"Intersectional" is not a discrete branch of feminism, it is a mode of analysis that can and must be employed by all schools of feminist thought to examine how intersecting and compounding axis of oppression change the experience oppression for women at those intersections. It is a way for feminists to identify what are universal facets of female oppression, but more importantly, it is a way for women who are privileged on one or many axis (race, class, sexual orientation. ability) to ensure that their feminist praxis does not further marginalize ther sisters.
As privileged women (ESPECIALLY white women, as intersectionality was originally theorized by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw as a way to examine the compounding oppression of misogyny and racism in the lives of women of color) we can not and should not declare ourselves to be “intersectional feminists” any more than males should declare themselves allies to feminism or straight people allies to the LGBT community. It is not a title one can give to themselves, but a mode of analysis that must be constantly employed in our feminist praxis in ALL branches of feminism.
More scattered thoughts. My phone was dying so I didn’t get as many notes as I wanted, but I got all the best points.
- Someone asked Catharine if “feminist porn” was possible and I resisted the urge to scream DO YOU EVEN GO HERE? Catharine talked about the definition of pornography she’d developed with Dworkin and how it requires the subordination of women depicted in a sexually explicit manner, and how within that definition, pornography can not be feminist because subordination and liberation are antithetical.
- As part of that, she talked about common fallacies in pro-porn logic:
- The narrative that “abuse isn’t required to make pornography, it’s just an unfortunate part of some of the industry” does not explain why, if this is so, abuse is so prevalent in the industry. If the main goal of pornographers is to make profit and they are rational actors, they will act in ways that maximize profit. If abusing and exploiting women harmed their profits, they would not do it, so it is therefore a tautology that abuse drives profit in the pornography industry.
- She noted how often people will in one breath talk about the liberating nature of pornography and then turn around and talk about it as a dirty but necessary job, comparing it to cleaning toilets, serving food, or even disposing of nuclear waste. She talked about how hollow “liberation” arguments sound when paired with these comparisons, and how they ignore the context in which the people who typically perform these tasks end up doing them — i.e. the class, race, sex factors that often limit people options, making these jobs a matter of necessity rather than free choice.
- "Nobody held a gun to my head to make me become a law professor. Someone did hold a gun to Linda’s head to make her do porn." — talked about the struggle and years of fighting she had to go through to get where she is, whereas Linda and women like her have to be forced to participate in supposedly "liberating" and "empowering" things like porn. Asked why we don’t talk about the things that are empowering/liberating for women are the things we have to fight for.
- Was asked by someone from the Netherlands about legalized prostitution, and she talked about how the Netherlands model has always driven up trafficking, abuse, violence, and disease while only lowering rates of arrest for prostituted people. Stated that the only system proven to help sex workers on the other factors is the Swedish model.
THEN THE MOST INTERESTING STUFF OF THE NIGHT!
- Someone asked her about the dangers of anti-pornography feminists and “family values” conservatives getting in bed together to pass anti-pornography laws. She stated that she and Dworkin working with “family values”/right wing types was a complete fabrication, the result of a smear campaign by the pornography industry aimed at discrediting their work.
- She said half a million dollars was spent in the first year along to hire a PR firm to push this narrative, which was blindly repeated by the press. While she said they DID work with Republicans on the Indianapolis measure, they were not “family values” conservatives or Republicans as we think of them today, and noted that if the ordinance WAS a right wing law it would certainly have been passed under Reagan’s administration.
- Finally, she noted that the politics of the liberation of women can not be viewed as part of and transcends the liberal/conservative dichotomy because it is a completely different kind of politics/political movement. She noted that the fight is only talked about in these terms as a tactic to drive away liberals who should support the measure as a matter of human rights by pushing the false “empowerment” narrative.
- She still believes the Indianapolis ordinance is the best way to combat abuse in pornography and get compensation for victims, and noted that because of the way the supreme court upheld the ruling by summary judgment, it was not actually ruled unconstitutional and could still be proposed/used.
I’m still kind of in awe of everything that happened and really need to decompress from the movie (it was really harrowing), but I’ll put some initial thoughts about the movie and then some of the stuff from Catharine’s talk in this post and then another.
