Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Emma Thompson's journey

There's been much ado down on the street outside my office today, with reporters and TV cameras and, apparently, stars and billionaires, all to open a five-day art installation titled Journey: Against Sexual Trafficking. I thought to check it out during my lunch hour once the stars and the billionaire despot of NYC had left, but something about it put me off. The line? Yeah, I'll wait a couple days and hope to not have to wait. The burly be-suited mobbed-up-looking security guards stationed all around it? Yeah, that creeped me out quite a bit--I mean, could these Journey folks have any less sensitivity than to surround their supposedly anti-sex-trafficking construction with men who might have been sent from Central Casting so perfectly do they appear the archetype of those who do the trafficking? One thing I know from my life as a woman under capitalism is that a great many more of us than is generally supposed work in one corner or another of the sex trade in the course of our lives. The poorest, the most exploited, the unluckiest, are forced into it young, are transported across the globe, have no papers, can never get out, and one way or another it kills them. Others are forced by economic and social circumstances into prostitution, from the hardest, most dangerous work on the streets to the better-paying but still hard and dangerous call-girl gigs, to stripping and exotic dancing, to the porn industry, and some of these women too it kills, but some find a way to survive, some even find a way eventually toward other jobs. OK, this wasn't supposed to be the occasion for some big treatise on the sex industry and the subjugation of women; I only wanted to point out how closely this topic touches so many women's lives (in fact I think this is one of the great secrets of capitalism) and that it would have been nice if it had occurred to someone that those large scary-looking men posted around the installation might themselves be triggers to pain and sorrow for any given woman who might otherwise think about approaching and checking it out.

Which I will try again to do in a day or two. I have a perhaps knee-jerk skepticism about it--I can't help but feel that it somehow smacks itself of sex tourism, of a kind of liberal-hearted voyeurism into that world of pain and sorrow, voyeurism in the guise of crusading on behalf of the victims of the sex trade--I fear there's covert titillation there in equal part to the overt outrage--that there's a neocolonial subtext as well, a look-at-how-those-people-in-those-countries-live condescenscion at least and racism at worst--and it surely has very little to do with any actual struggle, any actual action, organizing, against the patriarchy in its most monstrous manifestations---but. But. I'll try to go and see what there is to see.

Journey is somehow backed or sponsored by the British actor Emma Thompson. Who doesn't love her? Well, I hadn't been loving her much lately, since she signed on to that odious campaign to free Roman Polanski. But guess what? She's now removed her name. After a young woman approached her and appealed to her to rethink her position on Polanski--she did! And is now under vicious attack from the rapist's supporters.