Women’s March Supports Reproductive & Sex Worker Rights — Or Does It?

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
Earlier this week, we watched as the Women's March on Washington made the surprising move to partner — and then promptly un-partner — with an anti-choice organization. An event co-chair originally cited "intersectional feminism" as the reasoning for bringing such seemingly opposing groups of women together, but the backlash following the announcement caused the organizers to quickly turn on their heels and affirm that the partnership had been a mistake.
Today, the waffling continues: It appears that, since this morning, the March platform has both retracted its statement regarding solidarity with sex worker rights — and added it back in again. Sex industry activist Kate McGrew alerted the Twitter masses to the March's retraction earlier today.
The language in the March's "Unity Principles" that had claimed to "stand in solidarity with sex workers' rights movements" was replaced with a statement of solidarity with "all those exploited for sex and labor."
This seemingly subtle change of phrasing is part of a widespread and exceedingly problematic misconception that conflates sex trafficking and exploitation, which is of course abuse, with sex work, which is by definition consensual. The fact that this conflation is occurring even within the world of the Women's March — which, as Reason pointed out, "bills itself as a big-tent rally for 'anyone who believes women's rights are human rights'" — makes it even more insidious.
If women's rights are human rights, and some sex workers are women, doesn't that mean sex worker rights are human rights? (Spoiler: Yes. Yes it does.) Similarly, supporting the rights of all women includes supporting those who choose to get an abortion, as well as those who choose not to.
It should be a straightforward conclusion, and yet: "Many intelligent, well-informed self-described feminists believe sex work should never be decriminalized," sex industry veteran, activist, and educator Tina Horn wrote on Refinery29 last year. "In fact, the decriminalization of sex work is perhaps the single most divisive subject within feminism today."
And the feminist march of the century is no exception. However, we're relieved to note that the Women's March platform has returned to the more inclusive side of the issue once again: "We stand in solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement. We recognize that exploitation for sex and labor in all forms is a violation of human rights," the current statement reads.
Solid rewrite, gang. Sounds great. Now, let's put down the red pen and go show this country — and its misogynist president-elect — what women are really made of.

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