- I thought (and Catharine talked about this as a deliberate choice) that the structuring of the movie was really clever, in that the first third shows the Linda/Deep Throat story in a really glamorous, generally positive way. There are hints of what’s going on in the background if you know the story, and a lot of Chuck’s grooming techniques are definitely apparent if you know what to look for, but generally you get the “public” version of the Lovelace/Deep Throat story. Then, the narrative switches by showing Linda undergoing a polygraph six years later at the request of her publisher as she tells the truth about what happened to her, and we rewind backwards to see what was really happening in the background and Chuck’s abuse (though as Catharine noted, you really only see a fraction of a fraction of what happened to her, and some things are restructured/reordered to create a narrative arc). I thought this was a good choice because it makes the audience re-think the glamorous image of pornography that we’ve accepted as the truth, and it also makes the audience feel complicit in the abuse for buying into the initial story.
- Catharine talked about how much of the abuse Linda suffered was cut out of the movie (she repeated the quip that if they showed it all, the movie would be completely unwatchable) and she took issue with how they turned the story of Linda and Chuck into a “woman is drawn to a man by love who then turns out to be abusive” trope instead of the truth of the matter, which is that Linda was only with Chuck initially to escape her parents and the abuse started when she tried to leave, and from then one was constant rather than an arc of good times mixed with progressively worse abuse.
- She also took issue with how the film fabricated that Linda was “saved” from Chuck by one of the pornographers (she referred to all of the men involved in the production of Deep Throat as pimps) and the more sympathetic/comic relief portrayal of the pornographers and Linda’s costar.
- One of the audience members pointed out how when the revelation of the abuse started in the narrative, the pornographers were almost completely removed from the narrative, as if they were not complicit in and perpetuating the abuse themselves. She pointed out that Linda recounted many times that they knew what Chuck was doing to her and told her they wished the could help but did nothing.
More thoughts on Catharine’s talk and anti-porn stuff in the next post.
You’ve been sick for weeks, unable to function at full capacity, weak and tired and in a great deal of pain, and have finally dragged yourself to the hospital. A doctor now stands over your bed, having performed a litany of tests, and you ask her what wrong with you. “Disease!” she says cheerfully.
“What?” you ask, disbelieving, “which disease?”
"Oh you know, disease. Sure there are some individual virus cells or bacterium or genes that are giving you certain symptoms, but the real problem is disease!"
You ask her what viruses or other causes are specifically responsible for your illness, but she has no answer for you. When you ask her how to treat your illness, she tells you they can work to mitigate certain symptoms, but they can’t treat your actual illness because disease has always and will always exist, it’s just a part of life and anyway, isn’t the disease in your body in the first place?
You never get treatment because you never get a diagnoses. This does not end well for you.
A movement for social justice that does not assign blame is a movement without a solution. Our reluctance to assign blame, or to name the agent, in somewhat gentler terms, is an instinct rooted in both the politics of manners and in our own meek socialization, that cultural force that teaches every oppressed group that it is rude to speak up or speak ill.
Here’s the thing: if there is a system that marginalizes a group of people, that system can have one of three causes: it is either natural, it is constructed and perpetuated by those who benefit, or it is constructed and perpetuated by those who are marginalized. When we refuse to assign blame to the powerful, to ask them to recognize their active and passive roles in upholding this system, we are either saying that the hierarchy is natural (and thus women, people of color, people with disabilities, or LGBT people, depending on which hierarchy we’re discussing) are simply biologically or intrinsically inferior, or we are putting equal blame on the marginalized for their own victimization by saying they share equal responsibility for upholding an oppressive system. If it is the former, we are saying that oppression is natural and we have no business talk about or need for social justice other than to find ways to gilt the cages where we can. If it is the latter, we ignore the logical question of why a group would uphold their own oppression by removing that group from all context of history, culture, and socialization.
