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Gender Critical Feminism is Fascism

 

Meghan Murphy was booted from Twitter recently for spewing transmisogynistic and anti-sex work garbage. Cue: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead! Meghan Murphy as an individual human person is a complete joke, having edited Feminist Current for nearly a decade, a site consisting of random pepperings of George Soros conspiracy theories muddled together with the language of feminism. Nonetheless, her “gender critical” ideas are gaining traction among so-called feminists and fascists alike, and that’s the part that worries me.

Many “gender critical feminists”—aka TERFs and SWERFs—have aligned themselves with violent allies, proclaiming, much like the alt-right does, that “men aren’t women” and “sex work isn’t a thing.” In a pitiful blog post with endless martyred complaint about her locked Twitter account, Murphy whines:

While the left continues to vilify me, and liberal and mainstream media continue to mostly ignore feminist analysis [sic] of gender identity, people like Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro (and hundreds of right wingers and free speech advocates online), and right wing media outlets […] have attempted to speak with me and understand my perspective […] the left seems to have taken to ignoring or refusing to engage with detractors or those who have opinions they disagree with or don’t like [while] the right continues to be interested in and open to engaging.

Raise your hand if you see a lucrative YouTube rant about “Red Pilling” on the horizon!

The alliance between “gender critical feminists” and the alt-right has been forged on mutual bigotry: hatred for trans people and sex workers. “Gender critical feminists” are willing to sacrifice access to medical care, abortion, and self-determination in their alliance with the alt-right for the sole purpose of harassing, doxing, and generally inciting violence against trans people and sex workers.

Historically, factions of white feminism have flirted with fascism, from the overt racism of the Suffragists in the US to the Christian Temperance Movement here and abroad.

It’s time to give serious consideration to the fact that these factions are still alive and well.

Jason Stanley recently described fascism as having three distinct and alarming qualities: a mythic past, cultural division, and a targeted attack on truth. The alt-right exemplifies these qualities, from “Make America Great Again,” to the carefully cultivated division between “patriots” and The Other and ruthless attacks on the press wherein oppressors suddenly lay claim to victimization. Let us not forget that Hitler wrote an entire book about his “struggle,” detailing the myriad ways he believed himself oppressed.

Gender critical feminism is helping to perpetuate a mythic past, cultural division, and a targeted attack on truth, and it’s time for all the Meghan Murphys of the world to be exposed as the fascist bootlickers they are.

Sex Working While Jewish In America

(Photo via Flickr user Howard Lifshitz)

We are witnessing the blossoming of a white nationalist nation. Being the person that I am is not easy in the United States right now. It’s not easy for my friends, my family, or millions of Black people, Jews, and LGBTQI people.

I’m an Iranian, Tunisian, French and Jewish sex worker. I immigrated from France to the U.S. as a child. I still hold a fair amount of privilege; my skin is light, unlike that of many of my family members, and I am a high-income sex worker. With that, I’m still confronted with Islamophobia—many people assume I’m Muslim because I’m Middle Eastern—and anti-Semitism both in my personal and professional lives.

I was raised with Judaism but I’m a secular Jew. I’m a Hebrew school dropout. My feelings about religion are very complicated and honestly, it often makes me quite uncomfortable. Every time I walk around New York and see white Hasidic Jews, I feel both otherness—we are culturally different and I’m not a nice Jewish girl—and a connection to them.

The thing that makes me feel most Jewish is knowing how much people hate us. People hate them as people hate me. I’ve been to Nazi death camps and I remember looking at a flyer in one camp’s museum. There were excerpts from a pamphlet the Nazis passed out during the war. It was titled How to Spot a Jew, containing several highly racist caricatures presented as what to look out for. Those racist caricatures all looked like me. I don’t need to have religious garb on to be recognized as Jewish, and I still see those caricatures being used in reactionary media today.

I’ve been conflicted about saying anything about anti-Semitism under my work persona. I struggle with being politically vocal while still trying to make money and remain appealing to wealthy clients.

