Over at Tits and Sass, Peechington Marie wonders why Maya Angelou’s life as a sex worker in her younger years is such a closely guarded secret. The answer: respectability politics.
First, it’s important to note that Dr. Angelou wasn’t ashamed of her sex work. In fact, she said the following:
I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, “I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? — never I. I have no skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet.” They lie like that and then young people find themselves in situations and they think, “Damn I must be a pretty bad guy. My mom or dad never did anything wrong.” They can’t forgive themselves and go on with their lives. So I wrote the book Gather Together in My Name [about her past as a sex worker]
So why isn’t that part of the story that’s being told in the wake of her passing? Marie writes:
It comes to this: there is no way, in the minds of most people, to have worked as a prostitute and not be ashamed of it. Most people believe there is no way to have held this job (and it is a job), move onto other things, and not consider it a “seamy life” or “shameful secret.” To most people, there is no way a woman of Maya Angelou’s caliber could ever have performed as a sex worker. The idea just won’t gel for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth. Maya Angelou: Poet Laureate, Pulitzer nominee, Tony Award winner, best selling author, poetess, winner of more than 50 honorary degrees, mother, sister, daughter, wife, National Medal of Arts winner, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, consummate and powerful woman, artist, and former sex worker. Yes, the woman you love, the woman we all love, the incomparable Dr. Maya Angelou was a sex worker and she proved, in her life and her stories, that there’s nothing wrong with it.
Read more over at Tits and Sass.