Mary Gryctko, University of Pittsburgh
Paper Title: “Girls for Sale:” William Stead, Nicholas Kristof, and Nineteenth-Century Origins of Twenty-first-Century “Trafficking” NarrativesDownload
Keywords: Feminist/gender studies, sex work, childhood studies, Victorian reformers
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3 thoughts on “2020 Virtual Conference: Mary Gryctko”
Hi Mary! Thank you for sharing this compelling paper. I have two items to share, with the caveat that I know very little about your fields of study, so apologies in advance if these are not helpful!
1. The “discourses of protection” that you describe seem thoroughly entangled with issues of socio-economic class. I know very little about childhood studies, and I was wondering if the figure of the”pure” or “virgin” child, so to speak, was one that cut across class? That is, did the Victorian reformers that you study view all children as “pure” (both working and upper-class children)? If so, I was curious how this might relate to Kristof’s oeuvre concerning the issue of universal human rights. Is the emergence of the pure child a prerequisite to 20th-century human rights discourse?
2. Another thing that came to my mind when you were discussing Kristof’s use of slavery was the rhetorical use of the concept in both pro-slavery propaganda and labor reform writing in the nineteenth-century United States, in which white wage laborers in the industrial North were imagined as being in bondage. Jennifer Rae Greeson’s Our South might be a good place to start if you were interested in a transatlantic analysis.
Hope this helps!
Wonderful collage of ideas here, Mary. I agree with you that qualitative comparisons of systems of unfree labor are crass at best, and quite disniformative, but would caution you against labeling other scholars’ analyses as “ignorant” After all, some of these scholars will be peer-reviewing your book for publication one day. I wonder if child-soldiers might be a good point of comparison with child sex-workers alongside sweat-shop workers, as a fitting comparison of the danger involved in these types of relationships. I find it intriguing that people were aghast at the sale of a young girl for 5 pounds. Minnie Mackay, the focus of my most recent piece, was sold for 30 dollars when she was 17, which was pretty standard in nineteenth- century Qing China.
Wow, this is a fascinating paper! I think your analysis of the nineteenth-century rhetorical origins of our modern anti-sex work activism is compelling, and that your work here is important. As I was reading your essay I found myself wanting to know more about the slippage between anti-trafficking and anti-sex work activisms. Is it the case that all current anti-sex work activism is, at least in part, framed by definitions of sex work as trafficking? Or are there strands of this activism that do not rely on trafficking as a frame?