Tuesday, 17 April 2007

On being a terrible feminist

And another thing: why are they so worried about the porn, or the women objectified by porn work?

Let's get some things straight:
1. In my day job I work as a secretary in a hospital. I've been there since last June and am counting down the days until I can quit at the end of June this year. I loathe it, but it'll ensure I can go and do my Masters in September, and at least there's some satisfaction in knowing I'm contributing to a system that genuinely improves people's lives - or at least intends to. The consultant I work for has made plain that he regards me as a silent, typing object. He never asks me questions, he barely speaks to me, and I think we have had one proper conversation - ever - and it was about stripclubs in Leeds. I have no idea how that came up or what was said, but anyway, it was definitely about strip clubs (maybe it is all about the porn). But still, I've found this experience incredibly degrading, even humiliating. Even though he is not my boss and I know what I do is really for his patients, and it's probably because he's just a rather odd, awkward person, every letter I type for him gives me a tiny surge of anger. And I even keep my mouth shut while I do it. I think this makes me a terrible feminist.

2. In the evenings, I often life model. For all sorts of people, in all sorts of places. I effectively 'sell my body'. That's what they're drawing, aren't they? A figure? A body? There's one tutor at a college I won't model for and have complained about because he treats us like dirt. He hired only elderflower and me (young female models, of course) for an entire term, and during that time it became clear he got some pleasure in directing poses he knew would cause pain. In one session, he asked me to pose on all fours under - and I couldn't help but notice the phallic implications - a ladder. Another time he asked me to pose pushing a broom along the floor nude. After that I said I wouldn't work with him again. He's a great tutor and a wonderful artist, but he's also a misogynist pig and I have zero tolerance for them, especially when in the nude in front of a bunch of people.

However, at its best, life modelling can be transcendent. If I'm in a good headspace, and I'm running the poses how I choose, and I still get to be exhibitionist - which is one fetish that will never, ever go away - it's bliss. No matter how painful it is, there is something about concentrating on stillness and the buzz of creativity around me that unleashes all sorts of interesting rhetoric in my head. It's powerful; I'd go as far as to say it's important and sort of ritualistic to me. And I'm also fascinated by how terrified people are by nudity, but that's another story.

There was one pose I was given where I was to be Ophelia, drowned in the river (a la Millais). I have no idea what any of the artists were thinking about as they drew me. Maybe one of them was thinking about fucking a woman and dumping her in a river until she drowned. How is anyone supposed to control that? How on earth do we know what stimulates those kind of thoughts? I suspect most artists have watched a fair amount of 'erotica' I suspect Object might disapprove of. Is that likely to affect what they think when they draw a nude girl, posed dead?

I'm not a terrible feminist because I don't think censoring porn is a good idea, or because I like to explore power exchange in consensual adult relationships, I like exploring fantasy.

I'm a terrible feminist because I consent to being treated as an object in an office environment by a man. That's feminism gone rotten and what we should really be worried about and challenging, not enjoying watching consenting adults having sex, or thinking about sex, or seeing the naked body.

So please, have a go at me because I'm a secretary who lets herself get treated badly by the man she works for, not because I choose to sell my body and often love every second of it.


Trinity said...

I completely agree about finding the emphasis on porn utterly bizarre. I don't see where porn matters in a world full of rapes, wage gaps, and discrimination. It's almost impossible for me to get angry at pornography as some sort of evil monolith when I'm so busy worrying about serious feminist concerns, or, even more often, disability rights concerns like these

LM said...

I feel much the same. Why aren't radfems as bothered about the 'five Cs' (childcare, catering, cashiering, cleaning and clerical) as they are about sex work? It's rarer, better paying, and it's hard to argue that it's unempowering in comparison.

Renegade Evolution said...

it's because porn is "icky"...best as I can figure anyway...they don't like it, sooo...no one else should.

shullie said...

I so agree with you all....

Though that was the same argument I had with some, dare i say 'right winged' rad feminist in the 80's,.

Some of what they were espousing was comletely alien to many women I knew, who were at home with 3 or more kids, and a low paid job, a husband and a home to look after.

One of the problems today is the perception to many that feminism is just for the interlectuals, the middle classes and not for 'ordinary' women and girls.

verte said...

