Archives de Tag: Etat

But the master …

But the master terms of Liberalism—public vs. private—have remained relatively consistent, as have the master categories—the state, the economy, civil society, and the family. Different forms of Liberalism define the categories somewhat differently and assign publicness and privateness to them in varying ways. But the most public site of collective life under Liberalism is always the state, the « proper » location of publicness, while the most private site is the family. The economy and civil society appear as mixed sites of voluntary, cooperative rational action (as opposed to the coerciveness of the state, and the passion and authority relations of the family), with both public and private functions— though both sites are generally regarded as more private than public. Much of the analytical force of Liberalism then is especially directed toward distinguishing the state from the economy and outlining the proper limits to the state’s power to regulate economic, civic, and family life.

Lisa Duggan, The Twilight of Equality : Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy, p. 4-5


During the rece…

During the recent years of struggle – by all women, not only prostitutes – it has become clear that the state is the prime target to attack, not the pimp or the client, who are merely secondary objectives. The state is the biggest “pimp” of all. Through fines and imprisonment it is always trying to reduce prostitute’s income to the average female level – low. The state is the true exploiter of both houseworkers and sexworkers, and all women should and must continue to unite internationally in struggle against the criminalization of prostitutes. It is every woman’s struggle.

Leopoldina Fortunati, The Arcane of Reproduction : Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital; Autonomedia, 1996, p. 56

Durant les récentes années de lutte – de toutes les femmes, pas seulement des prostituées- il est devenu clair que l’Etat est la première cible à attaquer, non le proxénète ou le client, qui ne sont que des objectifs secondaires. L’Etat est le plus gros “proxénète” de tous. Par les amendes et l’emprisonnement il tente sans cesse de réduire le revenu des prostituées au niveau moyen féminin ) bas. L’Etat est le véritable exploiteur tant des travailleuses ménagères que des travailleuses du sexe, et toutes les femmes devraient et doivent continuer à s’unir internationalement dans la lutte contre la criminalisation des prostituées. c’est la lutte de toutes les femmes.

A parallel top-down dynamic coexists with our servicing of the male workforce—that of the enforcement of “caring” upon sex workers (particularly those who perform illicit, undocumented, full-service, or street-based work). The logic of “saving” women (savior rhetoric tends to ignore people who aren’t women) from performing this kind of marginalized labor is a direct legacy of the emerging middle-class social-working women of Victorian England and their contemporaries in the US. Rarely discussed is the classist, coercive, and hypocritical history of women’s entry into the “caring professions”—particularly with regards to the construction of the “prostitute” as a particular subject in need of saving, reforming, and steering into respectable middle-class life by “benevolent” ladies during the “rise of the social” of the late 19th century. During this era, “those doing charitable works entered into a governmental relationship with the objects of their charity, and created themselves as important social actors in the process….‘Helping’ became a profession that relied on identifying subjects and then placing them in closed spaces where they could be worked upon and controlled.”[2] Modern non-sex-working feminists who support abolitionist/savior tactics or engage in these caring-projects themselves presume a more dignified identity than that of the sex worker, and often end up replicating a system of enforced docility based on misogynistic, bourgeois notions of respectability and the proper placement of women within the public sphere. Middle-class academics and writers who make their living off promoting a framework that casts sex workers as an inherently victimized identity “for their own good” do so at the direct expense of the agency and economic livelihood of women of lower socioeconomic status. Statist feminists’ rhetoric of “fighting the sex industry” typically relies on State power in the form of legislative reform that criminalizes at least some aspects of sex work, increases the power of law enforcement, & overregulates the sex industries in ways that further marginalize the least privileged workers by making their participation in these economies prohibitively expensive or difficult (see Britain’s Policing and Crime Act of 2009)

