October 26, 2005

Death by a thousand cuts

On Salon, Sarah Karnasiewicz ponders the overtly sexual ads for Lifetime's Human Trafficking miniseries.

It's a question that has shadowed other media representations of the so-called sex-trafficking epidemic, -- namely, Peter Landesman's now infamous (and hotly contested) 2004 New York Times Magazine feature, "Sex Slaves on Main Street." And it's a conflict that comes out in images more than words: For instance, the cover illustration for Landesman's piece depicted a dark-skinned adolescent, clad suggestively in a short plaid skirt, and viewed from below as she leaned back into a pink motel bed.

Perhaps it's petty to find fault with any story that brings more attention to the plight of impoverished and persecuted women around the world -- but it's worth wondering why the issue of trafficking so often focuses on sex. Recently, Jack Shafer in Slate, David Feingold in Foreign Policy and Debbie Nathan in the Nation have all brought to light convincing evidence that the media coverage of sex slavery is wildly disproportionate when compared to the number of trafficking victims forced into other -- often equally dangerous -- unpaid labor. Though it's difficult to pin down reliable statistics, Feingold's article in particular cites compelling new research. A 2005 study conducted by the International Labor Organization asserts that "of the estimated 9.5 million victims of forced labor in Asia, less than 10 percent are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation." On a worldwide level, the ILO says, "less than half of all trafficking victims are part of the sex trade."

But more to the point, "infamous (and hotly contested)." Careful, Peter, don't tear out too much of that luxurious hair.

By the way, when I explained earlier why the movie doesn't bother me so much (not that I intend to watch), I neglected to point out that while it may be exploitative, it doesn't have any scenarious nearly as fantastic (in the literal sense) as the ones MPD Andrea told Peter: Disneyland daddies, damage groups, etc. Really, throwing in one American kid kidnapped overseas is downright responsible in comparison.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I believe you mean luxuriANT hair.

How can you criticize a man for sensationalizing a complex international crime if you can't distinguish between luxurious and luxuriant? Answer me that, basement boy.

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