Hmmm, interesting comments.

I can understand that porn is more 'offensive' to a lot of women whereas cleaning or childcare are unlikely to be. That I get. Although I'm pretty hard to shock, watching gonzo porn where the girl has two cocks up her arse and one stuffed down her throat, and blatantly isn't enjoying herself, well, that's pretty worrying. But my concern is for the girl in the film. For all the 'selfish' insults we're thrown for watching porn and doing BDSM, their distaste for porn as a reason to ban it all is equally selfish. They couldn't give a rat's arse about the sex workers, really. Unless it suits their agenda.

I think it's the above that really, REALLY bothers me!

belledame222 said...

well--to be fair; with some people at least, a lot of it has to do with the theory espoused by Dworkin and similar, namely that male sexual domination of women is the very root of Patriarchy, so you focus heavily on rape and sexual abuse and also go after porn and related stuff because it's striking the root, as it were. in theory.

in practice--

well...i think a lot of people work out their personal psychodramas by "using" politicking over porn and other forms of sex in the public square; and the feminist anti's are no exception.

and, well, my feelings about it are summed up here, i suppose. capsule version: concerns about production, i get. concerns about effects of images as media, i find a lot greyer. concerns how such and such a sexact is inherently degrading and we shouldn't be pandering to the filthy mens anyway (which all porn de facto is of course): go away now please.

also of course being honest about actually listening to people in it and letting them speak for themselves, you know, getting out of the way, instead of "speaking for" the poor downtrodden masses with sweeping purple rhetoric and heaps of stats and shouting down and shaming those who -aren't- poor and downtrodden but still would like to say something--not cool. not cool at all.

belledame222 said...

the "selfish" thing, you know...

yeah, good girls aren't supposed to be "selfish." especially when it comes to sexual pleasure. i fail to see how railing at other women for that is somehow some radical feminist breakthrough. it feels like the same old shit to me.

personally i think a healthy dose of acknowledged selfishness would do a lot of people some good. much better than the surreptitious, "i'm cold, put on a sweater, if you don't you're SELFISH" thing. get your own damn sweater, and leave me the fuck alone. and no, i do not need to examine myself to determine whether or not i'm cold, thank you very much, i am sufficiently in tune with my own body that i really don't need you to tell me how i really feel.

now if you want to talk about working together to help people who have no access to sweaters out of the cold, because that's what -they- need, then by all means.

just don't fucking patronize me.

Anonymous said...

Whoo! Congratulations. That's an impressive mass of strawmen, and uttler cluelessness.

And trinity - try reading a bit about the effects of porn on those who watch it. Particularly the studyabout how young boys are learning to rape their girlfriends.

But why oh why is porn such a big deal?

Clueless slander as usual.

verte said...

Dear anonymous,

Yes, yes, we're clueless bimbos and defenders of teh patriarchy, right? Heard all that slander before, I'm afraid.

belledame222 said...

hey, a reference to a "study" without a link even, much less actual stats; i am cowed and abashed by the passing reference to something supposedly scholarly done by someone somewhere, by an anonymous drive-by.

hey nonny nonny: d'you imagine that without the pr0n that young boys would somehow not know how to rape? or wouldn't be doing it? golly, imagine: all this time before mass media, and all this time -right- now in countries where such material is strictly verboten: no rape! or at least considerably less rape! who knew!

especially the kind of "porn" that's basically about consensual vanilla sex, Candida Royalle and so on: that's totally contributory to rape, too; it must be, anti-porn (male) luminaries call her a "pimp" too.

sod off, fundie.

belledame222 said...

oh, and verte, you were wondering about radical feminist defs of acceptable sex? here you go:

verte said...

Ooh, thanks BD! So for her it's really just about avoiding the idea of the phallic. I'm still very curious about what the radical feminists do who have sex with menz, but I suspect that's Top Secret.

And bah, what a pity the anonymous lurkers have already arrived...

The Falconer said...

Whilst I'm not sure that that entry provides much of an insight into radical feminist sex (since, as verte noted, she does practically exclude menz from participating in any way in radfemsex), I have to say that I found the phrase "the penis does represent the weaponized phallus" to be altogether too amusing ;)