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Memo: Exploring an Anti-Utopian Feminism

Date: February 20, 2013

I was recently approached by someone for a contribution toward a collection of essays exploring radical imagination for a feminist utopia. She was particularly interested in my idea of “whore revolution,” and what the world would look like after the revolution. I seem to suffer from a lack of radical imagination, or perhaps from too much radical skepticism, so it didn’t seem like a good match for my style. Here’s how I responded:

Thank you for writing me.

I am interested in exploring further the idea of whore revolution, but I actually had an immediate suspicion of utopian conception of feminism as I read your email for the first time. I think as sex workers and people in the sex trade we suffer from the imposition of utopian feminism that says sex industry should not exist and does not respond to the lived experiences and conditions of the actual people involved.

Over time, my thinking around feminist utopia has evolved to reject it ultimately. My feminism is built around hearing and responding to specific claims of experiencing violence, injury, and injustice, and not based on some abstract theorizing about utopia. In fact, that is my response to the question, “why do you call yourself a feminist instead of just a humanist or egalitarian?” Humanism and egalitarianism are (male) philosophies based on abstract conceptions of justice, whereas feminism is informed by and built bottom-up from lived realities of women.

Is this a line of thinking that you are interested in including? If so, I’d love to contribute. But I would understand if that’s not what you are looking for.

The editor was very understanding, but asked me if I could incorporate these ideas while exploring what the world would look like after the whore revolution. Below is my response.

I don’t know, maybe I don’t have the radical imagination it takes to envision a world post-revolution of any kind, or perhaps my radical imagination is hampered by radical skepticism. My conception of revolution is not a single event or even a series of events that have a beginning and an ending, but the continuous and perpetual process of everyday struggles. It is hard for me to think about the world without rape, for example, because my vision of revolution is one less person experiencing rape and one more person being liberated from fear and shame.

I’ve been wanting to write about what it means to me that I identify as a bottom-up feminist who is deeply skeptical of utopian feminism and is resentful about the societal expectation that activist explain what their ideal world would look like when we are just trying to survive and help each other. But, again, I understand if that is not what you are looking for.

I still appreciate the fact that the editor understood where I was coming from, and told me that my perspective is valuable, even though it might not fit with the theme of the book she is compiling.

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