In my Anthropology class (Gender Relations: Comparative Perspective) today we watched the first part of Jackson Katz’s Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity. While I have seen portions of this video in a previous women’s studies class, I had forgotten just how appalling the statistics of violence against women are in today’s society. Men are the cause of 90% of violence in our society, and the media keeps this masculine force invisible to the public eye. They describe the violence as “kids killing kids”, when in reality it is boys killing both boys and girls. Katz believes that the ongoing epidemic of violence by men is due to America’s inability to move past the old ideals of “manhood”. He also talks about the insane social stigma that convinces boys that they must remain “manly” to avoid being labeled as “fruity”, “gay”, “girly”, etc. Boys are raised seeing G.I. Joe figurines with biceps that grow larger and larger with each release of a new doll. Today’s boys are raised in a society that puts toxic ideas in their heads, making them believe that women are controllable by men. Aggression and violence surround them. Even if there is not physical or emotional violence visible in their very households, this aggression and violence exists in movies, TV programs, commercials, and everyday social interactions. Violence is glorified in professional sports, as well as the video games that almost every boy is addicted to today. And boys are playing games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft at younger and younger ages, increasing their exposure to aggression and violent killing. All of these things are just strengthening the patriarchy that controls our society every day. This idea that men can control and exploit and abuse women is what fuels the sex trafficking industry in America. Young girls succumb to the demands of their pimps and traffickers because society has engrained in their heads this idea that men have power over them. Given most victims of trafficking come from a history of violence in the home, this only magnifies this problem. We need to show how violent masculinity is and make it visible to society in order for changes to be made, because changes NEED to be made.
This documentary was recommended by a classmate and it was on the almighty Netflix, so of course I spent an hour of my life watching it this afternoon. I only attached the trailer to this blog post, but I would highly recommend finding time to watch the full documentary. I have no regrets.
“Meet the Fokkens” is about 69-year-old identical twins named Louise and Martine. These twins, however, have spent over 50 years of their lives as prostitutes in Amsterdam’s famous red light district. While Louise has retired since she can no longer “life one leg over the other” due to arthritis, Martine continues to work to support herself economically. While the documentary does give insight into the explicit daily work of the red light district, the sisters bring fun to their story when they reflect on their past experiences in Amsterdam. The two best-friends sit there reminiscing on their past stories and clients of the past from the sex industry. They go to a sex shop, paint many phallic paintings together, and belly laugh with each other about rabbi, priests, and foreigners that have visited them in the past.
This documentary also goes into the stories of how the red light district came to be their home. Martine’s ex-husband was actually the one who forced her into the industry. He threatened to leave her and their children if she did not begin making money, but he didn’t want her working anywhere but the sex industry. He manipulated her and abused her and eventually caused her to turn her back on her own children, which she deeply regrets today. She has immense hate for her past husband and blames him for her life troubles. Martine tells us that if she had the chance to go back in time, she would never have entered the red light district; she would make do with little to no money and hope that her family could help her. She would never wish her children to enter the sex industry.
I think that this documentary helps you see that you don’t have to be picked up off of the street by a pimp or an abductor to be pulled into the sex industry. This poor woman was given no other option for the safety of herself and her kids. The age of the women in the red light district is ridiculously low compared to Martine’s and Louise’s early days in Amsterdam. Girls are being trafficked and sexed up at a much younger age, and society and the male consumers seem to cast a blind eye to this. Abuse is a common thread among those who end up in the sex industry, and Martine is a prime example of this. Yes, she is willingly selling herself on the streets today, but she was not always in control. Young girls and women are forced to succumb to this industry; whether they are tricked into it or not, it is nearly impossible to escape.
Our group discussions in class today as well as the small group discussions we had on Monday really got me thinking about just how damaging the beauty myth is to the United States. Young girls are raised to believe that they must be skinny to be considered attractive, to be loved, or to one day secure a husband. According to the ANAD, 91% of college women admitted to attempting to control their weight through dieting. Among elementary school aged girls who read magazines, 69% of the girls said that the images influenced their view of the ideal body shape. 47% said that the images made them want to lose weight. Elementary schoolers. Elementary. The fact that little girls who should be concerned with recess and selling girl scout cookies are thinking about dieting so that they can look like models in their mom’s magazines is disgusting. The National Eating Disorder Awareness week info-graphics say that 98% of American women are not as thin as fashion models. Girls are basing their ideal/goal bodies off of airbrushed, photoshopped models who have likely suffered eating disorders themselves. Eating disorders are not sexy.
