A couple of years ago, Ashton Kuchter embarked on a landmark experiment to raise awareness about sex trafficking. He & his celeb friends took some great pics & held up signs that said “real men don’t buy girls”. At the time, I thought it was a great awareness raising campaign.
… and then I started studying sociolinguistics…
Language frames the way we interpret the world. We don’t even realize it as it’s happening, but our words and the words that are used around us change our feelings, our actions and ultimately the way we behave towards others.
So why don’t I say “real men don’t buy girls” anymore?
Let’s break this down NFL play-by-play style (one of my favorite things to do)
On the surface, the phrase is well meaning. I mean come on; nobody wants girls to be sold right? But think about what the phrase is really saying. It’s not saying that women aren’t property, or commodities; it’s saying that real men don’t buy them.
As a feminist, I’ve got a bit of a problem with this. It removes what’s called “agency” from women. The phrase removes power from women & in turn puts the choice on men to decide to buy or not to buy them. The phrase “real men don’t buy girls” isn’t saying that women aren’t property; it’s saying that they are & that “real men” have a choice if they are going to buy them or not.
So then how do we use words to shape how we really feel, or what we really mean?
It’s simple: “People aren’t property”
There’s no leading language, no gender bias, & no hidden messages.
So, here’s hoping you join me: “Real men don’t buy girls” is a male dominated phrase putting all the power in the hands of men to decide or not to decide to buy girls who are still labeled as property. Or start using the phrase “People aren’t property”
For me, I’m using “people aren’t property” from now on.