Aren't We All Prostitutes?
Anar-K: I am in favor of Proposition K ["Avoiding Judgment," Lauren Smiley, Sucka Free City, 10/22]. At the same time, I oppose prostitution. How can that be?
Personally, I think sex and love should be free. I prefer a society where people don't live under authoritarian rule or where their choices aren't limited to the ones pushed by people with power and privilege. In that sense, my argument goes beyond the arguments about the improvements seen in New Zealand or Amsterdam with the decriminalization of prostitution, or the arguments of Prop. K proponents about San Francisco's money savings and increased safety for sex workers, or the arguments about the reduction of sexually transmitted disease and coerced police sex with prostitutes.
Our perceptions of prostitutes in the U.S. are way off. For example: We never see them as women with a family to feed, and we incorrectly believe that a majority of them have pimps, or are drug addicts, minors, etc. I think these misperceptions are not an accident. Our competitive, hierarchical order erodes solidarity and we want to look down on prostitutes because of what prostitution reveals about ourselves.
We don't want to admit how much we have in common with prostitutes, so we exaggerate the differences. It's true that, for money, prostitutes rent their bodies and sell one of our most intimate acts. But in some ways prostitutes degrade themselves less than other wage slaves who get married for money or reshape their whole personality, intellect, or behavior as an act of subordination to external power. And in sharp contrast with the alarmist attention paid to the problems of prostitution, pimps and Prop. K, there is very little attention paid to the consequences of the legally protected hierarchy of wage slavery and boss-rule, which results in unspeakable destruction and suffering.
Given that this destruction and suffering and the underlying causes of prostitution are so closely related, perhaps there are ways to strive toward a solution with an approach that unites all of us wage slaves. By decriminalizing prostitution, we allow prostitutes to approach the same rights as other wage slaves — including the right to unionize and struggle toward a more decent future. In that more decent future, if it ever comes, I would love to write, as George Orwell did describing the anarchist-dominated streets of Barcelona, of how "in the streets were colored posters, appealing to prostitutes to stop being prostitutes."
(Severed) head of the class: The Cartoon Art Museum greatly appreciates the publicity that SF Weekly and Andy Wright have created for our "How to Draw with Your Kid, How to Draw with Your Grownup" workshop ["Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children?", Night & Day, 10/22]. However, Wright's article is off-message in regards to this class. She discusses an unrelated piece of comics history in a reference to the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. She mentions severed head illustrations and political controversy dating back to 1954.
It is true that our art form and our museum embrace that history as part of this genre. However, it really has nothing to do with the programming that we offer to educate the children of the Bay Area or with the class her article is meant to feature. I certainly appreciate the irony that she highlights. It is interesting that 54 years ago there was a movement to censor comics and protect children from certain content. And here we are today, inviting children into the world of comics in Betsy Streeter's class at the Cartoon Art Museum. But what Wright does not point out is that today, the world of comics and animation is a hugely popular art form among children and it plays an important role in drawing children into the world of fine arts.
Sponge Bob, Manga, and every G-rated Pixar/Disney movie out there are gateways to the world of drawing and fine arts for children. What we do here at the museum in the education department is enrich the lives of children who otherwise might get little to no exposure to fine arts due to the budgets cuts and other restrictions of the current California public school system. Moreover, this particular instructor specializes in family-centered content in her classes.
Given these facts, Wright's article is misleading. We are not exposing children to comic books with severed heads on the cover. We are bringing families in and teaching them how to draw child-appropriate content. For those who perceive the irony highlighted in Wright's article, it is a chuckle. But the article gives the wrong impression about our activities here at the museum to those who do not perceive the irony. And it is questionable whether Wright's ironic point of view is appropriate in an event listing for a child-centered, family-focused class.
Diane Shapiro Sommerfield
Director of Education, Cartoon Art Museum