Category Archives: Activism

New York Times editorial on the Equal Rights Amendment

We marched for this in the 70s and 80s. North Carolina was 1 of 3 potential states to ratify it. Memory tells me that it lost by one vote in the General Assembly. Do you think it would have a chance in today’s NC GA? One of the commenters asks whether the language needs to be updated to remove the assumption of a gender binary. What do you think? Here is the text:

 

The Equal Rights Amendment

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification

Exploitation or Empowerment? Prostitution and the Commoditization of Human Bodies

Kari Carr 

She was 14 years old and running away from abuse. Within 24 hours a man approached her and asked if she was hungry and needed a place to stay. She hadn’t eaten in days and it had just begun to rain. He seemed nice. He was well dressed. It seemed a better alternative to staying on the streets. The first few weeks were amazing. He seemed to love her, and she loved him. She had never known so much kindness—food, trips out to the mall, even to the movies. Then one day he tells her that he needs help with the rent. She’d only have to do it one time and she knows the guy—it’s a friend. Just this once, if you love me. But it wasn’t just once and it was with dozens of different men, hundreds over the years. Four years go by. She’s 18, a legal adult. What is she supposed to do now? She has no job experience. No education beyond 9th grade and the mindset that she’s only good for one thing and that no one wants her anyway.

Some people argue that sex work can be liberating and that not all prostitutes are victims of human trafficking—some prostitutes are instead willing participants. I argue, however, that the system of prostitution requires objectification of humans and the commoditization of these “human objects.” This modern system of slavery commoditizes human beings while humans who maintain autonomy consume the commoditized bodies. With exploitation at its core, “sex work” cannot serve as a means of empowerment or liberation. And for those in favor of “sex work” as a means of false liberation I stand by the statement that personal empowerment does not take precedence over another person’s exploitation.

Human trafficking involves the objectification and subsequent commoditization of a subset of the population — the rest of the population that maintains agency, has the power to purchase/receive bodies that are an economic hybrid of a gift and a commodity. Furthermore, individuals with less autonomy (i.e. children, homeless individuals, adults with a history of childhood abuse, financially vulnerable individuals, etc.) are more likely to be victimized in systems of sexual exploitation. Commodity is defined as “a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.” Commoditization refers to something, such as a person, being devalued and objectified into an everyday object such as coffee.

All value is created, not intrinsic, and when humans are devalued to mere objects, this is creation not human nature. Trafficking victims belong to their primary traffickers, and whether a “gift” to a friend or a “business transaction” the trafficked seem to be an economic hybrid of gift and commodity. Igor Kopytoff writes, “Commoditization, then, is best looked upon as a process of becoming, rather than as an all-or-none state of being.” This combined with the role of culture in decommoditization and commoditization explains how human trafficking allows some people to be commodities and others to be autonomous humans in society. Actual behavior often outweighs laws or otherwise expected behaviors in society. Although prostitution is illegal in most U.S. states, for example, the culture allows the purchase of humans for sex to continue. Kopytoff also proposes that the career of slaves involve successive phases of original commoditization, followed by decommoditization, and then there is a possibility of recommoditization. This means that once a human becomes a commodity they then begin to garner a social identity in the society they have been sold into (i.e. prostitute, whore, etc.). These individuals, however, are part human and part object at this stage, and this step then allows for easier consumption from people with full autonomy (purchasers). There is enough humanization present to rationalize that they “want” to be there, but enough dehumanization present to rationalize that the trafficked objects cannot say “no” to their traffickers. Therefore, people in the sex industry do not have agency. Buyers can choose to pay less than the agreed upon price, not pay the prostitute at all, and/or force the human trafficking victim to do things he/she does not want — in a sense, decommoditizing the human body by ignoring the agreed upon value or price. Additionally, traffickers can provide prostitutes as gifts to others with whom they desire to have a familial or business relationship. At the same time, pimps often have no ties with purchasers beyond the transaction and the exchange of the commodities (money for a human body). The trafficker’s “private property” is temporarily transferred to the possession of the purchaser. At the end of the “contract” the possession returns to the pimp. This relationship is understood, meaning that the pimp “gifts” prostitutes to purchasers even though money is exchanged.

