by Furry Girl

02.13.13

Heartbreaking, enraging blog posts from a former Gail Dines adherent who later became a sex worker.  A few snippets:

"instead of questioning her assertion that survivors are basically incapable of making our own decisions with regards to our bodies, i began shaming myself.  since i am turned on by MANY of the things she condemns, i determined that i had become an oppressor – the guilt was tortuous, and not in a good way."

"size was not the only aspect of my body dines had an opinion on.  i wanted tattoos and to stretch my earlobes (i have two large pieces of ink now and ears stretched to 3/4″), but whenever i talked about body modifications, dines would get a look of disgust on her face and tell me that was a way of internalizing my abuse and re-victimizing myself by permitting the infliction of pain... and then, of course, the management of body hair.  any maintenance of body hair, whether it be plucking my eyebrows, shaving my legs, or waxing my bush, was subject to detailed analysis, and, quickly determined to be submission to patriarchal oppression."

"when i met her, i was actively organizing for the rights of transgender students, putting together panels discussing the discriminatory practice of accepting transmen to my all-womens college, but not transwomen, and to have gender-free bathrooms in our under-construction library.  however, dines argues that transgender men and women reinforce gender stereotypes and therefore reinforce patriarchy."

"dines’ perspective is that empowerment is a word for women who believe falsely that they have power when in fact they are ‘oppressing themselves.’  now, it seems to me like this was her way of keeping me from seeking out a feeling of empowerment for myself.  because there was nothing empowering about working with gail.  it was a constant anxiety, fearing for the lives of all womankind. "

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.

Via Dr Brooke Magnanti on Twitter, whose wonderful blog you should already be reading.





by Furry Girl

02.02.13

"No one, but no one, has 'free choice'.  If you think otherwise, remind yourself what you wanted to be when you grew up, and reflect on how exactly you ended up where you are now.  Did you freely select from all career choices in the world, ever?  Or did you choose as best you could from the options offered by your abilities and (more crucially) your circumstances?  You know, like [famous pimp] Iceberg Slim did?

Some folks seem especially resistant to acknowledging the truth about work, so I'll underline it some more.  Entire towns in the North weren't full of miners because everyone there just happened to have the aptitude and preference for that sole job, but because it was the only job going.  NE Scotland isn't full of fishermen because they have a particular concentration of people whose life's dream was to catch fish, but because that's what the job market offers.  Everyone's outcome is the product of limited choices, from streetwalkers to the Queen.  And no one's suggesting she needs to be 'rescued' from her lack of career options.

If you want to improve someone's options, you address the things that constrain their choices in the first place.  Poverty, addiction, education, to name a few.  Not take away the only choices they have."

-- Dr Brooke Magnanti, in Radfems, racism, and the problem with "pimps" on sexonomics-uk.blogspot.com





by Furry Girl

11.19.12

Although I'm normally loathe to give my time to college students seeking a sex worker to interview for an assignment, I recently made an exception for a friend of mine.  The questions were the standard things that everyone asks sex workers, and the interview included a question about how I respond to the accusation that porn and sex work objectify women.

As an ex-feminist, ex-sex positive, and general gold star member of the interweb debaters club, I have spent untold hours fighting about "objectification."  One of the things that people most frequently ask me is, "But what about objectification!?"  Even anti-sex worker activists who claim they can get on board with the idea of bodily autonomy and the right of people to choose to sell sex still have the "gotcha" final argument that porn and sex work are not just a matter of individual rights, but that the sex industry as a whole oppresses every woman in the world by its mere existence due to "objectification."

For the last decade, I've generally addressed "objectification" by pointing out that every single person is objectified at their jobs, so if you're going to get all cryface about sex workers "being objectified as sex objects," you better also be protesting in front of hospitals where people with medical degrees are objectified as doctors, protesting restaurants where people cooking your food are objectified as chefs, and so on.  Most of the arguments made against sex work are arguments that could be made against basically everything, yet aren't.  For example, anti-sex worker activists rail endlessly about how prostitution is wrong because prostitutes are only doing it because they are getting paid, but these agitators don't lobby the government to outlaw elementary schools because teachers wouldn't show up to their jobs if they weren't getting paid.  News flash: almost no one would do their jobs if there was no financial incentive for them to do so.  Doing work that isn't always fun so that we can get something else we want is the definition of being a grown-up, not the definition of suffering oppression.

