Art: For Harm or Help?

GoodSlavekeeping_Catapult Magazine

"Good Slavekeeping"_Catapult Magazine_Cover Stories

We see magazines like this everyday as we line up at the grocery store. One of the Kardashians is pregnant again (I think); another psuedo-physician promises permanent weight-loss in 1 week; and teenage girls learn how to achieve orgasm in 50 different ways (I'm talking mags speaking to 13 year old teens here). Photoshop, make up and doll up portray perfectly coiffed girls, boasting a perfect tiny weight, and a flawless complexion. These are the gold standards by which we measure our beauty, sexual activity and worth around.


There's no such thing as "Model Pretty". There's only Beautiful. And Beautiful we all are.

But Catapult's "Cover Stories" took the venue (evil already) and printed truth on them.

What if we glammed up reality?

What if the hidden stories were plastered on front pages for all to see, rather than lies? Deceptions? Half-truths?

I first saw these images yesterday, the same day I read: 

When will we start de-glamourizing depictions of human trafficking?

Richardson takes the time to point out the over-glamorization of the sex industry through campaigns trying to raise needed awareness around the issue. 

But is it really needed?

Is it doing damage?

Richardson writes: "Awareness of domestic sex trafficking needs to happen, but it needs to be accurate. Over time, the bruises heal and the scars fade but the need for quality holistic resources, unconditional love and safe community still remains."

Richardson is especially critical of the "End It Movement" — faith based and known to use creative, artistic expressions to raise awareness and express solidarity. While the critique of faith-based movements engaging sex trafficking artistically is rightly heard: churches are often quick to jump on board the movement to end sex trafficking, while still harbouring judgmental attitudes towards those in the sex trade, and keeping the reality that people within these same churches access paid sexual services, it's a coversation for another day.

Today I want to ask: where does art draw the line?

Or does it?

Arts-based therapy is renowned for helping survivors of all kinds of trauma heal and express their thoughts, feelings and experiences. However I would agree that much of this art is not for public engagement.

Yet artists, musicians, writers, poets and designers have long been known to be integral parts of massive social justice movements. Shifts in thinking, feeling, perception on mass cultural scales are in part thanks to these people using their mediums to raise awareness, action and yes, funds.

But as these expressions pertain specifically to sex trafficking, are our expressions creating a false version of reality? Are numbers being spiked? Are survivors being shouted down in the name of glam?

I'm all for freedom of expression, and I believe artistic expression is of great value to social justice work. But when we're speaking of survivors — real people in real time — are we re-exploiting them for the sake of our mediums?

I'm not sure I have the answers.

I know I don't want survivors to feel exposed… unsafe… or used.

I know I don't want to lose our arts-based communities who truly do great work.

I know I DO want the public to have the truth as best as we know it, and work from there.

Sex trafficking has enough of the vile, the nasty and the dehumanization for the whole mess to speak for itself. What is expression of that world? And what is "glam"?


Thirteen_Cover Stories

"Thirteen"_Catapult_Cover Stories

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