Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Identity Politics vs. Feminism

I can tell you which one I think is winning. One of the things I go over in my head is about how there are the feminists who claim that being pro-pornstitution is feminist. Well really if you enjoy it, and want to ignore the millions of women and children that are not only hurt by it, but used, exploited, and tossed away like trash, that's identity politics. Doing something because it makes *YOU* feel good is not looking at the bigger picture. It hurts women. A lot of people know this, scientific studies prove that it informs how men think about women (and it's not a liberating or very feminist view). When we look at the bigger picture, i.e. what it does to women as a group we see that it is the antithesis of feminism.

So why do so many people confuse feminism with identity politics? Surely, you say, if a woman feels empowered by pornstitution then it's good for women? Categorically NO. The other rad fems and I ask over and over how many women must get abused, exploited, and thrown away before people will start to see that it's bad for us? How many times do we have to come face to face with the terrors of how porn informs views about women like in street harrassment, rape, and domestic violence? If you think that it's all fine and dandy that's *YOUR EXPERIENCE* and is not one of countless women and children who are forced into pornstitution every year through trafficking, economic coercion, and poor self esteem molded through years of abuse. It's identity politics and it sure as hell ain't feminism, because feminism is seeing women as having intrinsic worth as people, not as mix and match vaginas, breasts, and ass.

Feminism doesn't want to throw any of these women away. Feminism is about us seeing ourselves and (here's the important part) every other woman as a person, who has potential to be something other then a sex object. We can't talk about pornstitution as being liberating b/c it reinforces and is intrinsically tied to capitalism, male dominance, racism, militarism, and imperialism (look at trafficking stats for the last two and tell me I'm wrong). It puts us on the bottom of an abusive, male serving hierarchy. What's feminist about cheerleading the male hierarchy? Really? I want to know.

Like your porn and your BDSM, but don't call it feminism. It's identity politics at it's finest. Feminism would never turn its back on women. You can be feminist in many other areas, but I'm sorry: when you support an over 10 billion dollar a year system that has at it's heart and as it's goal the oppression, subordination, and abuse of women, it's not feminist.

Again I must ask: how many women must be used, abused, and discarded before you start to see that pornstitution is not liberating for us?


Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

Very nicely said. I never could figure out an effective way to argue against this, but you've done a fantastic job.

lost clown said...

Thank you. It's been bouncing around my head for sometime now. Something I'm continually thinking about.

witchy-woo said...

"how many women must get abused, exploited, and thrown away before people will start to see that it's bad for us?"

Surely, that's the intrinsic question of Feminism?

Laurelin said...

Brilliant, LC. I get so sick of the 'well I like it so it's good' arguments.

Thank you very much.

Andrea said...

Woo woo! Brilliant as ever.

hexyhex said...

Well said.

I gotta say, BDSM is an issue on which I come in on the other side of the fence to most feminists. I don't see it as a negative thing in and of itself that should be done away with, but as something that is misused and misrepresented.

Like many other things, however, I think that those who enjoy non-misogynist BDSM practices in their own life actually do themselves and women in general a disservice by vocally supporting BDSM as a whole and insisting that that whole is liberating and empowering to women. It's not. Certain elements that are classed as part of BDSM can be, but they are unfortunately tied to too many negative elements that have become part of the "scene"... did I mention I hate the "scene"? Attempting to defend BDSM as a whole, just like attempting to defend the sex industry as a whole, can only be done if you are happy to ignore and disregard the enormous pile of negatives.

Frankly, I'm not. Which is why I won't be part of the "BDSM is empowering" chorus. It's a positive part of my life, but that doesn't mean that the women it is a massive negative for have ceased to exist.

Laura said...

Well said! I will be sending people over to this post next time they bring up the 'but I like it so it's good/ it makes me feel sexy so it's empowering for women' crap.

ms. jared said...

amen, sister! well done!

xoxo, jared

Txfeminist said...

brilliant. well said! thank you for clarifying this distinction.

Anonymous said...

Hello, came over from Miss Violets thread. Sure do appreciate what you said.

spotted elephant said...

Yes, yes, yes!

Why is this argument still going strong?

Sam said...

