Newcastle My whistle-stop tour of England and Scotland is finally winding down but doing so with a roar. In Newcastle a great crowd, breaking fifty people, streamed into the “proper” cinema at the Side Gallery, grabbing samosas and drinking box wine before the screening of “The Organizer.” As a special treat, I got to sit in on a leadership organizing committee meeting before the screening, allowing me to get a sense of what was really happening with Newcastle ACORN and to observe the leaders in action along with ACORN’s organizer, Tom Scott.
The first item on the agenda was proof positive that I have been traveling too long, because someone it had slipped by me that an action by ACORN Newcastle had been on the BBC just last week as I was coming into the country. An agenda time entitled “BBC Sex for Rent,” immediately catches your eye!
The report from one of the leaders, who had acted as a “decoy,” surrounded by Tom and other members in a café, as reported on the video by BBC, indicated that a landlord showed up who had responded to a craigslist posting. ACORN had been hearing about this problem and had a member post the need for a room in the soaring rental market and the fact that temporarily she was short of money. There was no artifice in the landlord’s reply, since he had directly responded that he would furnish a room in exchange for “occasional sex.” No misunderstanding such a reply! When he realized he was also being filmed, he bolted, and then was convinced to come back, arguing lamely that it wasn’t so much sex, but “companionship” he was seeking, which has to count as one of the lamest lies by a landlord ever. If he had wanted simply companionship, he could have replied in that vein and willingly offered a spare room to someone in need, rather than stating flatly the exchange for his generosity would be sleeping with him from time to time.
Other women at the leadership meeting shared their stories of looking for rent in various cities and being directly or subtly propositioned by landlords in the same way. ACORN has opened up an issue that is likely a #MeToo moment for many women in our membership and constituency who seem easy prey when they were wishing, as Langston Hughes wrote, “that rent were heaven sent.”
I would bet many meetings would find women testifying about similar cases, and once our members started talking about landlords, employers and others would likely be on the list. If predators with slightly more power can exploit women in big business and Hollywood, it boggles the mind and enrages the soul to thing how often this is part of the daily experience of women with less income and power.
Cheers to ACORN Newcastle for breaking this wide open!