Almost 81% of ten year olds are afraid of becoming fat, and the average age of girls entering the sex trafficking trade is between 12 and 14 years old. If these ten year olds are already body-conscious, you can guarantee this is only going to worsen by age 12 or 14. Most girls that are pulled into the sex trade come from unhappy, violent, or broken homes. Many are runaways that are then picked off of the street by pimps and traffickers who promise them better lives. These girls are already self-conscious thanks to the toxic Western society they’ve been raised in, but when you add in their troubled upbringings it is almost a guarantee that traffickers will be able to take advantage of their vulnerabilities. Our beauty-obsessed society is essentially creating perfect targets for sex traffickers to prey on. Trafficking is happening right in our backyards everyday. We need to empower young girls and reassure them that outer appearance is not the key to success. Elementary school is much too young for these vile, weight-based, shitty ideals to be planted in young girls’ brains.
The Beauty Myth infiltrates every aspect of female life in this day and age. Beauty determines employment options. Beauty determines that existence and degree of sexual harassment. This “beauty” is defined and controlled by the media, magazines, TV, the porn industry, religion, and of course: men. Beauty is essentially the religion of women in today’s society. Young girls are raised in this toxic culture that teaches them that skinny is “beautiful” and white is “beautiful” and makeup makes you “beautiful”. Girls grow up believing that they cannot be both beautiful AND smart; they must suppress one of these traits in order to avoid the male population’s labeling of them as “bitchy” or “bossy”. These girls are internalizing this beauty myth and this is a dangerous thing. Becoming beautiful is embedded in every aspect of life for women. The media is to blame for some of this increase since we are surrounded by the advertising industry no matter where we turn. Not only are we surrounded by magazines flaunting size -0 airbrushed models and perfect actresses in the TV and movie industry, we are corralled into this must-be-beautiful mindset while walking through the grocery store, or listening to the radio, or simply scrolling through your email inbox. Just today I got an email informing me that a local women’s laser hair removal/liposuction office was offering services at a discounted rate. …How did you even get my email address? Ads for makeup and body wraps and tanning salons line the sides of my Facebook timeline. The media has so much control over us it’s alarming, even frightening. Women are being controlled by the beauty myth’s wrath every single day. As much as women try to avoid it, every woman conforms to the myth in some way or another.
This beauty myth is also one of the major factors keeping human sex trafficking alive in the world today. Girls learn that their appearance and bodies are what is important, not their brains or abilities. In turn, boys and men also learn to accept this idea. Girls’ and women’s bodies are objectified in the media today, so why not sell a woman for her body as well? The sex trafficking industry is fueled through the use of young girls’ bodies. The beauty myth gives Western society the idea that women are meant to be used. They should look pretty and succumb to men and be used for male sexual pleasure. Until these ideas are altered or erased from the American mind, women will continue to be objectified and sexualized.
I first heard about “Webcam Child Sex Tourism” in my Peace & Justice Anthropology class last semester and had completely forgotten about it until I decided to clean out my internet bookmarks. This industry is spreading like an epidemic. This form of sex tourism involves rich men from around the world paying your girls and children to undress and perform sexual acts in front of a webcam. These crimes are occurring tens of thousands of times a day, but this organization based out of the Netherlands is fighting this child exploitation with technology. These men don’t have to travel to brothels or hotels to abuse these children; nothing is stopping them. So, this company developed a computer model named “Sweetie” who looks and moves like a real girl. While Sweetie chats with the men, they find these men online. In the first two months they identified the first 1000 predators. They can be stopped.
These children suffer from depression, anxiety, aggression, have no idea what a normal relationship is, and have no idea what sexuality is at their young ages. These poor children are being stripped of their childhood and stripped of their sanity for the sake of these rich men who sit in their luxurious homes and jerk off while instructing a 5 year old girl touch herself. It’s repulsive. They virtually rape these girls and then shut their MacBooks and return to work as if nothing happened.
This company in the Netherlands is a huge step for child pornography and child sex tourism. We have talked in class a lot about silence and speaking out about abuse, but these children are incapable of doing so. They don’t realize that what is being done to them is wrong, nor would they know who to contact if they did. These children are living in such poor conditions that their parents are likely the ones who got them into this business in order to provide for the family. Children should not have to deal with situations like these, not overseas and not in the United States. I think using technology to fight this technology driven sex tourism is genius, and I think that more people should be informed about this growing industry that lurks beneath our society.
Since I never touched on our discussions on hook up culture, I decided to finally tackle this topic. I really enjoyed reading Stephanie Amada’s Hook-up Culture for class and really liked having her come into class to speak with us and fuel discussions. I thought it was awesome to have a woman write specifically about hook-up culture on our campus and relate it directly to our generation today. Sex in the United States and the western world is solely based on the male partner’s pleasure and the woman’s sexual satisfaction is completely disregarded and marked as unimportant. This is extremely degrading of women and serves as further confirmation of the inequality of the sexes in today’s society.
