Human Trafficking and My Letter to the Editor

A few days back, an article appeared in the Fairfax Times, the newspaper distributed amongst citizens of Fairfax County, Virginia. It covered a talk given by a detective who works to shut down human traffickers and human trafficking rings. As Northern Virginia is one of the top 5 hubs of human trafficking in the USA, it is important work. However, the title of the article raised my ire enough that I sent the following letter to the Editor. 

Re: “Police: Teens selling themselves for sex after school”, January 29, 2015

Dear Sir,

I was both pleased and dismayed to see this article in the newspaper a few days ago. Pleased, as human trafficking is an issue that needs more discussion. Dismayed (and I’m sure Det. Bill Woolf was too) because the headline was so incredibly inaccurate and misleading.

Victims of sex trafficking do not sell themselves; they are sold by their trafficker. This is a vital distinction. The statement “selling themselves” implies an action done on one’s own free will. The girls referred to in the article have been manipulated, coerced, possibly threatened, and exploited. Sex trafficking is a form of human slavery.

As Det. Woolf stated, victims of sex trafficking suffer greatly both physically and mentally. You do them a further disservice by allowing readers to think of them as willing prostitutes, a distinction which carries shame and judgment.

I urge you, in an effort to raise awareness about this horrendous crime, to address the error in this headline. The first step in ending human trafficking is to be accurately informed. We owe that to the young girls trafficked in our county.

Sincerely,

Megan

For Further Information on Human Trafficking:

Polaris Project: Human Trafficking Overview

United Nations: What is Human Trafficking?

FBI: Human Trafficking in the USA–What We’re Doing

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What’s It All About? Demystifying the Gender Pay Gap

Last night in President Obama’s State of the Union address, the topic of a gender pay gap was once again brought up:

“That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time.”

So, what is the deal with the pay gap? Is it real? Is it accurate? Well, let’s start from the beginning.

The first Senate report on working women, Women and Child Wage-Earners in the United States, was put together between 1908 and 1911. In the section regarding women in industry it states, “That working women should receive the same pay as men for the same work has long been the desire of the trade-unionists”.

Unequal pay for the same work was recognized even earlier than 1908. The Senate report cites an article by the Daily Evening Voice which in 1864 wrote, “While the wages of workingmen have been increased more than 100 per cent…and complaint is still made that this is not sufficient to cover the increased cost of food and fuel, the average rate of wages for female labor has not been raised more than 20 per cent”.

Clearly this has been an issue for as long as women in the United States have been working. Well, what has been done?

On June 10, 1963, John F. Kennedy signed into law The Equal Pay Act, which states, “No employer shall discriminate between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs”.

So, as many have been pointing out, there is a law. What is Obama talking about?

Most likely he’s talking about the Paycheck Fairness Act which attempts to close some loopholes in the original Equal Pay Act. So far, this Act has not made it through the Senate.

Naysayers have been asserting that there is no wage gap by citing the Bureau of Labor, who claimed that the difference is simply due to life choices that women make. True, life choices can make a difference in what a person earns.

But think about this. AAUW did an extensive search and report on the earnings of college graduates one year after college. They took into account these life choices, such as college major, hours worked, time spent unemployed, GPA, economic states, geographic region, occupation, marital status, type of undergraduate institution, and age. Still, there was a 7 percent pay difference that could not be explained away. And the gap only grows. After 10 years of full time employment, there is a 12 percent pay difference that is unexplained.

Yes, there is a gender pay gap. While we are closer than we were in 1864 and even closer than 1963, we haven’t achieved parity yet.

9 to 5 : Bitches Get Stuff Done

One of the great joys in life is discovering empowering movies you didn’t know were out there. It’s slightly less enjoyable when you discover it on the tiny seat screen on an international 9 hour flight, but hey, we can’t be lucky all the time. My recent flight from Frankfurt introduced me to my new favorite 80’s movie– 9 to 5. How had I not seen it before?!

This movie, starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin, is about real life working women trying to deal with a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot”. There are plenty of silly moments, funny one liners, wacky situations, and crazy fantasy “kill the boss” scenes. These all make a movie about  serious issues, workplace harassment and workplace equality, enjoyable to watch. However, there are some great serious moments where the actors deliver powerful lines, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, we have them in memes.

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BAM! Go Lily Tomlin.

And while threats of violence are probably not the best way to deal with harassment, go Dolly Paton!

