An Assignment From School
The assignment read: For our last academic discussion, let’s go non-academic when we talk about prejudice and discrimination. Pull a news article from the internet, no more than 6 months old, and describe how prejudice is displayed in that news article. Trust me, there are plenty of things to choose from out there. Using what you’ve learned from our course about our beliefs and how we can change beliefs, cognitions, and attitudes, pose a solution for the prejudice that was described in your news article.
This was my response:
The first time I came across this news story, it was on @thedancerslockerroom_'s instagram page. The headline read "Black Female Sex Worker Dismembered, Killed by Duo Over Hefty Fraudulent Life Insurance Policy". When searching for the article for this assignment, this was the closest I could find: https://madamenoire.com/1200459/police-arrest-suspects-in-murder-of-brandy-odom/ (Links to an external site.) where the headline reads "Police Believe Duo Dismembered Brooklyn Sex Worker To Cash In On Fraudulent Life Insurance Policy".
Sex workers face an incredible amount of prejudice and discrimination. The fact that in both headlines the author felt like it was necessary to identify the woman as a sex worker is discriminatory in and of itself. Why couldn't the article have read "Beloved Daughter Found Dismembered", or "Brooklyn Woman Found Dismembered"? Instead of giving this woman basic human dignity, even in death they had to make her a spectacle.
For a living, I am a stand up comedian, but my entire act has to do with the topic of sex work. There are certain "occupations" of "sex work" which I am super supportive of (stripping, dominatrix, phone sex operators, webcam pornography, etc.). There are other occupations which I am vehemently against (prostitution, escorting, etc.). While I fiercely believe and advocate that prostitution should remain illegal, that does not mean I think prostitutes should be disrespected or discriminated against.
It is my strong belief that we, as society, are morally obligated to protect the weakest and most vulnerable members. The idea that prostitutes are "empowered" is a fairytale, because it is most often women with the fewest options that turn to prostitution. A solution to the discrimination prostitutes face is to improve education and career opportunities. Women who prostitute themselves need access to mental health services, financial planning services, affordable healthcare, safe housing, transition housing, paths to citizenship, assistance with childcare, and most importantly, they need viable paths to good jobs.
I'm on a lot of radio shows, podcasts, and other public forums where this topic comes up. I often have to explain my stance like this: There would NEVER be a situation where I would look a woman dead in the eye and say, "Yeah, girl, go suck that dick for money.", and that is why I am anti-prostitution. Anyone who is pro-prostitution is only one of two things: either they are completely naive, in denial, and selfish, or they are a horrible person. There is no third option. Once you know all of the statistics and facts (example: it's proven that legalization of prostitution does not correlate to fewer murders and beatings of prostitutes) it is not possible to be both "pro women" and "pro prostitution".
In conclusion, there was really no good reason, either in the headline or in the news article, to mention that Brandy Odom was a sex worker. The only reason is because it would get more clicks. Brandy Odom and her family deserved better than that.