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If there’s one thing I have learned over the last twelve months it is simply this, haters come in all shapes and sizes and almost always when you least expect them.
Here’s how I think haters should be handled, and it comes courtesy of Russell Brand. He interviewed some members of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church (link here) and in a nutshell, they spit hatred at him. They call him a fag, a pimp, tell him he’s going to hell to burn for all eternity. Brand counters them with humour and with compassion, combined with his own solid beliefs on acceptance and diversity. He quietens the audience to allow them to speak because he’s a clever man. He knows that given enough rope they will hang themselves in spectacular fashion, and they do. (If Gandhi is going to hell in a handcart, the rest of us are in big trouble, y’all.) I never thought I’d say this, but RESPECT to Russell Brand.
As sex workers, we have haters too – anti-sex work moral supremacists, radical feminists, those CEO’s who are more concerned with funding than the welfare of women and some journalists. Overt haters are becoming more common, I’m thinking in particular of the woman who phoned in to a radio show I was doing and shrieked –
“HAVE YOU NO SHAME ?” In real terms though, the angrier they get the easier it is to kick them to the kerb because a simple “Err, no” was all that was required there. After all, why on earth would I be ashamed of consensual sex ?
In the end though, it doesn’t matter who your haters are or why they’re coming at you, the key thing is in how you handle them. Haters bait, it’s what they do. The choice is simple, take that bait or walk away. This week I was watching the Twitter meltdown of Suzanne Moore and I was saddened to see such a dogfight break out. In some ways in the media, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Caitlin Moran has come under fire for allegedly blocking anyone on Twitter who disagrees with her whilst Suzanne Moore literally answered every hater and the debate heated up to the point where something had to give. It did. She left Twitter, and in a fiery temper.
Step forward, Julie Burchill. As a friend of Moore’s, Burchill decided to come to the rescue and assist her in dealing with those dreadful trans bullies by err, bullying the trans community. If you think that ‘bullying’ is a strong term, I invite you to consider Burchill’s use of the terms “a bunch of dicks in chicks’ clothing” and “a bunch of bed wetters in bad wigs”. There’s a link to the piece here.
Such terminology, especially when espoused in a mainstream newspaper is not acceptable. Ever. Neither is using the pseudo-defence of a working class background as an entitlement to claim a special membership to feminism. My regular readers will know that I despise ‘faux’ or ‘selective’ feminism and in essence, that is precisely what this boils down to. Burchill seems to completely disregard intersectionality but more importantly, anyone who expresses an opinion in over two syllables.
While I do think it’s good to fight your corner and also, to stand by a friend, do it with dignity – working class or not. Indeed, the last section of Burchill’s piece deserves a mention as to me, it reads like a very thinly veiled threat.
“Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You really won’t like us when we’re angry.”
So why did Burchill’s piece make me angry ? Well, as a sex worker I know what it is to be a part of a minority group and to have to fight for my rights and those of my colleagues. I’m also aware of a number of sex workers who were very deeply hurt by Burchill’s comments. Finally, and this is key – Burchill has form. Yes, in the past she has been quoted as saying – “When the sex war is won prostitutes should be shot as collaborators for their terrible betrayal of all women”. Raw hatred.
I think Julie Burchill owes the trans community a big apology, and at the time of writing, 90% of the readership of The Independent agree with me.