SHOP releases campaign targeting stigma against sex workers

It’s time we turned the tide on how we talk about sex workers.

The right words can make a huge difference. They can help enforce self-worth, respect, and humanity — especially when it comes to the lives of sex workers. Words count.

The Safe Harbour Outreach Project (SHOP) exists to advocate for the human rights of sex workers in and around St. John’s, and across Newfoundland and Labrador. The women we serve have continuously identified that stigma creates huge barriers to accessing their basic human rights. The collective fight for the human rights of sex workers is a new phenomenon in this province and there are still many challenges to changing the discourse and public perception around the people who engage in sex work.

June 14 has been recognized as a National Day of Action for Sex Worker Rights in Canada to combat dangerous laws and narratives, and today we launch ‘Words Count,’ a bold awareness campaign to make people stop and take stock of the language used to stigmatize sex workers and deny women their agency. Whore, hooker, prostitute, slut. Would you want to be called these words? These and many other weighted words bear down on women in our community every day – women who are parents, volunteers, students, neighbours, teachers, artists, safer sex experts, advocates, and members of our community.

Heather Jarvis, SHOP’s Program Coordinator, on sex work stigma:
“Sex work stigma has real world consequences. It is used to justify actions that infringe on the human rights of sex workers every day, making women’s lives more hazardous and unjust, and at its worst making sex workers disposable. The people we work with are intelligent, resourceful, critical, funny, kind, loving, creative, and come with skills and knowledge. Sex workers are a part of our community. Sex workers belong in our community.”

What can you do?
Challenge discrimination, stereotypes and misconceptions against sex workers, their families and partners. Download and print our campaign poster and help spread awareness in the community. Start a conversation about what you can do to support sex workers in your city. Purchase a ‘Words Count’ t-shirt, with proceeds going to support the work of SHOP. Watch the ‘Words Count’ video below and share it on social media with #EndTheStigmaNL.

CW: This video contains harsh language around sexism, sexuality, stereotyping, and violence and might not be suitable for all ages or individuals. Please engage with it at your own pace.

Vanessa V., local sex worker, on the ‘Words Count’ campaign:
“This is a perfect collage of the stigma that sex workers get because this is how we’re treated by society in general – overwhelmingly negative and with judgment, putting us down as if we’re ‘nobody’ or making us into a ‘bombshell,’ ‘trophy’ stereotype. Ultimately, we’re still made to be a punchline and not seen for the real people we are. The people who say these sorts of things aren’t sex workers, they aren’t my clients, they’re people who are looking at sex work from the outside.”

Take responsibility for your words and your actions. Help end the stigma. Support the Safe Harbour Outreach Project.

Media Contact
Heather Jarvis
Program Coordinator
Safe Harbour Outreach Project
Tel. 709.771.1077
heather@sjwomenscentre.ca

Safe Harbour Outreach Project: Women’s March 2018 Statement

SHOP provided a statement to be read at the St. John’s Women’s March on Saturday, January 20, 2018:

Safe Harbour Outreach Project is a program of the St. John’s Status of Women Council, where our two-woman team supports and advocates for sex working women and their rights, in and around St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Our work is rooted in harm-reduction, human rights, social justice, and decriminalization.

We at SHOP are eager to participate in the St. John’s Women’s March 2018. The involvement of sex workers is incredibly meaningful; it was only last year that sex workers endured the erasure of their lives and rights at the Women’s March on Washington. We are proud that our city recognizes that sex workers belong here, because we know that sex workers have been historically left out of international women’s movements.

We know that sex workers are strong advocates, policy makers, and labour rights activists. Sex workers are mothers, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, and fierce business women. Sex workers have been pivotal in the work against human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and must be included in this work. Sex workers have been pioneers of women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBTQ2I rights.

Sex working women must be included in our feminisms. Incarcerated women, Indigenous women, women of colour, immigrant and refugee women. We must look for these voices in the Times Up movement, and in the Me Too movement – and if they aren’t included, we must ask why, and do better. In the name of sharing sex workers voices, and honouring the role sex workers play in the women’s movement, we champion their words:

Last month, trans sex worker Hailey Heartless in B.C. eloquently said, “when we speak about violence against sex workers, we need to tie it back to the core reasons why we’re at risk. Stigma, on top of slut shaming, and whorephobia, is piled on top of other oppressions we disproportionately face: sexism, transphobia, ableism, racism, colonialism and homophobia, to name a few… As an ally, it’s your responsibility to create spaces, not movements. Please speak with us, not for us. Stand beside us, not in front of us. Include us in your movements and let us tell you what we need. Nothing about us, without us.”

And a sex working woman in our city of St. John’s said, “We pay income taxes. We vote. We promote and project equality, empowerment, independence, and self-worth. Our work is consensual. Our work is real work.”

Sex workers have been part of the women’s movement throughout history, even when their work and presence hasn’t been recognized. But let it be known,

We hear you.
We see you.