Posts tagged equality

Tom Matlack: Victim of feminism 

Tom Matlack, who I’d pretty much forgotten about because, well, because he’s irrelevant, is at it again. And by “at it” I mean, of course, whining about the mean, mean feminists. It’s his thing.

Some history on me and Tom: Back in January, Matlack, who is the co-founder of MRA-lite site, The Good Men Project, wrote a blog post for The Times as part of an incredibly inane “debate” about whether or not makeup “helps or hinders a woman’s self-esteem.” I responded to his post, entitled “Women Should Do What They Want” (oh gee, thanks for the green light on that, Tom!), by saying, basically, that nobody cares about what Tom thinks about what women should or should not do with their faces. Tom got super choked that I would DARE criticize his nice-guy stance but claimed that “personal attacks bounce right off [him]” and that what he’s really upset about are “the attacks on The Good Men Project as a whole,” which are, according to Tom, “unfair and unjustified.” But the thing is that they’re not “unfair and unjustified.” Not in the least.

Tom Matlack is white dude with tons of cash. The Good Men Project is profitable. That he continues to obsess about being victimized by the evil feminists doesn’t make much sense as feminism, and what feminists think about him, very clearly have had little impact on his life (aside from maybe the amount of time he spends instigating and engaging in Twitter wars with feminists). Unless, of course, you place his whines within a Men’s Rights context. Because what Matlack is doing is what all MRAs do — Pretending that white men, who are the single most powerful group of people on the planet (which is different than saying that individual men can’t experience oppression or be victimized — they can — but AS A GROUP white men are not discriminated against on a systemic level) are actually victims of feminism — a movement to end the oppression of women, as a group.

He goes about this in a super-sneaky way; reminding us over and over again that he’s on OUR SIDE you guys! He’s a “good man,” after all. If we would just stop “attacking” poor Tom, the feminist movement would actually be able to get somewhere. He says things like: “I am all for equality. I am all for women’s rights. What I am not for is making this one giant zero sum fight in which men get bashed.” He pulls the classic “we’re just being honest,” card, as though “being honest” is an excuse for being a sexist mansplainy moron. He thinks feminists are getting in the way of feminism, which is something he is an expert on.

Just today, Matlack published another whiny post that basically equates to “Why me? WHY. (Me)” opining, yet again, feminist “attacks” on men, cloaked in this “I really care about women’s liberation, but women are doing it wrong” thing he’s become so fond of.

When a commenter says the following:

If feminists were truly concerned about equality they would not be seeking superiority. There are more challenges that we as men are facing today that females are not. Frankly society is not stepping up to the plate to bat for us. “They just don’t care.”

Tom responds saying he “couldn’t agree more.” These aren’t the words of an ally. This is MRA stuff, plain and simple.

So here’s the thing, Tom. Feminism doesn’t want you. The last thing we need is some rich, white dude explaining to us how REAL liberation should happen. You’ve proven yourself over and over again to be a sexist douche who thinks feminists are bashing all men simply because they call YOU out on your bullshit. YOU are part of the problem. And anyone with two brain cells can see that a man who goes around calling feminists crazy isn’t of any help to the feminist movement.

So here’s my suggestion: Stop talking about feminism. Stop talking about equality. Stop pretending to be on women’s side. You aren’t. You’re on your side. Your opinion on our movement is irrelevant and we keep telling you as much, yet you continue trying to force your opinions about women and “equality” onto the world and then get all butthurt when we tell you, once again, that you aren’t helping. What do you need from us? You’re already making more money than any of us evil feminist bloggers. Do you need attention? Kind of like a spoiled child? LOOK AT ME. ME. ME. Why not just come out, once and for all, as just another MRA who can’t put together a coherent argument to save his life? The “good man” shtick is such a shoddy cover for your men-are-real-victims M.O. and your desperation for relevance is offensive.

The Nordic model is the only model that actually works. ‘Duh,’ says Sweden 

An article was published recently in The Independent looking at the Nordic model in Sweden. The journalist, Joan Smith, took a ride in a squad car to see how a model wherein the buyer is criminalized and the prostitute is decriminalized actually worked. What she found will likely be met, by any progressive, intelligent, feminist person, with a resounding “Duh.”

Of course the cries of “uptight!” “freedom!” “choice!” “meandmydick!” will likely continue, regardless of facts, because North Americans have their hearts set on buying into ridiculous and illogical notions of liberty that imagine sex and SUVs to be some kind of human right. But here’s how it actually works:

Smith and the squad car pull up to a car park at the top of a hill where johns tend to go with prostitutes. She writes:

What happens next is a textbook example of the way Sweden’s law banning the purchase of sex works in practice. The driver of the car, who’s brought a prostituted woman to the island to have sex, is arrested on the spot. He’s given a choice: admit the offense and pay a fine, based on income, or go to court and risk publicity. The woman, who hasn’t broken any law, is offered help from social services if she wants to leave prostitution. Otherwise, she’s allowed to go.

