My friend Dan sent me a message last week that has annoyed me, intrigued me, and inspired me. It raises some questions that have always been in the back of my mind but I have been too busy to address. Here is the email that has had me pondering all weekend:
I was thinking today about all the work that you’re doing in regards to sex trafficking. I know some big changes are going to come about in that area because of the work that you’re doing! I’m basically just writing to offer a tiny piece of food for thought.
I’ve noticed that you often refer to the efforts as anti-trafficking, which is true and accurate. I was thinking though that it might be more effective to look at the positive side and what you’re FOR rather than what you’re against. Kind of like how advocates refer to it as ‘pro-life’ rather than ‘anti-abortion’.
Like I said just something to think over. You know more of the ins and outs of this subject more than I do (obviously) so maybe the ‘anti’ stance is more effective, just wanted to offer the thought.
Hmm. Dan certainly has a good point. Calling myself an anti-trafficker doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue very easily, and it leaves room for confusion for those who don’t know about the issues. In fact I once had a girl ask me why I was against traffic lights! So here are a few terms that I have come up with as possibilities for what to call myself and those who fight trafficking:
- Abolitionist: Abolishing modern day slavery is a noble goal and a cause worth fighting for. William Wilberforce, who played a key role in abolishing the trans-Atlantic slave trade, is often referred to as an abolitionist. Out of all the terms out there, I like this one the most. However, it causes some confusion in the academic world. When it comes to the fight against trafficking, there are two camps that are recognized in formal debates: the abolitionist position and the sex work/regulatory position. Abolitionists claim that no woman would choose prostitution and that it must be abolished in order for trafficking and exploitation to end. Those in the sex work camp argue that some women do choose prostitution as a profession and it must be regulated to weed out the traffickers. Unlike the abolitionists, I do believe that some women (a very small minority) choose to prostitute themselves. However I believe that legalizing prostitution merely fuels trafficking. Because of this raging debate and the titles given to each camp, using the label abolitionist can get a bit confusing in the academic realm.
- Freedom Fighter: This definitely clarifies what we are for…freedom. But freedom fighter sounds a bit over-the-top Hollywoodish.
- Rights Advocate: This would also work, because we are for human rights. However it is not specific enough. Rights advocate could imply a number of different areas in the human rights arena. Sex rights advocate could also work, but that sounds more like someone addressing the gay/lesbian rights movement.
Ultimately, here is what the anti-trafficking movement is FOR:
- Restoration of relationships
- Strong families
- Economic sustainability
- Job skills
- Fair trade
- Women’s rights
- Children’s Rights
- Social Reform
- Healthy community
- Empowerment for the marginalized
Can you add any more to this list? Based on the idea of what we are FOR, can you come up with any terms we can apply to ourselves in addition to abolitionist, freedom fighter, and rights advocate? Or do you think that we should stick with ‘anti-trafficking?’
Thanks Dan for raising such a great point! You’ve sparked an important discussion.