Melissa Gira Grant quotes

  • Most people aren't encouraged to think of their labor as very valuable. We usually think of it as the necessary thing we engage in in order to survive. We live in a world where our ability to survive is connected to our ability to draw a paycheck. But there are other ways of organizing labor and culture. For example, people who are pushing for fixed universal base income, or a welfare system that separates wage labor from the compensation required to survive. It was only when I thought of those alternatives that I was able to really understand what we mean when we say sex work is work.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Mean #Thinking #People

  • I respect people who come forward and speak, but I'm not asking most of the sex workers I interview now about their work. I'm asking them about their lives in general or their political organizing. I take pains source things pointing back to intellectual work that sex workers have produced, because that's really absent.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Pain #People #Political

  • Almost everything I've learned about journalism has been from other friends who are journalists, taking advantage of the money I hope they don't think they threw away at j-school. I studied comparative literature, but the professional vagaries of journalism I've learned through other people's trial and error, and my own.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Thinking #Literature #Journalism

  • Everyone's politics are born of self-interest, particularly around sexuality. We just have to own up to that.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Sexuality

  • In the current situation with criminalization, we've created situations where sex workers have very little power and control over their lives. Increasing one group of women's power and control over their lives does not take anything away from other women. When a woman's value has been constructed as keeping a man and keeping him faithful, then when he's not we've been taught to internalize that there's something wrong with us.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Men #Faithful #Situation

  • What shocked me was three different anti-prostitution feminists asking me to justify that I had been a sex worker, to prove it. That either I hadn't done enough sex work by their standards, or I hadn't done the right kind in order to have the right to speak about it. I couldn't understand them. I'm not speaking for you. I'm not speaking "for" anyone. I'm trying to put together this picture of the different forces that are producing a result in the lives of sex workers. You can't contest the fact that tons of people are going to jail and experiencing violence.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Feminist #Trying

  • I wouldn't advocate for a feminism that's buttoned-up and divorced of the messiness of our real lives. Your feelings are your feelings, but you're not going to litigate your feelings about my body. The feminist ethics that I signed up for were respect for my bodily autonomy, that my experience is my experience, and that I'm an expert in my own life.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Real #Feminist #Feelings

  • I think sex work gets over-mystified and overcomplicated because it's about sexuality, and women's sexuality in general. What strikes me when I look at sex worker organizations and sex worker movements, in the US especially, is that they're so in alignment with other longstanding progressive causes. If anything, sex workers have been at the forefront of some of these causes. There have always been sex workers at the forefront of social movements.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Thinking #Progressive #Sexuality

  • In New Zealand, sex workers are regarded as workers, as people who are members of the community, people who have a stake in the community - not just in the workplace, but in the broader community. They aren't objects to be controlled and regulated. They are not collateral evidence of a crime. They are human beings.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Community #Workplace

  • We hear from sex workers who have through their own volition become media figures, or have despite their own wishes become media figures. Like Ashley Dupré, who has a sex advice column in the New York Post. You get outed and then people expect you to write a memoir because they think, what else are you going to do with your life?
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Writing #Thinking #People

  • We're missing a lot of the real-life stories of what people's work looks like. Those are the people that I want sitting on the zoning board meetings, on the zoning commissions. Those are the people I want participating in business improvement in their own industry. The gentrification processes that often happen in cities so often manifest in street sweeps of sex workers. How do you get sex workers on neighborhood associations, regarded as members of the neighborhood?
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Missing #Improvement

  • I went to college in Amherst and lived in Northampton for many years and we had our quaint little feminist sex toy shop that somehow made it in town and wasn't scandalous. But you still got the vibe once in awhile that this didn't used to be okay. That twenty years ago women would have come in saying, "You can't sell realistic-looking sex toys. You have to only sell things that look like dolphins or something."
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #College #Feminist #Okay

  • I remember being in high school in the '90s, and even then somehow hearing about the the Canadian Supreme Court's Butler decision which was meant to keep "obscene" material from entering Canada. The stuff being stopped at the border was almost all lesbian.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #School #Decision #Remember

  • Kristin Gwynne has been writing some great stuff about the sexually violent element of "stop-and-frisk." This isn't just "turn out your pockets." This is young people being groped. That form of power - using sexuality for power and control - seems pretty straightforward to me. When are we going to just say that the cops are the enemy here?
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Writing #People #Enemy

  • Anything that is going to be good for sex workers is going to be good for women across the board. Less women in jail is going to be good for all of us.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Be Good

