Control-versy

ControlversyEven among three friends, a friend could turn the second friend’s back against the third friend, and the third friend’s against the second. It’s not impossible to report that someone has done something they haven’t done, or they mean something they don’t mean, by changing the narrative(s) to suit one’s interest.

Public and private interests have used controversy as a means of control many times in history- turn the light-skinned blacks against the dark-skinned blacks, turn the Caucasians against the Africans, by pushing a narrative that promotes one as the enemy and the other as the protagonist, especially in the media. Call it “control-versy”. What does it all result in? Xenophobia, discrimination, racism, hate, irritability, and fear.

That way, the people turn against one another, not the elites who really are in power, the 1% who have 99% of the wealth on earth (while many starve to death; isn’t it a shame?), who would take jobs to other countries (rather than create employment in both countries) so they could pay the barest minimum to their workers, who are more interested in gaining more wealth, more power and/or more fame, to suit their interests.

How much money is enough money? If your goal in life is to make $1 billion, if you can’t really think beyond the fact that life is futile, you will die at the end of it all, and the well-being of the people that are not in your position matter too, matter just as much, you would discover that the $1 billion would not give you as much satisfaction as you hoped after a while, so you’ll begin to seek means of making $2 billion, even if it means cheating others, destroying the lives and withdrawing the comfort of your fellow human beings, and directly/indirectly controlling others, while portraying a “good man” narrative.

Two “powerless” black and white members of the working class turn against one another, because one thinks the other is responsible for his unemployment, and the other for his oppression. While they do so, the person who is really responsible for their problem, who has pushed the narrative that the white is superior and he ought to fight for “his place” over the black, or that the black should not be hired because he is not trustworthy (and so the black is forced to do illegal things for survival) is sipping a well-made smoothie in Sun Valley or Cancun, living his best life.

Control-versies are created and promoted everywhere, even in entertainment, to keep the people busy, to get people riled up against one another, while ignoring the real issues, the real factors, and the real actors. It’s a crying shame.

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Is Sex Work Work?

Sex and Sex Work

Sex Work: Rethinking the Job, Respecting the Workers by Colette Parent et. al. and Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work by Melissa Gira Grant are a few of my favourite books right now. Why? Well, you’re about to know.

To begin with, they make you question everything you think you know about prostitution. Is it the sex itself that is disgusting, ’cause whether you are sucking dick (I beg your pardon) for money or not, you are still sucking dick? Perhaps, it is the fact that money is often involved, but if you have sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend and they offer you money afterwards or buy you items that you request or do not request for, have you suddenly become a prostitute? Perhaps, it is the sleeping with many men/women aspect that is absolutely distasteful, but many people have sex with many men and/or women for free. As a matter of fact, they have more sex than sex workers themselves. So, what exactly about the job is out of the ordinary? Why then is sex work/prostitution criminalized in many places?

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Playing the Whore briefly mentions how marriage boosts the sex trade, funnily enough. Many men and women get married and feel like they’re missing out on certain things, they feel terribly constrained by societal norms and standards, so they patronize sex workers. Many of them don’t get mistresses because they often anticipate some sort of commitment, and they (the engaged or married men and women) already have partners that they are committed to. A sex worker, on the other hand, would most likely not need any form of structured commitment, or expect their client to leave their wife or husband for them. You get the idea.

It is important to note that sex workers are not just prostitutes- pornography actors/models, strippers, escorts, massage-parlour girls, cam girls, and so on, are all sex workers, providing different kinds of sexual services. So, if you, as a married person, have ever watched a pornographic CD or visited any of the free/premium pornographic websites, perhaps, with your spouse, the aforementioned would include you. Haha!

The fact that people do not pay for their pornography contributes to the precariousness of the actor/model’s work. They get paid once for a scene and never again, they do not own the license to the video that is made, and for many years (or forever), the sex worker continues to please everyone for free, while getting terribly shamed/attacked for it.

Why would a person want to do sex work? Well, why would anyone want to work at all? People choose to work for money, for fame, for connections, for a sense of freedom and independence, and for pleasure. The same reasons apply to sex workers. A person does not need to be a sex worker to be involved in the sex trade- directors, light men, location managers, script writers, make-up artists, and so on, can be involved in the sex trade without performing sexual services.

Sex work is highly precarious, just like many other jobs. In pornography, for instance, if a worker is not constantly trying other sex-trade spheres, and doing new things, they could very quickly be forgotten. In stripping, there would always be someone with a bigger butt, or someone who can dance better. There’s competition and promotion all of the stuff you find in other work spheres in the sex industry.

