Via Jezebel via Wired, comes news of a platform shoe designed for sex workers* that contains a gps device that can contact the police or a sex worker advocacy group in the event of trouble. The shoe is part of an art exhibit from The Aphrodite Project, and is described as “a social sculpture: an interactive, wearable device that is a conceptual homage to the cult of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, a practical object for contemporary sex workers, and a vehicle for public dialogue.”
I’m extremely skeptical of anybody who romanticizes modern prostitution, and frankly I would bet that in deeply misogynist ancient Greece it was no picnic for women either, no matter how hard we may wish it to be otherwise. Although the artist claims that these shoes are “designed to meet the needs of today’s sex workers,” I’m thinking that maybe if they put this technology in a nondescript sneaker (because I’d bet most johns bent on harming a prostituted woman are going to find a way to part her from her fancy high-tech shoes before they can do anything useful, and I’d bet a sneaker is a more common and practical footwear choice for women trapped in street prostitution. I notice that “comfort” was not a concern here, either) and handed it out for free (because most prostituted women don’t have their own disposable income to spend on their own safety needs), or better yet put their energy into creating a society in which it’s not okay to brutalize and murder women based on patriarchal assumptions of ownership and dominion of women’s bodies, their efforts might be a little more useful. And given the level of control that pimps exert over prostituted women, what’s to stop them from using this ridiculous shoe as yet another way to limit their movement and prevent them from escaping him?
Ah well. I don’t suppose I should be surprised that something created and designed by a prostitution apologist as an art project should be ultimately impractical for prostituted women.
*I intentionally use “sex workers” instead of “prostituted women” (which is my term of choice because 1) advocates for prostituted women, many of whom have escaped from prostitution themselves, prefer that term and I respect their experience; and 2) I believe it to be more accurate (you’re not a worker if somebody else gets your wages – you’re a slave)) here because the woman who embodies the conception of “sex worker,” whether realistic or representative or not, is the designer’s intended end-user for this item.