Thursday, July 17, 2014


8:37 am. That's when I woke up this morning. Oops.
My roommates and I had all stayed up late last night reading and blogging, so none of us woke up as early as we usually do. Fortunately our class is not far from the dorms so we still arrived on time. It only cost us a great deal of panic. 

The squirrel from the Quad.
It may look cute and harmless
but do not be deceived. These
things are totally fearless. 
Today was our last day doing Theater of the Oppressed. In the morning we did an activity in which individuals attempted to keep their faces approximately a foot away their partner's hand. This resulted in people desperately contorting themselves to try to maintain the proper distance as their counterpart moved his or her hand. We spent the afternoon doing theatrical skits that dealt with oppression and participating in a forum. As Spect-Actors, our job was to stop the actors and step into a role in order to change the narrative. 

For dinner today, I got an excellent fruit smoothie from one of the food trucks outside the quad. (The food trucks here are absolutely fantastic.) While I was sitting in the Quadrangle, sipping my fruit smoothie contemplatively, and pondering social justice issues, I was accosted by a squirrel. This tends to happen every single time I sit down outside anywhere in the UPenn campus. Especially if it looks like I have food. The squirrels here are like a demonic fury army and I find them equal parts terrifying and entertaining. Since I take my duty to record everything that occurs in my daily life during my time here at UPenn very seriously, here is the latest instalment of squirrel pictures.
This squirrel was actually pretty cute. Still disturbingly
fearless though.

We were lucky enough to have another optional lecture this evening, featuring an amazing guest speaker, Professor Toorjo TJ Ghose. The subject of the lecture was the social movement in India that had developed around sex workers there and their efforts to unionize. According to the lecture, one of the achievements of the global feminist movement of the '60s and '70s was the creation of the ITPA, which stands for Immoral Traffic Prevention Act. ITPA was an international treaty aimed at ending sex trafficking and protect sex workers. However, the ITPA was drafted and ratified without consulting a single sex worker, and as a result several of its stipulations have resulted in increased oppression of sex workers globally. For instance, the ITPA makes it illegal for that sex workers to share their earnings with anyone else. However, 95% of sex workers in India have families to support. As a result, sex workers in India operate in legal limbo. Their profession is neither illegal nor legal, but the police can use the law as a guise to oppress the sex worker community.
There are two schools of thought concerning sex workers in India and elsewhere. The first is that all sex workers should be "saved" from their profession and the industry should be abolished. The second believes that sex work is still work and it can lift people out of poverty, furthermore, the idea that these people in the developing world need to be saved smacks of imperialism and ideas of western supremacy. The second school of thought believes that sex workers belong to a legitimate industry and should be protected.

Currently in India there is a major women's movement aimed at ending the oppression of sex workers by unionizing. The Indian sex workers' union is called the DMSC. The DMSC's motto is "Sex work is work." The organization is seeking the legalization of prostitution, and it also works to decrease the stigma against sex workers and provide stability for sex workers and their families. The DMSC has grown so large that it runs many of its own institutions including its own bank. The Union protects women from violence; when a sex worker is arrested, the DMSC mobilizes thousands of people, and it has been shown to have decreased the rate of domestic violence among the families of sex workers. The pillars of the movement are Framing, Expanding the Community, Establishing Local Institutions, and Politicization. The union has been so successful in achieving its goals that it is a WHO model program.

The lecture brought up so many interesting questions, such as whether sex workers are a threat to the patriarchy, whether work in a capitalist framework necessitates an abstraction of the worker from the work, and whether sew workers are affected by that or whether they are among the few industries where the labor force is not alienated from their work. 

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