Friday 26 April 2013

Should Mia Freedman Apologise?

I went to Australia last month as a guest of the Opera House for the All About Women symposium.  As part of the event, I agreed to do some media appearances on ABC, including the Drum and Q&A.

All About Women was a fantastic day and I feel privileged to have met so many interesting and talented people there, including people I would put in the category of genuine modern heroes

As for Q&A… this is the Australian equivalent of Question Time, so I went anticipating a varied panel with a wide variety of opinions jostling to be heard. I was told Tony Jones was a strong moderator, so I went expecting him to rein in the conversation if things went off-piste. This was to be Q & A's first all-woman panel and expectations were high. The topics they circulated beforehand indicated I was in for a grilling while everyone else got softball. I went, not to put too fine a point on it, loaded for bear.

I thought it went pretty well. Opinions differed. Points of view were exchanged. Margaret Thatcher died. All in all, a good night. The producers seemed very pleased with the outcome.

So imagine my surprise, weeks later, that fellow guest Mia Freedman is still flogging her commentary about the appearance as content on her site MamaMia. The topic: should she apologise for continually insulting sex workers?

During the show Mia kept falling back on sloppy, ill-thought, and pat little lines that were easily countered. I found to my surprise a lot of common ground with Germaine Greer, hardly known as a fan of sexual entertainment, on the fact that conditions of labour and not sex per se are the most pressing issue for sex workers worldwide right now. Then in comes Mia with her assumptions about the people who do sex work (men AND women) and the people who hire them (men AND women). With Tony backing her up. So much for the disinterested moderator, eh? Maybe he felt bad for her. I don't know.

Here's the thing. I agree with Mia on this: I don't think she should apologise.

Why not? Because if she did it would be insincere. My first impression when we met backstage was that she was insincere, and damn it, a successful lady editor like her should have the guts to be true to herself and stand by her opinions no matter what they are.

Because the general public needs to see what kinds of uninformed nonsense that sex workers who stick their heads above the parapet get every single day.

Because she is a magazine editor who cares deeply about hits and attention, and clearly this is delivering on every level.

Because the sort of people who think sex workers should be topics of discussion rather than active participants are fighting a losing battle.

Because for every 100 people who visit her site, there is one who is both a parent AND a sex worker, who knows that what she is saying is rubbish. And another one who is the parent of a sex worker and loves them. Yes, that's right Mia: sex workers have families too. Believe it or not even I have an awesome, strong, feminist mother who loves and supports me no matter what. Why, it's almost as if we're people.

Not only do I not want Mia's apology, I don't need it. I have butted heads with far bigger opponents than her and rest assured I sleep just fine. That a blogger (who knows sweet f. a. about sex work) keeps stirring up her supporters to hate on sex workers is not my dog. She's just joining the end of a very long and undistinguished queue.

Keep digging, Mia. I ain't gonna stop you. Keep writing off other people simply because they didn't have the privileges you did or didn't make the same choices you did, and you can't accept that. Get it off your chest, lock up your children, whatever you think you need to do to keep believing that makes you better than me. Keep being ignorant about the real issues and real people involved. May I gently suggest perhaps you have some issues about sex you want to work out in public, or this wouldn't be the biggest issue on your agenda weeks after the show went to air?

Mia, you have my express permission not to apologise. No, don't thank me… I insist.