  • Work doesn't have to be great in order to dignify it as work. Work just is. It's quite value-neutral. The issue is about what kinds of power and control you have at work as a human being. That's the commonality. It's not necessarily what the task is.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Kind #Commonality

  • We aren't defined by our work. People think if you over-identify with your work, then that must mean you're giving over too much of yourself to it, that there's something wrong with that. We're trained to believe in things like work-life balance. So much work is tending towards service. It's very much about creating experiences rather than products, and it makes those boundaries between life and work very slippery.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Believe #Mean #Thinking

  • It doesn't service anyone any to say, "This is a terrible violation in any circumstance always," because that robs us of our ability to write our own lives. I've had people cheat on me and it's been devastating, and I've had people cheat on me and felt that it showed their true colors.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Writing #People #Cheat

  • I've always been a writer. I started getting paid for writing in college. Where it transitioned from commentary to journalism was in that shift - not wanting to write personal stories because people are hungry in not necessarily great ways for the sexy, sexy, sex work story. I was trying to shift the focus, and journalism was the tool I needed to write about people outside my own life and range of experience.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Sexy #Writing #College

  • Women in the past thought all they had to do was see if he comes home late, or smells like cigarettes. But nothing's really changed, right? People still cheat. They're going to do what they're going to do. But now that sex work is more private, there's that chance to have a double life.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Home #Past #People

  • Another sex worker and writer I respect put it this way: she said that as a writer, you're not about pleasing people, and as a sex worker it's all about pleasing people. It's all about creating this fantasy. I still feel like as a writer you actually do have put on a show. You can't just hand over your notes. And there is a degree to which you are appealing to the reader's vanity, whether you tell yourself you're doing that or not.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Over You #Fantasy

  • When I interviewed the evangelical Christian youth group who were protesting the Village Voice, I wanted them to feel they could freely tell me things like, "Did you know that 90 percent of prostitutes don't want to be doing it?" Is that unfair? That's sort of an invisible privilege for me.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Christian #Youth #Invisible

  • Once when I told sex workers about my own sex work, it ended up building inappropriate trust with some people. But there have been events now - like covering the protests against Backpage at the Village Voice - where I've talked to sex workers who don't necessarily know that I've done sex work.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Done #Inappropriate

  • I have to do this all the time - choosing what to print based on how it might come back to harm people from whom I've earned trust.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Print

  • It makes me so angry when people say, "We never hear from people who are happy doing sex work." Well, that's because they're working. The activism privileges people who hated doing sex work, are no longer doing it, and have a job at a social service organization, for example, that trains them on how to speak to the media. We are hearing from those people quite a bit.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Speak #Activism

  • A lot of the political change that could happen is going to be super boring.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Political #Boring

  • I hesitate talking about a program for change because we're in this moment where no one is listening to sex workers about how things should change. So I'm even speaking less as a former sex worker and more as a person trying to see the bigger picture that might be hard to see when you're doing sex work full-time, or running a social service organization, or doing all the things that a lot of sex worker activists are doing. It's hard work, and they don't necessarily get the time to step back and see the whole picture.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Running #Hard Work #Listening

  • Most of the time, people are not actually concerned with prostitution and sex work. They're concerned about seeing people who they think are prostitutes and sex workers in their community. Sometimes this just comes down to profiling, the feeling of "I don't want someone who looks like that in my neighborhood." We need communities and neighbors to regard sex workers as part of the community and fellow neighbors. But that's really difficult. There's certainly nothing supporting that.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Thinking #People #Community

  • The value we're all raised with, that women don't have the capacity to make moral decisions for themselves, particularly around their sexuality. That if they make the wrong decisions they are ruined for life. That someone more powerful, a man or even a more powerful woman, should be responsible for them. That's the value animating all of this. It's incredibly racialized as well.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Powerful #Men #Decision

  • One of the biggest things going on in London, Amsterdam, San Francisco, and New York right now is gentrification. Every major city is dealing with gentrification, and it's always the sex workers they come for first. Cities feel they have to clean up their image and make themselves more attractive for tourism, more attractive to businesses. The Gezi Park struggle in Turkey a few years ago, for example, was a popular movement defending public space and land. What I found when I was digging into the goings on there was that the park was a place where transgender sex workers felt safe.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Struggle #Transgender #Attractive

  • Looking at the huge number of transgender women of color who have been murdered since the beginning of the year - that we know of - the number has reached seven or eight at this point, maybe even nine, since the start of 2015. The number of those women involved in sex work is not a piece that gets lifted up in news reports. Sometimes people want to bury that, because they don't want to say anything that might make it seem as though those women were asking for it. We're still living with the idea that sex work somehow marks people as acceptable targets for violence.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Say Anything #Violence

