What a remarkable woman was Josephine Butler. Over 150 years ago she generated intense debate across Europe about prostitution. I personally find her affinity and understanding of women who sell sex and at the same time questioning the institution of prostitution quite extraordinary when you consider the time she was living in.
She flouted conventions of her time and dared to question male privilege and entitlement.
In a nutshell she dealt with how the status of the prostitute impacts on all women, and why was men’s access to prostitution facilitated and protected by the state. These issues are as relevant today as they were over a century ago and I’m sure it won’t come as any surprise to know that we are, today, no nearer a consensus about what should be done.
As citizens we should take the title of an exhibition currently being hosted by The Women’s Library – What’s Going On? - very seriously and ask ‘what is going on’ here and internationally.
What troubles me is the re-sexualisation of popular culture and what this means for young women in particular.
I am probably not the only woman who finds it depressing and disturbing that an increasing proportion of young (and not so young) women today who think being a glamour model, having breast implants - basically looking like an adolescent-boys-porn-fuelled-fantasy - is sexual or part of women’s liberation.
You can channel surf pimps and the image of a whore slapping party animal, with an endless bank roll emerges – grinning and posing and talking trash. This super-sleazy, overdressed procurer dripping in gold and girlfriends has become a popular celeb icon.
This image is making big bucks and is now considered a bonafide marketing strategy - in Las Vegas you have the Pimp and Ho Costume Ball, here in the UK it’s been used by the advertising agency promoting Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Lounge, Selfridges have used the image/term, as has Superdrug.
But for the life of me, I cannot find one good reason for any community to countenance pimps in its mindset, anymore than you could be proud of the fleas and ticks on your dogs.
The image of a pimp as an arch-typical counter-cultural hero may be disgusting but it sure has an internal twisted logic because pimping is about power. No matter how low you go in the socio-economic ladder you can always gain power by exploiting and degrading another human being.
And you also degrade not only by action but also by language. For example the Pimp slap “a slap delivered as a backhand to the face for disciplinary reasons. Different from a 'bitch slap' which uses the palm of the hand and can be recreational.”
Womankind Worldwide’s work in schools on violence finds that the verbal harassment and insults that were documented in the 1980s persist, with over half of young women reporting being called a slag or slut. This year almost a third say that they have also had ‘ho’ thrown at them as an insult.
An interesting website, urbandictionary.com, definitely makes me ask what is going on?
Some definitions for ‘ho’ include:
• a woman that can be ugly or hot & pimps herself to basically anyone
• slang term for hot girls who are sluts
• a woman who likes to have 'fun'
So what’s going on - when pimp and ho’s are seen as models for relationships between young men and women and something to aspire to?
The What’s Going On Exhibition – and the fact that so many young people will come on schools visits – is one space in which it possible to ask ‘what is going on’. We need more of them. The exhibition runs from 21st September 2006 to 31st March 2007 – so get along there if you can.
Topic : Sex Posted By : Anita Roddick Posted On : September 28, 2006
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Re : What's Going On? By Grace on September 28, 2006
My young daughter’s male classmates call themselves pimps. Therefore, she came to me and asked what a pimp was. Horrified I did not answer her at first. That word brings up in my mind a disturbing image and I felt at her age that she did not need to know. Well you know kids…………she asked me again and I told her the truth. The truth plain and simple. She was outraged and sickened at my response. She marched back to school the next day and said to a boy,” so you are a pimp you say”? His response proudly was yes and she replied you disgusting pig, do you know what that really means, and does your mother know how you are describing yourself? You should ask your mom what that really means. He never said it again. Victory for a little girl and for girl power.