Working Girls Speak: Shame On You, Diane Sawyer
Tonight, ABC's 20/20 hit the streets looking for hookers & intending to cash in on the salacious sides of sex work ~ with Diane Sawyer as lead pimp, making her paycheck just another one of the profits earned from the poor, down-trodden, girls she herself called exploited.
Diane let us know from the start, with her Good Friday biblical references, that this was not actual news coverage nor anything remotely close to impartial reporting; and from that moment on both Secondhand Rose and myself, Gracie Passette, began typing furiously to one another ~ and no, 'furiously' wasn't our typing speed.
Here are our notes.
The two hour 20/20 was titled Prostitution in America: Working Girls Speak; apparently no one thought this ironic as Diane often interrupted her interviewees to put words in their mouths.
On several occasions Diane stated no numbers of sex workers were known ~ but she didn't let that stop her from spouting a standard "60-90%" for everything from pimps to abuses, substantiated with a "we're told".
I guess there's no harm in percentages; 60-90% of 10 or 60-90% of 2 million is completely irrelevant, right? Unless you are going for some sort of reporting integrity.
Let's face it, Diane, the bigger the number, be it fictitious, unsubstantiated or in ambiguous percentages, is all you were after. Those are big alarmin' numbers, huh, America!
But most upsetting, unprofessional and therefore unethical was that this 'look at sex work' focused mainly on street sex workers.
It's not just that the selection process of location was the main focus (with few other side trips to other physical locations and levels in the broad industry of sex work) despite her continual mention of how easy it was to shop for sex online. (You mean to tell us that in two years of research, Diane, you couldn't find any other sex workers to interview?! We're right here!)
The focus on the poorest of our sisters was not just infuriating ~ but the analysis or lack there of was insulting.
Diane compared apples to oranges mixing issues of poverty, drug addiction, abuse and hopelessness with the work & even the workers themselves, reducing work and worker to bad & unoriginal stereotypes.
With all due sympathy & concern to both the sex workers interviewed and others in similar circumstances (and we mean that sincerely), the issues depicted, discussed, and disparaged here are not matters of all sex work.
People who live off the streets; who barely manage to survive; who are victims of drugs, poverty and abuse; and, most importantly, who do not feel they have the ability &/or resources to better their lives are groups of people dealing with those issues. If they also are sex workers, then they deal with those issues while a sex worker; just as a formerly abused, heroine addicted banker is dealing with abuse issues and a drug addiction while a banker.
Would anyone say that addicts, no matter their profession, are the best decision makers?
Who would sit still and allow any reporter to show such film footage & interviews with drug addicted bankers/blacks/Italians and use statements such as "there are no numbers, but we are told..." and then sum it all up with this is how bankers/blacks/Italians any group of people are?
Would one even ask workers in any other profession about instances of sex abuse?
Are the hopeless & depressed, frightened & oppressed, to be the speakers for the entire group?
It would be easy to go into any poor community, round up the lowest paid workers at a fast food chain and get them to bemoan their work situation ~ even cry as they admitted their hopelessness and the trials and tribulations which brought them to this place, this work. (Especially if they were given coffee or other perks for their time; and it was clear in many cases that just shelter from the wind and the cold was a rare respite for these poor women.)
But here Diane goes, lumping all these issues under the 'sex work' umbrella as if her personally selected anecdotal interviews now spoke for all of those literally countless sex workers.
We'll admit that sex work has its dangers; but the violence depicted here seems more in line with neighborhoods than the work itself.
Wouldn't it be more logical to equate the dangers and violence of certain neighborhoods to those desperate and violent neighborhoods rather than to the profession of sex work? I'd love to know how many of those living there & aren't sex workers had also been robbed and stabbed. I'd love to know what the percentages of taxi drivers, bread makers, and social workers who lived and worked in those neighborhoods had been robbed and stabbed. My guess is those numbers are much, much higher; even when accounting for higher incident reports because those not involved in sex work need not fear repercussions. And if they are lower, let's look at the number of hours spent in those areas, and again for the number of hours spent there after dark.
The facts of life on the streets aren't scary, attention grabbing enough; Diane had to put sex and, even dirtier, sex work in the middle of it.
And hey, stomping on a kitten isn't sex work; it's animal abuse. Anyone willing to do such a thing for money is desperate or deranged. Period. It doesn't matter what career choices they have made.
But no, Diane lumps kitten killing in under the umbrella of 'sex work' rather than (any or all of) the umbrellas of 'drug addiction', 'desperation', 'mental illness', 'utter cruelty' ~ or even 'utter stupidity'.
If we find one bastard, in any profession, who stomped on a kitten (or a puppy) for pay, are we allowed to hold that bastard up as a representative ~ in any fashion ~ of that profession?
Had this shoddy reporting been used to 'examine' any other sector of the work force or group of people, there would be hell to pay.
The only moments approaching the experiences of the two of us were those with the unidentified courtesan. And not just because that's the only way the two of us would (when escorting or now) appear in such a broadcast; this woman was sane, rational.
While Diane literally said that she "couldn't accept" the courtesan's unwillingness to say she didn't feel she was losing anything special about sex or in any way say that her work made her feel dirty confused, we both knew what the courtesan was saying. Not only does this serve to illustrate more of Diane's inability to be objective, but a complete unwillingness to be open to considering a view point other than her own.
Even when the courtesan told Diane that she had intimacy issues (which, by the way, dear courtesan, does not qualify as a 'mental problem' as far as we can tell; millions of high-functioning people in other professions feel the same way), we both applauded this woman's self-awareness. Like the clients who pay for an intimate relationship with limits, bravo to the young courtesan who realizes who, what and where she is in her life and does not screw up other people. Both she and her clients could lie to themselves and others, but they don't. They arrange relationships with willing persons.
As for why the courtesan feels she isn't ready for such intimacy, she stated that while she was not abused (nor, we'd like to state, a drug addict) she'd been hurt. Find us a person who doesn't, because they've been hurt, take quite a bit of time to heal and learn to trust again. (Better yet, find us a person who hasn't been hurt ~ in any profession.)
Diane topped this segment off with a stern, "We could not corroborate her statements." Could you, did you, corroborate any of the statements of the drug addicts? Of the abuse victims? Of any of the sex workers?
Yet you opted to undermine the statements of the one woman who was very positive and articulate about her sex work.
Then there were the few moments of 'where are they now' follow-ups with the workers they interviewed. The ominous 'could not be found' was used to incite fear; but perhaps each went on to get a job at Wal-Mart or McDonald's. Then again, and we don't mean to sound crass or uncaring, perhaps the drug users died of overdoses; that happens as a matter of fact, and is not due to sex work. Why isn't the women who was hit by her husband and 'disappeared' likely a victim of domestic violence rather than sex work?
Because that wouldn't be as salacious, as disparaging to the sex work profession, would it.
Diane wrapped-up the program with another mention of the Christian holiday and a quote from the bible; the one about being the first to cast a stone.
I guess the irony of a sinning journalist stoning another profession was lost on ABC.
But not us.
The stigma of sex, especially as it is in this country, clouds the thinking of most people; we just didn't expect the clouds to render Diane Sawyer free of her journalistic integrity; indeed, of any rational thought.