Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More on Sexism

Misogyny/Sexism is a huge topic, and plays into many other, and often broader realms of human rights.  In my last post, I talked primarily about Male Privilege and defined my terms for the upcoming discussion.  Like Star Wars, the sequels will be better- I can spend less time focusing on definitions and more on actually discussing.  This time, I'm going to take a look at the sex work industry (prostitution, stripping, phone sex, BDSM, etc.,) and how it plays (or doesn't play) into human trafficking.  There will be milk and cookies later.
Sex Work is an unusual industry.  Partially or completely outlawed by religious moralists centuries ago, it has continued to exist and even thrive till modern times.  Prostitution is often referred to as the first profession, and it may well be the last.  It's interesting that such a storied industry would be so reviled, poorly understood, and discouraged.  The concerns are unsurprising- most of us were raised with them, explicitly or otherwise- and those are morality (it's wrong to visit a stripper!) and human rights (they're forced into their position and by paying for services you are furthering their misery).
As morals are individual values, they're much harder to dispense with, but we'll return to them (maybe not in this post).  First, lets look at human rights, because these are serious concerns.  Now, here I think it's critical to divide them into legitimate concerns and unfounded ones.  The legitimate concerns are human slavery and pedophilia, where the person, usually a woman, is forced into some kind of sexual service against her will (or if she's too young to consent).  The illegitimate are the reasons along the lines of "She hates her work and she can't get a better job."  Sorry, but pity isn't something any whole class of people deserve (except maybe interns).  Fry cooks, accountants, geologists and gaffers may all have shitty jobs they may or may not be able to get away from, but we don't pity them.  And we certainly don't abstain from french fries, tax advice, mineral samples or TV shows in solidarity.  They might hate their jobs, they might love their jobs, or they might be indifferent, but it doesn't automatically follow that they shouldn't be doing their jobs, or that it's any of our business.
Human trafficking is a huge concern.  Lives and families are destroyed every single day by conniving slave traders duping the hopeful into selling themselves, or worse, opportune kidnappers stealing their lives without even the courteous veneer of guile.  This manifests itself in modern times in various ways, but two of the most common signs are a poor command of the local language and exorbitantly low prices for a generally high-quality service or product (so that used-car dealer on the radio...).  The language is important, because they may not be able to explain to their clients, or to the police, just what is happening to them.  They might think it's legitimate- many are told they need to work off their debt of additional expenses incurred- oh, did I mention that many of these people buy themselves into slavery?  They go to a person who is selling, say, a new life in America for a fee.  They scrape and save to put this money together, and then do the deal.  They aren't necessarily trusting saps, either- they're often just desperate, and the scumbags who do it for a living (a nauseatingly lucrative one) are very skilled salesmen.
It seems like there's an exception to everything I've been writing so far, and that is probably the only constant.  The slave labor could be anything from prostitution to car washing, from maid-service to clerical work.  And you'd never know because you don't see them, or you wouldn't be in a situation to talk to them (and even if you were, there would be a language barrier).  To make matters worse, many of the activities they are being forced to do are illegal for the consumers, and make it even less likely that anyone who does spot the problem will actually alert the authorities.
With human trafficking, there are things that you can do without coming off like an arrogant prig.  One is, if you suspect something fishy, call this number (There's also a lot of other info on the site regarding human trafficking).  You can be anonymous if you choose.  Some things to watch for, besides your Creepy sense tingling, are people who work very long hours, act strangely, or owe large debts.  Boarded up windows are also a bad sign.
My biggest piece of advice here, I think, can serve to improve just about any relationship: Care.  Don't pity.  Don't judge.  Care.  Treat each other with respect, and more than just a token.  If someone works for you, whether employee or freelance, waitress or accountant, stripper or landscaper, get to know them on at least a superficially personal level.  Give them the dignity they deserve as a human being.  You'll get better service, and hey, you might just save a life.
More to come.

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