It's a step forward.
In November 2017 the announced their decision to decriminalise sex work in in South Africa and although professions such as stripping, sex work and escorting are still morally looked down on we have celebrities in the country like as Moonchild Sanelly and organisations such as Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) who are in spearheading the protection of women in the sex industry.
As a hit-making musician, Moonchild unequivocally stands up for and celebrates all women and has never been shy to admit it on her social media platforms. She certainly doesn't shy away from talking about sex either.
Her support has also come in the form of a recent performance at The Summit strip club in Johannesburg where she was joined by strippers that worked there. The comments from her fans on her Instagram page were encouraging.
Watch: Moonchild Sanelly performs at The Summit Club in Johannesburg
Moonchild's advocacy also goes beyond her just performing at strip clubs.
In a panel discussion at The South by Southwest (SXSW®) Conference & Festivals which is a conference that celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries in Austin, Texas, she explains that women in the industry are now fighting for their independence more than ever. “We are standing up for ourselves and we’re provocative as f*ck because we are owning our sexuality,” she says.
Although it all sounds positive that women are unapologetic, Moonchild acknowledges that there can still be negative attitudes towards women regarding their independence.
She further explained that women can own their sexuality but the reality is more difficult: “…owning sexuality is almost as if I’m saying ‘hey my legs are open’”.
It’s like women are giving out an open invitation to be harassed but they are just simply expressing themselves and using their bodies for their own purpose. In a way that makes them comfortable and happy.
There are a number of campaigns that also advocate for the agency of women, highlighting that women’s bodies do not exist to be violated by men.
But the horrific reality is different.
Although these campaigns do raise awareness there has been some criticism of them, particularly #MeToo. #MeToo went viral on Twitter in 2017 and continues to be supported by a number of celebrities.
But in 2018 many are questioning whether it actually gives a voice to all types of women to stand up and say that they too have been victims of sexual assault.
Hip hop artist Cardi B and activist Amber Rose give some insight into how the #MeToo movement is lacking in respresentation of all women, particulary those in the sex industry.
In an interview hosted by Amber called The Raw Word, she speaks about how the #MeToo campaign frustrates her. In reaction to the movement, she says, “All of a sudden feminism became such a mainstream thing now… that white, rich actresses start coming out saying 'me too, me too.' But what happened to all of us?”
Amber is referring to “strippers, the LGBT community and the black girls in college”. She notes that no one is talking about them and in hindsight, they are not being included.
Cardi B also spoke out against the #MeToo movement. In an interview with Cosmopolitan for their April issue, Cardi B talks about her experiences when she was starting out as a video vixen.
“When I was trying to be a vixen, people were like, ‘You want to be on the cover of this magazine?’ Then they pull their dicks out. I bet if one of these women stands up and talks about it, people are going to say, ‘So what? You’re a ho. It don’t matter,’” she says.
These kinds of responses show that there is still a stigma attached to women that work in an industry that profits from the sexualisation of women’s bodies. That is what makes it hard for such women to stand up and say “Me too” because the labels attached to their profession of choice makes it difficult for them to seek and get justice.
Although extensive research has not been done on the prevalence of sexual assault of strippers, sex workers or escorts in South Africa, research in other countries shows alarming statistics.
Have a look at the infographic below:
Campaigns such as #MeToo must accommodate victims and survivors no matter who they are. It should not matter if they are a stripper, sex worker or make a career out of wearing little clothing.
All women deserve to be advocated for.
Watch: STORYTIME!!! The Harsh REALITY Behind STRIPPING!!!! (Cardi B Tipped Me!!!)