I just published my first post over at the Hub! It’s on Beyonce’s new video for “Run the World (Girls)” and the faux-empowerment messages. Have a looksee!
[Trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence and pornography.]
File this in the overflowing drawer marked “Gail Dines BRINGS IT”.
The video wouldn’t embed, so go watch the 35-minute program on the website for “The Agenda”.
Here’s just a few of my thoughts on Slut Walk and the video:
– Slut is a construct made up by males in order to demean women. Sluts do not exist. You can’t reclaim a word that was never yours to begin with.
-Jaclyn says that slut walk sends the message that “if you call one of us a slut, you have to call all of us sluts”. Yeah. MEN ALREADY DO THAT. They call all of us sluts because that is what most men thing of women.
-The interviewer’s framing is odd at times, and it seems that the pro-slut-walk guests are incorrectly understanding what Gail meant when she brought up male sexuality. She’s talking about porn culture, something that really hasn’t been confronted by liberal feminists.
-Finally, as a younger feminist who is a victim/survivor and who has been harmed by pornography, Gail Dines does speak for me.
[Updated May 10, 2011 to add the following additional comments:]
This whole thing is just so bizarre. I mean, totally in keeping with liberal feminist sex-pozerism, but really… you’re actually calling it a Slut Walk? I was thinking today about what Suzanna Walters says in her “From Here to Queer” article about reclaiming language. Could you imagine something like a “Nigger Walk”, “Kike Walk”, or even “Faggot Walk”? Allies welcome to join! Ugg.
I’m absolutely puzzled as to why the response here to being called a slut is, “Yup, we are exactly what you say we are! You’re right. Women ARE sluts!” As if the police or dudes give ONE shit about your ‘nuance’.
I’ve been thinking lately about how much I have changed in the last few years… and the last few months… and, hell, the last few weeks. The more I read, talk, and know, the more radical I become. I cannot wait until I’m in my 50s!
Opposition to prostitution and pornography was my intro into radical feminism. Learning more about what radical feminism was, it was all downhill after that, as you can see with this blog o’ mine.
But here’s a bit of how I used to be. Your little Lishra, several years ago (keep in mind that I’m in my early twenties now, with many of these things happening when I was like 15)…
*I bought several “strip-aerobics” videos, which helped with facilitating my eating disorder and general self-hatred I had at the time. Oh, Carmen Electra. So succinct in your ability to make a teenage girl feel like shit so that you may profit from the male gaze. (Still, I blame the patriarchy, though, not Carmen.)
*I’ve seen every episode of “Sex and the City” at least twice. Although… burgeoning radicalism: I stole every one of the DVDs from a particular big-box store. I was a crafty one. Also? Such a Carrie.
*[TW] In playing Grand Theft Auto (bad enough!), I sometimes had my character have sex with prostitutes and then killed them afterward, recouping my money. (What the hell was wrong with me? That’s really disturbing, and seems totally unreal to me now. This was about eight years ago, but still.) [/TW]
*I had a “burlesque is totes awesome” phase. This included buying Dita Von Teese’s book, watching several videos of old-timey burlesque skits, and thinking of unique acts that I could do one day when I was old enough to be in bars that local troupes perform in. I even made black sequin pasties at one point.
*This is a more recent one… a couple years ago, there was a period of two months in which I really, really wanted a corset. Not just any corset, but one that would let me “waist train”. Yes, the kind that you wear for 23+ hours a day, every day. Thank goodness for my partner being like, “No. That’s a really awful idea. What the hell? You do not need to do that. That’s so impractical. It will hurt you. Don’t do that!” It also helped that I never could scrape together the $90 for one.
*Also a more recent one: I thought I was super cool because I “got” Judith Butler. True facts: no one gets Judith Butler.
*I used to define my feminism almost solely on opposition to shitty media representations of women. That’s probably a common entry point to feminism for a lot of folks, but, damn, aren’t you glad I moved beyond that? Bonus: I had another blog before this one that was basically dedicated to “Gosh, this ad is awful! Look at how awful this ad is! OMG PHOTOSHOP!”
*I read Jezebel daily from about three months after it started until spring of last year. (The final nail in the coffin was last summer in which the site did a post on Maia’s week of guest blogging over at Feministe about child-free spaces and the shit.hit.the fan. as Jezebel folks rushed over there to make asses of themselves. Whooda guessed that Jezebel’s commentariate consists of a lot of USian white women with zero ability to understand that Other People Aren’t Always Like You?)
