Hate – It’s Complicated. Sex – It’s Complicated

Last week’s hate crime in Atlanta targeted Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). But, that’s only one dimension of the crime — and the simplest dimension to detest and throw our support around. The crime was also against women who were doing sex work.

Oh my, did I say women and sex? That complicates things.

I have been stewing in discomfort over this hate crime for a week. I could not figure out what was wrong with the responses I was seeing — they seemed trite. It could be because the crimes keep coming… crime after crime after crime. So, it is all tiring, and hard to put in different terms. But, I realized that my discomfort is because the responses were addressing only the face of the problem and not the body, so to speak.

We have heard robust support for the AAPI community. Even the U.S. President and Vice President went to Georgia to offer support for AAPI. Likewise, ESD Global supports AAPI and abhors the persecution and discrimination that they endure. I live in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, and have seen hate displayed and economic discrimination laid at the feet of this community, and have come to hurt with my neighbors.

Now, let’s talk about the other 2/3 of the equation of the hate crime.

The alleged perpetrator was ashamed of his sex “compulsion.” He blamed the women for what his church, minister father, and faith-based sex de-programmers called an addiction. It was the women’s fault.

This crime was violence against women. It was an act of vengeance against female sexuality. Let’s shine the light on that. I don’t have to pull out my English degree to look at all of the tropes of female sexuality and male oppression to wonder why we still can’t talk about it. Men blaming women for their physical existence; men believing that they can erase women; men holding women to account for men’s flaws. Faith institutions shaming sexuality. Even the public conversation about this remains about AAPI and not about violence against women.

The murder rampage was also a crime against sex work and sex workers. Did you know that? Hasn’t that been a weird non-discussion point? I know sex workers. I have considered doing sex work. The reasons that individuals do sex work are as varied as why people do any kind of work. They like the autonomy; they enjoy the art of sex work; they like the money; they need the money.

Of course, some sex workers are trafficked, which is a horrendous crime. That is not the case in the Atlanta shootings. American discussion of the crime against sex workers has been hush-hush regarding this event. As if, had these individuals been working at a bank, they would have been at equal risk. No, my friends, it is the combination of hates working together that makes this more horrific. And it is our lack of conversation and action about that which makes us accountable.

By pinning this issue on the fact that AAPIs were killed because of their ethnicity does nothing to change the laws, the conversation, or the public will around violence against women and legitimacy and safety of sex workers. Along with platitudes about our AAPI friends and neighbors, let’s expose violence against women as the epidemic it is (made worse during COVID-19) and legalize sex work to make it safer (and taxable), reduce it as a public health threat, and remove it as a public secret.

Molly Singer has over twenty five years of experience building effective strategies, programs, and teams to achieve ambitious goals to expand opportunities in communities. She comes to ESD from Washington DC where she was the executive director of Capitol Hill Village, a model and leader among the Village movement in the United States. During her time, she tripled revenues, services and clients in providing social and educational programs, civic engagement practices, volunteer coordination and care services for seniors.

She has worked as a small business owner, in the private-, government-, and non-profit sectors. Singer was the CEO of Dexterity Management, a consulting firm that partnered with organizations to help them be more productive and effective in achieving their missions. Dexterity accomplished this through focused support, collaboration, and systems change. Dexterity’s work was distinguished by its depth of thought, thoroughness of approach, and distillation of next steps to support clients in advancing their efforts. Singer has also worked in response to the HIV epidemic in Washington DC and special assistant to the chief of disaster during Hurricane Katrina.

Singer has a graduate degree in applied anthropology from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and an undergraduate degree from Drew University. She has served on a number of community and international non profit boards. Singer lives in Boston MA US with her family. Singer loves to bake, is a mediocre knitter and has lots of household, personal and world-changing projects that she never gets to.

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