Posts tagged with “feminism”

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On the difficulty of saying what you want to say

I suppose that if you’ve read this blog, it should come as no surprise to you that gender and sexual politics is one of my biggest fields of interest. Obviously I have a lot of political fields of interest – I became a Marxist primarily because I couldn’t see how we could stave off environmental destruction under capitalism, for instance – but over the last year or so, it’s been mainly gender and sexual politics I’ve been reading about. (Although I did read a book called Ecology and Socialism over the summer, too. It was quite good.)

I think the main reason I’ve gravitated towards these issues is that it seems to affect me more immediately, it seems to concern me much more. Climate change and other mechanisms of environmental destruction are terrible, and will affect me in the end in fifty years’ time when the climate is absolutely fucked, but there’s not much I can do about that. There’s a lot that a post-revolutionary world could do about that, and that’s why I’m a socialist, but in the meantime there’s not much I can do. I can read about it, but where’s the imperative when a revolution is nowhere close? It’s a problem, but I only have so much time anyway in which to read and this is how I feel.

Gender and sexual politics grabs more of my attention because it isn’t just the macro-level on which it exists. The personal is political, as the feminist slogan goes and this is really true, in a way that “the actions of one individual can really do a lot to save the environment” just isn’t. No, one individual can’t liberate all of humanity, but individuals can and do make conscious choices about how to treat one another. You can choose not to be misogynistic or homophobic or generally an asshole in a way that you can’t really choose to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle (unless you have bucketloads of time and money, which most people obviously don’t).

So all of this means that I tend to grapple with questions of gender and sexuality much more. Over the last year or two, I have had to grapple with questions such as – What constitutes rape, and what doesn’t? What do you with actions which seem to, arguably, perhaps, fall into some murky grey area? What do you do if someone rapes you but you still like them? Is it unprincipled to forgive? Do open relationships work, or are we all too brainwashed by capitalistic values of possession and jealousy? Do closed relationships work, or is that an even worse idea than open ones? What is the connection between sex and power? It seems to me that sex is always a power struggle in some way or another, but it doesn’t have to be that way, does it? Is this not just because of oppression?

And I’d love to write about so many of these questions – and sometimes I do – but it’s difficult because of course, I want to discuss all of these questions in relation to my own life, in relation to people I’ve known, and there comes a point at which it seems to cross a line. That is, if I was only talking to strangers, my experiences would be obviously political – “this is how women suffer under patriarchy,” or something, and similarly if I only talk to my best friends they know me well enough that they can tell the difference between me seeking a confidant (or yelling at them, as the case may be) and me making a political point. But then there are people between those two extremes – people who are friends but not good friends, or people who know me but not well – and I get worried that what starts as me trying to explain a political point sounds like me opening up way too much to someone who doesn’t know me well enough to feel comfortable with that.

The awkward thing about “the personal is political” is that by necessity, when you start talking like that politics ceases to be something impersonal. It ceases to be something about which you can intellectualise, expect to be patted on the back for being so clever and go home to your own world, which is an entirely different sphere. It brings the two spheres together, so suddenly politics isn’t a sphere but it’s life. All your life! And most people aren’t like this – an irritatingly high proportion of people resent talking about politics at all because they claim it’s “divisive”, as if we should be getting along with scumbaggy people anyway – so it comes across as weird, comes across like you’re far too open a person, when really, you just want everyone to understand that the way they live their lives is important, not just what they do in their “political time”.

It’s also ironic that I feel weird about this because honestly, my personal experiences are probably the only original thing I have to contribute to the discussion – I’m sure every point I could think up has been thought up and argued before! So anyway, maybe I should seek to write these posts a little more often, and decide that if someone who reads them is uncomfortable about that I don’t give a shit what they think anyway, but it seemed that the reasons why I felt uncomfortable were important too, and I should comment on those. Basically… the personal is political, and that will always be true, but it’s an unpleasant reality for most people. Still, perhaps it’s a reality people should have to face up to more often.

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Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism. I fell into a hornets' nest of revolutionary feminism.

