Monday, December 03, 2018

A brutal culture that neeeds to change

By Jacinta Nampijinpa Price

Like most traditional cultures around the world, Warlpiri [Aboriginal] culture is deeply patriarchal; men are ­superior to women and more privileged, and the collective quashes the rights of the individual. These principles, thousands of years old, come together to oppress women now. If I misbehaved as a young girl, some well-intentioned family member might threaten me with forced marriage to a much older “promised husband”. I would obey out of terror.

Aboriginal children are rarely punished physically but are controlled psychologically. I recall when I was a little girl my female kin playing cards at Yuendumu. A Japangardi, one of my potential husbands, walked past. The women pretended he was coming to take me away. They teased me and huddled around, pretending to protect me from his clutches. He played along, pretending to grab for me. I was terrified. Everyone burst into laughter. Japangardi signalled it was all a joke and ­handed me a $20 note to compensate for the terror he caused me.

Girls are trained to be submissive from birth and their fear is laughed at. My mother was ­expected to join her middle-aged promised husband as his second wife at 13. She would have gone to her big sister’s household as her co-wife. Mum rebelled. Her father and promised husband relented and told her she could ­finish school first. They were good and thoughtful men who knew the law but also knew when not to enforce it and that the world was changing. Others of my ­mother’s age weren’t so lucky and were beaten senseless for daring to rebel.

My parents were determined I would be able to choose my husband. There are still some not granted that right. In customary law, a man is entitled to have sex with his promised wife without her consent. This has been used in court to defend men who had violently and sexually assaulted their teenaged promised wives. In 2002 a 50-year-old Aboriginal man faced court over the abduction and rape of his 15-year-old promised wife. He had already killed one wife. Despite this, his new wife’s family had promised her to him. She was held against her will at his outstation and repeatedly raped. When she attempted to leave with relatives, he fired his shotgun to scare them off. His lawyers argued he was acting within the parameters of his law and fulfilling obligations to the victim’s family.

This was true. The initial charge of rape was reduced. He ­received 24 hours’ imprisonment for unlawful intercourse with a minor and 14 days’ imprisonment for the firearm offences. When the details were published in a ­national paper there was outrage and a successful appeal.

I know of many other cases like that: stories of rape, domestic violence and murder; stories belonging to women in my family and many other Aboriginal families. Stories that never reach the ears of the wider public. My close family regularly contributes to the hideous statistics relating to family ­violence. My Aboriginal sisters, aunts, mothers, nieces and daughters live this crisis every day. There is not a woman in my family who has not experienced some kind of physical or sexual abuse at some time in her life. And none of the perpetrators were white. One of my aunts had her childhood violently stolen from her at the age of 14. Her promised husband, a much older man, held her captive. She was bound with rope “like a kangaroo”, as it was described to me, and repeatedly raped. No one reported the incident. Everyone went about their lives as if nothing had happened. My aunt — one of the most loving, caring and, as I’ve come to learn, resilient women I know — lived on in silence. She lost the ability to bear children. She was left to deal with her scarred womb and tormented ­psyche while her perpetrator lived on to die as an elder and law man, revered by both the Aboriginal and the wider community.

I was told of another relative who had also been promised to a much older man who, again, had been convicted of killing his first wife. She was terrified she’d suffer the same fate. Her female relatives tried to protect her. I was told her promised husband and other male relatives took her out bush with the connivance of her own father who had also caused the death of his wife. No one has seen her since. That was more than 30 years ago when I was a baby. No complaint was made to the police. These are the kinds of women’s stories I’ve grown up with, told to me in whispers by aunts, grandmothers, mothers. They were also warnings of what can happen when a girl breaks the law.

As an Aboriginal woman I have grown up knowing never to travel on certain roads during “business” time for fear of accidentally coming across a men’s ceremonial party. Like all Aboriginal women, I am at risk of being killed as punishment for making such a simple mistake. This was, and still is, the rule for Aboriginal women in central Australia.

