We can’t talk about the haves & have nots with out talking about privilege or lack there of. In a society where everyone is running out to get a degree not knowing if they would use it or not, but hoping it will give them the better life they were promised once they became thousands of dollars in debt. But it’s all worth it until your unhappy again, so you get another degree thinking that it will take you further, give you more money and a happier life. Your still thousands of dollars more in debt but now you have a better job because that piece of paper that is worshipped by so many has brought you where you want to to be. That’s privilege. The reason why I say this is because not everyone has access to obtaining a higher education let alone paying for college and going into debt. This affects more women than we could have ever imagined. The routes that some women and young women take to get to that type of privilege is a road I hope, other woman will never experience.
You come from a struggling family, your parents work more than one job and you’re just getting by. Your dream is to go to college and get a good job so you can help your family and yourself get out of poverty. You don’t qualify for a grant or a loan and getting a scholarship is a highly competitive arena. There’s no one related to you who can give you a financial hand. You try getting a job but it doesn’t pay much and it’s not enough to go to school. At this point you become desperate and are willing to try anything. You look online to see if there is a solution that will help you pay for college and one of the first things that come up is a website for young women in your situation looking for a “Sugar Daddy”, no physical relationship, he’ll just help you pay for college. All you have to do is accompany a married man, with daughters possibly your age, to dinner and a night out in between studying and writing papers. Even IF nothing is going on your still having an affair and the result is the same.
You want to be an artist. You have a favorite art school you want to apply for but you know even if you get in you’ll never be able to pay for it. One day you are walking in the neighborhood of the school trying to figure out how you will pay for it. The first thought is a job but it has to be a GOOD paying job which is not heard of when your trying to go to school. You need money now and a lot of it. Then you pass a place that looks like a bar but you realize it’s not, it’s a strip club. You’re about to look away and cringe when something catches your eye, a sign that says pay your way through college here. These places are that bold and that callous. You feel like you’ve exhausted every opportunity, it’s fast money and you can make a lot in one night. You rationalize. Then you do it not understanding the long term effects on your social life, your mental and physical health as well as your ability to move forward in a career. Not to mention the possibility of being trafficked. You must know that most men that pack these places work in industries you’re trying to get employed in and they will remember you.
You came from a broken home of violence and dysfunction. Maybe you were kicked out, abandoned and unwanted for a number of reasons. Either way you’re alone and need to take care of yourself. This is your last year of high school that you hope to complete and was looking forward to going to college. Now that your situation has changed the dream of how you are getting there has changed as well. This route, unfortunately, is the most popular route amongst young women in this time when they are in desperate need. It is also a highly debated one with feminists shouting each other down. Sex work. I’m not going to get into the politics of it, I’m just going to talk about how some young women turn to that lifestyle and why. Sex work is not a decision that is made when there are a variety of better options out there for all women. It is a decision made out of circumstance and need. A lot of young women of color turn to sex work mostly because they were never offered other alternatives to get their life on track. There are no programs to prevent young women from turning to sex work. If there are, they need to re-evaluate their system. The bottom line is most women turn to sex work because it’s hard for them to find a job i.e. unable to get a degree or not the right school or no experience because they were never given a chance. The list is a long one but it all ends up at the same house, your not good enough or smart enough or worthy, sex work is where you belong. These lies have kept so many young women from reaching their potential as leaders in their communities. It’s a cycle that some are having a hard time breaking.
These three roads are what keep women and young women in the privilege desert, a place where opportunity can’t reach them. We need to turn that desert into a city with an abundance of open doors swinging wide for all women to succeed in some fashion based on their skills and talents putting them on a level paying field with those who have had opportunity come to them without even seeking. Being able to live a life where a woman can provide for herself without dehumanizing herself is not a trivial desire, it’a human right.
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