In my interview, rather than expounding on the hypocrisy and lunacy of the application of "objectification" to sex work alone, I've decide that from now on I'm taking a different position, and I hope that you will, too.

Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists, because in doing so, we're dignifying the idea that it's somehow a real social harm and perfectly valid reason to deny human rights to sex workers.  The instant we go down the road of debating the meaning of objectification (and its equally stupid inverse concept "empowerment"), even if it's to challenge its inconsistent application only to the sex industry, we've already failed.  Objectification, much like "feminism," means whatever a person wants it to mean in order to win their current argument.  Feminists and other such idiots ache for the chance at having such a conversation, because then everything is solely in the realm of abstract theories, so facts can be thrown in the garbage and the side that wins is the side that keeps at it the longest.

The sex workers' rights movement in the US needs to pull its head out of the clouds of bullshit feminist philosophical theories that have nothing to do with anything in the real world.  Stop giving these distractions credibility by addressing them at all, and instead keep the conversation exactly where it needs to be: on human rights, on labor rights, on harm reduction, and on stopping the violence against sex workers created by criminalization.  Feminists and other moralizers know that they will always lose against sane, evidence-based positions, so they purposefully try to change the subject to a go-nowhere discussion about things like objectification and their own emotions.  If we care about making a difference for sex workers (or women and people in general), our duty is to always privilege real problems above pretentious navel-gazing.





by Furry Girl

06.18.12

"We know the prime users of alternative medicine worldwide - it's those middle-aged, middle-class, educated women with a high disposable income.  The younger end of this group is also likely to take their children to naturopaths and cranial osteopaths, to avoid having them immunised and to medicate them with shop-bought homeopathic and herbal remedies.  Alternative medicine offers these women a way to take control, to be remarkable in their day-to-day lives and to make them feel as if their needs as individuals are being attended to.  It touches them, both physically and emotionally, at a point in mid-life when many women in our society say they are beginning to feel invisible...  Marketing executives have been quick to appreciate the strong appeal of CAM for women.

[...]

Alternative medicine knows precisely how to make every user feel special.  CAM [Complementary and Alternative Medicine] says you are unique so your treatment needs to be carefully calibrated to reflect your individuality...  What matters is you, not your illness symptoms or even whether you actually have any identifiable illness or symptoms.

[...]

It is an abiding paradox that alternative medicine is used most keenly by the generation of women who, in the form of the women's liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s, asserted that it was 'our bodies, our lives, our right to decide' and rejected paternalistic medicine in the delivery room and beyond.  Yet these same women now want to be told what to do by a shaman."

-- Rose Shapiro, in her book, Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All.

My favorite part of this book was the commentary on the gender politics of pseudoscience, and the embarrassing fact that women will gleefully line up to empty their wallets for any woo-woo nonsense that holds their hands and tells them that they're beautiful and unique snowflakes.

Quack "medicine" should be decried for the same reasons as scented vaginal douches (which also profit from purposefully exploiting women's insecurities).  Instead, the very people who would balk at shame-centric, unhealthy "feminine hygiene" products are the same people in the "natural alternatives" section of the pharmacy picking up another expensive a tube of sugar pills that promises to truly appreciate their specialness.





by Furry Girl

05.17.12

"...Corporate philanthropy began to replace missionary activity as Capitalism's (and Imperialism's) road opening and systems maintenance patrol.

[...]