Thus, sex workers are triangulated in a system of caring labor—that which is enacted upon us (sometimes forcibly) by carceral feminists, paternalistic liberals, the prison-industrial complex, the surveillance State,[3] and the superstructure of capitalist-patriarchy, and that which we perform for (primarily white) middle- to upper-class men (to say nothing of the unpaid reproductive labor we are often mandated to perform in our homes and communities). In some ways this system self-replicates harmoniously—“From homemaking to professional housekeeping—not to mention nursing, hospitality, and phone sex—women and people of color are disproportionately responsible for the care that keeps this society functioning, yet have disproportionately little say in what that care fosters. Likewise, a tremendous amount of care goes into oiling the machinery that maintains hierarchy: families help police relax after work, sex workers help businessmen let off steam, secretaries take on the invisible labor that preserves executives’ marriages.” (“Self As Other: Reflections on Self-Care,” CrimethInc. 2013). Other times, the State and the hierarchical institutions that collude with it to oppress sex workers (such as academia and the nonprofit-complex) are positioned in contradiction to the selling of sexualized services, often by way of support for or enactment of various forms of direct or indirect/“backdoor” criminalization;[4] more indirectly, these institutions control the discourse around sex work, feminism, and labor via the creation and maintenance of a professional class of “experts” on these intersections, who have often never engaged in sex work themselves but assume entitlement based on their positioning as members of “the sex class.”[5]

There’s a predictable but rarely-acknowledged irony that the privileges of scholars, authors, non-profit representatives, policymakers, abolitionist activists, professional feminists, and other “experts” on sex work come under less scrutiny than the supposedly “privileged” sex workers who critique non-sex-workers’ skewed analysis of the industry. It’s a fallacy to assume that non-sex-working feminists are more qualified, more entitled to speak on behalf of the “most marginalized,” than actual sex workers who are assumed to be “not representative” of the “average” sex worker, or who don’t fit into our culture’s perception of what the “worst off” looks like. That’s not to say that these experts are always blinded by their economic and social privilege, that none have adopted their views as a result of their experiences working in the sex industry themselves. Identity itself isn’t always the deciding standard for sound analysis. The problem is that (usually relatively privileged) non-sex-working feminists do overwhelmingly take up space at the table where sex workers, especially sex workers who are particularly marginalized & institutionally disenfranchised (street workers, drug users, trans women, single parents, people of color, etc.) should be debating effective strategies for liberation, resistance, and survival, in whatever forms these may materialize. We should be finding ways to help each other avoid exploitation, violence, and desperation, without contributing to a culture of stigma or perpetuating rhetoric that makes criminalization of sex work a winning strategy for politicians and good PR for celebrities and CEOs.

Grin and Bare it All: Against Liberal Conceptions of Sex Work” (via marginalutilite)

Il est indéniable que la situation à laquelle nous nous trouvons confrontés est très différente de celle qu’ont connue et combattue les féministes des années 1970. Un changement crucial a résulté de la crise de l’« État-providence », c’est-à-dire de la réduction drastique de toutes les formes d’investissement dans la reproduction de la main-d’œuvre qui, combinée à la migration mas- sive des femmes vers le travail salarié, a généré une crise reproductive et politique. Le dilemme – souvent présenté par les mouvements pour la justice sociale/anticapitalistes – a été de savoir s’il fallait lutter pour reconstituer l’État-providence tel que nous l’avions connu ou accepter sa crise comme étant irréversible, voire l’accueillir positivement comme un fondement sur lequel construire des formes plus indépendantes de reproduction sociale qui ne soient pas liées à un accord de productivité ou à la représentation média- trice de syndicats ou de partis.
Toutefois, cela […] pourrait ne pas être une alternative réalisable dans un contexte où une grande partie de la richesse que nous avons produite est toujours retenue en otage par l’État. La question […] n’est pas de savoir si nous devons ou non défendre le « salaire social », mais comment accéder aux ressources détenues par l’État – argent, actifs, services – et se les approprier sans subordonner leur acquisition et leur utilisation au contrôle de l’État sur nos vies. […]

Camille BARBAGALLO et Silvia FEDERICI, “Travail domestique, du care, du sexe et migrations dans le contexte de la restructuration néo-libérale : de la politisation du travail reproductif. In Genre, migrations et globa- lisation de la reproduction sociale. Cahiers genre et développement. N° 9. (Dir.) C. Verschuur et C. Catarino. 421-430. Paris : L’Harmattan.” p.  425

