Friday, June 29, 2007

Crazy radfems again

BelleDame pointed me over to yet another completely batshit screed over in Twisty-land. I swear that woman gets more reality-challenged every day (Twisty, not Belle).

This particular rant was all about a disabled athlete who was profiled in Sports Illustrated. Not a magazine I have much (or indeed any) respect for in general, I have to say. Fawning articles on sports celebrities and boring stats interspersed with the occasional bikini issue. Yawn. However…

Twisty’s basic point seems to be that EVEN THIS POOR DISABLED WOMAN is being sexualized (or pornified, or whatever the hell she’s calling it this week) by the eeevil male-dominated media.

To which I have to ask…um, in what way is a disabled woman being “pornified” any different from any other woman being “pornified”? Like, it would be OK if she wasn’t disabled? We already know that’s not what Twisty thinks, so what the hell is she on about?

Now, I’m not a PWD, so I may be wrong, but I’ve never gotten the impression that PWD particularly want to be viewed as desexualized by virtue of their disability, which is what Twisty seems to be implying would be desirable. Or assuming. She does that a lot, makes assumptions about groups to which she does not belong and into which she does not seem to have any particular insight. I guess it’s that “I’m every woman” thing again. Except if she doesn’t even speak for me, a white Western woman of similar class and cultural background, then how in the hell can she possibly speak for Class Woman, much less Class Women With Disabilities?

Her little spiel did give me some insight into how she thinks, though, and the thing is I don’t think it’s just her who thinks this way. I think it’s a lot of radfems.
The underlying assumption here seems to be that all women find the male gaze oppressive and wish to be freed from it. All women dislike being viewed or depicted in a sexualized way, see it as something forced upon them that they are powerless to resist. Eliminating that sexualization is a major goal (in some cases it seems to be THE major goal) of the feminist movement. I think that most of her readers would agree, actually. This seems to be a very common radfem view, although it isn’t universal.

And here’s where I part company with Twisty and Co., ideologically speaking. The idea that all women resent being viewed in a sexualized way and see the male gaze as something oppressive that they wish to be freed from? Not true. It’s true for some people, most definitely, it may even be true for many people. I can particularly see how that feeling might be very common amongst women who have been abused in a sexual way, although interestingly enough it’s not universal even there. But the idea that that viewpoint, that desire, is universal amongst ALL women, everywhere? Not true. Demonstrably false, in fact.

Where I really parted company with that group forever to the point where I’m not sure that any sort of agreement or working together is possible, though, is over the idea that eliminating the sexualization of women in that particular, clothing and make-up, how women are seen in the media in the First World way is the primary goal of the movement. Because…huh? See, I think our first goal, our VERY first goal, before we worry about anything else, should be dealing with the things that actually threaten women’s lives in a practical sense. The fact that the vast majority of the world’s poorest people are women? That’s a problem that needs dealing with right now. The fact that that poverty is literally killing them? Also a right-now sort of problem. Human trafficking? Another right now problem.

Now, one could construct an argument that these things are related to each other, that, for example, a tendency to view women in a sexualized way contributes to the trafficking problem, and I would actually agree with that. The problem is that she’s putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Getting rid of Sports Illustrated and all glossy magazines (because the ones for women are just as guilty of this as the ones for men) would not solve the trafficking problem and, quite frankly, an excessive focus on things like that makes Western feminists look like selfish assholes who don’t care about anything but themselves. This point has been made over and over again by WOC, but it never seems to get through. OK, fine, so you (Twisty, whoever) really, really care about the way women are depicted in the media. It bothers you. OK. BUT…do you seriously think that’s priority number one? And if you do, what the hell have you been smoking? Seriously…the mind, it boggles. No wonder people think we’re trivial and irrelevant.

The whole thing is fascinating to me, though, because something finally clicked in my head when I was reading that thread. The problem that I have with a lot of radfems is exactly this. They really, truly believe that all women feel as they do, and that any woman who says she doesn’t is either lying or brainwashed. They genuinely do not see that other women have different priorities.

That’s a problem, because most women don’t share their priorities. Not at all. A lot of women have some concerns about the way women are depicted in the media, but in terms of wishing to be free of “the gaze” altogether and never looked upon in a sexualized way by men again? That’s pretty unusual. It’s not the norm. It’s certainly not the highest priority, not even for privileged Western women. The idea that it could be a high priority for women in the rest of the world is simply laughable. You think someone cares about whether a magazine takes pretty pictures of a disabled athlete if she’s worrying about how to feed herself and her family? If she’s in the middle of a war zone?

Like I said, it’s a matter of priorities.


UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

Just want to say, I agree with you--while lots of media depictions of women DO sometimes make me shake my head in dismay, I didn't even see much of a problem with this particular story, and even with the things that do bother me--they don't deserve NEARLY as much attention as stopping rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and a whole host of other issues. Focus on the things that actually HURT women. Not little nusciances.

belledame222 said...

Word. Word. And: word.

Trinity said...

"Now, I’m not a PWD, so I may be wrong, but I’ve never gotten the impression that PWD particularly want to be viewed as desexualized by virtue of their disability, which is what Twisty seems to be implying would be desirable."

Yes. Stereotypes desexualize (and child-ify; fucking us is somehow like pedophilia) us -- why do we want it from feminists too?