Assigning blame to the powerful seems wrong because suddenly you’re not angry at an unknown, faceless “system,” but you are forced to recognize the role of all people in a marginalizing group in creating and perpetuating this system, even people you love. Suddenly it’s not just “the patriarchy” or “society,” it’s your father, your brother, your boyfriend, your favorite teacher, and your cool boss. Suddenly you feel like to name the agent would be to betray these people, or to say that you can no longer love these men because you recognize not only how they have benefited from but how they have upheld your oppression. So you either try to make them exceptions, or you decide that really everyone’s to blame, or you decide that’s just the way things are.
And then your movement has no future, because you can not work to overthrow a system that has no root, no base, no cause. So you can gilt the cage by convincing yourself things that harm you are actually helping or even empowering you, or you can just give up entirely and say the whole movement is stupid.
What we need to realize is that blame is necessary, and that assigning it doesn’t make us bad people, or delegitimize the emotions and connections we feel to individuals. A lot of women refuse to assign blame to men because it would make them feel stupid or weak for loving them. But the men that are worth loving, the men who love us, care for us, want things to change for us and recognize the insane degradation of our lives will want change. Will want to see how the way they act and what they say harms us so they can change themselves and the men around them.
And the men who don’t? You might still love them, you might keep him in your life, you might even cut ties to the liberation movement rather than to him. But he will always have chosen the comfort of the status quo over helping women.
Oppressive systems are a virus, and activists who refuse to assign blame, who do not name the agent, are like doctors saying they can’t do anything because viruses just happen, or that you’re partially to blame for being sick because your body is supporting the virus too. Which is very nice for the individual virus cells don’t have to feel bad because they weren’t part of the initial infection, but you’re still going to be the one who suffers.
Julian Assange is a rapist and Benedict Cumberbatch chose to play him in a movie that valorizes him while he is still actively avoiding prosecution for his crimes. I’m sorry, but if that doesn’t make you question your fangirling of the man you need to have a long talk with yourself.
DEAR MEN WHO WANT TO SUPPORT OR BE AN ALLY TO THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT,
WATCH THIS FUCKING VIDEO.
THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD BEHAVE.
DO NOT DIRECT YOUR ATTENTION, WORDS, OR VITRIOL TOWARD WOMEN. THAT MEANS DO NOT LECTURE WOMEN WHO ARE ALREADY FEMINISTS ABOUT FEMINISM, BECAUSE WE DO NOT CARE, AND DO NOT LECTURE WOMEN WHO ARE NOT FEMINISTS ABOUT FEMINISM, BECAUSE THAT’S NOT YOUR FUCKING PLACE.
IF YOU WANT TO HELP WOMEN, ACT LIKE THIS GUY. CALL OUT OTHER MEN WHEN THEY ARE BEING SHITTY TO WOMEN. CALL OUT BULLSHIT MALE BEHAVIOR AND DERAILING, CALL OUT MISOGYNY, CALL OUT VICTIM BLAMING AND RAPE CULTURE.
WOMEN DO NOT NEED YOU TO TELL THEM ABOUT THEIR OPPRESSION AND TALKING TO WOMEN ABOUT FEMINISM OR TRYING TO INVADE FEMINIST SPACES IS LIKE WALKING INTO A MEETING FOR NATIVE SPEAKERS OF A LANGUAGE AND TRYING TO CORRECT THE PARTICIPANTS ON THEIR GRAMMAR BASED ON YOUR INTRO 101 CLASS.
TALK TO MEN. USE YOUR MALE PRIVILEGE AND THE FACT THAT MISOGYNISTS ONLY RESPECT AND LISTEN TO OTHER MEN TO TRY AND HAMMER SOME OF THIS SHIT INTO THEIR HEADS.
WE APPRECIATE THAT YOU WANT TO HELP. YOUR HELP WILL ONLY BE HELPFUL IF YOU STAY IN YOUR LANE.
If there is a purpose to the “this is what a feminist looks like” meme beyond “see we’re not all gross hairy lesbians!” I find myself utterly unable to come up with what it could be.
Things to remember the next time someone says the patriarchy isn’t real #1928091823019823:
Mary Daly was forced to retire because she did not want to open up her advanced women’s studies classes to men, despite offering to tutor interested male students on her own time.
Hugo Schwyzer has admitted to having sex with DOZENS of his female students and using his “porn” course to find women to cheat on his wife with and was given medical leave from his university.