Witch hunting was also instrumental to the construction of a new patriarchal order where women’s bodies, their labor, their sexual and reproductive powers were placed under the control of the state and transformed into economic resources.This means that the witch hunters were less interested in the punishment of any specific transgressions than in the elimination of generalized forms of female behavior which they no longer tolerated and had to be made abominable in the eyes of the population. That the charges in the trials often referred to events that had occurred decades earlier, that witchcraft was made a crimen exceptum, that is, a crime to be investigated by special means, torture included, and it was punishable even in the absence of any proven damage to persons and things -all these factors indicate that the target of the witch-hunt – (as it is often true with political repression in times of intense social change and conflict) -were not socially recognized crimes, but previously accepted practices and groups of individuals that had to be eradicated from the community, through terror and criminalization. In this sense, the charge of witchcraft performed a function similar to that performed by “high trea­son” (which, significantly, was introduced into the English legal code in the same years), and the charge of “terrorism” in our times. The very vagueness of the charge – the fact that it was impossible to prove it, while at the same time it evoked the maximum of hor­ror – meant that it could be used to punish any form of protest and to generate suspi­cion even towards the most ordinary aspects of daily life.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 170

The criminalization of women’s control over procreation is a phenomenon whose importance cannot be overemphasized, both from the viewpoint or its effects on women and its consequences for the capitalist organization of work. As is well documented through the Middle Ages women had possessed many means of contraception, mostly consisting of herbs which turned into potions and “pessaries” (suppositories) were used to quicken a woman’s period, provoke an abortion, or create a condition of sterility. In Eve’s herbs : A History of contraception in the West (1997), the American historian John Riddle has given us an extensive catalogue of the substances that were most used and the effects expected of them or most likely to occur. The criminalization of contraception expropriated women from this knowledge that had been transmitted from generation to generation, giving them some autonomy with respect to child-birth. It appears that, in some cases, this knowledge was not lost but was only driven underground; yet when birth control again made its appearance on the social scene, contraceptive methods were no longer of the type that women could use, but were specifically created for use by men. What demographic consequences followed from this shift is a question that for the moment I will not pursue, though f refer to Riddle’s work for a discussion oft this matter. Here I only want to stress that by denying women control over their bodies, the
state deprived them of the most fundamental condition for physical and psychological integrity and degraded maternity to the status of forced labor, in addiction to confining women to reproductive work in a way unknown in previous societies. Nevertheless, forc­ing women to procreate against their will or (as a feminist song from the 1970. had it) forcing them to ” produce children for the state,”62 only in part defined women’s function in the new sexual division of labor. A complementary aspect was the definition of women as non-workers, a process much studied by feminist historians, which by the enf of the 17th century was nearly completed.

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 92

As Eli Hecksher noted, “an almost fanatical desire to increase population prevailed in all countries during the period when mercantilism was at its height, in the later of the 17,h century” (Heckscher 1 966: 158). Along with it, a new concept of human
beings also took hold, picturing them as just raw materials, workers and breeders for the state (Spengler 1965: 8). But even prior to the heyday of mercantile theory, in France and England the state adopted a set of pro-natalist measures that, combined with Public:
Relief, formed the embryo of a capitalist reproductive policy. Laws were passed that put a premium on marriage and penalized celibacy, modeled on those adopted by the Roman Empire for tills purpose. The family was given a new importance as the key institution providing for the transmission of property and the reproduction of the work-force. Simultaneously, we have the beginning of demographic recording and the intervention of the state in the supervision of sexuality, procreation, and family life.
But the main initiative that the state cook to restore the desired population was the launching of a true war against women clearly aimed at breaking the control they had exercised over their bodies and reproduction. As we will see later in this volume, this war was waged primarily through the witch-hunt that literally demonized
form of birth-control and non-procreative sexuality, while charging women with sacri­ficing children to the devil. But it also relied on the redefinition of what constitutes reproductive crime. Thus, starting in the mid-16th century. while Portuguese ships were
returning from Africa with their first human cargoes, all the European governments began to impose the severest penalties against contraception, abortion and infanticide.
This last practice had been treated with some leniency in the Middle Ages, at in the case of poor women; but now it was turned into a capital crime, and punished more harshly than the majority of male crimes.

