Monday, April 30, 2007

Because of the World Order

This comes from I Blame the Patriarchy again. I know I've been referencing a lot of other bloggers lately, but this was an excellent description of the position I've been trying to argue but not really getting across. People tend to get all up in arms if anyone tries to challenge their individual right to do something, but this argument isn't about you. It's bigger than that, but people don't want to hear it. I'm not even saying this is necessarily my own position, but certainly in all good debate, an issue doesn't have to be your own belief to be able to argue it. If not, then you just aren't a competent debater.

The Twistolutionary manifesto argues that anything called “porn,” whether or not it is explicitly violent or BDSM-y or designed to titillate ‘feminists’ vs. sweaty, beer-gutted pervs, exists only to enthrobulate the fetishization of culturally-generated (and, frankly, comically hokey) constructs. It is readily apparent to the visitor from the planet Obstreperon that these constructs include arbitrary standards of physical sexihotness, arch-backed-heavy-eyelidded-ooo-baby body language, penetration worship, dominance and submission, corny fashion accessories, “the art of seduction” et al — and that they have, at their root, everything to do with a paradigm of dominance and nothing to do with actual sex between individuals with equivalent personal sovereignty.

So what’s the big whoop, the empowerful young feminist asks?
Well, in addition to pornography’s negative philosophic value, which anyone possessing even a sliver of sapience can see is reason enough to give it the old stink-eye [1], our world order is predicated on binary sex roles, one of which is privileged and dominant, the other of which is oppressed and submissive. In such a society, where a woman is a member of the oppressed sex class, her performance of sex in a film which is then consumed by paying customers to satisfy their prurience, this is not even remotely a politically neutral act. Porn — gay, straight, bi, live-action, animated, or ‘feminist’ — is the graphic representation of the oppression of the sex class. Until the sex class is liberated from male oppression, porn can be nothing else, no matter how many fun feminists claim it empowerfuls them.

Or, if you prefer, in order for porn to be politically neutral, it can’t be porn. Merely announcing ... that one’s participation in porn, whether as a consumer or as a prostituted woman, is voluntary does not make it so. This is because the women doing the announcing are, and have been since birth, deprived of such privilege as is necessary for them to freely make that choice.

When you’re already oppressed, it is, in fact, impossible to volunteer for oppression. A woman is a member of the sex class whether she “chooses” it or not. This pre-existing condition forms the backdrop to any fun feminist’s conclusion that her compliance with the patriarchal sexbot mandate is voluntary. She may believe otherwise, but her belief does not alter the fact that patriarchy — a social order predicated on an oppression to which she is already subject — is real and in effect and entirely beyond any unrestricted control she may wish to exert and only too glad to welcome her as a team player and sign her up for the rewards program.

The fun feminist confuses “empowerment” with the decision to acquiesce. This is understandable; it’s the one actual choice she has in this game: surrender, or stand and fight. She doesn’t have to be Candida Royalle to recognize that if she chooses the latter all she’ll get for her trouble is ridicule, hostility, suspicion, and the threat of bodily harm.

Whereas the rewards for surrender to male porn culture are not inconsiderable: social acceptance, male approval, little psuedo-privileges that accrue according to the degree of one’s conformity, and of course the enormous relief at not having to fight it anymore. The if-you-can’t-beatem-joinem gambit has enjoyed millennia of popularity for good reason. It gives the appearance of the shortest and easiest route to life’s rich pageant. Too bad that, once they get there, chicks are only eligible for the women’s auxiliary.
1. Porn’s negative philosophic value, in addition to its general assault on T & B (Truth and Beauty) spans the whole of women’s oppression, from Maybelline to rape culture.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Sex Positive Radical Feminist?

Cablegai, this article is for you. Better than I could have said it.

And for the anonymous female poster who commented on the right for women to choose porn, I wasn't necessarily arguing that there was one right choice and choosing porn was the wrong one. I'm at the moment, mostly not anti-porn. But the problem is everyone looks at it as if it's only about individual choice. There are larger and complicated interweaving institutions at play here. Those who have not extensively studied institutions have a tendency to jump in with the "but it's a free country" and "free will" arguments. Anonymous girl (you have to leave some sort of pen name or else I can't keep track of who's who), you esp need to read this part (emphasis mine):
"It starts with the idea that people, even people who as a group are poor and powerless, do what they do voluntarily, so that women who pose for Playboy are there by their own free will. Forget the realities of women's sexual/economic situation. When women express our free will, we spread our legs for a camera.
Implicit here, too, is the idea that a natural physical body exists, prior to its social construction through being viewed, which can be captured and photographed, even or especially, when "attractively posed" -- that's a quote from the Playboy Philosophy. Then we are told that to criticize this is to criticize "ideas," not what is being done either to the women in the magazine or to women in society as a whole. Any critique of what is done is then cast as a moral critique, which, as liberals know, can involve only opinions or ideas, not facts about life. This entire defensive edifice, illogical as it may seem, relies utterly coherently on the five cardinal dimensions of liberalism; individualism, naturalism, voluntarism, idealism, and moralism. I mean: members of groups who have no choice but to live life as members of groups are taken as if they are unique individuals; the social characteristics are then reduced to natural characteristics; preclusion of choices becomes free will; material reality is turned into "ideas about" reality; and concrete positions of power and powerlessness are transformed into relative value judgements, as to which reasonable people can form different but equally valid preferences."

