I have decided I hate this phrase.
Ok, maybe not hate as it does have it’s time and place… maybe it’s just overused.
I have been so extraordinarily blessed in life since transitioning away from a life full of the form of sexual exploitation called prostitution.
In my first years out of the life I was surrounded by a group of women who gave to me more than I can ever possibly find words to explain. Day or night, for every instance I needed assistance of of them would help me and my family. To this day they are my biggest supporters and for all intents an purposes my family.
I would then go on to cover the Pickton trial, it would be the hardest, loneliest, bleakest, taxing and yet enormously rewarding year of my life.
From there I invited into a more formal learning, learning a vernacular for what I know to be my truths. That vernacular was radical feminism. Learning at the feet of some of the most important women in Canada who have committed their lives to improving the lives of Canadian women.
What I did – and still do – is realize is I have more to learn in most situations than teach.
I have sat with women from S.Korea, Okinawa, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Haiti, Nigeria, Amsterdam, the most marginalized women of Canada, Indigenous women, Sweden, my gosh.. many other countries.
You know what I did?
You know what they did?
You know what they used?
Their God given voice.
My knickers are getting in a knot about phrases like “voice of the voiceless” ‘saving” “rescue” ugh. please.
What we should be saying is empower, systemic change, holding men accountable for their actions. Those words however aren’t as sexy as rescue, save etc, those words let us look like the hero, do something in us. Fill some hole, stroke pride, something.
They are also words that don’t challenge. Don’t change the status quo.
As someone who left prostitution the more I hear people talk like that the more pissy I get. I did not need rescuing I did not need “saving”what I needed was opportunities – meaningful opportunities- to change my life. Using the rescue vernacular does not allow room for the subtlety and nuances of women’s lives and situations.
I like to think I’m smart, headstrong, opinionated, and above all else a mom, provider and fighter. “Saving” me was not going to feed my children, women coming alongside me showing a different way , loving me without ANY agenda, showing me new opportunities, giving me new choices is what made the difference and will make the difference for most in the sex industry.
My friend CS told this story told to her by her grandmother, told to her by her grandmother, at an event once and I think you should hear it.
Some women were by the river and all of a sudden they noticed babies floating by in the water, so they jumped in and grabbed out the babies. Some women would wade in a grab them as they came down the river then hand them to the women on shore, women started drying off the babies, checking to make sure they weren’t hurt, then the babies started crying and another woman fed the babies, and so it would go like an assembly line. One women started walking up the river though, and the other women called her back to help, where are you going they asked? She said, I’m going to go find where these babies are coming from.
CS’s Gran probably tells it much better and probably has that grandma smell to her that makes the story all the more nostalgic but you get the picture.
Rescue, voiceless, save, all are part of the assembly line.
Empower, systemic issues, hold accountable, guaranteed livable income, smash patriarchy, END colonialism, are all going up the mountain words. With out these changes, we are on nothing more than an assembly live. A necessary assembily line as we need to change the lived reality for the women if front of us, and in foreign countires sometimes you do need to smash in doors and rescue women & girls.
Yes, not everyone can sit at the feet of the women I have, I have to listen to them and teach what they taught me. When I do though. I better be damn sure I am saying it right and I am not letting my perception change what they taught me. I am accountable to them, I answer to them. I care more about what they think of me, than the people I am talking to. If I worry about making people uncomfortable with what I need to say, I best be quiet. And sometimes still in this world of fighting human trafficking/ abolition people want to hear themselves talk more than they want to give others a platform to use their voice.
My friend LH an aboriginal woman who has taught me much and is unwavering in her demands for aboriginal women’s equality says “We have space, your in it. We have voices, you need to listen”
Let’s face it HT is the new sexy cause everyone and their mother has jumped on the bandwagon. Which I guess is.. uh. well it’s something.
Abolition is about boldness. About speaking truth, and not being willing to back down for one second on any of the large and systemic issues. One cannot flinch in this debate. People’s lives, my life, my friend’s lives, our global sisters’ lives are on the line. If your in this to make friends or you care what people think of you, please exit bandwagon at the next stop.