Originally posted on whotv.com: [ooyala code=”NndTZhbTpPLp7vPh7BLZCto8Qptfsjp9″ player_id=”65279b80531146eea3c65f3510b1c4b9″] Volunteers are walking tall for those who can’t walk away. You should never judge a person, until you walk a mile in their shoes. And if you walk a little over three…
While looking at my classmate Lauren’s blog, which also focuses on creating sex trafficking awareness, I came across a post about the campaign pictured above. In 2010 a “concept” store was put up in the center of one of Israel’s busiest shopping centers and began selling real live women. Young women were placed in the storefront windows wearing price tags that gave details of their age, height, weight, race, country of origin, etc. While the goal of this display was to gain signatures to pass a bill banning Israeli men from purchasing women, I think a display like this would incredible today in America. With sex trafficking on the rise here, we are seeing more and more stories and news articles popping up on all sources of social media. I can guarantee that if a store like this were set up in an American mall it would draw major attention to human trafficking. Since 2010, social media has even further infiltrated our everyday lives and I think that news of a “Woman to Go” shop would spread pretty damn fast. People are visual learners, and I think that something like this would get a lot of Americans thinking about what is going on around them.
In class last week we spent time watching popular music videos that ranged from empowering women to completely and disturbingly objectifying women. The video that really hit me hard was that of Kanye West’s “Monster”. Let me first start off by sharing that this video has been removed from YouTube because it’s vulgarity caused it to be deemed a “health hazard”. The opening scene of the video has Rick Ross sitting in a chair surrounded by nearly naked, dead women hanging from the ceiling by chain-link nooses.
The video then switches to Kanye in a bed with two unconscious women who appear to be dead or to have been heavily drugged. He sits there repositioning them so that they are touching themselves and each other until he seems satisfied with himself. This scene gave me very, very odd vibes. It is not just a very rapey scenario, but I felt that it had a sex slave/human trafficking feel to it. These women are being used against their own will…there is not a sliver of consent in this entire video. The girls are being highly objectified; they are nothing but limp sex dolls.
The video moves swiftly on with Jay-Z rapping in front of a naked, dead girl on a couch and multiple shots of young women in what appears to be a dark underground cellar. The girls hold onto each other in their skimpy red dresses with wide eyes. The peeling wallpaper and sagging couch of this cellar definitely give it a dumpy brothel kind of feel. I think that this image could easily be used as a sex trafficking awareness ad. Kanye is portraying himself as a man who not only objectifies women, but as a man who tolerates/plays a part in a form of sex trade.
A scene where Kanye is casually holding a woman’s severed head is also included in this music video. As much as I love Kanye’s music, and even this very song, this video goes way way WAY too far. This video is fueled by female objectification and hypersexualization. Everything is about the female body and the power that these men have over it. Videos like this make it okay for women’s bodies to be objectified. Girls interpret this sort of media as direct evidence that they are worth nothing more than their bodies. Boys interpret this sort of media as a direct excuse to treat women as nothing but their bodies.
We need to realize how easy media makes it for us to form negative stereotypes and stigmas in society. Music videos make violence against women seem so natural and nonchalant, so why should violence be a big deal in the real world?
According to Miss Representation, the average American is exposed to 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media every single day. So, in order to understand the gender gap and the patriarchal power that has taken hold of our society, we must begin by analyzing and understanding this media. Nobody is safe from the media; media infiltrates every aspect of our lives in the Western world. We are fully surrounded by TV, movies, commercials, magazines, tabloids, ads, billboards, etc. You get the point. The way the media portrays women, as well as men, shapes the national discourse. It shapes the way children’s brains are trained to think about the world they live in. It shapes our emotions about nearly everything and everyone. But seriously, when aren’t we glued to our cell phones or computers sucking in as much social media as we can get our hands on?
As mentioned in Miss Representation, objectifying images and ads of women are way too common in Western society. These ads all contain subdued women who have been tied up, held down, or appear to be unconscious/dead. They are all made out to be powerless, female bodies in a patriarchal society. These ads, which are intended to sell clothes and perfume, are simple objectifying the female body and making it okay for everyone to assume that a woman’s body is something controlled by men. We are sending dangerous messages to both little girls and little boys. Girls are raised believing that their body and looks are everything and that their brains mean near nothing; this view of women is also reciprocated in young boys minds. Women are brought up to be insecure, and these sexually offensive and demeaning images that surround us are not causing these insecurities to go anywhere fast. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, girls are becoming insecure and body conscious at younger and younger ages every year. This is due largely to social media and the portrayal of the “perfect woman” that we see everywhere we turn. Young girls are trafficked at the average age of 12-14 years old, and you can guarantee they have already been affected by this misogynistic media epidemic. We need to change our society to fight this misrepresentation of women that is affecting all of us. We need to replace these disturbing ads and false images of photoshopped women to show girls and boys what real women are and how real women should be treated. Real women need some representation in today’s society.
“I’m a white girl from America, and it happened to me.”