Every time I hear someone say the trite excuse, "would you rather they worked at McDonald's" I reply that yeppers, that's exactly what pimps and traffickers think, "Why should I work at McDonald's when her cunt is a goldmine?" Add in that's it's way manlier to be a pimp than to work in fast food and the two strongest motivators for men to enslave women sexually, cash and ego, are covered and excused as par for the patriarchal course.

There is a massive international slave trade in female bodies for men to use in prostitution that grows every year and still they say such dumbshit things as "Sex workers are entertainers like actresses." There's no slave trade in young actresses who are forced to perform roles from Shakespeare or recreate Broadway musicals for the entertainment of men.

Did you ever see the movie Fame? Remember the scene where actress Coco thinks she's going to audition for a movie but the man turns the camera on and tells her to take off her shirt and finger her mouth sexily? Pro-pornstitutioners like to pretend they don't know why Coco reluctantly took off her shirt and then started crying, but I think they know why Coco cried. If pressed to write three sentences finishing the statement, "Coco started crying because..." I think they could find the words. It's having to lawyer them into a corner where they have to admit it that annoys me most because they're not stupid, but they are in denial. Well, probably a few are just stupid, but that goes for any group of people.

antiprincess said...

for what it's worth, I like some forms of BDSM but I'm not a personal fan of most pornography, and I'm not sure prostitution is a healthy way to make a living under the best of circumstances.

But I don't like it when they're all lumped in together as one giant evil, as if I am the same as a pornographer and the same as a pimp all at the same time when I and my partner are having an intimate moment.

Also, you may want to check out COYOTE's website. they were considered quite legit feminists back in the day. I guess things have changed.

Anonymous said...

The porno indusrty and the prostitution industry pretty much prey on troubled people. Pimps and pornographers are not a noble cause worth defending. Even they are troubled people. These industries are not a noble cause worth defending. And they have a stake in normalizing their behaviour to the general public.

Oh sure, I could sit here and shock you all- including the BDSM ladies- with the gruesome reality of the industies that many consumers defend. But that would only serve as stories-

I'm just saying that those two industies are filthy, heartless and dehumanizing to all involved to the very core. It's not worth defending. And if you must- please- please find out what it really is you are defending. And then see if you still think it's worth it to you.

I'm not talking about whatever thing people like to do with their lover.


Violet Socks said...

I think there's an increasing dilution of what feminism means and a misunderstanding of it as "whatever I want to do," not just in porn.

One of the key points of second-wave feminism was the realization that we as women had been brainwashed into liking certain things and expecting certain things. If you surveyed women in 1968, possibly the majority would have said that they liked being housewives, wanted to be thought of as demure and pure, and believed that men should be in charge. Second-wave was the huge cultural revolution of understanding that we hadn't chosen those things freely, that we'd been brainwashed.

That seems to have been lost somewhere along the way, I think as part of the younger generation asserting maximum individuality. Which is fine, but it's become so diluted now that anything a woman thinks she's "choosing" is feminist, even when it's obvious to an observer that she's been brainwashed. Hence you can't tell a Muslim woman that purdah isn't feminist and that she's been brainwashed. "I'm choosing to wear a full-body black bag!" she'll say. "It's a feminist choice!"

Anonymous said...

I would like to ask this. Does BDSM mean Bondage and Sado-Masicism? Or does it stand for something else?

Anonymous said...

That was me CR

~ nellenelle said...

Interesting post... so many of those harmed are invisible. We tend to think of those visibly exploited, yet that represents a small portion of the overall porn and sex industry. Someone once told me there are like 700 brothels in the greater London area alone... that boggles my mind. Porn is just more portable, more sanitised, the ugly subsurface dumped elsewhere.

When someone defends porn as harmless, they are thinking in terms of the sanitised product, not what exists in reality.

Anonymous said...

Never mind my question. Understand now.

Coathangrrr said...

The one thing that I find important in these conversations on pornography and prostitution is that I think that, for the good of women, we should support the continues legality of pornography and the legalization of prostitution.

Not because they are good for women, but because making them illegal makes them worse for women. Additionally, when the issue of pornography comes up it inevitably brings up the issue of first ammendment rights; which shouldn't be the issue. When we talk about pornography we should make the point that it is terribly harmful to women and people should neither support it nor defend it.

