Posted by: emmagmiller11 | April 3, 2020

Human Trafficking: Hurting the Future Female Leaders

*Disclaimer: this blogpost contains some sensitive information related to human trafficking

Human trafficking remains one of the biggest issues facing our young women today. According to the International Labor Organization, around 4 million people globally are trafficked and 99% of people forced into sexual exploitation are females (Kelly, 2019). To understand that number better, that would be like if the entire population in the country of Moldova (Eastern Europe) were survivors of human trafficking (“Total population by country 2020”). This is a shocking and upsetting fact, one that few people are aware of because trafficking occurs covertly and usually is hidden by seemingly “innocent” businesses. However, the human trafficking problem is creating massive problems for our society and I believe it could be one reason for keeping women out of leadership positions in the future. If our young girls are faced with dangers as insidious as this, then we need to combat the injustice so they can grow up to become champions of justice and leaders of change.

The reason I think human trafficking is threatening the futures of our young girls is because of the prevalence of the internet and how this has changed the “face” of trafficking. Because of how quick and easy internet access is, more and more girls are being cybersex trafficked online, even from hundreds of miles away. According to International Justice Mission, the world’s largest anti-slavery organization, cybersex trafficking is “the live sexual abuse of children streamed via the internet” (“Cybersex trafficking FAQs”). I don’t think I have to go into detail for it to be understood the level of trauma that so many young girls are enduring in our day and age. Young girls are being exploited against their will and are forced into terrible situations. Another thing to note is that prostitution and sex trafficking are not the same thing, however a girl can be trafficked and forced into prostitution; this might account for why 46% of trafficking victims are involved in prostitution (Deshpande & Nour, 2013). The way most traffickers get these girls is through “debt bondage” which convinces girls that they owe money to the trafficker and must find a way of paying them back, thus putting them in a very vulnerable place (Deshpande & Nour, 2013). This is not the only way that traffickers find victims but lower socioeconomic status certainly can play a part in whether a girl is targeted. Data show that girls who are more vulnerable or seemingly vulnerable are more likely to be targeted for trafficking (Deshpande & Nour, 2013). This does not mean that a person is responsible for being a survivor of human trafficking and no person is ever at fault of ending up in situations such as these. Traffickers are clever and know how to take away someone’s options until they feel they have no choice.

Now that we have established the problem of human trafficking, I can talk about why I believe it has an impact on women becoming leaders. I think that with the larger presence of social media, other various factors, and the fact that women are often misrepresented or demeaned in the media is having a major impact on the wellbeing of girls. I do not want to demonize the media or blame certain movies/companies/advertisements for these problems because I think it is a lot of factors working together; I do think media representation of females has a role here though. According to an article from the journal “Social Media + Society”, men and women both experience the psychological impact of sexualized media such as how bodies are represented however women see more of an impact (Davis, 2018). The article states, “the portrayal of each gender in a social media environment can be problematic, especially when this portrayal is occurring in the realm of sexuality” such as depicting male body parts as stronger than female ones (Davis, 2018). Sexualizing women (and men) in the media can have detrimental effects on how people view each other’s’ bodies and abilities (Davis, 2018). After we watched the documentary Miss Representation, I thought a lot about the implications of what we had seen and how these disturbing facts reflected my own life experience. One Forbes article I found recounted a quote from the film that struck a chord with me: “Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person” (Ettus, 2011). This quote summarizes what I believe to be the connection between an increase in human trafficking and the negative media portrayal of women: acceptance of violence in the media against women. If girls do not believe that they have value, this could lead to fewer girls gaining the confidence to take on leadership roles in our society. This is my opinion and there are people who do not believe the same things, but I think it’s possible that there is a connection here.

I know how heavy this topic is and I would love to hear what other people think about this. Women who have been trafficked are never at fault for their circumstances; it is the trafficker who has done this injustice against them. In a TIME article I found, a woman named Windie Jo Lazenko talks about her story as a survivor of sex trafficking and how she is now using her career as a social worker to help other women escape these situations. I found the article and accompanying video very informative and encouraging, especially because Lazenko shows so much compassion to the clients she meets with.

