Posts tagged misogyny
Fans, players, and the media like objectifying women. Sexism is a-ok as far as they’re concerned. Male supremacy is all part of the game. And when the entire league accepts or even perpetuates misogyny and violence against women, it’s unsurprising that it goes unaddressed when owners turn out to be sexists. What’s Kobe going to say? “I couldn’t play for him… because he treats women like objects?” Somehow I doubt it.
Is there nothing ironic in demanding that women work for free? Lest they be lambasted? Because women’s work remains underpaid or unpaid today, for the record. And it is unacceptable to expect women to produce work for free because they are feminist. We should be advocating for our sisters to be paid for the work they do. Not tearing them apart for scraping by in what is an extremely difficult, unstable, and unlucrative industry.

My feminism will reject misogynistic screeds, or it will be bullshit 

A number of feminist writers, myself included, were attacked and defamed online (yet again) in an abhorrently hateful and misogynist diatribe today. Many women spoke out, naming the vitriolic words as plain sexist abuse, ad hominem attacks, professional jealousy, and manipulation.

We were called “media whores” and “turds” who had no ethics, humanity, or compassion (an ironic accusation when stated within a completely unethical post maligning female writers and journalists, dehumanizing them, and calling them a bunch of hateful, sexist names). We were accused of selling out and of the crime of *gasp* being paid for some our work.

The author writes:

"I hate you all Glosswitches, booblediboops [sic], Laurie Pennys, Louise Penningtons, Julie Bindels, Megan Murphys [sic], Michelle Goldbergs and your ilk. The B Classes of white feminism fighting tooth and nail for a place at the table. At our expense. With your writing commissions, the coins tossed in your direction by the men who own the media you so desperately want to be part of."

Not all of the women she lists are paid writers or journalists, for starters, but she the author seems to have a completely deluded understanding of how much money one makes doing freelance writing (hint: not very much!). Beyond that, it is pretty appalling to attack women for being paid for their work. Is that not the very opposite of what we are fighting for?

That journalists and writers (and, more generally, everyone) be paid for their work??

When Sarah Kendzior, who has written at length about the unethical practice of hiring unpaid interns, supports an abhorrently misogynist piece that attacks women for daring to have and publish opinions, ideas, and arguments publicly, and to (sometimes) be (minimally) compensated for the work they do, it is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to call a vicious, unfounded, hateful, slanderous attack, “a powerful critique.” It is unacceptable for progressive and/or feminist writers to encourage and celebrate this kind of behaviour. No excuses.

Does getting paid to write only count as “selling out” or “whoring” if the writer says things we don’t agree with? Or is it just if the writers are women? What are the rules, here?

To be clear (though it shouldn’t have to be said), this is not about “righteous anger” nor is it about people “speaking out” nor is it about “critique.” There is NO critique here. There are no politics here. These are sexist, unethical, manipulative attacks and I am sick to death of fellow progressives or feminists defending them. This is indefensible.

When, all in one breath, one states their deep hatred towards women, calling them “pieces of shit” and “whores,” and in the next assures us that, no, they don’t hate the abusive white man who ripped apart the feminist community — causing us us all to viciously attack our sisters in an effort to see which terrible feminist was most to blame for the abusive, sociopathic, manipulative behaviour of a man (for fuck’s sake) and tear her from limb to limb — the illusion that this kind of attack is politically justifiable or is happening in the name of progress, feminism, or freedom, ceases to be credible.

She writes:

"Contrary to popular belief, I do not hate Hugo Schwyzer, though. I feel deeply sad for him. Sad at the wasted potential of a man who obviously had the capacity to write and communicate and network and connect with people but became haunted by his own mental health issues and addictions. But I do not hate him. Sure, addicts make a choice to act on their addictions but how many choices do we have when there is a crowd that benefits from enabling the addict? What choices are out there when so many are fighting for the coins thrown at them to enable the addict, to give him rope, to let him hang, to push him further for page clicks and outrage. Like Jessica Coen, among many others, did for him. His actions are his alone but there is a point when people marred by mental health are not always in control of those actions. I can empathize with that. I would never be his friend. I would never share a drink with him. I don’t want him writing about anything that implies getting coins at our expense like his enablers do. But I do not wish him bad. If anything, I hope he can find peace."

Sure, he’s only human — the rest of us “whores” deserve nothing but hate and vitriol.

I am tired of this shit. And I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed that this is what people see when they look at feminist “discourse” online — this woman-hating nightmare. This toxic pit of mean girls-style screed – disagreement used as defense for silencing and verbal abuse. I am appalled that fellow journalists and progressives would support this behaviour and I am amazed to the point of almost finding it funny that people are still desperately trying to frame this behaviour as purposeful or political in any way.

And if people are supporting this behaviour out of fear, it’s time to look at that. Because if you are afraid and staying silent because of it, something is wrong. Because, as the ever-on point Glosswitch wrote, “my feminism is not about being afraid.” Because you know who rules and controls and silences women based on fear? Abusive men. Met any? Recognize that feeling of walking on eggshells, never quite sure when you will become the target of an attack? Yeah. That’s what the patriarchy does. It forces us to live in fear and stay silent because of it. It teaches us to take up as little space as possible in the hope that we will go unnoticed and, therefore, safe from attack. This shouldn’t be the goal of feminism.

Both Glosswitch and I have said it before and who knows how many more times and how many more of us will need to say it again, but if your activism is focused on vicious, concerted efforts to silence women, you’re not doing feminism, you’re doing misogyny. And I promise you — I fucking guarantee you this — supporting bullies won’t protect you. It will not save you from being bullied yourself. Because some day you’ll step out of line and become the target yourself.

And if people are supporting this behaviour out of professional jealousy they may want to think about that as well. If you had a writing job would it be ok for others to attack you in this way? Simply for having a job? Would you be a sellout and a “whore” because you were paid for your work? Would you deserve the abuse hurled at you? Or would you be safe, somehow? Would you be the magical unicorn woman who writes about feminism — who writes that which is unpopular — who challenges the status quo — and isn’t subjected to abuse and wasn’t made to believe you didn’t deserve to either speak or be compensated for your work? I think you know the answer…

Is there nothing ironic in demanding that women work for free? Lest they be lambasted? Because women’s work remains underpaid or unpaid today, for the record. And it is unacceptable to expect women to produce work for free because they are feminist. We should be advocating for our sisters to be paid for the work they do. Not tearing them apart for scraping by in what is an extremely difficult, unstable, and unlucrative industry.

