As I decided whether or not to write this blog and then set out to do so, several things were happening for me. I kept wondering if I should write this – this white, middle-age, middle class, heterosexual-identified male will never be the person who knows the most about sexism. I decided I should write it because, as someone who identifies as male and who is trying to be anti-sexist, I reject this recent notion I’ve heard that both men and women are the victims of sexism.
My next decision was how to start this blog. I tried to start off clever by talking about the importance of math to understanding sexism. Instead, I managed to highlight my privilege while being dismissive of women’s experiences of sexism. While this was not intentional, it was very real – privilege strikes again. (A big thank you to Morgan for helping me see what my privilege blinded me to.) Sexism is a reality that my female-identified colleagues have to deal with on a daily basis and a cute or clever approach just isn’t appropriate, particularly the approach I took. Hopefully this version of this blog is more straightforward and supports the truth that women have been telling for years, that gender-based prejudice is only a part of the equation of sexism and that men cannot experience sexism in our culture. The full equation for understanding sexism is below.
POWER (historical power + institutional power) + GENDER-BASED PREJUDICE = SEXISM
I want to be very clear – men are absolutely targeted for gender-based prejudice. Further, gender-based prejudice has very real consequences, particularly when it is wielded by people who have individual power over other individuals. Work to end gender-based prejudice is important for this reason. However, gender-based prejudice against men does not have the same impact on a community and societal level (and therefore on the individual level) as sexism against women because men have institutional power and historical power in their favor. (It is important to note that men who belong to other marginalized groups who’ve had institutional and historical power wielded over them experience other forms of oppression.) This distinction makes the experience of gender-based prejudice against men different than sexism against women in at least these 3 ways.
- Sexism leads to the normalization and minimization of prejudice and violence. Gender-based prejudice leveled towards men on a community or institutional level is the exception rather than the rule. Sexism directed at women brings with it a long history of similar behavior. The impact is that, even if sexist behavior is brought to light, it has been reinforced over centuries and from generation to generation and has therefore become expected. In this environment, the response to prejudice and violence is often one of acceptance rather than outrage and the target of sexism often finds little sympathy or support.
- Impact is on the collective and not just on the individual or a small group of individuals. Most of the women I’ve ever met can easily rattle off multiple incidences of sexism and sexual or physical violence they’ve experienced at the hands of men. They have also heard stories of violence and sexism from women in the generations before theirs. In the context of this level of historical violence, gender-based prejudice towards individual women reinforces the oppression of all women in a way that doesn’t happen for men targeted by gender-based prejudice. The acts of prejudice become a warning of what’s to come for other women and a reminder of the violence that’s already been.
- Sexism is reinforced by other systems. In a society filled with institutions whose policies and practices favor men (e.g., men are still making more money for the same or similar jobs as women) and where women continue to be tracked away from more powerful and highly-valued roles, women have had to resist and work hard to create spaces where they can find support. Most often, these spaces are outside of traditional institutions because an act of sexism in one institution is often supported by and reinforces a system of sexism.
Some people might ask why this distinction is so important. Why, if gender-based prejudice can lead to violence on its own, and we’re all struggling to end violence, is it so important to distinguish sexism from gender-based prejudice? There are at least three important reasons for recognizing the distinction:
- Honoring and understanding the full impact of sexism on women. Ignoring the level of institutional and historical disempowerment that women contend with makes it impossible to empathize or sympathize with women who are targeted for violence. This can have a profoundly negative impact on how we support survivors and understand the far reaching and multi-layered impact of gender-based violence on women.
- It hides the solution from view. The focus on ending gender-based prejudice while ignoring the destructive effect of power lends itself to solutions that are limited to changing individual attitudes and behaviors. To be sure, a solution to the issue of sexism must involve work on this level. However, it also requires efforts to change the systems and institutions that perpetuate gender-based oppression. Without this level of work sexism will persist.
- It reinforces a male-centric approach. A sexist society values things from the male sphere and focuses attention and resources on men. A sexist society also tends to focus attention away from men’s negative behavior. Even in our own movement we often hear about violence against women without calling attention to who is committing the vast majority of that violence – men. Stating that sexism is gender-based prejudice reinforces sexism. It turns much of the focus towards men as victims, thereby focusing energy on a solution to a problem for men rather than a problem promulgated primarily by men. The results are reinforcement of the focus on and importance of all things male and efforts to solve a problem that actually reinforce the problem.
