The Women’s March was founded in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, with the aim of “dismantling systems of oppression” and “building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity, and respect.” Yet since then, the group has been mired in controversy over its unsavory associations, a Who’s Who of hard-left radicals and haters, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Lenin Peace Prize winner and friend of East Germany Angela Davis, and convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Yousef Odeh.
Monday brought more reasons to doubt the March’s commitment to one of the groups it claims to speak for: abused and exploited women and girls. How else to explain the March’s decision to denounce the recent U.S. government crackdown against the website Backpage?
On Friday, federal law enforcers seized the website and raided the Arizona home of one of its founders. That action followed months of pressure from lawmakers and activists, who alleged that Backpage facilitates prostitution and the trafficking of women and girls. Backpage earlier this year removed its adult section, but many of the same postings migrated to other parts of the site. According to the New York Times, some ads “included what child advocates said were code words for underage girls, including ‘Amber Alert.'”
Backpage and its founders will have their day in court; they deserve a presumption of innocence. Even so, it speaks to the Women’s March’s strange ideological priorities that the group rushed to defend Backpage on Twitter: “The shutting down of #Backpage is an absolute crisis for sex workers who rely on the site to safely get in touch with clients. Sex workers rights are women’s rights.”
Come again? The rights of the prostitution industry–for that is what we are discussing, a vast and seedy global enterprise–most certainly don’t override the rights of exploited and abused women and girls. Or at least, they shouldn’t, in a morally ordered worldview. As the feminist U.K. journalist Julie Bindel noted in a landmark Spectator report last year, euphemisms such as “sex work” and “happy hooker” mask a grimy reality: “Women and girls in prostitution are overwhelmingly from abusive backgrounds, living in poverty, and otherwise marginalised. They are not free or empowered: they are abused and trapped. . . . It is not ‘sex work’. Most of the time, it is modern slavery.”
Most jarring of all is the March’s refusal to even mention the downsides of Backpage and its alleged role in sex trafficking. Then again, this is a salutary, clarifying moment: Anti-Trump women who have so far ignored or tolerated the group’s ideological extremism now have no excuse.