international working women's day sex work trans river

Fighting poisonous ideology: International Working Women’s Day

A woman dressed as a clown, with an image of a uterus and a feminist slogan on her chest, accuses me of being divisive and causing conflict.

Placards declaring my profession to be ‘paid rape’ are scattered across the grass.

Another woman tells me that trans women sexually assault ‘real’ women at the same rates as do cis men.

She smiles smugly at me when a cop comes over to inform me I don’t need to be here because the Mardi Gras exists.

I’m at the 2018 International Women’s Day rally in Meanjin (Brisbane), an event celebrating the right-wing co-opting of feminism and human rights.

International Women’s Day is over a century old, with its origin in socialist working women’s spaces.

The first nationally recognised Women’s Day was in Soviet Russia after they achieved suffrage in 1917.

Other socialist and communist countries shortly followed suit, dedicating 8 March to the rights, challenges, and demands of working women.

It wasn’t until the late 60s that the mainstream feminist movement began recognising this day founded by collectives of working women.

Today, International Women’s Day seems to have lost all connection to its working-class roots.

The official website shows a polished platform with smiling thin women in jobs that look well paying.

They don’t acknowledge the socialist roots.

They don’t acknowledge the labour of stigmatised workers.

They don’t acknowledge the existence of trans or non-binary women.

International Women’s Day has become little more than lip service to women’s liberation.

The organisers of the 2018 rally were a group of cis women who were vocally opposed to the existence of trans women and the validity of sex work.

To them, trans women and sex workers are preying on vulnerable youth when we campaign for access to healthcare, and enabling the rape of women and children when we demand equal rights and decriminalisation for sex workers – the exact rhetoric we see from right-wing groups across the world.

Disappointed by the events of that rally, two new groups formed to combat the poisonous ideology the organisers had so proudly spewed forth.

Brisbane Intersectional Feminist Collective and Feminist Action Brisbane are both trans inclusive, sex worker inclusive, and anti-capitalist.

This year, I’ll be in Queens Gardens to support International Working Women’s Day.

The change in name is subtle, but carries an important message.

No longer shall we allow our feminism to be led by bigots and corporations.

We stand in unity against all oppressions, and in solidarity with our peers.

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