I hope you will join me in seeking understanding of the impact of sexism and the systems and institutions that keep it in place. We’d love for you to share any resources that may have helped you along in your anti-sexism efforts or hear about the small or large acts of resistance you engage in to call attention to and ultimately eliminate sexism from your community.
Today’s blog features sexual assault awareness and prevention month outreach efforts to the Latino community.
How do you say “teal ribbon” in español?
Written by: Laura E. Zárate, Arte Sana Executive Director
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 55 million Latin@s in the U.S. as of July 1, 2013, and according to the 2011 American Community Survey, over 37.6 million residents speak Spanish at home. While there have been some inroads in bilingual / bicultural victim advocacy, with 17 state sexual assault, domestic violence (or dual) coalitions adding an ‘español’ tab with web content in Spanish, many states with millions of Latin@s fall short of providing necessary bilingual victim advocacy.
This reality was painfully revealed in the ‘Domestic Violence Counts 2013 Report’ from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. ‘Bilingual advocacy’ is one of 35 possible services that can be noted as provided by survey respondents. However, 55 programs reduced or eliminated bilingual advocacy in 2013 according to the report. None of the 15,525 victims assisted in states with millions of Latin@ residents like Texas, Florida, New York, or Arizona, received bilingual services on September 17, 2013. In fact, of the 21 states home to 400,000 or more Latin@s, only 10 of these offered some form of bilingual services on the day of the survey.
Texas is home to over 10 million Latin@s according to the U.S. Census Bureau, so in February of this year, Arte Sana performed a follow-up web content search for Spanish language content on all direct service agencies in Texas listed on the ‘RAINN-Partner Local Crisis Center’ and with working websites. Unfortunately, there was not any significant improvement since the first web content review in 2010; only 20% of all 66 of these included an español tab. The following *13 agencies in Texas provide a range of content in Spanish, and most also offer some community presentations in Spanish:
Johnson County Family Crisis Center
Victim Intervention Program-Parkland
Center Against Family Violence
Rape Crisis & Victim Services Program
Family Crisis Center, Inc.
Katy Christian Ministries
Lubbock Rape Crisis Center dba Voice of Hope
Women Together/Mujeres Unidas
Panhandle Crisis Center
Rape Crisis Center (San Antonio)
Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center
East Texas Crisis Center
The above list is not exhaustive of all agencies in Texas that may either provide some presentations in Spanish based on a request and staffing patterns, or as a permanent part of programming. Casa de Misericordia in Laredo and the Houston Area Women’s Center are among agencies with a long history of providing presentations in Spanish on SA and DV issues. Arte Sana is honored to have collaborated with most of the agencies listed above within our last 13 years of operation.
In order to effectively meet the needs of Spanish monolingual survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence — and engage communities as partner in prevention — it is necessary to recruit, train, and retain bilingual and bicultural advocates.
Some recommendations from Latin@ advocates across the nation:
- Consider second language capability an extra skill and develop project budgets to prevent the exploitation of bilingual staff performing multiple duties.
- Establish a process to recruit, interview, and hire bilingual and bicultural staff familiar with target communities, especially when applying for Latin@-specific grants.
- Support Spanish language training of bilingual advocates to further our outreach skills among Spanish monolingual or Spanish dominant communities.
National Surveys Reveal Most Requested Topics in Spanish
Since its inception, Arte Sana has placed an emphasis on promoting training in Spanish on sexual violence issues, and has trained or presented in Spanish to 3,568 advocates and promotoras (community health workers). In 2013, Arte Sana posted a survey regarding Spanish language training on SurveyMonkey and received 160 responses from advocates across the nation. Then in January 2014, Arte Sana posted a similar survey regarding training topics in Spanish, but this time focusing on domestic violence. Though less survey respondents than with the SA survey, the 66 responses nonetheless shed light on similar training needs.
Training opportunity in Spanish via TAASA for bilingual advocates!
You are invited to participate in a unique Spanish language webinar on the second most requested topic ‘la cultura de violación’ presented by Arte Sana’s founding executive director. The webinar will take place) on April 14, 2014 from 10:30 until 12 noon (CST)
Register now! https://student.gototraining.com/r/3282447186494898432
A free agency web listing service from Arte Sana:
Often agency web listings do not always indicate actual services provided in Spanish. So for over a decade Arte Sana has offered victim assistance agencies the opportunity to have their Spanish language victim services listed on the ‘Existe Ayuda (Help Exists) National Directory. Bilingual advocates can add or update agency services here: http://www.arte-sana.com/recursos_form.htm
Learn more about Arte Sana http://www.arte-sana.com/arte_sana.htm
The information can be accessed here: http://nnedv.org/projects/census/4225-domestic-violence-counts-census-2013-report.html
Since 2002, Arte Sana has taken the lead from Latin American groups to use the @ sign to modify gender-specific nouns in the Spanish language and promote gender inclusion.
