Open letter to the women’s movement from the Global Women’s Strike

Part of our work for the Strike 2003 was to write, with others, an Open letter to the Women’s Movement – some of those who claim to speak against violence against women picketed a sex industry establishment on International Women’s Day, when most women, children and men are desperately trying to prevent the war against Iraq.  Machismo begins with the military, not with lap dancing

As women all over the world say:
‘No War – Invest in Caring Not Killing!’,
and women in London march to the US Embassy,
some feminists attack lap dancing.

What ARE our priorities for International Women’s Day?

As the US and UK governments defy the majority of people in the world and get ready to kill and displace millions in Iraq, mainly women and children, where are feminists on 8 March, International Women’s Day?  According to every poll, we women are even more opposed to war than men. We are the backbone of every anti-war movement.  Yet we have heard little against the war from those who identify as feminists.

Instead, on IWD Justice for Women, Women’s Aid, Eaves Housing for Women, POLLY and Lilith will be picketing Spearmint Rhino, a lap-dancing club.  How obscene.  When most women, children and men are desperately trying to prevent this war and save the lives of millions, some of those who claim to speak against violence against women prefer to attack a sex industry establishment.  Machismo begins with the military, not with lap dancing.

And where is Clare Short, the darling of anti-porn feminists who rose to fame attacking Page 3?  In the Cabinet getting ready to perpetrate a truly obscene war, ignoring the women who will be at the receiving end of the bombs, as well as her constituents and the many MPs, women and men, who voted against war in an unprecedented backbench rebellion.

Women and our children pay most for war and weapons.  We are 70% of victims of armed conflict, 80% of refugees and displaced people.  More than 50% of refugee and asylum-seeking women have escaped from rape and are threatened with deportation back to rape.  At least 500,000 children have died in Iraq as a result of sanctions and many more will die if bombing starts.  Are their mothers worried about lap dancing?  Are such feminists worried about anything serious?  Why, and on whose behalf, are they ignoring this crisis for humankind?

And what of the claim that rape and sexual assault in Camden have increased since the arrival of Spearmint Rhino and other strip clubs?  Where is the evidence?  Is there a dossier like Blair’s claiming that Saddam Hussein poses an immediate threat?  Women in the anti-rape movement have long established that we are vulnerable to violence because we have less social power than men and the police and courts refuse to value our lives and protect us.  True of every woman, including sex workers.Sex workers in Soho and elsewhere are facing massive raids, arrests, detention, eviction, deportation, and are being forced out of flats onto the street where it is 10 times more dangerous to work.  Three women who were driven from Soho premises by eviction have been tragically murdered in recent years, one of them in late 2002.