Why awareness is totally enough

There’s a running argument about the red X. That awareness isn’t enough, that for a movement of mostly poor college students not much change will come. Well first I would like to point to the policy changes that are already being made (go to Enditmovement.com to see more about that) which is amazing. But I also know there are more fronts in which we can get involved.

Secondly, there is a tendency to think that since we may not have to funds to give to organizations fighting issues of injustice, we cannot make a difference. So instead of looking at what we give to, I want to look at what we can stop giving to. Because money rules the world to be honest-and if we can’t give, we can surely stop.

I’ve spent the past three years researching violence against women, and the stigmas that create environments for gender based abuse to occur (we know that this is not limited to women, men and members of the LGBT community also experience high levels of harassment, but I want to hone in on particular spaces for right now). For every injustice there is a sticky web of systems, ideals (sometimes unknown to their holder), and community standards that feed into it. This really sucks, and isn’t everything, but is part of the issue. So I’d like to break down below just a few things that we can stop doing so that we can stop playing into the systems and motivations that create injustices like human trafficking.

So let’s just jump in.

#1 You can stop watching porn:

One part of human trafficking is sex trafficking. This issue has a lot of shady sides and layers to it, but a really easy thing we can look at is its connection to pornography. Pornography is so incredibly accessible to us. It’s easy, it seems personal, but it’s an industry (one of the biggest actually, Porn Sites get more clicks a day than Netflix, statistic from Pornland, a Media Education Foundation film), and when we click we are funding that industry.

So how is this connected to trafficking? There is evidence (much from people who have been trafficked) that when women are trafficked there is a high likelihood that pornography will be made of them. Long story short, when you’re watching porn you have no idea if that girl chose to be there or if she’s being brought out of a brothel to film with little to no rights, poor health conditions, and being pushed back into the closet with the other girls post production.

Secondly, the biggest portion of porn consists of teenagers. Which is illegal, and is by definition human trafficking. And every time we click, the industry makes money, and thrives.

We cannot stand up against human trafficking, and ignore the pervasiveness of pornography, they are connected on social and commercial levels.

Want more info? Check out this video: http://fightthenewdrug.org/how-porn-fuels-sex-trafficking-video/ and Fightthenewdrug.org.

#2 You can stop consuming erotic media that portrays abusive and dominant sex roles (i.e. 50 Shades of Gray)

This one is a little more touchy because it’s a little more out in the open. But I want to break it down.

In many ways, sex trafficking can result from the general (often subconscious) understanding that a man has the right to dominate and control a woman. What’s really unfortunate is that there is even a belief that women want to be dominated. In short, these ideas lead to abuse which takes many forms, one of which can be trafficking.

So, when we pay to consume media that portrays abusive relationships, we are giving it the go ahead. This media is being sold as harmless entertainment, but in studying how media impacts people, there is a term called internalization that is important here. Basically what this means is that everything we consume, sticks. Even if we know that it’s just entertainment, or that it’s just fantasy, simply our consumption of it at some level has changed how we think (this applies to porn as well). So when we consume media that glamorizes abuse, or eroticizes violence we are in tiny ways telling our brains, “You can treat a woman like that,” “I want a man to beat me,” “This is what I should look for in a relationship” (that many people find in pimp relationships), “I deserve to be punished,” and on and on. These tiny ideas will chip away at what we think we know, and eventually push us in a numbness to injustice, which makes it really hard to fight injustice.

And a note to the ladies, don’t use romantic/erotic media to escape what you feel like you’re missing in real life or in a relationship. I know it seems like an easy or fun option grab your girls for the viewing party, but you are worth more than that. You can put your money and your time into showing the world how freaking great you are instead of playing into this.

#3 You can thrift shop more

Another HUGE part of human trafficking is forced labor. And it’s honestly so astounding how many of the products we buy are made by forced labor workers, or workers who work in poor labor conditions because they simply need to make money and consider the risk worth putting food on the table. You can do a lot of research into the products you use personally and see companies track records with this (which I encourage!) But a really great way to counter forced labor is to buy used items rather than new ones. We are a consumer culture, needing the newest thing and now, but when we buy used items, we slow that demand.

Another great thing to do is to stop buying such cheap clothes. I’m in college and I love Forever 21 just as much as the next person but there are a few things to consider when buying clothes. Every piece had to be produced, and every company has to make a profit. So how do they make clothes so cheap?? They pay low wages, skip out on payments, or deny meal breaks so people can produce even more. They New Yorker says, student activism on over labor conditions is noticeable more quiet than it used to be (http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/why-students-arent-fighting-forever-21). Why? Because we are poor and would rather have cheap clothes than care how the people who make them are treated. Ouch.

All in all today is a day to be celebrated. People around the globe are raising their voices to spread awareness of injustice. But we are a powerful generation that have the power to create a movement on every front. Not just on Instagram, and not just by way of policy. Every piece is integral to beating injustice, and if you’re going to wear the red X, there are things you too can do (and should do), because what is a movement if it’s not backed by action. Awareness is enough, because true awareness leads to greater understanding, and greater understanding allows us to take steps towards change.

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