This LJ user recently showed up on a Pandagon thread of doom with a few things to say about Renegade Evolution’s bad day at work (for the sake of context: Ren Ev is a stripper who cut a performance short when the drunk rednecks who hired her became dangerously aggressive – not to mention the insults they were hurling – by the way, this happened last year… And people seem to be obsessed with the issue nonetheless):
…And the fact still remains that it’s easier to rape you if you’ve already appealed to a guy’s libido and you have fewer clothes between you and him. Above and beyond the oppression inherent in participating in an industry that says to men, Here I am all wrapped up for you as a commodity because YOU ARE ENTITLED TO IT.
And I don’t care what she feels. I could feel that the earth is flat and you guys would laugh at me. Deservedly so. One’s personal feelings do not change political facts.
I wasn’t going to bother commenting on this particularly egregious case of rectal-cranial inversion, until I heard that this lovely lady was still defending her position elsewhere. And something inside me died.
I know what that’s about and it is a really tough thing to clarify. On the one hand, men are moral agents and responsible for their behavior unless they are insane or senile. On the other hand, it is one thing to be assaulted in the daily course of an ordinary life–and here I mean even a life that a guy would count as ordinary, which may or may not include the occasional bar hop or frat party; it’s another to take on a line of work in which sexuality is inherent, go running around to the homes of total strangers in a very misogynistic culture and expect that nothing will ever happen. It’s still their fault… but doing something like that is like playing Russian Roulette with a sentient gun. [emphasis mine]
So. Dana believes that there is such a thing as an “ordinary life” and appoints herself as arbitrator of what an “ordinary life” is all about. She allows a woman some leeway if she occasionally finds herself in a bar or at a frat party (but only occasionally!) – but a line of work in which “sexuality is inherent”? Tough titties, Gwyneth Paltrow (she’s done nude scenes!). Tough titties, Gisele Bundchen (she poses!!! In lingerie!!!). Tough titties, belly-dancing instructors of the world (this one is pretty self-explanatory, no?).
Dana’s unfortunate condition (the afore-mentioned rectal-cranial inversion) does not allow her to see how sexuality and the workplace and, for that matter, life, intersect.
The examples I just listed may be on the periphery – but let’s take a closer look at women, and men for that matter, conduct themselves in the world. The truth is, if you get down to it – even wearing a full niqab does not de-sexualize a woman. Similarly, the Tuareg men who veil their faces are considered mysterious and hot by many women outside their own culture. Sexuality, you see, is part of being human. The fact that sexuality has been abused, twisted, and used against people does not negate its existence in everyday life. It’s something that we all share. The tradition of beating up on strippers, prostitutes, and other people who make money off their bodies is nothing new – because we cling on for dear life to the idea that sexuality can be compartmentalized and exhibited solely by “those people.” That, next to them, we are not sexualized, that we (and by “we” I refer to all people who have never done sex-work) are better, cleaner, purer. Which is bullshit, but it’s bullshit that allows people like our friend Dana to sleep at night.
Of course, she doesn’t stop there: visiting the homes of total strangers is also totally NOT OK. You know who she sounds like right now? – Like the “uncovered meat” cleric who proposed that women who do not veil themselves are complicit in rape and assault. In the cleric’s case, his issue was hijab. In Dana’s case, it’s shameless hussies who go wherever they please. I’m sure that Dana would have similar things to say about, for example, a college student who went into a male friend’s dorm room to have a couple of beers and shoot the shit and wound up being groped… right? Except, oh, wait, she actually said something interesting in her previous paragraph:
I don’t know. It still sounds blaming, and I never would have said it had it been a friend of mine, or at least someone who has never pulled the shit RenEv has pulled. But it’s what I think anyway, and it’s why I wouldn’t take on sex work if I were starving. There are enough panhandlers in the University area during daylight hours in crowded public places that I think I’d just swallow my pride and join them.
Oh, Oh, I get it! You won’t be blamed for getting raped or assaulted if you’re a friend of Dana’s! Or, if you do and say things that she approves us. Right-o (I believe in the Pandagon thread, Dana was particularly aggrieved by the fact that following her bad day at work, Renegade Evolution did not a) Sob on Dana’s shoulder, or on the shoulders of people like Dana, b) Renounce her previous way of life, rend her clothes, cover her hair with ashes, and, in general, act like a Biblical Jezebel for whom some wise patriarch – or the nearest stand-in – has illuminated the error of her ways).
While you’re at it, please observe Dana’s astonishingly clueless remarks regarding starvation, and panhandling. Panhandlers get assaulted. A LOT. Your pride wouldn’t be the only thing at stake if you were living on the street.
Also, she sounds like she’s never starved for a day in your life.
I know, I know, neither have I, thank the good Lord. But I’ve known people… People who will tell you that after a few days on the street, a strip-club is their idea of heaven. Hell, these same people prefer stripping to, say, working in a MacDonald’s. Or, indeed, taking night classes and trying to climb some office ladder. And hey, acknowledging their existence is not tantamount to denying the existence of people who have been literally forced into the trade. It’s not a zero-sum game. Making it such is a tactic beloved by fundamentalists and zealots.
And on top of that to then insult people who say that that kind of job is degrading to women in general–well, it IS. Like I think I said in the comment, it gives the message of, “Hey, I’ve turned myself into a commodity JUST FOR YOU because you’re entitled to it!”, and how is that a positive, empowering message? You know this; I’m preaching to the choir. For her to take on a job she doesn’t need to take that just bolsters the message that women are things to buy, then to be insulting to those of us who agitate against just that sort of exploitation of women, and then to expect sympathy (which she had, even from me, but how brazen…) when it predictably blows up in her face? Jesus.
The only reason why the world continues to treat sex-workers as subhuman has to do with the fact that people such as Dana have continuously monopolized the discourse. But hey, don’t blame her! She’s not part of the problem! She’s telling it like it is! Rectal-cranial inversion is a serious disease! Don’t make fun of it!
She wants women to focus on “empowering” choices – as long as she has pre-approved them, that is. And, as long as those woman don’t get uppity and “brazen.”
Oh, and I do hate to dignify certain sexist assumptions to the tune of “but what will you future husband think, young lady!” – But, this needs to be mentioned: Renegade Evolution is happily married. I’ve interviewed her husband.
Of course, Dana Seilhan also refers to herself as a feminist. This is her right. I know plenty of conservative Christian and Muslim women who also describe themselves as feminist – even if most of the ideas are not ones that I, as a different sort of feminist, is not inclined to agree with.
However, I do think that certain modes of feminist thought ought to be challenged. Dana’s mode in particular is troubling. So I will refer to her as a fundamentalist first, and feminist second. That is what she ultimately represents to me.