Friday, February 25, 2011

On what would have been George Harrison's 68th birthday, a discussion on political responsibility when challenging global and regional atrocitities such as the trafficking of raped girls. This is directed especially to Siddharth Kara.

image of George from his Concert for the People of Bangladesh is from here

Happy Birthday, George.

As many of you may already know, ex-Beatle George Harrison, in response to an appeal by friend and musical mentor, Ravi Shankar, put together the very first major rock concert explicitly as a fundraiser for an international human rights cause--disaster relief for the people of Bangladesh. There were two concerts performed on August 1, 1971, both at Madison Square Garden, NYC, USA. George tells the story of how this came to be in his song performed at that concert.

George was one person who helped familiarise white European, Australians, and North Americans with South Asian philosophies and music. He maintained a long-time connection to his Indian friend Ravi Shankar, and found in Hindu spiritual practice something that was missing from his very famous life during his years as a Beatle.

Since then, there has been an international phenomenon of white Westerners taking from various regions of Asia whatever they want to benefit their own lives, ignoring what that taking does to the people who are being so adversely effected by white men's intrusions and exploitations of the continent. George gave back. Most white men do not. Most white men take and take and take. And the only thing they give is trauma, despair, and disease.

South, Southeast, and East Asia are sites of gross sexual exploitation by white men of Asian girls and women. The level of callousness to human life, the level of sadistic sexual cruelty, is truly unimaginable unless you've lived through it. To be a sexual slave, or to be trafficked as a thing for het men, is not something most whites experience, nor most het men. This is why white het men are generally oblivious to it, except as perpetrators.

Siddharth Kara, a U.S. American, has written extensively about the phenomenon from an economic point of view. And it is indeed an economic reality--human trafficking is big business, and makes many people rich, while destroying lives in ways that make "cruel" seem a useless word. But this is not a problem only of the rich vs. the poor, even while it is that too.

Beneath the economics, or tangled up with the economics, are two other realities that are as foundational to the horror that is sex trafficking and sexual slavery: white (male) supremacy and globalised (racist) patriarchy. For the incest and rape of girls internationally is not done for money, in many instances. Almost none of the women I know who are incest and rape survivors were incested and raped for the predator-perpetrator's profit. Girls, in particular, are vulnerable to gross sexual assault and their assault is only recently being seen as a human rights issue, because girls, as yet, are not seen as human in the way white boys and white men are seen as human. When white boys are sexually abused, such as by priests in the Catholic Church (a religious institution functioning as such while also functioning as an international organisation dealing in child sexual abuse, the crimes are seen and felt, here in the West, as "awful", "horrible", "indefensible". But if girls are the primary victims, the compassion suddenly shifts away from them. We don't like it when men prey on boys. But when men prey on girls, it is acceptable, condoned, and even mandatory.

Do you know the degrees to which girls are turned into pornography, into sexxx-things, for het men, internationally? Especially for het men in wealthier countries? Are you aware of the numbers of men who, with no shame, will line up to see a girl the age of nine with breast implants, perform in a string bikini for middle-aged men, including for white men who travel great distances to see this? Do you know how common incest and predation of girls is, globally, with a disproportionate number of profiteers being Western white men? Do you know that for most girls to be turned into pornography, they must first be incested and raped?

To ignore the racial and sexual components of something so horrific as the trafficking and slavery and pornographisation of girls is to ignore a whole lot. In Siddharth Kara's award-winning book on Sexual Slavery and Trafficking, he discusses "gender bias", but not patriarchy; he speaks of women as an underprivileged class of people, but not of men as an overprivileged class; he mentions and discusses the role of capitalism, but not of white supremacy or of male supremacy, named as such. He makes no mention of feminism, nor, specifically of the work of Andrea Dworkin, Kathleen Barry, Diana E.H. Russell, or Catharine A. MacKinnon in his discussion, exposing the horrors of sexualised violence against girls and women, by men.

The reason a book like his can do so well financially is because he makes the problem of incest, rape, and gross sexual assault and exploitation into a matter of globalised economics. That is his background, in education and profession: economics. He never studied feminism, or there's no indication that he did. Forget "studying": there's no indication he's read any feminist books or spoken with any feminists of any color on the subjects about which he writes, successfully.

This is not to say he is a bad person, at all. It is not to make assumptions about his intentions. It is not to cast aspersions on his character. It is to note how easy it is to discuss patriarchal horrors, men's against girls and women, and leave out the fact that these crimes, this abuses, these traumas, all of the systematised and organised by men, without mentioning the fact that it is a problem of male dominance over all female people, male supremacy, named as such, and patriarchy, named as such. To not name these root problems is to let men off the hook as men. Because whether or not capitalism continues to exist, patriarchal abuses can and will continue unless the battle for girls and women, with girls and women leading the way, names the problems for what they are: not a matter of "gender bias", but a matter of male domination, control, exploitation, and rape of girls and women.

I have great respect for Siddharth taking on these issues: with all his very good education and earned money, he needn't have done so. But to ignore thirty years (at the time of his book being published originally) of substantive analysis and research, testimonies and actions, by women against men's sexual exploitation, abuse, rape, and murder of girls and women is to leave the public woefully ignorant about what some of the root causes are of human trafficking that means, generally if not only, men purchasing and raping girls and women.

I call on Siddharth Kara to make feminist analysis, insights, and action, real in his future work.

And I thank him for the work he has already done to make sexual trafficking and slavery of girls more visible as a human rights issue in the West.

This is a companion post to this recent one, also about the good work of Siddharth Kara:

1 comment:

  1. I have read Siddharth Kara's book Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business and Modern Slavery and regretably Kara only focuses on the economics of how and why so many women and girls from differing cultures and ethnicites are sexually enslaved. Missing of course is the political issue - how and why men continue to view themselves as the only human group whereas women and girls globally are viewed as either non-human or else only in relation to the default human who continues to be defined as 'male.'

    Siddharth Kara demonstrates in his book he has not read any feminist analysis of how and why male domination over women exists globally and I believe it is because he, like so many men views the world through a myopic lens. In other words because 'man' (sic) is the default human; a male-centered perspective is adhered to.

    This explains why whenever we hear/read about the latest atrocities committed by male Catholic priests against boys, male supremacist societies proclaim these atrocities as 'horrible/terrible/appalling etc.

    But because male violence and particularly male sexual violence against women and girls is normalised; excused; justified or minimalised, whenever malestream media sensationalises yet another incident of male violence committed against a woman or girl, the focus has to be always on the female victim(s) behaviour and/or actions. The male perpetrator(s)' accountability continues to be ignored and invisibilised because the victims were not human as defined by male supremacist systems.

    In other words the oppressor group cannot analyse themselves because to do so would eliminate the oppressors, instead the focus has to be on the oppressed group because they are supposedly to blame for their own oppression - not the oppressors.

    This is why whenever male violence against men/boys happens it is routinely viewed as 'appalling/terrible' because the oppressors are not supposed to inflict violence on their own group. Male myopia views the world through a male-centric lens and is incapable of recognising or even understanding that women like men are human.

    Kara is not a 'bad man'but he is accountable for continuing to view the world through a male-centric lens wherein the default human is always 'male' and it is the male-centric view which is presumed to be 'reality.' Women's and girls' realities do not exist in their own right - instead they continue to be subsumed under the male-centric gaze/male rights and interests.