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Does the Porn Industry Suck? A Feminist's Look

I often off-handedly tell people that “porn is sexist” or something along those lines, but this article makes a reasonable argument as to why that isn’t necessarily true, and I should be more careful in what I say.

I mean, I still think it’s inherently problematic to objectify people, reducing them to their bodies as if there’s nothing more to them. I’ve always hated attempts to, like, “reform” the sex industry such that there are also men who get objectified for the pleasure of women, as if this would make it not a problem any more that the sex industry objectifies women for the pleasure of men, because things are “equal” now. Um no, things are not equal – it is still women who are objectified in society at large, not just in the sex industry, and even if that weren’t the case – why the hell would you want a society in which everyone is regarded as a mere sex object instead of a society in which no one is?

What this article points to though is that there are ways to change porn that would make it better. After all, the reduction of women to sex objects is only the beginning of the problem. For instance, in words that I really can’t improve on, the writer says this:

Often in porn, women are treated as if they’re just holes to have sex with. They are often just there to be pounded by one or more penises and their consent, enthusiasm, and pleasure doesn’t even seem to be factored into the equation let alone a valued and highlighted aspect of the sexual activity taking place.

I don’t think it’s an inherent part of porn that it has to be this bad. The fact that it is this bad reflects that we live in a deeply sexist, homophobic and generally oppressive society, and I don’t think you can make porn unproblematic without entirely overthrowing the system that perpetuates such oppressions. However, I don’t think there is inherently a problem in watching a film of people having sex, or in getting off to it. I liked this article for describing various problems in pornography that, if they were fixed, would make porn relatively harmless.

The statement “porn is sexist” is broadly true, and I think it’ll always be true for so long as it’s a sexist system that makes it. However, I think even under capitalism you could have a situation in which porn’s only a little problematic instead of outrageously bad like it mostly is today. It would be possible to make porn in which women are subjects, not just objects, and in which their pleasure and desires are central – and considering that porn is today where most teenagers get their sexual education, wouldn’t this be much better?

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'Everything covered but her eyes, what a cruel, male-dominated culture!' 'Nothing covered but her eyes, what a cruel, male-dominated culture!'

Half of me wants to say: A perfect response to your average Westerner who thinks the burqa is such a symbol of women's oppression! Guess what, Western women are oppressed too, but we have our own symbols.

But then the other half of me wants to point out that the bits of clothing we choose to wear are not inherently oppressive. Neither bikinis nor burqas oppress women. Women who choose to wear bikinis or burqas are not contributing to their own oppression. What oppresses women is when people see a woman dressed in a bikini and think it's okay to objectify her, or when people see a woman dressed in a burqa and think she mustn't have anything of her own to contribute. Either way, this involves denying that women actually are full and equal human beings with just as much to contribute and fight about as any man, reducing her to her body and ignoring her mind. But that's not women's fault for the clothing they choose to wear. That's the fault of anyone piggish enough to think this way – and, ultimately, to the society that encourages people to think this way.

Although, I don't really want to create a false equivalency between criticising bikinis and criticising the burqa, either. Where I come from, criticising the burqa is never anything more than a racist attack. Indeed, the point of this image is that in establishing the symmetry between the two, we see that in our society, there is no symmetry between them at all. Wearing a bikini is "normal", so really even if you did criticise it, it's harmless – no one'd listen anyway. Criticising burqas is anything but harmless, as it feeds into the atmosphere of Islamophobia that swirls around this country.

Going back to my first paragraph, sure you could argue that these things are symbols of women's oppression, but I think ultimately that's wrong. These items of clothing are not oppressive, but people's reactions to them can be; what's important is to fight those reactions and the society that gives rise to those reactions, not the damn items of clothing! Women have the right to wear whatever they damn well please and not be taken any less seriously because of it, and that is that.

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I’ve noticed that when I write anything from the perspective of a girl it is automatically read as feminist commentary. I don’t really mind but I think it’s interesting. Most of the guys I know relate to my lyrics ‘cause we’re all asking similar questions. They understand what I am striving for, some kind of ‘60’s sexual utopia that doesn’t exist and probably never did. We all have trouble with love because our first love is ourselves. Our generation was taught to be autonomous and it’s driving all of us crazy.


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