Anti-Sex Slavery Campaign- Critiquing the Critics

I receive emails from the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking, and this week I received this one about Demi and Ashton’s Anti-Sex Slavery Campaign.

First, let me just say I think it’s hilarious Demi and Ashton call their Foundation DNA (Demi aNd Ashton Foundation).

So, the gist of the article is that anti-slavery organizations are unimpressed by DNA’s campaign. They call it a “dumbing down” of the issues and argue its ineffectiveness.  Norma Ramos of the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women said, “This is what happens when celebrities do an issue divorced from the movement. Once you chose an issue and don’t do it in collaboration with people who have been doing this for a long time, this is what you end up with.”

(If you follow the link to the article, you can watch the DNA campaign videos)

Though I clearly do not know as much about the issue as those who have made its cause their livelihood, I both agree and disagree with the criticisms of DNA’s campaign.

What I agree with:

  • Demi and Ashton should have talked with “experts” on the human trafficking
  • The jokes about gender do nothing to further the protection of women outright- “The ads are not addressing the issue; they are veering off in another direction in a ‘gender joke’ attempt. With the enormous amount of heart and creativity available in both Moore and Kutcher, it would be preferable and a stronger message for the public to present male models of healthy sexuality with respect for women,” Irwin said. “Taking on traditional female activities such as knitting, ironing or cooking does not make a man. The answer to abuse of females is not to make men more like women.”
  1. This comment hits on the important issue of how we handle gender roles and what messages the media sends- both to men and women- about what it means to be a man or a woman. Too often we use flippant humor or hyperbolic scenarios that only contribute to an atmosphere in which the natural response is to view women as objects to be bought and sold.

What I disagree with:

  • Ramos’ statement, “Those men who are buying girls and children are pedophiles; they’re not going to be swayed by that campaign…They have got to have a campaign which is ‘real men don’t buy sex.’ You have to sacrifice wanting to be cool for wanting to be effective.”
  1. I disagree with this statement not because I don’t believe the men are pedophiles, but because I do not believe that an ad campaign that says ‘real men don’t by sex’ would be any more effective than one that says ‘real men don’t buy girls.’ The hallmark of an addiction (and I’d argue a huge percentage of sex industry patrons are sex addicts) is denial. I do not think there is a single ad out there that will change the mind of the pedophiles and addicts who are buying these girls and women. A man who buys sex is not going to see himself in any ad, because his denial is likely to be so strong.
  2. For example, I have a friend who went to the University of Michigan with me and is extremely intelligent. He is also a smoker. While road tripping awhile back we passed a billboard that displayed some pretty standard statistics about the relationship between lung cancer and smoking. I remember him saying something to the effect of “that sign is such a lie.” I was dumbfounded because any American adult knows that smoking causes lung cancer. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the denial that was at play for him. The anti-smoking sign produced such strong cognitive dissonance for him that he had to choose between changing his belief (smoking is bad for you) or changing is action (smoking). He chose to change his belief (smoking is not bad for you), resulting in a powerful denial.
  • That the ads are not addressing the issue
  1. Though I agree that the ads do in a way “dumb down” the issue, I still think they’re addressing an issue that many- if not most- Americans do not realize exists all over the world, let alone in America. I would have to know DNA’s goals before I could assess whether or not the ad campaign meets them, but the campaign does accomplish one task- and that’s raising awareness about an important issue.

Should DNA have worked with anti-sex slavery organizations? Yes.
Are the ads somewhat simplistic and the gender jokes at times poor in taste? Yes.
Do I wish the video campaign handled the issue in a more serious and sensitive manner? Yes.

But, I do believe that we are one itty-bitty baby step closer to ending human trafficking thanks to the time and effort of a few high profile actors and DNA.

And that’s not a bad thing.


One thought on “Anti-Sex Slavery Campaign- Critiquing the Critics

  1. I agree! But I also think there are plenty of anti-sex slavery organisations that address the issue seriously. I think this particular campaign is raising awareness to those who need those trivial jokes others cringe at – after all, it’s not easy coming to terms with how real and widespread it is when you’re so unfamiliar with the issue. The topic is still taboo, so I think it’s also a good campaign for those who are touchy about the subject. So, they “dumbed down” the issue. I say GOOD! Some people need that. Get the word out there – I don’t care how! Just do it. You’re right – one itty-bitty baby step closer is not a bad thing!

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