So, dude pays a fine; the woman is offered alternatives without pressure. OPPRESSION!

It’s so obvious it makes your head spin. Some of the most progressive, egalitarian countries in the world have adopted this model and it’s working. Meanwhile, those who’ve opted for legalization or those like Canada and the U.S. who continue to treat prostituted women like criminals while offering them few alternatives, flail.

Julie Bindel points out that the only thing the Dutch government’s 12 year experiment with legalization succeeded in doing was to increase the market. The illusory labour-based approach, put forth by confused lefties, wherein prostitution is imagined to be “a job like any other” hasn’t worked either:

Rather than be given rights in the ‘workplace’, the prostitutes have found the pimps are as brutal as ever. The government-funded union set up to protect them has been shunned by the vast majority of prostitutes, who remain too scared to complain.

Under the “labour” model, assault and rape is no longer violence against women, but “an ‘occupational hazard’, like a stone dropped on a builder’s toe,” Bindel writes. There’s simply no reason for police to charge men for doing something they feel they are legally entitled to do. Without reeducation and training, which is a key aspect of the Nordic model, the police are unlikely to change their attitudes towards marginalized women, prostituted women, and, more generally, with regard to women’s human rights.

Those who argue that prostitution is dangerous due to “stigma” turned out to be wrong too, as Bindel reports: “Only 5 per cent of the women registered for taxation, because no one wants to be known as a whore — however legal it may be.” The stigma remains, as does the exploitation.

In 2009, the police had to shut down a large number of brothels Amsterdam’s red-light districts due to organized crime having taken over.

Under legalization, trafficking increased, organized crime moved in, and women have continued to be abused and degraded. Is this the “liberation” we’re looking for?

Talking about sex work as work doesn’t help women. It doesn’t help women leave the industry, it doesn’t create gender equality, it doesn’t stop the violence, and it doesn’t destigmatize prostitution. Reframing legalization as ending the “stigma” has not only been shown to be untrue, but it distracts us from the reality that violence and inequality doesn’t happen because of stigmatization — it happens because of male power and systemic injustice.

Detective Superintendent Kajsa Wahlberg, Sweden’s national rapporteur on trafficking in human beings, is quoted as saying: “The problem is gender-specific. Men buy women.” Which is why a feminist approach is needed. And, as of yet, the only legislation that is specifically feminist in nature is the Nordic model.

Smith writes that prostituted women who come to Sweden from the Baltic states or Africa, who have sold sex in other countries say “they’re much more likely to be subjected to violence in countries where prostitution has been legalized.”

Men in Sweden, on the other hand, are afraid to commit violence because they know the women they are buying sex from have more power in the situation than they do. They know they will be charged if the woman calls the cops and so they behave better.

Crime statistics show that trafficking has decreased since the Nordic model was enacted in Sweden. Places like Victoria (Australia), where prostitution has been legalized since the 80s, adopted the model in order to “contain the rampant growth of the highly visible brothel and street prostitution trade, eliminate organized crime, to end child prostitution and sex trafficking, and eliminate harmful work practices.

Instead, what’s happened is that “Victoria has created a two-tiered system—a regulated and an unregulated prostitution industry.” There are minimal exit programs for women who want to leave the industry (perhaps a moot point for legalization advocates, as the whole idea of exiting services seems to exist in opposition of the “job like any other” mantra — because what other, just, you know, “jobs” require therapy and exiting services in order to quit? The military, perhaps?), illegal brothels are rampant and trafficking has increased.

These facts fly in the face of the argument that criminalizing buyers will drive the industry underground. It seems that, in fact, legalization encourages the “underground” (illegal) industry. It’s no coincidence that those who wish to operate illegally or as part of a “black market” flock to countries where prostitution is legal.

There is, in fact, zero evidence that shows that criminalizing johns has driven prostitution underground. Under the Nordic model, there’s also absolutely no reason why, if prostitution is “underground” the cops wouldn’t be able to find these industries: “If a sex buyer can find a prostituted woman in a hotel or apartment, the police can do it,” one of the detectives Smith interviews says, “Pimps have to advertise.” Because the police have the resources and a vested interest in charging the exploiters, they have reason (and the support) to look for them.

In South Auckland, NZ, where prostitution has been legal (fully decriminalized, meaning that running a brothel, living off the proceeds of someone else’s prostitution, and street solicitation are all legal — which is what some are advocating for in Canada) since 2003, street prostitution has increased dramatically and recent reports show child prostitution is on the rise. Just like in Victoria and Amsterdam, illegal prostitution has increased.

