WORDS MATTER. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I am fearless, fabulous and capable of doing great things.” How does that make you feel? Now what if you were to change those words to “fearful, awful and incapable of doing anything great?” No doubt you would have a different perception of yourself.
I was thinking about how much words matter when I got a tweet from my friends GEMSGIRLS. They asked me to consider signing their petition to Stop E! Fashion Police’s “Starlet or Streetwalker” segment. Oftentimes, those who are subjected to the labels of “streetwalker, prostitute or whore” are victims of sexual exploitation. So, instead of calling someone a “streetwalker,” why not say “sexually exploited streetwalker?” It takes on a different meaning altogether, huh? Once again, words matter.
I checked out the petition to Stop E! Fashion Police’s “Starlet or Streetwalker” segment. Opinions about what is fashionable can provide endless hours of arguments or entertainment -- just look at the number of fashion “do’s and don’ts” shows that are out there. E!’s Fashion Police show is no different. They capitalize on our fascination with fashion. All of this is good, clean, frivolous fashion fun -- except when it’s not.
The “Starlet or Streetwalker” segment, pits celebrities’ fashion choices against prostitutes wardrobes. And that is when fun turns foul. Celebrities knowingly open themselves to public scrutiny. From red carpets to press interviews, scrutiny not only comes with the territory but many times their fashion choices are specifically selected to garner more media attention. Usually, the more glaring the fashion faux pas the more press coverage is received.
Prostitutes, on the other hand, are not seeking this sort of widespread attention. Although some make a conscious decision to enter into the commercial sex trade, most do not. Instead, they are involved in the trade involuntarily. They are victims of abuse, violence, human-trafficking, coercion or exploitation. E!’s “Starlet or Streetwalker” segment continues this exploitation by putting these victims into a comparison game. They are trading on the prostitutes’ predicament and calling it entertainment. Their mockery is cruel, insensitive and further stigmatizes an already marginalized community.
Rachel Lloyd, director of GEMS, the nation's largest organization offering direct services to girl-survivors of domestic trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, also recognizes that words matter and language is important. In her Huffington Post article, she wrote, “calling them survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, as opposed to 'teen/child prostitutes', 'prostitutes', or especially hookers, whores or hos can begin to lift some of the shame that you feel and help you recognize that it’s something that happened to you, not who you are.”
By their own description, E! is a “network with programming dedicated to the world of entertainment” news and “celebrity inside information presented in a fun, irreverent tone.” I say, that’s fine when the programming is kept to the “celebrities.” But with the Fashion Police’s “Starlet or Streetwalker” segment seemingly using photos of real prostitutes, E! crossed the line. Until that segment of the programming ends, “E!” seems to stand for “Exploitation” not “Entertainment.” You see, words matter.
Let your voice be heard. Let your words matter. Join me and many others - sign the petition.