Time to stop fooling yourselves. This is not politics. This is a sick, sexist, joke.

This is not politics, no. This, in the words of Flavia Dzodan herself, is bullshit.

Woman-hating by any other name... 

There’s this fun thing we’ve been talking about for months and years and decades now, and despite continued conversations and critiques of this behaviour, it rages on… We call it trashing or tearing down or sometimes we call it a witch hunt. And it seems particularly popular in feminist circles. It’s not only a successful way to silence women, but the behaviour is sure to go unchallenged by the masses. (Misogyny never goes out of style!)

If you’ve been the focus of said trashing, you’re likely familiar with the ways in which others readily and willfully misrepresent your words, thoughts, arguments, and life in order to silence you and beat you (virtually, verbally, metaphorically) into submission. An odd preoccupation for the “feminist” movement, to be sure.

Feminist blogger, Glosswitch wrote a post about some of these issues recently, after a tweet of hers was twisted around into an excuse to intimidate and bully her, because, SURPRISE! It’s the internet and it’s de rigeur to hate women on the internet. (The internet isn’t very original).

I do hope you’ll read the post in its entirety (no skimming) because, while I will quote her liberally here, I’m not sure I will quite do her arguments justice.

Glosswitch gets at a lot of key issues at play regarding the toxicity that exists in online feminism, but what it comes down to, it seems, is woman-hating:

“Right now I’m done with the female social code that commands me to express shame at myself, assume good faith in cruel people and deny my own qualities just so that my presence isn’t too disruptive.”

Beyoncé brought the words of Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to the masses in her track, ***Flawless, and I think those words are apt: “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls ‘You can have ambition, but not too much’.”

Indeed, women are supposed to take up as little space as possible — girls learn not to speak up in the classroom, we learn to literally shrink ourselves, physically, by dieting and fetishizing thinness, we are forced to take up as little space as possible on public transit and, more generally, in public spaces (we are even warned to stay out of public places, lest we be assaulted). We’re not supposed to speak up, stand out, say what we really think, or be proud of our accomplishments or success — in fact, we aren’t supposed to be successful and, if we are, we should feel as though we don’t deserve it and know we will be punished for it either way. To be lady-like is to speak without certainty or to not speak at all. So I can’t help but wonder why it’s become acceptable, among certain feminist circles, to tell one another to shut the fuck up or to focus our efforts on silencing other women.

Glosswitch points to a trend in certain feminist circles that’s bothered me for some time. It seems as though we are expected to divulge every single horrific trauma we’ve experienced, every personal moment of oppression or abuse, every single problem/illness/addiction/struggle we might have faced or currently be facing, publicly and via bullhorn, before we are acknowledged as credible or worthy of a voice. Without this outpouring of every-single-horror it is assumed we’ve experienced nothing but diamonds and champagne. Do I need to tattoo “working-class” on my forehead in order to avoid being called “rich” or “classist?” Because I don’t want to. Women shouldn’t have to tell the entire world every gory detail of their stories in order to have a voice. Many women are not in a position to do this, even if they wanted to. (Consider that many abused women, for example, fear for their lives and, as a result, could never speak publicly about their experiences.) Glosswitch points out that, when we don’t engage in this practice, we are seen as deserving of abuse and assumed to have had the privilege of avoiding experiences that few women been lucky enough to avoid. Do we truly believe every woman should divulge her struggles with addiction, poverty, mental illness, or assault in order to be able to speak? Or her history as an abused or prostituted woman? Placing this demand on women by devaluing their voices and experiences should they choose not to divulge, is unacceptable.

Glosswitch notes:

“I think, again, this is related to misogyny and visibility and to the idea of women such as me, who don’t succumb to the pressure to create a tragic narrative out of their own twitter bio, as shameless interlopers who deserve a kicking.”

She notices, as I have, the way certain feminists have used this routine as a way to privilege their voices and position themselves as “better” or more deserving of a platform than other feminists:

"I think a skim through the twitter bios of a number of white feminists who consider themselves “more aware” than so-called media feminists makes the continuation of this misogynist impulse glaringly obvious. I don’t list my depression, my mental health history, my sexual history, my precise attitude towards gender, my family background in my bio. But I could. I know the lingo I’d use. It would make me more than ‘just’ a woman, but that’s why I don’t do it. Being a woman who defines herself by her actions and words should be enough."

In reality, this is silencing. And it’s also misogynist. To silence and shame and vilify other women in order to move your career forward or to build a platform is not a particularly feminist behaviour. Neither is telling a woman she has no right to speak. Neither is bullying and harassing women who do dare to speak. Throwing women under the bus in order to shield yourself from misogyny or to get cookies is cowardly. And believe me, treating other feminists as though they should be perfect people (said “perfect” behaviour is decided by a few, mind you) will only make you fearful, as you will become too scared to say anything of consequence, lest someone treat you in the same way you have behaved towards others. Women don’t need to feel more ashamed or more afraid to speak up than they already do. They don’t need to be told to shut the fuck up. That internalized monologue already exists within us and we fight it every day.

Glosswitch points out that this particular form of woman-hating is often represented as educational, as an exercise in “privilege-checking”:

"We don’t allow [feminists] mistakes. We are grossly, rampantly misogynist about them but this form of misogyny is supposed to be corrective, humiliating the privilege out of them."

She points out that there is a long tradition of punishing women who get out of line and who refuse to go along with the status quo and notes that this punishment is reserved for women, not men:

"It’s feminists who have the nerve to put honesty before radical posturing who are unsettling. Those who genuinely claim space, which is then written off as “privilege” (because what is a woman doing there?). Such women might actually make a difference. So into the bridle they go."

The “bridle” she refers to is a contraption used centuries ago to punish women deemed “rude,” “riotous,” or “troublesome” — attributes that are commonly and historically ascribed to feminists.