I say this because I have found that once the issue of the first amendment comes up, in the US, most people will defend pornography on the grounds that "once we ban porno, then we will ban real dissent." as if we haven't already

la somnambule said...

Thank you - this post is so articulate and has really helped me clarify my own thoughts.

I've perhaps come to this from a slightly different perspective in that I am personally very much anti-porn but feel uncomfortable about imposing my opinions on other people. This has given me some food for thought and a different way to approach difficult conversations with my many pro-porn friends.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I see. Prostitution is either legal in most places, or 'decriminalized." And Porno is plenty legal. They are selling it at my 7 Eleven now for Pete's sake and its there to greet me every morning in my inbox. When I look at TV and go through the channels- my satalite provider has a whole bunch of channels where I can rent porno for $2.00. So can my 15 year old nephew. My video store has the porno right next to the Kung Fu movies- the little boys love that arrangement. When I watch the comedy network I get to see advertisements for College Girls Gone wild every third commercial. When I look up the governement on the internet or Confusious and push the wrong link I get a lovely surprise. So the first ammendment is quite safe. The people who like to look at porno or use prostitutes are doing just fine. No worries.

More and more folks are buying porno and over 60% of men use or have used a prostitute. So everything on that front is doing fine. It's gone quite mainstream and will continue to get even more mainstream. No worries for the pro porno people and no worries for the sex trade people. It's getting better every day.

I don't want to ban such things either because of the first ammendment. and I would like to see prostitution legal because I don't like to see the cops harrass and extort money in the way of bail from females who are already having a rough go of it. They arrest them, then let them go again- but not before they have taken the prostitute's money. Kinda remimds me of their pimps. They don't need any more crap than they aleady have. I could care less what the cops do with the Johns. Have no sympathy for them at all.

So after having said in my first post that i don't care what people are doing privately, don't want to ban porno because of the first ammendment, and want to legalize prostitution. I think it's okay for some people to say they think it's out of hand- gonna get worse and isn't going to have a happy ending. I think it's okay for some people not to like it. Think it goes against feminism- doesn't do the ladies and the children any good. And feel a little opressed by the whole thing. I think it's okay for people to point out the unpleasant and even harmful realities of the sex industry and the affect is has on the minds of male people who we have to marry, be lovers with and be fathers to our children and work with. I think it's okay because no one is listening anyway. And no one is guilting anybody. All's well in the OK Corall. It's not okay for the our team. They are loosing. Even the tiniest little battles- even among ladies. And will continue to do so until all desent is silenced. Even on these little blogs were ladies hang around. The 90% of men who look at porno, 60% of men who use prostitutes and the ladies who champion that, and that charming thing known as the sex trade will be defended to the death until all are sent mute except the consumers of such. And let no one dare speak a word against it or question it. Not even a little disapproval is tolerated. We are said that we are guilting people. Doesn't look like anyone is doing that. Just pointing out a few things.

I'm loosing it. Good luck ladies. And Gents- ain't nobody drawing that line around here. Your system is quite safe. You'll be just fine. Have a field day. No one will tell you you can't.

Want to show some sympathy to a lady who has had an abortion and is confused?- nope- find yourself having to listen to some guys about whether it's okay to demonstrate in front of abortion clinics.

Want to show some sympathy toward a lady who has been gang raped?- nope- you end up having to listen to some guys about the statistics of rape. Or that she is lieing.

Want to show some symapthy toward a little girl that got accosted by a bunch of little boys because their Dad didn't hide his pictures of blow jobs and gang sex well enough? NOPE. You end up having to listen to guys ( and now ladies too- Bloody hell) defend blasted first ammendment rights.

I came on ladies blogs hoping for a different perspective. Have the mans's perspective till it's coming out my ears already. It's everywhere. Already heard their perspective. Know it by heart already.


There is no sanctuary.


Anonymous said...

Whoa!!!! I'm sorry for the filibuster. Bloody Hell. I 'm sorry Burrow. It's just a little box when you're typing it. I didn't realize. Sakes alive- I'm sure I'll be getting change back for my two cents. sorry Ladies. I've gone off the deep end. Bloody hell.

lost clown said...

