I’ve been thinking recently about what counts as exploitation. It seems to me that in general, exploitation of a person or a group of people is never seen as a good thing (although it might be okay to exploit and opportunity.)
Now the context in which I was thinking about this was the use of third-party eggs, which I’ve written about before. (You can just use the tag “egg donor” and you’ll turn up the full range of posts.) And the present reason is discussions I’ve read here and there about a movie entitled “Eggsploitation.” Now I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I have nothing to say directly about it, but my impression (from the title and what I’ve read about it) is that it focuses on the exploitation of women who are providing eggs for others to use.
I know this is a complicated topic (see again the earlier posts) but I have a nagging wonder about whether those concerned about the exploitation of egg providers also engage in a little exploitation of their own. I have this concern not because of this specific movie–as I say, I haven’t seen it. But it seems to me that the general public discourse in this area (possibly mine included) is advanced by building on individual narratives in a way that sometimes does border on exploitation.
Now as may be apparent, I’m not yet ready to really write about the question of exploitation of egg providers–I don’t think I’ve done my homework. But I noticed this from MSNBC, though I think really from the Today Show. It’s a multipart telling of the story of Carolyn Savage, which I actually wrote about two years ago as the story broke.
I guess this looks to me like a kind of exploitation. Whatever else it is, it’s an effort by NBC to grab some viewers. They’ve strung the story out over multiple parts and told in an a way to make it as dramatic as possible all to drive ratings for the network and/or website.
I don’t know how the Savages were treated and I don’t mean to portray them as victims. I have no reason to believe they were. And I can understand a felt need to have a story told, given all they’ve been through. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the network uses it for its own purposes. This is what makes me think of it as a form of exploitation, I think. Are the connotations of that word just too negative? And I think this is the same sense in which I worry about exploitation with regard to the egg provider stories. Maybe it’s just that when one uses people’s stories for political purposes it’s a tricky business.
Let’s call it a tentative hypothesis needing more development.