There’s an air of superiority from those who busily seek to ruin and silence other feminists: “We’re doing it right; she’s doing it wrong.” By pointing our fingers elsewhere we keep ourselves safe from attack. It seems pretty clear, though, which white feminists are using valuable ideas like intersectionality to advance their own careers and gain popularity, without an ounce of interest in movements towards ending oppression and with little understanding of structural inequality.

"As a white feminist, I would say it is easier – much, much easier – to play along with this. You get to enjoy the privilege of being white and appear superior to the “mere” white feminists who just don’t “get it”. There’s an absurdly careerist edge to this. If you view feminism not as a movement for social change, but as the route to a media career you’ve got to admit it’s a competitive arena. Using other people to play at being the best white intersectional feminist has been seen by some as a gap in the market. Donning the metaphorical tin hat to shout down ‘bad’ peers is a USP. When you boil it down, such “feminists” are arch capitalists, seeking to commodify not just feminism but the exclusion and lived experience of others. It is emotionally manipulative and disgracefully self-serving, but it doesn’t involve laying yourself on the line. You get to be a privileged white woman without looking like one."

Rather than working against privilege, though, this tearing down and this vilification of other-feminists-not-you! reinforces it, Glosswitch argues:

"It is easy but morally untenable, insofar as it uses ideas of intersecting oppressions, not to offer context and understanding, but to reinforce privilege by the back door and to silence dissent. I think of it as a form of privilege laundering. I think it is an example of white people exploiting the narratives of women of colour and it sucks."

Attacking women in order to get cookies is a pretty low form of feminism. There are few who will challenge the sport of misogyny. I see feminists throwing women under the bus in order to ally with more powerful liberal white men all too often, under the guise of “intersectionality” and I wonder if they see how deeply misguided they are in their imagined work towards liberation. (Allying with men who work to silence and slander women? You’re doing it wrong.) But maybe it’s not about female liberation after all… maybe it’s just about the cookies…

"But now I am on the other side of that imaginary, exploitative privilege line, I see other benefits to approaching feminism not as liberation, but as a self-interested cookie hunt. I didn’t appreciate at the time how much I shielded myself from misogyny by putting the “bad” white feminists out in front."

It’s just too easy. We all know, full well, that we will receive endless support if we hate on feminists. “Virulent hatred of feminists? We got you.” – The internet. It doesn’t make you brave, it makes you boring.

Let me be clear (not that I think my words won’t be ignored and manipulated as they so often are, despite how clear I am) and say that I am not discouraging critique and difficult conversations. But shaming, silencing, manipulation, defamation and vilification, combined with faux-progressive white-lady (of course the white bros love to do this too, don’t forget) posturing, does not encourage either critique or conversation.

I can’t imagine this summary quite articulates the arguments Glosswitch puts forth, but her righteous anger towards many of the “Twitter feminists” who pat themselves on the backs for being “better” than whomever is Twitter’s current punching bag, felt justified. “How dare you have a platform!” it says, “How dare you speak with confidence.” “How dare you speak about your life and your experiences.” “You clearly haven’t learned how to properly perform femininity and you will be punished.”

"None of you have the right to tell me what my own words mean, to tell me what my thoughts are, to reconstruct my words and reality without my consent. None of you have the right to damage my mental health, make me doubt my capacity to think, to make me feel unable to trust anyone because of the whispering and distortion that follows. None of you have the right to do this just because I’m a feminist and, if flawed, nonetheless a bloody good one too. None of you has the right to expect perfection from me. None of you have the right to place the scold’s bridle on me, to shame and silence me because I don’t fit in with your hackneyed, conservative misreading of revolution."

In our desperation, we’re looking to escape misogyny by participating in it. We all know that trashing feminists will get you far, but know how transparent and destructive this behaviour is. Know that attacking other women is really about your privilege as it works to protect you from the wrath of a culture that abhors and punishes women who step out of line.

Glosswitch coined the term “misogofeminists” to describe “women (and allies) whose primary form of feminist activism is trashing other women.” And along those lines I’d like to point out what should be obvious, but seems not to be these days: if your “activism” consists primarily of witch hunts and concerted, vicious efforts to silence women, you are doing misogyny, not feminism.

Liberals want more lies in ‘Lovelace’ 

Lovelace was hard to watch. It was hard to be reminded that there was a time when women couldn’t legally testify against their husbands. It was hard to watch a woman trying to escape from an abusive man, but have nowhere to go. It was hard to watch yet another woman’s trust and love for a man be repaid with hatred and violence. But it felt refreshing to see Hollywood deal with the sex industry in a way that didn’t make light of, glorify, or sexualize women’s experiences in it. wrote: “cinematic justice has never been so bittersweet.”

Deep Throat holds a significant place in pop culture, pinpointing the beginnings of porn culture. It was seen as fun, sexy entertainment then and is seen more as kitsch today — continuing to be, more often, the butt of a joke rather than a reminder of the brutal reality that is misogyny.

Today the project of mainstreaming pornography that began back in the 70s is complete. Hipster culture loves vintage porn. We’ve brought it back via burlesque and pin-ups, as well as in fashion photography. Our larger cultural attitude towards porn is that it’s an ordinary part of life. Objectification is something fun we do at parties, porn is decorative — something we put up on walls or play in the background at parties. It’s something that brave, open-minded, sexually liberal women do. Feminism had something going there for a while in a solid critique of pornography during the 80s (galvanized, in part, by the publication of Linda’s memoir, Ordeal). But we lost the plot on that one, handing porn over to liberals, capitalists, and pop culture.

Feminism has come a long way and so has porn culture. No longer relegated to dark theatres, no longer a subculture or something that’s purely masturbatory — it’s a look.

We’ve all seen enough American Apparel ads to know that grainy, soft core porn style that’s supposed to remind us of the good old days before breast implants and hairless crotches, as though it’s more ethical to objectify women with real breasts. We don’t see it as sexism, we see it as a throwback. Or art. Or irony. Or something.

Don't Google "Terry Richardson porn." I did and it was disgusting. Just trust me on this one.

