“Dead Prostitute”

I work at a high school as a paraeducator (an underpaid teacher without a credential). I love the work that I do. My students are awesome. Today, in American Lit. the class discussed Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane. In the story, a young girl loses her dreams and her innocence and resorts to prostitution to get by. As often happens in these situations, the girl is killed by a John. The class discussion left me pained and exhausted. So I need to work through it:

“A dead prostitute” *laughter*

Why are they laughing?

“(teacher)What’s the moral of the story?…(student)You’ll end up as a dead prostitute?” *laughter*

Maybe they’re nervous or something.

“A ‘lady of the night’ as they were called.”

“…dead prostitute…”*laughter*

Jesus, I wish she’d address the laughter, this is awful. I know they’re just teenagers but they gotta know this is reality–real women and children being turned out by abusive pimps, used as cum rags then dumped or murdered…forgotten. What is funny about the idea of a young girl being murdered? Is it because she’s not a girl anymore? Not their friend…their sister? When she opens her legs she becomes sub-human? Why is the teacher just letting this go?

I feel sick inside, heavy, achy. I want to yell or cry or leave. There’s no excuse for my silence. Shit. What’s wrong with me?  I just want them to understand. Girls die every day and they’re not strangers; they’re our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our best friends. They’re dying and we’re letting it happen. We’re not remembering all the murdered women with candles or ribbons. We’re laughing nervously about it in high school classrooms. We’re using euphemisms to talk about murder–not just physical murder but murder of the spirit. Becuase that’s what happens, isn’t it? We die; maybe not all at once, but slowly, we die.

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