Sep 1, 2009

This word does not mean what you think it means

Today's Irish Times has a piece of the increase of Irish women turning to and returning to sex work in part because of poverty caused by the crash and subsequent mismanagement of the economy.

In the same article Gerardine Rowley, spokeswoman for Ruhama, talks about the increasing number of underage girls and young women that are being trafficked from the developing world into Ireland for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

It is great that this issue is getting some coverage in the press but I have very unimpressed with the title of the article.

"Increase in Irishwomen engaged in street vice"

It is classic victim-blaming in our little Irish morality play. "Vice"? Really? That's the best the Irish Times can come up with. I think the IT needs to consult a bloody dictionary.

Etymology: Middle English 14th century, from Anglo-French, from Latin vitium fault, vice

1. moral depravity or corruption, wickedness, a moral fault or failing, a habitual and usually trivial defect or shortcoming
2. blemish, defect
3. a physical imperfection, deformity, or taint
4. a character representing one of the vices in an English morality play
5. buffoon, jester
6. an abnormal behavior pattern in a domestic animal detrimental to its health or usefulness
7. sexual immorality

So either the editor who inserted the headline needs a dictionary instead of a payrise or the IT is attempting to shame women who engage in sex work both voluntarily or not or someone on the IT staff is an old fashioned misogynist who is trying to enact a morality play.

The headline could have read something like this

"Increased demand for paid sex from Irishmen leads to sexual exploitation and trafficking in underage girls"

But we can't have a headline like that, can we. In the same way that women "get raped", sex workers "engage in sex work". The role of men is obscured.

Twas ever so in green old Erin's Isle. Blame the women and girls. Lock them up in the Magdalene Laundries, to labour without pay for the rest of their lives, while the men and boys went free.

I know the editors write the titles so I'm not slamming the journalist but I think that the paper of record needs to understand that disappearing men from an article on sex work is not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to moralise about how some people make ends meet.

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