But when I’m faced with these prejudices at work, it hurts to be silent. I feel like I’ve lost. My racial identities come up too often at work to ignore. I once posted a photo online of myself post-menstrual sex, and someone’s response was: “Now I know why Hitler gassed the Jews.” People frequently point out my big nose. I’ve been called a “terrorist,” “camel pussy”, and “kike” on client-facing social media quite a bit.

When I was younger and new to sex work, I was afraid to set boundaries and money was scarce, so I took jobs that I wouldn’t take now that I’m in a better financial situation. I think all performers of color are faced with this experience. I’ve been in a movie called Women Of the Middle East, and have been cast as a belly dancer many times. I was always being given the information that I would be participating in a racial fetish scene only after I had traveled, paid for testing, been booked, etc. I’ve had a director make jokes about needing machine guns as props for Middle Eastern vibes, and I’ve had to fuck a white man in a turban with black eyeliner. Clients still ask me to wear hijabs.

Dennis Hof (1946-2018)

The late Dennis Hof with Heidi Fleiss and Ron Jeremy. (photo via the creative commons)

Dennis Hof passed away last week at his Love Ranch brothel after a night of celebrating his 72nd birthday and political campaign. The days following have been filled with an outpouring of discourse about his death, much of which is contentious as people reflect on the so-called legacy Hof left behind. Between his business empire and celebrity fame, Hof exposed the nation to regulated prostitution and Nevada’s brothels in a novel and undeniably impactful way. His celebrity existed within a paradox of tolerance—rural communities in Nevada were often against the brothels, which perhaps itself contributed to his ability to stay in the spotlight. “I’m always looking for a new angle and something funny to keep my name and the name of the Bunny Ranch in the national media,” Hof told the Reno Gazette Journal in 2005.

This quest for the limelight was achieved for some time through exposing legal full-service sex work. However, it recently took a political turn with Hof winning the Republican spring primary for a seat as an assemblyman. His name is to remain on the upcoming November ballot for the Nevada Assembly, and many are saying he is set to win, despite being dead. With him running on a Republican ticket, conservatives are still likely to vote for him so as to ensure a Republican gets appointed to the seat afterwards.

Much of the coverage of his death is fixated around one question that everyone seems to be asking: are his brothels continuing operation, and if so, under whom? Madam Suzette (Suzette Cole) is reported to be receiving Hof’s brothels but, even with the inheritance, the Nevada system has several requirements in place that will need to be met before she can run them legally. In fact, the Love Ranch brothel was shuttered shortly after his death. Hof’s executive assistant, Zack Hames, appears confident in moving forward with the operation of Hof’s brothels, commenting that “it’s business as usual.” Other coverage has focused more on the polarized reactions to his passing, illustrating how while some are celebrating it, others are deeply grieving his loss. This split is highly visible in the sex work community.

Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Will Kill Disabled Sex Workers Like Me

The San Francisco Federal Building on October 3, 2018. (Photo via Flickr user Peg Hunter)

A few years back, I woke up, looked at my arm, and thought I was in a nightmare. My arms were covered in rashes of tattoo-dark blood blisters so thick my skin looked burgundy-purple from a distance, and bruises, the flesh so swollen it looked like I had been in a car wreck. I had not done anything out of the ordinary, not been beaten up, not survived a new trauma.

It was the most obvious symptom of what would later be diagnosed as an immune disorder. The other symptoms were invisible but devastating—among them, noncancerous growths in both lungs large enough to require a surgical biopsy, and having to relearn how to breathe. My platelets dropped to levels that saw me restricted to cancer treatment wards, experimental medications and bed rest, and a never-ending hell of side effects. The only potential explanation was that this immune disorder could be causing my body to kill my platelets, removing my blood’s ability to clot.