But hair or no hair, real or fake breasts, the only thing that’s really changed since the 70s, when Deep Throat came out, is that porn has successfully woven it’s way into our everyday lives. It’s our fashion, our entertainment, our celebrity culture, it’s in the bars and at the parties we go to. That the foundation for our current reality was built, in part, on the abuse and exploitation of this one woman, Linda Lovelace, is not insignificant.

Gang rape is in this year.

Linda Lovelace was called the poster girl for the sexual revolution, if that tells you anything about the sexual revolution… Women really got screwed on that one (pun acknowledged). Informed of our liberation, we became free to become the public, rather than just private, sexual playthings of men. What was different now that we were “liberated” was that we had to like it. We had to be turned on by our own objectification and enjoy whatever male culture deemed sexy. Our own “liberation” was used against us, to shame us into subordination — albeit with smiles on our faces, moaning and groaning in feigned ecstasy.

Most media outlets covered the film with an appropriate level disgust for and critique of the reality of Deep Throat, the popularization of which turned out to be, essentially, a celebration of abuse and exploitation. “This is the Linda that the world didn’t see and who, even as her body became a public spectacle, nursed her wounds in private,” reads a review in The New York Times. How often do male fantasies come at the expense of women’s lives?

In The Week, Monika Bartyzel argues that Lovelace failed to capture the extent of the abuse inflicted on Linda, saying that the directors “frame Chuck and Linda as some pair of doomed, star-crossed lovers by ending on the note that Chuck died exactly three months after Linda on July 22, 2002.” Bartyzel points out that Chuck began abusing Linda and prostituting her even before they were married, though the film shows the abuse beginning on their wedding night when he rapes her. As grim and as upsetting as it was to watch the film, the reality was actually much worse.

Stoltenberg points this out as well, saying:

The movie makers left out the worst of what was done to Linda, which was abominable and included forced bestiality. Had they not, I have no doubt, Lovelace would have been not only unreleasable but unwatchable.

Even the most tepid version of reality is almost unbearable.

Gloria Steinem, who befriended and supported Linda when she came out about the abuse and wrote the article, “The Real Linda Lovelace,” for Ms. Magazine in 1980, said something similar after attending a screening of the film — that Linda’s life with Traynor and in porn was much more violent than Lovelace let on.

Yet liberals and even some feminists are unsatisfied with that truth. Desperately clinging to the “empowerment” narrative sold to them first by the porn-makers themselves, back in the 70s, and again by third wave feminism today, they continue the victim-blaming that began so many decades ago, questioning Linda’s credibility and asking why she returned to the industry years later. (Newsflash: she needed the money.) They say, over and over again, that Linda eventually rejected the anti-porn movement years later, as though that somehow compares to or negates the abuse and exploitation she experienced in the industry.

In a rather convoluted review at Art Forum, writer Sarah Nicole Prickett accuses the film of painting Linda as a victim (well, I’m afraid she was), calling it “pro-family, anti-porn-industry propaganda.” Angry at the lack of nuance and the perpetuation of simplistic tropes, Prickett sees the film as, “at surface, a morality play” which falls back on the “happy hooker/sad hooker dualism.”

Prickett’s main source of frustration seems to be that the filmmakers painted Linda as a “good girl.”

In 1972, Linda found millions of Americans willing to think any woman would believe that her clitoris was in her throat, and in 1980 she entered a world ready to accept that a woman regretted, without complexity, every sex act she’d ever committed. But this year—what gives? Must a heroine still be proven innocent?

A piece in The Atlantic reminds us that things are oh so different in today’s porn industry — full of fairy dust and ponies. Whatever you do, make Linda’s story the exception, not the rule, the writer warns us.

Somehow, no matter how many tales of abuse and exploitation we hear, no matter what we actually see in the world around us, we are loathe to point the finger at the perpetrator.

The liberals are angry, no doubt. But not at the gang rapes or the beatings inflicted. Rather they’re mad that Linda wasn’t the “sexual revolutionary” society wanted her to be. Mad that she wasn’t the “happy hooker” or the “carefree if drug-addicted superfreak” that would be so much more palatable (and more titillating) on screen.

We’ve learned to look for nuance at the expense of truth. Grey areas and character flaws don’t alter reality to the point where we can’t say that which is glaringly obvious. We remain so uncomfortable with the victimization of women that we look away — pointing towards Andrea Dworkin and vilifying Catharine MacKinnon, women who supported Linda and fought tirelessly against male violence. Whether or not Linda remained a staunch anti-porn campaigner for life doesn’t change her history in porn and her experiences at the hands of abusive men in her life.

Feminism is an easier target, to be sure. And perhaps if you silence the voices pointing out oppression, it will cease to be a reality for you. Of course the privilege of ignorance will never save those who bear the brunt of our collective fantasy.

Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke: Using their power to keep women down, down, down (NSFW) 

For people with so much money, you’d think they could come up with something a little more creative, no? Justin Timberlake’s new video for “Tunnel Vision” is appallingly boring and blatantly sexist, reminding us, once again, that misogyny has gone, and is going nowhere but up.

It’s difficult for me to express how much I hate this video. Are we literally moving backwards in this movement? Because between this and Robin Thicke’s latest festival of woman-hating, my feeling that we’re losing ground in many areas of the feminist movement is only solidifying.

What is it that people aren’t getting, here? These dudes are literally flaunting the fact that they can get away with whatever kind of sexist fuckery they want, and will continue to be revered, celebrated, adored, and rewarded for treating women like fucking decorations. I mean, are these dudes any different from pornographers at this point? In creating these videos, they’re successfully making millions off of the bodies of women.

Is this liberalism? Sexual liberation? Art? WHY doesn’t anyone give a shit about women anymore? WHERE THE FUCK IS THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT?

And not only are these videos completely, overtly, unapologetically sexist, but they’re lazy as fuck. Timberlake’s entire video is basically shots of him (clothed) alternated with shots of writhing, naked women.

I honestly feel sorry for the women in these videos. And even more sad that these dudes get laid.

It’s days like these where I’m at a loss to understand why women aren’t joining the feminist movement in droves.

