Rachel Lloyd (b. 1975)
Lloyd is the founder and executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS). She is an activist, international speaker, and nationally recognized expert on child sex trafficking in the United States. She played a foundational role in the passage of the 2010 Safe Harbor Act for Sexually Exploited Youth, which puts into effect protections from prosecution for youth victims of sexual exploitation.
Lloyd’s organization serves young women and girls who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation. Her advocacy is important because she examines the ways in which misogyny and violence are normalized in popular culture. She has won countless awards for her activism and is featured in the 2007 documentary Very Young Girls.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in full: Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. [The ERA has not passed.]
Fortune 500 CEOs: 98% male The 10 richest Americans: 100% male Forty-five U.S. presidents: 100% male Forty-five U.S. vice presidents: 100% male U.S. Congress: 81% male U.S. mayors: 82% male U.S. governors: 92% male The 10 richest Canadians: 100% male Twenty-two elected Canadian prime ministers: 100% male Canadian House of Commons: 74% male Canadian provincial premiers: 77% male Canadian mayors: 82% male
These numbers illustrate that, by definition, oppression is a one-way historical imbalance of legal and institutional power; there is no reverse sexism or any other form of oppression. If men as a group chose to deny women’s civil rights, they could; if women as a group wanted to deny men their civil rights, they could not.
Feminism: The belief that women are equal to men. The advocacy for the social, economic, and political equality of all sexes.
Returning to the vignette that opens this chapter, consider the platform our candidate ran on. This platform—as well as his success running on it —illustrates how tenuous women’s gains are and how critical it is that we not take them for granted. It also illustrates that both groups internalize dominant ideology, while dominant ideology only serves one group’s interests. This is demonstrated in the fact that the majority of men (as well as women) also voted for this candidate.
Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights, based on the idea that men and women are equal. Whose interests does it serve to represent feminism in false, reductive, and dismissive forms, so that many women (as well as men) distance themselves from it?
1. According to the authors, oppression is difficult to see. Discuss some of the reasons why this is so.
2. Pick a social group and describe how that group is represented in advertising, music videos, movies, magazines, and wider popular culture. As an extension activity, you might collect some data on how that group is represented in various institutions besides media (remember, a group’s absence is also significant).
3. The authors argue that there are three reasons why sexism is difficult to see: the focus on individuals rather than patterns, the influence of corporate culture, and the ideology of civilized versus uncivilized people in the world. Explain in your own words what each of these are and how they work.
1. The authors argue that one of the most common patterns in dominant culture that makes oppression difficult to see is the focus on individual people or issues, rather than on broader patterns. Identify a well-known
individual from a minoritized group who has been held up as “making it” and generate a list of the ways in which oppression (organized at the group level) is obscured by mainstream representations of that individual. What does focusing on a single person prevent us from seeing?
2. Spend an evening recording information contained in commercials depicting the “average family.” What is the composition of the average family? What do they do? What kinds of activities does each member of the family engage in? Record all the places you have seen this “average family” in mainstream culture. How do they communicate to us what is normal in terms of race, class, gender, ability, and sexuality? How does their presence function as a kind of “looking-glass self”?
3. Watch the documentary film Very Young Girls (2007) by David Schisgall and Nina Alvarez, an exposé on the sex trafficking of adolescent girls (www.gems-girls.org). Imagine that you are a journalist investigating this issue. Research at least two other anti-sex-trafficking activists/organizations in addition to Rachel Lloyd and GEMS (see Figure 7.1). Based on what you learn, convey the issue to the broader public or your peers, in ways such as (but not limited to) the following: a poster, stencil art, article, graph, or short public service announcement video (3–5 minutes long).