In 2003 the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was unanimously passed by both Houses of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. At a time in our history when rabid partisan politics was already beginning to rear its ugly head the Senate sponsors for the bill were none other than Edward Kennedy of MA and Jeff Sessions of AL. I’m sure it helped that there was a broad coalition of supporters that ran the gamut between the National Association of Evangelicals and Amnesty International. The general public seemed to truly understand that many of those being sexually victimized were very young, nonviolent offenders, not the stereotypical violent offender who was “getting what he deserved.” In fact, no jail or prison should allow inmates to be vulnerable to assault from fellow inmates or guards.
It was through the Human Rights Watch’s 2001 report “No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons” that this tragic issue entered our collective consciousness as something more than a tacky comedic punchline. Texas was certainly referenced though-out the document as having a significant problem with rape in our prisons, jails, and detention facilities.
Over the course of the past 10 years, Texas, like other states, is making some progress thanks to PREA. Corrections Officers are being specially trained through the Safe Prisons Program to be more proactive and aware of conditions that make sexual assault more likely. There is a PREA Ombudsman Office that works to improve reporting of sexual abuse, as well as investigate allegations of sexual assault in the prisons. When prisoners are initially processed into the system they are given written materials that explain their rights, identify how to report victimization, and offer practical suggestions that may reduce their vulnerability to sexual assault in this setting. Given this backdrop the current developments with PREA are even more disappointing.
Recent rules and guidelines approved by the Department of Justice were meant to direct states to compliance and included a penalty of losing 5% of certain federal grant monies, including VAWA, if out of compliance. Texas is out of compliance and Governor Perry sent a detailed letter to Attorney General Eric Holder outlining the reasons, from his perspective, that the rules are misguided or unworkable for our state, and possibly other states as well. The Governor’s letter also stated that experts in corrections were not included in developing these rules which is not in fact accurate. Still, other points made in the letter did point out the double bind many states are likely to experience trying to implement PREA. Some advocacy organizations and media sources responded by calling out the governor. Some concerns were certainly fair game, other statements implying Perry doesn’t Read more
Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month (SAAPM) begins next week! Our goal is to complement local efforts by providing tools, training opportunities and assistance as needed. Our shared interest in a “survivor centered” response from both the community and its systems drives sexual assault awareness efforts each year. This year’s focus on male involvement digs deeper to expand the onus of this issue to include the entire community.
This blog is the first of many to provide ideas and resources throughout the month of April. Please share with your community partners and continue the conversation online by utilizing #firstclassmale #saapmtx to trend on social media outlets.
TAASA April Calendar
TAASA’s calendar is a space to publicize events occurring throughout Texas. Let’s fill TAASA’s calendar for the month of April with your events! Sharing events through the calendar allows everyone to witness the great work occurring in your communities and also provides inspiration and ideas for others to replicate. Please send your scheduled SAAPM activities to firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Media Profile and Cover Photos!
Please incorporate the following pics as profile and cover photos. Encourage your followers to do the same.
“Conversation on Consent” Statewide Activity
TAASA’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month theme “First Class Male: Cultivating Change through Male Involvement” kicks off its statewide event titled “Conversation on Consent” on April 1. Allow the first class males in your area to join others in the state in sending a resounding message that “Sexual Assault is NO Joke”.
We are interested to know about local “Conversations on Consent” events. Please email email@example.com if your agency is hosting a local conversation on April 1st.
Alyssa Salazar, TAASA’s Web Content Specialist created graphics to incorporate into your existing marketing collateral for the event.
Please click to view sample 1 (This is a large file that may take a few minutes to load) If you receive a message to login – press cancel)
Please click to view sample 2
Please click to view sample 3
Attached please find sample copies of marketing collateral. To download full copies of the graphics and marketing pieces click here or contact Alysaa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Media Conversation on April 1!!
Mobile technology has revolutionized communication between individuals and the world. Our goal is to create an online conversation about what’s happening on the ground. Let’s raise the voice of survivors by participating with the online #conversationonconsent on April 1.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, so with your participation, the statewide #conversationonconsent event will prove that in Texas “Sexual Assault is NO joke!”