Why doesn’t anyone talk about unionizing arms manufacturers? On the idea of sex worker unions 

No one proposes ending war by unionizing arms manufacturers. Proposing to end violence against women in the sex trade by unionizing them is likewise untenable. The best way to end violence against women in the sex trade is still to end the sex trade. The unionization strategy is a reformist position – and the position that we would like to live in a world where there is no such thing as prostitution, strip clubs, pornography, while it might seem fantastical, is a revolutionary position and the correct line to have for a leftist who calls herself a feminist. It’s not moralistic hand-wringing to criticize the base assumptions of the military industrial complex; why then, is it just my “personal baggage” speaking when I criticize the sex trade?

First, we should look at the conditions in which women in the sex trade live, and ask ourselves if these conditions could be alleviated by unionization:

Seventy percent of women in prostitution in San Francisco, California were raped (Silbert & Pines, 1982). A study in Portland, Oregon found that prostituted women were raped on average once a week (Hunter, 1994). Eighty-five percent of women in Minneapolis, Minnesota had been raped in prostitution (Parriott, 1994). Ninety-four percent of those in street prostitution experienced sexual assault and 75% were raped by one or more johns (Miller, 1995). In the Netherlands (where prostitution is legal) 60% of prostituted women suffered physical assaults, 70% experienced verbal threats of assault, 40% experienced sexual violence and 40% were forced into prostitution and/or sexual abuse by acquaintances (Vanwesenbeeck, et al. 1995, 1994)… The prevalence of PTSD among prostituted women from 5 countries was 67% (Farley et. al. 1998), which is the same range as that of combat veterans (Weathers et. al. 1993).

From Farley et. al.  (2003) “Prostitution in Nine Countries”

Is this staggering violence a result of lack of unionization? Let’s see what the International Union of Sex Workers is fighting for:

All workers including sex workers have the right to:

  • full protection of all existing laws, regardless of the context and without discrimination. These include all laws relating to harassment, violence, threats, intimidation, health and safety and theft.

  • access the full range of employment, contract and property laws.

  • participate in and leave the sex industry without stigma

  • full and voluntary access to non-discriminatory health checks and medical advice

Here is where we begin to be mired in questions, a case by case judgment of “good” vs. “bad” prostitution. What defines coercion? What defines trafficking? What defines abuse? What defines empowerment? Certainly, the assumption of the IUSW is that the sex industry is a normal, neutral industry wherein women happen to be subject to incredible amounts of violence and poverty, where nearly half (47%) are under the age of 18 when they begin working. The idea of the IUSW and other unionists is that the trade is not the focus – the focus, as we so often find it when discussing sex work, is on the women themselves.

Unions often define themselves by their relationship with management – with the “boss” -  but for sex worker unions this is hardly ever the case. As the women are primarily seen as independent contractors for the sake of analysis, the john and pimps are left out of the picture. The culture surrounding the sex trade is not up for analysis, either. It is a neutral, unchanging constant.

The boss is the john, and to take action against the john or the culture that encourages him is to shut down business. Instead, the union is supposed to either challenge the state (to legalize prostitution) or to perform the functions of the state (provide protection, legal counseling, health services). Yet, these are reformist measures that simplyserve to react to the conditions women live in, rather than challenging the very conditions themselves. Lest we forget: women are not raped and abused because of a lack of state regulation (or too much state regulation), they are raped and abused because the john, pimp and cop decide to do so, and exist within a system that shelters them from consequence.

Within the realm of the normalized sex trade, rape and abuse are no longer crimes against the person, but rather occupational hazards. In the blog, “Tits and Sass”, two articles underscore this quite well. The first, about rape, is written from the perspective that “unwanted sex” is still consensual when the woman sees material gain from the process. This agrees with studies of john behavior and attitudes, wherein a full quarter believe that the very concept of raping a prostitute is “ridiculous.”

 It’s rare that I give authentic “enthusiastic consent” while I’m working. And that’s how I prefer it.

“Enthusiastic consent” was conceived in an effort to eradicate the so-called gray areas of sexual assault, so it’s hard to talk about without also talking about rape. While I appreciate the centering of desire and consent, it wouldn’t hold that every sexual encounter taking place without the enthusiastic consent of both parties is rape… But I still turn over plenty of work-related questions in my head: what does it mean for a man to keep paying to have sex with a woman who doesn’t give signs of enjoying it?

Another article, entitled “On Stripper Burnout” advises women who are tired of the verbal abuse that goes with stripping to buy new clothes, look at photos of money to boost morale, eat sweets, or work for a cruel booking agent as “fear can be a great motivator.” There is no advice here on leaving the sex trade – emotional, verbal and physical abuse in the normalized world of pro-sex work advocates becomes a grey zone, where the woman’s personal attitude is what determines the difference between occupational hazards and something that might contribute to PTSD – putting the onus of responsibility on the woman rather than on the john.

The practical side of unionization brings us back to the current, atomized-view of sex work in general. It is a localized solutionwhich does nothing to address a global problem.Questions arise: Who do you bargain with? How do we unionize all women? If a woman was in the sex trade and did not belong to a union, would this be her choice? Are johns supposed to solicit union prostitutes out of a sense of guilt, a la consumer activism (fair trade hooking?). Do we really expect johns to spontaneously grow a conscience when they are told women are for sale and it’s okay to buy them? When it comes to women in pornography, the average career tenure is quoted in several sources at being between five months and three and a half years – how then, to unionize these women?  Same with prostitutes, who on average enter the trade when they are underage – how to unionize these women? What about pimps and madams, pornographers and mobsters – are they allowed in these unions?

Any leftist worth their red will agree that punishing women is the most counter-productive way to handle prostitution or sex work. Yet unions stop short at criticizing johns who, on the whole, generally acknowledge that women in prostitution experience homelessness, substance abuse and physical and emotional degradation. Johns know, on average, that women enter into it when they are underage and against their will. They buy sex anyway. Unionizing women will not end trafficking, will not end violent deaths – it simply turns what is a societal problem into an organizational problem. Like most unions as they exist under capitalism, a sex-worker’s union’s primary purpose is to keep the more politically-minded in line with the management. We should look elsewhere for solutions that liberate women.


