Stigmatizing
My boyfriend caught this conversation between Renate van der Zee (notorious feminist against prostitution) and a police officer with the same last name (sister?) Mirjam van der Zee, about prostitutes working in Den Haag in the Doubletstraat. This is the conversation:







Translation:

Visited the Doubletstraat. Met many friendly women.
The work is hard they say. They only make 25 euro per client.
(Renate van der Zee)

@WijkagentMirjam The cheapest street in Holland. 
And then you see what a nice, friendly women are there.
Really a disgrace. 
(Renate van der Zee)

@renatevdzee What a starvation wage 
and a disgrace indeed...
(Mirjam van der Zee)

@WijkagentMirjam Well said: a starvation wage
(Renate van der Zee)

Young Romanian just told me she studied architecture.
Now she's working in the Doubletstraat.
Sometimes she makes just enough to pay her room.
(Renate van der Zee)

@renatevdzee It's just exploitation.
And I thought this was illegal in Holland...
(Mirjam van der Zee)

@WijkagentMirjam I'm glad you see it the same way
(Renate van der Zee)

@renatevdzee It's my personal opinion;
The wage is disproportional to the work.
(Mirjam van der Zee)

It's interesting to see that apparently the police is also stigmatizing prostitutes as sad and poor women who work for cheap and are in need of saving. It tells a lot about how the police, also in general, thinks about, and sees prostitutes. This is also confirmed in their own rapport Schone Schijn, which I wrote about before here, which states that between 50 to 90% of the prostitutes are forced in their opinion. Yet in reality the police have trouble finding even 1% of these so called 'forced prostitutes'. Does that make their report so bad, or their work so shit?

Anyway, the conversation starts off with a false statement of Renate van der Zee. She claims prostitutes there only make 25 Euro's per client. By default this cannot be true, since the minimum price may be 25 Euro, this does not forbid the prostitute to ask a client for more money and to determine her own prices for the services she has to offer.
So perhaps one time someone pays 25 Euro because he just wants something basic, but another client may want something different, and would have to pay more for that, depending on how much the prostitutes charges. Many prostitutes, if not all prostitutes do this, and this all goes for the same length of time.
See it like a shop with different items for sale. The lowest price at a shop may be only 25 Euro's, but other items may go up to prices like 150 Euro's, depending on what the client wants to buy. So stating that the shop only earns 25 Euro per client is just plain false, this is the minimum price the shop will earn if a client buys something from there, but that doesn't mean all customers will only buy things of 25 Euro's.
What irritates me about this part, is the adding of the word 'only' 25 Euro's. Like making 25 Euro's in 15 minutes is so little. But let's be honest, how many people make 25 Euro's per 15 minutes at their job? That would come down to an hourly rate of 100 Euro's. Anyone?

Then Renate tweets something about the fact that the women who are working there are nice, but jumps into saying all of the sudden that it's a disgrace. So what exactly is this disgrace? Is it a disgrace that there are only nice women standing there, meaning they should allow unfriendly women there too (perhaps herself)? Is the disgrace that nice women are standing there, meaning only unfriendly women should be allowed to be standing there? Is the disgrace that there are women standing there in the first place?
It's an old technique Renate uses to manipulate people, without making false claims, while seemingly being nice about these women at the same time. This way Renate seems to be standing up for these women, because she calls these women friendly and nice etc. But at the same time she's completely against prostitution, so she doesn't want these women to have this job, or to be standing there at all. So she seems to be defending prostitutes, while at the same wanting to get rid of them.