The Privatisation of Everything has also meant the NGO-isation of Everything.  As jobs and livelihoods disappeared, NGOs have become an important source of employment, even for those who see them for what they are.  And they are certainly not all bad.  Of the millions of NGOs, some do remarkable, radical work and it would be a travesty to tar all NGOs with the same brush.  However, the corporate or Foundation-endowed NGOs are global finance's way of buying into resistance movements, literally like shareholders buy shares in companies, and then try to control them from within.

[...]

Armed with their billions, these NGOs have waded into the world, turning potential revolutionaries into salaried activists, funding artists, intellectuals and filmmakers, gently luring them away from radical confrontation, ushering them in the direction of multi-culturalism, gender, community development—the discourse couched in the language of identity politics and human rights.

[...]

The NGO-isation of the women's movement has also made western liberal feminism (by virtue of its being the most funded brand) the standard-bearer of what constitutes feminism.  The battles, as usual, have been played out on women's bodies, extruding Botox at one end and burqas at the other.  (And then there are those who suffer the double whammy, Botox and the Burqa.)  When, as happened recently in France, an attempt is made to coerce women out of the burqa rather than creating a situation in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do, it's not about liberating her, but about unclothing her.  It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism.  It's not about the burqa.  It's about the coercion.  Coercing a woman out of a burqa is as bad as coercing her into one.  Viewing gender in this way, shorn of social, political and economic context, makes it an issue of identity, a battle of props and costumes.  It is what allowed the US government to use western feminist groups as moral cover when it invaded Afghanistan in 2001.  Afghan women were (and are) in terrible trouble under the Taliban.  But dropping daisy-cutters on them was not going to solve their problems."

-- Arundhati Roy in Capitalism: A Ghost Store on outlookindia.com

Great piece, I recommend reading it.  If you're short on time, feel free to bypass the discussion of Indian politics and corruption (tl;dr: shit's fucked up), and start with the section "What follows...", as a lot of that relates to any country.





by Furry Girl

01.09.12

"...SCTNow, along with similar anti-trafficking concerns, uses a simplistic language of good and evil in its discussions of trafficking.  In this way, its selling of the anti-trafficking movement closely mirrors the selling of the 'War on Terror' in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.  Instead of untangling the resentment against American imperialism built up globally through centuries of exploitation, many Americans rushed to accept the nonsensical explanation, put forth by politicans and pundits, that terrorists 'hate us because they hate freedom.'  We wanted enemies that we could name and locate so that we might destroy them, not lessons in humility and self-reflection.  Likewise, today’s mainstream anti-trafficking movement appeals to middle-class Americans with the idea that trafficking happens because there are bad people out there just waiting to take your kids away from schools and malls.  Thus, its prevention efforts focus less on the systemic realities of poverty, racism, domestic abuse, and the dire circumstances surrounding runaway and thrownaway youth, and more on installing high-tech security cameras at schools and stationing more security guards at malls.  And it measures the success of its activities by the number of criminal convictions it achieves, rather than by the long-term health and well-being of the women and children who are most at risk."

-- Emi Koyama, in Trade Secrets on bitchmagazine.org





by Furry Girl

11.23.11

Firstly, I apologize for the lack of uppity pro-ho materials on my blog lately.  I haven't been as motivated to explain the same things over and over, as I have been defending porn and sex work for almost a decade now.  (Fuck, I am so old now.)  The thing is, there's no such thing as a new argument against sex work, although there are more and more studies suggesting things like the benefits of porn consumption, or that "secondary effects" of adult businesses are a myth, or that it's just not true that millions of underage sex workers are trafficked little girls being exploited and controlled by pimps.  It's like debating the Bible - there will never be any new arguments in favor of creationism, but there's always more evidence in favor of evolution - once you know how to rebut all their arguments, all you can do is repeat yourself, which can get boring.

Now, moving onto my annoyance of the season: the left's current love affair with the utopian notion of "free" college for everyone.  Perhaps the most commonly articulated concrete demand from Occupy protests has been for "free" college for everyone.  (The most common vague demand is "end corruption" but since that's an abstract concept with no definition or proposed solution, I can't really be expected to discuss it seriously.)