Taryn Fivek is a writer in New York City.

No, being ‘kinky’ does not grant you minority status 

You’ve likely heard about the ‘cannibal cop‘ by now. He was a New York police officer whose wife discovered a website open on his computer displaying a photograph of a dead girl. The officer, Gilberto Valle, had been visiting a ‘fetish sites’ (because murdering women is a ‘fetish’ donchaknow) which “show[ed] women in various stages of forced duress, including one that offered images of women who did not survive.“  There was a cannibalism element to his ‘fetish’ and “the FBI analysis of Valle’s laptop yielded a video of a naked woman hanging over an open flame and screaming in agony.”

The wife, Kathleen Mangan-Valle, said that when she later delved into her husband’s electronic chat history, she found he had been communicating with others about plans to torture and kill women, including herself.

“I was going to be tied up by my feet and my throat slit, and they would have fun watching the blood gush out of me,” she said, sobbing repeatedly through her afternoon on the witness stand.

He has now been charged with “plotting on the Internet to kidnap, rape, kill and cannibalize female victims.”

The Times article asks an interesting question, similar to one I asked back when photos were discovered of an RCMP officer who had been involved in the Pickton investigation that simulated violence against women: “When does a fantasized crime become an actual crime?”

Valle didn’t actually go through with his plans. While the prosecutor argued that the officer was plotting real crimes, Valle’s lawyer claimed it was all just a fantasy. The ‘fantasy’ argument didn’t provide much comfort to Mangan-Valle, who also found conversations about elaborate plots to have friends “raped in front of each other” or burned alive or about “putting women on a spit, and cooking them for 30-minute shifts, so they could be tortured longer.”

These were pretty specific plans for something that was just an innocent fantasy. There is documented negotiation of specific details and a payment upon delivery to a co-conspirator: “Valle insisted upon a price no less than $5,000 and assured CC-2 that Victim-2 would be bound, gagged, and alive when he delivered her.”

There is no doubt that violence against women is sexualized in our culture. But when Ginia Bellefonte published a piece called “Remember Misogyny” in the Times wondering why there was so little concern from feminists about this fetishization of violence against women, Jessica Wakeman responded, in The Frisky, with derision:

“Focusing on the craziness of a couple of mentally ill folks instead of larger systemic injustices seems like a poor use of time,” she argues. “Maybe….cannibals eating women isn’t really feminism’s most pressing problem?” Why so defensive? Visiting fetish sites that feature women being tortured, sometimes to the point of death, seems fairly misogynist to me.

Bellefonte quotes Jane Manning, a former sex-crimes prosecutor and currently the legislative vice president for the National Organization for Women’s New York City chapter, who notes:

“There’s an odd confusion in the feminist movement,” she added. “We’ve all accepted the idea that speech is protected when it’s speech. But that seems to have extended to the notion that there shouldn’t even be social condemnation attached to incredibly horrifying misogynist speech.”

Violence against women continues to be one of the most urgent and pressing issues for the feminist movement today. And I would say that sites that fetishize mudering, raping, and eating women are, in fact, a little more serious than simply “a couple of mentally ill folks” who like to surf the internet and whatever everybody just relaaaax OK? So, a man who fantasizes about hanging his wife from her feet while him and his friends “take turns sexually assaulting her before slitting her throat and cooking her” isn’t misogyny? OK. Got it.

We’re at a place in feminism where we are so desperate to either not be perceived as ‘prudish’ or to defend any and every activity as simply an individual ‘choice’ or behaviour that calling what is clearly misogyny (is there any more literal manifestation of the sexualization of violence against women than fetish sites dedicated to torturing and murdering women?) has become off-limits because it counts as ‘kink’. The desperation to individualize, legitimize, and depoliticize absolutely everything is frightening. Particularly because it seems we are most intent on doing this with relation to anything that could possibly be connected to sexuality.

I get the feeling that we’re not calling this kind of thing out because we don’t want to admit that, sometimes, misogynist ‘fetishes’ aren’t simply ‘fantasy’. They’re actually misogyny.

Now, before the ‘don’t kink-shame me’ folks start railing on me, I will reiterate that, I really don’t much care about whether or not you want to dress up in latex costumes and play silly games in the bedroom. It isn’t particularly interesting. The only people who really care about ‘kink’ are people who care about ‘kink’. So get over the idea that you’re so bad and the rest of the world is just too ‘vanilla’ to get you. You like role-playing, other people don’t. So what. Move on.

That said, there are a couple of issues surrounding ‘kink’ that do concern me. The first is the unwillingness of feminists to call out misogyny when they see it simply because we have to protect the sensitivities of the fetish folks. The second is the delusion that ‘kink’ is an identity that designates ‘kinky people’ as some kind of oppressed minority group. Kink and BDSM can certainly enter misogynist territory and it isn’t your right to force the world to pretend that it doesn’t in order to defend your sex life.

William Saletan pointed out, in an article for Slate, that :

Every article about BDSM now includes the obligatory professional woman who’s secure enough in her feminism to admit she likes to be flogged. It’s great that we’ve come that far, but the message is awkward. While reformers in India battle a culture of rape, Indian BDSM advocates extol the bliss of female masochism. While human rights activists denounce caning and waterboarding, BDSM lecturers teach the joys of caning and waterboarding. Abduction, slavery, humiliation, torture—everything we condemn outside the world of kink is celebrated within it.

Awkward, indeed. The real life rape and torture of real life people isn’t just a sexy game; but when presented as ‘kink’ it becomes innate part of our sexualities, completely divorced from larger culture.

The tricky part follows: “Political advocates for BDSM see themselves as successors to the gay rights movement. They cite Lawrence v. Texas. They call themselves “sexual minorities” and depict kink as a “sexual orientation,” Saletan writes. Get it? If being ‘kinky’ makes you part of some kind of minority group, anything that counts as fetish is off-limits in terms of critical discussion. It can’t be misogynist, I was born this way! It’s sex, not misogyny!

