The Montreal Grand Prix is always noisy. First, there are the rather loud Formula 1 engines revving on Ile Notre-Dame at the event itself on Sunday. Then there are the street parties all weekend on a blocked off Crescent and more recently lower Saint-Laurent as well. And, of course, there are the protests.
As in previous years, people will be out in force against the hyper-capitalism intrinsic to the event. One of the things many protesters argue the F1 promotes, including those who put together this Critical Mass event, is sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
Montreal-based sex workers’ rights organization Stella is, of course, also against sexual exploitation and human trafficking, but feels that during the Grand Prix, sex work is unfortunately conflated with trafficking in quite a bit of the protest messaging. They have launched a social media poster campaign to counter this perception.
In a press release, they argue that:
“(The Grand Prix) brings with it exaggerated and unfounded claims of an increase in human trafficking, and youth and sexual exploitation. In more recent years it has also resulted in increased police repression and surveillance of people working in the sex industry and our clients. Amidst this flurry of attention, sex workers in Montreal are placed at greater risk of violence as they undertake working practices to avoid police detection, that put our security at risk.”
– Stella press release
This evokes a similar style to that used by Femen’s Grand Prix protests: topless women with messages written on their bodies. What’s different with Stella’s campaign is that the women’s faces and nipples are covered and the messages are against the criminalization of sex work, a.k.a. prohibition.
(* Ed’s note: We mentioned Femen just so it was clear that this campaign wasn’t at all the same as that group’s stunt at last year’s Grand Prix, but Stella made quite a good and correct point: “Is it our campaign that is reminiscent of Femen’s or is it Femen who appropriates our culture and fails to recognize the work of all the sex workers who have been pioneers of toplessness and of using breasts to subvert patriarchy?”)
Will this campaign help change the messaging of anti-Grand Prix protests? Given some of the comments already on event pages that argue against lumping sex work in with exploitation and trafficking, it’s possible that it could tip the balance by giving those comments a unified voice.
Will this campaign get lost in the shuffle? Given the huge amount of attention paid to the Grand Prix as well as the multitude of divergent protests, that is possible as well.
One thing is for sure: the Grand Prix will be at least a little louder this year.