Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Power of Words: Humor & Prostitution v. Trafficking

Posted by: Sabrina, HWRC President (

Ah, les mots. Las palabras. WORD(s). Their etymologies clues to our culture, their use evidence of their power. There is no such thing as "just sayin'" (I'm looking at you, CNN). We all know how strong humor can be -- I remember someone asking the following at the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Young Women's Leadership conference:
How do you handle sexist humor?
Simple answer, really. In this case, fight fire with fire. Chris Brown joke?
1. Laugh along, and then finish with, "Oh, domestic violence! So funny. Abusive relationships do it to me every time!"
2. Pretend to wipe away tears.
3. Make sure everyone feels as uncomfortable as you just did.
4. Walk away.

Sarcasm is my favorite way of saying, "Bish plz."


But what do you do when the words aren't humorous? Take it from a girl who's hoping to go to law school: Words are path-marks for a line of reasoning. You hear it all the time.
Liberals say: Health insurance reform, undocumented immigrants, pro-choice, anti-choice
Conservatives say: Obamacare, illigal immigrants, baby killers, pro-life
This is why the headlines for Fox and MSNBC vary so greatly: They are not neutral.

For these reasons I support GEMS and Transitions Global in calling out The Portland Mercury. Their front-page article (on the web, I do not know about their print edition) is entitled "Confessions of a Teenage Prostitute."

I do not believe that criminalizing prostitution has helped women in the past; in fact, I believe the opposite.

However -- forced prostitution and trafficking are different issues. The Portland Mercury article itself says,
"In many ways, Kendall's experience is typical of underage girls forced into prostitution. She had no control over her daily activities. She was afraid to leave for fear her pimp would track her and her family down. She was manipulated by a man who knew just how to charm her."
[emphasis mine]

Is this prostitution? Or is this coercion, kidnapping, and rape? How can a sixteen-year-old in Portland be a prostitute if she can't even consent to the sex she's being paid to have (the age of consent in Oregon is 18). She can't. And so I applaud GEMS and Transitions Global for having a good eye and a sharp mind.

1 comment:

  1. people like nothing more than vicarious titillation and that's what's so vile about some of this reporting. It's like the scene in little miss sunshine where the young girl's dance is seen as so scandalous because she is epitomising what the other girls are doing but dressing up in denial! I love that movie. Keep on the ball...keep making your voices heard and let's keep these issues well separated, as they should be.