In this episode of teleSUR’s “Days of Revolt,” Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges explores the conflicted and malignant relationship many self-identified leftists have with prostitution on both the ideological and practical levels.

Participating in the nuanced discussion, held recently in Vancouver, are anti-prostitution activists Lee Lakeman and Alice Lee. Hedges takes a page from feminist theorist Andrea Dworkin in setting the tone for their discussion, supporting her claim that “The Left cannot have its whores and its politics, too.”

Lakeman, who works with the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, characterizes the climate of the moment as “much more confused, much more clouded,” when it comes to attitudes toward prostitution circulating on the left. “Although we seem to have succeeded in winning some compassion for the imagined prostitute, the real prostituted woman can’t get the support of the left, particularly in the form of legal interventions,” she says. “We can’t get men to stop buying — so far — and we can’t get the men of the left to denounce the buying of women.”

At stake, in Lakeman’s estimation, is the welfare of all women: “It’s a refusal to deal with the collective ‘women’ and to understand that to allow the prostitution is to allow the degradation of all women and the impossibility of actually imagining women as whole,” she says, adding that there is also the need to recognize how imperialism and colonialism are inextricably linked to the sex trade.

Lee, one of the co-founders of Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, traces the ways race plays into the problem. “I think with neoliberalism it’s worse for women of color and indigenous women, because now they use the excuse of subjugating women and the exploitation of women of color and indigenous women almost as if it was a viable option for women — that’s the only thing we’re good for.”

At this point, Hedges asks how women of color and indigenous women who aren’t directly involved in prostitution are affected.

We just can’t escape the relentless stereotypes of women,” says Lee. “I can’t escape those in my daily life … every interaction is colored by those stereotypes.”

Watch the discussion in full below (via teleSUR):

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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