In January 2009 a police car drove on to a ceremonial ground in a remote community. They were pursuing a man who had assaulted his wife. There was a female police officer in the car. That evening the ABC news reported that white police had shown no respect for Aboriginal law. The fact they were pursuing a man who had perpetrated violence against his wife wasn’t mentioned.

Interviewed for the evening news, the late Mr Bookie, former chairman of the Central Land Council, said: “It’s against our law for people like that, breaking the law, they shouldn’t be there. Aboriginal ladies, they’re not allowed to go anywhere near that. If they had been caught — a woman, Aboriginal lady, got caught — she would be killed. Simple as that!” He knew the law and he told the truth.

There was great anger in June this year when Victoria Police ­issued a statement cautioning women to have “situational awareness” and be “mindful of their surroundings” after the terrible rape and murder of a young Melbourne woman in a Carlton park at night. Aboriginal women in remote Australia must be acutely aware of their situation and surroundings all the time during Aboriginal men’s ceremony. They are taught this from birth. This is the way it is and has always been.

A few years ago I was contacted by a female family member who told me that because of feuding ­between her family and her in-laws she was wrongly accused of insulting a man in a culturally sensitive way relating to sacred men’s business. As a result she and her daughter were told they had to strip naked publicly in their community to be humiliated. Women know insulting a man with reference to men’s sacred ceremony can result in severe punishment. An accusation is usually believed and supported by the accuser’s ­female kin. Denial is useless.

A son-in-law can do whatever he likes and his mother-in-law will blame her daughter. In traditional communities in the Northern Territory, the patriarchal and kin-based society is so deeply embedded it’s common for female relatives of even violent offenders to support them against the victim. The obligation to male kin is so strong it can be crippling.

Premature death and life-threatening illness are blamed on sorcery. Misfortune falling on a family can be blamed on the misbehaviour of women who have ­attracted the attention of sor­cerers. They may be blamed for the death of their children or husbands. Mothers and widows in mourning are sometimes badly beaten after attracting blame. They usually accept punishment because they share the belief system that imposes the penalty. As long as the belief that women can be blamed for the bad behaviour of men, or for accidents and illness, exists in the hearts and minds of Aboriginal people, we will never progress in the fight against physical and sexual violence against women. It is heartbreaking but true.

Ironically, in my experience many of those most horrified by the idea of Aboriginal people questioning the old ways or adapting to the new are people who fully embrace modernity themselves. They are often well-educated and em­ployed, fluent and articulate in ­English. They live safely in suburbs, have access to the media and the world’s best health services. They don’t die young and they stay out of prison. They have their own culture, don’t live by our customary law, perhaps don’t know what it is. To me, it’s never clear what it is they’re so keen for us to hold on to. Or why we should.

In a small-scale society without prisons and without ­material wealth, incarceration or fining weren’t available as penalties for law-breaking. Physical punishments such as wounding by spear, beatings or death were the only ones available. Once the punishment had been carried out, conflict could be resolved and everyone could carry on with life. With no defence services or police, everybody, male and female, was trained to fight to defend themselves and their families when called upon. Communities haven’t fully shed these ancient practices.

But they don’t work in a complex, modern society, especially one suffering from high levels of ­alcohol and drug abuse; a world where we have all of these old traditions plus internet connection to the world, pornography and poker machines — new things that can kill, none of which existed when our culture and laws were formed.

This is the point at which traditional culture and the modern world collide to tear each other apart. My peaceful childhood days in the bush were a stark contrast to town, where members of my family lived in town camps. There, ­alcohol-fuelled violence took a stranglehold on their lives. I watched as my uncles, whom I loved dearly — men who loved their families — became addicted to grog because they no longer knew where they stood in society. I’ve witnessed alcohol-fuelled rage from men and women towards each other and inflicted on themselves. The principles of traditional and modern economies also clash.

Traditionally we couldn’t preserve or transport food in a harsh climate. Food had to be consumed immediately and shared with those present; and it could be ­demanded. That was the only way we could survive. But the only things my ancestors possessed that could be shared were food, water and firewood. The principle of demand-share cannot coexist with money, with the need to save, invest and budget. It cannot coexist with addiction. Now, in the cash economy, demand-share and immediate consumption applied to money, clothing, vehicles and houses cause poverty. You can’t say no to kin. They have unrestricted access to your income and all of your assets under the old rules. Some kin will be addicted to alcohol, drugs and gambling.

