Rita Therese is is a sex worker, artist, writer and the author of Come: A memoir
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is so complicated and nuanced that I would struggle to find a one-size-fits-all type approach, but for me and my current understanding of feminism it is the theory attached to it. When I studied philosophy was my first academic introduction to feminism and it helped me to see the structures in society that benefited from a different perspective- such as the environment, ecology, opportunity and equality. My feminism is always linked to supporting and furthering all the intersections within the movement.
Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
There have been so many, but it would be difficult to pinpoint. The one that first comes to mind is when RMIT held a panel and talk called ‘Invisible Women’, which was protested by a sex worker peer org I was involved in. I remember the disdain and aggression that came from the ‘feminists’ who were leading the discussion, and their open hostility towards the sex workers protesting. I had never experienced such open hatred from women. That was when I realised that feminist theory and its practice varied vastly, and it pushed me to rethink major second and third wave feminist theories that contribute to the stigmatism of sex workers.
How do you feel contemporary feminism does or does not make space for sex workers and contribute to the ways in which sex work remains a mainstream societal taboo?
I think in gender studies within academia, there is still a plethora of funding and money given to academics who have an agenda regarding the abolition of sex work, and who operate under the guise of feminist learning. I would never encroach on the liberty of free speech, as I believe in it as an important tool, but I would like to see tertiary institutes giving sex worker academics the same opportunities to enter the discussion, conduct research, be peer reviewed and have their work financially supported.
What key insights would you share for others who are grappling with a multiplicity of selves and roles and the ways trauma might impact navigating this?
Find a safe place where you can be you, even just for a small while, before you have to don the mask again. Find childhood hobbies you loved and had to give up and take them up again. Surround yourself with friends who love you for you.
Which women, queer, or non-binary writers should everyone be reading right now?
I just recently finished Three Women by Lisa Taddeo and I thought it was brilliant.