Prostiutes have become a class of their own- lower than journalists, politicians and whoever pranged your car without leaving a note. They are portrayed as sub-human, worthless and unworthy of our respect. Their deaths are the punchline of jokes, as the above video demonstrates.
After all, why should we respect them when they can’t respect themselves?
Jill Meaghre, a 29-year-old Irish woman living in Australia was raped and murdered walking home from a pub in Brunswick on the 22 September 2012. Adrian Bayley pled guilty to her murder. Her death received national coverage with over 30,000 outraged people marching down Sydney Road to honour her.
Johanna Martin was found the year before wrapped in a bloodstained sheet next to a Port Melbourne car park on October 11. It is believed she was strangled. She was 65 years old, a mother, a grandmother and “she loved shopping at the South Melbourne Markets,” according to Clementine Ford.
“I know that she took delight in flashy jewellery, and was a regular visitor to the theatre. She had a dog named susie, who she was regularly spotted with around the Port Melbourne area… Her friends spoke of a larger than life personality.”
And she was a prostitute.
Everyone has heard of Jill Meaghre, but if you ask about Johanna Martin you will be met with a blank stare and a “who?”
The fault is that of the media, but also ours by extension. The media is able to gander profit from ‘heart throb’ stories involving relatable people- people like us. “Because the media.. perhaps doesn’t care enough about the murders, rapes and violations of women not like us to pay it the same kind of attention.” Though we may point our fingers at the media in condemnation, journalists produce stories in accordance with what will ‘sell’. In this case, sex doesn’t sell.
Ford points out that this prioritisation of women, of the white middle-class above sex workers, is what caused Meaghre’s death. Meaghre was Bayley’s sixth rape victim. The previous five had been sex workers. “And yet each of those crimes, as vicious as they were, was considered only serious enough to warrant the most minimal of sentences. After all, they’re just sex workers right? They don’t experience violence in the same way other people do. They have no respect for themselves, so we can’t exactly respect them back.”
Though sex-workers are downgraded by the media, portrayed as sub-human and worthless, they are someone’s daughters and someone’s sisters. If we can’t respect them, can we respect ourselves?
Ford, Clementine. (2013). ‘How did we let Adrian Bayley happen?’. DailyLife.com.au. http://www.dailylife.com.au/new s-and-views/dl-opinion/how-did- we-let-adrian-bayley-happen- 20130613-2o67f.html. Accessed 30 January 2014.