The addicted are allowed, under the rules of traditional culture, to demand their kin fund their addiction. It is the single biggest barrier to beneficial participation in the modern economy. If you are obliged to give, with no questions asked, you can’t budget, you can’t save, you can’t invest. It strips away your incentive to work. I have had to live with this and cope with it all of my life. Sharing reinforces kin relationships and the status of the sharer.

Men have higher status than women and are less obliged than women to share. This system further subjugates women. To avoid the pain of saying no, my mother insists her white husband won’t let her share. My father is happy to take on this role and use the “male privilege” given him by his wife’s culture to protect his ­Aboriginal loved ones from poverty.

These problematic attitudes and practices I’ve described did not arrive on the Australian continent with white people in 1788. They are millennia old and fundamentally rooted in a deeply patriarchal culture.

James Massing is a senior minister in the Sarawak state government in Malaysia. His people are the indigenous Iban. His great-grandfather was a headhunter. He has a simple message for other ­indigenous peoples: “If you don’t adapt, you die.” He knows the traditional culture of his people and speaks their language. He has a PhD in anthropology from the Australian National University. He no longer hunts human heads. He has kept the best of the old ways, and taken the best of what the world has to offer now, to lead his people out of poverty and marginalisation. He knows how his people must adapt to survive.

Recently I was helping my 33-year-old niece to cope with end-stage renal failure and her 11-year-old daughter to attend to an ongoing battle with rheumatic fever; we have the highest rates in the world. Their mother and grandmother, my sister-in-law, is in her 40s. She walks with a limp and has permanent damage to her sight and hearing resulting from assaults by Aboriginal male partners and a Warlpiri man who bashed her in the head with a rock because she had no grog or cigarettes to give him. Not long before that I helped ambulance and police officers to place the body of my aunt in a body bag. She had died of a massive heart attack following a drinking binge. She was one of my favourites. Not long before that I identified the body of my young cousin killed in a car crash caused by ­alcohol abuse. None of these, my female loved ones, had the English skills, confidence or competence to deal with the wider world effectively when crises hit. They all spoke their traditional languages. They were all traditional owners under the Land Rights Act. They knew their Jukurrpa and could name the sacred sites in their country. The old rules of traditional culture simply do not give them, the most marginalised of our communities, the tools they need to deal with contemporary problems and challenges; challenges that the old ones, elders past, couldn’t have imagined.

Massing is correct. We need to adapt to survive and we can do it our way. I have spoken of the need for cultural reform. I have called on Aboriginal people to question long-held beliefs, to challenge that which contributes to violence in our culture and to hold ourselves to account for the part our culture and attitudes play in our communities’ problems. Just as European women have challenged the treatment of women in their cultures to bring about change, I am doing the same in mine.

My message is too much for many people to hear. When I or others relate stories like the ones I’ve told here, we attract labels like “coconut” and “sell out”, and ­obscene, misogynist, violent abuse. If white people do so, of course, the label is “racist”, “assimilationist” and “white supremacist”. Truth can be threatening and offensive. Truth can be too much for some. Aboriginal women and children are Australian citizens and they must be able to make the same choices as other citizens. ­Aboriginal activists campaigned for decades for my people to have the full rights of citizens. Now we have them. We also won the ­responsibilities of citizenship. They can’t be separated. If Australian citizens are in danger of abuse and neglect, they deserve to be protected, not on the basis of their culture but on the basis of their human rights. We cannot sacrifice their lives on the altar of culture.

Thirty per cent of us in the Northern Territory are of indigenous descent. We are determined to hold on to the best of traditional values. We need to let go of the ones that no longer work. My kinsmen, who suffer through these crises, haven’t been taught the best of Western, indeed world, culture to help them cope with the problems whitefellas have brought to us. Many haven’t even been taught to speak, read or write the national language. Our traditional culture simply doesn’t provide all the tools they need for a modern world.

