Category: New Orleans


It’s long been said (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase) that the Super Bowl is one of the largest sex trafficking events in the United States.

According to our local Fox 8 (not to be confused with Fox News), five women were rescued this past weekend during the event here in New Orleans. This same weekend, eight arrests were made in connection to human-trafficking related events.

What’s ironic to me is that we, as a society, know that forced prostitution is wrong. We know that many girls are forced into it. Yet, there are so many men (it’s usually men. Don’t pull the “man hating” card just yet) who will justify this behavior by denying these very facts.  

A lot is being done to help these girls, including cooperation with local businesses to train employees what to watch out for, and to make secret hotline numbers available for girls in hotel rooms or bathooms.  While these things are undoubtedly beneficial in helping these poor girls, it does not put enough of a public eye on the other piece of the puzzle.  (The names of the “Pimps” should be public, as well as the “johns”.  Why are people spending 10 years in prison for weed, while these slave drivers are living freely?) How can these men justify their actions by calling the act “consentual”, and refuse to see that their contribution is what makes it possible?

We live in a world where it is understood that sex-trafficking is wrong, but do we truly understand why? Women are still judged and valued for their bodies every day. Walking through the downtown area on Super Bowl weekend, I saw the “Budweiser Girls” lining the sidewalk dressed (for lack of a better word) in thong-shorts and bra-tops.  How can we ever overcome the slavery of women if we still view them as objects; as something that needs to be decorated and looked at?  I don’t care if you think it “looks nice”. This isn’t about your needs. A nearly-naked woman should have no relevance to the sales of beer, but “sex sells”, and here lies the connection.  We’re taught that this is ok to expect this from women, and we justify it by telling ourselves they have “consented” to it.  No, these Budweiser women aren’t victims of sex-trafficking. They are victims of a world where there is so little that separates the two.

Beyonce’s job during the haltime performance was to sing and entertain. Why did this have to be done wearing a body suit? If Jay Z, or even Beiber, came on stage wearing a speedo, we’d laugh. We wouldn’t take this seriously. “He must be pulling an act; he can’t be serious”. Because we all know that men don’t need to dress like this to gain an audience. Beyonce is known for her strong influences to women empowerment, yet she peformed in a stadium full of people wearing such little fabric. But again, we justify this. “She was hot doing all that dancing. It’s easier to move. She can wear what she wants”.  Whatever justifies it.  It’s this contribution that makes it possible.

Driving home from work the other morning I was listening to a talk-show where they were comparing the the Mardi Gras here with Carnival in Brazil.  Of course, the topic of women bearing their breasts came up, as it is much more popular in Brazil’s version of Carnival than it is here in the Big Easy – despite popular belief. One of the men began making fun of the women here: “I wouldn’t want to see the ones on the women there anyway, they sag so much they’d have to unzip their pants just for us to see them”.  While I realize he was “making a joke”, the point remains that our bodies are always up for others’ discussion; always subjected to others’ opinions and ridicule.  These two hosts would probably call me an angry feminist, but only they have no way of understanding what it feels like to be on the other side.

To bring an end to my rant, how can we end forced prostitution of women if we’re unable to look at the other ways we enslave them?

 

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I am very impatient. As soon as I have revealed every turned card, and I know that the Solitaire game has been inevitably won, I have lost interest.  With the rare exception, I am usually bored during the climax of a movie – especially romantic comedies.  I pretend to understand some of the plays so I can support Jen through the Saints’ season, but every time we score I have little idea how it happened.

In the aftermath of Issac, I sat in a crowded coffee shop- one of the only ones with a generator- straining to feel the relief of the small box fan on the counter behind me. Not surprising, you can imagine my impatience at the amount of time it was taking to restore power to the city. The places that were open – which weren’t many- were cash only. And a few days of no ac in the New Orleans had me ready to buy a ticket straight back to New England just to cool off.

A year ago this week, I was experiencing my first tropical storm during Decadence, and exploring this unique city that was soon to become my home. The rain was so heavy that the streets flooded outside my apartment, and it was nearly impossible to open the doors due to the winds. This, I was informed, was “only a tropical storm”.

I managed to live here a year before experiencing my first hurricane, Mr. Issac, which left me without power for a week, and left many homeless and in an utter state of destruction.  In my 24 years of living in the Northeast, I can remember losing power for a week only a couple of times due to bad blizzards or Noreasters.  However, the way this city and its people pull together immediately after an emergency is testimonial to the resilience that I find so captivating.  Stores in the mall, still unable to sell any merchandise, were operating on generators just to let people walk around in the ac and charge their phones.  Bars and neighborhood pubs were outside grilling food for anyone who did not have a way to get food for their families. I was welcomed in as a local, asked about my “hurricane story” before the topics changed to, of course, the Saints and local food.  When a Second Line went by my apartment, I knew I was home.  It was sticky, it was hot, and the contents of everyone’s fridge was polluting the neighborhood trash bins. But I was home.

So much has changed in a year, yet so much is still the same. I am much closer to finishing my degree, and I have a more narrow idea of what type of social work I want to pursue. I have grown as a person, and all that jazz, but most importantly I have come to belong.