Please join the conversation on April 1 by using the following hashtags:
Please contact Rose Luna email@example.com or Emiliano Diaz Deleon firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
April Webinar Opportunities Read more
Tags: activism, beauty, beauty and skin, biracial, black skin, body image, body image activism, body image movement, brown skin, feminism, gender, gender socialization, Lupita Nyong'o, primary prevention, race, self-esteem, skin color, social justice, women of color, youth
Filed Under Diversity, Powerful Women | By Maya Pilgrim | 1 Comment
I keep a very vivid memory from sometime in the hormonal haze of my middle school years. I remember riding in the car and trying to cover my arm and shoulder which were getting beaten down by the hot Texas sun in an effort to not get any darker. It didn’t take much back then; my color changed in a heartbeat. If I were to reduce the diversity of skin colors down to a cheap crayon box of 8, my coloring has always favored my mother’s brown more than my father’s white. Few people I saw in my daily life since moving to the US when I turned 10 looked like me. This was true for those I came across in the flesh in our predominantly white middle-class suburb and for those who graced the pages of my Seventeen and Jane magazines, MTV, Nickelodeon or prime-time TV. My color, my features and how they defined me against what I saw everyday was and still is always salient in my mind. I would be labeled as “exotic”, told ignorantly to go back to the Great Wall of China (I’m not Chinese), and confused for any number of different nationalities.
At some point, I began to embrace my brownness, even began to revel in it. Adulthood has allowed me emotional distance from the tumultuous waves of adolescence but it was a long and crooked journey aided mostly by building friendships with others who could understand my experience, even if we didn’t explicitly talk about it. Watching Lupita Nyong’o’s acceptance speech for Best Breakthrough Performance at the Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon brought back a lot of those emotions for me. If you haven’t heard her give this speech, transcribed here I urge you to listen to or read it now. She speaks of her experience of growing up not feeling beautiful and being “teased and taunted because of [her] night-shaded skin.” She talks about the impact of the Sudanese model Alek Wek coming onto the fashion scene and ultimately re-examining what it means to be beautiful. While I can’t speak to Nyong’o’s experience, I can certainly speak to mine.
I had once wished for lighter skin, thinner lips, and different facial features. Nyong’o’s speech reminded me of my past insecurities but also made obvious the disconnect of telling girls to have “self-esteem” when the pervasive message is that they are not held in esteem by society, or that they are only valued in terms of their “exotic-ness.” It highlighted to me the problem of almost exclusively emphasizing beauty when it comes to women’s worth but then the added injury of only emphasizing a certain type of beauty, often exclusionary of women of color. How can we expect to erase a childhood’s worth of girls being told to strive for unattainable, photoshopped beauty with a one-hour workshop on the importance of self-esteem? It’s not that I don’t think conversations about self-esteem are important. But, I also insist they are vastly insufficient, shifting the burden to girls to muster up their own feelings of self-worth despite the messages and images that surround them.
Nyong’o shared her mother’s powerful words, “you can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you.” It’s an important message to any girl, but it’s not the message that we, as a society give her. There is serious incongruence between what we want and what we do. I hear it every time someone first meets my daughter and immediately tells her she’s cute or pretty or beautiful but does little else to acknowledge the wealth of other attributes that make her a wonderful human being. It makes my work as a “Primary Prevention Specialist” very, very personal. How do we hold ourselves accountable for what we’ll accept or brush off as “bigger than us” without acknowledging that we’re part of it? How do we hold companies accountable? I found Nyong’o’s speech so relevant and touching because it made the intersections so evident. It’s not a matter of beauty or race or gender. It’s a matter of beauty and race and gender.
I can’t expect to erase centuries of fair being the standard of beauty nor of beauty determining a woman’s worth, but I can demand to change the conversation. I can change my conversations. I can ask girls what they like to do and what books they’re reading instead of commenting on their wardrobe. I can help my daughter navigate the conversations. I can speak up through emails and petitions and twitter and phone calls to hold companies and individuals accountable for their speech. The Representation Project which looks specifically at how media treats women and girls and their #notbuyingit campaigns are helping to remold the messages about femininity and womanhood. Let’s allow all girls the opportunity to feel beautiful. Let’s bring to the conversation issues beyond beauty, issues and topics that will really feed them. In the words of poet, Katie Makkai, I plan on echoing this message to my child: “The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be. And no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing but you will never be merely pretty.” I plan on changing the conversation. I hope you’ll join me.
