Friday, November 19, 2010

Outfit of the Day

It wasn't until I took my eyes off the road, that I realized, up until that moment, I had never witnessed them at work. As many years as I've studied their place within society, and advocated their respect and protection, I'd had yet to actually speak with, or observe a woman who dons a particular kind of nightly uniform and takes to the streets.

It was almost a moment of exoticization. My reaction to seeing her, and then another and another - in the frigid evening air - booty shorts, heels, no jacket. I remember thinking, "isn't it a little cold for those?" Not once considering the fact that she was not at all out of place, but right on the track. Their corner is one without a traffic signal, which means you have to know exactly where to look if you want to encounter them. Every day since then, I've glanced, at just about that block, to see if I could catch a quick glimpse. To see if maybe I could see who else is watching or perhaps partaking of their time. Obviously not the police, since they are usually congregating a few blocks ahead of the action. Devoting their attention to more important matters. And periodically I will fall into deep thought about what I'd do, the ways in which I'd react - spring into action - should I be crossing their block and one of these women suddenly become distressed. The scene leaves me quite mixed emotional.

On one hand, as an advocate of sex work (prostitution falling under that category), I would not call for the harrassment of these women, but rather their protection. However, without sex work being recognized under the law, with it in fact being a violation of the law, I'm guessing the only protection that these women are receiving is from the police patrols ability to look the other way as business is conducted. On the other hand, with Oakland being a huge player in human trafficking, specifically the trafficking of children, when it comes to street prostitution, police involvement is vital. When it comes to street prostitution as a business, it is not the workers who are profiting, but their pimps/captures/abusers.

As I am gearing up to exit the community, I feel an urge to act.


  1. This is really heavy stuff. I've admittedly always been VERY curious about sex-workers. I'm also ambivalent about whether or not it should be illegal...wondering if legalization-as with drugs-would lessen the violence associated with it's underworld governance. Hmmm...

    I'm just an overthinking anarchist of sorts...

  2. ::fastens strap on overthinking cap::

    I'm right there with you Tameka. A co-worker and I were thinking along the same lines - violence vs. less violence. The underworld is a funny place. Its kinda like technology, always one step ahead of the game. I'm thinking that maybe, in an effort to keep the money flowing to one source, that the underground would go even deeper underground to avoid sharing any earnings with the government. Maybe we need some overthinkers in government, lol.

  3. B, this world is in overdrive right now and the measures that these pimps are going through to get through to and keep these girls on the streets, would blow your mind. My cousin works for one of the many agencies in Oakland that goes out to get these girls off the streets and so she has MANY encounters with pimps. You should hear some of what they say to her to get her on "their side" before they know who she is. From the type of human/synthetic hair she has in her hair (by name) as a way to identify, to telling her that she's beautiful, assuming that she hasn't heard that before. I mean! They are vultures! And the girls are afraid. Remind me to tell you about the night we staked out looking for Jasmine (when she was in that life) into the night. The stuff we saw...

    Yes, something definitely has to be done.

  4. I remember you told me about your cousin's work, and what she faced. I can imagine how aggressive and tactful they'd be moving in on any female that passed by, who was not already under their wing. It takes a special kind of human being to be a pimp, AND pimps aren't just men, but also women. Its good to see the strides that Alameda County is making to create change for these girls who are being forced into the life by these fools.

    I didn't know that Jasmine used to be a part of that world once upon a time.