Last Saturday, New York paramedic Lauren Kwei was outed as an OnlyFans model by the New York Post. Kwei, barely making ends meet on her paramedic salary, had turned somewhat reluctantly to selling nudes on OnlyFans for money to pay her bills. For some reason the New York Post decided that this was their business, posting an article they presumably knew could get her fired from her job.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the slut-shaming. The internet rallied around Kwei, castigating the Post for its sleazy tactics. None other than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave her a twitter shout out and a supportive telephone call. And supporters set up a GoFundMe for her, which at last count had raised more than $86,000, which should go a long way towards making up from the lost income from her now-shuttered OnlyFans page. She still has her paramedic job.
Instead of tut-tutting over Kwei’s sex work, internetters focused instead on the shitty working conditions and poor wages of paramedics and EMTs that had led Kwei to seek to supplement her income in the first place. And it turned out that she was quite an eloquent, if accidental, labor activist, explaining in an interview with Rolling Stone and in a bylined piece in The Independent just how precarious life as a firsr responder can be. Kwei, who began her medical career as an EMT, noted in her Independent piece that
[m]any … EMTs and paramedics have more than one job and work over 50 hours a week to support their families. I’ve seen people work 16 hours in a row at one job, then go work another eight hours at another out of necessity. Starting EMTs get paid $15 an hour and EMS workers are the worst-paid first responders in New York City.
New York city paramedics don’t do that much better, getting by on $25 per hour in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
She wrote of the horrors of working as a paramedic in the midst of a pandemic.
I held the hands of dying people who could not hold the hands of their spouses, children, siblings, and friends. I listened to the president of the United States say on TV that all the hospitals and healthcare workers had everything they needed, while I was using a weeks-old N95 mask and waiting for a ventilator the hospital didn’t have for my patient. And at the end of every day, I came home to an empty apartment where I cried about the state of our world while sanitising my equipment.
This is the woman that the New York Post thought was worthy of a public shaming. Shame on them.
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