The West has progressed so far because constructive criticism is embraced. Progress cannot be made if long-held beliefs cannot be challenged or if we cannot be honest. My people are intelligent, prag­matic and resilient. We’re not delicate or weak but clever, funny and strong, like our language. And just as our language has adapted to a new world, I have faith our culture can be adapted and improved. And it will still be our culture.


In defence of coal

Australia’s green zealots are making life harder for the world’s poor

Thermal coal will become an illegal substance in Australia if Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt gets his way. ‘Coal is the next asbestos’, Bandt declared earlier this month. ‘It is toxic and dangerous. We need to stop exporting coal.’

An economic recession induced by the closure of a $20 billion export industry would be barely felt in the inner-city quinoa zone from where the Greens harvest most of their support.

Doctors, teachers, public servants and other professional suppliers of public services do not lose their jobs in a recession. Indeed, they tend to thrive, thanks to politicians who respond to economic downturns with new government programmes of which they are the potential providers.

It will be a different story in the coal-mining regions of the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and parts of Queensland where honest Australians get their hands dirty delivering a third of the world’s coal exports efficiently and cheaply.

The solar-panel-sheltered classes will not notice the dramatic rise in electricity prices. By day they would make a profit selling excess electricity into the grid, and survive mild nights with batteries which the Greens will subsidise.

Residents of working-class western Sydney, on the other hand, where the winter nights are chilly, summer days sweltering and incomes tighter, will feel the brunt of rising electricity prices which, bizarrely in a country with abundant coal and uranium, are already among the highest in the world.

A ban on coal exports would be tough on the world’s poor in general, particularly those in Asia, where the bulk of Australian coal lands.

The billions emerging from poverty thanks to free markets, free trade and stable electricity supplies are not yet prosperous enough to survive an increase in power prices from the short supply of coal. Hope will evaporate for the 750million electricity-starved Asians burning kerosene and cow dung.

Every symbolic crusade needs a totem. For the Prohibition movement a century ago it was the saloon bars. In the early days of the Green movement it was dams, an emblem of humankind’s reckless invasion of the wilderness, and the sub-species that would undoubtedly be driven to extinction by the rising waters.

The epitome of daminisation, the demonisation of reservoir construction, occurred 12 years ago towards the end of a prolonged drought, as the water supply in the Brisbane basin was rapidly running out.

The campaign against the Traveston Crossing Dam pitched the Mary River turtle, giant barred frog, Queensland lungfish and Richmond birdwing butterfly in an equal contest against the people. The result was a triumph for non-sentience.

The spread of global-warming anxiety since the turn of the century prompted a search for a new emblem. Doe-eyed polar bears adrift on ice occupied the slot for a while, until the activists discovered the emotive charm of Queensland’s Barrier Reef and the dark underbelly of coal.

The Barrier Reef is the most protected, pampered coral formation in the world. Billions have been spent to preserve it. The theory that it is being damaged by climate change is far from proven. It has been damaged by farm-water runoff, now controlled and filtered, and the crown-of-thorns starfish, an insidious aquatic vandal that has become the target of a multimillion-dollar cull.

The chance opportunity to put coal and coral together came in 2010 when the Queensland government opened the way for a rail line from the North Galilee Basin to the coast, as a precursor for mining some of the richest untapped coal reserves in the world.

In 2011, an anti-coal axis of environmental activists, including Greenpeace and others, held a secret counsel of war in the New South Wales Blue Mountains to formulate a strategy.

The strategy document that emerged, Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom, proposed a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign to change the image of coal from ‘the backbone of the economy’ to ‘a destructive industry’ that ‘corrupts our democracy and threatens the global climate’.

The movement had rich friends, including the Rockefeller Family Fund and the Australian internet entrepreneur Graeme Wood, the founder of the online travel service Wotif and a prominent backer of the Australian digital edition of the Guardian.

Law-fare and corporate activism became their chosen methods. With a campaign strategy that would make Coca-Cola envious and the help of international single-issue campaigners like Avaaz, they turned the fight to stop the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland into a global crusade.

