The 1913 film, Traffic in Souls, although infected with unintentional melodramatic humor, openly protests against the act of forced prostitution. Throughout the film, I could not help but wonder about human trafficking and if women and children were, and still are, the only victims of this horrific system. Yet again, I looked to television to answer my questions. On the history channel (one of my favorite channels to date) there is the series called Underground City. In one episode, the host traveled through underground tunnels in Portland, Oregon. He then proceeded to explain the act of Shanghaiing. The term itself was used to describe the act of kidnapping unsuspecting men, usually drunks in saloons, and forcing them into slave labor aboard merchant ships. These men were usually under the influence of alcohol or some other illegal substance like opium or cocaine, and when their mental faculties were wasted they were led to rooms with trap doors in the floor. Falling through the floor, the unsuspecting men would fall into cages. And if that wasn’t enough, they were then auctioned off to vessel owners and then used as slave labor.
This was a popular way of both finding labor to work aboard ships in the untamed waters but also a means of making extra cash. This episode also mentioned that many of these underground traps were in saloons, public laundry mats, and even barber shops. These areas, or at least some of them, aren’t exactly “risky” areas. These places are pretty public and open. It shocked me to know that this type of stuff was going on during the mid 19th century. It’s actually quite scary and somewhat reminded me of Mr. Trubus (innocent on the outside but crooked on the out side).
Not to unsettle the feminist voices in this class or any other people reading the blog, but I think that this has just as much barring as the film Traffic in Souls. Dr. Stalter, mentioned in class today that she was writing an article about this. I think that this would be a cool addition to the article. I also think that it is really cool to see this from a non-feminist perspective. I don’t know about any of you but I tend to refer to everything in this manner. Human trafficking, even when you google it, is pictured as a plague that seems to only affect women and young children, usually young girls. This topic is heavily feminized. Even I fell victim to thinking of this subject in terms of women in the city.
Human trafficking is naturally a scary topic. Thinking about it in terms of both the film and shanghaiing makes it seem a bit more urgent. The city to me before this very topic seemed like a bright, new world just waiting for lonely small town girls to arrive and reinvent themselves. Now, I’m scared straight in a sense. We have realize, like Sandburg, and the city is a dangerous place, and as inviting as it may seem like a jungle just waiting to swallow up unsuspecting prey.