Feminism is excluding sex workers, and that’s bullshit.

I can’t remember when I first began identifying as a feminist, but needless to say that it has been quite some time since I began to learn about feminism and social justice. My politics have changed as time has worn on and I’m proud to say that I’ve learned and grown, and no doubt will continue to do so throughout my life. I have always been proud to be a feminist, and been proud to call other feminists my sisters, but in recent years I’ve had experiences that have made me approach other feminists with caution.

Fuck your Whorephobia” by HerMade Collective

A few years ago, I knew this person who was a very vocal feminist who was praised and adored by all our mutual friends for being an amazing activist. We weren’t very close, but we existed in the same social media circles and got along okay. That was until the day she posted about the hotel she was staying in for work. You see, she was travelling around the world with her job, and on this particular night her work had booked a room in a hotel that was next door to a brothel. “Ugh!” my friend lamented. “I bet there will be all kinds of diseases in this room. How disgusting!” Whoa. I did the only thing I knew I could do… I called her the fuck out.

My comments were deleted and I was told off, quite thoroughly, in a private message for daring to shame her in front of her friends. While this went on, and I defended the honour of sex workers everywhere, I went to her profile and unfriended her, because duh. When this was discovered, I was told that I obviously don’t care enough about her, her opinions, and her “safety”. Yeeeeaaaaah, I stopped replying. We still have several friends in common who all continue to adore her for totes good feminism stuff. Sigh.

This conversation was one of my first experiences with a SWERF (Sex Work Exclusionary Radical Feminist). It suddenly dawned on me that even well-known and respected feminists can be discriminatory and stigmatising towards people that they should be standing side-by-side with. Not long after my thrilling conversation with my SWERFy ex-friend, a good friend of mine came out as a sex worker in a feminist group she was part of, and was promptly removed from the group for the crime of her career.

Sex workers are some of the hardest working, intelligent, and talented people I know. They are artists, writers, parents, students, scientists, and activists. They have a lot to give to the world, their communities, and to the feminism movement… but until feminists examine their learned biases towards sex workers I fear that the movement won’t benefit from all that sex workers have to offer.

“Sex Work is Real Work” by HerMade Collective

It is so soon after hundreds of thousands of women marched around the world, and many are coming forward to share why they feel excluded by feminism and Women’s March. Feminism is a movement steeped in social justice, and if the people we’re supposed to be protecting and standing up for are too afraid of us and our blatant exclusion and abuse, then what the fuck is our activism even for? What is the actual purpose at this point?

I appreciate the efforts of the marchers, and I hope with all my heart that they will listen attentively to the valid criticisms being shared throughout the feminist community about Women’s March and the movement on the whole. We all have a lot to learn, and by putting pride aside and truly listening to the words of the people we’re excluding, we can grow into better people and a movement better equipped to fight for the rights of all people, not just the privileged few.

Remember, you don’t get to call yourself a nasty woman if you don’t support the rights of sex workers.