Without platelets, you struggle to get enough oxygen. For a while, I even spent time on oxygen tanks. Without platelets, you’re a “bleeding risk.” You bruise. Sometimes you bleed spontaneously—internal bleeding, swollen limbs, bloody noses that soak towels and can’t be stopped outside a hospital. You can die from a bloody nose if it can’t be cauterized in time. The underlying immune disorder also removes my ability to respond to vaccines, rendering me vulnerable to preventable illnesses.

The good news is, with ongoing access to a medication derived from healthy people’s immunoglobulin, I can see the same long life as others. That’s a whole other discussion about ethics under capitalism in and of itself, because that immunoglobulin sure ain’t coming from rich people, is it?

The bad news is that without insurance this medication costs as much as some types of cancer treatment, and I’ll require it for the rest of my life. In the time between medication doses, my body chews through the donor immunoglobulin, as well as my own blood’s existing components.

In the scope of weeks, months at best, I go from healthy to on the verge of death, platelets dropping, sometimes by 2/3 in the scope of a day. In the course of diagnosis, I spent periods checking into the hospital every two weeks as my blood nosedived to a platelet level so dire that, at times, my doctors thought their machines had malfunctioned and were simply failing to count my blood’s components properly, because how the hell could I be alive otherwise? I was the youngest adult in the cancer wards, the mystery patient doctors came from other floors to see because my case was just THAT strange.

I was uninsurable prior to the Affordable Care Act, even without this diagnosis. My docs claimed I’d grow out of my irregular, heavy, unnervingly painful menstrual cycles, that they were nothing to be concerned about, yet the insurance companies claimed I had “an undiagnosed uterine disorder” and refused to cover me entirely. It turned out they were right about that disorder, ironically enough. After the endometriosis got bad enough to become disabling due to medical neglect, I finally got a diagnosis. I was disabled before my immune disorder ever happened.

Being able to get covered through the ACA was a turning point.

And if I had still been limping along without coverage when my immune system went into free fall, point-blank, I would be dead. Lack of coverage led to my deterioration and my medical inability to work to this day. But it would have led to my death if it had gone on just three years longer. Without full coverage that handled almost everything—blood tests sometimes daily, expensive medications, hospital stays, a dozen specialists, outside consults, extensive imaging, multiple surgeries, an ungodly amount of medications—I would have died during one of those blood drops, when I had 1/150th the minimum platelets of a healthy person.

I tell you this so you can understand how it’s all connected. How one denial, one interruption of coverage, one financial bad break, can cause a failure cascade that results in an individual’s life becoming a mire of sickness, struggle, medical neglect, and decay. For countless Americans, it leads to financial ruin.

For chronically ill and disabled people who do sex work in order to work around their conditions, doing criminalized, grey market, or informal labor without benefits means we often have no access to insurance without the ACA. Employer-based health insurance is now and has always been a leash on workers to keep us beholden to more powerful employers. The ACA was a first step away from that and empowered all workers, regardless of employment status. This is crucial in a “gig economy” of Uber drivers and independent contractors, people with standing not so different than my standing was as a stripper. A nation without the ACA is one in which many of us will die of illness and poverty.

This is the country that we are in danger of returning to if Brett Kavanaugh becomes the newest associate justice on our Supreme Court.

The Maine Millennial: The Charming Columnist that Casually Understands that Sex Work is Labor

Victoria-Hugo Vidal, the Maine Millennial

Stormy Daniels’ Make America Horny Again is the tour that won’t stop—as she chugs from city to city, local coverage follows. Dozens of cities later, the coverage of her tour is getting a bit formulaic.

Here’s the formula local writers tend to use when covering a Stormy appearance:

cursory explanation of Stormy’s newsworthiness + ironic description of the strip club’s interior + sarcastic line about how this performance’s audience is more sophisticated than the average strip club patrons + the writer self-congratulates for supporting a porn worker + isn’t 2018 crazy?!?!

Which brings me to Victoria Hugo-Vidal, AKA The Maine Millennial, whose Sunday column in the Portland Press Herald on Stormy’s appearance at PT’s Showclub stuck to the formula while surprising me with its earnest description of sex work as labor and unabashed enthusiasm for strippers, but none of the snark. I was so tickled that I had to e-mail her.

