Tuesday, July 18, 2006

By the way: two questions

1) If you think "my body, my choice" is sacrosanct and must not be interrogated when it comes to reproductive rights? But when it comes to having sex in various unorthodox ways, wearing heels, working in the sex industry, or (for some people, apparently) having sexual reassignment surgery: now "choice" and "consent" actually aren't all they're cracked up to be? Explain to me how that works, again?

2) What exactly is the difference between "sexbot" and "bimbo?" or, for that matter, "slut?"

39 comments:

The Goldfish said...

I find with feminism, as with all areas of moral philosophy, my brain turns off when anyone talks in terms of black and white. The world is not that way. There is truth; there is right and wrong. But we are talking about darker and lighter shades of grey, always. I wrote about this on a somewhat different topic.

The whole "choice is illusory" one really pisses me off. It is true to some extent, but it is usually used by people who are really saying, "your choice is illusory; I know exactly what I'm doing."

An argument rarely heard outside fundamentalist religion. But it does arise on occasion...

belledame222 said...

ding.

well and the response to that is usually something along the lines of,

of COURSE i'm not saying i'm perfect. look, i still (pluck my eyebrows, read fashion rags, dig for nose goblins with a Hello Kitty pen, whatthefuckever); we all struggle.

i.e. the "we're all sinners" argument.

trouble is i never accepted that framework in the first place. i'm not complaining (just) because you're playing holier-than-thou; i am pointing out, for the umpteenth time, that i *don't accept your standards.* therefore, it means exactly jack to me to what degree i or you do or don't live up to them. therefore: kindly piss off.

Bitch | Lab said...

I think their way out o fthis conundrum is that "Teh Patriarchy" (tm) is doing it for The Patriarchy (tm) while feminism is doing it for you.

heh.

The other thing is, I'd say about half of the activists I work with in the reproductive justice movement have *always* questioned the rhetoric of "my body, my choice". In fact, if you go look at archives of early feminst debates on the topic, there was considerable dissention then over the language of 'free choice'.

A lot of them, as leftists, saw the 'choice' thing as what, at the time, they would have called "bourgeois individualism".

This questioning of choice continues today, only now another perspective -- that typically labeled "pomo" -- is another dissenting voice questioning individualism and choice but from a different perspective.

But you are right to peg amanda and R Mildred and most other feminist bloggers for this one because they are not marxists or pomos. They tend to right on the Liberal Feminist A Train.

But, really, I still think they'd say that asserting my right, my choice in the face of a Patriarchy that wants to control your birthing body and define you primarily as a baby maker is something wholly different than asserting my right, my choice and those choices, they think, being part of the reproduction of the very patriarchy itself.

The Goldfish said...

Even if we are all sinners, I cannot assume that you're any less conscientious a sinner as I am; that you have thought about the consequences of any given choice and wrestled with it any less as I did - even if you came to a completely different decision.

You might have had more or less information, you might have considered a perspective that didn't occur to me (or vice versa). We can talk about that, but that's just about it; I can't dismiss your decision and tell you what you really think or desire.

Which is the case when it comes to wide-reaching issues, but even more so when it comes to issues which effect our intimate lives and our bodies. We need to talk about it, but we have to assume the other gal is every bit as smart and passionate as we are.

Popess Lilith said...

@Bitch|Lab: Seems a bit like "It's for your own good" to me. Am I betraying feminism for being suspicious when strangers try to tell me that what I do is wrong, and that I must do it their way in order to do it right? Funny, it feels more like preserving the autonomy of women, one willful soul at a time. But maybe that's my bourgeois individualism speaking, not being properly educated in orthodoxy and being so woefully ignorant of my oppression that I plucked an eyebrow hair earlier today.

Bitch | Lab said...

oh, no. I don't think that way Lileth. I'm just saying what I think they say.

Yes, I think it's a contradiction in their thought, but I think they really would think it's not the same thing. Their argument doesn't persuade me at all. Coz yeah, it does sound like that, "for your own good little girl"

Which is exactly what Withcy Woo Said. R Mildred even made the analogy with addiction, saying that her obligation would be to perform an intervention.

Well! Can't say it any clearer. They think their job is to be scolds and schoolmarms to set us straight, because lordy know there ain't no official save Male ID'd Patriarchy Fuckers service out there. So what else can they do? They can only bag on about it endlessly hopiing that everyone will snap into place.

Well, to those who think that, please, go with jesus. get back to me in awhile and let me know how it's working out for you.

EL said...

The addiction analogy pained me too.

Bitch | Lab said...

I was thinkin' We could probably make a crapload of money if we did start one of those intervention serives.

what to call it, what to call it?

piny said...

