Racism and transphobia in the French public sphere : a sex work issue
This issue also relates to what goes on in the feminist mainstream discussions in France where most of the time, migrant women, trans women and women of color overall are excluded.
The Strass, as Amar tells me firmly, positions itself strictly against these feminist groups for one main reason : sex workers feel unrepresented. “There are trends that are getting stronger. In France, the biggest movements are whorephobic, transphobic, Islamophobic and negrophobic”
For example, this year, on March 8th, the movement NOUS TOUTES organized an enormous gathering all around the country in order to celebrate the fight for women’s rights. This collective is part of the problem in the fact they underrepresent what makes women in this country and what those women which they don’t represent need, and ask : colorful, diverse in their goals, in their gender identities and sexual orientations, in their economic statuses and in their recognition in the country. Intersectionality is yet to be used as a real tool for representing and giving the voice of all women the space they deserve.
Lately, groups calling themselves “radical feminists” have been taking more and more public spaces and power in the feminists movements in France. These groups easily communicate with the state because they represent the same fringe of people that institutionalized mainstream cis-centered white feminists in the government. Even though some of them, in all their radicality aim at shaking up the public opinion, have anchored their biggest success in the exclusion of sex workers and transgender women. The feminism of these groups is mainly universalist and abolitionist, as well as – and I hate to say it – whitely supremacist. Even the ‘official’ numbers supposed to give informations concerning the situation of sex work in France don’t play out the reality. The number of transgender migrant women who are sex workers are inflated in the official news. The idea that most migrant women automatically enter prostitution networks and same for trans women aims at reinforcing the “BAD etiquette” on sex work. Moreover, this inflation creates a distance between what happens really on the field and the direction that the government could actually take regarding helping ALL sex workers and guaranteeing them legal status and health care rights”.
By virtue of Amar’s word, “There is a need to reinvent the movements. Something strong is happening behind the scene. FeminismS in the plural forms will have the space they deserve with accordingly spread discourses, expertises from a militant point of view. Women, from the street, need they realities recognized”.
Advocating for autonomy : sex workers in France want self-organization and their voices heard
In the public debate in France, a lot of people (most of them who don’t know much about the realities of sex workers) think that the best thing to do (how ironic right ?) would be to reopen the ‘maisons closes’ or brothels. According to Amar, this would be “a deletarian solution allowing the State to control the bodies, hence suppressing our self management”.
Re-instaurating ‘whorehouses’ in France, according to the Strass’ representant, would imply sanitarian control from the state. For migrant women, the situations would be even more difficult ; they would not be able to work because of the immigration statuses and the length of the process, slowing down the access to work permits especially because of the illegal aspects of prostitution.
One solution would be to organize cooperatives. Through them, sex workers could self-organize without depending on the French government and allowance for work. Rose (escort in Paris) who is independent sex workers, tell me that in this way of working, she found self-sufficiency, autonomy and a sense of freedom that only this frame of work can provide.
“If we don’t self-organize, we become each other’s pimps. It’s a hypocrite vicious circle” explains Amar. As collective initiatives, the idea would be to create ‘Common places of work” in order to guarantee the security of everyone. The history of prostitution in France has shown through time that having a matron didn’t help women have financial security and that every bump in the political spheres has them on the first line of conflict. Police, historically too, has not been the first help nor facilitator for sex work to do their job peacefully.
 Mothers, Marraines, and Prostitutes: Morale and Morality in First World War France Author(s): Susan R. Grayzel Source: The International History Review, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 66-82