In Passionate Women’s March Speech, Janet Mock Calls For Sex Workers To Be Welcome In The Movement

"Just because we are oppressed does not mean that we do not ourselves fall victim to enacting the same unconscious policing, shaming, and erasing."

There was no shortage of celebrities at the Women’s March on Washington—Scarlet Johansson, Madonna, Ashley Judd, all spoke. But one of the most compelling addresses was by Janet Mock, who reminded the crowd that we have to “break out of our comfort zones” to address the needs of all.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21:  Janet Mock speaks onstage at the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

“Our approach to freedom need not be identical but it must be intersectional and inclusive,” proclaimed Mock, who was on the march’s policy committee. “It must extend beyond ourselves… My liberation is directly linked to the liberation of the undocumented trans Latina yearning for refuge. The disabled student seeking unequivocal access. The sex worker fighting to make her living safely.”

The recently married trans activist and best-selling also called on listeners to be vigilant of how we can reenact discrimination in our lives.

“Just because we are oppressed does not mean that we do not ourselves fall victim to enacting the same unconscious policing, shaming, and erasing. We must return to one another with greater accountability and commitment to the work today.”

Earlier in the week, Mock posted a statement on Tumblr similarly calling on the Women’s March to include sex workers’ rights in its platform.

“I know sex work to be work,” she wrote. “It’s not something I need to tiptoe around. It’s not a radical statement. It’s a fact. My work and my feminism rejects respectability politics, whorephobia, slut-shaming and the misconception that sex workers, or folks engaged in the sex trades by choice or circumstance, need to be saved, that they are colluding with the patriarchy by ’selling their bodies.’ I reject the continual erasure of sex workers from our feminisms because we continue to conflate sex work with the brutal reality of coercion and trafficking.

Below, read the full text of her speech at the Women’s March.

So we are here. We are here not merely to gather but to move, right? And our movements, our movements require us to do more than just show up and say the right words. It requires us to break out of our comfort zones and be confrontational. It requires us to defend one another when it is difficult and dangerous. It requires us to truly see ourselves and one another.

I stand here today as the daughter of a native Hawaiian woman and a black veteran from Texas. I stand here as the first person in my family to go to college. I stand here as someone who has written herself onto this stage to unapologetically proclaim that I am a trans woman-writer-activist-revolutionary of color. And I stand here today because of the work of my forebears, from Sojourner to Sylvia, from Ella to Audre, from Harriet to Marsha.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21:  Janet Mock speaks onstage at the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

I stand here today most of all because I am my sister’s keeper. My sisters and siblings are being beaten and brutalized, neglected and invisibilizied, extinguished and exiled. My sisters and siblings have been pushed out of hostile homes and intolerant schools. My sisters and siblings have been forced into detention facilities and prisons and deeper into poverty. And I hold these harsh truths close. They enrage me and fuel me. But I cannot survive on righteous anger alone. Today, by being here, it is my commitment to getting us free that keeps me marching.

Our approach to freedom need not be identical but it must be intersectional and inclusive. It must extend beyond ourselves. I know with surpassing certainty that my liberation is directly linked to the liberation of the undocumented trans Latina yearning for refuge. The disabled student seeking unequivocal access. The sex worker fighting to make her living safely.

Collective liberation and solidarity is difficult work—it is work that will find us struggling together and struggling with one another. Just because we are oppressed does not mean that we do not ourselves fall victim to enacting the same unconscious policing, shaming, and erasing. We must return to one another with greater accountability and commitment to the work today.

By being here you are making a commitment to this work. Together we are creating a resounding statement, a statement that stakes a claim on our lives and our loves, our bodies and our babies, our identities and our ideals. But a movement – a movement is so much more than a march. A movement is that difficult space between our reality and our vision. Our liberation depends on all of us, all of us returning to our homes and using this experience and all the experiences that have shaped us to act, to organize, to resist. Thank you.

h/t: New York magazine

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