Porn No More. Pron Again?

If you really want to use that analogy, can we talk Rockefeller? Because that's where it's heading.

piny said...

I don't agree with this reasoning, but just to play Devil's Advocate: feminists--e.g. Twisty--do criticize women's reproductive choices. They just don't criticize women's decisions to abort. They criticize having children, continuing to have children, quitting or scaling back a job to have children, defining one's sexuality around having children, defining one's womanhood or adulthood around one's ability to have children, and getting/staying married in the service of the nuclear family.

The reason they don't criticize abortion is because, as far as they're concerned, the patriarchy doesn't really pressure women into getting them. The patriarchy seems to have come down squarely in favor of pressuring women not to have abortions. Ergo, a woman who gets an abortion is swimming against the tide.

The sexuality thing works the same way. When good ol' boys order women to become hairy-legged land dykes, then feminists will start worrying about separatist false consciousness. Until then, they can't see any reason to interrogate a desire so contrary to the preferences of patriarchy.

I don't agree with this reasoning, but I'd say it's inconsistent for different reasons than those you lay out here.

Tuffy said...

That's a great point, piny (your first paragraph I mean) but I think you're wrong about why feminists support abortion rights. I don't think it's as arbitrary as you suggest. Having kids disempowers women in numerous ways: they lose their autonomy, they're expected to subordinate their interests to those of their kids, they take on pregnancy's health risks, they have to work harder. That's why feminism supports women's right to remain childless. It's not just a random fuck-you to the mainstream.

piny said...

I didn't say it was arbitrary, or that it was a simple fuck you to the mainstream.

Femme said...

I was going to read this thread and comment but I got distracted by my own toes - sadly this is what happens in the summer when my nether digits are so wantonly exposed...

that said, thanks for the link. I look forward to reading more of your work and hope that you look forward to my occasional, idiotic comments.

Amber said...

I hear what you are saying, Tuffy, and I don't disagree w/ your fundamental point; however, if feminism is REALLY about choice, shouldn't feminists support a woman's choice to have children just as fervently as supporting her choice not to have children?

Not saying all feminists aren't equal-opportunity supporters. In my experiences, most are, actually. But there are always those few... and they usally ID as radfems...

I remember two of 'em from the Women's Studies Group in college... I was married in those days, and they would always look at me through slanted eyes. They didn't get it when I asked them how discriminating against me because I was married, and not believing it when I told them that actually, my husband did NOT oppress me and I got married for my OWN reasons, was any different from discriminating against, say, unmarried women, lesbians, etc. They would just repeat, "Well, marriage is an institution to oppress women!!" I'd respond with, "O RLY? Well, my marriage isn't."

They didn't- or wouldn't - accept that.

Alon Levy said...

Piny, some women are in fact pressured to abort. Historically, low SES women were frequently forcibly sterilized, or pressured not to have children. On the other hand, in today's US sexual pressure goes the other way, that is women are pressured not to enjoy sex, not to have sex outside marriage, and not to think or talk about sex. So although there's some pressure to be sexual in more liberal subcultures, it's no different from the pressure to abort in minority subcultures.

piny said...

Piny, some women are in fact pressured to abort. Historically, low SES women were frequently forcibly sterilized, or pressured not to have children. On the other hand, in today's US sexual pressure goes the other way, that is women are pressured not to enjoy sex, not to have sex outside marriage, and not to think or talk about sex. So although there's some pressure to be sexual in more liberal subcultures, it's no different from the pressure to abort in minority subcultures.

I know that, and would argue that the pressure not to have children has by no means disappeared. I was describing an argument, not making it.

Tuffy said...

piny: You weren't? Your second paragraph seems to say that pretty clearly. I read it as saying that feminists support/tolerate abortion because the patriarchy opposes it.

Alon Levy said...

I read it the same way Tuffy did. I thought you were saying that in general the patriarchy pressured women to have plenty of degrading sex and not to abort, but still for other reasons it didn't make sense to support choice on abortion but not sex.

Sorry for that.

Bitch | Lab said...

The huge blow out in Chicago years ago was because some rad fems, who hadn't yet split into two camps, refused to alter their demands to speak to the concerns of women of color and poor women. The Black Panterhs' wanted the march to speak to reproductive rights and justice -- spoke to the way that poor white women and women of color had been forced to have abortions or had been sterilized.

here are the comments of someone who remembers the day. When I get Radically Speaking out of the library again, I want to contrast it to the way pauline Bart writes about it. All she could do was sneer at the ridiculous demands these women had made and refer to them as male ID'd.