The thing is porn is NOT a first amendment right. It is a rcord of something that very concretely happened to someone. She was there, it really happened-there's no denying that. It's someone "saying" something by enacting it upon someone's body. Would lynching a black man be seen as speech (as there are snuff films out there depicting the same things happening to women)?

First amendment my ass. Words are not expressed using bodies. Catharine MacKinnon does a great job exploring this fallacy through Only Words which is a really good book.

lost clown said...

We should NOT encourage the legalisation of prostitution. In places where prostitution is leaglised the amount of women (illegally) trafficked in increases substantially as well as the amount of underage girls involved iin prostitution. The conditions for prostitutes DO NOT improve either. It makes it worse for countless women and children.

We should look more towards the Swedish model of criminalising the BUYING of sex instead of the selling, and setting up ways in which women are able to get out of prostitution. It is much more effective. (Also the amount of women and children trafficked into Sweden has significantly dropped since the new law has been enacted.)

witchy-woo said...

CR -
"I came on ladies blogs hoping for a different perspective. Have the mans's perspective till it's coming out my ears already."

You've come to the right place. The radfem blogosphere offers an entirely contradictory perspective to that of the patriarchy.

And LC - that analogy about the lynching of a black man being seen as 'speech'? I've heard the question many a time but I have yet to hear a sensible answer - and yet it cuts to the quick of our argument. That reinforces my conviction that the radfem perspective carries most weight.

Anonymous said...

Finally! I didn't know about the Swedish model. But thank heaven!

and to be totally honest I was trying to be accomidating to the other ladies about legalizing prostitution. You have made me brave.

I can say that you are totally right about places where prostitution is legal. I don't know about Holland, but in other parts of Europe it has only made the rates go way up. The trafficing of very young, desperate girls wanting to send home money to their families and make a new life, from poor parts of Europe and Latin America have skyrocketed. It's a mess and getting messier. First ammendment, my ass is quite right. Yet that little devil keeps coming up every time someones wantto say anything bad about porno industry and porstition industry. And Frankly, Georgely- some of the ladies aren't helping.

Ain't nothing empowering going on. Regular men who never did any of that stuff are now tempted every day. Because it's there every day- and it's in their face everyday. And I dont' know too many guys who can pass up such strong and constant temptation. And their minds become messed up towards females and toward sex. Don't beleive me? Beleive your eyes.

And regular little girls and very young females are becoming prostitutes and then of course- in case anyone didn't know- paid extra to make movies. And these aren't regular movies. The things they are made to do inside brothels isn't like in the old movies with Miss Kitty, okay. It's not like that. And they feel alone in the new countries, or threaghtened by their pimps and 'house mothers'. And ladies, they ARE alone and only have each other.

I'm trying to keep it clean here in my speaking. I'm glossing over this whole deal. I'm leaving ALOT of stuff out. But that stuff isn't any kind of noble cause, no kind of higher cause that deserves any kind of defending. And shame on me too for not being brave enough like Miss Lost Clown- here I am trying to be accomidating to folks. I was trying not to hurt anyone's feelings- but that didn't work. All that happened was I got my feelings hurt. so to hell with it.

Miss Lost Clown, you'll find no argument from me. I'll agree with you till the cows come home. I won't have any scientific facts and statistics- just alot of personal experience with that side of life- forutnately or unfortunately- depending on how you look at it. I certainly could have done without it- but there it is. Lets just say, I know a John when I see one- or hear one or read one. and i know what they are about.

Miss, anytime you wanna say the things you say- I'll be listening and rooting for you. You've done me a great favour. I'm appreciating it like crazy. but you don't maybe want me on your side in these intellectual arguements. Because I'm not the sharpest tack in the box and may be more of a hinderance to any arguement than a help. And I want your team to win. Because the other team can look at my stumbling over words and say "See, they are all a bunch of dummies and convervatives or prudes or religious nuts". Then you'll be embarrassed to have me on your team. I don't want to bring the team down.

Honestly, I thought I was going to be bombarded by a bunch of guys posts and their pro-John arguements with all the fancy talk to put a brilliant and clever sounding spin on what they are really saying and wanting their world to look like. I know what kind of world they are advocating.