The authors of the two books expose you to how the police dehumanize women, some men, members of the LGBTQ community, who are involved in sex work. They are abused more by the police than their clients in many parts of the world, even in the United States, and there are oral and written surveys and whatnot in the books to prove it. The police doesn’t come to the sex workers’ aid at all or quickly when they need help because they blame them for choosing to have sex for money in the first place. It is worse for transgender men and women; many members of the police force intentionally pick on them or try to break them for fun. It’s even worse in theoretically non-democratic countries. As the saying goes, “power destroys, absolute power destroys absolutely”.

Although straight men are involved in sex work too, young/old men who work as escorts for sugar mummies and such, or work as pornography actors/models, they are almost never viewed in the same light as women. 

The authors don’t necessarily praise sex work itself or deem it a hundred percent wonderful because of the many risks that are involved- being abused by pimps and clients, the fact that a condom can slip off and the worker could get a disease and all that, exploitation, especially with non-independent sex workers, and so on- but they implore you to call off your old, tired ethics. Religion often forces people to see many things and many people condescendingly, especially the major world religions, but call it off, as far as consensual sex work is concerned.

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By Michael Escoffery

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “trafficking in persons is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” A person can be trafficked in their home country or across borders- farmers, live-in caregivers, and labourers are trafficked on a daily basis, not just prostitutes, which is terrible.

The face of the trafficked sex worker is often the face of the people who have willingly chosen to provide sexual services to other people for a living, especially in popular discourse and in the media, and it is quite unfair. If you must feel bad for anyone, feel bad for the factory workers who kill sentient animals inhumanly for a living, or for the McDonald’s worker who stands all day, working from 9 am-5 pm everyday for survival, basically, or for the person who moves stuff around all night (food, flowers, whatever needs to be moved in the respective company) in a cold room, shivering and struggling not to fall asleep. If you must save anyone from their work, save those workers. Nobody wants to do those jobs, and they are not necessarily more “respectable” than sex work in essence, but they do them for survival.

No? Are you convinced that there are people who really want to stand and act (like they really, ever so really care about the customers) at McDonald’s or Tim Hortons or one of the call-centers all day for survival? If you are, that a person has chosen to do sex work should not surprise or upset you either, should it? 

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By Michael Escoffery

The authors discuss the fact that sex work is not all about intercourse. It may involve acting and fulfilling fantasies. Many of the married men and women who patronize the industry can get all the intercourse they want from their spouses or boy/girlfriends if they have them; it’s not all about that.

They compare sex work to any other kind of job that requires the provision of a service; they mention that sex work is the world’s oldest profession. Sex workers may not always be victims, and they make us realize that. 

Apparently, sex work is saving marriages; I didn’t even know that before I read the books. Basically, you don’t need to divorce your wife/husband, or be with someone else physically to be with someone else, whether through porn and cam sites or whatnot. You masturbate to another woman or man, for free sometimes, like I mentioned earlier, many times, through the mainstream sites, and you’re good. You love your wife/husband again, and you’re satisfied. You don’t think you’ve cheated on her/him, and you don’t feel as bad. Or, if your wife would not do anal or try something you read about or saw with you, whether or not it involves intercourse, you call upon your favourite strumpet to do them with you, and you go home, kiss your wife/husband, and enjoy your marriage again. Haha! 

Sex Worker

By Michael Escoffery

We love sex work when it’s on our screens. We love Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and all the stereotypes, especially when the prostitute (or any other sex worker) is portrayed as a strong, independent person in Hollywood movies. As soon as someone proudly describes herself as a prostitute or sex worker or stripper, we go “woah”. The woman of our dreams and fantasies now suddenly becomes a terrible, demonic or disgusting woman. At that moment, we suddenly detest prostitution and sex work.

The word “prostitute” itself is still considered very terrible, and many would sometimes use it as an insult to women who are not involved in sex work. Ashewo, which means prostitute, is used as an insult to women very often by misogynistic men in Nigeria, for instance.   

If we don’t go “woah” with disgust, we begin to feel sorry for them- it wasn’t their choice, they were probably forced to join the trade, maybe they had a bad childhood, maybe they were abused. We really don’t care if they had a bad childhood whenever it’s time to jerk off. For some reason, we care so much about it when it’s time to discuss prostitution in public spaces; some people who have sex begin to look down on other people who have sex. Haha! It makes no sense.

Again, the authors don’t praise or glamourize sex work, it has its own challenges, just like any job- customers/clients may insult you, bosses may look down on you, you could slip and fall to death, or have your fingers sliced off by a machine at the flower factory where you work, someone might report you or leave you a bad review, to mention a few.

However, they did not fail to mention that making sex work illegal has contributed to the harm that sex workers suffer around the world. Sex work, mainly prostitution, is criminalized in many places, and just like any illegal job, the security of a person who is involved is often badly affected.

