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Reply #266


Response to boston bean (Reply #218)

Sun Jun 17, 2012, 01:02 PM

266. Yes. And women do this to one another as well

I personally think that the differences of opinion are good, that doesn't mean that a side wins out because more men support women who support fashion, high heels and personal appearance as a source of power.


This statement entirely misses the point - it's not about fashion, high heels and personal appearance as power. Surely you don't think this issue comes down to something so trivial?

The issue, as I mentioned (and never mentioned the above) is about censorship, for the most part. It's also about who gets to define female sexuality and (censorship again) how it is expressed.

A lot of people really do take the issue of censorship seriously as the sort of thing that is not encouraged in and of itself because women's voices and experiences were censored for so long - and also because of the reality of "unintended consequences" of being pro-censorship for one part of speech, thinking that only one part will be impacted by this.

That's rarely the case.

Women long participated in condemning other women for behaving outside the sexual norm of marriage and family. Were this women "feminist" for telling women they could not express their sexuality outside of a patriarchal institution? Such censorship served those women who were aligned with patriarchal institutions - not the general liberation of consciousness of females.

James Joyce's Ulysses contained one of the most "radical" feminine voices in literature of its time (the 1920s.) Molly Bloom was the creation of a male writer - but he "knew" Molly as a human. - Molly Bloom was a woman who spoke openly about sex in a positive way - she had lovers other than her husband - she was sometimes crude - and she was not a villain - this was a rare sort of female character. She was not punished for her sexuality. She empowered women - even though the character was written by a man (based upon his wife.)

The book's publication in the U.S. was a first amendment case. Ulysses is considered by many to be the greatest work of modern literature - yet it could not be published in the U.S. for nearly a decade because it included a masturbation subplot, and Molly's soliloquy (which is, also, considered a great affirmation of life and womanhood.) It also contained criticisms of Catholicism - but the issue that led to its banning was obscenity.

Although the anti-porn issue is too often framed in opposition to "sex positive" (another term coined by a feminist) - the "sex positive" term also encompasses another line of thought. I don't know if you've ever read Shulamith Firestone, but her cultural critique of society came to the conclusion that women's biological existence - their capacity to get pregnant and the resultant child rearing - was the "problem" and the "solution" was to relegate these functions to the lab and the state.

Many women rejected this as a rejection of women - rather than the structures of society - why should women have to give up their biological processes in order to overcome bias in society?

Patriarchy is a cultural invention, not a biological one, according to most people - and, just as with racism, many people may share a cultural paradigm because institutions have created it - but that doesn't mean it is impossible to overcome this ideology. We see this in fits and starts - forward movement and backlash - and we see that racism, sexism and homophobia often come wrapped up in the same patriarchal worldview - which is, fwiw, generally religious in its origin.

Religion, too, is cultural - it's not necessary to believe in one sort of concept of god - but monotheisms, for instance, are powerful around the world - yet even they can be altered to involve more inclusiveness and acceptance of science and a quiet admittance (among some) that their beliefs are wholly grounded in sexism. But some people - some women, do reject religion because so much of it is cultural backwash anti-feminism disguised as god - that doesn't mean they think it's good to censor religion - but does mean they think it's good to fight against those religions that consistently work to oppress women - which is every single monotheism.

So, who gets to decide who is feminist? If you are married and have children - can you be a feminist? Most people think this is possible - yet study after study shows that marriage causes females and males to resort of traditional gender roles more than any other factor. This relationship, rather than porn, is FAR, FAR more likely to be the cause of female economic inequality.

Linda Hirschman argues, in Get To Work, that upper and middle class women who have the option to stay home with their children hurt themselves and feminism to take this privilege. Is the problem that someone stays at home, or that child rearing is not acknowledged as a job - or that work itself is structured to favor traditional male gender roles as "provider" at the expense of male parental involvement and female participation in the workforce within a field for which she has been trained?

Hirschman is pragmatic - she says that individuals cannot alter the economic environment that is, itself, patriarchal - but individuals can make choices that, collectively, demand change or, at the least, do not economically hurt the women who make them. But that still leaves out poor women. Interestingly, longitudinal studies do indicate that lower-class marriages are more egalitarian - even if the rhetoric isn't there to support this view - because economics force men and women to share workloads. So, is money itself, or the pursuit of it, patriarchal in nature - is success and power, as a women, a means of sustaining the system that oppresses women? Or do women have to work individually and collectively - is power something that has to be acknowledged - and power differentials something that women who have it have to acknowledge and collectively work to share power with those with less in order to alter the system from within? If we acknowledge how change happens - it happens when power is shared - across gender or race or orientation - and those within those groups add their voices to shaping institutions, it seems to me. But that still leaves hard questions.

Can you be a feminist if you believe in and participate in a monotheistic religion? Most people think this is possible - yet religion, rather than porn, informs childhood perceptions of females as "lesser" or "morally corrupt," far, far more than porn - most children aren't exposed to porn, but exposure to such toxic views of females within religion is inescapable in American culture. Monotheisms, however, murdered the female sacred. Which is more harmful to a culture - a belief in god that excludes women or the existence of porn? I know which one I think has broader cultural influence - and I think it's possible to argue that such religion promotes the pornification of women by teaching children that women are the "weaker sex" and that childbirth involves pain as a punishment. So, where should women's efforts be focused? On porn or on religion?

fwiw - back to Firestone... she and another woman, Ellen Willis, founded a feminist group in the late 1960s. Firestone split and formed New York Radical Feminists. Willis was one of the first, or really, the first women to write rock criticism in major mainstream and underground venues (which was anthologized last year) - she broke that barrier - she also spoke out strongly against the "anti-porn" feminist faction and coined the term "sex-positive feminism" and wrote about this issue. So, in those two women you have a microcosm of the terms "radical feminist, anti-porn feminist and sex-positive feminist." The origin of these terms begins in 1969, among "second wave feminists."

On Our Backs was a lesbian feminist porn magazine founded in the early 1980s in response to the anti-porn movement. I don't think those women were touting the male gaze as a path to power. They WERE saying... we, as lesbians, can define our sexuality, including a "gaze" that looks to one another, not just one way.

To claim that sex positive means high heels is just too reductive.

I'm not here to say this OP is anything other than bullshit. But I am also not going to buy into the view that one version of feminism defines all feminists.

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