So I went over to Nine Deuce’s blog a few days ago, and left a couple of comments, mainly because conversation threads that stray into “if you like sexual activity ‘a’, it means you have no self-respect” territory actually get me energetic enough to the point of want to commenting (all the radfem back-and-forth on the subject of S-E-X or P-O-R-N or even M-A-K-E-U-P mostly bores me nowadays).
Nothing I said was actually addressed by anyone in this thread, but I expected that.
For a while now, I have been thinking about feminist-to-feminist or even woman-to-woman discussion and *don’t start yawning just yet I am getting somewhere good* I noticed how similar much of it is to the whole idea that there are “good rape victims” and “bad rape victims.
I think that in many radical feminist space these days, there is a similar distinction being made- especially when it comes to talking about dreaded S-E-X-y and P-O-R-y things.
There are Women We Listen To, and there are Women Who Don’t Really Matter. Guess which one I am?
Now, to clarify something right away – I’m not doing this to put Nine Deuce or any of her readers on the spot. I don’t really know them, they don’t really know me, and I only really ended up over there because of a link on another blog.
When people don’t automatically engage you, it doesn’t have to mean anything.
I am only using that specific example, because it has helped me crystallize an idea I’ve had bouncing around my head for a while: the idea of feminist “victim” hierarchies.
Hierarchies exist everywhere, and they exist in what is derisively (and usually incorrectly) referred to as “fun feminism” just as easily as they exist in radical feminism.
I don’t expect them to go away any time soon. I think they’re about as natural of a phenomenon as sneezing and weather.
But just one time, I’d like an honest conversation on whether or not those women who have come to the “right” conclusions regarding S-E-X and P-O-R-N are listened to more than women like me, who have come to the “wrong” conclusions.
Now, as much as I hate to trot out my fabulous and exalted past (*cue dramatic organ music*) when speaking about feminism, it’s essential to the position that I’m coming from:
I have experienced bad things. Most of them performed upon my noble person by wicked men (why do I need to slip into self-parody here? Dunno. I just do.).
Things that, as I went along in life, became in shaping my feminist consciousness or, at the very least, my feminine consciousness.
The other thing about my life so far (God knows, maybe I just ain’t seen nothing yet, as the song goes), is that I enter feminist spaces, radical feminists spaces on the net especially, and I’ll say:
“You know, I don’t agree with what you’re saying over here, because from this perspective I feel that…” And I essentially get one of two possible responses:
2) “You don’t understand. Don’t you know that women have been victimized for centuries? Here, read Dworkin/Jensen/this awesome blog that explains it all and will make you see the light, unless you possess the intellectual and emotional capacity of a candy wrapper, that is [this latter bit is rarely stated outright, but it is sometimes implied].”
And you know what? I get it. I’m not necessarily the “good” kind of survivor. The Good Survivor is the re-born Gloriana, the one who has lived through it all and has formed her opinions and beliefs in such a way that they are seamlessly aligned to the Cause (the anti-porn cause, the anti-sex-work-in-general cause, anti-certain-‘dirty’-sex-act cause, etc.).
Now, I don’t represent us “fun feminists” in any genuine capacity, and I do not use the term “sex positive” to describe myself, if only because I think it is unnecessarily divisive. But I would like to say that most of the people I hang with? They don’t think that the anti-porn crusaders or the anti-whatever crusaders are damaged or horribly misguided.
I think that people are essentially entitled to their opinions.
I understand why, for example, someone who was raped and abused by a man who a loved a certain kind of adult entertainment may find said entertainment repulsive, abhorrent, despicable, and plain wrong (and for a good discussion of that – see folks at Hugo Schwyzer’s; in fact, please read Hugo’s essay on the latest in the P-O-R-N wars while you’re at it, it’s well-articulated and brings up the kinds of points I enjoy debating).
My real problem is how these opinions are often expressed – they are dismissive, dehumanizing, even.
I am not going to go up to a fellow feminist and go, “you know what? You’re wrong, and I’m going to prove it to you by casting doubt on your intelligence, on your capacity for self-determination, on your autonomy, or even on your basic goodness as a human being, assuming any part of you is good.”
But yet I get that. From fellow feminists. All the time.
One of Twisty’s faithful (I can’t be bothered to recall which one) once saw fit to kindly point out to me that people of my background are prone to “cynical and selfish individualism” or some other crap, when I tried to discuss how much of radical feminist theory reminds me of the USSR.
Now, I call myself a cynic loud and clear, but to see millions of people lumped together like that, on a feminist blog hurt me. The only reason any one of us would have a problem with Soviet-like tactics is because we’re selfish and cynical and plain damaged? Interesting.
I don’t think I really expressed that at the time, but it was actually painful. This is on top of the usual litany of “you just don’t get it,” “read this,” “you just want approval from The Patriarchy” [what line do I have to stand in to get me a piece of that anyway?], “oh, wow, you’re friends with REN, I’m not going to listen to a word you say [yeah, that person who has probably helped me deal with more of my problems than the entire blogosphere combined, THAT Ren – the one who needs to be either dead or repentant for her to count].”
The only thing worse than this, aside from the fact that some asshole pretty much has an entire blog dedicated to how EVIL I am because I occasionally post a picture of myself looking more dolled-up than usual or (for more on that subject, see Caroline), is when they talk around you, when they say things like: “oh look, the sparkle pony brigade is here, lalalalala, we won’t let them ruin our day.”
You know, the reason why I get into these conversations has nothing to do with having fun. It has to do with the fact that I’m interested. Maybe it’s because I have a lot of shame and guilt in my life, maybe it’s because I just don’t like how feminism is always being represented as one thing when it is in fact multiple things, or maybe it has to do with seeing some real friends of mine get way beat down by these discussions and have this theory completely cross out their lived experiences, but the bottom line is, I am not merely messing with people when I talk about these things.
I wish I was. Messing with people is way more fun.
I don’t think there is a “right” way to view the world following a traumatic experience or a series of thereof, whether within feminism or otherwise. There are a lot of people out there, PTSD sufferers included, and each brings something of their own to the table.
As long as we all keep our damn elbows off, we can at least tolerate each other, no?
But the way I see it, when it comes to radical feminist theory and how it will one day save the world, people like me need to be seen and not heard in order for that theory to actually work.
Being the “bad girl” can be fun, but in this instance my “badness” is the reason as to why radical feminism as a concept has me running away screaming like a child from a clown.
Oh, and Robert Jensen’s writing? I know a lot of people have benefited from it, but I consider it creep-tastic to the core. Different strokes, as they say.