Then the police officer comes with a comment that really bugs me. She replies to Renate that the 25 Euro's they're making is a 'starvation wage'. So she seems to be thinking these women only make 25 Euro's with each client, which is false, but that's exactly the intention Renate van der Zee had when she wrote that Tweet.
But let's be honest here. Because apparently 25 Euro's for 15 minutes isn't enough for Mirjam to do this job, while last time I checked the wage for police officers (source) wasn't even nearly as close to this, it's only 2724 Euro's max. a month! This would come down to an hour rate of 15,71 Euro's, and per 15 minutes that would come down to 3,93 Euro's!
Jeez! Talking about a starvation wage! 3,93 Euro's for 15 minutes max., while those girls make 25 Euro's in 15 minutes at the bare minimum! So while you're laying your life on the line in a dangerous job filled with crime, violence and weapons for less then 4 Euro's per 15 minutes, these girls make 25 Euro's to do something most people only dream about during their job, which is sex!
And let's not forget that not every client that comes in wants or gets sex. Like I've written in this post before here, there are many customers who just want to talk. The fact that this police officer thinks it's a starvation wage for this job, says more about her interpretation of this job, and her prejudice about it, then it says anything about this job itself or it's wages.

Then Renate starts to write about a young (what's young when you're 53?) Romanian woman who studied architecture, and who's working there. This is obviously a way to dramatize the whole thing. First adding the fact that she's young, to stigmatize her as a young naive girl, a possible daughter to someone else. Secondly adding the fact that she had studied architecture as a way to show how tragic it must be to be working here, while she could be an architect, making it seem like this job was something this woman hadn't chosen for herself. Of course adding in the fact that sometimes she doesn't make the rent to her room, is to victimize her more.
But now let's be honest. Being young or old are definitions that open to interpretation. Many people think when they see me behind the windows that I'm very young as well. Sometimes people ask me if I'm old enough to do this job, even though I'm 28. I don't know if Renate van der Zee asked this Romanian girl for her age, but in the eyes of Dutch people, all Romanian girls look very young. So we don't know really what her age is, since Renate didn't mention is, so we can't say anything about the age but that's it left open for interpretation. As adding in the word young in stead of the actual age would only increase the sense of being a victim, this statement is purely made to victimize this girl.
Secondly, she studied architecture. If she has so much trouble paying her room, like how Renate makes it sound, why doesn't she just go and become an architect? Romania is a poor country with low employment, but an architect can make good money, and I find it hard to believe she wouldn't be able to find a job as an architect, since people are building a lot of new buildings in Romania constantly in the last few years.
And the fact she sometimes can just pay the rent of room, doesn't mean this is always the case. In fact, it states the sometimes she just makes the room, which means she always at least(!) makes the room, and never has days that she doesn't make the rent. And if she really would be barely making just her room, then how can she pay the rent to her apartment? If she really wouldn't be able to pay for this, she would've moved back to Romania already long time ago.
I also sometimes don't make the rent to my room, yet that doesn't mean I'm very poor or something. If I would have to do a normal job I wouldn't even get a salary close to what I'm making now, even if I sometimes don't make my room.
If the situation would be really as bad as Renate makes it sound like, this girl would've moved back already to Romania to find a job as an architect. But honestly, I think this girl works here, because she can simply make more money here doing this job, then being an architect back in Romania.

Then the police officer writes that she sees this as exploitation. Like doing this job is exploitation on itself. As I've talked about already here above, her own position at the police force, and her own wage is way lower then these girls. So if these girls are exploited in her opinion, what does that make her? Super-exploited by the police force, to do a dangerous job for a wage that doesn't compare to the danger she get's into every day?
It's a clear example of her ignorance about this work, the wages and her own prejudices about it. It shows exactly how the public opinion, through the media, has been manipulated, into seeing all prostitutes as victims. She stigmatizes prostitutes with her tweets, without that she's even aware of it, because she's been brainwashed by people like Renate van der Zee into seeing prostitutes as sad women with no other option.
Of course in the next Tweet from Renate van der Zee, she completely agrees with this, but then again, would we expect anything different from someone who makes a living out of stigmatizing prostitutes as victims?

The last Tweet from the police officer is certainly interesting, since she comments that the wage is disproportional to the work. This says more about her prejudices about this work, and how little she actually knows about it, then it really says anything about the work and the wages. If the wages would really be disproportional, many of the girls including myself, wouldn't be doing this work. Yet, 90% of the women doing this work (at least!) do this job because of the huge amounts of money we can make with it.
The fact that this woman cannot understand that, shows her ignorance about our profession, but more importantly she doesn't seem to understand that her own wage is way more disproportional to her own job, than ours is to our job. Perhaps someone should notify this woman, she's doing a highly dangerous job, working at the police, while being paid very little for laying her life on the line, while there are other options that are far less dangerous and pay much more money, like prostitution. So perhaps a career change would be an option for her?