*I had a subscription to BUST magazine. ‘Nuff said.
So, as you can see, there is hope for our less enlightened sisters. In time, they too may be fighting the good (radical) fight with us. It’d be nice if they could hurry up though.
Final note to my former self: WTF was that?
Final note to my future self: I can’t wait to be you.
Martha Nussbaum, from “The Professor of Parody”. . . on Judith Butler, parody, and theory without real-life application:
“For women who are hungry, illiterate, disenfranchised, beaten, raped, it is not sexy or liberating to reenact, however parodically, the conditions of hunger, illiteracy, disenfranchisement, beating, and rape. Such women prefer food, schools, votes, and the integrity of their bodies. I see no reason to believe that they long sadomasochistically for a return to the bad state. If some individuals cannot live without the sexiness of domination, that seems sad, but it is not really our business. But when a major theorist tells women in desperate conditions that life offers them only bondage, she purveys a cruel lie, and a lie that flatters evil by giving it much more power than it actually has.”
(I know this post is quite long, but please do stay tuned for the end in which I make amusing conclusions! And hand out free candy!)
There’s a peculiar trend in my women’s studies class discussions this week. Primarily, it’s massive hypocrisy and double-speak among other students and even one of my professors. I suspect this has always occurred, but I’m just noticing it now due to my increased radicalization these days.
In a 300-level women’s studies course, we had a little refresher on what each ‘wave’ of feminism primarily worked against/for/etc. Notably, this was also the only class in which the ‘wave’ model has not been criticized, which I immediately found odd. Then came the real wackiness.
Question to class: “And what is the current, third wave of feminism about?”
I took notes on what students said so I could handily recall it all for you right now.
One woman who is notorious for her sex-pozzie, liberal feminist double-speak in other classes we’ve both taken: “Well, it’s about, like, more about individuality. Like, the individual woman, and what she does. . . and her individuality.” (Not an exact quote, but frighteningly close.)
Another woman who has shown in another class that she doesn’t seem to know what she’ll say until she’s saying it: “So, you know, like a woman can strip or whatever and it can be like a way for her to get by and make money. . . and get to the top.” (A more exact quote.)
While I understand that my fellow students, particularly these two, aren’t likely reading radical feminist books and blogs everyday like yours truly. . . have we not all been getting the same women’s studies curriculum for the last few years? While I may not have been as radical in the past, I have been anti-pornstitution and equipped with a highly-sensitive bullshit detector for quite a while. I don’t know where they are getting this from. As anti-radical-feminism as certain assigned readings have been in other classes, these kinds of mindless “feminist” talking points did not come from anything our instructors have said, nor the vast majority of what we have read. Are they all just repeating what Jezebel and Feministing have to say? (Hey, I’ve been there too.)
The professor for this class, well. . . I had high expectations. Then she got on that sisterhood/solidarity-shattering notion of “there’s no universal experience of all women”. Strangely, she then — right after saying that — said that the exceptions would be the threat of sexual violence “which is pretty universal” in women’s lives, and that women have diminished social and political power.
Sure, the 25+ percent of women who have been raped by men may not have been raped in the exact same way, and the other 75 percent hasn’t been kept in absolute fear in the exact same way, but isn’t that a BIG DAMN COMMONALITY in general?
“Diminished social and political power” seems like shorthand for “women are an oppressed class”. . . that also sounds pretty universal and wide-reaching as it affects women’s lives, yeah?
The word “oppression” wasn’t spoken once by anyone, even in the discussion (for the newbies and non-majors) about “how women are disadvantaged”. There was one reference, by the instructor, of women as a “group” so I’ll give her a half point for that.
Otherwise? It was downhill from there. We got on the topic of difference between second-wave feminists and third-wave feminists. You can probably tell what’s coming. Someone mentioned Dworkin, said how feminists have been at odds about porn/prostitution, but less so now, and then the instructor said something kind of dismissive in an “Oh, that silly Andrea Dworkin – how quaint” kind of way.
The professor then added that some feminists’ interests can be at odds with the interests of other feminists, and — get this — “they can sometimes oppress one another”. NO. NO THEY CAN’T. Women are incapable of oppressing other women as women. To oppress you need both privilege and power. Women do not have structural power or privilege as women, so that ain’t happening.
Finally, the most hilaritragic claim about feminist “differences” was repeated by five students, all of whom were white women sitting in a university classroom. They all said that second-wave feminism was more focused on the needs of “middle-class white women” whereas third-wave feminism is not.
