Daryl Hannah disrespected hundreds of Portland women over the weekend when she went on a ride-along with police to local strip clubs and was quoted as saying, “Most of the girls in these strip clubs are not just looking to make cash, a majority are represented by pimps.” In other words, she said Portland strippers are whores.
Hannah was in town for a conference against human sex trafficking. As far as I know, there is no connection between Portland strip clubs and sex trafficking, and neither Hannah, nor the police, nor the reporters have made any effort to explain a connection. Yet, for some reason our strip clubs almost always seem to get mentioned in the many stories that have been published in the past couple years that claim Portland is a hub for child sex trafficking.
Nikole Hannah-Jones has written a fantastic article for the Oregonian which debunks the “Portland as a hub for child sex trafficking” myth. It turns out the statistics are all complete bullshit, and the media (including the Oregonian) has been blowing smoke up the public's ass for years. Portland has been getting shit on more than any other city in the country, and frankly, we should be pissed off about it. Our economy is bad enough without the national media spreading the rumor that our strip clubs are full of child prostitutes.
Of course I chose the above headline and photo to make a point. Daryl Hannah isn't represented by pimps any more than Portland strippers are. And I love Daryl Hannah; I love her movies, and I love that she's trying to use her celebrity status to make positive change in the world. The truth is, the media is to blame for spinning this whole thing the way they did from the beginning. You can come up with any shocking headline and then turn it into a story by taking quotes out of context. For all I know, when Hannah was talking about strippers being whores, she may have been referring to one specific club. Hell, she may have been there researching a movie role. I don't know, because the author didn't offer any additional details. The author also didn't provide any explanation as to why strip clubs would be associated with child sex trafficking. A connection was alluded to in the story, and then the story was picked up internationally. The damage to our city's reputation has already been done.
Human trafficking is a real and serious problem. If we really want to help the victims of this crime and prevent it from happening in our city, we need to focus on hard facts and pinpoint the source. If you want to argue about the objectification of women in strip clubs, that's fine, just don't try to force that agenda in where it doesn't belong. It's a distraction we simply cannot tolerate if we're going to be serious about tackling the core issue here.
Maybe it's because we have more watchdogs now in the form of bloggers who are making us aware of it, but it seems like journalists have become less reliable in modern times. Sometimes it seems like many of them just make up statistics as they go. I know journalism is a stressful, underpaid career, but we, the public, rely on the news to understand the world around us. Fabricated stories can have a severe, wide-spread impact in the real world, effecting not only our societal views, but also our economy and our governmental legislation. If only we had more journalists like Hannah-Jones, who actually took the time to investigate the sources of the statistics before building a story around them.