• Enter search term(s):


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.



Recent Posts

Ms. Magazine Blog quotes a line from my (really old and not so good) poem, and I panicked.

Date: September 27, 2011

A friend told me that a poem (not particularly a good one) I wrote almost a decade ago is being cited and linked from a new article posted in Ms. Magazine Blog. The article is in response to a statement issued by radical Black women criticising SlutWalk, and quotes a line from my very old poem that says “everyone is safe when sluts are safe.”

The author of the article, Janell Hobson, is also a Black woman, and I have nothing against her. But people began accessing my piece in droves, sharing it via Twitter, and I started feeling worried about getting drawn into this controversy. So I quickly wrote up what I felt about the topic, and replaced the poem with it. Below is the little write-up that is now on the URL that hosted the poem. It’s not a complete analysis and position paper on SlutWalk, but it’s not intended as such.

update 09/27/2011 – Hey people, I noticed that some people are linking to this piece in the context of recent discussions about SlutWalk. Please know that I wrote this piece almost a decade ago, under a different period. I’ve been recently approached by a couple of editors about reprinting this piece in a book or magazine, but I turned them down because I feel that the cultural climate has shifted in the post-SlutWalk era and I do not want this piece to be used out of context by people discussing the merits and demerits of SlutWalk.

As a participant in Portland’s SlutWalk this past summer, and the producer for a couple of events in early 2000s with the name “Sluts Against Rape,” I do believe in the validity of the strategy that seeks to disarm words and concepts like “slut” that are used to divide women/queers and harm us all. I further feel that some of the white radical feminist critics of SlutWalk have too often relied on mainstream media depiction of SlutWalk for their understanding of the movement, which is ironic because they, too, would be upset if we bought into the media stereotypes about the humourless, anti-sex “70s feminists.”

But when a group of women of colour I highly respect and work with stand up and make public statements criticising SlutWalk and its approaches, first and foremost I stand in solidarity even as I feel ambivalent about some points. If SlutWalk is to continue, the movement has to radically transform itself to incorporate concerns voiced by the radical Black women and other women of colour. I am not entirely in agreement with everything the statement says, but I firmly believe that they need to be taken seriously by anyone organising SlutWalk events.

I am therefore asking everyone to stop pitting my words against theirs to orchestrate an artificial conflict between me and other women of colour. There are genuine disagreements among women of colour, but they should be addressed directly between and among women of colour.

The short piece that used to be on this URL has been removed. You should still be able to find it if you really wanted to, but for now I want to place a barrier. I will probably restore it once the storm is over.

I support the Tantric practitioners charged with prostitution, but not on the first amendment ground.

Date: September 19, 2011

Earlier this month, Arizona authorities (which usually focus on harassing immigrants and brown-skinned people) raided Phoenix Goddess Temple and charged 30 people associated with the group for prostitution. Prosecutors allege that the Temple was a de facto brothel in which prostitutes were referred to as “sacred healers” and johns “seekers.” The Temple insists that its members practice “Tantra and Goddess worship as a religion,” calling the raid “a modern day witch hunt.”

I know what it feels like to be the target of the witch hunt (see my zine, Surviving the Witch-Hunt: Battle Notes from Portland’s 82nd Avenue, 2007-2010), and I sympathize with those who have been arrested or had close ones arrested. I do not think that they deserve to be persecuted, and believe that the charges against them should be dropped.

But I find it troubling that many sex worker activist friends are rushing to defend the Temple on the first amendment (religious freedom) ground. I am not criticizing the Tantric practitioners for invoking the first amendment in their legal defense–when you are persecuted, use whatever is within your reach to your advantage–but I am concerned that some of my friends in the sex workers’ rights movement are also using this angle.

To invoke first amendment to defend the Tantric practitioners implies that while they are good people who are simply following their religious and spiritual practices, the rest of us who trade sex for money not as a religious practice but to survive in this neo-liberalistic capitalist economy are bad whores that deserve to be punished. I don’t believe that this is what they are actually thinking, but it would logically follow from the “religious freedom” argument.

Media discourse on this topic seems to center around whether the Temple’s activities are legitimate religious practices or the Temple is merely a front for illegitimate operation. But it is the legitimacy of the State (or lack thereof) to persecute sexual healers and sex workers that must be at the focus (not to mention the legitimacy of the State to use violence to police the artificial borders drawn over indigenous and Mexican peoples’ land).

A friend told me that nonetheless this case could be a breakthrough for sex workers’ rights in the State that has become the epicenter of naked hate and bigotry in the recent years. But I feel resentful of the idea that Tantric healers are better than the rest of us who provide sexual services, and I am sick of religious entities claiming special exemptions (e.g. the religious freedom to discriminate against women and queers).

There of course is a difference between the dominant religious group imposing its doctrine on all others and a minority religion defending its practices deemed objectionable by the dominant group. But I feel uncomfortable with the strategy to distance the Temple and its practitioners from the rest of us who don’t have a neat constitutional clause to count on.