I’ll be right back. . . I need to fix a drink.
Ok. *deep breath* I’m sorry, fellow white lady students, but have you looked at your skin color lately? Or your privilege that lets you sit in this room and say all this? And going on about how feminism these days approves of things like porn, prostitution, and stripping. . . do you know who is in prostitution? Do you think the majority of them — worldwide or in the U.S. — look like you or have your economic background? Do you think your brand of feminism helps a poor, non-white 14-year-old girl in prostitution, or do you think that your “it’s her choice” bullshit only serves to prop up her pimp?
White, (presumably) middle-class young women claiming that their feminism is just so different from that old lady feminism that focused on white, middle-class women. . . are you kidding me?
But then things actually got better. In another women’s studies course on gender and colonialism, the professor (who is not white) did not mess around with wishy-washy definitions or let this “choice” rhetoric pass for actual feminism.
We started the class with clear definitions of things like racism, colonialism, and violence. Then our professor asked us to define feminism, say what it is “about”.
Then came the broken record. “Choice, gender equality” *skip* “choice, gender equality” . . . but scant mentions of women at all. If I wasn’t so anxiety-ridden and not sure which feminism definition she was seeking, I would have said what I had written down: “the elimination of (white, hetero,) male supremacy; the abolishment of gender”.
To the woman spouting, “It’s about choice,” our professor did a fabulous omg-you’re-being-serious face. Seriously. . . “choice” doesn’t stop men from raping women, “choice” doesn’t end male supremacy. And I’m sure the instructor was wondering how choice has anything to do with colonized women.
Later, I snickered about one student (the first one quoted) getting a total comeuppance. She said — somewhat relevantly — how, at a club, she used a nongendered bathroom “and it was really cool”. Full stop. Again, awesome professor looked quizzically at her and asked, “‘Cool’? In what way was it ‘cool’? What do you mean by that?” I’m such a radfem geek. . . in my head I was like OH YEAH, hells YES she finally got called out.
So, things are looking up for that class. We’re talking about “structural” things, not interpersonal “women oppressing other women” crap. . . you know: feminism.
– Third-wave, “choice” feminism leads to dangerously high levels of illogical thought, diminished capacity for political syllogism.
– Prior and current experience indicates that my women’s studies professors who are white tend to have a myopic view of what women’s liberation looks like while my non-white women’s studies professors diligently hammer home the point that systems of oppression – OMG! – actually exist.
– It is going to be a long, stressful term dealing with anti-radicals. My alcohol usage is likely to increase by 15%.
– My class discussion experiences this term might cause me to say something “inflammatory” during my graduation speech later this year, which may or may not include me shouting sarcastically about “choosing my choice”, then dropping the mic and flouncing off. Look forward to the Youtube video captured on someone’s cell phone titled “chick studies harpy loses her shit”.
You want to treat prostitution like any other job? Ok, let’s do it.
This is the ‘job’ that so-called feminists want women to have the ‘right’ to do:
a job with no healthcare benefits (which will certainly be needed because this job also entails regularly acquiring infections and diseases)
a job in which you are less and less valuable as you age
a job in which a 13 year old is literally worth more than a 23 year old who has 10 years experience (credit to Sam Berg)
a job that necessarily leaves one at risk for massive amounts of violence, including rape
a job that frequently causes post-traumatic stress disorder
a job that may as well list ‘prior sexual abuse’ as a prerequisite
a job in which there is routine drug and alcohol use by workers, usually so they can cope with their working conditions
a job in which rape can be redefined as ‘theft of services’
a job that, if done indoors at a legal ‘work site’, will probably have a panic button so that the worker can get help for a ‘customer’ that is sexually assaulting her or trying to kill her
a job that many workers don’t even have the most faint glimmer of ‘choice’ in doing
a job in which ‘customers’ may film or photograph you and sell or post online that footage of you ‘working’ so that other people may watch you ‘do your job’
a job in which you are paid more money if you are young or are willing to do more dangerous things (more dangerous for the worker, that is)
a job in which economic coercion is almost always present
a job in which ‘quitting’ is frequently insurmountably difficult
a job that closely resembles slavery for most of it’s workers and is described as such by workers
a job that leaves its workers at risk for rape more than any other group of people in the world
First, I have a little coming out to do: I’m a women’s studies major. Alright.