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While they are holding their scumbag boss hostage, the women introduce new work policies, hire back wrongfully fired people, and introduce a daycare center, all increasing productivity and performance. Which proves this meme true.

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Now, time for equal pay!

Give Up Your Coffee For A Good Reason–Safety

I had planned on making this post about the show Rehab Addict. It’s on the DIY Network and it’s a spunky bad ass little woman who revamps houses. But I’ll have to save it for another time, because what I am about to write is important, and I hope it will inspire you to take action before the end of the year.

Our Congress is currently in Republican hands. Many of them have declared this as fine time to address the hottest topic since it first came to the Supreme Court in 1973–Abortion. Let’s look at some facts.

According to a Guttmacher institute survey in the U.S. 1.02 million abortions took place in 2011.

This year in the U.S., also according to the Guttmacher Institute about 21% of pregnancies ended in abortion

Prior to Roe v Wade, which made abortion legal and safe about 5,000 women died from unsafe abortions

Right now, Congress is trying to push through an act that will require a woman to have a permission slip signed by the father to terminate the pregnancy. Oh, that is except in cases of “legitimate rape”. Legitimate rape? Really? I’m not even going to argue against a person who uses that ridiculous term.

But let’s get back to the permission slip. Of those 1.02 million women in 2011 who got an abortion, half listed their reason as either they did not want to be a single parent or that they were having problems with their husband or partner. That means that were this new law to pass, half of the women who would want abortions would probably not be able to get a permission slip. Those who were still desperate, might go to get an unsafe illegal abortion, and the above statistics show how dangerous that can be. So 500,000 women would be faced with the choice of bringing to term a baby that they don’t want and who would not have the life the mother would like to provide–or terminating the pregnancy in an unsafe way.

Let’s face it, no matter what restrictions you put on abortion, or even if you make it illegal, abortion will continue to happen. There’s proof. In Latin America, most countries have anti-abortion laws, and still 32 out of 1,000 women get abortions. In Africa, most countries have anti-abortion laws, and there as well, 29 out of 1,000 women get abortions. Nearly half of all the abortions worldwide are unsafe –98% of those occur in third world countries.

Whether you believe abortion is right or wrong, know that abortions will happen. Don’t let Congress take away our ability to have them safely.

NARAL is the biggest organization fighting against congress on this. Like me, perhaps you’re really quite broke at the moment. Well, NARAL has a partner who is doubling every donation until the end of the year. That means you can take your coffee money from this morning ($6), donate it, and it turns into $12, so collectively you just made a $18 donation. Feels good.

Donate here.

5 Progressive Things That Made Me Happy Last Week

1. This article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Women at Work: A Guide For Men”. Women are in the workplace, and we’re here to stay. This article does a great job looking into the way in which most women work, how it mystifies men (and attempts to de-mystify), and points out the “benevolent sexism” that many males may commit unknowingly.

2. Female conductors! I went to the symphony with my sister to hear Handel’s “Messiah”, and was happily surprised to see Jane Glover conducting. While symphonies continue to have more and more female musicians, the females in the maestro role are few. Of the 103 high budget U.S. orchestras, there are only 12 female conductors. And of the 22 highest budget orchestras in the U.S., only one of them has a female conductor. So props to Jane Glover and her peers!

IMG_0117 (we were in the 2nd Tier–nose bleed seats!)

3. Also at the symphony–Huzzah for gay marriage! In front of my sister and I sat the most wonderful old gay couple in the world. It took a bit for California to get around to gay marriage, but it made me so happy to see the adorable white haired man with the most elaborate Christmas boutonniere enjoy the symphony with his husband, who had the most glittertastic belt ever. 19 states down, 31 states to go.

4. This conversation overheard in a restaurant:

“None of the applicants really had what we were looking for” –Man with nice hair

“You mean they weren’t men?”–Sassy lady

A-bam!!

5. Finding out my grandma was a feminist. Many from grandmother’s generation (born in the 30’s) still associate the word “feminist” with man-hating angry women who wish to rule over men. While I don’t think my grandma believes this, it’s hard to shrug the negative associate after so many years. But every conversation–from healthy views on sex to women in the workplace–and every place we went–the women’s window in the church to the museum exhibit of female photo journalists–showed me that my grandma believed in the same feminism I do: the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. What an awesome ally to have in the work to empower women!