‘They’re trying to put a toxic coal complex in the heart of the magical Great Barrier Reef — it’s a crazy plan, but we’ve got a chance to stop it’, read an email that spread across the world.

‘This is a do-or-die moment for the reef-wrecking coal mine… Let’s stop the reef-killing deal.’

For the record, the Adani mine is 260 miles inland and the reef, at its closest, is 10 miles offshore. To claim it is ‘in the heart of the magical Great Barrier Reef’ is like saying Oxford is at the heart of Lake Windermere.

Yet the campaign has been ruthlessly successful. Adani’s plans to use the blessed reserves of central Queensland to fuel prosperity in India have been delayed, and might never go ahead.

History is unlikely to be kind to the decarbonisation movement. Coercive attempts to stop the use of fossil fuels are delivering the same perverse economic consequences as the attempts to close down American saloon bars in the 1920s.

The consumers pay more for a substance they choose not to live without, while the producers count the profits.

The American fondness for alcohol hardly abated during Prohibition. With demand and supply unequally matched, the price of beer rose by 700 per cent in the US between 1920 and 1933. The price of a bottle of brandy rose by 433 per cent and spirits by 270 per cent. A fourfold increase in deaths from alcohol poisoning and a rise in organised crime were just two unintended consequences. The enrichment of the alcohol companies was another.

A report released this month by international financial analysts Redburn predicts a similar result from the crusade against fossil fuels.

The attempt to starve coal producers of capital has impeded their attempts to build new coal mines, but it hasn’t got in the way of profits. The price of coal has risen to a six-year high, which is good news for the coal business, but bad news if you’re living in, say, India’s Bihar state, where three out of four households don’t have electricity.

If the price of coal rises, says Redburn, ‘the one to two billion people on the planet with zero or unreliable access to modern energy would remain priced out of the market’.

Redburn’s analysts turn the tables on so-called ethical investors by forcing them to confront the consequences of fossil-fuel divestment, a phenomenon that has swept university campuses, shareholder meetings and boardrooms, much as anti-alcohol mania did a century ago.

‘Given the pernicious consequences of energy undersupply, we would go so far as to argue that the socially responsible investor has a duty to ensure capital is available to the fossil fuel industry, for as long as it is needed’, they write.

Unless the supply of coal is increased, the world’s poor will be trapped for even longer in poverty, burning whatever they can get to keep life and limb together. Industrial development will be constrained. Fewer goods and services will be purchased. The smug inner glow of virtue-seeking First World activists will hardly compensate for the global decline in material prosperity.


Sydney University's theatre of the absurd

by Tom Switzer

Does studying the West imply superiority?

For generations, the university has been a place designed as a crucible of debate and discussion. That means allowing free-thinking and the exchange of ideas in order to acquire knowledge and intellectual substance.

It is the height of irony, therefore, that universities across the Western world should have been at the forefront, in recent years, of restricting freedom of speech. Across America and Europe, for example, anyone with counter-orthodox views about transgender issues, or same-sex marriage, or even aspects of capitalism, is liable to suffer the indignity of "no-platforming".

It is also ironic that, as Western civilisation should have reached this pass, some at my alma mater, the University of Sydney, are arguing that the subject of Western civilisation itself is inherently "racist". A proposal by the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation to start a course of such study in collaboration with the university, we are told, must be stopped.

I had the great pleasure of not only studying modern history at the University of Sydney (1990-93) but also tutoring and lecturing there (2008-17). It saddens me profoundly that so many former colleagues have worked themselves up into a frenzy of disgust and outrage at the thought of Western civilisation being taught on campus. If they succeed in their aims of preventing full and frank discourse on a subject rich in a cultural history essential to Australia, and to so much of the world, they will have undermined the very notion of what a serious university should stand for.

Before a public meeting last Monday evening, the opponents of Ramsay issued a statement breathtaking not just in its arrogance, but in its ignorance. It is always dangerous to impute motive to others, but that does not prevent these activists from doing so. They argue that "the sole rationale for its proposed curriculum is to reassert the supremacy of the 'West' over all other peoples of the globe."