What do you all think? Is there a connection between human trafficking and how the media portrays women? If there is, why? If there is not, why? Does media have an impact on young girls? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Baker, A. (2019, January 17). She Survived Sex Trafficking and is Showing Women a Way Out. Retrieved from

Davis, S. E. (2018, July 13). Objectification, Sexualization, and Misrepresentation: Social Media and the College Experience – Stefanie E Davis, 2018. Retrieved from

Deshpande, N. A., & Nour, N. M. (2013). Sex trafficking of women and girls. Reviews in obstetrics & gynecology, 6(1), e22–e27.

Ettus, S. (2011, October 25). 25 Alarm Bells for Women: Sounds from Miss Representation. Retrieved from

Kelly, C. (2019, July 29). 13 sex trafficking statistics that explain the enormity of the global sex trade. Retrieved from

(n.d.). Cybersex trafficking FAQs. Retrieved from

(n.d.). “Total population by country 2020”. Retrieved from

TIME Article:


  1. I think there could definitely be a connection between how women are portrayed in media and human trafficking. From a young age, both men and women are conditioned to see women through the lens of the media. When we watched Miss Representation, we saw that this was/is not always the best portrayal. Women are constantly shown to be weak, more emotional, and lesser than men. This is seen in movies, TV shows, and video games. In many of these, there is also lots of violence towards women. Even in the politics section of the movie, some of the things the news anchors said were absolutely appalling. Those things would have never been said if it had been men they were talking about. I think this portrayal gives men a false superiority. When taken too far, this could turn into human trafficking. If a woman owes this man something, he will be quick to lower her self-esteem and traffic her.

    I think media plays a very large role in impacting young women. I remember I always wanted to look like the girls on TV and in magazines. Later in life I learned that this was pretty much impossible and I should be happy with exactly who I am. Though I love my personality, my body image has always been an issue for me. I remember the first time I thought about it was in second grade. That’s insane, I was like 7 years old. No 7 year old should have to care about what she looks like compared to others. Middle school was definitely when I felt it the worst. I wasn’t as skinny as all my friends, I didn’t wear makeup, and I didn’t buy clothes from American Eagle or Areopostle. The media definitely pushed me to think that I was not good enough and only recently have I begun to accept myself for the way I am. I think this still has an effect on a lot of young girls. Today, I cant tell an 18 year old from a 14 year old based on how they dress and act, and I think that is a concerning result of the media.

  2. This blog post made me think about the implications of media on young girls in a whole new way. We have talked over and over again about how the media’s portrayal of women can be demeaning, perpetuate gender stereotypes, and affect the confidence of women starting from when they are old enough to watch T.V. and movies. I think you make a very strong argument as to how the media’s portrayal of females might be linked to human trafficking. I am not sure that the media directly perpetuates the cycle of human trafficking, but I can definitely see how it could enhance its occurrence. I think it comes back to the quote you included about dehumanizing a person is the first step towards justifying violence against them. I think back to Miss Representation and how we saw just how dehumanizing the media is towards women. While this clearly has psychological affects on girls watching this and growing up with low self esteem and body image issues, our boys are watching this too. How is affecting them? Does the repetition of these images make boys feel like they can treat girls as less than? Does that translate to grown men treating women with violence? I don’t think this connection is too far fetched to be valid. With social media, the access to this way of thinking can lead to even more violence and injustices against women and I do believe we are seeing some of the consequences of that today.

  3. I think that it is interesting women leaders are typically the ones that draw attention to issues like human trafficking. When I think about organizations that advocate to end the modern slave trade they are fronted by women and advocated for by women. This just goes to show that the voice of women leaders is essential when facing the world of problems we have today. Though men are affected by human trafficking the impact is lesser and thus the issue seems to go unnoticed by many. We hear many men in politics talking about healthcare, taxes, immigration policies, but very few about sex trafficking which is as stated above running rampant through our world. The fear of being attacked, kidnapped, and trafficked is another thought that every woman, and young girl, must live with that will seldom plague the men in our society. With more women at the height of politics more regulations and policy may be put into place to combat this issue which seems hidden to the naked eye. Slavery still existing in the world on a new platform is disgusting and that fact that there isn’t more talk about it on the political stage is heinous. Women need to be there to be represented for the millions of girls who have been and are being trafficked.