This gender gap relating to sexual pleasure directly relates to the exploitation of women in the sex industry, and of course within the world of sex trafficking. Men or “Johns” are the large majority of customers in clubs, brothels, sex tourism, human trafficking etc. and almost all sex traffickers, “pimps”, and “daddies” are also male. These men disrespect women’s bodies for a living and sell these women to men who will further disrespect them and their glorified bodies. Women’s bodies are scrutinized and critiqued in every aspect of today’s society. Everyday women are forced to conform to this need to be thin, and toned, and tan, and pretty, and covered in makeup, and blah blah blah. Women and girls are unfairly convinced that they must fit into these confines so that society will view them as “hot” or “sexy” or “desirable.” In college, girls get all dressed up and “pretty” to go out and hopefully “hook-up” with a boy, whether that means making out or having casual sex or something in between. Hook up culture in our society is so blurry and ambiguous that I think we have all lost touch with what a relationship is meant to be about. I really enjoyed Stephanie’s short novel because it really got me thinking about the sexual double standard and slut shaming and just how confusing our society is when it comes to “hooking up” and everything sexual.
Silver Moore’s presentation and our discussions in our class really got me thinking about hip hop culture, it’s ties to feminism, and it’s use as a form of expression. I have always thought female rappers and hip hip artists that defy the status quo were total badasses but it never really occurred to me that many of these women were using their music to define themselves as feminists. However, society has a problem accepting self-proclaimed hip hip feminists as “real feminists”. In the article my group read in class about Nicki Minaj, the author admitted that she was initially afraid of Nicki and her skintight, revealing clothing and dirty song lyrics. I think this is how most of feminist society and even non-feminist society views hip-hip, regardless of the gender of the artist. How can something so raunchy and sexual be considered uplifting for women or gender equalizing? The author of the article went on to admit that Nicki is actually doing great things for young women’s self-esteem and confidence. Nicki is very pro-sex and very focused on women getting sexually satisfied. She also classifies as bisexual and appeals to the bisexual and trans community in many of her songs. Much of her lyrics, “You can be the king but watch the queen conquer” for example, are empowering and super badass and this is the goal of these hip hop feminists. They are showing that they can be as dirty and raunchy as the male rappers who exploit them. They are showing girls that freedom of expression and freedom of sexuality is necessary in today’s society and that they too can use rap or poetry or art or writing to express the feeling that they keep in the silence. Yeah, Nicki is a HUGE female rapper on the hottest of today’s rappers tracks but who says others can’t follow in her path? Others may not be able to follow her all the way to the top but they can make an impact, even if it’s just an impact on oneself.
“I have people who say ‘I’m sorry this happened to you’ and I say don’t tell me you’re sorry, tell me that you’re angry and you want to do something.”
I thought this story was really thought-provoking and emotional. Coming from a victim firsthand, It really shows you just how difficult it is to break out of sex slavery and human trafficking when there are controlling pimps and “daddies” brainwashing and beating you. Eden talks about how lingerie would be waiting for them on the hotel beds and how she would break down and cry when she got to be alone in the nice, warm hotel showers. She speaks of the one time she actually escaped and tried running away but found herself in an open desert that she did not know how to navigate, meaning she was caught and beaten unconscious. What is different about Eden’s story is that she made it her goal to gain the pimp’s and leaders’ trust so that she may be one step closer to freedom. However, when she does gain their trust and becomes a higher ranking woman, she is forced to traffic young girls just like she had been trafficked by her “boyfriend” at a young age. I couldn’t imagine the emotional position she had to have been in at that point… having to watch young girls be raped and abused just as she had, and having absolutely no way of stopping it or having any control over the pimps treatment of girls. Her escape story seemed like one from an action movie, which made me think about just how much skill and time it takes women to free themselves from the shackles of sex trafficking. Eden always had a thought in her mind that she would one day gain her freedom, which reminded me of the passage “Selling Sex for Visas” that we read earlier in the semester in which the women are always hoping to find their dream man who will fly them out to another country and proceed to live happily ever after. This idea of freedom is what keeps them locked in. The women in sex slavery do not have the ability to stop sex tourism like the women in “Selling Sex for Visas” do, therefore I think that while thoughts of freedom hurt the sex tourism women, it actually aids those in sex slavery in carrying on. I think it keeps them from just giving up and killing themselves. Women do escape sex slavery, and women like Eden are trying to speak out and gain help. She was no help in saving the girls from the pimps that captured her because they move around so well, but maybe one day we will find them along with the millions of others that are dreaming of freedom.