women find a way to organize, to interfere with the reproductive cycle of class, race, sex inequality–it catches up to us again.
Battered wife syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder, this disorder, that syndrome, on and on ad nauseum. literally. Never a whisper of the cause of all of this disorder, the source of harm–male violence. . men’s demand for sex. Men’s demand for access to women–to our attention, our care, our work, our bodies. All those tactics, behaviours, expectations, demands in order to protect and reinforce patriarchal power structures. That’s the source. and the minute we gather with each other, we women, the minute we speak the truth to each other, the minute we act in solidarity and begin to rise, The Man steps in, “wait just a minute, you can’t blame me, i’m a good guy!” they will all say as one. “you don’t mean ME, I’m not like that, women choose this! Women have AGENCY. Stop looking at the men, stop questioning how things are, they are because they are and that’s how it is,” they will say to us.
–May 7, 2011– I’ve returned now, next post will be an impressionist ramble about my experiences in Istanbul. Stay tuned…