This American Life Lawyers Force This American Whore Podcast to Change Its Name

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Local sex work activist Siouxsie Q announced today that she has decided to resolve her conflict with Chicago Public Media and Ira Glass by changing the name of her podcast from This American Whore to The Whorecast.

See Also: This American Life Tells Local Podcaster: No Whores Allowed

Ira Glass Responds to SF Weekly 's Post on This American Whore Podcast

Glass and CPM, who jointly own his acclaimed radio program, This American Life, threatened legal action against Siouxsie Q earlier this year, claiming that This American Whore was infringing on their trademark. The conflict inspired highly emotional debate last month about the proper limits of trademark rights and the difficulties sex workers face in trying to make their voices heard in public. On Tuesday, Glass and CPM's lawyers sent Siouxsie Q a letter giving her a deadline: The name needed to be changed before the release of her ninth episode next week. On the advice of her lawyer, Q decided to go ahead with the name change.

After all the controversy and emotion over the matter of This American Whore's name, Siouxsie Q is taking the name change with surprising calm, grace, and even humor. A lot of sex workers and their allies have expressed resentment against CPM and Glass. Although there was a tinge of regret in Q's voice when she talked to The Exhibitionist today, the first thing she said about the change was "This American Life was very kind to us.... They were very communicative through this whole process."

"I feel okay about it," Siouxsie Q says. "I don't feel like I got kicked down by the man, or anything like that. I just feel like it was a situation and it was handled correctly. Of course it's not ideal to have to change your name before you reach your 10th episode, but I think our content is strong enough and our fan base is loyal and we will persevere and continue to see a lot of success, even under the new name."

Rebranding is a problem for any product, even if it's just a podcast that you put together in your apartment for no money. Fortunately for Siouxsie Q and the other members of her team, Whorecast was already a common secondary name for This American Whore among its staff and followers. "Whorecast is a name that has almost chosen itself," Q says. "We have started calling it that within the podcast, we call the studio Whorecast Central; it just fits. But the mission is still the same."

But the old name did have some very strong implications related to what Siouxsie Q wants to say about sex work, both personally and as an activist. Traditionally, sex work is depicted as something that you do when you've fallen as far from grace as a person possibly could. For Siouxsie Q, it's been her personal route to the American Dream.

"This American Whore really reflects my personal experience with choosing sex work.... It's been a hugely positive part of my life and has allowed me to do better for myself than the folks that came before me." Whether as This American Whore or as The Whorecast, Siouxsie Q wants herself and other sex workers to be seen as part of America, not as symbols of its failure.

"It's about showcasing hard-working, honest Americans who do sex work, and are part of what we call the United States of America, yet are not treated as full citizens. We don't have the rights, but by god, we should."

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She admits that the need to change the name at the last minute caused "a bit of scramble," and this weekend she and her team are in the process of moving the podcast's website from thisamericanwhore.com to thewhorecast.com. And they're even expanding the brand with an adult content sister site now under development called All-American Whore. She describes the new site as "basically cum shots and revolution."

The final resolution to the battle between This American Whore and This American Life feels surprisingly amicable, but it still serves as a good case study of just how weird trademark and copyright laws are in the U.S. Had Siouxsie made her podcast more like This American Life, it probably would have been protected as a parody.

When Ira Glass issued a statement following The Exhibitionist's first article, he was not only diplomatic, but praised the program as "charming." He even hinted at the possibility of future collaboration: "If I lose this job and become a sex worker," Glass wrote, "I hope you'll have me on as a guest." But the Whorecast team wants Glass to know that he has an open invitation, regardless of his employment. In a statement of their own today, the Whorecast team says, "We have a huge amount of respect for [Glass's] work on This American Life and would like to extend an invitation to have him on The Whorecast any time -- no sex worker status or job loss required."

We hope he takes them up on it.

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