Missing evidence

All that is missing from that assertion is a shred of evidence, but it allows them to play their trump card. Because of what they regard as the supremacist nature of the course, they claim "the only people who invoke 'Western civilisation' in anything other than a critical spirit are members of the racist right".

And, of course, the minute the "R" word is enlisted, all those who fear being tarred with it are expected to bow down, apologise and withdraw. Such bullying and illiberalism must be resisted vigorously. To do anything else would be to end the idea of a great intellectual institution as a place of free discussion and serious academic purpose.

The activists who wish the Ramsay Centre to be strangled at birth assert that "Western civilisation" is "a favourite umbrella term sheltering all manner of toxic and paranoid prejudices". In that case, many of the world's leading academics, who have taught aspects of this discipline for centuries – theologians, philosophers, classicists, linguists, historians, art historians, musicians and so on – must now be re-labelled as toxic and paranoid, not to mention racist. "We cannot allow," the campus radicals continue, "to offer a course which casts every student of non-Western background as culturally backward."

Never mind that part of the teaching of Western civilisations has been to encourage inquiry into other civilisations. Indeed, anyone who has looked at Persian, Indian, Chinese or Aztec cultures (to name but a few) will have grasped at once their sophistication and complexity.

In a serious university, they should be as open to study as anything else – and the question of what to study should remain a matter of wide-ranging choice. The activists must claim that offering courses in Western civilisation casts non-western students as culturally backward, when it manifestly does nothing of the sort, because the weakness of their argument demands such invention – which only increases that weakness. It is a bit like claiming that by offering natural science courses, a university suggests that those not of a scientific bent are themselves inferior in some way, which would be idiotic.

An eccentric minority

The activists object to European imperialism, which – they may not have noticed – went sharply into reverse a century ago, after the Great War. There is nothing wrong with an Australian university studying a civilisation that originated in Europe, not least given the undeniable effect that the civilisation had on Australia – including the importation of liberal values that the activists seem determined to crush.

Back in Europe and in America, a wave of populism has grown up in recent years. This is not least because of the bullying activities of illiberal intellectual elites, who seek to end debate about matters with which they disagree, and use the weapon of accusations of racism against those who continue to resist, in order to try to shame them into silence. The activists of Sydney should be careful what they wish for. They fail to appreciate just what an unrepresentative, eccentric minority they really are, and the contempt in which people genuinely wedded to the idea of liberalism hold them.

There is nothing to stop the University of Sydney, or any other university in Australia or the rest of the free world, offering courses in any other civilisation that people wish to study. But equally, nothing should stop Sydney offering this course in a civilisation whose influence in the world is indisputable.

To go through life without an understanding of ancient Greece, or the power of the Romans, or the birth and spread of Christianity, the development of the English language, the glory of the Renaissance, the widespread theological, cultural and economic effects of the Reformation, the wonders of the Enlightenment, the development of ideas such as democracy and the rule of law can only render someone thoroughly uneducated. So, too, would a failure to grasp all the scientific discoveries that came from the West, and which have underpinned our modern world.

Tom Switzer is executive director of the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney and a presenter at ABC's Radio National.



In a brothel, racial preferences come out

When a sex worker began applying for a new job at a brothel, she discovered one problem within the sex industry that won’t go away.

It was an average Saturday night around the dinner table when, over a glass of wine, one of my friends said that she was checking out some new places to work.

She wasn’t looking on your average job website, though.

She’s a sex worker, so she had been scrolling through the web pages of different brothels in Sydney, comparing their locations, premises and rates to choose which ones sounded the most promising.

Those of us at the table crowded around her, peering over her shoulder as she searched on her phone. There was nothing out-of-the-ordinary at first – at least, nothing out of the ordinary for our industry – until she happened upon one particular brothel.

On the “prices” page of one particular site, the cost of the booking wasn’t only dictated by the amount of time a client might be interested in spending with a girl. It also differed depending on what kind of girl he would choose: “Western” girls commanded a higher rate.

