Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In lieu of anything interesting, some recent book reviews...

Desperate to get through the next month. Lawdy lawdy. Nothing to say, but plenty of books read, and here are a few reviews, x-posted from my goodreads. Included: Plath's The Bell Jar, Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters, Diane Middlebrook's Her Husband, Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, and Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Iceland: The World's Most 'Feminist' (?) Country

I'm curious to hear what ya'll think of this.

Strip Clubs Shut Down in Iceland

Iceland is being hailed as the most 'feminist' country in the world because of their nearly unanimous vote against the commodification of nudity in the workplace--most notably, in strip clubs, but the new ban places stricter parameters around this, in the case that loopholes (topless waitresses, etc.) are exploited. Also, I just said 'hole' and 'exploited' in the same sentence in a post about stripping. I'm 3 years old, thx.

I can't pretend to be an expert on Iceland. I like Bjork, which means I know about 90% of what needs to be known about Iceland. (And just so you know, I hated her last album, so you better step it up, Iceland.) It seems that prostitution was banned last year; they're putting together an action plan against the trafficking of women; and now, of course, the strip clubs have been shut down. And don't get me wrong here; I'm not trying to claim this is some strange Handmaid's Tale-style introduction to a totalitarian state of control over female bodies.

I certainly have a great deal of respect for any action taken against the trafficking of women--but as I've argued with my friend Gina, there are profound differences between sex trafficking and sex work. And within sex work, there is not a monolithic Platonic 'form' of the sex worker--there are people (not just women, though it seems no one remembers this when it comes to heated discussions about sex work) who become involved because of addiction or coercion, those who feel that it's the only viable survival tactic. There are also those who do it because it pays better than a lot of shit work, and some find it easy, or boring, or enjoyable, or horrible, or demeaning, or empowering, or whathaveyou. I'm unsettled by the almost colonizing compulsion for privileged feminists to point out the 'victimized' position of sex workers. I should say that I am not against sex work. I am against the criminalization of the industry, rather than regulation--to my mind, it'll happen whether or not the law says it 'can' happen, and so we should be providing services--HIV/STI testing, prophylactic provisions, possible wage-standardization and destigmatization. I still question the efficacy of regulation--in Amsterdam, for example, there is a major problem with human trafficking, despite the legality of prostitution. But I don't think the sex industry is a clear-cut issue, and I don't like the assignation of the term 'most feminist' to a country simply because it finds sex work necessarily unacceptable. Feminists are not unanimous on this issue--I count myself as a feminist, and as I've said, I do not wish to demonize sex work.

But pragmatically speaking, what I do question are these details: A) What happens to the women involved in the sex industry? I can see why Iceland believes this to be a 'feminist' move, and I don't know the culture well enough to say that this isn't a wider (not simply talking heads) belief. But how will the chips fall? I think about the U.S. conservative insistence on abstinence education, on eliminating abortion, on keeping non-heterosexual individuals from adopting children; these tactics assume that sweeping an issue under the rug will right the situation. But how do these coalesce in a larger wave of fuck-up-ery? This approach denies, for example, underage access to birth control; abstinence education pretends that these underage kids won't fuck--of course they do. Then, the same kids that have been already failed by the educational and healthcare systems are overloaded with unwanted children--these children are thrown into toilets or, if they're lucky, into orphanages. These centers are overflowing with unwanted kids--but the same conservatives who insist on the 'value' of these lives leave them ignored, and place further limits on *who* is able to give them the love and the homes they deserve.

What kind of fuckery is this, Amy Winehouse might ask. And I'm with her on it. Logic simply doesn't enter into this situation--it's a series of irrational moves congealing in a majorly flawed system.

So what happens to the Icelandic women who lose their source of income with the shutting down of strip clubs, with the banning of prostitution? Are the sex workers simply expected to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and move right along? Or are they provided for? Are there services to aid them in finding new employment, to help support the livability of their lives as they seek new venues of financial stability? I'm just curious about the details of this decision; is there the assumption that the end will justify itself? That the outright ban will cure the symptoms? None of this was mentioned in the articles I've stumbled across. If ya'll have seen answers and have links, or have some of your own to offer, leave 'em in the comments section.

Oh, and my B) thing was the conflation of anti-sex-work with feminist, which I addressed earlier, accidentally. That's it for now.

Currently in Pennsylvania, surrounded by my dogs. The pups have doubled or tripled in size, and the four of them together comprise a little wolf-pack. The pups' obedience class was amaaazzing--only cuteness and puppy tricks. Got some blog plans for the next few days, so keep an eye open. Just one.

Finally, here's that crazy Bjork, breakin' laws: