Gloria Steinem calls prostitution Body Invasion, as feminists go on quarreling

Oh for goodness’ sake, does everyone in the USA have to take on sex trafficking as their special mission? How conformist! Ashley Judd has joined the list; it turns out she once wrote a school paper on the topic, so the UN invited her to come be an expert recently, and rather than blame Judd for her lack of imagination I charge the UN for utter irresponsibility. I expect Mira Sorvino is annoyed as well, displaced from her Queen Bee position. Both women are smugly calling themselves philanthropists now, showing perfectly the correctness of my theory of Rescue as identity marker for under-employed middle-class women.

Now here is Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms Magazine and veteran politicker in the women’s movement, spouting fundamentalist cliches in India, where she was invited to talk about prostitution and trafficking. Feminist conflict on these subjects is as common in India as anywhere else, so the fact that Steinem’s remarks caused a kerfuffle is not surprising, but The Hindu newspaper has allowed a true blossoming of quarrels today –  really quite absurd if you read through them all. Steinem’s original talk at a university, reported as Up against the epidemic of trafficking, was repressive towards sex workers and their allies who attended, followed by Prostitution is one of the oldest oppressions, not profession, which includes more unsubstantiated statistics from Rescue project Apne Aap

the number of child victims trafficked globally for sexual exploitation or cheap labour is 1.2 million annually. The National Human Rights Commission estimates that almost half the children trafficked within India are between the ages of 11 and 14.

Steinem’s own errors and cliches include:

The average age for children to be pushed into sex trafficking is between 12 and 13 in the United States and between 9 and 12 in India. The perception is that very young children are less likely to have AIDS. Quoting from her experiences in different countries, she said women who are trafficked suffer a great deal because of patriarchal structures and religions.

. . . the less “valuable” women who are not expected to maintain the “purity” of a class, caste or race are the ones most likely to fall prey to human trafficking worldwide.

She could be crucified for comments like the last one but was presumably surrounded by groupies so not in danger. Isn’t it nice to know that she now has travel plans with Apne Aap to look at real live sex trafficking and prostitution around India? More Reality Tourism, I call it, with a biased guide. Has she met Siddharth Kara yet?

I suspect that the event’s organiser, Kumkum Roy of Jawaharlal University’s Women Studies Programme, had not properly investigated Steinem before inviting her, because she nearly apologised for exclusion of sex workers at Steinem’s talk in Need for a nuanced debate. Shohini Ghosh, another academic, refuted Steinem’s nonsense more clearly in Moralistic assumptions.

However the icing on this quarrelsome cake is in a piece by Steinem herself called Body Invasion is De-humanising, as a reply to the above criticism. Steinem’s unfamiliarity with this particular debate is glaringly obvious, so that she leans on 1970s Dworkian rhetoric and errors of fact that have been debunked hundreds of times. As with the pea-brained actors, Steinem is reduced to using anecdotal evidence, claiming that the unhappy prostitutes she happens to have met represent all, and she says no one has ever told her they want their daughter to grow up to be a prostitute. My land, isn’t that amazing! This sort of embarrassing cant is easily avoided by never accepting an invitation to talk on a subject where most of the audience knows much more than you ever will: Public Speaking 101.

Pictures depict real body invasions.

–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

10 thoughts on “Gloria Steinem calls prostitution Body Invasion, as feminists go on quarreling

  1. Sexworker Marc

    Gloria Steinem stated false information in her talk at Apne Aap New Delhi 2. April 2012 (on their home page):

    “In Germany, where prostitution is legalized and called “hospitality work,” women h[a]d to show they applied and were willing to take such jobs before getting unemployment benefits.”

    This is misinformation resulting form old news postings when the new liberal prostitution legalisation and legislation (ProstG) was enacted 2002 in Germany. Then not all details were known related to social security agencies or have been sorted out and the press was reluctant to find or hypothesize on complicated sexy cases.

    Later such conflicts were officially dismissed and confirmed by highest court ruling, so that there is no link between receiving social benefits and a necessity to do sex work (ruling federal court at Kassel Germany, Mai 7th, 2009, file#: B 11 AL 11/08 R).

  2. Arum

    More Steinem rubbish here:

  3. G. Virago

    Ugh…the misinformation, but yes, it is the UN that should reconsider how it selects its ‘experts.’ Her credibility has always been a bit suspect since old school days reveal of CIA ties..really triggers my paranoia on all of her motives. Not to mention her old tired ass ethics…but shes been useful under the umbrella of feminism(& civil rights) in many ways, of which none of us can deny. But then again, a tampon is also useful, of which great importance has been expressed on proper disposal once they are used. We throw them away, and dont flush them for a reason.Tampons are akin to GS qualities…useful, but if not dismissed properly,they either clog the commode, stagnating the waters of free flowing ideas and critical thought or they will float back up to the top of the toilet bowl, thinking itself still relevant, when really, its only rubbish.
    Virago out!

    1. Laura Agustín

      Ashley Judd is the one the UN asked to come be an expert – presumably they want pretty young celebrities to spice up their dull hearings, which old feminists are not. As for Gloria’s career, I do not mean to dismiss or question it. I question her lending herself to a sexy new cause she doesn’t know anything about; it reflects badly on her and puts her in the imperialist camp.

    2. Aspasia

      Tampons are akin to GS qualities…useful, but if not dismissed properly,they either clog the commode, stagnating the waters of free flowing ideas and critical thought or they will float back up to the top of the toilet bowl, thinking itself still relevant, when really, its only rubbish.

      And lest we forget, causes Toxic Shock Syndrome if left in too long!

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