Published April 15, 2011
In this age of transparency, super-telephoto lenses, and extreme social networking, the lives of celebrities are on display 24/7, as well as many of the causes they champion.
Many celebrities use their status for political purposes or cliché “save the whales”-type causes, but it’s always refreshing to see stars use their Hollywood power for good things. Honestly, they have amazing cachet on Capitol Hill. I have personally witnessed U.S. Senators become sweaty-palmed sycophants to a visiting star. It’s hard to watch.
Married actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are using their star power wisely in working to shed light on the very serious issue of sex trafficking. I really appreciate that they care enough to take on this issue. If their colleagues were as thoughtful about the issues they chose to champion, Hollywood would have a much better reputation.
However, having said that, not everyone is appreciative of their current ad efforts. Their campaign, “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls,” seeks to target the demand for prostitutes. Concerned Women for America (CWA) has also worked that angle in drafting and successfully working to pass the “Zurita Amendement,” a piece of legislation named after a CWA staffer that urges law enforcement to go after the johns, pimps, and traffickers instead of focusing solely on those prostituted. We agree that the demand from U.S. citizens is fueling the abuse of women and children around the world.
Unfortunately, the Moore and Kutcher videos featuring other celebrities border on silly. They don’t seem to truly challenge men not to encourage trafficking by buying women for sex. It is never a mistake to call out evil, and perhaps that was their intent, but the message is so lighthearted that it turns the serious issue of sex trafficking into a joke.
According the U.S. State Department, over 800,000 humans are victims of sex trafficking each year, and half of those are children. This modern-day slavery is heart wrenching, disgusting, and evil. Women and children are stolen from their families, tricked into sex slavery, sold every day, smuggled across borders, and forced to work selling themselves for money.
Scenes from the movie “Trade,” a film based on real sex trafficking scenarios, are unforgettable. Girls who were tricked into the sex trade are raped by their pimps in efforts to control them, while others wade through the Rio Grande or trek through the desert to get into the United States illegally and others commit suicide because they no longer have the will to live. These are the stories that should be told. Next to that, Sean Penn ironing a sandwich just seems pointless.
I commend Moore and Kutcher for trying to help those most in need. We in Washington need to be open to new alliances and willing share our knowledge and expertise, regardless of who gets the credit. And frankly, no one tells a story like Hollywood. They have the technical ability to turn dry facts into a compelling argument. Let’s welcome them in the heavy lifting of disseminating the right message.
Penny Nance is CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s group.