Rudy Giuliani's smear against sex workers is more common than you think. Let's fix that.

Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, went off on Stormy Daniels in a recent interview.

Appearing at a summit in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 6, the former mayor of New York City fielded a question about Daniels by saying she's not a credible person and suggesting she's lying about having had an affair with Trump.

"Because the business you were in entitles you to no degree of giving your credibility any weight," he says, referencing her work as an actress in adult films. "I'm sorry, I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who ... isn't going to sell her body for sexual exploitation."


"I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance." GIF via AP/YouTube.

Naturally there was some immediate backlash, with people slamming Giuliani's comments as misogynistic and demeaning.

Giuliani doubled down. "If you're involved in a sort of slimy business, (that) says something about you — says something about how far you'll go to make money," he told CNN's Dana Bash. "Our real point about her is that she's not just generally un-credible, she's un-credible from the point of view of wanting to get money. She's a con artist."

On the June 7 edition of "The View," hosts Meghan McCain and Whoopi Goldberg explained exactly what's wrong with saying someone lacks credibility because of a career in sex work.

"A lot of [sex workers] have put their kids through college; they have had incredible lives and gone on to do all kinds of stuff," Goldberg said. "So, the mere fact that you [Giuliani] would make such a blanket statement about someone you don't know, who does something you seemingly know nothing about, seems kind of shocking. ... I feel like you need to grow up. Grow up."

One of the better deconstructions of Giuliani's comments came from porn performer Sydney Leathers.

In a sarcasm-laden blog post for Washington Babylon, Leathers took jabs at Giuliani for talking about women as though we've traveled 50 years into the past.

"A porn star can still be a career woman/woman of substance," Leathers wrote. "To imply otherwise is narrow minded and misogynistic. Rudy and Trump are not men of substance so I'm not sure where they get off judging others on this."

Giuliani's views are, unfortunately, pretty common. But they don't have to be.

Sex work is work. Whether or not a job is "glamorous" or not is beside the point. Imagine applying that standard to any other industry, asking accountants how they can take part in an industry that doesn't have "glamour" or chiding someone for taking a data entry gig "just because they need the money." But misconceptions of sex work — that porn must be bad because it doesn't live up to some arbitrary standard or assuming people involved in the industry are unsuccessful, unsophisticated, and uneducated — are pervasive in our culture.

"It's not only common for people in the sex industry to be underestimated, our deaths are routinely used as punchlines," Leathers says. "Literally right now I'm sitting here watching season 4 episode 1 of 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' and they kill off a stripper for a cheap laugh."

She goes on to list Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and Patton Oswalt as ostensibly progressive comedians who've used the death of sex workers as punchlines.

"Imagine if these jokes were made about the deaths of any other group of people," Leather says, frustrated. "And we are a group that is killed at an alarmingly high rate, so it's really not a joke, and it's not funny. It's unacceptable."

She adds, "I'm sure some people will read 'sex workers are murdered at alarmingly high rates' and think, 'Wow, women shouldn't get into sex work then!' But maybe men just shouldn't kill us? It's like the 'don't wear a short skirt if you don't want to get raped' argument."

Photo courtesy of Sydney Leathers.

Changing this culture of condescension begins with the media we consume.

"I think the biggest thing people could do [is] stop laughing at those kinds of jokes. Stop retweeting those jokes. And tell the writers of that type of content that it's not funny and it's not OK," Leathers says.

"The View" segment gave her a bit of hope. It was just five years ago that Leathers was one of the women involved in a political scandal people were talking about on TV, and when she made the decision to pursue a career in porn, the reaction was negative.

A few years ago, she notes, that segment wouldn't have happened. "Thomas Roberts called me batshit crazy live on MSNBC for deciding to do porn, and no one said a word," says Leathers. "So there is a cultural shift starting to happen now — even though there has been recent legislation targeting sex work. We just need to keep standing up whenever people are being blatantly disrespectful and damaging."

There's nothing wrong with porn or the people who work in the industry.

Giuliani's statements are sexist and he's using his platform to diminish sex work. We'd also probably be a lot better off if we could stop making "dead hooker" jokes. Easy enough, right?

For more reasons for why porn is actually OK, we've published a whole list.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less