There seems to be something of a 12-step program that one has to go through before being allowed to legitimately discuss such topics as feminism, misogyny or violence against women. The first to be heard from are usually the hallelujah chorus of men’s voices from the patriarchal left saying that they strongly support feminism as long as it isn’t too radical and they get a say in how to define it and if you don’t agree with them you are just undermining feminism.
(Before everyone gets all huffy–please note that there have been posts by several men on this blog that are very thoughtful and constructive–I hope you know who you are and that I am not addressing this to you.)
Just as inevitably, there is also what we’ll call the Condi argument, that being that ‘look, here is one woman, a woman of color at that, who rose to the top, so you see women can be successful within the patriarchal system, you’ve won, quit your whining’. And of course women do rise to the top, but it doesn’t negate the need to address why so few make it to the top, or whether supporting the system is an admirable goal, etc.
The ‘but women commit violence too’ thread is perhaps the one I have the least patience with. No one is denying that women can be violent or that there can be and sometimes is violence within lesbian relationships. But the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that men commit most of the violence on this planet and women are far more likely to be the victims. When women commit violence, we are all horrified because they are not ‘spozed to do that, but when men do it, it is just pretty much business as usual. Just as a reality check, consider the amount of publicity given to Lynddie England versus how much you hear about the thousands of women who have been raped in Sudan in the last year. There is a reason there are a lot more battered women’s shelters than battered men’s shelters.
And saving the fun stuff for last, we have the porn isn’t damaging to women line of reasoning, usually offered by men who like porn. First of all, if a woman fully and knowledgeably wishes to sell her body as a commodity, that is her business and I would fight for her rights to job benefits, etc. But they are the exception in this business and I would point out that this is a billion-dollar industry and so far as I can tell those billions are going to corporations run by white guys. What the women earn, even top actresses, is a mere pittance. Secondly, way too many of the women who work in pornography have been coerced into participating. And lastly, why are we defending a business where one of the job hazards is the risk of AIDS??
I think it is interesting that one of the places that pornography invariably thrives is near military bases. Until recently, porn movies were used to get the juices pumping before sending the boys into battle. And even if you can’t buy the stuff on base, it is a sure bet that you won’t have to go far to find X-rated video emporiums and girlie shows, not to mention prostitutes. None of this is surprising inasmuch as the purpose of the military is to defend patriarchal-based societies and by definition that involves denigrating women. That is something I want to elaborate about a lot more, but I suspect that I’ve already opened up enough floodgates here, so I’ll pause for breath and let you have at it. The main point I am trying to make is that I don’t think it serves anyone to jump hoops trying to make feminism comfortable for everyone. It can and should probe at the manifestations of discomfort and address the root causes of our resistance.