As much as NPR news can irk a spinster aunt, in some respects it irks less (once you get past the first crushing realization that NPR is as actively patriarchal as any other news outlet, except that dudes yell less) than the rest of the mainstream media. For example, as of this writing NPR is the only internet source for the story of 3 poor (in all respects) Indian nationals who claim that in 2005 they were enslaved in the house of a Kuwaiti diplomat in an affluent D.C. suburb. According to NPR’s Frank Langfitt, the women are now suing the bastard, who apparently illegally trafficked them into the US, confiscated their passports, imprisoned them, beat them with packages of frozen chicken, forced them to work 15-hour days, and paid them jack shit. The women were eventually given refuge by a kindly neighbor dude.
OK, in the first place, what is this, feudal Europe? Who needs three servants?
This story is appalling and unfortunately, like all stories in which poor women are enslaved and abused by wealthy men on American soil, somewhat sensational. As a matter of fact, back in my network TV addiction days I saw this exact plot on “Law & Order: Mutilated Women Unit” about 27 times.
To similarly gratify his overlords, Langfitt does not hesitate to lay it on pretty thick, bathos-wise; among the possessions carried by one fleeing woman were, he notes, “underwear and a Bible” (translation: she’s a brown foreigner, so to generate sympathy she must be sentimentalized as a devout and modest Christian girl, and we’ll throw in some mild lingerie titillation for good measure). But at least he pauses in the middle of his lurid tale for a couple of informative paragraphs on the many thousands of impoverished women who are imported, enslaved, and abused by rich fucks in other parts of the world, “places such as the Persian Gulf and Malaysia.” Yonder, the exploitation of disenfranchised foreign women is apparently a multi-national pastime, to the extent that daily these women mob their embassies, hoping to escape the abuse.
As uncomfortable as I am with the racist subtext one must automatically read into any reportage generated by the government-funded megatheocorporatocracy (“Newsflash! The Middle East is a land of brutal barbarians!”), I don’t doubt for a second that rich Kuwaitis and other elites regularly practice this species of misogynist, racist barbarity. Inhumanity is endemic to patriarchy, and such practices fester globally to one degree or another. White male Americans — even the supposedly liberal progressive ones who are so aghast at indentured servitude — are themselves unable to forego their own barbaric dependence on the cultural normalization of women’s degradation.
But because only rich people can afford slaves to abuse, and there just aren’t that many rich people, it seems the real story here is the abject poverty and institutionalized misogyny that produces so readily exploitable a class of people in the first place.