I'm not sure, maybe I'd rather wear an abaya and go about my business than live in such a world. I don't know- it all looks the same to me. Man world. Extreme man world. Sorry guys- but you let 'em- nobody draws any lines - they'll sell you a sea front property in Arizona, make you feel delighted to have it, then pee on you and tell you that he loves you. Sorry BDSM ladies- I know that's empowering and sexual fantasy to some of you. In my personal life I draw lines. And I beleive that woman have way more power than they know or use. And on some things anyway, most women have a better way of things. They have an internal sense of self restraint that men do not have. Men alot of the time just do whatever they think they can get away with. And if they get away with one thing- they'll push it to see if they can get away with a little more. And if woman let that go- the guys push it a little more. Personally I think they want us to stop them a good deal of the because they know they can't stop themselves. Not everything anybody feels like doing is a good idea to do.

boy! I'm just blasing off today. This stuff hits way home to me. Is there anyone I haven't offended? The joys of free speech.
Thank you Burrow. If I'm going to far. please let me know and I'll cool it. It's just all quite personal for me.

I'd just rather speak with ladies about some things that involve ladies issues than with a bunch of guys about ladies issues. I already heard them- their opinion is everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Withcy poo, I don't know a rad fem from a regular fem to a any other kind of feminist. This whole thing is so new to me. I'll learn it, though. With people's help.
Thank you. much appreciated. Been living in a cave. Was borne yesterday. Hide from the world a long time. Just looking up furry animals on my internet all this time and talking business with customers.

lost clown said...

Don't call me Miss. It makes my hair stand on end.

lost clown said...

But I'm glad that you will feel as though you can (and definitely should) speak up now. We need all the voices we can muster.

Anonymous said...

I won't call you Miss, anymore since you asked. Please know, I meant it as respect- out of habit. I'll sit down now. Thank you for the opportunity.

Jimmy Ho said...

Legalising prostitution only makes it impossible for an unemployed woman to refuse to enter it; it makes it the default "unqualified profession" for any woman, as well as a legitimate "service".

LC, thank you so much for this post and the letter to Andrea.

Violet Socks said...

Hey, CR, good for you. Everything you said.

I know what you mean about being worn down by the guys. I have a lot of guys on my blog, and most of them mean well, but jesus christ, the tendency to just gloss right over the real lives of suffering women is just incredible.

These discussions are very difficult, because you get the abstract theorists (male and female), you get the pro-freedom porn-loving feminists, you get people like CR (and me, honestly) who know in their guts that pornography is hurtful and hate having to see it, yadyeyade.

Anonymous said...

Hello Violet,
My heart squeeze from you writing to me. I have a lump in my throat. I can be as abstract and dislocated as the next person on some issues. But for some reason, and I don't know why, other issues i take so much to heart that it probably isn't even healthy. This is one of those issues. I don't know where to go with it.

I don't want to debate it politely. And give room for the other side. Not on this one. I suppose I'm looking for validation somewhere or something. Not an intelligent and sensitive discussion. I respect you more than anyone I've seen in a long time. It does my heart good. I surely understand and appreciate what your'e trying to do. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.

I would have liked to go over there and say things, but I'll take a whooping. And I don't want to take any whoopings on this one. I feel like it's not just only me- it's all the others who are still stuck in that mess. They got no one. And the fancy pants making the rules- they don't understand- or they use it or have used it.

Those girls don't have anybody. Mostly, they have to figure things out all by themselves. And that's a hard way to go. It's hard to get out of it if you get stuck in there. Mostly it's pcychological rather than physical. but it's both. It's hard to go somewhere when you don't know where to go. You're in your own mental prison. And if you take drugs ( and most ladies need to, to even do that job for any length of time) it gets all that much harder. Because brothels are also places where you get your drugs from. After a while some girls are trading all their money or services for drugs just to keep doing what they are doing. You can't do that straight. At least most people can't. and the brothel owner know this - and uses it- while they drive up in their Jaguar. ( Humourous observance- most female brothel owners drive Jaguars for some reason) or the pimps. And the house mothers are usually old ladies who don't have papers and have health problems. They work for 900 Euros per month sometimes around the clock for 2 days straight. Then one day off then 2 days straight. and so on. And their health problems and lack of education and sometimes the language make it nearly impossible to get a more honorable job. and no one can say anything. And the Johns are "all Holy". And no girls better get uppity and complain. And you better do whatever creepy thing they want you to do. And if they want to film- even better. Then everyobdy involved starts to get messed up in the head. And they don't know up from down. and that's all they are about. and that ain't anything to be about in this life. I can't say what a mess it is. I'm just rambling now. And the kids around the world- it isn't just Thailand- it's everywhere. and getting more so. And becoming normal like. And something humourous to people. Regular people.