:::My example that Alex disdained demonstrated perfectly the distinction between Marxists and liberals with respect to abortion rights. Though both groups fought for these rights with valor, and justly celebrated our common victory, liberals soon parted ways with us when the question ceased to be simply access to abortions, and instead became the rights of poor, mainly African American, women to free reproductive choice. The militant (liberal) feminists of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, with some noteworthy exceptions, fell silent when the Black Panther Party challenged them to speak out and demonstrate against virtually coerced abortions and sterilizations.:::

http://blog.pulpculture.org/2006/01/30/forward-rewind/

Ken's not using (militant) in a derogatory way. Ken thinks militant liberals are a good thing -- as they were allies in the struggles of the sixties.

And this is why I once tried to point out to Twisty that her blog and commentors often created a hostile space for women of color who still bear the mark of that history and who are deeply offended when people rabbit on about "breeders" and post pictures of kids that definitiely look poor and third world and say, "cut kids, now dead."

They were deeply outraged by this way of thinking and felt it was racist and an erasure of their very own experience where they are stereotyped as breeders sucking the welfare system and social resources dry.

it's sucks dripping green donkey dick that people did not get this and refused to do so!

Tuffy said...

amber, RE what you said:

if feminism is REALLY about choice, shouldn't feminists support a woman's choice to have children just as fervently as supporting her choice not to have children?

Or in other words, is feminism inherently anti-motherhood? On a practical level, obviously, it can't be if it's going to succeed. On a theoretical level...? I'm not sure. On the one hand, yeah, lots of pro-child issues are integral to feminism: equal parenting, child support in divorce, anti-forced sterilization (thanks to the person who mentioned that one), govt assistance to needy families.

On the other hand, virtually every culture oppresses women with the idea that they're nothing but baby-making machines. It's fundamental. So I'm not sure pro-motherhood issues will ever have the centrality that anti-motherhood ideas do.

Dan L-K said...

Oh, fuck a bunch of "theoretical level." Any philosophy of liberation that cannot stand the light of meeting the needs of real people, right here and taking their concerns seriously rightfully deserves its place on the scrapheap of ideas right next to the Platonic republic and Theosophy.

piny said...

piny: You weren't? Your second paragraph seems to say that pretty clearly. I read it as saying that feminists support/tolerate abortion because the patriarchy opposes it.

No, I was saying that feminists don't argue false consciousness wrt abortion because--again, according to them--the patriarchy opposes it. That doesn't mean that it's either exempt from feminist analysis or that there are no other distinctions to be made between that reproductive choice and the others. It means that it's usually considered separate from those other options in one very specific way.

Alon Levy said...

On the other hand, virtually every culture oppresses women with the idea that they're nothing but baby-making machines.

In China forced sterilizations occur frequently in areas with overzealous communist cadres, whereas forced childbirth is virtually nonexistent.

Bitch | Lab said...

@ dan- l k.

HA! Thanks. What theory any fucking way? I mean, it's not like there is some monolithic feminism out there.

Twentyfive years ago, there was a movement on to get this country pay women to be mothers.

Feminism responds to the struggles and wishes of the age and that's going to change in time and space. to pin it to something like this seems absurd to me and this is why so many folks want to default to the procedurally and seeingly just way to resolve the conflicts: emphasis on choice.

Bitch | Lab said...

and BD, i missed q number 2 the first time round -- i don't think there is a difference between calling women sluts and fembots.

who called them fembots besides IBTP?

I hope you are just busy because I'm kind worried about you. Don't you know that you must be on this blog every damn day! ;[

antiprincess said...

Theosophy on the scrapheap of history? say it ain't so!

Mme Blavatsky is spinning in her...well, wherever she is, she's spinning you bet...

belledame222 said...

per fembot/sexbot--I don't know who else originally was using it besides T, but it seems like other people have been picking it up, certainly at least there on the IBTP boards; and I have seen it elsewhere, certainly.

and now i would like to know who coined the odious portmanteau "pornstitution," so that i may smack them repeatedly in the face with a halibut.

Dan L-K said...

Antip, it's my understanding (and I'm willing to be corrected if anyone knows differently) that Theosophy, at least as Mme B. established it, has a nasty strain of racism of the "white people are descended from special Atlantean godlings, unlike you filthy monkey-men" variety.

Amber said...

if feminism is REALLY about choice, shouldn't feminists support a woman's choice to have children just as fervently as supporting her choice not to have children?

Or in other words, is feminism inherently anti-motherhood


Um.

Those are other words, but they aren't MY words.

WTF?

Please, PLEASE tell me WHERE I stated or even implied ANYTHING of the sort.

*banging head on keyboard*

Tuffy said...

Amber: Uh, yeah, I guess I sort of imagined you were getting at something else in order to have an excuse to talk about my motherhood theory. Sorry!

emily said...

