Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On cliques and other assorted bullshit

I’ve been doing some thinking about radfems recently, mostly spurred by some recent encounters with the Internet variety, and frankly, the more I see the less I like them.
Let’s start with this little gem that someone wrote at Genderberg and that was reposted on Renegade Evolution. Note that we do not know whether Sam herself wrote this or whether it was a commenter. The reason we do not know this is that Genderberg has an inner sanctum accessible only to the chosen few. Apparently the rest of us are a corrupting influence or something. As rude and thoroughly unhelpful as it is to regard other feminists as corrupting influences, it beats the hell out of pretending they don’t exist. Take a gander at this if you haven’t already seen it…

"I believe Ren Ev is porn marketing. There are many ways to market. What she's doing is called astro turfing. I wrote about it in that other thread. This type of marketing gets those people who don't like ads, but don't get that ads can take many forms, and one of the most successful is to make the AD seem like a program, or an article, or a blog. She's a front, something like BitchPhD is. That's another type of advertising. Ren Ev's being paid to popularize porn. No marketing initiative would ignore that type of marketing and the big porn market is now being managed by Time Warner and it's peers with all their marketing engine. This astro turfing is far the most effective nowadays, when people are sick of ads, marketers can still use methods like this to slide by. All those people who are drawn to REs blog, daily grow more and more accustomed to seeing her as just another performer. She's popularizing it. Taking the sting ot of it. Apparently she wrote about ass to mouth recently. No problem. Just use listerine. And they listen to her. She's marketing. She's archived by google. She comes up on searches for words and subject matter used in everyday searches. And that's the point of her blog."

Don your tinfoil hats! Now, there are all kinds of problems with this starting with the fact that just because you disagree with a person doesn’t mean that you get to pretend she doesn’t exist or that the big bad evil business types are making her do it. Hey, I’m a socialist and very much disinclined to trust big business, and even I think you people are way off base on this one.

Both Renegade Evolution and Bitch PhD are real women with real opinions. You can disagree with them, you can even dislike them, but dismissing them as sock puppets of the big bad porn biz is pretty damn stupid. Where is your proof? How do you know that RenEv is being paid to market porn via her blog? Are you aware that Bitch PhD was around for a long time before she hooked up with SG, and that she still doesn’t really write about porn very much? I’m having a hard time seeing how endless discussions of the latest cute thing PK did are a super-secret way to get people to buy porn.

Now I don’t like the Suicide Girls organization. I think they really are guilty of false advertising. I think they take advantage of the gullibility and wish to be liked of young women who mostly felt like freaks and rejects in high school, and who are still young enough for that to really sting. Specifically, they take advantage of their employees by grossly underpaying them and tying them into contracts which I’m willing to bet most people in the mainstream porn biz would never be foolish enough to sign. The whole thing’s a crock of shit, if you want my honest opinion. Smoke and mirrors designed to assuage the guilty consciences of a bunch of leftist-leaning alterna-guys and provide a cheap thrill for guys who kind of dig the alterna look but know very well that in real life they have no hope in hell of getting actual alterna girls to give them the time of day.
So, do I think that Bitch PhD is perhaps a little misguided in her belief that she can do some good by working with SG? Maybe. Even if that were the case, does that mean that everything she’s done in the past is invalid and she never was anything but a front for the porn biz?

Um, no, it doesn’t. The fact that Ren Ev actually DOES work in the sex biz doesn’t make her a front either. And if her site is supposed to be advertising for the porn biz then her site is doing a crappy job, because it hasn’t changed my opinion of the sex trade one bit. I don’t think it’s really intended to, either.

In fact, you want to know what I really think? I don’t think porn is an important issue. I think that the aspects of the sex trade that involve women who were trafficked, women who want out, are absolutely important feminist issues BUT I don’t think that conflating those women with women who work in that business of their own free will is helpful in any way. Personally, I would never under any circumstances want to work in the sex trade. I would be miserable and hate every second of it. But, unlike some other people, I have a clear enough sense of boundaries to realize that I am not every woman and it is not in fact all in me, no matter what the song might say. To assume that I know how other women feel about that industry just because we share the same kind of genitalia is both foolish and patronizing, especially when some of those women are actually SAYING that they feel differently.

Rule number one of feminism, folks – listen to what other women say about their own subjective experiences and believe them. When did we forget that?

Now, at some point the anti-porn stance seems to have become part of the standard feminist position in the same way that support for abortion is standard, or at least SUCH IS ASSUMED TO BE THE CASE BY MOST RADICAL FEMINISTS. The problem is, on this particular issue there is no real consensus, no matter how often certain radfems scream “yes there is a consensus and all REAL feminist agree with me, the rest of you are imposters!”.
The rest of us are not imposters. We are people who do not agree with you. Learning to deal with people who one does not agree with is one of those things that separate adults from children. It’s a basic life skill.
The funny thing is that, despite what the anti-porn contingent seems to assume, many of those who disagree with them are not actually big fans of porn. I’m not. I just don’t think it’s an important enough issue to deserve so much focus. I also don’t think that it’s OK to sideline any feminist who isn’t willing to fall into step with the anti-porn camp. To be perfectly honest I used to be a lot more anti-porn than I am now, and a great deal of my move away from that stance was prompted by the fact that I stopped and listened to a lot of what comes out of the anti-porn camp and came to the conclusion that most of it is disingenuous nonsense.