Who is the Maine Millenial? What’s the gist of your column?

The Portland Press Herald is the largest daily newspaper in Maine. My column, which runs every Sunday, provides a youth’s-eye view of things in the state of Maine (which currently has the oldest median age in America…please help) and, occasionally, the nation. I was originally hired to be a funny breath of fresh air, but the editors made the mistake of giving me creative control, so I also talk about my recovery from alcoholism and the ongoing grief over the death of my father.

Had you done any research before going to see Stormy Daniels? Did you read coverage by other writers?

I have been following her on Twitter and Instagram and have read all the articles on her that I could find—so I knew to expect the red, white, and blue sequins as part of her act. I also tried to do research on what going to a strip club would entail, but there isn’t really a FAQ article for “how to go to a strip club for the first time for a political-ish performance when you are a twentysomething sober woman and also one of the dancers may have gone to high school with your little brother but you aren’t exactly sure.” I did remember to bring a lot of cash and to dispense it generously to all the dancers. So I think I at least did that part right.

You wrote, “I guess I thought maybe the strip club would feel skeevy and exploitative, and maybe sometimes it does, but on this night, I felt surprisingly comfortable.” Is there a reason you thought strip clubs would feel “skeevy and uncomfortable”? You covered it a bit in your story, but can you expound a bit on why you found PT’s Showclub surprisingly comfortable?

My editor wanted me to specifically address the dichotomy about being a young woman in a place that makes money off of young women’s bodies and attention; he figured that most of our readers have never gone to a strip club before and would be worried about that. Also, I’m a very strong feminist, which my readers probably have realized after almost a year’s worth of my columns (I think the one about taxing Viagra to pay for free tampons was the big clue for them), and he thought readers would want me to point out, even in a roundabout way, that strip clubs (and sex work in general) is seen as exploitative. Also, PT’s, in particular, has a sketchy local reputation—someone got stabbed in the parking lot last year.

The club itself was surprisingly comfortable mostly because the crowd was very mixed—I assume largely due to the Stormy Factor —and also because I had a friend with me (teamwork makes the dream work, guys, it really does). There was also a large lesbian contingent that night and I just tend to feel more comfortable knowing I’m not the only queer woman in the room. (Not to mention the club’s prominent security guys.)

Who are some of your favorite women “hustlers,” besides Stormy Daniels?

CARDI B. Cardi is my absolute hero. Also my grandmother, who went from being a single mother of three living in her mom’s house in rural New York in the early 1970s and who, through teaching herself personal finance and investment strategy, as well as some extreme couponing, went on to put all three of her kids through college and retire happily ever after to a comfortable middle-class life. RIP the OG.

What are your thoughts on Michael Avenatti floating a presidential bid?

I’m not sure how successful he will be, but I agree with most of the policy positions he has stated, and as a lawyer, he’s got more qualification than the current occupant of the Oval Office. Plus, his jawline just screams “presidential.”

From a reader: Are you bisexual?

I am so bisexual that today I am literally wearing socks with rainbow unicorns on them. This is not fake news; I can provide photographic evidence.

From another reader, referencing the column: I want to know what the difference between working and performing is. The girls on shift were working, not performing? Is the performance not work? Or did Stormy just manage to hide the effort put into her work better?

Reader makes a good point. All the girls on shift were both working and performing (boy were they ever); the performance was certainly work and the club was their workspace. Stormy was probably able to hide the effort put into the work better, especially since she was a guest performer and was only on her feet dancing for a few minutes (as opposed to a whole shift) but she had another level of showmanship to her. This is a woman who was clearly born for the spotlight—in person, your eyes are just drawn to her. She was just incredibly charismatic; there was something about her vibe that was more lighthearted than the other dancers. It was a little hard to describe (as auras often are). Maybe she was just happy because she knows something that we don’t….