So. A lot happened in 2013. Here’s a round-up of feminist, freedom-related and sex worker activism stuff that happened.
Sadly it looks like we’re no closer to an intersectional mainstream feminism, as feminists continue to ignore trans, disabled, coloured, migrant and sex working women. 2013 saw the rise of the No More Page Three and Lose the Lads’ Mags campaigns, as well as outrage over the song Blurred Lines. The release of two members of Pussy Riot was claimed as a feminist victory here, even though their protest, arrest and release were nothing to do with feminism. Caroline Criado-Perez dropped her anonymity and gained fame through her project The Women’s Room, a database of female experts set up in response to a BBC claim that they couldn’t find any female experts for a particular show.
The slut shaming and suicides of Amanda Todd, Audrie Potts and Rehtaeh Parsons shocked the internetz and brought the danger of slut shaming and victim blaming into the public eye. Steubenville, Maryville and the Roast Busters also revealed to many non-feminists how bad rape culture is. The Magdalene Laundries scandal early in 2013 may also have contributed to greater awareness of how society punishes ‘deviant’ women. We tend to associate these attitudes with conservative cultures, but in reality the West is little different.
Though the NSA scandal gained more publicity, the UK’s GCHQ were found to have put surveillance devices on undersea internet cables with the apparent cooperation of internet service providers. They claim it’s- of course- anti terrorism and that they’re not spying on us like the NSA. But if they can see our internet traffic, how can they figure out which ones of us are terrorists without spying on all of us? We don’t have a Snowden so it’s harder for us to get at the truth. Amnesty International is suing the UK for allegedly spying on them.
Chelsea Manning spent her fourth Christmas behind bars. Earlier in the year, Fox News played Dude Looks Like A Lady while announcing her name change. Stay classy, Fox.
The Tor Project released an updated and much faster version of the Tor browser and updated their operating system Tails. The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) won a court case and had National Security Letters declared unconstitutional.
David Cameron announced an intention to put porn filters on our internet, and this was recently trialled. The filters were revealed to have an American language bias and blocked lots of things they weren’t supposed to. As I previously pointed out, we already have the filters on our phones and they block sex education, LGBT, feminist and political sites. The hashtag #CensoredUK was used to criticise the porn filter. It didn’t help that Rhoda Grant MSP and the Bill’s creator Claire Perry MP made stupid comments that showed they don’t understand how the internet works. Banning rape porn in my opinion will not solve misogyny and rape culture; it’s attitudes that need to change.
The granddaughter of the founder of Westboro Baptist Church left the Church. And the Pirate Bay’s broswer was popular; its uploads also increased by 50% despite anti piracy laws.
Sex workers’ rights
In Scotland Rhoda Grant MSP’s Bill to bring in the harmful Nordic Model AKA Swedish Model AKA ‘end demand’ failed, leaving sex work decriminalised in the UK (bar street work and working together). A lot of activism and media work was done by everyone from Alex Bryce of National Ugly Mugs (HuffPo) to Melissa Gira Grant and Pastachips (BBC Women’s Hour). There was a debate between sex worker activists Douglas Fox and Laura Lee vs Rhoda Grant MSP and Richard Lucas, which I went to and wrote up here after interviewing Douglas Fox and Rhoda Grant. You can watch it here.
In Canada an important court case was won, proving that sex work laws are harmful (Canada has the legalisation model). A year has been given to come up with new laws. This could mean that hopefully Canada will get the New Zealand decriminalisation model, but it could also mean sex work is criminalised.
Meanwhile in Europe the European Womens’ Lobby wants the Nordic Model across all European states. Sex workers in France are at risk of being harmed by the Nordic model as attempts are being made to introduce it there. Sweden acknowledges that the Nordic model is harmful, as do researchers such as Ann Phoenix.
The murders of Petite Jasmine and Dora caused a very swiftly organised sex work activist action including demos outside embassies and Twitter hashtags. Earlier in the year, a Twitter hashtag on sex workers’ rights made the papers, as did the Glasgow Sex Worker Open University conference.
The Nottingham Women’s Conference caused controversy by not allowing sex workers to attend or speak; instead two anti-sex work prostitution survivors spoke. Three sex worker activists attempted to get in and live tweeted the attempt, then a feminist blogger who had been at the conference made a blog post claiming the activists were exaggerating the situation.
In October there was a debate on sex work in London with feminist Kat Banyard, author and human rights campaigner Ruth Jacobs and others. Jacobs, who had previously been anti sex work (though she pulled out of the Nottingham Women’s Conference as it excluded sex workers), came out as an ex sex worker at the debate and argued for decriminalisation. Feminist Meghan Murphy was furious at this turn of events and allegedly attempted to out her on Twitter, not realising she had already outed herself. (Several feminists on Twitter including myself had been aware of Ruth’s past.)
Labour promised to “sack Atos” if they win in the next election. Stories of DWP-induced poverty and more Atos horror stories made the papers, including a sanctions story that was reported on the BBC news in December. There were numerous protests including demos outside Iain Duncan Smith’s house. The bedroom tax has forced lots of people to move, with some living on the streets. The use of foodbanks has risen just after Cameron stopped the collection of food bank statistics. This increased use of foodbanks has been reported in the mainstream media, which is great . A United Nations Human Rights Inspector came to the UK in tha later half of 2013 to investigate the bedroom tax.
In the second half of 2013 I wrote for The Quail Pipe (is ‘patriarchy’ a meaningful term), Fearless Press (female pick up artists),Cliterati (teens and slut shaming) and the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association blog (teen pregnancy stigma). On this blog I wrote about feminism (duh), was delighted to interview the DWP whistleblower Jobcentre Mole, Don’t Judge My Family, the UnSlut Project, minister Richard Lucas, Rhoda Grant MSP and Douglas Fox. In late 2013 Glosswitch wrote a blog claiming that myself, Stavvers and other feminists are elistist show-offs because we don’t support the anti porn campaigns, to which I replied.
So that’s my summary of 2013. Here’s to 2014, see you all on the other side!