I just can't go for it. Not today. Unless sombody shows me something to change my mind- which nobody has yet- I know what i know. and that's all on that.

I don't know what to do about any of it. but nobody even can start if we can't even agree that it's a bad thing. and those $1,000 protitutes- it's all the same girl. I know of one girl that cost $40,000 dollars and a 4 year US government contract. It's all the same. it's all crap. And nobody benefitting. No good going on there at all.

hexyhex said...

We should NOT encourage the legalisation of prostitution. In places where prostitution is leaglised the amount of women (illegally) trafficked in increases substantially as well as the amount of underage girls involved iin prostitution. The conditions for prostitutes DO NOT improve either. It makes it worse for countless women and children.

Not everywhere. Prostitution is decriminalised and regulated over here, and we have a quite dramatically low trafficking level compared to either the US or most of Europe. We also have lower stats on prostitution related crime.

Now, I'm not saying in any way that that equates to "legalised = good, illegal = bad"... I just think it emphasises the fact that this is a complex issue that also doesn't equate to "illegal = good, legalised = bad". I think there's a legitemate case to be made for legalised prostitution reducing a great many of the problems in the illegal sex industry, particularly if it's done well and works in conjunction with a lot of other areas of the law (immigration, vice, tax law... the list goes on). I also feel, however, that looking at these postives as a "solution" completely ignores the fact that there are still a great many negatives involved in the sex industry that *aren't* solved by legalisation.

As I said, extremely complex issue.

Sam said...

Hey hexyhex, what I've seen about Australian legalization hasn't been as positive as you're suggesting but perhaps that's because in comparison to Europe it's better but not compared to itself a few years prior to legalization. For instance, I've seen reports of increased gang activity following legalization among other things. Have you got a source(s) for collected data I could take a look at? Most of what I know of Australian legalization comes from Melbourne prostitution researcher Mary Lucille Sullivan but I'm always looking for more sources of information.

lost clown said...

Just to point out: decriminalisation and legalisation are two different things.

lost clown said...

No problem CR. It was just bugging me.

hexyhex said...

Sam: You make a good point, which is pretty much what I was saying. It's a complex issue, and just isn't as simple as comparing trafficking rates between countries with and without legalisation.

I should point out, however, that I clearly stated that I specifically said I wasn't claiming legalisation = good... rather, I was pointing out that Australia has a relatively low trafficking level AND has legalised prostitution. There are certainly other factors involved. For example, we're a bloody big island. *smile*

I'll have to do a bit of digging for online sources... should i throw a comment on your journal when I have something for you to look at?

I will say that quite a lot of the women I know who are in the Aussie sex industry are firmly of the opinion that they personally were better off when the industry was entirely illegal, as the tax office is having a field day with them.

Sam said...

Research I've seen on Nevada's brothel legalization confirms what you've said, that most prostitutes think they are better off without legalized prostitution, and though Germany has legalized prostitution 59% of prostitutes in Germany did not think legalization made them safer from rape and physical assault.

Contacting me through Genderberg is fine, and thanks in advance for whatever you dig up.

Anonymous said...

yes, Lost Clown, I understand.
Thank you for everything. I surely appreciated it. You have a nice way about you- I liked your blog very much and have learned alot.
Best wishes to you and what you are trying to do.

Coathangrrr said...

"We should look more towards the Swedish model of criminalising the BUYING of sex instead of the selling, and setting up ways in which women are able to get out of prostitution. It is much more effective. (Also the amount of women and children trafficked into Sweden has significantly dropped since the new law has been enacted.)"

OK, I stand corrected. I like this model better. Of course, I have often thought that this should be the de facto method for a lot of issues. Immigration comes to mind as well, but that's a whole other can of worms.

lost clown said...

No problem....unfortunately that's not how most people see it, but I think that the Swedish model is a great model for us all.

Violet Socks said...

CR, just want to say thanks for your sweet comment.