« In sixteenth century Nuremberg, the penalty for maternal infanticide
was drowning; in 1 580, the year in which the severed heads of three
women convicted of maternal infanticide were nailed to the scaffold
for public contemplation, the penalty was changed to beheading (King 1 991: 10).60 

New forms of surveillance were also adopted to ensure that pregnant women did not terminate their pregnancies. In France, a royal edict of1556 required women to register every pregnancy, and sentenced to death those whose infants died before after a concealed delivery, whether or not proven guilty of any wrongdoing. Statutes were passed in England and Scotland in 1624 and 1690. A system of spies also created to surveil unwed mothers and deprive them of any support. Even an unmarried pregnant woman was made illegal, for fear that she might escape the public scrutiny; while those who befriended her were exposed to public criticism
1993: 51-52; Ozment 1983: 43).

Silvia FEDERICI, Caliban and the Witch, p. 88

Public interpretations of veiled women and prostitutes as inherently embedded in the sexual sphere, and therefore as bound to remain “private,”hidden in their homes for veiled women or in the bedroom for prostitutes, contradicts the fact that both figures appear in public. Prostitution has a long tradition of being understood ideologically rather than through the lived experiences that compose prostitutes’ social realities.42 The use of legal instru- ments to make prostitutes and veiled women disappear from public view ironically becomes a means to make their bodies conform to the stereotypes on which the state relies to justify their exclusion: it is because they are subservient and oppressed that they should be excluded from the public sphere. Yet, veiled women in France have joined universities and are making their way in public transport and in non sex-segregated swimming pools, wearing burkini. As for prostitutes, their presence in the streets highlights the possibility of making sex a commodity and the sex market a market in which (at least) some of them are able to act as “independent workers.” Arguments used to make them disappear from the public sphere, according to which veiled women and prostitutes would be under the control of men, do not match the social reality exemplified by their public presence.

Billaud, Julie; Castro, Julie, “Whores and Niqabées: The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism”, in:  French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer 2013 p. 93-94

A strong link appears between the handling of veiled women and that of prostitutes by the French state, as well as an emerging complicity of some secular feminists in accompanying this denial of agency. At an epistemological level, unveiling domination is part of every critical theory.37 We argue that what is happening in France is the translation of a certain kind of domination into a state dogma and its conversion into policy. In this process, a fringe of the feminist movement—which may be labelled as “orthodox secular”—is manipulated into the service of the new state doxa. Here we can see a dynamic similar to the one that manifests itself in what Jasbir Puar38 has identified as “homonationalism” in the United States: the deployment of certain narratives about the supposedly liberal openness of the West towards homosexuality serves to secure the West’s identity. This “moral grammar,” based on a perceived sexual oppression in Muslim countries, is mobilized in order to justify national and international interventions. Both cases exemplify the instrumentalization of certain feminist/queer discourses in order to serve a nationalist agenda that aims at others goals—namely, blaming and criminalizing the undesirable “others,” i.e., immigrants and the poor.

Billaud, Julie; Castro, Julie, “Whores and Niqabées: The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism”, in:  French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer 2013 p. 92

Those debates reveal a convergence in the political agenda of some secular or republican feminists and the current political class in power. At the heart of the discourses legitimizing state intervention in the lives of prostitutes and veiled women lie the issues of “liberté” (freedom) and “dignité” (dignity), in the French republican sense of these terms. Republican discourse considers veiled women to be oppressed by their culture and religion and perceives prostitutes as the victims of patriarchy and capitalism. In both cases, the political class has denied their capacity to be active agents in charge of their own lives. In spite of some attempts at broadening the spectrum of interpretations, their agency is automatically disqualified as “false consciousness” and blindness to their own oppression. The parliamentary report on the practice of full veiling released in January 2010 insists on the “servitude volontaire” (“voluntary enslavement”) of the women adopting such practices. In the same manner, parliamentary debates preceding the vote on the law on “sécurité intérieure” (internal security) of 2002 reaffirmed that prostitutes are to be considered primarily as victims whose activities are incompatible with human dignity.

Billaud, Julie; Castro, Julie, “Whores and Niqabées: The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism”, in:  French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer 2013, p. 91