I mostly agree with Saletan’s assessment: “BDSM isn’t an orientation. It’s a lifestyle.” And, for the most part, whether or not you like to play out fantasies or wear leather or do fancy things with ropes or dress up as a sexy nun in order to rebel against your Catholic parents as part of your sex life isn’t something anyone else has a say over. But that really isn’t the point. There is misogyny and violence and abuse that happens as part of BDSM and we should be able to call it for what it is without being accused of attacking a person’s ‘sexual identity’.

The ludicrous notion that this lifestyle should qualify a person for protection under the law,on account of being a part of some kind of oppressed minority group defined by ‘kinkiness’ is an insult to actual minority groups.

This kind of hyperbolized, perverted use of identity politics as a means to stifle feminist discourse and critical thought is a serious detriment to the movement.

We are always asking ourselves “What happened to the momentum?” and “Where are all the young feminists?” Well, I think we’re finding the answer. In the final segment of the recently aired documentary, MAKERS: How Women Made America, a three-hour look at the history and evolution of the women’s movement in the United States, Letty Pogrebin said, of the “Why don’t young women care about feminism?” question: “If they lose their rights, then they will wake up.” And I don’t think she was talking about the right to be spanked.

I supposed once we’ve completely quelled our ability to discuss anything outside individual choice and identity and are forced to discuss all actions and behaviours as neutral and void of context, we’ll truly be free.

Revenge porn is about porn 

If you haven’t yet heard about revenge porn, you’re lucky.

Notorious dickbag, Hunter Moore, is big into the revenge porn game. He can be credited with mainstreaming the concept of punishing your ex by posting their nude photos online without their permission via his website, IsAnyoneUp.com.

Doesn’t take much to get rich these days, just a complete lack of anything resembling a soul.

Not only would Moore post the photos, but he would also post the person’s name, location, and link to their social media accounts, also helpfully facilitating comments under the images critiquing the person’s appearance. Innovative, right!

Eight months after his original site shut down, Moore, committed as ever to cretin status, announced he would be launching a new site: HunterMoore.TV.

Of course, the fact that he manages to keep this up this seemingly “legally questionable” endeavour begs the question: “How is this actually legal?” explains, in an article for The Guardian, that (in the U.S.) under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, “website proprietors are not liable for content that is submitted to them by third parties.”

Even with that loophole, it’s clear that these sites aren’t going to get off scot-free.

Another revenge porn site (Gosh, it’s just a mystery why degrading women via porn is so popular!), Texxxan.com (and their hosting company, GoDaddy.com) is being sued by approximately two dozen women on the basis that the site was “significantly designed to cause severe embarrassment, humiliation, and emotional distress.”

The deal with revenge porn is that someone you once trusted enough to let take a photo of you engaged in a sexual act or text a photo of yourself naked to, now hates you enough to want to seek ‘revenge’ by turning you into publicly consumable porn.

Now, while the purpose of revenge porn is indeed, as Jill Filipovic writes for The Guardian, “to shame, humiliate and destroy the lives and reputations of young women,”(i.e. not just about masturbation), I would add that the existence of revenge porn is very much a result of a porn culture.

When we look at the ways women and girls are harassed and abused online, we see that it often isn’t just about words, rather it is often about porn. We see this in the Amanda Todd tragedy which happened back in October. While Todd was bullied and harassed, both online and by kids at school, she was also a victim of porn culture. As many feminists pointed out after she killed herself, Todd was not only ‘bullied’, as most of the mainstream media put it, but she was harassed in a completely misogynistic way. What many news outlets failed to mention was that Todd was turned into porn. A man she’d been chatting to online coerced her into showing her breasts via a webcam, later threatening to share the image with her friends and family unless she gave him a “show.” He followed through on his threat, circulating the image of Todd, who was in grade seven at the time, online.

Sound familiar?

It isn’t possible to separate what happened to Todd from this ‘revenge porn’ phenomenon, which is also why it isn’t possible to separate ‘revenge porn’ from ‘porn’.

Revenge porn is about degrading and humiliating women. It doesn’t work on men because men aren’t hated on a mass scale, as women are, and because men’s bodies are not used against them, in order to punish them.

Just as revenge porn isn’t simply about naked bodies, neither is mainstream porn. It’s the power dynamic that’s ‘sexy’ and it’s the degradation that separates both revenge porn and ‘regular’ porn from straight-up nudity and sex. When women are objectified, they lose power and men gain power. The male gaze is a disempowering one.

The fact that pornography is being used as a means to publicly harass and degrade all women (regardless of whether or not the woman in question was compensated for her image and/or the use of her body) should tell us something about pornography and about our misogynistic culture. It tells us that porn isn’t ‘just about sex’ or about ‘loving women’s bodies’ and that it isn’t somehow completely neutral.

The fact that 12-year-old girls are being pressured to text ‘sexy’ photos of themselves to boys and men (as well as older girls and women) is as a result of a porn culture. Porn cannot be separated from larger culture; isn’t something relegated to ‘adult only’ sites. It’s what we’re all supposed to be, as women, and it’s used against us. Feminists say ‘porn harms’ and often the public isn’t sure what that means. Well here’s an example.

Men like Hunter Moore grew up in the same culture that the man who harassed Amanda Todd did and in the same culture boys are growing up in today, learning that to coerce girls to turn themselves into porn gives them power.

It should be clear by now that porn is not about loving women.

The Men’s Rights Movement, CAFE & the University of Toronto 

This article was originally published at rabble.ca and was reposted with permission from the author.

The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) and one of its spawns in the campus based Men’s Issues Awareness Group movement have arrived at the University of Toronto with  a bang; and a seeming campaign of overt intimidation against those who oppose them.

CAFE, as I have previously written about at some length, is the front group that presents the public and ostensibly less extreme face of the Men’s Rights Movement (also known as the Men’s Rights Advocacy or MRA) in Canada. As I noted in the article they have made on-campus recruitment a major thrust of their overall strategy.

In furtherance of this aim, they have set up a number of campus clubs including one at the University of Toronto. The Men’s Issues Awareness group held a public event on campus that featured Warren Farrell on November 16, 2012.

