I get a lot of contacts from the media. Almost daily in fact.
I had one today from a journalist who thinks she is writing a really cutting edge article but is actually writing an article that has been written many, many, many times before. No fresh angles, no fresh approaches and no fresh voices.
As I read through her proposed questions there was a combination of eye rolling and cursing. It is clear she is completely out of touch with the realities of a lot of women’s lives and the impact this industry can have. If you want someone to discuss “asymmetric criminalisation”, academic theories and comparative international legislative approaches, I am sure there are activists and lobbyists happy to do that. Plenty of them frequently do and no doubt will now feature heavily in this article.
Most journalists usually want to speak directly to women involved. One of the reasons we developed Inside Outside was to give a safe way for women to speak out and have their stories, their realities told too. Many of us know only too well the kind of reactions you can receive when you put your head, face and voice above the parapet to speak about the sex industry. To out yourself as someone who is either still involved or who has exited is rarely a safe thing to do with accusations, false claims and derision coming your way.
Some journalists who seem to think I have a cupboard full of women, all waiting to speak to them. They have a checklist – could I get a woman who was held captive, locked in a brothel? Could I get them a woman who was kidnapped in her country and brought here in shackles? Could I get them a woman who might disclose her punters? Could I get them a woman who had an unplanned pregnancy with a punter?
The list goes on and on and on. When I say no, I will not be putting them in touch with women then often a snippy reply comes back. I am put in my place with a “they don’t need to speak to women we work with as – they already have a woman lined up who will speak about her positive experiences, who is vocal about the benefits she has gained from prostitution or who is willing to have her face shown.” That is great for those women and it is their choice to be interviewed but it may not be the right thing for the many, many other women across Scotland. This can mean a narrow range of voices and experiences are heard.
I received such a request a couple of weeks ago and my alarm bells were ringing. Who was this journalist, what did she want, what was her angle, what was she really hoping to write about and what kind of style did she have. A few conversations later, I had tentative trust in and reassurances from her and we agreed boundaries and no go areas. I felt ok to pass her request on to some of the women from Inside Outside with the understanding that it was entirely their choice to do any interview, they could withdraw at any stage and they would have control over what was being asked / discussed.
Wendy agreed to do an interview. I was on tenderhooks whilst it was happening – many miles away with the exhibition.
Wendy wrote a blog about what that experience was like for her.
“The Power Of The Spoken Word
Calm yourself Wendy girl, I tell myself as I anxiously watch for the car to arrive. I can’t understand why I still get nervous afterall I’ve been talking openly about my time in the Sex Industry for a while now.
Glancing out to the road I see the unfamiliar car park up. Well this is it, she’s here. Breath Wendy just breath. Then with just one warm friendly smile from the woman approaching and I am calm.
I greet her at the door, again her smile and voice having a calming influence.
After some introductions to my home, my son and of course my dog, we begin our discussion. As the tape recorder is set up and put on, already I am opening up about my life and how being involved with Inside Outside has given me a voice that was lost for what felt like an eternity. A voice that is my own.
I try to remain focused. Although this is a media interview we chat over tea and even share a giggle or two. She seems relaxed too, which is something that’s important to me when I welcome someone into our home.
Sharing my story I can see many emotions in her eyes from empathy to sadness to joy. We discuss ‘the mask’ and I am instantly drawn to the mask that hangs on my bedroom wall. I had painted it a couple of years ago while on an arts and crafts day with my wee boy. It was long before my involvement with Inside Outside but since I met Linda and read the other women’s stories that mask has more relevance than I could have ever imagined when painting it.
At one point following a couple of funny interruptions from my boy and dog, we discuss how hard it was for me to find anyone professional or otherwise to discuss my time on the streets. I explain how hard it was to try to get anyone to help me work through the issues that have been left scarred on my heart from those cold lonely nights. I tell her that without Inside Outside I would still be bottling it all up. Inside Outside gave me my Voice and allowed me to use it freely.
She was interested to hear how people react now when I talk about my time inside prostitution and asks me how I feel now discussing these things. I giggle to myself because I am no longer afraid to talk about the awkward stuff as I am comfortable with myself and why I have those awkward conversations.
You see, if someone sees you being calm about a topic which makes them feel uneasy, they have to think about why they feel awkward and if they are thinking, then my words are having an effect. So I intend to keep having those awkward conversations and keep making people think.
People say its only words but words provoke emotions, thought and changes in attitude. When you can see someone feel your pain and joy then the power of the spoken word becomes a very powerful tool. Using my voice and my story with the media is something I will not be sorry for. In fact I am finally proud to stand up and say I made it because so many unfortunate woman don’t.
I hope that she can use my words to help her with her article and hopefully they will make people think about why they feel so awkward about the honest words of a woman they have never met.”