You've exposed some big contradictions in some of the "rad-fem" rhetoric. The condemnations of sex-ploited (sorry, if they can pen bad neologisms, so can I!)often seem oddly familiar, old formulas about "good" and "bad" women wrapped up in new terminology.

And frankly, I *aspire* to be a sexbot (after all, my electropop group is called Bisexual Cyborg), the kind of strict machine Alison Goldfrapp is in love with...

Bitch | Lab said...

Amber

I don't think every feminist thinks it is about choice, and there lies the problem, our heads banging up against the fact that we have different feminismS.

I don't think feminism is about choice, fr'instance. But my reasons are vastly different from those who have different reasons for thinking it's not about choice.

Piny's right about this one, and I don't think you have to be a radfem to be like this about it.

The woman who gave me shit for wearing pumps and skirt to class wasn't a radfem, she was just a liberal lesbian feminist. her politics were decidedly mainstream and she didn't follow any radfems.
She only vaguely knew about the chinese footbinding thing and when someone pointed out third world women's critiques of western feminist's use of such analogies, she quickly realized that she should stop that.

But she still thought wearing pumps and a skirt was wrong.

I never wore anything else the rest of the semester. heh.

Alon Levy said...

B | L, in what way was the woman you talk about a liberal feminist? For example, did she think that the main focus of feminist effort should be legal and economic equality?

belledame222 said...

I understand the critique of "choice" w/in a consumer/capitalistic/yadda culture.

I just think that particularly when it comes to *one's own body,* hell ya the notion that it belongs to oneself to do as one chooses is an essential part of feminism.

It's not *all* of feminism, but it's certainly key as far as I'm concerned.

FoolishOwl said...

The "bourgeois individualism" schtick is really bugging me, especially since I read MacKinnon's essay on Roe v. Wade.

I'm working on a theory that the individual is defined by desire, that such an idea of the individual is central to Marxism, and that the entire point of socialism is to create a society in which individuals can freely pursue their desires.

The idea that individuals are incapable of understanding their own desires without being schooled by some external authority seems to me to be antithetical to the very idea of human liberation.

Twisty is actually pretty clear that she's opposed to human liberation.

Renegade Evolution said...

"But when it comes to having sex in various unorthodox ways, wearing heels, working in the sex industry..."

My point exactly. And when one mentions this, they get leapt upon. Out come the accussations that NO ONE could ever do this by choice, or they have severe mental problems, or are in denial, or, actually, in truth actually have a dick and are PRETENDING to be female...because after all, no REAL woman, with choices and other opportunities, could ever REALLY choose to work in the sex industry, so surely NO WOMAN is "fit" enough in the head or socially to MAKE that choice.

Bullshit.

Not every woman in the sex industry is an abused victim turning tricks on the corner, and that is the only example they ever want anyone to look at, because it is the one that best fuels their stance.

If I ever needed an abortion, these people would defend my right with venom and passion. Instead I have implants, so obviously I have NO IDEA what the right choice for my own body is...

belledame222 said...

well, and if you get to the point where it's too obvious that you're neither brainwashed or lying to ignore any longer, you're now the exception that doesn't prove anything, and selfish selfish selfish to boot.

belledame222 said...

>Twisty is actually pretty clear that she's opposed to human liberation.

I thought so. but what exactly does this revolution that she claims to yearn for consist of? did we ever find out? do we spare the four-star restaurants? Or is this somehow a revolution that has nothing whatsoever to do with class? That could be interesting.

belledame222 said...

Something's nagging at me, and I finally realized what it is--piny, per your devil's advocate post.

so okay, the patriarchy is by and large against abortion. that would tend to be your reactionary/nuclear family-supporting people. tend to be.

on the other hand, the patriarchy (monolithic as it is) is FOR porn, pole-dancing, loveless blowjobs, threesomes, u-name-it.

to the point where, to read some people, this is actually a bigger threat today than is the (patriarchal) dictate to "keep your legs shut" if you're not married and procreating.

which, not saying that both trends don't exist at once. they do, and obviously this is part of the weirdness of the era that lead people from all across the boards to declare that we're living in the end times, or at least a corrupt decadent age, more or less.

but.

all those men who want their girlfriends to give head like the porn stars, make out with the hott chick in the bar, wear the stilettos and the fishnets, get the nose job and the Botox and the vaginal rejuvenation surgery.

do none of them ever try to (or succeed in) pressure their girlfriend/wife into aborting, on accounta it might cramp their lifestyle? even if GF/wife wants the kid?


do we not talk about this, simply because this is boilerplate for the pro-life crowd? does this not happen? is it not important?