It was written right there, clear as day. For some bookings, a client could expect to pay almost $100 more to see a “western” – or white – girl than he would to see an Asian girl who worked at the same parlour.

While private workers are free to set their own rates and charges, brothel-based workers are paid a percentage of the price that the business sets.

So, this brothel didn’t only charge clients more to see white workers, it also paid white workers more than non-white workers for the same amount of work. While the ethnic pay gap has been discussed and debated at length, seeing such a blatant example of it left me feeling horrified.

In no world would it be appropriate to charge a customer more to have their coffee made by a white barista, to get their taxes done by a white accountant, or to see a white doctor. So why was it okay here?

To pay one worker more than another because of their race, or to charge more for a service because of the provider’s race, is racism – plain and simple.

The adult industry is frequently considered to be ahead of the curve when it comes to progressive politics. After all, if we can make it past the hang-ups that most people have about sex and nudity, surely we must be a pretty enlightened group – right?

Sex worker and sociologist Zenith Breitling has been in the industry for six years now. She describes herself as Australian-Asian and says that “refreshingly honest” is something she hears a lot about herself, adding, “I’m happier in a pair of Merrells than I am in a pair of Louboutins”.

Zenith has met people through work who have made well-intentioned, genuine mistakes in assuming things about her: Clients who’ve taken her to dinner and assumed she would love chilli, for example. But she’s also had more sinister experiences.

“A brothel wrote a biography of me on their website using phrases that exoticised my race, like ‘here to please you’ and ‘oriental dream’. Both are phrases intended to evoke the stereotype of the submissive Asian woman,” she told me over email.

“There’s also definitely a cohort of clients who fetishise Asian women for how we look. I’ve got no drama with fellas who appreciate a certain look – hey, I like ginger dadbods!

“But when they prey on Asian women specifically, expecting us all to behave the same...that’s when it’s no longer a preference and fetishisation becomes a problem.”

As a white woman in the adult industry, I can’t say I’ve ever been judged negatively because of my race. But I’ve seen it happen to others; friends, co-workers, and clients.

I’ve met plenty of clients who refuse to see workers of specific races and just as many workers who refuse clients based on race, too.

While in some circumstances this might make sense – a client visiting from China may feel more comfortable seeing a worker who speaks fluent Mandarin or Cantonese – it’s rarely ease of communication that informs these judgements.

There are also brothel and agency managers who are quick to discriminate against workers who aren’t white; something that Zenith has also experienced (“thanks, but we don’t need another worker – we already have an Asian girl working tonight,” is something she has heard before.)

Every single person in the adult industry – whether they’re a worker, a manager, or a business owner – faces some form of judgement and stigma because of their work.

Sometimes it’s the assumption that we’re working unsafely or illegally, or that we’re harming ourselves or others in our work. Other times, it’s just the age-old belief that sex is dirty or wrong and that anyone who has it, especially for money, is also dirty or wrong.

It has always surprised me that people who face so much stigma and judgement because of their work can be so quick to stigmatise and judge other people. While the adult industry might be enlightened when it comes to sex and nudity, we clearly have a lot of work to do in letting go of harmful stereotypes and prejudices about our colleagues and friends.

If we demand acceptance from others, should we not also give it in turn? How can we be so hypocritical as to ask someone not to judge our occupation, when we turn around and judge the worker or client sitting right next to us?

“It’s an image-obsessed industry that uses the guise of ‘preference’ as an easy gateway to encourage racist practises, mostly rewarding whiteness or proximity to whiteness,” Zenith told me.

“No layperson needs it explained that racism is a visually-coded form of discrimination.”

When I asked Zenith what I – and other workers – could do to help combat racism in the industry, her advice was simple.

Encourage diversity and listen to migrant workers, but also, be conscious of the kind of behaviour we ignore in our workplaces because speaking up feels too hard, or intimidating. “Encouraging, or being complicit to, racist practises within the sex industry gives people yet another green light to treat people outside of the industry the same way,” she said. “But when we embrace diversity, everyone gets work.”


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

1 comment:

PB said...

So people who go to brothels have preferences? I'm shocked. Shocked I say.