After seven years of violence and captivity, 32-year-old former sex-trafficking victim Jasmine Marino-Fiandaca is speaking out. She entered the sex trafficking industry at the age of 18 via her “boyfriend”, who lured her in by “grooming her” and showering her with gifts and attention. He convinced her that she could make a lot of money working in these “massage parlors” in Connecticut. Jasmine said it wasn’t that she was unloved at home, but that this seductive boyfriend gave her attention her busy family didn’t. She began working 15 hour shifts at these parlors and was abused, both physically and emotionally, by her armed pimp in order to prevent her leaving.
The way in which Jasmine’s pimp “made her feel special” is one of the most common ways traffickers lure young girls into the industry. Jasmine’s “boyfriend” was not much older than she was, so why would she have ever suspected he would turn out to be a pimp? Our toxic society is pumping out vulnerable girls like a factory and these girls are serving as perfect bait for traffickers. Jasmine’s young adult life was stolen from her and her family. She had no idea how to get help. When she finally hoarded money and escaped two weeks before she would have been arrested and charged, she realized she was pregnant. While she did escape the traffickers, she remained in the prostitution industry for a few years. Like most trafficked women, she suffered PTSD, depression, and other post-traumatic side effects that led her to drug abuse. She had two children, became homeless, lost the support of her family, and grazed the clutches of death. She finally became clean when a therapist encouraged her to attend AA and she begin to attend church services. She is now helping young runaways and sharing her story.
I think that Jasmine’s journey is a spot-on example of how tragically the effects of trafficking linger past the physical escape from the shackles of the sex trafficking industry. Most girls who “escape” are not in the clear. When all you have known for the past few years of your life is objectifying your body and using it for money, it is hard to get away. Most girls fall right back into that lifestyle and also fall victim to substance abuse. I think that a lot needs to be done in our society to aid these truly lucky girls that escape the sex trade. Being a psychology major I am very interested in mental health and post-traumatic counseling and therapy. There is not much to offer these girls in America and that needs to change. They can’t do this on their own.
In his new book, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter reflects on the respect and leadership roles that women deserve (and do not have) in today’s society. In an interview prior to a book signing this month, Carter said that “women should [never] be treated as inferior” and spoke of the absolutely absurd amount of women that are currently being trafficked through Atlanta, GA. He states that Atlanta is the number one trading post for young trafficked girls in America today. It is believed that as many as 300 victims come through the Heartsville Jackson Airport every single day. SICKENING.
In an attempt to bring this issue to light, Carter is also focusing his new book on various ways to halt this patriarchy-fueled trafficking epidemic. The sex buyers need to be put in jail; putting just a few prominent men in Atlanta’s growing sex industry behind bars could make a huge difference for women today. Atlanta’s underground sex trade is booming. Of America’s top seven cities for sex trade, Atlanta is only one of two that has seen an increase in weekly pimp intake since 2005. Atlanta’s pimps rake in about $33k per week, compared to Dallas’ $12k.
While most ads for prostitution are posted online nowadays, Atlanta’s street profits are still absurdly high. Demands come from both the city and the suburbs thanks to the major highways running through the city. Apparently the densely urban area known as Fulton Industrial Boulevard is a “hot spot” in Georgia due to the multitude of major rappers returning to the area to shoot their music videos on the streets with women they rent out. Once they are done shooting their hypersexualizing videos during the day, the rappers then break out their wallets for the pimps so the women can come in to have sex.
I think that a former U.S. president raising awareness on the issue of sex trafficking in America is great progress. People are slowly beginning to realize that trafficking does exist right in their backyards. I think that having powerful men speaking out about the unfair patriarchal limits on women of this society will be able to draw attention. It may just be a small, slow-moving impact, but progress is progress. People listen to leaders. And with only four past U.S. presidents still with us today, I think Jimmy Carter will at least be able to catch the attention of this country.
This morning I attended a GenCen coffee hour with Dr. Nata Duvvury from the National University of Ireland, Gateway. Being the only undergrad student in attendance, as it was intended for Graduate students, I really enjoyed hearing about the varying forms of research being done by MSU graduate students around the world and how they related to women’s and gender studies. As we went around the table introducing ourselves I shared that I was still in my undergrad and that I was very much interested in sex trafficking. Dr. Duvvury then asked me if I’d heard about the Swedish model of criminalization relating to trafficking overseas. While she did elaborate on the method a bit, she recommended I look into it further myself. This is the picture I first found when googling this Swedish Model. Sweden has altered it’s criminal justice system so that it no longer targets prostitutes/trafficking victims, but the source of the problem: the sex buyer. Sweden is done allowing men to roam the streets and rent women for hours with absolutely no fear of they themselves being arrested. Women trapped in both the trafficking industry and the prostitution industry are arrested for being “the source” of sex work every single day, when in reality the industries would not exist without customers. Sex work inflicts so much trauma that escaping it is nearly impossible without social support. If the traffickers and customers keep coming, the industry keeps going. The Swedish model realizes that sex trafficking is an institution of inequality. When Sweden banned the purchase of sex, prostitution did decrease. But did the industry actually shrink? Or is this just pushing this already underground industry even farther down?