Farell is a men’s rights apologist who touts his former “feminist” credentials to act as the intellectual spokesperson of the MRA. He is the point person they trot out to to make Charles Murray, Bell Curve style arguments that obviously distort and misuse statistics, anecdotal evidence  and historical record in defense of what are transparently specious and ahistorical notions that patriarchy is a myth not only now, but even in the past.

This event was protested by a group of University of Toronto activists and feminists who objected to Farrell’s and the MRA’s presence on campus. This resulted in the campus police and the Toronto police ultimately breaking up the protest, as protesters attempted to block access to the event. This protest, which has not lead to any actual charges, has lead to accusations of police brutality. It has also led, in part,  to a statement by the Provost of U of T stating, rather disingenuously, that “the disruption of this event by protesters was a threat to free speech”. While obviously, one might note, disrupting events and civil disobedience are also a fundamental part of free speech and of the historic fight against injustice, a fact the administrations of universities seem to regularly disregard, it should additionally be noted that this is a statement issued by a university administration whose alleged devotion to “free speech” was so great that, during the G20 protests they hired a private investigator whose reports of “people outside of the GSU building wearing “Black Bloc attire”” led to what is now known to be one of the worst unlawful episodes of mass false arrest and detention during the entire G20 weekend.

After this action by U of T students, a number of activists within the U of T community have described to me another incident on December 6th, as students gathered on campus to honour the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and Children; a date chosen as it is the anniversary of Canada’s most notorious case of misogynist and anti-feminist hate violence, the Montreal Massacre. As this remembrance event drew to a close an MRA member aggressively demanded to be allowed to make a statement, while another was seen photographing participants.

In the days since this, matters have gotten significantly worse, in a way that deserves notice and that exposes the fraudulent claims by CAFE, and their on campus offspring,  that they are only interested in discussing “gender issues” and “fairness” and that they are not an anti-feminist or misogynist group.

An American based website, A Voice for Men, notorious for its vitriolic attacks on feminists and its extreme language and rhetoric, has begun to target individual women and activists in the U of T community with appalling and aggressive web posts singling them out for “discipline”.

These posts now have broadened to include at least four students and can all be found on their main page. They include derogatory personal comments, photographs of the women in question, and threatening language. They seem to be adding female U of T activists to this front page almost daily.

In addition they have added some of the activist’s names to the reprehensibly misogynist website, register-her.com.  This is a website supposedly devoted to “exposing” alleged female rapists and women who have allegedly  laid charges of rape which turned out to be false. The minuscule number of alleged women offenders actually listed on the site simply reconfirms that neither of these notions are a significant social issue. In fact, 97% of sex offenders are male, and a similar site devoted to listing the names of North American men who had either committed rape or had falsely stated that a woman was lying about rape would include millions of names and be inconceivably larger in scope. That the website is now primarily a vehicle for heaping scorn and humiliation on its female opponents shows just how specious the website’s claims are and what its real purpose is.

CAFE, in a ridiculously self-contradictory and disingenuous article has attempted to both distance itself from the A Voice for Men website and state that its critics are “quote mining”. This is almost a humorous accusation given that the article itself links to the A Voice for Men website, and clearly, thereby, brings these posts naming and attacking specific activists to the attention of CAFE members and followers.

Given that the A Voice for Men website is in the United States, and given the details that they know about and prominence that they are giving to the U of T feminist activists, it seems rather difficult to believe that they are not being, at the very least, fed information by U of T’s men’s rights activists. In addition, one of the posts is co-written by “Agent Mauve” and Paul Elam. Paul Elam is a well established leader within the far right American Men’s Rights extremist and hate wing. As he lives in Houston, Texas, however, it is clear that “Agent Mauve” is likely the real author. One can only point out the irony that someone so dedicated to “exposing” individuals is too much of a coward to say who they really are, as obviously they wish to avoid any legal or personal ramifications in Canada.

CAFE has good reason to worry about “quote mining”. Even a cursory examination of MRA websites, their rhetoric and their statements, rapidly exposes outright misogyny.

A Voice for Men has very recently published articles like “Marc Lepine is a feminist hero”, “Manufacturing female victims, marginalizing vulnerable men”, “Child abuse in the name of feminism” , and many, many more. You need not even get to the comments or discussion boards, or “mine” their archives, to find countless and clear examples of how misogynist this website is. When you do get to them the vitriol and violent hate speech are only amplified.

Once one delves into the discussion boards of various Men’s Rights groups, forums that they likely think are out-of-sight, the “front” comes down”, an issue that I will return to in a later article.

Anyone can look through the A Voice for Men discussion boards to see palpable anger and hatred towards women and feminists.

As just one other example, one need only see this forum regarding my article in October, on the website  Men’s Rights Online, to get an immediate idea of what the MRA is about when it thinks no one is looking (and a warning, the imagery and content of this page is extremely offensive). The irony is, they are far more abusive than this when discussing their female opponents. This is not, by any stretch, the worst of their comment boards.

As CAFE not only does not disavow these sites, but links to A Voice for Men, among others, they cannot honestly claim not to endorse them.

The U of T Provost states “We will continue to monitor and review this situation.  It is important that all members of our community can express their views in a civil and respectful manner, without fear, regardless of which position they take on this or other divides.” But this is a wrongheaded response.

As with so many liberal, seemingly “free speech” oriented statements, it gives equivalency to both sides as if this were a “debate”. By doing so, the statement, in fact, legitimizes the Men’s Rights Movement, in the same way that the American media legitimizes creationists by giving them air time.

The Men’s Rights Movement is an organized, dedicated and growing hate movement that constitutes an explicit and violently oriented backlash against women and feminism. It is not akin, in anyway to the feminist movement and is not, somehow, a legitimate counterpoint to it in an academic environment. Faculty, administrators and staff had best wake up to this reality before it is too late.

Michael Laxer lives in Toronto where he runs a bookstore with his partner Natalie. Michael has a Degree in History from Glendon College of York University. He is a political activist, a two-time former candidate and former election organizer for the NDP, was a socialist candidate for Toronto City Council in 2010 and is on the executive of the newly formed Socialist Party of Ontario.
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