See, I’m a linguistics geek. I pay attention to language. And the language that the anti-porn people use…well, that language is very telling. Sam’s comments about pro-porn women only caring about their own “wet pussies”, Twisty referring to men’s dicks as “funk-filled bratwurst”…

Well, honestly, after a while it’s hard not to wonder if the problem those people have is really with porn, or if it’s actually a problem with sex. A dislike of all things fleshy, if you will.

I happen to rather like both dicks and pussies. I don’t much care for seeing either described in “ew, icky” terms. I do not see how such descriptions are helpful to the feminist cause overall. I do not see how a disdain for all things fleshy is going to advance the status of women as a whole. In fact, given how often in the past women’s supposedly fleshy nature has been used against us, I rather suspect that such disdain is likely to do far more harm than good.

So, since the radfems are so enthusiastic about practicing armchair psychology on the rest of us, how about we turn that around for a while?

Here’s the subjective impression of where a lot of the stuff that seems to be standard opinion on the radfem side comes from. A lot of radfems seem to be fundamentally ascetic people. They don’t seem to like bodily things very much. They seem to be suspicious of most pleasures of the flesh. They seem to believe that such things are unimportant and that those to whom they are important are shallow, debased individuals. Many radfems seem to be of the temperament that, in ages past and in some cultures even today, would be best suited to a monastic environment. Twisty is a perfect example. If someone could find her a mountaintop to meditate on she’d probably be quite happy as long as regular taco delivery could be arranged.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people are just wired that way. The problem comes when people who are wired that way start to assume that their way is the only right way and that those who are wired differently are, as said before, shallow and debased and etc.

The problem with that is that by that definition, about 95% of the human race is shallow and debased. Most people are not ascetics, even when those people are women. Most of us are quite happy being fleshy beings, and some of us even revel in it.

So, what do the radfems propose to do about that? Are they even aware just how tiny of a minority they actually are? Of how fundamentally different most of the human race is, and of the fact that most people wouldn’t want to be ascetics even if they could be?


Andrea said...

Woo woo! *claps*

belledame222 said...

I don't think there's anything inherent about the basic tenets of radical feminism that necessarily says "ascetic." Truth of the matter is--a lot of very political sorts tend to be hairshirt-ish. whether that's because of old cultural patterns reasserting themselves in the adopted worldview or something else, the whole, individual pleasures are selfish and hedonistic thing, i see a fair lot of it. possibly more of it on the loosely defined left; at any rate more so on the let's call it collectivist end of the spectrum. "bread and roses," sadly, is a passing rare sentiment; more often you seem to get people like Orwell's contemporaries who grilled him about how keeping roses was "bourgeois" and hence suspect at best.

and of course we can't gorget the religious right.

libertarians of various sorts are often the most indulgent, for obvious reasons, but even then--i dunno, somehow i get the impression Ayn Rand wasn't much fun at parties. i could be wrong.

as for the individuals you mention--some are all-round ascetic, but specifically, yep, i gotta say it, seem to be working out some erm -issues- with sex, and frankly not in a healthy way. which would be none of my business if they didn't keep insisting on dragging the rest of the world into it.

"But doc, you're the one showing me all the dirty pictures!"

btw, you might find this post of TF's illuminating. i know i did:

You see, delectation is antithetical to my family’s belief system. It is their custom to avoid pleasure like the plague, to eschew any and all enjoyment. They decline the invitation to life’s rich pageant. They consider they have gone for the gusto when they put a slice of lemon in their tap water. Their only joy is feeling bad about feeling good. Whenever they inadvertently have a delightful experience, they self-flagellate with a self-righteous turkey sandwich. Not only that, if they see anyone else having a delightful experience, they do not hesitate to tut-tut. As in, “Do you really think it’s wise to eat all those excellent ribs/ buy that fabulous sports car/ drink that glass of delicious port? Shouldn’t you have a turkey sandwich instead?”

(Incredibly, they do not view the tut-tut as a sanctimonious and judgmental expression of either their own self-hatred or their neurotic obsession with compulsory global conformity to their peculiar standards of decency. No they do not. They view it as their Christian duty. Despite the fact that throughout all recorded history there is not a single shred of evidence to support their belief, they are under the impression that the disapproving tut-tut literally saves lives. Of course studies show that, in reality, recipients of 5 or more tut-tuts weekly are 68 times more likely than regular people to develop homicidal manias.)

Anyway, my family’s anhedonia is no surprise. They are descended from assorted Spartans and Stoics and Calvinists. This virulent miscegenation of dogmas--inclusive of the charming Doctrine of Total Depravity--appears to produce a race of people for whom a certain ubiquity of pallid turkey sandwiches provides tangible evidence of a pious aversion to worldly gratification. Turkliness is next to godliness and man is but a lump of vanity, composed of sin and misery.

