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November 13, 2006

Ashley Judd: The Good Fight

ashley judd

Ashley Judd

Photo Credit: Ruven Afanador

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MC: The exploitation of women and girls is the crux of the work you're doing, in some way.
AJ: My belief is that none of this will go away until the revolution takes place, and girls and women have the same status as boys and men and have the same universal access to education, the same opportunities for economic empowerment. It would begin from childhood with the complete freedom to pursue one's interests. I love that line: "For every girl who tosses out her Easy-Bake Oven, there is a boy who wishes to find one." I weep every time I read that. Because just as our definition of girlhood is so stifling, the definition of what it is to be a boy or a man is arid and abusive. It's the most extraordinary curtailing of personhood.

MC: You read such terrible things in the YouthAIDS literature — that there are places in the world where girls get a dollar for sex with a condom, two dollars for sex without; that girls have "sugar daddies"...
AJ: Cross-generational sex is the phenomenon in which young girls are given material goods in exchange for sex. All girls are vulnerable to it, particularly orphans. So you have a 12-year-old orphan who gets a liter of kerosene from her sugar daddy and has to walk X number of kilometers to sell it in little containers. That's how she is trying to feed herself, her siblings, and the only source of money she has is through the older men with whom she is forced to have sex.

MC: You've talked about meeting with sex workers in brothels. Are they open to what you have to say?
AJ: They are, they are. [sighs] There may be two categories — the first being those who are dead in their souls, who are numb and disassociated. And you can absolutely see it, when the woman is physically present but emotionally absent, which is the only way she can tolerate what she has to do X number of times a day, day in and day out. The second type is, how do you say that word, blowsy? A blowsy personality, where she's got kind of a crass sense of humor and is able to joke about herself, her body, the men, what they ask for. An example would be this sex worker in Guatemala. One of the questions I always ask is, "Does your family know what you do?" And this woman said, "My family thinks I sell lingerie." Then she goes, "Ay, puchaquita" — [grabs at her crotch] — "not that far." [laughs] It's gallows humor.

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