Earlier I wrote that my first book was quite a struggle, during the middle of the writing and especially near the end. The circumstances were difficult, but something else that I’m sure mattered is that the book was so eclectic. I wanted to give an overview of a number of different topics, which slowed down the research. When writing about introductory aspects of feminism, and porn culture, and sexual and physical violence, and trans liberation, and the future of feminism and some of the history, and and and… it becomes difficult to maintain focus and to keep the number of pages acceptable. I never felt  had said all I wanted to say and I hope to be able to revisit many of these topics in perhaps a second revised edition or new articles and books.

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I’m not putting up any recognizable pictures or details of refugees because I don’t want to endanger them: they may risk persecution or have their request for asylum denied.

Due to the war in Syria many people have fled their war-torn country. Some have died – the pictures of this the world over ignited a new wave of protest against the “Fortress Europe” policies. Some of the survivors are in Calais, France now. Many of them try to reach England through the canal tunnel.

Belgium has started organising to help out the refugees in Calais. We’ve been collecting goods – clothes, tents, food, soap and so on. Many people must have been waiting for something to do, getting fed up with the news and the inhuman reactions of politicians, there have been so much donations… Yesterday, September 4th, we went to Calais. All in all about 80 to 100 cars/vans/trucks came from Belgium to help out in Calais. People from many different countries are there to help in an amazing show of solidarity.

army truckAfter hours of travelling and sorting stuff, we ended up with about 18 people in the army truck of L, one of the two women who are the main organisers of the solidarity.

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“Other Voices makes space for interesting and inspiring speakers to talk on various topics. In the media or other debates we notice the same people again and again. It is no surprise that this little elite consists mostly of white higher middle class men. We want to work differently.”
– Other Voices website

In March 2015 I was invited to speak at Other Voices, a meeting space in Brussels (Belgium) where host Bleri Lleshi invites people to discuss diverse topics.

Other Voices wants to provide space for more voices than just old white men, to this end normally Bleri always invites a man and a woman, at least one with a migration background. This time for feminism he was forced to concede defeat and invite two women to speak 😉

This year’s main theme was visions of the future, and for the topic of the future of feminism, Samira Azabar and I were invited. Samira Azabar is a sociologist and member of the collective BOEH – boss over our own heads – a feminist organisation that became famous for fighting for the right to wear the veil. They sued the public schools  for forbidding the students the right to wear veils – as e.g. some Muslims choose to do. That lawsuit really pisses off all the right people 😉

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© Evie Embrechts

notforsale2Amnesty International recently voted for promoting a policy of decriminalisation of prostitution. Some are in favour, others vehemently disagree. What’s going on? I’m writing this from my perspective as a feminist in Belgium.

  1. Definitions
  2. The voices of prostitutes – who’s talking?
  3. The voice of money
  4. Research and decriminalisation
  5. What can be done in Belgium?

Definitions

Legalisation, criminalisation, decriminalisation… looking through a dictionary doesn’t help a lot to understand the debate. Instead, I’ll give three real-world examples:

In The Netherlands there is a partial legalisation. In 2000 the laws against owning brothels were struck. Pimping became legal, just like selling and buying sex – but only in certain designated places like official brothels. There is a large – and growing – illegal sector, and a lot of human trafficking. Germany has more or less the same situation – with so much trafficking into it that Germany is referred to as “the brothel of Europe” – and the conditions for prostitutes are horrible there.

In Belgium things are pretty muddy. Officially, the law forbids pimping but in reality there’s a politics of tolerance – mostly that means politicians and the police do what they want. There are some small organisations that “aid” prostitutes but there are no exit programmes so the aid is limited to “doing the best you can in bad circumstances”.

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This is the first part of – hopefully – a long series of articles on feminism and socialism. This post tells a part of my story: how did I end up as a socialist and a feminist.

When I grew up, I wasn’t really interested in politics. My parents were progressive but they weren’t members of any political parties or advocating for any causes. Well, we sent a Greenpeace postcard to a politician once 😉 While my understanding of the rotten state of today’s world grew, I became cynical and sarcastic at first.

The first political book I ever read - about the lies of the Flemish Block

The first political book I ever read – about the lies of the Flemish Block

It took a major victory of a “neofascist” racist, extreme right political party (the Flemish Block, or Vlaams Blok  in Dutch) to push me into becoming an activist. They got 30% of the votes in the city where I was born and I thought, I want to do something about that. So I became an activist overnight: I started reading about racism and making posters – that’s when I discovered that there were other people active against racism too. Before that I didn’t even have a notion of the concept of activist groups.

