We put all of our effort into changing laws, policies and the minds of society while we are battling the sex trade industry. But there are others that are fighting against us. We are not all “united” in this war in ending human trafficking, in fact we have leaks that have turned into gapping holes. With so many women and girls caught up in the commercial sex industry, their voices are being stifled by the shouts of women’s sexual empowerment and entitlement that do not fit every situation. The world of feminism seems to be selective. Then again so does the world of fighting sexual slavery. When posters go up to bring awareness and education to communities about human trafficking, they’re often depicting a young, skinny, attractive white girl. This young woman is either on a floor or a bed, scantily clad or just plain naked. And if that doesn’t make you understand, let’s wrap some heavy chains on her wrists and ankles, that should make anyone want to support the cause. Right? Wrong.
More often than naught the young women that are entrapped in human trafficking are girls of color and they did not get picked up from a model shoot. These are REAL girls, as real as they come. No matter what age they are, they look like your sister, cousin, aunt, mother and grandmother. They’re bodies are not toned and perfect, these are women who have been used over and over again. How toned and perfect do you think a woman will look after been treated like an animal and deemed useless to the world? There has been scrutiny expressed towards these types of awareness campaigns, but to no avail. I still see them everywhere and it’s like people have given up on trying to change that image and all other images that depict human trafficking as a certain “type” of woman. It’s probably because there are those of us that feel it’s better to help the actual girls instead of getting involved in what some think is a petty issue. But that petty issue can poison society as to what a human trafficking victim looks like or how she is treated and in the end my friends, that will make our job that much harder.
Enter Hollywood. This has been the bane of my existence ever since I started working closely with this issue and the women and girls involved. I sometimes have a hard time watching television or even some movies. In just about every tv show there is some inappropriate reference to a woman selling herself and to a man buying her and a “Badass” woman revealing she was a Madame and had girls under her, because you know, it’s funny and cool. And the there’s Hollywood movies. I say this with the most heaviest of hearts and loudest of sighs, Taken 1, 2 and maybe even 3. (I’m sure there gearing up for that so some out of work actors can make a comeback & think they’re fighting a social issue). The blatant inaccuracies and inequities of these movies are stunning. The only slightly (and I mean slightly) good thing these movies do is open up society’s mind to the issue, albeit not realistically but somewhat none the less. When someone says to me that they saw a movie about trafficking called Taken, first I cringe but then I realize it’s not their fault, then I begin the re-education process. Some get it and some just want to live in the fantasy Hollywood created. Some Hollywood actors who need an image boost or just attention in general, will take up the cause of human trafficking and swoop in as if they are the hero and the ONLY one who can stop the modern day slavery epidemic. We see people such as Ashton Kutcher speaking on panels he really has no business being on, talking statistics he has no justification for and basically falsifying information that was not approved by law enforcement all the while never hearing survivor voices. Because it’s all about him and look what he did! Some may argue that he’s getting the message out to the generation that doesn’t know. But what kind of message is that exactly? There are grassroots, boots on the ground professionals that actually WORK on the issue filling schools and places where young people are to educate them on human trafficking. Also, survivors are speaking more and more. This is where they should learn about human trafficking. Ashton Kutcher will not be able to tell young girls that they are more at risk for being trafficked and how to avoid it. He doesn’t have the capacity to give workshops on trauma, PTSD and violent relationships. Really? This is where you want young people to get there information from? That’s like a young person learning about love watching pornography. It’s not real and it will damage you severely.
Music Industry. There is a lot to say about this and almost none of it is good. It’s important to understand that women who chose to be an artist don’t necessarily sign up to be a sexual object. But that’s the price of fame right? You want to be popular, on everyone’s mind, sell a lot of music and sell out shows so you have to sell yourself as well. Of course it’s not the same for men, they get to wear clothes. Depiction and image has a lot to do with product. If it’s a female music video with a woman singing or rapping she is rarely dressed with other girls wearing even less around her and are considered “less than” compared to her. Image is not the only thing, what she says is just as important. It’s empowering for a woman to talk about how she can sexually please her man while he degrades her and how she’s above all other women. The male music video paints a much darker picture. The women are practically naked and at their feet as is popular with rappers like PitBull, while they talk about how worthless she is and that she is only there to satisfy his twisted sexual desires. And that is just about EVERY music video now. The dehumanization of women and girls in the music industry has gotten more lascivious over the decades. All of this fuels the idea that it’s cool to act like these women in the videos and that they’re really happy. This marketing strategy is not only geared toward young women, it’s young women of color especially those that come from dysfunctional families and poverty. It doesn’t stop at the music, the way the girls are dressed or not dressed in the videos are being sold as fashion in stores. Girl’s are buying it because they want that look, they feel it makes them look beautiful because they’ve never known their own worth. Through no fault of her own she can find herself in a situation of entrapment and not know how to get out. She thinks she looks beautiful but traffickers see something else. They see a young women who puts all of her worth in her body and using that for attention, so they will look to capitalize off of that. Unfortunately, they usually do. Fashion and music have been a couple since inception, this pair has become toxic.
Pornography. I think this should be self explanatory. If it’s not then talk to a marriage that has been destroyed by it or a child whose parent, religious leader, family member or friend molested them because of it.
In this fight we are not just up against a $150 billion industry that is selling the bodies of women and girls, we are fighting systems put in place to feed this machine. It’s a battle to the death.