End Demand Illinois has launched an ad campaign titled the “Ugly Truth.” Messages about the sex trade are appearing on billboards and public transportation across Chicago and perhaps also across the state. I’ve heard from several friends and colleagues who shared their thoughts and feelings about the campaign. One friend agreed to write a post that I am proud to share here on Prison Culture.
The “Ugly Truth:” Ad Campaigns about the Sex Trade Will Always Fail…
by Hadil Habiba (pen name)
I was on the bus a couple of days ago when I saw an ad that stopped me in my tracks. It read: “Prostitution. There’s nothing victimless about it.”
I felt like I was in a time machine that took me back to 1983 when conversations about the sex trade and pornography meant that no one’s life experience could be complicated- we were all just food for “feminist theory.” You know, when people spent a lot of time talking about ‘prostitutes’ and ‘prostituted people’ vs. ‘sex workers’, and acted like one of these words described everyone that trades sex for money or survival.
Those kinds of messages and thinking did not improve the lives of people in the sex trade then and won’t today either. I wondered why anyone would offer such a polarizing message. What purpose does it serve? We don’t need to polarize people’s experiences in the sex trade. We need a better understanding of those experiences in all of their complexities. I feel like I get sucked into this debate where I have to argue that lots of different parts of the sex trade exist, over and over again. What is the investment that these well-intentioned people have in erasing a significant chunk of the people they claim to represent? It’s not like there aren’t voices out there that really disagree with this message. There are many but they are usually marginalized.
I quickly Googled the rest of the ads online and found the slogans “Get rich. Work in Prostitution” and “the average age of death of a prostitute is 34″.
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Art created by a participant in a comic arts project at our local youth jail (2010)
Happy New Year! When I started this blog 18 months ago, I wanted to find a place where I could write about my work and about the issues that I care about. It has turned into more than that. I really appreciate hearing from the readers of this blog. Your ideas, suggestions, and encouragement keep me writing. I am incredibly grateful.
The beginning of a new year is a great time to set intentions. Here are a few of mine for this blog:
1. I will continue to rant against various injustices. After all, what good is it to have a blog if you can’t rant and vent? It seems to me that this is the purpose of blogging: catharsis.
2. I hope to keep bringing the voices of currently and formerly incarcerated people to the fore. I’ll do that by sharing their writing and ideas.
3. I will continue to highlight the terrific prison abolitionist work that is taking place around the world (and particularly in the U.S.). This includes sharing resources and information about transformative justice.
4. I will continue to provide updates about my own work and share the product of that work when appropriate.
5. I hope to provide a platform for the writing and projects of friends and strangers who are doing inspiring and interesting work about the prison industrial complex. I hope to expand the space to include many more guest bloggers. The people who I have been gently nudging to write over the past 18 months will be getting more assertive pushes this year…
6. Finally, one of the most consistent themes that I hear from those of you who e-mail me is that you appreciate learning more about the history of prisons and criminal legal reform. I intend to continue to write about this here. In fact, I am planning a series that will focus on some of the “invisible” moments of resistance to the PIC over the past 400 years. More on this is forthcoming…
2012 is upon us. May each of us make the most of our opportunities this year and May we each contribute in some way to making the world more peaceful and just!