Posts from June 2001

Detroit residents posse up to harass women in prostitution

I was poking around trying to find more information on the web about a group in Detroit that provides free sandwiches, condoms, counseling, etc. to women in prostitution, in an effort to help them survive and undermine pimp’s control over them. Unfortunately, what I could find was an article from the Detroit News gushing about a neighborhood group called the Video Posse which works together with the Wayne County sheriff’s office to harass women in prostitution, or women who just look suspicious, by videotaping them with camcorders, recording their descriptions and license plate numbers in a logbook, etc.

A volunteer for the group quite literally states (and the Wayne County sheriff agrees) that the objective is fear: Now, I actually see a change: it’s almost like the prostitutes are afraid to walk the streets and the johns are afraid to park. They also repeatedly blame the women in prostitution (who are parading up and down residential streets and referred to as hookers) for doing what they need to do to survive. Look, something like 90% of women in prostitution report that they want to get out but can’t. If you really want to fight the dehumanizing institution of prostitution, then escalating harassment of prostituted women will not help any. Instead, provide economic options for the women so they can get out. Then go after the pimps who use torture and drug addiction and threats to keep the women under their control, and lock them away like it’s going out of style.

Update 2005-12-11: I don’t know how I missed this, but a couple of years ago I actually got an e-mail (which was then buried under other e-mails without my reading it) with a pointer to the outfit that I was looking for originally when I ran across the sorry article about the Video Posse — the Street Outreach Project of Alternatives for Girls. They do very good work for women who are spat on, attacked, ignored, and left to die by the men who hold power — as pimps, as johns, as opportunistic cops, and as sanctimonious politicians. The Street Outreach Project uses a van as a mobile base, and sends teams through the streets of southwest Detroit and the Cass Corridor offering food, clothing, and shelter, along with HIV prevention materials, crisis intervention, rides for medical services, and referrals. They also organize support groups, activities, and case management services. You can help them in their work by contributing money, helping them with items from their wishlist, or by volunteering.

I’m back!

OK, I am finally back from a long time on the road (well, OK, two weeks, but that’s an awful lot in Internet years). We had an awesome ROAD TRIP through San Antonio, Dallas, Detroit, and Baltimore, and then I spent an exhausting, challenging, and totally rad five days at the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Feminist Leadership Institute in DC. Fear not: photos will be posted.

In less narcissistic news, there is a great-looking collective weblog called feminist media watch with daily updates. It’s looking to be great supplimentary reading to MediaWatch, which has fascinating reading and links but apparently only updates their top stories once every couple years or so.

Misogyny of Internet Culture Betrays the Promise of Democratic Spaces Online

Sometimes things come together. Yesterday I read an excellent article on the blatant misogyny of much of the rhetoric about computers and the attitudes of men in cyberspace [Brillo], which equates computers and the Internet as feminine objects to be sexually used and controlled by men, and in which men use the technology as a high-tech way of harrassing anyone who identifies as female (particularly in chat rooms and by e-mail). And today I just read an article in the New York Times on a growing number of recent cases in which high school boys are using web sites to slag young women with sexual gossip, cruel personal details, and more. At one site set up by private school students in Manhattan, students voted on which of their classmates was the most promiscuous–and out of 150 names voted on, young women outnumbered boys 3 to 1. At another, a huge list of young women’s names, phone numbers, and comments on their looks, rumored sexual preferences, embarassing personal information, eating habits, and even their parents’ marital problems. The latter was so bad that the students were arrested on charges of aggravated harrassment. (Gruff sidebar: if the information posted on this website constitutes aggravated harassment–and I agree that it does–then why in God’s name is the Nuremberg Files counted as protected speech when it not only posts all kinds of personal information but also carries an overt threat of violence?)

I talk a lot about how great the Internet is for building new, democratic spaces, and I still believe that’s true. But, we’ve got to be aware that it also enables a lot of bullshit. I’ve talked to a lot of friends of mine who use nicks on IRC that identify as female, and they have gotten all kinds of unsolicited, harassing private messages over IRC, sexually harassing e-mails from strangers visiting to their web pages, etc., simply because they are female. As an experiment, I tried joining a large general chat channel (Dalnet #chatzone) with a female-identifying nick (AndreaGrl) and logged the private messages that I got. After 15 minutes, with no more prompting than having said hi on the public channel, I had received unsolicited messages from 38 different people, 18 of which were spammers sending porn site and sex channel ads that to everyone on the channel, but a full 20 of which were individual boys who all assumed that just because I was identifying as female, I wanted to give all kinds of personal details and help them jack off online.

One earnest young fellow decided to give the perfect summary of the Internet catcaller’s mentality:

^Mr-Sexybullet^^! hi wanna cyber

AndreaGrl: right, i’m a female so i have nothing better to do with my time than have cybersex with every random, anonymous jackoff who msgs me.

^Mr-Sexybullet^^! thats true

Brief Stop Back Home – And Why Women Invest Better

I am briefly back at home, recuperating from four days of hiking–a great time with some old friends from high-school. Unfortunately, it was also a blister-inducing time, and I am glad to have a bit of rest before I set off again on a long road trip to Texas, Michigan, and finally Washington DC. I’ll be setting off again in a few days.

In the meantime, have a good-hearted cheer at this — all-women investment clubs have been consistently outpacing both-sex and all-men investment clubs (the both-sex clubs, in turn, do better than the all-men clubs) due to the women’s tendency to view investment as, well, investment, rather than gambling; they pursued longer-term approaches to investing and researched investments more thoroughly. [Feminist Majority Foundation Newswire]