The Oppression Of Women Essay

1165 words - 5 pages

The historic novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo tells the story of several characters who fall victim to 19th-century French society. Fantine, a struggling single mother, is forced into circumstances that parallel what countless women face today. Unable to find work and falling behind on her debts to her child’s caretakers, Fantine is forced to sell all of her belongings, hair, teeth, and eventually her body. She did not choose to enter into prostitution, as many women today do not; they are forced into sexual slavery as a means to survive. They are treated as mere sex objects in this exploitative and demeaning industry. They become vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse, and are forced to ignore it out of fear and social stigmas. Fantine is but a fictional representation of countless women throughout the world today who must face the hardships of sex trafficking and rape culture. However, society has taught us that this is the norm and these women are to blame for their circumstances. Rape culture in today’s society has created a negative perception of sex trafficking victims leading to the oppression of women.
People do not think that sex trafficking is a current problem because it takes a different form in the United States than it does in most other countries. This type of modern-day slavery disguises itself through prostitution and pimping, which are both seen as normal, harmless institutions. The media tells us that women who participate in either activity live high-end lifestyles, that prostitution is a “glamorous and wealth-producing ‘job’ for girls” when in reality they lack emotional support, education, and employment opportunities (Shelley 241). Les Misérables sheds light on the true circumstances these women are in; Fantine was abandoned by her lover, she is homeless, and the best caretakers she can afford for her child are abusive. Fantine defies the false representation that society has created for women that have been trafficked. The majority of them did not choose prostitution and they do not wish to be there. A 2003 study found that “89 percent of women in prostitution want to escape,” showing that it is not a glamorous profession but rather a trap (U.S. Department of State 99). This false representation of sex trafficking shows society’s inherent oppressive attitude on the subject, preferring to disguise and ignore the problems these women face as opposed to addressing them and helping women to improve their circumstances.
Aside from the cultural normalization of prostitution, sex trafficking is harmful towards women in a number of ways. It creates physical, emotional, and psychological trauma. Most women in sex trafficking are “victims of ‘sadistic and predatory’ violence by customers” and many of the women themselves suffer from drug addiction and mental illness (Navarro 97). Research shows that the majority of women in prostitution have been raped, physically assaulted, and meet the criteria for post traumatic stress...

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