In contrast, since the Nordic model has been in effect in Sweden since 1999, street prostitution, organized crime, trafficking, and pimping have decreased. The country also has strong social safety nets and exiting programs for women who want to leave the industry.

In a recent debate about the legalization of prostitution, hosted by New Internationalist Magazine, human rights lawyer, Diane Post begins her argument by saying:

Legalized prostitution cannot exist alongside the true equality of women. The idea that one group of women should be available for men’s sexual access is founded on structural inequality by gender, class and race.

As far as equality goes, there’s no argument here and we need to stop pretending there is. Prostitution doesn’t promote the status of women. Societies and countries that have been shown to be progressive, egalitarian, and “sex positive” (like Iceland, a place that has a much more open-minded and “liberal” approach to sex and sexuality than the U.S.) are also societies that have adopted legislation that works towards an eventual end to prostitution, supporting the women who are in it in the meantime, and teaching men that buying sex isn’t acceptable. It’s no strange coincidence that Iceland, which ranked first place in the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report, has also banned strip clubs, is considering a ban on hardcore pornography online, and has adopted the Nordic model.

The argument for the legalization of prostitution is largely about individual rights. But we do, sometimes, have to choose between prioritizing the rights of certain individuals and building an equitable society.

The popular position among some American feminists and progressives is to pretend as though prostitution is simply something open-minded people do “on the side” for kicks. This is to pretend gender, race and poverty don’t factor in. But prostitution isn’t merely a “zoning” issue. It isn’t, either, about fashion. To these people, I point you to commentary from Margriet van der Linden, chief editor of the feminist magazine Opzij, who said, in left-liberal daily De Volkskrant:

The daily practices of prostitution are portrayed as a romantic world full of mistresses with fishnet stockings and jovial laughs who embody the liberal values of the Dutch, and complaints ring out about the spread of narrow-minded bourgeois values. But not a word is said about the current legislation that has been such a disaster and has contributed to the shocking figures according to which approximately seven in ten prostitutes are victims of violence.

Prostitution hurts some individual women and benefits some individual men. But it is also part of, as lawyer, Gunilla Ekberg says, “a structure reflecting and maintaining inequality between men and women.”

Post points out that “the answer to poor jobs, low pay and harsh working conditions for women is not to consign them to a lifetime of abuse.”

“There is no alternative,” is, after all, what conservative British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher said. The response from the left has always been that, indeed, there is an alternative, and we’re going to fight for it.

Free speech in Pornland 

No surprise here. The adult entertainment industry has followed through on their promise to file a suit against Los Angeles County, challenging Measure B, which passed in November, mandating condom-use on porn sets in L.A.

The suit, filed Thursday at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of Vivid Entertainment and performers Kayden Kross and Logan Pierce, states that porn companies have the right to freedom of expression and speech, which includes the right to film sex acts without a condom. (via Huffington Post)

Free speech, in the porn industry, has always had less to do with freedom and more to do with profit, male orgasms, and also profit. It is an industry that cares little about people’s actual lives (unless the life in question is a penis). That they’ve extended their warped understand of mastubatory material as ‘free speech’ to challenge a law that is intended to protect performers from STDs is unsurprising, but ridiculous, of course.

Pornography has long been defended based on libertarian ideals that sees freedom as something that only exists on an individual basis. “Freedom = My right to shoot you/fuck you/own you/use you” stands in the minds of those who are too lazy or stupid or selfish to understand that negative liberty is regressive rather than progressive.

Last year, when this debate began, I wrote that the whole thing struck me as a faux-progressive derail – as though condom-use would make the porn industry ‘safe’ and therefore ethical. While I would agree that generally, advocating for condom-use on porn sets is a good thing (Gail Dines outlines why this kind of legislation is important, very well in two articles she wrote for The Guardian), my interest in writing about Measure B and the suit filed by Vivid Entertainment is not to argue for or against condom-use on porn shoots. My aim is to point out the ways in which liberals and those who would consider themselves to be or present themselves as otherwise progressive people, are making arguments that are in opposition to the creation of a free and equitable society, and have been suckered by libertarian language that, in fact, works against our collective liberation.

Measure B has been opposed by many in the industry based on arguments such as:the porn industry will leave L.A. and film elsewherethe porn industry might lose money,condom-use interrupts the ‘fantasy’ aspect of pornthe porn industry might lose money, andlaws such as these interfere with the rights of individuals to do what they want, whenever they wantthe porn industry might lose money.

It’s shocking and depressing to see performers go to bat for their billionaire bosses — it’s like watching the lower class attack organized labour on account of some deluded, neoliberal understanding of freedom that imagines the free market and privatization will somehow, some day, work in their favour.

But this is what happens when we understand freedom in individualistic terms.

