Flix Friday, January 16, 2015 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | November 26, 2014 | 7.47 pm IST (Opinion) A video uploaded by Mission Sharing Knowledge that's gone viral on social media networks appears to be well-intentioned, but actually ends up degrading a sex worker and reinforcing the idea that a woman’s body is no one’s but her husband’s. The film opens with the scene of a woman saying “My husband made me a prostitute. No, he didn't force me. I volunteered. First my in-laws had a problem with it, but now they’ve adjusted to my new lifestyle.” Here are excerpts from what she says: “There was a time I judged prostitutes. Obviously I didn't know then I would become one.” Referring to the kind of men who were her customers: big businessmen, spoilt brats, first-timers, unsatisfied husbands, she says: “My husband would never do something like this.” With the education I have, prostitution isn’t the only option, but it’s the fastest and the most high-paying one.” She wishes he hadn’t driven back after the party and had taken a cab instead, because that’s when the truck hit him. “It’s a miracle he’s alive. This is not the life he planned for us. But I’m the one living it. Maybe I die every day, but I’m sure he will live one day (wipes tears from the corner of her eyes)” As she turns to go away, the caption appears: “You aren’t the only one who pay’s the price. Don’t drink and drive” Under the disguise of being understanding of sex workers’ troubles, the film snootily looks down on them. Let’s start with the basics first. Drunk driving isn’t always about the driver getting killed. Drunk drivers also harm other people who are unrelated to them. The accusations against Salman Khan ring a bell? While make it clear that she is “Safe and clean”, euphemisms for she is not being beaten and nor does she have a sexually transmitted disease, she emphasizes that her husband would “never do this”. Sex between two consenting adults is nobody’s business (and without any kind of coercion or threat), even if it happens with the involvement of money. So already, she is placing herself and her husband on some kind of moral high ground. Again, sex is apparently, only the last option that any woman would choose, and it’s only acceptable (even for the oh-so-sacred in-laws) when you martyr yourself for a husband? What if a woman wants to do it as an easy way to get money. In effect, the woman in the ad is not a prostitute, she is an escort girl. The prostitute is the one who waits around on the streets her make-up and loud clothes an advertisement of her trade. She is the one who gets arrested for “soliciting in a public place”, as the police call it. The “man who gets her the jobs” is not bothered about whether she gets beaten or if the customer has a disease. Perhaps the best way to drive home a point is to make a situation personal to someone, but that can be done creatively, without using lazy stereotypes. What if, say, the woman who took up sex work was not the man’s wife, but the wife of a man who had been killed by a drunk driver. Or if a child had been run over by a drunk driver. Is it not possible to simply convey that the consequences of one’s actions are serious. Sex work is already sunk in the quagmire of many debates and stereotypes. Using the image of a woman martyring herself to save her husband by earning money through sex work just indicates a lack of imagination, and focuses attention towards sex work and not drunk driving. In short, the whole point sort of gets missed.
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