I Never Really Thought of it This Way

It's a very good point. Written about the Virginia Tech killer, Screaming into the Void writes (emphasis mine):

The Virginia Tech shooter had a history of stalking women. Not just following them with starry eyes as the kindly (towards men) patriarchal imagination paints those poor misunderstood stalkers:Notice a pattern with these guys? Hello? Anyone? These serial killers and mass murderers who “suddenly snap” almost invariably have a problem with women. They almost always have a long history of stalking women, accusations of date rape or “domestic” violence (which are finally listed as “unfounded” and dismissed), and glorification of violence notable even for our violence-enamored society, often with a focus on violence done in sexual ways toward women.

But because women don’t matter, because women aren’t seen as people, these warning signs are not taken seriously. The campus police did not move to secure the campus early in the day when he shot the first two people because they blew it off as probably a “domestic” incident of murder/suicide - police shorthand for “He only killed a woman he’d had sex with before, so she’d probably asked for it anyway and of course he isn’t going to hurt any REAL people, just the bitch who pushed him over the edge.” Because they don’t take violence against women seriously, even murder of women, 30 more people were killed. They did track down her boyfriend to question him, but they didn’t lock down the campus in case they were wrong - they assumed a man who shoots his girlfriend isn’t a danger to any real people.

There’s a double mistake in this thinking. First of all, violence against one woman - even if the offender has a past or current relationship with her - should mean the offender is immediately taken to jail. Who cares if she wants to press charges? If someone starts beating up strangers on the street and the police are alerted, the offender goes straight to jail and the charges are sorted out later. Why? Because - and here’s a radical idea - even if she fucked him before, SHE’S STILL A HUMAN BEING WHO DOESN’T DESERVE TO GET BEATEN, RAPED, OR KILLED FOR IT. Secondly, while some men are happy to have just their own personal punching bag/gun target in the form of a woman on whom they perpetrate “intimate violence”, often a man uses women (or other low status humans, like the homeless or prostitutes) as practice before moving on to killing “real people” (like men, or unrelated university students with a career in front of them, or people with jobs, or chaste women who are married to/property of some other man). Even if you don’t take violence against an individual woman seriously, from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective it is FUCKING STUPID to blow off someone who shoots, rapes, or beats his girlfriend as not being a danger to society. Yet law enforcement does this all the time.

I had been surprised to hear about all the stalking he had done and the judge-ordered mental health treatment, and then that the media and students all kept saying "well that didn't mean he was going to do anything dangerous". WHY NOT? When does it? I thought it seemed unusual that all that was so downplayed. Screaming into the Void makes good points about mass murderers usually having a problem with women. And then her second point how if it had been a stranger he went out and beat up/killed, he would still go to jail without having to "check with the partner" to see if she wants to press charges.

Art as Social Commentary

I've been feeling very pensive lately, thinking lots of existential thoughts, for lack of a better word. In fact, I don't really have a word for how I've been feeling lately because I can't quite put a finger on it. It's quite frustrating.

As an art lover, I did enjoy the description of this piece, which was analyzed from an art and feminist perspective by Revolution is Not a Dinner Party (great name).

I wish the author had sourced it. She has to have studied art on some level to do that kind of analysis. It might be a bit long for everyone to want to read.

The bottom part of her analysis is what I liked--how it fits with her feminist blog. Her writing:

So, why write this tremendously verbose explanation for this picture? Dear Readers, it personifies the horrendous conditions under which women were bartered in a marriage system designed to benefit a patriarchal society. Collectively, these attitudes still remain entrenched in our society.

We need to be responsible for our own survival. As women, we cannot, in good faith, hinge all of our hope for the future upon another person’s care of us. And this needs to be addressed on all levels in our lives, financially, emotionally, physically, we must be learn to care for ourselves with the same dedication we were taught, as women, to care for others.