  4. Sex/human trafficking is actually a topic that I have done a great deal of research on in the past, and I must say that I absolutely agree with the points and connections you made in your post. I definitely think that the sexualization of women in the media has been used as a justification to bring them into sex trafficking. Of course, the media has brought many positives to the world, including improved assistance in the discovery and busting of trafficking rings. However, I believe that it has brought about a great deal of negatives as well. Particularly, the ones you addressed in your post regarding the treatment of women, because the media has portrayed that women are truthfully nothing but sex objects, below human. I really like the quote you included, and I completely agree with it. I think treating humans as less than absolutely leads to horrible acts, and ones that impact all people of affected groups, not just the ones who are explicitly experiencing the issue. Meaning, I think all women are impacted by the media and sex trafficking, even if they are not victims themselves. It’s scary. I know, personally, being sex trafficked is one of greatest fears, because, sadly, I know that it is more possible than I would like to admit or think about.

    A great documentary, which is also a book, that I have watched before is Half the Sky. It’s all about sex trafficking and trying to bring education to women in third world countries. It’s really great and I highly recommend you check it out if this is something that interests you. But, they do specifically address the media in the documentary, as not only a source of sexualization, but also promoting false information. Basically, the media can actually promote false numbers regarding sex trafficking, particularly in third world countries, making it seem like much less of an issue than it really is. It is a huge issue, in all places, but it is especially severe in developing countries.

    I agree that this can impact the leadership of women, because the media is so influential on all peoples lives, but particularly the youth of today. Young girls are exposed to the harsh media from adolescence to adulthood, and eventually if you are told something long enough, you are going to believe it. Girls are taught that they are nothing more than a sexual object that is not capable of leading, so women’s leadership takes a hit. I think there has been plenty of evidence to prove that the media does impact young girls, therefore leading to impact on women.

  5. This discussion made me think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that I learned both in my introductory leadership classes as well as my psychology classes. It is almost impossible based on this for women to want to strive for leadership positions or high profile careers that would be higher on the hierarchy of needs when their safety is not even met. Women are constantly trained to be fearful in the modern world and do things to guard themselves from predators both in real like and online. I know I was always taught that walking to my car I should have my car keys ready for both a quick escape and a way to defend myself if I were to be attacked. On the flip side, I know my brother was not taught the same thing. Men do not have to live with that same fear as they do not have to constantly face the same dangers. This is definitely perpetrated by the media and the things we learned in miss Representation, especially women being treated like objects. Men feel they can own women from early on in their lives due to video games and portrayal of women in movies. I constantly think about the representation of women in Grand Theft Auto as I have played this game before and never thought about the representation of women. Most women in the game are prostitutes and all can be beaten/abused without consequence and is a prominent part of the game. This is a very dangerous representation as individuals will bring this expectation of women into the real world, resulting in dangerous practices such as trafficking.

  6. There is certainly a connection between human trafficking and the media portrayal of women. As mentioned in the film and articles we’ve read, it is clear that women are more often sexualized from an early age, and their value is determined by their image and other’s perceptions. Not only does this put women more at risk for things such as trafficking and sexual exploitation, but it diminishes all the hard work that female leaders and women everywhere have done before them. No matter how hard women try to break through glass ceilings, navigate the labyrinth, or combat intersectional double-binds within their leadership positions, if young girls don’t see themselves or are not portrayed as anything more than objects of sexual gratification, they will never be able to get to the places where they need to and can be. This overt objectification of women through the media plays a large role in trafficking, as it communicates this idea and normalizes this portrayal. It is important not only for men and perpetrators of sexual and physical/emotional violence against women to be held accountable, but also the media as well. This is a cycle that will continue for generations if not addressed head on. The fewer opportunities that young girls (and boys) have a chance to see themselves as prominent, successful, actual human beings, the fewer leaders we will foster and the more this cycle will continue. It starts at home with conversations and modeling of appropriate behavior, it starts amongst friends and in school/workplaces in holding peers accountable for their actions and language, and it starts with the media and addressing the socialization of our culture. And these actions are not suggested to be geared towards the women, as all attempts to combat human trafficking and their uncalled-for overt sexualization; rather, they are geared towards the men and towards anyone who perpetrates this system. By attacking the problem before it starts instead of working towards mitigating the damage after it’s done, we can work to bring up a new generation that doesn’t have to suffer as much (hopefully) going forward.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: