Reasons to Support Belle Knox (Even if You Don’t Agree With Her)

For weeks, the media has been in an uproar over Belle Knox, the freshman at Duke University who works as a porn star to pay for tuition.

Well, maybe uproar is the wrong word. The media has been downright civil compared to the mudslinging from everyone else—people who have done everything from revealing her real name to threatening to throw garbage on her.

You don’t have to agree with Knox’s choices to side with her, though. We all have our demons, and Knox must bear the consequences of her actions like anyone else. Regardless of how others feel about her decision to work in porn, Knox’s approach to the scandal is still admirable for many reasons:

  • She exposed Duke’s rape culture, a phenomenon in which privileged students think they can get anything they want—including nonconsensual sex. Rape pervades college campuses around the country, so kudos to Knox for discussing how victims, particularly women, are subject to scrutiny and objectification from those who are in no position to judge.
  • She stood up for herself, and shows no signs of stopping. Knox wrote a response to the Duke Chronicle’s first article about her, interviewed with the Huffington Post (among others—she has an upcoming media tour as well), and has already posted multiple articles for xoJane. You have to respect Knox’s determination to stand by her beliefs—and she articulates them well for a college freshman.
  • She’s starting a conversation. Knox raises questions about how our culture should approach sexuality, and has brought further attention to the rising cost of college education. If a student feels driven to work in porn because she can’t afford tuition, what does the choice say about the value of a college degree?

Knox claims to feel empowered working as a porn star, but those feelings don’t apply to everyone in the industry. Too often, sex is used as a pawn to assign or remove power; consider the porn stars who feel powerless at work, or the plight of sex slaves who never had the freedom to choose and suffer constant degradation. People who judge Knox for her choices use their own sexual morality as a way to establish power over her—no different than people in these adult industries who corrupt human sexuality for personal gains.

Marginalizing people does not change their actions, though; it just reinforces Knox’s view that entitlement places stigmas on outsiders, even though everyone is broken in some way. It reduces righteousness to cruelty.

So let’s treat Knox like this: instead of writing murder and rape threats from behind the safety of our computer screens, let’s see her as a real person—a person with dignity who makes choices and has to live with them like the rest of us.

Do you feel like Knox has been treated unfairly? Leave us a comment.

-Amanda

Amanda Suazo, editor, joined BSB in 2010 as the writing guru for the organization’s website, official documents, and documentary before focusing a bit on philanthropy. Now a graduate of Gonzaga University, she is currently an MBA student and freelance writer. Between Zumba classes and downing espresso, you might catch her attempting to be a vegetarian. Find her on Twitter.

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Protest Lessons from the Band Pussy Riot

[Editor’s note: While we realize that Pussy Riot is all-around controversial, we’re also curious about the band’s ideology and protest methods.  Please leave a comment after reading and get the discussion going.]

Last month Maria Alyokhina, a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, embarked on a hunger strike that lasted 11 days before, remarkably, her demands were met.

Alyokhina is ten months into a two-year prison sentence for “breach of public order motivated by religious hatred.” In reality, the breach was a brief performance in a Moscow cathedral of the song “Punk Prayer- Virgin Mary, Drive Putin Out.”

Religious hatred or political dissent: take your pick.

The hunger strike of Alyokhina began when she alleged that prison officials were attempting to turn the other inmates against her by cracking down on security in advance of her parole hearing. She claimed inmates were denied permission to enter workplaces without escort, whereas before they had been allowed to enter freely. This requirement left inmates locked into their workplaces for hours at a time. Alyokhina was moved to a prison hospital, but ended her hunger strike when officials were able to show her that the security restrictions had been removed and returned to normal.

Pussy Riot was only formed in August 2011, but has had a significant impact on various social justice movements globally. Their manifesto claims: “We are open-source-extremists, the feminist virus infecting your thoughts.” And this idea of “open-source” movements is becoming the modern approach. There was mutual influence between Pussy Riot and Occupy Wall Street in New York, and similarities can be seen between other recent movements, like the Arab Spring. Social media is becoming the platform for protest, and youth are mobilizing it.

PRiot

While it is always hard to gauge the impact that youth movements can have, it is undeniable that the actions of Pussy Riot, and notably their arrest and subsequent trial, have called attention to the Russia of Vladimir Putin. And since their trial, a glut of new legislation has been passed, clamping down on multiple forms of protest and criticism of the government. These laws are informally known as the Pussy Riot laws, and make illegal the discussion of Pussy Riot protests, distribution of footage of them, and covering one’s face in public, in emulation of the balaclavas worn by band members.

The irony though of clamping down on social protest is that, with modern media, the act of repression only serves to send the message out all the louder. And while perhaps in Russia the group is being somewhat censored, internationally their protest is sparking and leading to a much wider movement.

-David

David Wilson graduated from the University of Texas in 2006. Since then he has gone wherever the wind blows him, living in Europe, China, and the States, and traveling extensively throughout the rest of the world. When he’s not on the move, you can find him obsessing over latte art, playing piano, or trying to bleach his hair in the sunshine. Follow him on Twitter.

The Miranda Priestly Dilemma

Confession: I am a huge, huge Meryl Streep fan. Okay, it’s not much of a confession, since everyone loves her. Although, I will admit that despite Meryl’s long career in film (yes, we’re on a first-name basis), what won me over was seeing her in The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl plays the feared and powerful fashion magazine editor/ice-queen Miranda Preistly. In the film, she is at the top of the couture food chain, along with her ability to shake the fashion world with a purse of her lips.

miranda

But I digress, since we’re not here to review Meryl’s glorious career—a worthwhile activity for another day. What got me thinking about The Devil Wears Prada, and specifically what I call the Miranda Priestly Dilemma, was the Pew study released this week on “breadwinner moms.” We now see a historical high in percentage of households (40%) with mothers as the primary or sole source of income. However, the study indicates that three-quarters of adults believe women who work make it harder for families to raise children. Plus, half of adults also think working women strain their marriages.

These beliefs, at best, hearken back to more traditional views on women’s roles. At worst, they perpetuate a sexism still visible in gendered income disparities within the workplace. Hence, the Miranda Priestly Dilemma. Although successful in her career, the fictional Miranda Priestly has multiple divorces behind her and spends little time at home. The implication from our pop culture is that a successful career woman must not only sacrifice her family life but must also have the shrewish personality of a harpy.

So is it too much to want it all? I remember reading a New York Times article about a medical student trying to simultaneously navigate school and pregnancy. The story particularly resonated with me, maybe because I’m currently wading in my own medical school applications, but mainly because it brings up an important question: what happens when a woman’s career timeline clashes with her biological timeline?

The optimal time for a woman to start a family is in her twenties to early thirties, but this is also the optimal timeframe to jumpstart a career. Whether it be more daycare options in the office or paid maternity leaves, it seems that the workplace needs to adjust to the long-emerging working mother. Although women may (biologically) have more to balance than men, it hardly makes work and family mutually exclusive. The increase in women as the primary breadwinners signifies an increasing prominence of women in the workplace.

And traditional views will just have to catch up to already present realities.

-Serena

Serena Yin graduated with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. She is joining the Washington Reading Corps to promote literacy in local schools. A New England native, she loves ballet, beaches, and hamburgers. When she’s not on the hunt for the nearest Starbucks, she’s working on realizing her lifelong dream of meeting J.K. Rowling.