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Sex workers are often harassed by the police for having condoms, and for that reason, many do not move around with condoms while soliciting for clients, so they won’t be charged for an offence. The clients may not have condoms, and so the sex worker is left with no choice but to have raw sex with them, many times, to their own detriment, and that of their clients, as far as the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases is concerned. The client may infect the sex worker. If the client or worker then becomes ill, the state spends money on them- money that would have been diverted to other things, if that situation was prevented, if the police had treated the sex worker with enough dignity and respect to let them have all the items they need for their work.

Those who have condoms hide them in their wigs and private parts to avoid being arrested; that’s inhumane.

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There are grey areas in morality and societal standards, and it’s quite interesting. It’s okay to be in a pant and bra in a Victoria Secret’s collection [for money] but it’s not okay to wear just those on your Facebook profile. The society is highly hypocritical when it comes to the body and what is to be done with it.

I can’t possibly cover everything that was discussed in the books, so I’ll stop here. Some of the points that I have addressed are additions to the ones mentioned in the book. I barely covered the books; I could go on and on. A must-read for every feminist (especially second-wave feminists who tend to condemn sex work more than the third-wave feminists) or person who is interested in the facts regarding sex work, is what those books are. I read both books simultaneously.

THIS IS NOT A PAID REVIEW.

Class Injury

Black Girl

“Girl in the Window” | Prudence Heward

It’s almost hypocritical for me to write about the struggles of the working class- I try as much as possible not to say “lower” because of the negative connotations that are often associated with the word. I’m a citizen of two countries; I’m in the university, and I’m okay, health-wise. I am a little girl’s dream come true- me, I’m the little girl. I did not state that I “was” the little girl for a reason; our little, inner selves never just disappear, even when our bodies change.

My parents were in the lower-middle class, status-wise, when I was growing; they were both lecturers. In reality, although we had an “okay” house and at least one functioning car, and my brothers and I went to good schools, we were still members of the working class. I used to daydream a lot more than I do now- there were a good number of excursions and items that I wished I could afford. Don’t get me started on the inferiority complex that I suffered from too. I wore my mum’s hand-me-down’s majorly.

I did phone-call business for my mum (20 naira per min.) and sold recharge cards under an MTN umbrella with two chairs. I sold pure-water and “minerals” (pop)- I hawked for a day around my house and never did it again; I preferred to sit. Then we got a small kiosk and I began to sell more stuff till my dad completed his building of proper shops. Men would pull my growing breasts back then, when I wasn’t looking. It made me angry and resentful- I was like 11 or 12- but I learnt the art of sucking things up very quickly.
I used olo– grinding stone- to grind peppers, fetched water, used wood or coal to cook whenever we ran out of kerosene, and all. My life wasn’t the hardest. People who lived close to me were not very wealthy either- “a face-me-I-face-you” apartment building, one ile-alamo– clay house… it wasn’t the fanciest neighbourhood. Thinking back to how people used to stare at me in envy like I was some princess, we (my family and I) really were local champions.

The Janitor

“The Janitor Who Paints” by Palmer Haden

We don’t celebrate the working class enough, hence, the urgency that people place on being wealthy. You’re nobody in the society except you are rich or can pretend to be. It has gotten worse with the advent of the social media- there is this desperate, adoration-seeking urge that people have to display a level of wealth/influence.

Class injury sits with you in different ways: One way is that you feel uneasy in upper-class settings when you become a member of the middle-upper or upper class. You miss the joys, the struggles and the pain that came with being in the working class, and you feel like something is missing in your life, or you don’t deserve to be where you are, or you feel guilty/bad because some people are not enjoying life as much as you are.

Another way that it manifests is that you try to get away from the people you used to be like as much as people, even members of your own family- you don’t want to be reminded that you used to be poor. You don’t want to remember the struggles, the hurt, and the societal “shame” that you used to experience. I see people like that a lot on social media. “I’m not poor, and I don’t sit with the poor” type thing.

I’m still a member of the working class; I came into the country that I currently live in some winter ago, with a few clothes and some books, and there has been no drastic, overnight, lottery-winning change in my life.

Class shapes every aspect of our lives, and those of our descendants, and I find it quite interesting; our society and inequality are pari passu, and we’ve been taught that it’s okay. Even if you are not part of the 1%, don’t be at the bottom among the 99%.

In conclusion, the point of this whole epistle is- while you struggle and hope for better days, you should be proud of yourself and your class. You are not a failure if you are not rich, and you’re not inferior either. It’s easier said than done, but be grateful for what you have, and find joy in the little things.

