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.