Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Redefining Words: Sex Workers Are People Too
While reading the HelloGiggles Misogynist Soup blog post I found the last ingredient to the soup (the topping) to be very interesting. Blogger Filleosophy writes briefly about the Halifax non-profit organization, Stepping Stones, who focuses on sex work advocacy and their recent ad campaign. In response to recent media coverage of the brutalization of a prostitute and murdered women, Stepping Stones hopes to humanize sex workers with their new advertisements. The ads remind people that women, men, and transgender people who are sex workers are people too. They have families and friends, responsibilities, and issues in their lives. The last thing they need is to be dismissed or looked down on because of their work.
According to the National Post interview with Rene Ross, Stepping Stone's executive director, the ads don't promote sex work or prostitution. Ross says, "We're promoting people. We want to send the message that this is a campaign about people and...that these [sex workers] are in fact people with families and with lives and that they also deserve the same human rights and access to justice as the rest of the Canadian population."
Three ads make up the campaign. If you can't read them, the text over the ad of the grandmother reads "I'm proud of my tramp, raising two kids on her own" and in the lower corner it says "sex workers are daughters too." The text of the middle ad with the man on it reads "At my wedding, my younger hooker gave the funniest speech" and "sex workers are brothers too." And the last ad reads "I'm glad my prostitute made me finish school" and "sex workers are mothers too." By exchanging the words "mother," "daughter," and "brother" for terms that label sex workers the ads redefine the labels. Ross makes the point that words like "prostitute" or "hooker" are used in the media in such negative ways that people forget that sex workers are people too. These labels focus attention on the victim and victimize them in a way that suggest they are responsible for the violence against them; and it enforces that violence against women is okay if they are a sex worker, as if it were part of the job. Ross and Stepping Stone's argument is that such a thought process is not acceptable. Sex workers are human beings and their job should not be justification for violence against them.
Hopefully these ads will change the dehumanizing perception sex workers face in Canada and the US.
~Katie, Oakland County NOW intern