How on earth could anyone be against "free" college?  If I'm against "free" college for everyone, it must mean I hate learning and knowledge and poor people, right?  Lefty people recoil in horror like I'm some kind of hard-right Tea Partier, but above fiscal conservatism, my beliefs about education are actually due to my deep and flagrant disregard for the presumed authority and superiority of academia.

I am against "free" college because most people don't need college

While everyone would prefer to have a high-paying job and be a millionaire astronaut rock star brain surgeon, there will always be a huge demand for less-skilled labor, even as we lose some of those jobs to overseas factories and technology.  According to the list of the largest employment sectors from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only one in the top ten (nursing) requires college education.  The others - retail sales, cashiers, office clerks, food service, waiting tables, customer service, janitors, laborers, and secretaries aren't exactly careers that require a lot of advanced training.  Saying that everyone should have a degree so everyone can have a high paying job is like saying everyone should be rich - it sounds fun, but in reality, it's an untenable concept.  Not everyone can have a job that pays $50+ an hour, and even if we did pay that to janitors and sales clerks, the market would adjust and make everything that much more expensive, negating the value of that higher pay.  Everyone likes to believe that they are special and gifted and brilliant and deserve college, but in actuality, most people are average (that's why it's called "average"), plenty of people are below-average, and all those people still need jobs.

And after all, if everyone has a degree, no one has a degree.

I am against "free" college because college degrees has been devalued by the very people who insist on the importance of "free" college

Thanks to the expansion of liberal arts education and the efforts of largely left-leaning academia, degrees don't mean much now.  College degrees in my dad's era meant you must have some serious training in objectively useful stuff like science, engineering, medicine, or business, but now, anyone with a student loan or trust fund can fritter away their time earning a degree in knitting or feminism or contemplating what it means to exist.  The British have an awesome phrase for this: a "Mickey Mouse degree," meaning a degree in some silly subject that has no use in the real world.

The other day, I was curious what it takes to get a degree in women's studies or feminism, since such people largely seem to be nitwits with no comprehension of things like statistics or biology.  Look at this list of fluff required for bachelor's degree program at the University of Washington.  Anyone who has at least a C-average can be a women's studies graduate, no pesky math classes required beyond the single "Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning" class required of all UW graduates, in which they only need to earn a grade of .7, which is a D-.  And that's not even a math requirement - it can be met by taking astronomy.  So remember, when you see someone with a feminism/gender studies degree from UW (and presumably other colleges), you're looking at someone whose most strenuous degree requirement was getting a D- in a freshman-level science class.  And then they wonder why they can't find high-paying jobs.  (It must be The Patriarchy purposefully oppressing them, right?)

I am against "free" college because I don't support the idea that college is the only or best way to learn about every topic

I find it strange that the left, which in the past has embraced "unschooling," free schools, and learning skills on a peer-to-peer basis, in recent years has decided the only and best way to learn about anything is at college.  By rallying for "free" college, the left's argument hinges on the idea that college is the only road to success and knowledge, which is just plain false.  Most of my friends are not college graduates, and that includes the number of people I know in the non-ho world who make over $100k a year.  The thing I've seen, across almost every single field, is that you don't need a degree if you're a smart and reasonably tenacious person.  To me, the only reason to pay for an official education is if you want to go into a field which requires a degree, like medicine or engineering.

I am someone who has managed to teach myself - a school dropout - how to do everything I need to do to run a small business.  (And yes, there's a lot more to what I do than just taking off my clothes.)  I don't think the ability to learn things on your own is so difficult that plenty of other people couldn't tap into if they tried.  I know so many other self-starters who have built successful careers and small businesses on their own, without needing degrees, as well as many who regret wasting money on college because they think their degree was largely useless.  I'm a believer in skill-sharing and learning directly from each other in a cooperative and hands-on environment, which I consider a much more "radical" perspective than the current left's mindless brainboner for all things academia.  (In this vein, I am happy to back Kio Stark's new book on Kickstarter, Don't Go Back to School: A handbook for learning anything.  A Yale dropout and teacher at NYU, go check out what Kio has to say in case you're wary of my "bias" as a non-college person.  I don't know her personally, but her partner and geek entrepreneur Bre Petis is awesome, so I'm guessing Kio's awesome, too.)

