To describe the first day of Feminist Winter Term would be too challenging a task for a paragraph, so today I made the executive decision (for your benefit, as well) to simply blog about each day individually.
It began with the classic feminist icebreaker: “when did it click?” There was laughter and there were tears, and one heartbreaking story about someone’s four-year-old niece, who said she wanted to be a president when she grew up…and knew that in order to do so, she needed to grow up to be a boy. We checked out the local area, hit up Babeland and Bluestockings (what kind of feminists would we be in NYC without such things?), and then stopped in for our first meeting.
The Ms. Foundation. Speakers from were also in attendance from the Barnaba Institute as we crowded into a conference room and listened to stories of sex trafficking, girls as young as 9 forced into sex slavery and kidnapped off the streets by pimps who beat them and then convinced them they were meant for each other. The stories were a challenge to listen to, not only because of the wrenching imagery, but also because of my nagging gender studies conscience, which wanted so badly (and then raised my hand) to ask –
Do you think it’s a problem with sex work, or do you think a lot of this is also masculinity and sexuality and how we talk about them? If we gave women agency, and control, wouldn’t these pimps be powerless?
There was hesitation from the presenters and from the audience, although a few receptive voices backed me up. There is more to human trafficking, after all, than the capitalist needs and demands- there are people doing these things. And do women need “rescuing?” Well, I suppose anyone would need such a thing if they were being beaten, killed, and forced into sex slavery. But does it deny sex workers whom opt-in to sex work, and operate either independently or within an “organization,” and reap successful capital, to summarize sex work as inherently dangerous? And why are we worried only about rescuing the victims, and not finding those sniveling, pathetic people committing the real crime- abuse- against them? (As you can see, it was thoughtful to say the least.)
I left early and hopped the C Train with setting up to do.
Shelby Knox. She sat with her usual ease, blending in with us mere mortal feminists before she delivered her story. Some of us confessed to have never seeing The Education of Shelby Knox, but anyone who has ever met Shelby knows that that’s the least of her worries- instead, we tackled intergenerational feminist divides, how to unite our movement, and exactly what we young people, gathered by Soapbox Media, think of being called the “Forth Wave,” a term Shelby likes to use to describe herself.
If the people I’ve met so far, and the cards I’ve handed out, the smiles I’ve received, and the casual discussions about rape culture I’ve had at FWT so far have taught me anything, it’s that a term about what is to come is the best for us: because we’ve got a lot of energy in the works. (Also, cheers to encouraging someone to buy Yes Means Yes! – I remain loyal, ladies.)