Today the truth will come out: Mandela Girls? Why Mandela Girls? Fitzpleasure by Alt-J is one of those songs I can’t relate to yet intensely enjoy listening to nonetheless. The song itself is said to be inspired by a chapter from Hubert Selby, Jr.’s 1964 controversial novel about the brutality of urban life. The book was titled Last Exit to Brooklyn. The song inspiring chapter ends with the gruesome rape of a prostitute character named Tralala. A line from the song that always plays in my head is of course “little did I know then, that the Mandela boys soon become Mandela men”, So basically after writing a women’s day post about an incident I had with a group of prostitutes, I thought I’d change the “boys” in Mandela boys to “girls” for a title.
“There’s a gang in Southampton called The Mandela Boys. We were scared s—less of them when we were kids. The (next) line, ‘Little did I know then that the Mandela Boys soon become Mandela Men’ is me wondering whether they’re still in the gang or if they’ve just all got jobs and kids now.”- Alt-J frontman
The rest of the post swings back and forth from the featured Keane track to being about the world’s oldest profession. The originator of the phrase “The world’s oldest profession” was Rudyard Kipling. His 1888 story about a prostitute begins, “Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world.” As progressives debated how to deal with prostitution in the US in the early 1900s, medical professionals soon began to misquote Kipling, and the phrase took on a life of its own.
Shot by Brent Slirton the above picture of Maria, a drug addicted sex worker resting between clients in the room she rents in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine won him first prize in the Contemporary Issues Singles category.
In Mandela Girls I mentioned how you and I can only speculate about the psychological and emotional journey an aging sex worker goes through. Truth is, not many of them get the chance to age. After so many run ins with abusive clients as well as the health risks they put themselves through not forgetting their probable use of drugs, sooner rather than later, the body must reject the host to survive…
In Mandela Girls I also asked, when is that point in a woman’s life does she decide to pursue prostitution? How hard or easy is it, how long does it take for a woman to brace herself, to talk herself into taking that particular path? In ‘Til She Cries No More I made up a fictional character who naturally made love for free ’til her 1st love broke her heart and she “lost” her way as she spiralled into drug abuse and prostitution… You know how that 1967 rock number goes, The First Cut is the Deepest, and you know what people say, a girl’s real first love is her father.
“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too”
Sticking to the whole women’s month vibe, “Daughters” is a Grammy winning number by American singer-songwriter John Mayer. Lyrically the song is an appeal to parents, more especially fathers to nurture their daughters in their childhood because the relationship will affect their future relationships with men as adults.
“Oh, you see that skin?
It’s the same she’s been standing in
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now she’s left Cleaning up the mess he made”
Though prostitution is largely influenced by poverty and is seen as the “last resort” to making a living, unfortunately to some it’s not a last resort they had to take but something they’ve chosen to do as a result of bad parenting and them finding or trying to find the parental love they yearn for from all the wrong people… some simply do it to rebel. To break free from what is expected of them…
“The fact that they could juggle both the outside prejudice and the layers of euphemism (even deceit) their professions required was… inspiring me. … All of my problems were solved! It didn’t matter that I was a little girl with an armful of bad tattoos! I would be able to move out of my mother’s house completely! No one would ever be the boss of me again!”- Cathryn Berarovich in How I Became a Prostitute