Part of the disagreement regarding “sex workers” as autonomous individuals as opposed to sex trafficking victims revolves around economic income. Marissa Fuentes eloquently states, “But focusing on economic prosperity alone obscures the coercive nature of the enterprise of enslaved prostitution.” Furthermore, “economic freedom” and “personal rights” defined by Richard Pipes as “the right freely to use and dispose of one’s assets,” and “the claim of the individual to his life and liberty…in other words, absence of coercion.” Prostitutes, as described, do not have agency over their own bodies, and systems of prostitution do not allow human trafficking victims to practice economic freedom or experience personal rights, preventing these individuals from liberation or empowerment.

In summary, prostitution or “sex work” cannot be liberating as objects cannot be liberated. As a hybrid between a commodity and a gift, the objectified person in question cannot achieve personal or economic freedom. Furthermore, as the opening anecdote shows, many people do not wind up “in the life” on their own ambition but through force, fraud, or coercion. Next time someone says that prostitution is liberation, remember 14 year old Jane Doe and how her life was taken from her, along with her choices.

 Kari Carr will graduate with her MA in Anthropology in May of 2018. She has been an intern with ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now and volunteers to promote community awareness of trafficking and to promote anti-trafficking policies and initiatives (https://encstophumantrafficking.org/).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Women Who Steered the Civil Rights Movement

 

 

Speaking of the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., this report by The New York Times pays homage to all the women who accompanied him in his fight for civil rights.

According to Diane Nash who was one of the leaders who helped coordinate the historic 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery , women played a key role in the civil rights movement: “Women wrote pamphlets, they made fliers, and they cooked – providing sustenance to protesters so that the demonstrations could last longer”, she said. Women also went to jail.

“Women developed strategy, taught in citizenship school, and in short, could and did perform all of the tasks necessary for the movement,” Nash pointed out.

Unfortunely, they were often in the background, not the forefront which is why, even five decades after King’s death, many female organizers remain not-so-household names.Perhaps the most recognized leader historically has been Rosa Parks but with her Gloria Richardson, Dorothy Height, Juanita Jones, Septima Clark, Dorothy Cotton, Ella Baker, Bernice Johnson and Fanny Lou Hamer contributed brilliantly to the consolidation of the movement.

The complete stories of these leaders can be found in:

https://nyti.ms/2q24fxX

Op-Ed: A Call to Authenticity: The Plight of Transgender Refugees

Evander Jennings  

Picture this: You are looking out upon a scorched desert, humming the song your mother used to sing you to at night when you couldn’t sleep. As you hum this tune you realize there are many more sleepless nights ahead. You remember last night, like so many others. The memories flood back as you dab at the swollen eye you received from the men who beat and raped you, again. This is what you were running from; where you come from, people who are different, people like you, are better off being dead in most cases. Because you break down the barriers between man and woman, like your mother’s song, firm and unbreakable, yet soft and sweet. Because you are this other, Transgender, you were told to kill yourself or risk being killed by those you thought you could trust. Continuing on your journey you travel by foot across an endless desert to a neighboring country. The country of endless possibility, prosperity and most of all, safety. But sadly, this is only the beginning of your journey.

Transgender men and women already face impossible odds. They must steel themselves against wave after wave of hate, physical and emotional abuse, neglect, poverty, sickness, harassment and discrimination. They face a world that has no love for them, yet they cling to authenticity like a prayer. Transgender individuals in several countries across the globe are faced with the threat of death simply because they are living as their authentic and true selves. These individuals are unwelcomed within their home countries and in some vehemently criminalized, simply for trying to live as they are; as men and women. By increasing our knowledge about the issues transgender refugees face and trying to adjust the broken systems and laws that do this harm, we can play an active role in saving the lives of thousands of people coming into our country.

