Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Heart of Intelligence may be found in this 1992 symposium's Response to Sex Trafficking Chicago Style

 [image including Andrea Dworkin is from here]

A fundamentally incorrect assumption, often made in a classist society where the affluent can afford education and the poor and working class generally cannot, is that being educated in The Academy means that you come out the other end, with diploma in hand and something less tangible called intelligence. With few exceptions, the most intelligent people I have known were not college-educated. Some have since gone to to be, but once in the hallowed halls, their intelligence was often in conflict with the racist, classist, patriarchal dictates of The Academy, and their health often suffered for having to try and keep what they know from being whitewashed away in that Ivory Tower.

Almost everything of great value to me was learned in relationship, in friendship, in conversation, and in books, but not books that were recommended reading in any college courses I took. Life is an excellent teacher if you are given the intellectual tools to analyse and process it in all its heavenly and hellish complexity. That rich white men get the biggest piece of heaven on Earth, and poor women of color get offered hell-as-life, too often, due to the rich white men hoarding the wealth and resources, is, well, atrocious and grossly inhumane, to say the very least.

What I look for in intelligence is its connection to a heart that beats in rhythms which express truths few dare to voice because the price for speaking them is so great--one is threatened, one is called all manner of ridiculous and degrading names, and one must endure the great flood of hostility that comes one's way if one simply chooses to not to shut up about what's going down all around us. The act of speaking truth to power is expensive, emotionally and otherwise. It costs many people their lives. But, as Audre Lorde noted to women, silence will only ever lead to death--silence, in itself, offers no assurance of living. So speaking out is of value, but it is not always possible. And sometimes the look in a trauma survivor's eyes tells you all you need to know that ten volumes on the subject of trauma will not convey.

This is why I value connecting with people in relationships, over academic learning. There's no either/or and it's not that the latter is necessarily "bad"--although for most people, it is utterly unaffordable, leaving the "educated" person in dire debt. But the former--the intimate, honest relationship with other people and with oneself, also with the world around one and beyond--is imperative if transformational knowledge is to infuse one's intellect. And an intellect that operates with a logic severed from the body is of little use to anyone who values revolution steeped in love.

What appears below is offered here with gratitude to Kaethe Morris Hoffer and, as always and forever, to Andrea Dworkin, without question one of the most heart-centered, humane, world-wise, brilliant people I have known. The subject of prostitution, which is in the business of making man-abused objects of anyone not deemed masculine, is contemporarily turned into an individual matter by those with enough privilege to view it that way. When you know you are one of millions suffering within the same system of harm, devastation, and death, individualism is a luxury that cannot be afforded if one is to grasp a hand extended in support and keep the other one free to reach for the other person needing the lift out of hell.

I post what follows in praise as well to all the girls and women, the boys, gay men, and transgendered people who have survived the unspeakable inside and outside the dominating, subordinating, violating, sadistic, horrific systems of prostitution/trafficking/slavery, that always function to bolster white het male supremacy, no matter where on Earth they exist.

Some of the survivors have lived to say what they know--and sometimes cannot speak of it. I try always to remember that to have survived it is, when in it, too often beyond imagination and enough of an act of revolutionary resistance.
What follows is from *here* at PENNumbra. There are links to download the whole document below.

A Response to Sex Trafficking Chicago Style: Follow the Sisters, Speak Out
by Kaethe Morris Hoffer

>Download Full Article (PDF file, 95 KB)

In 1992, the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law hosted a symposium entitled Prostitution: From Academia to Activism at the University of Michigan Law School. As the title suggests, the goal of the organizers was to support not just thinking about prostitution but doing something about it. I have long assumed that this commitment was relevant to Andrea Dworkin’s decision to participate in the event, given that one of her contributions to the event was a speech in which she said,
The assumptions of academia can barely begin to imagine the reality of life for women in prostitution. Academic life is premised on the notion that there is a tomorrow and a next day and a next day; or that someone can come inside from the cold for time to study; or that there is some kind of discourse of ideas and a year of freedom in which you can have disagreements that will not cost you your life. These are premises that those who are students here or who teach here act on every day. They are antithetical to the lives of women who are in prostitution or who have been in prostitution.

If you have been in prostitution, you do not have tomorrow in your mind, because tomorrow is a very long time away. You cannot assume that you will live from minute to minute. You cannot and you do not. If you do, then you are stupid, and to be stupid in the world of prostitution is to be hurt, is to be dead. No woman who is prostituted can afford to be that stupid, such that she would actually believe that tomorrow will come.
Ms. Dworkin went on to say that the premises of the prostituted woman were her premises, and she challenged as unacceptable—even unbelievable—what she saw as the premises of academic feminists who appeared to her to be content to treat prostitution as a subject worthy of thought and debate rather than action, opposition, and eradication.

Ms. Dworkin’s speech was a clarion call to eradicate prostitution. Her arguments put into words the truth lived by girls and women bought and sold for sex: prostitution and equality for women cannot exist simultaneously. For me, a law student at the time and now a lawyer for more than ten years, Ms. Dworkin’s speech reads as a specific challenge to lawyers and academics seeking to use words and law to improve reality for women. While privilege, material comfort, and safety have always been the defining premises of my life, the premises underlying Ms. Dworkin’s exposition of what prostitution is—confirmed time and again by other survivors from around the world—have been my adopted political premises. These premises compel me to seek ways to use words and law to end the abusive selling and buying of girls’ and women’s bodies for men’s sexual pleasure, rather than to seek ways to improve prostitution or protect men’s access to it.

>Continue reading (PDF file, 95 KB) . . .