One funny note, after my boyfriend commented on her Tweets and the stigmatizing character on them, she commented back they where not stigmatizing at all. Yet she did delete her tweet about it, which makes one wonder why she deleted it, if it wasn't stigmatizing?

Dutch version
9 Responses

  1. xdwitt Says:

    In The Hague girls can choose 2 streets to work, one has a 25 euro basic price and the other 50 euro basic price. Some girls like to work in the "cheap" street and other girls like to work in the "higher price" street. They adapt there service level to the price. In the "cheap" street they might even make more money a day.

    The calculation of hourly rates is of course a little bit off. There are waiting times (although some girls are very busy), and therefore you can better look at a week income and divide that by the working hours. That would really give a good feeling of what the girls might earn. Can you give numbers for yourself on a weekly basis? What would be the range between the lowest and the highest earning prostitute?

    Is giving this information in itself an advertisement for prostitution and maybe punishable by the ridiculous dutch trafficking laws?


  2. Frans Says:

    Thank you. Fine job of exposing how these two rescue angels manipulate facts to reinforce society’s condemnation of prostitution, with only a few tweets. Takes less than half an hour! You devoted much more time and care to debunk it and give us some detailed insight into the financial potentials of sex work and why women and men from all backgrounds and levels of education choose it as a livelihood for good reasons.

    To shame Renate van der Zee and her tag team partner Mirjam even more, I could add this:
    Sex workers so often demand that anti-sex work people, lawmakers, regulators and researchers should talk more to people who benefit from the profession and can also clearly argue why, so the ignorants could learn objective facts from them. Most anti’s who use sex workers like to select former sex workers, “victims” or people who left the profession because of bad experiences and will speak out against it. This tactic is very transparent.

    Not so Renate. Renate apparently visited nice and cordial women who are no victims, coerced, abused or exploited, or she would have certainly alerted the authorities and alarmed her tweeters with “horrifying” findings. But that's not what she is trying to do. She wants to feed sentiment against prostitution. So she uses a more subtle but far more malicious and disdainful tactic: the commercial.
    .
    Renate doesn’t start off with a false statement, as you say, but something worse and absolutely despicable: she abuses the facts she got from the nice women and manipulates them for the benefit of her message. A feminist who stabs other women in the back. Can you get any lower than that as a human being? I find it disgusting.
    How does she do this? By suggestion, the tactic of the hidden persuader, so often successfully used in commercials. This tweet exchange is an abolition commercial.
    Renate’s writing style in the first 2 tweets is suggestive; it reads (because “visited” implies “spoken to”) as if the prostitutes (plural!) themselves have said that they make “only” €25 per client. Poor girls! You debunk that perfectly. But combined with Renate's suggestive "cheapest street" and her suggestion that they also call it “demanding work” (and “demanding work” implies here physically and psychologically) this suggests that not Renate complains that the wage is much too low for what they do but the prostitutes themselves complain! In the next tweet Renate gets sentimental and laments how nice and cordial these women are, and this leads to her bluntly stigmatizing conclusion: “Really a disgrace.” Then we get from Renate the stigmatizing “Rumanian” and from police woman Mirjam the words “exploitation” and “illegal” and without saying it the message of this commercial is out: let’s fight the disgusting sex work and rescue those pitiful immigrant women! The real poison is in the fact that the real message of the commercial is hidden. The few tweets make the reader f-e-e-l that not Renate and Mirjam but those nice, cordial prostitutes say they are exploited, that they should never have chosen this work; that they made a big mistake. The commercial warns other innocent, ignorant poor girls: even if you choose it voluntarily you’ll find out that prostitution is exploitative by nature. Stay away from it! That’s the moral of feminist Renate’s and her police woman Mirjam’s abusive tweet commercial. On top of it: we must believe that Renate visited Doubletstraat. Can this be verified? She might well have been at home on the couch with Mirjam or her partner eating chips and sipping wine,
    It is another example that when anti- sex work activists will let sex workers and sex work-positive people speak out, they still know how to abuse it. What else is new?
    Can pro-sex work sex workers tweet facts that advertise the benefits and positive side of sex work? Pro-sex work commercials based on facts? (see the suggestion of xdwitt)



  3. Anonymous Says:

    Brilliant piece...