Transgender asylum seekers, immigrants, and refugees all share a common and pronounced threat to their wellbeing, mental, and physical health. Not only are they subjected to inhumane treatment when being processed into the country, once allowed in they are subjected to horrors such as forced sterilization. Transgender refugees are detained for months and sometimes years at a time, as stated by the International Detention Coalition. Harassment, rape, and physical violence run rampant in the detention centers whilst they await processing into the country. They are often housed with those of their birth gender meaning for example, trans-women are housed with men, leading to sexual harassment and often physical abuse. There is often abuse from officers that are supposed to protect refugees into the country as well. One account from a woman named Tania Cordova from Michoacacan, Mexico stated:

“They didn’t have no place to house me, and they decided that if I wanted to be in general population, I was going to be housed with males,” she said. “I remember one day I went back to detention, and there was a female officer there who was supposed to search us, but not see us without clothes. She wanted to see what a transgender looks like.”

The way the system is as of now, the government is more willing to repatriate or relocate individuals back to their home countries than to allow them entrance into the country. Senior Director for Programs at the Women’s Refugee Commission Dale Buscher explains that many LGBT persons are relocated instead of gaining the asylum though there are “76 United Nations (UN) Member States criminalize same-sex acts among consenting adults and seven of those states (Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, and parts of Somalia and Nigeria) maintain the death penalty for consensual homosexual acts.” In short this means there are potentially thousands of lives that have been lost due to repatriation, and relocation because authorities are not taking the possibility they are LGBT into consideration.

LGBT individuals that could potentially seek asylum are usually too frightened to reveal their identity due to fear of being turned away or discriminated against by officials. If asylum seekers are interviewed in a group setting, and it seems this is common, they may hide their identities due to this mixture of shame and fear. As Buscher states; “LGBT refugees risk having their claim denied if they are not able to speak openly about their sexual identity, how they were treated in their home countries based on that identity, and how it led to their flight.”. The fear that is a constant in the lives of these individuals doesn’t go away with leaving their hometown or village. Transgender people especially tend to be noticeably LGBT and yet are still turned away or repatriated back to their home countries. There seems to be a shift in blame towards the asylum seekers because of them hiding their identity, however this is an issue that needs to be addressed by those with the power to help instead of victim blaming.

These populations are overlooked and not taken care of in a proper way that shows them any human decency or respect. Until we change the way or immigration systems are set up and operated, more lives are going to be lost and shattered. We need to put legislators into office that don’t overlook or demean Refugees and asylum seekers coming into the United States. They are fleeing their oppressive countries to try live safely in the arms of this great nation and we are turning a blind eye to a people in need. They are being murdered, prosecuted, beaten, and raped because they are a little different from the norm. They are autonomous, emotional, human beings, simply because they look differently, sound differently, dress differently does not negate the fact they deserve basic human rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 

Evander Jennings is an Anthropology and International Studies double major with a focus in global diversity. Upon graduation he hopes to either work internationally, or on the home front to provide safety, aid, and support for those within minority groups.

 

 

Citizen Rose

I encourage you all to watch the documentary Citizen Rose on E!

Rose McGowan has been an activist for the #MeToo movement since allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein went public in October of 2017, followed by claims regarding a host of other Hollywood and media predators. In this documentary she talks about her experiences with sexual assault in the film industry.

Since becoming an activist, Rose has written a book called BRAVE. McGowan describes a life of almost ceaseless abuse, of falling into the clutches of one sadistic ogre after another as powerful forces conspired to crush her rogue spirit. “One of the greatest tricks that the patriarchy plays on women is to deliberately destabilize them, then use their instability as a reason to disbelieve them. Much of BRAVE reads like the diary of a woman driven half-mad by abusive men who assume no one will listen to her. In this case, the truth was finally—and, for McGowan, triumphantly—exposed…”

-K.Flowers

Equality in the #metoo movement

lhttps://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/katy-perry-american-idol-contestant-kiss-not-sexual-harassment-benjamin-glaze-a8258681.html

Recently Katy Perry has been under fire for kissing a 19 year old American Idol contestant without consent. People are raising concerns that the singer took advantage of her position. While Luke told the boy that he should be happy that his first kiss was Katy Perry, the boy revealed that he wanted his first kiss to be special. Just because Katy Perry is a woman does not mean that she cannot abuse her power and sexually harass/assault someone. Katy needs to atone for what she did. We cannot let abuse happen from any side, male or female.

If one of the male contestants had done this to a female 19 year old, there would be outrage, as their should be. We need to protect all people, and prosecute all who break from the rules.

