Friday, March 14, 2008

The media, gender, and representation

Originally Posted on March 14, 2008 by existentialhedonist on boundnotgagged.com


I was recently reading the comments on a post here, and noticed one that Amanda made:

“Someone needs to dig up some of Spitzer’s childhood friends."

And then it hit me: in this entire media circus, not once has anyone ever brought up Spitzer’s childhood.

But that seems to be all they can manage to talk about when it comes to Kristen. They all talk about how she came from a broken home, had substance issues, and so on. They tsk tsk about how she “fell into the wrong line of work,” how she must have been abused as a child, and that perhaps if she had been able to properly attend to the various psychological issues her childhood had wrought upon her, she may not have been a prostitute today. And that once she attends to them, she should be just fine- she’ll become enlightened and can finally get out of this line of work (because loads of us are eager to leave a job that pays $4300 an hour to have sex with powerful men). They wonder where it all went wrong. (Again- what’s wrong with a job that pays $4300 an hour to have sex with powerful men??)

But what about Spitzer? Why is his childhood and homelife not of interest to the media? Perhaps he had some “childhood abuse issues” which led him into the “wrong line of work.” Perhaps there was something in his childhood that created some disconnect whereby as an adult he came to see no wrong in busting escort agencies with one hand while taking advantage of their services with the other. I mean, this stuff has to come from childhood issues around self-righteousness, propriety, and entitlement.

I think the media’s obsession with Kristen’s childhood ties directly into the prohibitionists’ habit of using the term “girls” when referring to sex workers who are between 18 and 28. It seems to be a form of infantilizing women when they exercise their sexual and economic autonomy. It reminds me of the Swedish model, and it makes me want to wretch.

How about talking about her strength in overcoming a challenging youth to grow up and land a job that paid her for one hour more than most of her critics will see in a month? How about talking about her strength in the face of this onslaught of media attention and scrutiny? How she hasn’t cowered off into some corner- how she has kept her myspace page up, and how so many of the comments there are full of love and support in the face of this?

Kristen deserves to be seen for the amazing and strong woman she is. The obsession with her childhood is simply a cheap ploy to diminish the inherent fortitude of a person who faces challenges head on and rises above and beyond to become a creative entrepreneur beholden to nobody but herself. This is the hallmark of successful sex workers everywhere, and something that must be quashed by society lest more of us become such entrepreneurs.

I think it is important for the media and people like Farley to portray us as broken and weak people. It is ironic that some of them actually do this in the name of “feminism.” The truth is that the ”abused girl” thing has to be played up to create a smokescreen to hide the reality: sex workers like Kristen don’t need you or anyone else to validate them. That is power. And that is dangerous.

Sex workers continue to be the strongest, wisest, and most resourceful humans I know. They have no bosses but themselves, and they are truer to their convictions than anyone in any other profession I have ever met.

Sex Workers Rule!