Stand tall and proud wherever you go; don’t put yourself down for anyone, and don’t let anyone put you down. Acquire new skills, develop yourself, and be innovative, not necessarily because you thirst to be one of the 1%, but because you want to build yourself and contribute your quota to your society. A line from Badlands goes like this- “poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king is never satisfied…” 

Religion and Class

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We were talking about intersectionality in my class today, and we looked at social locations (like as race/ethnicity, indigeneity, gender, class, sexuality, geography, age, disability/ability, level of education, occupation, migration status and religion) and how they shape the way a person interacts with the world and the way the world interacts with that person.

The reason why many white people go “what the hell are you talking about?” when you tell them that they have white privilege is that they may be disadvantaged in many other ways at the same time. If an able-bodied, straight dark-skinned African woman with a PhD tells a white, differently-abled, lesbian who only has a high school diploma and is working in a factory that she has “privilege”, she might take offence, like “what privilege?” There’s a good chance that the white woman would not be followed around a store or racially profiled by the police, PhD or not. There’s also a good chance that the black woman would be able to attend certain meetings and functions at the University of Toronto that the white woman may never get invitation letters for. 

11-Faces-3-African-Art-Oil-on-Canvas_Udubrae-Art-Galleries_AfriMod

The fact remains that a person could be privileged and oppressed at the same time- privileged in some areas and disadvantaged in some- based on the several different social locations that they fall into. I didn’t choose to be black and you didn’t choose to be white. It would be very wrong to guilt trip you based on your race, and if I say that H&M is terrible when it comes to hiring, I’d expect you to understand where I’m coming from.

What stood out to me, however, was religion. My mind drifted off and I had to try to bring myself back to the setting because I focused on it intensely- religion.

If you do not practise Christianity or Islam in Nigeria, you could very well be looked down upon in different social settings, and that is a fact. If it is not Christianity or Islam, it is demonic, and it must be cast and bound. One could wear a hijab or wear a necklace with a cross pendant in most parts of Nigeria without any problem, but as soon as they come out with an opele ifa or wear their ide to main settings, there would be a problem.

With the “you and your generation will go to hell” threats and all sorts of harassment and fuckery, you almost have to hide in a way. I see it now, that religion is very related, not just to culture, but to class, hierarchies and discrimination.

Too Rich to Give

Poverty in the Midst of Plenty (1939)

Poverty in the Midst of Plenty (1939) by Gerard Sekoto

A poor man wakes up feeling hungry and useless.
A rich man prefers to have his meat boneless.
The poor man eats out of the rich man’s bins, homeless.
The rich man blames him for it, but the poor man is faultless.

Poor man only wants some food; he’s harmless.
He has told rich man many times- it’s countless.
He needs rich man’s attention; he’s helpless,
but rich man doesn’t care, he’s loveless.

Does wealth make a person heartless?
Someone, tell me, ’cause I’m clueless.
Does it kill a person’s sense of fairness?
Does it make a human being think less?

The Representation of the Working Class in the Media

Peasant with a Wheelbarrow by Jean Francois Millet

“Peasant with a Wheelbarrow” by Jean Francois Millet

Nollywood movies, to begin with, are now increasingly becoming movies for the rich. Look at the “normal”, sophisticated settings that are used for the produced plays- beautiful sofas, expensive paintings, large compounds, one or more workers, expensive clothes, suggestions/mentions of easy access to foreign countries… I don’t need to keep counting. The actors, who often are members of the working class in essence themselves, tend to promote the upper-class as ideal.

The realities of working-class families are barely ever represented, and when they are, they are presented as comedies- situations to be laughed at or mocked- lots of children, dirty wives and numerous exchange of words. Gatemen or security guards, in Yoruba Nollywood movies, to be specific, are represented as extremely retarded. Even when they suffer gross levels of workplace abuses, the audience is tempted to even insult them more, and laugh- “ha ha ha”.

When these realities don’t appear as a comedy, they are presented as pitiful- a character is presented as either suffering so terribly, experiencing an illness or the death of a loved one, or as being very close to death, and suddenly, by the end of the movie, they would “magically” [usually by some sort of unrealistic luck] become members of the upper class.

"Bouquet' by an unknown artist

Being a member of the working/lower class is seen as extremely pathetic; something to be avoided at all cost. No honest, hard-working member of the working class is ever presented as truly happy. They never enjoy the joys of being with family; they never go to parties as normal people or possess dignity in their labour. They are only made to serve the rich in many plays; their own achievements- no matter how “little” or “basic” they might be to the members of the upper class- are never shown/celebrated, until, of course, they become members of the upper class.

Even when the working-class members of the audience can relate to the produced stories, they often find it really hard to relate to the rich settings and everything else that they are presented with.
No one is taking the bus except they are about to be kidnapped; no one is in the market buying foodstuff; no one is wearing simple clothes… It does terrible things to the subconscious in the long run- feelings of worthlessness, to begin with.

The general media is becoming more race-conscious and class-blind (in the aforementioned way), and it’s sick. It’s quite sick.