I’m not going to rehash everything behind the recent and very ugly Alexa DiCarlo scandal, but in the event you don’t know about it here’s a great page of information. As a tip, be sure to read the comments because they’ll tell you even more about what was happening than Charlie Glickman (although his write-up was amazing, sane, awesome, informative, and all around great he didn’t have all of the details his post provoked).
I do however want to point out the blatant sexism and bias against sex workers that I’ve seen on virtually every post about the situation, on twitter, and in the way that people are talking about it. I think that it’s vital to point out how many times sex workers were called everything short of screaming harpies for speaking out against an injustice done to them. Moreover, the vast majority of Alexa’s critics were women who were spoken down to as being “just jealous.” I am so deeply saddened that it took the revelation that the Alexa persona was exploiting minors for people to finally stop attacking those who have speaking out against the Alexa persona. Even then, people consider outing the real author behind it all as entirely unjustified because of the original (and apparently “illegitimate”) impetus.
Sex workers do have the right to speak out against injustice and oppression in its many forms. Sex workers lives were put at risk by the “Expose-A-Ho” blog that popped up after the first wave of Alexa criticism. Even though “Alexa” was only silent for a month, at least I walked away with a better sense of the kind of writer that I was and the kind of writer I wanted to be. Monica Shores utterly blew me away with the skill of her prose and the integrity of her journalism. I felt pride in my community and I decided to strive towards becoming the writer and the activist that I want to be.
I am still proud of my community. Unfortunately now, I have to look as the sea of people who still believe we never had a right to speak up and used the most traditional and archaic forms of insults against women who dare to be assertive and outspoken. I still have my major disputes with mainstream feminism but I can’t ignore sexism when I see it and the comments sections of virtually every single post about the situation was rich with insight about that. None of it made me feel good. I still don’t feel good that it took harm to minors for people to even remotely accept the courage people had to speak out against someone who was dangerous especially when there was retaliation for doing so. I am really angry (fucking angry) that people could look at the harm and danger that sex workers experienced as a result of this bullshit and yet still so many people consider it to be invalid. Without some sex workers “sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong” this person could still be out there hurting women and children.
This is why we say that sex workers rights are human rights.
The Alexa persona targeted vulnerable people who are deliberately deprived of their right to speak. This is why sex workers are still major targets of violence. It’s because you can actually see, in real time, their cries being dismissed. Even people who claimed to be staunch supporters of sex workers still reiterated these ideas and they helped enable a predator. It took “real victims” for people to listen. There were real victims all along.
If you watch it all from the beginning it’s like the common horror film trope of the woman, usually with a romantic partner, who hears a noise and feels very uncomfortable in her surroundings. She voices her fear but is immediately rebuked. “You’re being irrational. There’s nothing wrong here, nothing at all. You’re ruining this beautiful night with your hysterics.” Then it turns out that the little window of time they had for an escape is gone and Freddy Kreuger emerges from the shadows. As women we are given these mixed messages about being nice and accommodating to our surroundings. If you speak out, you’re a bitch. If you fight back, you’re psychotic. Then, if/when something horrible does occur everyone wants to know why you didn’t fight back harder. Unfortunately for many women, Freddy Kreuger is not just a metaphor.
I’m not writing this to play “I told you so.” I can’t say that because I didn’t speak out in Dec 2009 as strongly as I actually felt in my gut because I didn’t want to be the bad guy. I was too afraid of being wrong. I was afraid of being accused of petty blogger drama (which, yes, does exist in abundance). I was afraid of being a bitch. The thing is, when it comes to our health and safety it’s OK to be a bitch. It is OK to do what you need to do to protect yourself. I am so grateful to the voices of strong women who helped me see that and I am grateful that my experience this time around only happened vicariously. I didn’t ignore my gut completely, I made the decision to quietly disengage with someone online that I did not feel had even the most remote of my interests at heart. I do hope that people will listen to this reality check not just to have a healthy distrust in an internet persona but also to listen to the voices that say the uncomfortable things. To really stop, to really pay attention, to really acknowledge that just because you don’t smell smoke doesn’t mean that it was all in someone’s head and that there is no fire.
So consider this a thank you to the loud and proud voices that spoke up, whatever part of the gender or employment spectrum they came from. Thank you for being good allies, thank you for being a part of my community. There are so many people who did this and I’m afraid that if I start listing names I’m going to miss a few out of pure absent-mindedness but you can see them in the comments and the links present on story summary I linked at the beginning of this entry. Drinks for the house. I think we all need a stiff one right about now.
All of that seriousness aside, in my usual snarky form I would like to present ALEXA BINGO for your pleasure. I would specifically like to thank Furry Girl for the inspiration and flavor behind this. Visual aids are always helpful to have when you want to help people think about something.