Mia Kirshner on Thai Brothels
Mia Kirshner is best known for her work as a television and film actress. She has played leading roles in Love and Human Remains, Exotica and The Crow: City of Angels as well as the award-winning television series 24. In 2008, Kirshner published I Live Here with Random House/Pantheon. In the book, she documents women and children refugees in Chechnya, Ciudad Juárez and Malawi. It was co-produced with Adbusters collaborators Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons and features comic and graphic work by Joe Sacco and Phoebe Gloeckner. Proceeds from I Live Her Here go to Amnesty International. Kirschner studied Russian literature and 20th-century film industry at McGill University in Montreal.
Kirshner: Well, the brothel, I mean, I went and my partner Michael Simmons went after me and they’re really uncomfortable places to be, in to say the least. You know, you go into, first of all I went and my guide [Sapho] who works for a local human rights organization in [Mae Sot] which is on the Thai-Burmese border met me and she told me that I had to sort of brush my hair and put some make-up on because she said I look too scruffy to go into the brothel. And she told the mama-san which is basically like the pimp that I was a medical student doing an HIV survey and we were given access into the brothel. And as soon as I got into the, you know, you go into this [noodle] shops or karaoke houses and they’re pretty disserted and, you know, women are lined up against the wall wearing this thick pancake make-up and then you sort of walk back and it’s a frightening feeling to sort of turn your back and hear doors lock behind you. It’s definitely a very vulnerable environment. And then the first one I’ll never forget this was like a stable. It was just room after room after room of tiny rooms were people are having sex and, you know, many of the women are underage and just to sort of a stomach curling experience to be in a place were women, many of whom chose to work there because, well, I say chose because there was no, there are no jobs in Burma and there was, they had no work, they can’t work in Thailand so this was the work that was easiest to get and it’s a stomach curling experience to be in a place where you can actively hear the exploitation of these women and it’s a very strange feeling to know that there is very little you can do in the immediate and that you’re going to leave very soon.
At Mae Sot, Mia Kirshner witnessed the sex trade up close.
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