The woman in the picture didn’t have choice. In the old system, women were property (and still remain so in other parts of the world today!) and distributed to their masters accordingly. Now, we do have choice, and choice is an amazing thing, it provides for the freedom we’ve been craving.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Patriarchy predates Hip-Hop

From Hip-Hop, Misogyny, and the Beats (we hate to love)

Author talks about loving hip-hop but hating the misogyny in it. This is relevant to news lately about Imus, and Russell Simmons' latest comment about suggesting banning certain words from music lyrics.

The comment thread on this is quite good. There are lots of perspectives from all sides. Go read it. Really, do it.

I myself am often torn while dancing heartily to songs with obviously offensive and disgusting messages. I recently saw the video for Beyonce's "Crazy In Love" all the way through, and was appalled at how objectified she seemed. And it was HER VIDEO. I mean, the girl looks good, and coined some new dance moves, but for most of it, she's crawling on the ground, making Maxim-cover-arched-back poses and writhing up on Jay-Z (and the fact that he's her boyfriend makes it seem even trashier). This isn't some rap video no name girl--this is Beyonce. She's a star. And still in her own video, she is reduced to the slut class.

It's about porn again

I am still fascinated by the debate on Porn in the feminist community. This post is more about the subject of rape, which is an area I have strong feelings in as well. I found this great description of why rape may never go away from Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy. I like her because she isn't afraid to say what she really thinks, instead of being the "cheerful feminist" which I find I (and others) sometimes fall into being or thinking I have to be for people to listen to me.

She writes (emphasis mine):
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If women were not systemically oppressed, pornography could not exist. In a post-patriarchal society, free of the degrading paradigm of dominance and submission, pictures of people fucking would have all the prurient allure of a podiatrist appointment. It is the rape-based degradation to which consumers of pornography respond, dum-dum!
But I digress.

The remaining part of my theory is that the populus is so desperately invested in patriarchy that they are unwilling, even in the interest of justice, to part with one of its primary cornerstones: the slut class. Patriarchy depends on the slut class to serve as the receptacle for its pornsick incontinence. A slut class naturally implies a good-girl class, from whose virginal ranks the privileged male selects his unpaid housekeeper/fetus incubator/childcare worker. It naturally follows that if you go around convicting rapists, you diminish the she-was-asking-for-it slut class, which in turn, as distinctions between the two become more and more nebulous, diminishes the good-girl class. See, convicting rapists has the undesirable side effect of making women a bit more human.

You know, if I were a little more on the ball this morning, I might dip a querulous toe into the argument that society will never stand for the eradication of rape. Such success as capitalism enjoys is largely based on the wide availability of unpaid domestic labor created out of the sex class. Which sex class could not exist if women were not rapeable. Can you dig it? The global economy would collapse without rape.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Yet another study telling us what educated people already know about abstinence-only education

Even though the first sentence doesn't really go with the rest of the article, and isn't backed up anywhere (strange), here's another study that says that abstinence-only sex education doesn't delay sexual activity. It's a rather short article by the Richmond Times-Dispatch which I wish would have been longer and more detailed, but here you go.

On a separate note, is actually a lot more fun to read than the actual newspaper (and I rarely say that because I love actually holding a newspaper. I think all papers should be the size/specs of Style Weekly and Brick because they are much easier to hold and read. ) As a foodie, I also love all of Brick's food/drink articles.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How Porn functions in society

Haven't posted lately, so sorry. Been a bit busy.

A friend sent me a link to this article, which is a history of porn and how it functions in society currently. It's a very long article, but well worth a good skim. The good bits are down at the bottom, including this part, which I thought was quite good (but you kinda have to read the rest to really get it):
The power of art is that it lets us see, in someone else’s work, an idea that we dimly formed but lacked the skill to realise or convey, and in this way makes us feel less alone. Pornography as we conceive of it today, however, does the opposite. It isn’t art, cannot be openly admired or discussed, serves only to convince us of our isolation...

As a feminist, I have been interested lately by the debate of those feminists who are vehemently anti-porn and those who are advocating a free for all of it and sex workers, prostitution, etc. I think that gets into a different, though related area, including all those other sex related institutions.

I can see where anti-porn feminists are coming from (and so does the author of this article, but he also has some critiques). The problem is, as Porn functions now in society, it is hidden, dirty, embarrassing, shameful, and perhaps, gasp, am I going to say it, unregulated. The regulate it and everything will be fine argument about prostitution is one that gets me up on my soapbox to disagree with because it is just not that simple.

No time for more commentary right now, but you, readers, please discuss.

EDIT: Oh, and hey look, one of my blog friendlies has a post and a good comment discussion going on about some potential porn/obscene material censorship in the UK.