TAASA’s Diversity Task Force prides itself in the process by which recipients are selected. Each application was qualified and carefully reviewed.
We are proud to announce the 2014 Scholarship Recipients.
Emma J. Smith
Sexual Assault Resource Center
Center Against Family Violence
El Paso, TX
Regional Victim Crisis Center
Fort Worth, TX
Abigail’s Arms CCFCC
We encourage all applicants to keep up the good work in positively impacting the anti-sexual assault movement.
Thank you all again for taking the time to complete a thorough application and we look forward to meeting you at the conference in Irving. Specific scholarship details will be emailed at a later time.
With Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) around the corner, we are excited to unveil TAASA’s 2014 SAAPM theme.
This year’s SAAPM toolkit focuses on the engagement of males in the prevention and awareness of sexual assault. The theme “First Class Male: Cultivating Change through Male Involvement” is two-fold. First, it represents the involvement of males in creating awareness about the most common form of sexual assault and in challenging rape culture (where rape is an accepted & expected norm). Second, it symbolizes the unity of well-intentioned males in their commitment to the health and safety of the community.
We will host a series of SAAPM planning webinars in February and March to assist with local SAAPM efforts. So don’t miss out! Please let us know your thoughts on the toolkit, the theme, and how we can partner with your agency in planning SAAPM 2014 activities.
To download the toolkit click 2014 SAAPM Booklet Content.
LEGOs can be found everywhere in my house right now as they are the new obsession of my 4-year old son, Joaquin. Half-built sets are strewn upon our dining room table, completed masterpieces sit proudly atop his toy chest, and a few single bricks inevitably find their way beneath my feet as I step on them in the dark. Ouch!
With each LEGO creation that Joaquin builds, destroys, and rebuilds, learning is taking place. He is understanding how to follow directions precisely to complete a task, but at the other end of the spectrum, his creativity is being allowed to blossom. As he connects one brick to another, his fine-motor skills are improving, and he is practicing colors, numbers, shapes, and most importantly, problem-solving and perseverance.
Unfortunately, when building his LEGO City, he is also learning a very narrow definition of masculinity. This Christmas, Joaquin was gifted with several sets from the LEGO City series, all of which contained male minifigures (police officers, fire fighters, city workers, etc.) with the exception of one set (60017 Flatbed Truck). Included in this particular set was a businesswoman who is the driver of a sports car. While my son was impressed with the car she was driving, I, regrettably, realized that the set was encouraging a scene in which the businesswoman’s car breaks down, and the mechanic with the flatbed tow truck must come to her rescue, setting up a damsel in distress scenario.
As his father, I must find ways to make him aware of this subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) re-enforcement of gender roles, something that the company has increasingly come under fire for over the last few years, especially from young girls, like 7-year old Charlotte Benjamin.
Her letter recently went viral, and when I came across it, I thought it would be a good idea to share it with my own LEGO enthusiast. In a moment together, I read aloud the letter to Joaquin, and as I came to the end, he said, “Yeah, Dada, but I don’t make the LEGOs.”
With the infinite wisdom that he possesses at 4-years old, Joaquin is correct. While neither of us “make the LEGOs,” we do buy them, and as such it is important that we challenge the stereotypes portrayed through the LEGO products and show our support as allies with the girls who are already seeking change from the company.
Other parents who have written on this same subject agree that gender disparity in LEGO products is a problem that can be solved. Here are a few suggestions to help boys begin building a different type of LEGO City:
• Talk with boys about the lack of girl minifigures while playing with LEGO toys and ask them how that makes them feel.
• Ask boys (if they haven’t already noticed) about the difference in packaging and placement of LEGO toys in most retail stores.
• Sign the Change.org petition LEGO: Give Us More Options for Girls and Produce the Female Scientists Series!, which asks LEGO to incorporate girl minifigures in new products and develop a series that promotes STEM jobs. This petition has recently surpassed 40,000 signatures.
• Purchase LEGO minifigures separately which include girl minifigures such as snowboarders or police officers and encourage your boys to incorporate them into their play.
• Encourage boys to write a letter or email to the LEGO Corporation asking them to introduce more girl minifigures into the most popular sets.
• Purchase LEGO Friends sets for boys as a way to begin breaking down the gendering of toys.
• Switch female LEGO heads with male bodies and male accessories to create unique female characters.