  • One person was basically saying that feminists aren't interested in criminalizing prostitutes, that they don't want to do that. I responded that whether or not they want to, that is what is happening on the ground.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Feminist

  • I've moved away from writing about and describing actual experiences of sex work, whether mine or anybody else's, because the culture is obsessed with the behavior of sex workers. They want to figure out why they do what they do and who they are. What I'm trying to do is to shift the focus onto the producers of the anti-sex work discourse: the cops, the feminists, the anti-prostitution people. Those are the people whose behavior needs to change.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Writing #People #Focus

  • Our feelings alone don't change what happens with the police, what happens in jail, what happens when someone tries to go to the welfare office, the unemployment office, or any kind of state agency where a criminal record comes up for prostitution. How we feel about the commodification of sexuality and violence doesn't actually translate to those people's lives. A lot of the debate is really academic and a waste of time.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Feeling Alone #Office #Police

  • I think the anti-prostitution feminists need to do some consciousness-raising amongst themselves about their feelings. But that's a different political activity. Asking ourselves, how do we feel about the fact that our boyfriends, our husbands, our male partners might hire sex workers? They should have that conversation, but they shouldn't attach it to policy conversations that affect people.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Husband #Thinking #People

  • The biggest difference in what's going on in New Zealand versus the rest of the world, aside from the decriminalization of sex work, is that sex workers were actually part of the decriminalization process. There was a provision in that legal change stating sex workers would be part of an evaluation committee, and in 2008, they were, they were a part of the committee determining whether or not decriminalization worked. They are continually regarded as stakeholders - in their communities, but also in the legal process. That's such a different way of operating.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Community #Different #World

  • Even at legal brothels, sex workers have very little power and control over their workplace. They might have power with their customers on a case-by-case basis in terms of what they want to do and not do, but they don't necessarily have a lot of power in how that business operates. There's this presumption that sex workers are broken people, so how could they engage in something like workplace democracy? How could they even have demands?
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Broken #Democracy

  • Sex workers are the last women police stand in to protect. Sex workers are the last people that room is made for in many ways. You get a different kind of feminism if you put people at the margins at the center. It's a recently resonant lesson, but black feminists have been saying this for decades. Now when I talk to people engaged in sex workers' rights advocacy and people who identify as intersectional feminists, this is the air they breathe. We can't just make feminism about improving the lives of all women. Because there is no such thing as all women and universal female experience.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Feminist #Police

  • It's actually not much of a risk to say, "I don't think we should put sex workers in jail." That's a decent, normal thing you should believe. But then what are you going to do about it?
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Believe #Thinking #Risk

  • Look at how successful the domestic workers movement has been. But it's different when it's your husband hiring someone. Domestic workers quite literally say, "You need to get your house in order. You can't join this movement unless you look at yourself." And they're very forgiving, amnesty for everyone. "You haven't been paying into your nanny's unemployment insurance? That's cool, we'll teach you how to get right and go from there." What would the parallel be around sex workers? I don't know if there can be one.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Husband #Successful #House

  • It's a misnomer to say you can criminalize one part of the transaction and not criminalize the entire transaction. For example in Sweden, where the law was passed in 1999. Those laws didn't actually decriminalize people who sell sex; they introduced new criminal penalties for the people who buy sex. Nothing changed in the legal status for the sex workers themselves. It's impossible for them to operate a legal business. When you criminalize part of a transaction, you're creating collateral damage for all those engaged in it. You are now making them work in a criminalized context.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #People #Impossible #Changed

  • This is the hardest thing to articulate: I think that there is a legitimate space for sexual commerce. And like every other industry, particularly the service industry, the workers are getting the short end of the stick. Are there some industries that just shouldn't exist? Yes. But I don't think the sex industry is one of them. As it currently operates it's not damaging, necessarily, but it might itself be damaged. It's busted.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Thinking

  • Say you're a sex worker and your partner knows you're a sex worker, but you're not out to your family. That could be very dangerous, particularly in an unhealthy relationship, where it could be a recipe for conflict, for something potentially violent that could lead to someone going to jail. There's so much pressure because of the criminalization and stigma. If we lifted that, it's only going to benefit more women.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Conflict #Violent #Dangerous

  • I don't use "feelings" as a diminutive word. I'm trying to take feelings back. I think of everyone on the internet whose response to everything is: "#Feelings! This is important, this is real, this is significant!" That connects to power, too. Wanting to feel like you have power and control over your life.
    -- Melissa Gira Grant

    #Real #Thinking #Over You