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© Evie Embrechts & Ida Dequeecker

393426_391510797582883_230792089_nUnderneath many of the debates in the contemporary feminist movement is a hidden discussion about free choice versus structural impact. To put it simplistically, there’s two sides: those who defend women’s freedom of choice, and don’t want (to see) any limitation on this choice, and on the other side those who stress the impact of societal structures and the way those structures can limit and hide our choices.

In reality many people try to combine both aspects in their theory and praxis. However, this isn’t easy and there is a lot of misunderstanding and bad blood between both sides. Are these positions actually that different or is this mostly due to misunderstanding? Read more

transWomyn© Evie Embrechts. This article was first published in the trilingual Belgian magazine Scumgrrrls, #19, Summer 2012.

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.

—Audre Lorde

What unites us is not a common sexuality or experiences or identities or self-expression. It’s that we’re up against a common enemy.
—Leslie Feinberg

Personal history

Growing up, I slowly gained an understanding of oppression. I still remember when I first joined an anti-racist group, sitting in a student restaurant and suddenly grasping the idea of a structure that oppresses us, that it is not just “bad people” that are the problem.

Later, sometimes slow and sometimes with sudden bolts of understanding I gained some gender awareness. I became a member of a gender action group. I was very happy to be a part of that group, Read more

Evie Embrechts

This article was first published in 2014 in International Viewpoint and LinksFeminisme. It was based on an earlier article in Dutch and then expanded and translated.

Recent years have seen renewed debate about prostitution in European countries. Both the Swedish and the Dutch models have been in effect for over 10 years and a lot of research has been done on the various implementations. What are the opinions and results?

CONTENTS

  • Different models
    • Present-day reality
    • Harm Reduction
    • Harm Elimination
  • Effects in the Netherlands
  • Effects in Sweden
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Conclusion

Different models

There are of course countless opinions about prostitution. Most of these are problematic because they are based on myopic, selfish or conservative thinking, or on abstract theory far removed from the real-life situation. There are a few models that try to take reality into account and to improve on it. These can be roughly divided into two tendencies: the harm reduction and the harm elimination model.

I’ll take a short look at both models and then present the actual implementations in Sweden and the Netherlands. The Dutch paper Volkskrant had an article where a quite pessimistic author opines that both the Dutch and Swedish models have failed(1). Luckily that’s not entirely true.

Present-day reality

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This article was first published in 2013 in Dutch on DeWereldMorgen – a progressive Belgian news site. It was then translated to French and published by LCR, a socialist/ecologist/feminist organisation.

holy-war-femenpropaganda-A première vue, cela ressemble à du féminisme, mais les Femen posent de grands problèmes qui ne peuvent être négligés. Elles font leur promotion en employant une démarche de pur marketing qui les mène à s’insérer sans problèmes dans la culture porno. Qui plus est, leurs conceptions sont racistes et néocoloniales.

Au début, je ne savais pas quoi penser du phénomène Femen. Le premier reportage que j’avais vu était très contradictoire. Il commençait par un gros-plan sur les jambes d’une membre de Femen et, ensuite, cela ne s’améliorait pas vraiment. Mais c’était peut-être plus la faute des journalistes que celle de Femen en tant que telle. Ce qui me plaisait, c’était qu’elles prétendaient protester contre le trafic humain et contre la prostitution. Mais elles n’étaient pas claires dans leur démarche et il me semblait légèrement contradictoire de protester contre la prostitution en vendant son propre corps aux média et en adoptant des poses pornographiques. Entretemps, il y avait eu aussi des remarques dénigrantes sur les femmes mariées. Mais, pensais-je alors, même si leur féminisme n’est qu’à petite dose, ce n’est déjà pas mal.

Et puis, me disais-je, de quel droit jugerais-je le féminisme dans d’autres pays ? Je n’ai rien contre le fait de protester nues, c’est peut-être un moyen pour apparaître dans les médias et que savons-nous, ici, de la situation en Ukraine ?

Haine contre les musulmans

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© Evie Embrechts. This article was written in 2010 and published in Scumgrrrls, a trilingual Belgian feminist magazine that no longer appears in print. Since it is still relevant, I’m republishing it here. It was the first article I ever wrote in English – sorry for the “Belgian English” folks!

The context does seem to have changed for the better: several organisations are once again focusing on real issues and there seems more resistance to sexist remarks, porn culture, violence against women… There’s a bit more grassroots feminist organisations in Belgium now, cooperation is better too. On the other hand the academic world does seem to be lagging behind, still lost in a maze of its own creation. Violence is not less of an issue now and the media love to focus on porn culture phenomena like the group Femen.

million women rise 1024bEvie Embrechts

In this article I will attempt to link three present-day issues together to explain why the feminist movement today is in a crisis of vision. Over the years, the way we speak and the goals we try to reach have changed, and changes in the nature of capitalism and the rise of porn culture have also had a significant effect on the feminist movement.

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