As I'm sitting here watching CNN tonight awaiting the President's speech, a news item scrolling along the bottom read "Richard Gere urges Indian prostitutes to insist on condom use." The item cited the AP, so I decided that since there's a few minutes left I'd take a gander and see what all this celebrity had to say to the oppressed sex class of India. I have a small headache after hitting my head on my desk. On the upside, I finally make my first feminism-themed post of 2007. It should have happened sooner.
"When sex workers speak of condoms as a norm, it is a powerful statement, it empowers them." - Richard Gere
How many things can you find wrong with that statement?
Most of us feminists realize that the second the word "empowerment" appears in any of its forms, it is usually a word that has the exact opposite effect. For example, "pole-dancing classes" are said to be empowering; telling everyday women that the best way for them to get their man to pay attention to them is to behave like a stripper is not empowering. I say this not to denigrate strippers, but rather because men who go to see strippers have exceedingly low esteem for them.
Frankly, telling prostitutes to do anything that results in them continuing to work in the prostitution "industry" is the exact opposite of empowering: it is perpetuating their oppression.
If Richard Gere truly gave a damn about women forced into prostitution, he would make an address to the pimps and johns of India and tell them: "Don't reduce women to commodities to be bought, sold, and traded for sex. If you're a pimp, don't rape women and sell them to others to do the same. If you're a john, don't buy women to use as disposable tools for your own gratification."
But no, instead let's tell the women that if they "demand"--because a 16-year old girl is in a position of authority to demand that a likely much larger and stronger man who doesn't even regard her as a human being at least have the courtesy to put on a condom before he rapes her--that their john use a condom, they'll be empowered.