Upon entering the Vancouver Public Library it was apparent that Vancouver Rape Relief collective members could use some help setting up one of their displays. Myself and the other Pacific Northwestern Americans that rode up to Vancouver BC together decided to chip in. We were heckled immediately by several men in the library. “Men are people too.” “Thats a waste of money, I’m hungry!” “Women have everything handed to them on a silver platter.” “I raped a woman and I’m proud of it.”
I’d never experienced this kind of shitty treatment upon setting up a feminist event before. Of course I intellectually know how much men hate feminists but to actually be told this kind of beta-male horseshit to my face was a little unnerving to say the least. Given what we were there to commemorate, the murder of 14 women, killed as feminists, by the deranged misogynist Mark Lepine I suppose it was fitting. We have to remember there is no point we’re ever safe as women so we might as well be the most militant feminists possible.
These women were with us throughout the day. Before nearly every lecture or discussion I witnessed they were brought up, we were asked to remember them and to honor them. The word of Andrea Dworkin were invoked several times throughout the day “We must strive to be the sort of woman Mark Lepine hoped to kill.”
The event was impressive. With lectures, round table discussions and films all happening throughout the day. The event was open to the public and although men were open to attend, very few did. Some of the ones that did were rather disrespectful I felt. We were at an event to honor victims of male violence and to discuss the pervasiveness of it and it seems even when this is happening as a solemn event most men are completely incapable of being respectful. One was even overheard complaining about the lack of male voices, despite being very vocal himself. These were minor distractions though. The event went over very successfully.
I was very impressed by the round table discussion at the end of the day centered around how prostitution effects all women. I took copious notes and ended up putting a lot of what the women at the table said on the #mmm2013 tag on twitter if folks are interested in seeing.
One of the main draws for my attendance was being able to hear Professor Emirates Janice Raymond, one of the world’s leading authorities on prostitution speak. It was fun because she went through dismantling cliches and myths around prostitution and discussed in detail the South Korean model which has been incredibly successful in getting women out of prostitution as well as drying up the market. She shared a panel with an aboriginal woman who is survivor of prostitution who was very brave to get up and talk about the racist and misogynist abuse she suffered in prostitution, entering at the age of 11. Together they were a n0-bullshit team, tackling and leaving no doubt for many that what abolitionist activists have been arguing for years needs to come into place desperately.
Although there was quite a bit of hype about a group of fringe “sex worker/trans ally” activists supposedly planning on disrupting the event. From what I saw there were about 6 of them, all men, who were completely ineffective. I had a great deal of respect for Vancouver Rape Relief for handling the day and all it’s challenges with grace. None of the collective members or volunteers were ever pulled into pettiness and were able to organize an effective and powerful event full of radical feminist fury completely open to the public. I hear they do this every year. Maybe the rest of us need to study our sisters in Vancouver quite a bit more to see how effective feminist organizing happens.
I’ve come away from the conference with new sisters and a reinvigorated desire to get more just laws passed for our sisters trapped in systems of prostitution. My only problem was thinking about how we can do it here in the USA. We have different challenges and a different culture. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn from our sisters in Vancouver and throughout Canada and hope to see them next year.