5 Reasons I’m Here for Beyonce the Feminist
After reading the above article and discussing Beyonce’s new album in class I have somehow gained even more respect for her, which i didn’t think was possible. Her new visual album is so empowering of young women and influences gender equality. Beyonce is obviously a strong, inspiring female figure to young women everywhere, but her self-titled album takes female empowerment to the next level. She not only encourages women to be themselves and resist the pressures of our toxic society, but she tells the stories of how she herself came to learn these life lessons in her videos.
In class we discussed how much the media and society as a whole attacks artists and celebrities who embrace the word “feminist”. We spend so much time deciding if Beyonce is a “good” feminist or a “real” feminist, rather than just applauding her for empowering women and supporting equality of the sexes. Society tears her apart for being sexual and bootylicious in her videos, but why shouldn’t she be able to show off her body? What does it matter if she publicly labels herself as a feminist? She is obviously a person in support of equality of the sexes socially, politically , etc. so does the rest really matter? She sends positive messages to women to embrace their bodies and their sexuality and who they are. She speaks out about not falling for society’s “myth about gender equality” and her lyrics instruct that we teach boys how to respect a woman and treat all people equal. With all of these great things she is actively involved in, does it matter if she fits into the confines society has built around the word “feminist”? NO.
Silence holds us as prisoners. Silence locks us in.
Silence convinces us that we are no good.
That we are meant to be suppressed, muted.
We become comfortable in the silence; we know of nothing else.
Silence is a dark sheet blocking us from seeing the light.
From seeing our potential, our freedom. Freedom from the silence.
We must break the silence. We must break the stigma.
The stigma that women should be seen and not heard.
The stigma that silence is the norm.
The stigma that women can be controlled.
Reading Lorde and hooks for class this week really put this whole idea of silence into perspective for me. Of course I was aware that we as Americans, or simply humans, keep 99.99 percent of our feelings and opinions bottled up inside until we one day lose it and explode… However, I had never really considered just how many things our society simply doesn’t allow us to comfortably speak openly about. I suppose I have always been aware that topics such as racism, women’s sexuality, and sexual assault are taboo in our culture but I had never really considered just how deeply this silencing can effect us as women.
Lorde writes about how we think the silence will protect us and that we believe staying silent will be less scary than going public with issues, but in reality the silence will not and can not protect you; you will be living in fear regardless. Nothing good comes from silence; silence is lonely, dark, and useless. Depression. Anxiety. Thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Women choosing to keep silent just further validates the patriarchy.
We need to break free. Speak out. Friends. Family. Strangers. Poetry. Writing. Music. Art. Anything.
I, for one, need to take advice form these powerful women. We are all afraid to speak our minds; we are all afraid of being wrong, being judged, being scrutinized. We are all so judgmental of ourselves that we expect others to view us with the same critical eye. We live in such a self conscious society and it’s limiting us. How are we to break down the walls of the patriarchy if we are too afraid to crawl out of our sheltered little holes and speak, act, or prove ourselves equal to men? We need to get out there.
Tying human trafficking into this topic of silence is much easier than it should be. The human trafficking industry is growing by the minute in the United States and few citizens are even aware it exists. News stations avoid the words “sex” and “trafficking” (especially when they’re together), and it’s rare to see a headline (let alone any article) in a newspaper revealing that the “Land of the Free” is actually filled with slaves. What is this silence serving? Nothing. It’s preventing women and children from being saved. It’s preventing survivors from speaking out. It’s preventing society from learning and putting an end to traffickers.
Silence is useless. Violence against women should be spoken about. Women’s sexuality should be spoken about. WOMEN should be spoken about. Silence is useless.
In class we spent a lot of time talking about the Feminine Mystique and the second wave of feminism. We talked about women beginning to break out of the boxes they have been forced into and stand up to the patriarchy that continues to grow stronger and stronger in today’s society. Although Friedan’s novel does not pertain directly to my thread of human trafficking in America, I think a lot of the points she makes and elaborates on throughout her novel can apply to the future of sex trafficking and what needs to be done in order to put an end to trafficking. Without the help of those with power and freedom, the current victims have close to no chance of escaping the wrath and webs of lies of their pimps and traffickers. Even those that have escaped sex trafficking are not free or safe from the patriarchy and pressures from both their own heads and society pulling them back to trafficking and the realm of sex work. The laws in the U.S. are working against the women that are forced into trafficking, but not the men who traffic or pay for them. The patriarchy allows men to get away with being horn-dogs and sex addicts, while women (regardless of if they are trafficked or if they are choosing to partake in sex work willingly) are slut shamed and scrutinized for being “dirty whores” and “skanks”. These laws and social stigmas will remain intact until we as a WHOLE society come to realize that this patriarchal divide is not only unfair but should not be tolerated by either gender. The ways in which women have stood up in the past and today have proven that progress can be made and changes can occur in what seemed to be a permanently male-dominated society.