College seems like "special ed" for people who lack the initiative and follow-through to learn how to do things in the real world.  For people not getting medical/science/useful degrees, I can't fathom why they will gladly spend tens of thousands of dollars to read books in groups when they could read those same books at home for free.  It would be a pain in the ass to build a home chemistry lab with a ventilated fume hood and safe disposal for hazardous waste, so I understand taking chemistry lab at college, but fucking literature?  Art?  Philosophy?  Gender theory?  The pro-college people are such babies that they can't figure out how to read a book without it being spoonfed to them on a schedule and being explicitly told which parts of the text were the important bits.  And on top of that, they're supposed to be intellectually superior to me, the drop-out?  I've easily read and written more about feminism, human sexuality, sexual politics, and gender than your average women's studies graduate, but I ultimately win because I didn't flush $50,000+ down the toilet to do so.  (In fact, I've come out financially ahead.)  I guess that's kind of my ultimate fuck-you to the "educated" feminists.

I am against "free" college because it isn't actually free

What people on the left have a very hard time understanding is that "free stuff from the government" isn't actually free or from the government, it just means the cost is diffused over time and to all taxpayers.  "Free" simply means that your neighbors are footing your bills.

I am against "free" college because it's not my responsibility to fund other people's hobbies

On Bill Maher's show a couple of weeks ago, he noted that in 2009, about 37,000 people graduated college in computer science and engineering, and about 89,000 in visual and performing arts.  To use his perfect phrase: "A lot of people are going to college and doing bullshit."  A blog post I read about one man's genuine quest to understand Occupy Wallstreet noted that he couldn't find a single person in Zuccotti park who had a science degree, but found tons of unemployed actors and artists.  Americans going to college these days seem to do so largely to study things of personal interest to them, regardless of whether that degree will help them find gainful employment, which, phrased another way, is called going to college to learn amusing new hobbies.

I love books, I love crafts, I love non-pretentious art, I love discussions about sexuality and gender, I genuinely enjoy all sorts of the stuff liberal arts colleges teach, but I don't believe that I should be forced by the state to pay for other people to read books and navel-gaze and contemplate the "true" meaning of feminism.  When you argue that something should be taxpayer-funded, your argument is that your beliefs should be forced onto other people through the government and under threat of imprisonment and fines if people do not comply.  That's a pretty strong position to take, and while you can say that of all taxes, I'm more in favor of forcing everyone to pay for the maintenance of roads than I am of forcing people to pay for someone to take up fun new craft projects and read classic novels.

Unlike many others who are interested in women's studies and art and philosophy, I have the ability to separate my personal interests and hobbies from things which I believe the government should force others to fund.

I am against "free" college because it will probably cost more

I'm not an economist, so I don't know how to run the numbers on this, but I can only imagine that taxpayer-funded college would cost more.  If tuition is $10,000 a year, how much more is it going to cost on top of that in additional taxation infrastructure and enforcement and school welfare disbursements?  It seems like creating an HMO for schools, which just adds a lot of unnecessary bureaucratic costs to the service of education.  (It would create jobs, on the sole plus side, but if we're going to give people jobs just for the sake of giving jobs, I'd rather we spend that money to employ people to update and modernize the country's crumbling infrastructure.)  So, ultimately, when you're calling for "free" school, you're calling for school to cost more.  If the goal is that everyone goes to college, then not only is everyone still going to be paying for college through higher taxes over the course of their lifetime, but they're wasting money by paying for more red tape around that college degree.

The solution to our current bullshit- and fluff-filled world of expensive college degrees is not to have everyone get an expensive degree in bullshit and fluff, but to point out that the emperor has no clothes in the first place.