The boy has responded to the outrage by many people, claiming that he is not angry at Katy Perry; however, we also have a stigma in our society that men are not the ones getting assaulted/harassed, and that it is unmanly for these to happen.

Is this a product of that?

What do you think?

 

-Chelsea Cullen

Saudi Women Gain Custody Rights

A couple of students in the anthropology class are writing about images of women in Saudi film and about progress in women’s education in Saudi Arabia. It was just announced a couple of days ago that Saudi women will not have to go to court to petition for custody of their children in event of a divorce. These petitions in the past could take years to be decided. This is a major step forward, but it does not negate the underlying rule, based on tradition, that custodianship goes to the father by default. Nonetheless it is progress and it comes in the wake of the earlier decision to allow women the right to drive. We may not think these changes are happening fast enough, but Saudi women have been working hard to make them happen.    –Holly Mathews

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/12/middleeast/saudi-arabia-custody-law-intl/index.html

Workplace Relationship Gone Wrong

I’m including a link to a string of text messages that lay at the center of scandalous made against a male Sports Center news anchor and the ESPN organization by a female employee.

Link to Text Messages ⇓

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4330012/ESPNtexts.pdf

I read this text exchange thoroughly and I must say, I’m a bit confused by this one. I can’t gather whether this was inappropriate or not, unless we’re fundamentally calling inappropriateness based solely on the man’s position in the company. In all of the conversation around workplace relationships, I haven’t heard inappropriate behavior called out based solely on this. If this isn’t the sole basis that we are using to establish inappropriate behavior, then again, I’m having a tough time finding it in this text.

 

The exchange seems to me to be mutual. I measure its mutuality by determining who’s initiating communication and if the nature of the communication being initiated goes beyond professional. Once both are inviting one another to each other’s place, scheduling road trips, and having adult beverages, then to me I have found mutuality.

Within the context of their personal engagement outside of the workplace, there was some professional mentoring taking place as well. This to me, still seems to take place within the context of their personal exchange and not the other way around, where personal exchange was taking place within the context of their professional relationship.

With all this being considered, my larger question is what are we asking, as a society, when it comes to relationships among workplace colleagues,  when there is no policy clearly in place at the workplace? Are we not willing to let adults navigate these difficult waters on their own and preferring to let the courts decide on these matters? Where are we on this?

Censorship and Sexual Violence in China

About a month ago, this article was published on The New York Times website. It takes a look at how the #MeToo movement has impacted China and how it relates to perceptions on sexual violence. What makes this article interesting is that it informs readers about how the movement has affected people outside of the U.S. as well as informs us of how the lengths the Chinese government has gone to silence victims. As women have come forward to speak out on social media platforms and in their everyday lives, they are met with criticism and censorship.

How do these perceptions on sexual violence compare cross-culturally? What can activists in the U.S. do to fight rape culture and censorship at home and abroad?

A Music Video Example of the Great American Workplace Misconduct

Click to Play Video

Click the image to play video (link will open in a new tab)

This video popped up on my YouTube playlist and my eyes were drawn to the scene that was being depicted. Neyo is the only man in the office space, filled with like 30 women – all attractive and scantily dressed with cleavage showing. They are all drawn to him, obviously (sarcasm).

It strikes me that this is actually the quintessential office fantasy. I’m then taken back to Freud and the way he highlighted sex as the primary motivator for male ambition. These theories suggest that all men work to achieve wealth and prosperity, so that they can win a woman. This clearly objectifies women, but our society has in some way accepted this for quite some time. Our actions have at least seemed to be in agreement with this notion and the concept of the woman as a trophy.

I always marvel at how complex society is and this to me exemplifies those complexities. I’d wager that there is still a majority of men who consciously or subconsciously believe that the wife you win is a measure of your social status. I believe that many women feel the same about the man they “catch” (I refer to the concept “there plenty of fish in the sea and others of the like)

How men and women engage in the workplace still requires respect and decorum. It’s just not lost on me that the office space and other work environments are still spaces where men and women are working to achieve their version of the dream and many of those dreams include the hope of catching a mate along with the ideal house and car. I just thought is was worth sharing. And this old video, in the context of today’s #MeToo discussion is simply shocking. I don’t think it was shocking when it came out.

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