The porn industry has done a great job of selling this idea that pornography equals freedom of speech and have convinced many performers to toe the party line. People who understand censorship as necessarily conservative and oppressive hear sex industry advocates say the words ‘freedom of speech’ and, without thinking, leap to their defense (for the record, almost everyone supports censorship in one way or another, otherwise child pornography would be legal).

So we have folks arguing that Measure B is  ’paternalistic‘ (because grown-ups can exploit themselves if they feel like it, goddamit!).

We also have folks arguing that porn is fantasy and that what people see onscreen has no impact on our real lives (you know, like how advertising and product placement has no real impact on people’s lives and their choices as consumers). Hey, if kids learn that condoms aren’t sexy and that women loooooove double penetration and gang bangs, that’s their problem.

And then, of course, there’s the argument that the ‘adult entertainment industry’ will have to go elsewhere in order to be profitable, leaving L.A. based porn performers out of work. You know,  just like how we should work against organized labour because unions force corporations into bankruptcy (big business is the real victim here, folks!) which, in turn, causes the working class to lose shitty, exploitative, jobs that keep us exhausted, poor, powerless, and in debt.

Tricky, tricky. It’s incredible how many fall into this trap.

What it comes down to is that all defenses of the porn industry are based the concept of negative liberty, which can be easily translated to mean: “Me, me, me. My money. My gun. My property. Also, my dick. Me.” Anything that infringes on me/my money/my dick counts as an attack on freedom in Pornland. We are manipulated into believing that laws, by nature, are condescending and necessarily infringe on our rights as individuals.

While it’s pretty obvious why those who run the multi-billion dollar porn industry would oppose a law of this nature, the fact that porn performers themselves would speak out against the measure seems a little more surprising. Why reinforce the fantasy that condomless sex is the sexiest sex? Why endanger the health and lives of people working in the industry even further than they already are? We can see the ways in which people have been impacted by libertarian/neoliberal discourse to the detriment of even their own lives.

Porn actor, James Deen, who is doing the good work of opposing even the semblance of safe sex, is quoted as saying that “he was “disappointed” that sex workers were being “continually bullied and used by others.” It wasn’t his wealthy bosses that he was talking about. It’s evil organizations like the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (the group who led the campaign to mandate condom-use on porn sets) who are, apparently, intent on ‘bullying’ and ‘using’ porn performers.

And it’s not just Deen who opposed the passage of Measure B. Porn star, Jessica Drake spoke out against the bill saying: “As a performer, and also as a woman, I don’t like the idea of someone telling me what I have to do with my body.

This is not a progressive understanding of liberty, though the pro-sex feminists/libertarians/porn industry would have us believe that they are the true freedom fighters. Considering the constant accusations that feminists who oppose the sex industry are ‘in bed with the right’, it’s odd that the folks who oppose Measure B seem only to understand freedom in a completely individualistic and capitalist sense. As Dines pointed out in The Guardian:

Echoing the usual ideology of the right wing of the Republican party, the anti-Measure B campaign had three main purposes: to promote the economic benefits of the sector to the regional economy; to deny a need for governmental regulation; and to encourage workers to make their own choices, however dangerous or exploitative the conditions.

It’s also worth noting that these are the very same arguments made by those who advocate for the decriminalization of pimps and johns. Critics of prostitution are accused of meddling with jobs, free will, and of encouraging repressive, paternalistic laws which interfere with individual women’s ‘choice’ to sell sex, as well as men’s individual ‘right’ to buy it.

Dines also notes that Diane Duke, the executive director of the Free Speech Coalition (a porn industry lobby group) “is on record as saying that Measure B was not about “performer health and safety”, but rather about “government regulating what happens between consenting adults”. Sounds familiar?

“Consenting adults”: the magic phrase that ends every conversation.

“Consenting adults” erases the social conditioning that teaches women their bodies are to be looked at.

“Consenting adults” erases poverty and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

“Consenting adults” erases the gendered nature of poverty and the particular ways in which women are impacted by poverty (which, in turn, often leads women into the sex industry).

“Consenting adults” erases the growing inaccessibility of post-secondary education and the insane levels of debt students are forced to acquire in order to attend university in North America (more and more we are hearing about women turning to the sex industry to support their educations).

“Consenting adults” erases male violence and sexual abuse (which is sexualized in porn and is part of the history of many women in the industry).

“Consenting adults” erases all circumstances and context that might lead women into the sex industry and refuses to address inequity and systemic oppression.

When you hear the words ‘free speech’ and ‘consenting adults’ being used by owners of corporations that make billions off of objectifying and degrading women, approach with caution.

When we’re actively opposing condom use because we’re afraid the porn industry might lose money, it’s time to admit that these arguments are not progressive and don’t promote freedom, liberty, or justice for anyone but those who are too stupid or selfish to care.