About Speak Up! March 24th, 2009

Speak Up! Media Skills for the Empowered Sex Worker” is a day-long seminar offered by the New York-based organization Sex Work Awareness (SWA). The workshop is based on $pread Magazine’s successful “Journalism for Sex Workers” training, which was developed by two of SWA’s founders in July 2006 for the “Revisioning Prostitution Policy: Creating Space for Sex Worker Rights and Challenging Criminalization” Desiree Alliance conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The impetus for developing the seminar was based on a real need expressed by members of our community for more resources and skills training on how to (a) respond to media requests effectively and safely, (b) engage with the mainstream media in order to get a particular message out, and (c) create our own media products. Sex workers, like many other marginalized communities, find the mainstream media a crucial site of resistance due to the harmful misrepresentations and stereotypes that it promulgates. This is especially true when the job the sex worker does is illegal and becomes further compounded by factors such as race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, relative poverty, drug use, family status, immigration status, and age. All too often, sex workers simply choose not to engage with the media due to potential social and legal repercussions or sex workers get in over their heads and are unwittingly exploited by the media without getting anything out of it.

Our seminar utilizes popular education techniques and teaches sex workers how to evaluate media requests and to formulate strategic responses to the media in a variety of formats. Sex worker participants learn to write press releases, op-ed pieces, and letters to the editor, build a press list, pitch a story to a reporter, and pitch their own freelance journalism to an editor. Attendees also get a crash course on how to start their own podcast, blog, or video podcast. Additionally, seminars will contain practical hands-on activities (for instance, we will blog during the workshop) and role plays (like video taping a simulated interview with a television reporter). We will also have participants look to already existing nationally-focused sex worker media (blogs like Bound Not Gagged, internet radio like SWIRL, and print publications like $pread Magazine) and talk about how sex workers can contribute to these and other national efforts.

This is a day-long seminar in which meals will be provided. The workshop is limited to ten participants on the basis of a submitted application; each participant will receive a Flip camera and a $50 stipend. Only self-identified current and former sex workers are invited to apply, to ensure that all feel comfortable during the seminar. The workshop is lead by two English speakers, so participants must be fluent in English.

The flagship workshop in this series will be given on April 18th in New York City. We are planning on traveling to other cities – if you are not in the New York City area but are interested in participating in a future workshop, please get in touch.

Questions? Email us at info [at] sexworkawareness.org

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