• Encourage the boys and men in your life to support/join efforts like the Brave Girls Alliance who are challenging gender stereotypes in advertising and products designed for girls.
• Download and encourage boys to use the #NotBuyingIt app from Miss Representation to call out limiting depictions of boys and men in advertising.
By putting collective pressure as consumers on LEGO and other corporations to change their toys to represent a diverse society, I hope that my son Joaquin will not have to write a similar letter to that of Charlotte Benjamin when he is 7 years old. Instead, I hope that as his LEGO collection grows, so too does LEGO’s understanding of gender equality.
In the comment section below, please share how you have addressed this issue with the boys and men in your life, as well as any additional suggestions you have for seeking further change from the LEGO company.
So let’s file this one under practicing what you preach. Earlier today, I sat in a room with a group of prevention workers from Austin, Waco, San Antonio, San Marcos, Bastrop, and Round Rock. The prevention team at TAASA was hosting a gathering of prevention workers and we were providing mini-presentations, “Nuggets of Knowledge” as we affectionately call them. I was talking to the group about facilitation skills and I explained that part of the role of a facilitator is to help the participants they are working with hold on to hope. It is so easy to lose hope when violence and oppression saturate our communities. The prevention workers all talked about how often they have participants in their programming express that they just don’t see the point in changing because no one else will or that it won’t make a difference anyway. A facilitator’s role is to help participants see hope in the small changes they can make in the ways they interact with one another and see how using their voice can start the ripples of larger, community-wide change.
I want to thank the people in that room today for rekindling my own hope. I feel it is my duty to try to pass that feeling on in any way that I can. For those of you reading this who feel alone in your resistance to violence and oppression, I want you to know that you are not alone. I just spent the day with 14 of the most amazing people who are working hard and devoting so much time and energy into making things better and building healthier communities. Some of them have been doing this work for many years and some of them are brand new to this work – or at least this field – and they are passionate, committed, and on a mission to create some serious change. If any of you who were there at TAASA today are reading this blog, thank you for making it easier for me to hope.
In an effort to spread some more hope, I encourage anyone reading this blog to read the blog at this link. Talk about an inspiring individual. She gives me hope and I hope she will do the same for you.
Once you have a chance to read this blog, let us know who brings you hope. Who makes you believe that we can rid our communities of violence and oppression. Who do you know that strives to connect with other people in meaningful and authentic ways and who tries to promote equity. It is important from time to time that we recognize those people who give us hope, lest our hope be extinguished by violence, inequity, and isolation.
Each year, in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, a fiery debate is re-kindled regarding human trafficking. Some assert that during Super Bowl week incidences of sex trafficking increase exponentially in the city, and surrounding areas, where the Super Bowl is being played. There are claims of tens of thousands of sex and labor slaves, many of whom are children, being imported to meet the huge increase in demand created by the hyper-masculine crowd that infiltrates the Super Bowl’s host city each year. Many, including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, say that the Super bowl is the “single largest human trafficking incident in the United States”.
Others argue that these claims are unsubstantiated. They insist that there is no data that supports claims of increased trafficking – especially not to the scale that is being touted by those on the other side of the debate. Essentially they say that these claims are nothing more than urban legend.
Media outlets pitch both sides with outlandish headlines that further polarize the issue. Special interest groups, politicians, religious leaders, and the like all chip in their two cents. The result is a messy distraction from the stark reality that human trafficking in and of itself is a huge problem. Arguing about whether or not it is worse at any given time is a red herring that diverts attention from the fact that women, men, and children are being trafficked 365 days a year in our own backyards.
The good news for the 2014 Super Bowl is the New York/New Jersey area is doing what they can to prepare for the worst in terms of human trafficking. Local law enforcement, various trafficking coalitions, and advocates in the area are redoubling efforts to educate bars and clubs, hotels, restaurants, etc. on the tell-tale signs of a person being trafficked as well as making it more difficult for traffickers to operate. This is necessary work, but they are supply side strategies being used to address a demand side problem. If we truly hope to put an end to human trafficking, we also have to find strategies that eliminate the demand for sex and labor slaves. A good place to start would be to teach boys and men (men make up the vast majority of slavery consumers) to view women and children as fully human as opposed to objects that exist to fulfill a need. We must challenge gender stereotypes that create the expectation that men be dominant, aggressive and hyper-sexual. We must work to end oppression and work for social justice wherever it exists. If we don’t engage in those demand side strategies, we will continue to be “stuck in traffick”.