Let's move on, let's take the initiative to teach and learn from each other, and let's stop embracing the idea that college has a monopoly on learning.  College is indeed necessary for some people, and offers skills that would be difficult to learn on your own (like my chemistry lab example), but it's not the be-all end-all of success or knowledge.  And stop demanding that your neighbors foot the bill for your hobbies, unless you want me to come back at you and force you to pay for me to take up new hobbies of my own.

 

My debates with the pro-"free" college crowd generally go like this: They insist that they need a degree in order to get the high-paying job they believe they deserve; I tell them if so, they should stop wasting their money on their non-useful art/philosophy degrees and get a degree that will actually be a good financial investment; they tell me that they don't care about the money, and they are enlightened and believe in learning for learning's sake; then I ask them why they needed to get an official degree to prove that they believe in learning purely for learning's sake, and why do they say they don't care about money when a minute ago they said that they want a higher paying job; at which point their logic folds in on itself and they stop replying.

Update, argument two: The art college fetishists insist that everyone is entitled to go to college and that they believe oh-so-passionately that useless degrees are a human right.  Then I ask them why they don't channel that passion into spending their own money on footing the bill for others' liberal arts college tuition, and they balk and come up with an excuse as to why they shouldn't have to fund their beliefs, but that I should be forced by the government to fund their beliefs.  Seriously, kids, this is why we have these things called charities.  Anyone can spend their own money supporting the "worthy cause" of their choice, but you do not have a right to force all Americans to financially back your pet issue.

 

I've turned off comments on this post because I'm tired of having to read pointless bullshit from pretentious morons.





by Furry Girl

08.25.11

"The verb is transitive: someone gives power to another, or encourages them to take power or find power in themselves.  It’s used among those who want to help others identified as oppressed.  In Latin America, in educación popular, one of the great cradles of this kind of concept, the word itself didn’t exist until it was translated back from English.  To many people, if they know it at all, the word empoderamiento sounds strange. It’s an NGO word, used by either volunteer or paid educators who view themselves as helpers of others or fighters for social justice, and is understood to represent the currently ‘politically correct’ way of thinking about ‘third world’, subaltern or marginalised people.  But it remains a transitive verb, which places emphasis on the helper and her vision of her capacity to help, encourage and show the way."

-- Dr. Laura Agustín, in Empowerment, Victims, Violence and Gender Equality on lauraagustin.com





by Furry Girl

08.22.11

The New Victorians: A Young Woman's Challenge to the Old Feminist Order
by Rene Denfeld
Copyright 1995

★★★★

I loved this book, and I don't know how I didn't discover it until recently, because it's very me in many ways.  It has so many of the issues that I would cover if I were to write an entire book about why feminism is stupid and counter-productive, to the degree I'm actually relieved someone else has already done it so well.

Having been published 16 years ago, Rene Denfeld's references to leading feminists and prominent areas of feminist concern are, as would be expected, a bit dated.  (It is pre-internet, pre- sex-positive, and at the end, briefly notes a newfangled area of feminism showing hope in its youthfulness: riot grrrl.)  For example, there's an entire chapter mostly about the growing irrelevance of NOW, but in 2011, I honestly can't think of the last time anyone mentioned NOW, as it has become fully irrelevant.  Some stale issues aside, like NOW and lesbian separatism, the overall tone of the book, criticism of core portions of feminist theory, and the good framing device of comparisons to the morality of the Victorian era are all still valid.  (Even more so now in some matters, with feminist books like "A Return to Modesty," as well as a general increase in hysteria about "the pornification of our culture.")

Denfeld decries victim feminism, man-hating behaviors such as painting all men as potential rapists and dangers, the expansion of definitions of rape and sexual assault to include cat-calling and sexual comments, the obsession with new age spiritualism, that omnipresent mysterious force called "the patriarchy," and even some older embarrassing dirty laundry like feminist opposition to abortion and birth control (because they turn women into consequence-free sex holes for men).  Overall, I love the book's relentless questioning of feminist ideas (whether it be banning porn or adopting goddess religious) with, "...but what good will that do for the majority of women, especially poor women?"

