Do you get annoyed when people tell you that prostitution is the oldest profession? According to a Slate article by Forrest Wickman the actual reference comes from Rudyard Kipling and his 1888 story about prostitute where he describes her as “a member of the most ancient profession in the world.”

We’re trusting the same guy who wrote about the white man’s burden and didn’t exactly have extensive studies in history? Consider other possibilities such as language. You might then want to cringe at how the word whore has been cheapened to refer to women (“ho”)  in general or casually to talk about any kind of sell out (publicity whore) or intense desire for something (chocolate whore).  The 2011 movie, “Whores’ Glory,” is about real whores. Director/screen writer Michael Glawogger is from Austria and this movies is reportedly the last in his trilogy about globalization.

The first movie in that series in the 1998 “Megacities” which looked at people in Mumbai, New York, Moscow and Mexico City. His focus was on people who live precariously according to the IMDB. To date, 11 critics have posted links to their reviews. The 2005 “Workingman’s Death” has six different segments that cover miners in Ukraine, sulfur carriers in Indonesia, butchers in Nigeria, welders in Pakistan, steel workers in China and youths in a former German industrial complex now a park.  IMDB had 26 reviews.

Glawogger is not popular with the critics, but his “Whores Glory” garnered more attention: 45 critic reviews and it seems that all the reviews are men. Men showing men something about women as whores?  This documentary did win two awards (Venice Film Festival Orizzonti Special Jury Prize and the Austrian Film Awards for cinematography).

The locales are minimal: Bangkok, Thailand, Faridpur, Bangladesh and Reynosa, Mexico. Glawogger doesn’t venture close to home where there is legal prostitution such as Amsterdam but the prostitutes reportedly mostly foreign. Nor does he look at country where the population in predominately white and prostitution legal such as Hungary, Las Vegas, Nevada or  Australia.

Of the three movies (I haven’t seen the other two), only this one doesn’t look at how white people fit into the conundrum. As if a bit sex tourism, Glawogger takes us to spots where the Euro and the dollar can buy. Glawogger makes Thailand seem the most appealing. The place is called the Fish Tank and the women sit with numbers for the customers to choose them. According to one review on Netflix, the women there are receiving the highest rates ($60 to $80).  Surely there are women who get paid less and are obviously under age. You have to wonder how sincere the women’s conversation is, if Glawogger and his crew aren’t potential customers or potential PR for them and their assets.

In Bangladesh, the women live in crowded circumstances, bought and sold or brought into this world by the happenstance of birth. The men they might have, they must pay for–in a similar situation with the Thai prostitutes who pay for men on their night out.

This also brings out the creepy sexism of this piece. Whores in Thailand aren’t only pretty young women. We don’t see the pre-pubescent girls or boys. We don’t see the men who dress as women or the young men who are whores. In Bangladesh boys and girls as young as 12 are also sold for sex.

In Mexico, the prostitutes are waiting in rooms while their customers prowl and the camera finally gets some pornographic shots of a sexual transaction between a customer and a woman. More pathetically, the camera follows an older prostitute show might be on the edge of dementia as she awkwardly attempts to catch the attention by flashing her body parts. She was obviously successful and now immortalized. But to what end? It’s doubtful that she’ll be enriched as a result of the movie and yet filmgoers will be entertained long after she is dead and gone. These prostitutes, again according to the Netflix reviewer, get $8 to $40.

This documentary shows women prostitutes who are Buddhist (Thai), Catholic and Muslim. It’s troubling to read reviews that assume this documentary tells us anything about these religions or about prostitution at all. Some of the scenes seemed staged or perhaps made for the benefit of profit. Prostitution, if you consider it a problem, is more than females in poor countries. The choices made indicate more about the documentary makers than the countries filmed. “Whores’ Glory” doesn’t break any new ground and looks pointedly at the other as if they were still the white man’s burden.

For women to hold up half the sky, women in all countries, of all religions and of all cultures must have the opportunities that white men have. Maybe the true white man’s burden give women the chance.

“Whores’ Glory” is streaming on Netflix and while being about women, isn’t a documentary really made with the welfare of women.

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