Warning: This post was published more than 10 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 10 years since I wrote this post.
- This post might use language in ways which I would now consider inappropriate or offensive.
- Factual information might be outdated.
- Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.
Many thanks for your understanding.
Currently, there appears to be much debate ongoing (not least in The Guardian and on the BBC) about the rights and wrongs of referring to the victims of the Suffolk murders as ‘prostitutes’. Some argue that headlines should read ‘Five women killed’ rather than ‘Five prostitutes killed’, reasoning that the victims are first and foremost women.
I completely and utterly disagree.
Let us consider for a moment that the victims are not prostitutes, but bank managers. Five bank managers killed in the same area apparently in the same manner by what appears to be the same person. Almost certainly a targeted campaign against bank managers. What headline would you expect?
Why, then, should it be any different for prostitutes? Of course, it shouldn’t. The only argument against using the term is that, to some, it appears judgemental and pejorative. Bollocks. It is merely an accurate description of their job, which (to me at least) confers no judgement.
The alternative being bandied about is ‘sex worker’. This is so non-specific and outrageously euphemistic as to be insulting, suggesting that society is ashamed of these people and what they did for a living. Note, also, that the majority of prostitutes appear to prefer the term ‘prostitute’, and it appears in the name of ‘The English Collective of Prostitutes’, their organisation.
And why on Earth would we refer to them as ‘women’ in headlines? This merely picks out one characteristic, not particularly specific, that unites all of the victims, suggesting that the fact that ‘young women’ were murdered is far worse than murders of ‘young men’. That is insulting.
Now, just to be clear, in the everyday context, these women are not defined by their jobs any more than anyone else. That is not my point. But when the most specific link of all the victims is their occupation, and it seems likely that it is intimately linked with their death, why bumble about avoiding the issue? They may have been beautiful young women with promising young lives, but they are undoubtedly united by the fact that they were prostitutes.
People need to get over their prejudices, and accept that ‘prostitute’ is a non-judgemental statement of specific fact. If they feel that it confers judgement, then perhaps, just perhaps, it is them doing the judging.