In a Fox News article i recently came across, a man named Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to involvement in a sex-trafficking ring in the southern United States (Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas). Many women had come forth and admitted to the courts that he and other men had forced them to sleep with up to 30 men per day for around 25 dollars each. Mendez-Hernandez, however, tried to claim that these predominantly Mexican women voluntarily participated in their own sex work.
While reading this article made me appreciate the court decision and the involvement of police and the law, it really got me thinking about pimps and how often they are actually convicted. In my previous project with sex trafficking I focused on an organization based in Washington D.C. that offered a lot of information about this topic. In most places, the pimps and men/women selling these young girls (and boys) have absolutely nothing to fear when it comes to the law. The girls are the ones who are actually arrested or searched on the streets and charged with involvement with prostitution. In most states there aren’t laws that can be used against these men. Pimps can simply blend into society while these poor children and women are forced to stand on corners wearing close to nothing in an attempt to gain customers and make their pimps profits.
In class we have talked tons about the patriarchy and even laws that still work against women and minorities in the United States. I think that by this point in time our political system should have laws actively working against these pimps and traffickers within the borders of our own country.
Accused pimp gets life sentence in sex trafficking case where women prostituted across South
This is an example of what men search through on the internet when deciding which child they would most like to rent for the night. Prices fluctuate depending on race, age, descent, and most importantly virginity. Disgusting.
For class we read “Selling Sex for Visas” from Global Woman and discussed the women working as sex workers and the men who travel the world to visit these sex destinations. While it is true that these women are willingly participating in sex tourism, they are being forced and trapped into the industry by the patriarchal constraints of society. By keeping these women in a poverty stricken area, the option of becoming a sex working is now advantageous to them. These women and young girls are not being educated either, which is also acting as a “masters tool” to guarantee that these women remain oppressed. These women hope that using sex as their employment will eventually lead them out of poverty. However, the women in the narratives we read expressed concern for their daughters’ futures.
The example ad that i placed at the beginning of this blog is very discomforting. I have a 14 year old brother and I couldn’t imagine him or any of his little girl friends being pimped out on a Craigslist equivalent to multitudes of businessmen or “johns” every night. I can’t even imagine how afraid mothers who are involved in sex trafficking must be as their daughters near puberty. The horrible thing is that most of these young girls will follow in their mother’s exact footsteps. The patriarchy keeps these women captive; the patriarchy keeps all women captive.
I think that this video is incredible. Yeah, it is focused on the horrible topic that is sex trafficking, but it is getting it’s message across in a way that is actually grabbing the attention of it’s viewers. You see the men in the video joking around and dancing with the girls because they like the way the girls are dressed and the atmosphere in the red light district seems fun. However, when the women end the dance routine and the stunning message appears on the screen above them, it’s shocking how drastically the atmosphere of the group changes. You can actually see the shock and the guilt in their eyes once they read the screen and understand the reality of the situation. And I think that even just watching the youtube video on a computer induces a form of guilt, which I think is great. The victims of sex trafficking and human trafficking need people to feel guilt and need people to be angry to serve as a catalyst for change. If people are impacted by videos and public displays like this one in the red light district, then they will look into getting involved and hopefully make a difference for the innumerable victims stuck in the sex trafficking industry today. I think that if displays like this one were set up in America they would create a great deal of attention. Of course there would be negative reviews of such a blatant, raunchy display in NYC or LA or any highly populated city BUT I think that this would simply result in more attention. Sex trafficking is such a taboo topic in the United States and I think we need to draw considerable attention to the industry in order to create change. This video not only reveals how exploited these women’s bodies are, but how easy it is for young women and children to be tricked into trafficking.
In our discussion groups in class we discussed tactics that society could use to keep young girls safe from the vortex that sucks young women into trafficking. My group discussed using school systems to keep girls off of the streets where they are often preyed on by traffickers. By providing access to school and after school care, these girls actually want to stay in school and are less likely to drop out and roam their communities. We also discussed how crucial family support systems are for keeping girls close to home and within the safety of their families’ sight. However, as simple as this whole “keep girls in school” thing sounds, it’s harder said than done. Most young girls (and boys) that are sucked into the sex trade are runaways or kids from very low income families. While we can provide aid to some of these children, how can we help and protect them all? Sex trafficking has nearly quadrupled in the United States in the past 5 years and the Midwest is becoming a very hot spot for traffickers to bring their victims. Although the government has some laws trying to aid in this sex trafficking craze, I think that many of these small non-profits are making much more progress than the state. A small organization formed in 2008 named “Courtney’s House” not only searches for young children on the streets of D.C. that are victims of trafficking, but they train community officials to recognize what sex trafficking looks like in America. The organization was formed by a victim of sex trafficking herself. I think that more organizations like this need to be exposed and expanded so that sex trafficking can stop multiplying and start to see a decline.