While most of the book has nothing to do with sex work issues, the section on the feminist campaign against porn was solid, doing well to exemplify the vast schism between feminist concerns and the issues that impact average women.  When discussing porn, the book doesn't quote sex workers or consider our perspectives/rights at all.  The anti-anti-porn arguments in the book are about censorship and time-wasting moral crusades.

By foregoing political and economic activism, current feminists have created a campaign that smacks of classism.  Many of the feminist activists working against porn are middle-income and well-educated women.  The subjects of their attacks (porn actresses and nude models) are predominantly lower-income and less-educated people - and usually not boasting choice jobs at magazines or universities.  It must be recognized that many women freely choose to enter the porn field.  And some of their choices are no doubt influenced by the fact that it pays more than flipping hamburgers.

But the antiporn activists don't seem interested in helping lower-class women - try telling an impoverished mother on welfare that outlawing Playboy is the answer to her troubles.  And try telling a porn actress that it's better to starve on minimum wage than it is to pose for pictures that middle-class women find immoral.  Lost in the rarefied world of academia and backed with cushy jobs, these feminists forget that women can't feed their children on censorship.

[...]

Just as in Victorian times (when respectable ladies condemned unrespectable lower-class strumpets), a select group of middle-class women have bestowed upon themselves the title of saviors of female virtue.  And just as Victorian ladies blamed prostitutes for their husbands' faithlessness, today's feminists implicitly blame women in pornography for the most reprehensible crime: rape.

Another thing I love is the chapter on feminism's promotion of new age religions, although this has died down a bit since the book was published in the 90s.  As someone who angrily bit my tongue as a pagan religious ritual opened last year's Desiree Alliance sex worker conference, I appreciate those who share such annoyances.  Denfeld's book rightfully hammers home that there is no historical evidence to suggest that a magical war and weapon-free matriarchy ever existed, though new agers are always quick to rebut that inconvenient truth with conspiracy theories about how The Patriarchy has suppressed the evidence.

A snippet:

The religion is based on theory that reeks of old fashioned sexist stereotypes.  Women, again, are held to be the gentler, nurturing, compassionate, and clearly unassertive sex.

This vision of women as spiritually superior - and spiritually pure - has led to devastating inertia.  Political and economic activism is suddenly portrayed as quite unnecessary, even distasteful.  Instead, goddess aherents are convinced that witchcraft rituals of chanting, burning sage, sending spells, and channeling Aphrodite with effectively advance women's rights.

And so feminism today has taken a distressing step away off the path to equality onto a detour down the yellow brick road.  Feminist leaders are now telling women to perform the modern equivalent of the Sioux Indian Ghost Dance, to spend our energies frantically calling upon a mystical golden age in an effort to create a dreamlike future - because such rituals are better suited to our superior nature than fighting directly with men for our rights.  This ideal of feminine spiritual purity was used effectively against women in the Victorian era; they were told that, for the more spiritual sex, prayer was the only appropriate means of improving the world.  Then, as now, it's striking that the more ineffective an action, the more it's said to reflect "female" values.

Meanwhile, millions of women - young and old - have to cope with unequal pay, lack of affordable child care, nonexistent job opportunities, and raising families without health insurance.  Countless more face unavailable birth control and abortion, sexual harassment in the workplace, or no workplace at all.  And many face the trauma of rape and domestic violence under a judicial system that too often slaps offenders lightly on the wrist.  Goddess worship does absolutely nothing for these women.

If this sounds like embellishment to you, perhaps you're not old enough to remember the massive popularity of one particular nutter who goes by Starhawk.  She was devoted to distracting the west coast left during the 1990s and early 2000s, admonishing activists to focus on spell-casting and sending out magic spirit vibes rather than engage in protests or directly confronting businesses/governments.  Thankfully, Starhawk gets thoroughly ridiculed in the book, including a "blockade" of hers where a bunch of witches shined flashlights in the direction of a nuclear power plant in an attempt to shut it down.  When the power plant later had a temporary technical issue causing some downtime, Starhawk took credit.  (You can't make up stuff this funny!)

