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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
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December 24 2015

Joss Whedon is matching donations to Equality Now. He will match 100% of every donation they receive until Dec. 31st.

Good for him. Hope this makes a difference.
I've made annual contributions to Equality Now ever since learning about it here. I'm happy to know that my year-end contribution will be doubled, now.

Thank you, Joss.
Just made a small donation myself. Cheers Mr. Whedon, and thanks for spreading the word at Whedonesque.
Hope my December 7 gift came in under the wire. SlŠinte, Joss, for making gifts giftier!
Nice one. Just made a donation, too.
Thanks Joss.
Once I'm in a position to make donations, Equality Now is where I'll donate!

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and I hope all of you have a lovely day regardless!
Equality Now are very strongly anti-prostitution. I can't imagine Joss' opinions align.
I think I know what you're getting at, Bunnies, if you're referring to the fine line between fighting human trafficking and forced prostitution vs. supporting women's (and men's) rights to decide what to do with their bodies. Yes, Equality Now is known to be against prostitution across the board, no allowances for the nuances of that industry.

Has Joss ever talked about prostitution in interviews ? You'd think it would've come up plenty, during and post-Firefly-and-Dollhouse years.

At the end of the day, I imagine he would say that Equality Now does overwhelmingly more good than harm and that supporting them is far better than doing nothing. Dunno if there's an equality/women's rights organization out there that is sex work-positive and as effective as Equality Now.
Joss wrote a sketch about prostitution for Equality Now's 20th anniversary. Eliza Dushku takes the lead. Here's a link to the script.
Wow, that's way more blunt than I would expect from Joss. Even has the lie about "started at 12-14 years old". I still doubt he's an abolitionist. It's bizarre to think you could write Inara and season 7 of Buffy, where all the Potentials are empowered, but intend those as counterfactual fantasies rather than ambitious but attainable realities. For years I've used the slayer scythe as my avatar because it represents winning the fight against bullshit hierarchy. But maybe he meant something else all along? Just a fun story? Nah, I don't buy it.
I'm not sure how you could watch Dollhouse and think Joss is pro-prostitution.

Belonging, anyone?

[ edited by eddy on 2015-12-29 02:45 ]
It's not about being pro-prostitution so much as pro-person. I always saw Joss as clearly in favour of individual empowerment: let people be themselves and have faith in their humanity. Echo/Caroline from Dollhouse had her personality wiped and memory erased by a megacorp, yet they still couldn't own her. Her subconscious discontent, her unique personhood, was unquellable, and it eventually destroyed the faceless megacorp. It seems Joss has an absolute, religious belief in humanity. On the other hand, the Equality Now position is that you cannot be a person while an abusive hierarchy persists. You can be a class token at best, or perhaps a piece of meat.
It can be hard to tell what someone's views on contemporary issues are from watching their work. The Actives in 'Dollhouse' and companions in 'Firefly' are in pretty specific situations. Practically all of Joss's work deals with breaking down an oppressive hierarchy, but I wouldn't be able to guess how he applies those ideals to issues this complex.
Pointy, thanks for that link. I decided to donate after reading Bunnies' arguments. Here's Equality Now's position on prostitution.

In Firefly's "Heart of Gold," we see the dangers that can befall illegal sex workers. Legal sex workers are highly regulated and their clients are well-screened and patrolled. Some greatly respect them; others look down upon them. Our hero Captain doesn't think much of the work, and Inara encounters dangers via her work.

IRL, it's very difficult for a client to know if a woman has freely chosen to sell sex or is being exploited by a pimp or trafficker. Even if she has made that choice, the client doesn't know if she hates him but is just doing it because she needs to feed her kids, her drug habit or whatever.

Joss doesn't get rid of all hierarchy in his stories. Echo takes charge in Dollhouse; Firefly has a captain; Angel is a pretty obnoxious boss; and even though potentials are empowered in Buffy, she's still the leader.

Joss wants to get rid of oppressive hierarchies, such as patriarchy. Until that happens, however, he doesn't seem to think that sex workers have sufficient free choice.

Of course Equality Now thinks that people remain people even in abusive hierarchies. They constantly spotlight the humanity of women fighting oppression.

Here's Joss on prostitution: "Right now the sex trade is unbelievably exploitive and disgusting and should be condemned. ... The idea of giving somebody pleasure and peace and philosophy and sexual release all as one thing, to me thereís nothing wrong with that. Iím not a part of that puritanical movement. I think if we in fact legalized the sex trade and regulated it in such a way that it was not killing people, it would probably benefit society. But society is not ready for that. So I donít say that a lot."
If you can imagine being told you aren't capable of giving consent, you can maybe see where they're coming from. I come from an autism rights perspective, and I was really struck by how similar the situation is for sex workers. The people I actually know working in the sex industry are students and single mothers. They don't want their jobs to be illegal and dangerous. They want to be able to work safely, which apparently is best served by decriminalisation (whether society is ready for it, every other option is worse), and they want to be seen as people with essential humanity - exactly how Joss writes characters. I can't support Equality Now because they ask you to look in a mirror and see a sex worker as less human than the person looking back at you.
Thank you for the eye-opening links, Suzie!
Bunnies, if you're a man who wants sex work to be legal, I'm not interested in how you justify it. If you're a woman ...

I don't understand why you perceive Equality Now as suggesting that sex workers are less human than others. I've followed them from before I was introduced to Joss's world. You might want to read more on their site.

I'm disabled due to cancer, and I'm very familiar with the disability-rights movements and sexual rights. Equality Now and Joss are not saying that sex workers are incapable of consent. What Equality Now is saying is that making sex work legal can actually make it more dangerous. And Joss is saying that consent needs to be understood in a context of oppression.

This doesn't mean that women can't make choices; it means that others have a responsibility to look at how those choices are made. For example, I have some poor relatives. They could really use the money if they sold a kidney, an eye, part of their liver, etc. But I don't want them to be able to do that.

If all the men who used sex workers saw them as fully human, I might be OK with sex work. But many men look down on sex workers, seeing them as objects, commodities, something to use and maybe abuse.

Because sex workers are in sales, they may also convince men that they like the guys, enjoy sex with them, etc. This hurts other women who have to deal with men who don't have a realistic view of how to treat women who are not being paid.
When they speak as if with one voice to say they want decriminalisation because it's best for their safety, I think that me, you and Joss need to let go of our previous beliefs and listen to them. Equality Now appear to have other motives more like in your last paragraph. Women as class tokens rather than individuals, the urgent choices of a few making things worse for us with freer options. It's a philosophy I absolutely oppose.
As far as decriminalization goes, Sweden has done something very interesting. They made selling sex legal, but buying it is illegal. It's a little more complex than that, but some people feel they've gotten some very good results from these laws.

How would that fit in with Equality Now's philosophy?
That's in line with Equality Now's position and opposed to Amnesty International's position and the position of sex workers. They feel it leaves them open to police harassment whichever part of the transaction is illegal, that the Swedish model is just a sop to people who like to think of themselves as liberal. It's associated with lots of deportations for some reason (immigrant sex workers hate the laws, natives haven't noticed much difference). They've introduced the same system in Ireland (both parts) but there it's being pushed by the lingering anti-abortion movement. They make odd bedfellows with Swedish feminists, unless you decide the motives of both are to impose hierarchic control on women.

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