  4. xdwitt Says:

    "Pro-sex work commercials based on facts? (see the suggestion of xdwitt)"

    Beware this might be illegal if targeting foreign woman. This might be encouraging woman to come to work in Holland. Speaking of double standards.


  5. BobS Says:

    Is something wrong with the petition site http://t.co/xwQgl5MJ1K ?

    When I signed, the counter did not add a number and my short comment did not show.

    Rootman


  6. Felicia Anna Says:

    @BobS
    I don't know. The petition isn't mine, so I wouldn't know.
    I do know it takes a moment before the comment shows up on the page. I think maybe that's because it has to be approved first.


  7. Anonymous Says:

    xdwitt and Frans make good cases. What I want is to see how that support and good cases translates into positive action. Here I am asking for help, not simply posing an insoluable problem.


  8. Cliente X Says:

    We use to criticize that kind of ppl that speaks about prostitution from outside arguing that they ignore our reality.

    That's true.

    But it's also that we don't know them and the way they think. From their point of view, they're right and I'm gonna explain u why.

    Those "salvators" (there is a term in german to refer them, "Weltverbesserer") are, from the first to the last, MARXISTS. Reds. Commies. U are beginning pro-prostiution activism, but u'll ckeck this very soon. So, we need to understand the meaning of some words for them, marxists -as any group- have their own terminology.

    When u say that a prostitute earns a lot of money u are not arguing against exploitation, but for it. The more money someone gets, the more explotated he/she is. How can this be? Simple, in marxist theory there are 2 ways to earn money: by capital or by work. Workers (as prostitutes) are ALWAYS EXPLOITED bcause they need to spend their own time to earn money. And the higher the profit, the higher the explotation. For example, a first division football player is -according to them- much more exploited than a construction worker. AND THEY ARE FUCKIN' RIGHT! How much money pay each one in taxes, for example? The taxes u pay are ur exploitation! They even say that "she makes enough to pay her room". And why? How much is she paying for the window, to the town hall, in taxes to be "legal"?

    Fuck, prostitutes are certainly exploited! No one can negate such evidence! But now, comes the 2 nd part. Exploited... for who?

    For those social parasites who live of them! Like politicians and cops!

    U ask what's the disgrace and I'll explain u. They'd be very disgraced if they had to work bcause they are a couple of POSHS that have never worked in their whole life! Many ppl here needs to work a whole morning to earn those 25 €, thats the reality of ppl in the street. But they're not ppl as us. They're our exploiters.

    Do u know how much they earn? They live like princes thank to us! When they call "starvation wages" the money the ppl thinks us good for them (market prizes) is from their point of view. Of course that for them that is no money! They are ROTTEN in money, the money that they rob us!

    I hope that ur compassion about cops is a joke. What's their job? TO DO NOTHING! In other posts u have recognized that they dont prosecute the crime, for years (in fact, IMO they are the main criminals in ANY society). In private sector, if u fail in ur job u are fired. But public sector is not oriented to satisfy any social need of the ppl. It's the essence of corruption, inefficency and vagrancy.

    They are civil servants (we use the word in spanish, "funcionario" in a despective way to call anyone who are not interested in doing well his/her job), used to earnalways the same, to live from a subside no matter what happens, they're not affected by alterations in economy, they live far away from reality. Moreover, a cop don't get himself in risk. He puts in risk the others.

    To show u that beign cop is much more profitable than whore, answer me how many cops do u know have turned into prostitutes? I only know one, the former policewoman Norma Jean Almodovar (look for her if u Haven't heard of, she is one of the main activists in the same struggle u are now). And she did the change by principles, tired of so much corruption she saw in Los Angeles police department.


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    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.