June 2 marks International Sex Workers Day, commemorating a 1975 sit-in staged by French sex workers and allies at a church in Lyon. How do we celebrate this, exactly, and what can we expect from it? Holidays like this can be a good way to start a conversation or rejuvenate your own commitment to activism, but other than that, they’re essentially another calendar-condoned opportunity to preach to the converted.
This day, and International Sex Workers’ Rights Day (celebrated March 3), get significantly less attention, at least in the U.S., than even the December 17th International Day to Prevent Violence Against Sex Workers—yet another day largely ignored by anyone outside sex work activist groups and indie media. While these are days for community building and solidarity, they arguably don’t achieve much, if anything, in the way of tangible social or political progress outside our insular communities. The vague notion of “raising awareness” makes its way into every article and event announcement, but it’s quite difficult to measure how much awareness is raised beyond the awareness raisers themselves and their immediate group of allies. More frustrating than a somewhat arbitrary holiday’s lack of power in dictating change is its reminder of how desperately necessary that change really is.
I feel nothing but pity for people who don’t “get” Twitter, anyone who has ever rejected me, and most of all, those who missed the 2nd Annual Vagina Beauty Pageant that happened this past week at Club Rouge in Portland, OR. I generally have a strong disdain for gimmicky strip club events and formal exotic dance pageants, but I feel like a child on Boxing Day now. I haven’t been able to get out of bed since realizing that I have to wait an entire year before I get to celebrate again.
I had considered entering when I read that the top vagina gets $500. I wasn’t sure what competing entailed, but felt like I had a solid entry. Plus, I thought maybe I could start charging extra for dances after I flashed customers my blue ribbon* (which I would carry on my person for the rest of my life, ready to show cops who pull me over for speeding, my future husband’s parents, etc). I boasted to a friend that I could win with toilet paper stuck to my junk, which I figure is the vaginal equivalent of doing a one-armed pushup. Ultimately, I was too confused (read: wimpy) to compete, but I did stop by to check it out just for the fresh blog material.