Sunday, April 19, 2015

"I'm Not Your Bad Apple."

By Annie Temple

Day one of the experiment called: Do words physically hurt? Two halves of the same apple sitting side by side - To one you speak kind, loving, happy words. The other gets anger, criticism, and mean words. What will be the outcome?
When I began the apple experiment, I did not know what to expect. Although the article that inspired me to try it showed obvious results, I must admit I had doubts. Could words hurt that bad?

The purpose of the experiment was to find out if words could affect an apple physically. I think there were more than just words involved.

Other factors to consider were the tones of voice I used, the volume and energy I directed at the apples, and even the happy and sad faces drawn on the plastic wrap so I would know which apple was which.

I felt bad being mean to the bad apple, so I mainly tried using an angry tone of voice. I sang softly and lovingly to the happy apple and growled angrily and loudly at the bad apple.

Within one day, I saw a difference.  The "happy apple," as I had come to refer to it, was happy. Not a spot or imperfection anywhere to be seen.

"Happy Apple"
The "bad apple," whom I repeatedly told how bad it really was, was already beginning to rot on its left side. Brown lines and spots spread out all over it.

"Bad Apple"
Four days later, the difference was even more profound. The bad apple developed a noticeable rot spot.

Day 6 - Bad Apple is much browner and has a rotten spot. No rotten spots anywhere on Happy Apple.
I conducted the experiment for eleven days, until I'd had enough of rotting apple in my kitchen. The outcome was obvious.

Day 11 - How we speak to living organisms matters.

SUCCESS! The happy apple had a bit of brown but continued to be firm and smooth. The bad apple was wrinkled, brown all over, and rotting extensively. We proved that words, anger, and general negativity does indeed have devastating physical effects on the recipient.

This experiment was fun to do and it demonstrated an important lesson about how the way we treat others can impact their physical health.

But I learned so much more. I learned that everything that comes out of my mouth matters. I can either build people up or tear them down and that is exactly what I do every time I open my mouth. There are no neutral words when you are directing them at someone.

I began to notice how other people's words made me feel. I found myself empathizing with the bad apple. Like when someone would speak to me with a negative tone or words, I would say, "I'm not your bad apple!"

I also became very aware of what I said and how I said it - usually too late to check myself. I was appalled at how often I use sarcasm. I was also appalled at how I caught myself talking to MYSELF. I'd mistakenly believed I was rather good at positive self-talk. 

It turns out I treat myself like a bad apple more than I'd like to admit.

But what, might you ask, does this have to do with the sex industry???

The apple experiment gave me plenty of food for thought. In particular, I thought about how words and even sounds affected me as a striptease artist. I remember feeling like a happy apple...

...during the applause after my shows
...being welcomed back to a club I liked working at
...laughing with the other dancers in the change room
...being told to "have a good show" by my colleagues
...receiving emails of support for our annual cancer fundraiser from square folk
...being told by a T.A. in Women's Studies at SFU that there is feminist literature by sex industry workers and I am not alone
...being told I am appreciated for my activism
...getting a compliment on my new costume, or my dance ability, or my smile, or my music
...learning from my accountant that I can write off make-up, shoes, and blank CDs

And I remember feeling like a bad apple...

...being told to "grow some boobs" by a guy in front row
...having the DJ give me shit right before going on stage
...being warned that my ex could get full custody of our child because I'm nothing but a fucking stripper
...being accused of purposely trying to hurt my mother and told "I don't know you anymore" because I was a stripper
...being accused of perpetuating rape and told I could not be a feminist and a stripper at the same time
...being reprimanded for complimenting another student's cleavage when I was going to college
...having playdates cancelled after my job status was revealed by another mom
...being "asked" by a co-worker at my practicum if I was a stripper because she'd seen me on TV being interviewed and already told everyone in the office about my other job
...having the name plate in front of my cubicle changed to "Media & Pubic Relations" and then no one coming forward to admit to the joke

After pondering these memories, it occurred to me that all of my happy apple moments involved unconditional acceptance of me and the work I was doing.

My bad apple moments, on the other hand, were predominantly caused by judgment based on stigma. In fact, excluding a drunk asshole (or two) in front row and a DJ (or two) with ego issues, ALL of my bad apple moments were stigma-induced.

Come to think of it, the drunk asshole might have been responding to stigma too, thinking he had a right to bully me because I was a lowly stripper. Alas, we will never know if it was stigma talking or booze combined with a weak personality. Let's assume it was both.

Even the time I was "warned" by an instructor for complimenting my classmate's cleavage, it was stigma that singled me out. Many, much more "sexual" comments were made among my classmates and yet, only the stripper got warned. (In my line of work, boobs are an acceptable topic of conversation and sex has nothing to do with it.)

When it comes down to it, being stigmatized is like wearing bad words all over your body. But the words can only be seen through discrimination spectacles. When the spectacles are removed, the bad words disappear.

Which brings us full circle, right back to the person saying (or seeing) the words. I hope a SWERF (or two) read this article and learn something about themselves. I hope they realize that the words they see on my body are actually written on the inside of their discrimination spectacles.

Look at me without the stigma. See me for who I really am. Recognize how words have been used to tear me down. Recognize how words have been used to destroy lives. Words hurt. Stigma kills.

"I'm not your bad apple."  (And stripping was the best job I ever had.)

#notyourrescueproject  #stigmakills

About the Author

Annie Temple is the stage and writing name of Trina Ricketts. Trina has 17 years experience as a striptease artist and 15 years as a sex worker rights activist, but she's been a rebel all her life. In 2000, she founded to support other entertainers by reducing isolation, educating about health and safety, sharing information about gigs, challenging stereotypes, teaching etiquette to customers, and organizing in-person events for charity and to promote ethical businesses in the industry. Some of the groups and functions that Trina is associated with are Exotic Dancers for Cancer (now BoobaPalooza), The Naked Truth Adult Entertainment Awards, Trade Secrets Guide, BC Coalition of Experiential Communities, Canadian Union of Naked Trades, as well as several community sex worker supportive organizations. Trina is a mom of three, a lover of writing and dancing. Currently she continues to run and recently she founded Digital Activist Media - a project to investigate digital activism strategies and share them with other change-makers. Trina's activism efforts have expanded to include many issues, but her main activities involve sex worker and health freedom rights.

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