In the chapter rebutting the notion of a patriarchy that's somehow a sentient force and conspiracy to oppress women through the evils of science and rational thinking, Denfeld gets a standing ovation from me yet again.

Patriarchal theory appeals to many feminists because it takes the onus off women when it comes to problems such as racism, sexism, and violence - although female Ku Klux Klan members to abusive mothers, women have done their share to add to these ills.  It is also appealing because it acts as a rallying cry, allowing feminists to condemn a common enemy  while ignoring class and cultural differences among women.  By asserting that all women are oppressed under the patriarchy, feminists often implicitly dismiss the experiences of minority, poor, and working class women: A single mother on welfare and Gloria Steinem are portrayed as having more in common than not.

What makes this ironic is that oppression is defined solely from the viewpoint of current feminist leaders, who tend to be well-educated, affluent white women enjoying careers as authors, speakers, and tenured professors.  For instance, in The Beauty Myth, a 1991 book detailing how there is a "backlash" against women via beauty standards, Yale graduate Naomi Wolf likens the beauty methods of upper-middle-class women to the medieval torture instrument known as the iron maiden, a spike-lined body-shaped casket in which victims suffered slow, agonizing deaths.  When women who exemplify the American dream and the fruits of feminism - educated in the finest universities, getting paid for the careers of their choice, well-respected, and enjoying all the freedoms and comforts life has to offer - write books comparing their lives with medieval torture, it's not surprising that many lower-income women don't find much in common with the movement.

In the nineteenth century, as feminist concern moved on from fighting for the right to vote to fighting to repress sexual materials and female sexuality, a familiar issues played out in the wake of a new law passed to prevent - you guessed it - child sex trafficking.

Rather than used to halt child prostitution, this legislation was mostly enforced against poor adult women.  It dramatically changed the structure of prostitution, with devastating effects for the women involved.  Full-time prostitution up to that time was largely a brothel industry maintained by women.  While these brothels varied from squalid shacks to fancy houses, they at least offered prostitutes a degree of safety and economic autonomy: Many women were assured food and a roof over their heads as well as protection from the authorities.  But under this feminist-driven law, the brothels were closed, forcing prostitutes to work on the streets, where they had to rely on male pimps for protection... Far from eradicating prostitution, these feminists only drove them underground -- and once out of sight, the prostitutes suffered more.

Where the Denfeld and I sharply diverge, however, is that at the end of the day, her book is about inspiring young women to "reclaim" feminism and make it a part of their identities, and insisting that anyone who supports birth control or equal pay is a feminist, whether they like it or not.  Despite being written to get more people to call themselves feminists (though it's never explained why on earth that matters), I still consider this a great read.  I took a bunch of notes, and will be reading some of the source material and using it in places in my own book, if and when that ever comes to fruition.

 

Buy The New Victorians through this Amazon link and a portion of the sales price will go to SWAAY.





by Furry Girl

07.05.11

"Charities aside - and, let it be said, there are many worthy and honest ones - there are also the academics, researchers, and writers who earn their living not through hands-on effort, but by writing papers.  Papers which allow them to win grants.  Grants so that they can write more papers.

[...]

For instance, funding for studying trafficking is enormous - in 2009, it was funded worldwide to the tune of nearly a billion US dollars. This is a total greater than the amount of grant money awarded to study lung cancer, which of course, is also devastating, and affects far more people. And spending on trafficking since 2000 has dwarfed the grant awards on such important international health concerns as malnutrition, malaria, or tuberculosis - conditions that kill millions of people worldwide every year, and affect hundreds of millions more. "

-- Dr Brooke Magnanti, in How the Anti-Sex Lobby Profits on sexonomics-uk.blogspot.com

 





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