Updated: Feb 28, 2019
On the 25th of February Wonda Women had another edition of its monthly informal networking dinners at the office of Mama Cash, in which we had the honour of having Vera Rodriguez as our honorary guest.
Vera Rodriguez, who was born in Spain where she graduated in Journalism, currently works at the Red Umbrella Fund since August 2017 as a Program Associate. In 2000 she moved to London and worked in a Peep Show in Soho to pay for her BA in Photographic Arts at Westminster University. The following years she combined studying, travelling, taking pictures and stripping around Europe. In 2011 she volunteered as a photographer for the First Sex Worker Film festival in London and since then, she has combined activism, art, photography and sex work. In 2012 she presented ‘Looking In, Looking Out’ pictures from the Red Light district of Belgium, during the launch of an Z-A for Sex Workers, produced by the English Collective of Prostitutes. She is an active member of X-talk organisation for over 8 years and has been very involved with East London Strippers Collective for which she curated the art display of “The Art of Stripping’ –as part of a two week festival at the Red Gallery in Shoreditch. Furthermore, Vera is a cast member of the Sex Workers Opera, has produced some of its imagery and has shot feminist porn for Erika Lust productions (you can find some of her work here).
It is safe to say that due to Vera's presence, the dinner could not have been anything more than fascinating, inspiring and bounding. Starting with our usual 'introduction round', it already became quite evident that most attendees came for Vera and the role she has played in her sex work activism, particularly in London. The evening was filled with interesting discussions that touched upon the intersection of the experience of sex workers, feminism and art.
Some of the insights we'd like to share with you:
Vera has used art, and in specific photography, in her work to undermine the binary between the 'good woman' and the 'bad women'. By photographing the experience of sex workers, from the experience of the sex worker she tried to 'shoot back' at the stigma surrounding Sex Work.
Art can really shift someone and change their opinion. It works on the imaginary, as bell hooks teaches us: “The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is - it’s to imagine what is possible.”
For Vera, art has worked therapeutical. It was a way to sometimes break out of the solitude and connect with others.
Sharing views, amongst other things, is the right ground for a political base. For example, Vera had co-organised 'Pole Studies' for nearly 3 years in London together with a friend. This were pole dance classes for sex workers and allies. Although pole dancing became very hip the past few years, think about the pole dance classes in gyms for example, such classes were barely accessible for those working in the sex work industry. The space, brought sex workers together with feminists and allies from different organisations, sharing views amongst different people and enabling relations which still are present nowadays.
At last but not least:
Everyone has a story, an every story matters.
We'd like to thank Vera, the participants and Mama Cash for another wonda-ful dinner.