I am delighted to report that the sandwich pictured above was a fluke; a recent blood test has revealed that I possess 100% Epicurean DNA. I was adopted!

belledame222 said...

this thread was illuminating also:

Veronica said...

The funny thing is that, despite what the anti-porn contingent seems to assume, many of those who disagree with them are not actually big fans of porn. I’m not.

I think their official position is, "There is no middle ground."

You're either with them, or you're the enemy.

Or, at least that's the impression I got out of a lengthy comment thread ages and ages ago.

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
belledame222 said...


delphyne in particular seems to get terribly bent out of shape if anyone tries to argue an ambiguous position; she'd far rather you be a clear, identifiable Enemy; we doesn't trust this "nuance," it is trickssssssy, precioussss...

bemusement aside, though, it really is starting to look like an eternal game of Pong from here. or Tetris, maybe; the afterimages sear into your brain, and you can't stop playing even while you're thinking, god, you know, i have other shit to do, this is not only pointless, it's really BORING...

anyone see "Citizen Ruth?" more and more i get reminded of it. i mean ALL of it.

Cassandra Says said...

Belle - Indeed. In fact I think it would be far more true to the basic tenets of radical feminism to embrace women's fleshiness and give a big old "fuck you" to anyone who wants to be judgemental about it. That does not seem to be what has happened in general, though.
There is a more generalised tendency for the left to be self-flagellating, though. That's why all this anti-porn stuff bothers me so much, actually. I was a communist when I was younger. I've studied what happened in Russia and in China. This kind of narrow focus and burning of heretics is usually a sign that all is not well within a movement. We seem to be only a few small steps away from public self-criticism meeting, to be honest, and for anyone who actually believes that the basic goals of feminism are something worth striving for that is a very worrying thing indeed.

Cassandra Says said...

Veronica said...
"I think their official position is, "There is no middle ground."
Indeed, that seems to be the case. And that concerns me, for the reasons stated above. It might be possible that, despite all historical evidence to the contrary, narrow focus and an inability to tolerate dissent could be good for this particular movement, but...well, like I said, that has not been the case in the past.

Octogalore said...

“Do you really think it’s wise to eat all those excellent ribs/ buy that fabulous sports car/ drink that glass of delicious port? Shouldn’t you have a turkey sandwich instead?”


"Do you really think it's wise to eat that funk-filled bratwurst?/ drink that nectar/ buy that fabulous satin dress? Shouldn't you stay home, read Firestone and have a razor-and-lingerie-burning ceremony, instead?

Looks like apple didn't fall far from tree.

FoolishOwl said...

One of the most delicious meals I can remember ever eating was a turkey sandwich.

On the hairshirt business, there's a lyric from Everclear I like:
I hate those people who try to tell you
Money is the root of all that kills.
They have never been poor,
They have never known the joy of a welfare Christmas.

I suppose it's not really inconsistent of TF to claim to be "Epicurean," since she bases her denunciations of sexuality on her personal dislike for sexuality, and her belief that no woman really likes it.

(By the way, Marx wrote his doctoral dissertation on Epicurus, and Epicurean ethics was a big influence on Marx.)

I do tend to think that the hostility towards sexuality comes from the experience of sexual abuse, which is after all so damned common it's almost a universal experience. It seems to me that much of the pleasure of sexual experience with others comes from the profound trust and intimacy involved, and it's difficult to imagine feeling that kind of trust when your trust has been profoundly violated.

Cassandra Says said...

FO - I like turkey with gravy and roasted potatoes...hmm, now I need to go to Pluto's.

I agree that in many cases the aversion to any form of sex involving men is probably a result of the people concerned having lived through some pretty shitty experiences. That's why I rarely talk smack about Dworkin, even though I disagree with almost everything she wrote. There are reasons why she felt the way she did, and it would take a pretty cold-hearted person not to have some empathy for that.
Retreating into ascetisism makes perfect sense, I just wish there was a way to get people to stop generalising so that "what works for me/what I need to do to make myself feel safe" becomes "what every woman needs".

belledame222 said...

I am starting to think it's going to take psych/self-help 101, i mean for the rest of us. You can't control the controller's behavior, but you can set limits on what you will or won't tolerate from them.

belledame222 said...

FO: ironically, the kind of "sex positive" work/communities i've been involved with deals very explicitly with addressing and healing trauma (as well as less obvious forms of sexual injury). it's not for everyone, but i've seen it work startling transformations--hell, seen, experienced--that i've never seen any sort of purely dialectic approach, much less a simplistic one-size-fits-all political analysis, begin to help nearly so well.

what you learn is, the (below-the-neck) body has its own wisdom; there is a reason why the saying is "trust your gut" or "trust your heart." that touch is at least as important as theory. that some things predate words and need to be addressed in more direct, nonverbal ways.