Today, in a class of mine that is mostly other seniors who are women’s studies majors, we did some small group work to discuss future employment with our degrees. One of the women brought up a friend of hers who just moved somewhere and is having a lot of trouble finding a job. This friend apparently took a good number of women’s studies classes as well. While talking on the phone, her friend said, “What do you think the women’s studies department would think of me being a Budweiser girl?”
One would hope that my classmate told her something like, “It sucks if that’s your only opportunity for income right now,” and try to help her find something else or what have you. Well, no, she didn’t say that. Instead, my classmate said something about how “feminism is all about not doing what is expected of you, and, you know, if you like wearing low-cut shirts and stuff, do it”. My classmate also told us how her idea of feminism has changed and that she now thinks you don’t have to do everything that feminism approves of (which appears to mean “what those hairy man-haters approve of”… strange since I’m pretty sure she calls herself a feminist too).
Now let’s take a moment to deconstruct the hell out of that: “Feminism is all about not doing what is expected of you”. Who is expecting you do something? What kind of power do they have to impose expectations upon you? What are these expectations? To my classmate, the problem is feminism imposing the expectation that one should not sexually objectify themselves. To me, the problem is patriarchy expecting that women should be sexually objectified (and happy about it) as a service to men .
Let’s do a super cool feminism 101 exercise. Shout out the answer when you know it. Who has more power to impose behavioral expectations upon women… is it feminism or patriarchy? That’s right… patriarchy! Good job! You win a free trip to Hagsville! You also get 100 ladypoints if you just actually shouted “patriarchy!” out loud.
Clearly though, my classmate seems to have a different understanding of things (i.e. reality). To her, it’s those feminists with all that political clout (ha!) telling her friend that it’s bad to wear low-cut shirts, therefore, her friend should rebel against feminists and their supposed expectations. Because that’s what feminism is all about… rebelling against feminism. Got it.
Actually, feminism is about ending male supremacy. Got it?
Rebecca Whisnant on sex-poz/third-wave feminism:
Now think about it: in this cultural and political context, a feminism that acquiesces to certain key male entitlements, while simultaneously presenting itself as bold and liberated and rebellious, is likely to be appealing to many women. A version of feminism that supports girls’ and women’s desired self-conception as independent and powerful, while actually requiring very little of them as far as confronting real male power, will similarly have wide appeal.
On adaptive preferences:
The basic idea is simple: if I can’t have something (or think I can’t have it), then it behooves me not to want that thing. Conversely, if I’m going to get something whether I like it or not, then I’ll be happier if I can get myself to want it and like it. So people adapt their desires to fit their situations, rather than vice versa, thus minimizing the pain and cognitive dissonance of continuing to want something that they don’t think they can get: “if you can’t have what you want,” as the saying goes, “then want what you have.”
The concept of adaptive preferences is indispensable to understanding the self-reproducing dynamics of oppressive systems. In particular, I think it can help us understand the new brand of feminism[. . .]
Quoting a blogger:
“Fuck-me feminism … is a school of thought that suggests [women] are empowered by reclaiming and controlling our own sexual objectification, by reclaiming the power of pornography and the sex industry for ourselves, and by flaunting our desire and willingness to have sex. In other words, being a man’s sexual object can’t hurt me if I want to be objectified; pornography and the sex industry can’t degrade me if I enjoy it or if I profit from it; being used for sex can’t devalue me if I’m using him too; being regarded as nothing more than a pussy to fuck can’t dehumanize me if I want him to fuck my pussy.”
(Alternate title: “What Feminism Should Not Be”.)
*sharing tips about how to lessen your gag reflex response when giving blow jobs
*buying things that “support breast cancer research” and are, undoubtedly, pink
*using the language of capitalism to describe women’s options under patriarchy (ex: “a woman’s choice to be a prostitute”)
*(while we’re at it) saying “I choose my choice” non-ironically
*upon being called out by a POC/WOC for displaying white privilege, you refuse to seriously consider their concerns
*attacking folks who call you out on your ableist language (remember, this post is being written by a “crazy” person!)
*seeing no or few problems with relationships or pornography based on sexualized power dynamics
*not finding it problematic that “rape fantasies” are appealing to some people
*denying internalized self-objectification; saying things like “I do it for myself”, regarding wearing makeup, dressing a certain way, etc
*thinking that the personal isn’t all that political
*jumping at the chance to interject, “BUT I LOVE MEN!” to avoid the man-hating feminazi stereotype
*99.8% of the content of all episodes of Sex & the City (this is a generous approximation)
*photos of baby animals (but they do help you deal with the above items being done in the name of feminism)