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."


abigail said...

I was the anonymous woman, I don't have an account, sorry for any confusion.

This comes down to a difference in philosophy. First off the idea that a feminist would have to declare themselves "sex positive" is bizarre to me. It places sex in that "dirty" category - something that you have to make the choice to enjoy rather than being a natural human activity. And so for someone who would hold that view point, it is not surprising that the idea of a woman choosing to participate in pornography would seem like a false form of free will. That may be the belief of some people, but it is not the belief of every one. Neither is the idea that women are inherently the victims of sex or of "institutions". I think there is as well a difference in studying the world academically and studying it through experience. I confess I am not in your generation, more likely that of your mother's. I am proud of my age and the experiences and wisdom that have come with it because I have learned that life can not be compartmentalized. People make choices based on their subtle experiences of their lives. Women can choose - or not choose to pose in Playboy/ participate in pornography based on their own individual conscience - regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Thank you for addressing the issues facing women, I hope you will take to heart the idea that an educated woman can disagree with you and both sides be equally valid.

stowaway said...

good read. thanks.

Beth said...

Abigail, not all sides are "equally valid". While both sides may have equal rights to be expressed, there is a difference.

Namely, by declairing both views as "equally valid" you are denying my right to argue with you. You are saying that my believing your views are founded on false assumptions is an infringment of your freedom. It is not. If instead they have an equal right of being expressed, we are both welcome to state our views and critique the assumptions and ethics implicit in the other's.

Just because someone believes it does not make it true, and does NOT mean a "good liberal" must let it go unchallenged. Empathy and tolerance is not an excuse for refusing to engage in discussion or a defensive posture to protect your ideas from being challenged.