Sunday, July 30, 2006

Excerpts from The World Split Open: How the modern women's movement changed America, by Ruth Rosen, 2000

p. 189:In 1971, feminists convened a conference on prostitution in New York City, Kate Millet, who chronicled the conference in The Prostitution Papers (1971), described how "all hell broke loose - between the prostitutes and the movement." Although skeptical, the prostitutes had come to the conference as working women, "in the life", looking for support in a difficult and dangerous trade. They were not simply movement women who had once turned a trick or two. "They had a great deal to say," reported Millet, "about the presumption of straight women who fancied they could debate, decide, or even discuss what was their situation and not ours. The first thing they could tell us - the message coming through a burst of understandable indignation - was that we were judgmental, meddlesome, and ignorant." For some feminists, prostitution seemed like the quintessential exploitation of women. In the eyes of the disgusted prostitutes, the movement women reminded them of the middle class wives and mothers who tried to drive them out of their neighborhoods.

p. 190: Millett watched the conference disintegrate into accusations and recriminations: "Everyone talked. No one made any sense. Things rapidly degenerated into chaos...Beyond the absurdly hypothetical threat posed by the term "elimination"...was the greater threat of adverse judgment by other women. For if large numbers of "straight" women congregate to agree that there is an absolute benefit in hte elimination of prostitution - what does this convey to the prostitute?..,.that she is despised and rejected by her sister women. Never mind if this makes no sense - it was there like an edict upon the heart."

just thought it was intriguing to note that we've been arguing about this for over thirty years...

Well, I just wonder how the world of the prostitute has changed in 30 years - maybe it's totally not the same debate despite the fact that it looks like the same debate.

I read that passage the other day and was just so blown away I had to share.
That book is pretty good. I learned a lot - apparently in the early 70s there was something called "Sagaris" which was a feminist thinktank that came completely unglued after allegations of CIA involvement. fascinating.
womens shelters and rape crisis and organisations helping women out of prostitution are built and run by feminists. those same feminists, if they are anti-prostitution, are then accused of hating on prostitutes, which is clearly not true.

there is a huge difference between hating an industry and hating the workers. i think there is confusion over this by people on all sides of this debate.
well, yeah, confusion - but why such persistent confusion?
also wanted to note that women on both sides of this debate are ex or current sex industry workers. i hate that the anti porn feminists are constantly falsely marked as all being the white middle class het wifey types. a really quick look at the anti porn fems online shows this to be false.
i dont know ap. i think maybe because we all feel under attack? if we're all on the defensive it makes it very difficult for us to talk to each other .

like the sex-pos camp feel they are being judged as amoral and the anti-porn camp feel we are being judged as prudes. and everytime we start to talk to each other some right wing nutjob comes in and starts throwing round insults at either group and the war starts up again. we need to stop paying attention to the trolls.
One thing I do think has happened, perhaps, is that the "sex-pos" camp, particularly people working in the sex industry (and/or involved in BDSM to a lesser extent) have been collectively, by and large, playing up the "happy happy! fun fun!" angle for a while, it's true.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that--well, especially more recently, as I've said, the whole "commodify your dissent" thing happens; these days people are a lot more likely to know about CAKE parties or "Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex For Women" than they are the sort of work Dorothy Allison (a survivor and participant in the original Sex Wars) or Staci Haines (who has put out a book and video addressing sexual/abuse healing from a sex-positive perspective) do.

But the other part of it, I think, is there's been *so much* portrayal of this or that kind of sex (and the people who participate in it), as dirty and dangerous and disgusting--from the mainstream as well as some of the other feminists, of course, but the result is that it feels like it's coming from all sides--that the natural response is to go all the way to the other side to overcompensate.

I saw a kind of slapfest between Betty Dodson and Eve Ensler (or at least her supporters) that sort of confirmed this suspicion.

it's too bad; I tend to think of this as the "tastes great! less filling!" divide; in that, again, it's *all* true; women aren't supposed to say no, and we aren't supposed to say yes.

and as you say, there are survivors on both sides of the divide, and people who aren't survivors on both side of the divide.

In a way, though, this is kind of parallel to what happened wrt the lesbian/feminist thing (not to mention in so many other ways on the gay rights side of things, but that's getting more tangential). To wit, roughly:

a common slur against all or any feminists is "you're all just a bunch of lezzies."

Betty Friedan addresses this "divisive" tactic by declaring lesbianism the "Lavender Menace," and presssure results in NOW dumping "Daughters of Bilitis" (lesbian rights' group of the time) over the side.

Rita Mae Brown and others respond by forming the "radicallesbians," and thus is the "Woman-Identified-Woman" business born.

Later, when lesbianism qua lesbianism becomes a bit more accepted both in the mainstream and in the feminist movement, naturally the former rebellion in itself become (at least for some) a kind of orthodoxy. Now there's a split among "woman identified women" lesbian-feminists in particular wrt the BDSM thing (and transsexuals, too); as this is seen to be a threat to everything they've worked for, even as now doubt the "lesbian menace" was seen by Friedan and her ilk to be a threat to everything she and the other straight mainstream feminists had worked for. Then later comes the porn and the "Sex Wars" are widened to all feminisms...

...and, as with everything else in pop culture and politics these days, seemingly, nostalgia becomes breakfast and we get to start the whole thing all over again from scratch, or sort of, anyway.

and the wheel goes 'round, and around and round...
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...another misconception, i wanted to say, is that there is no real effort to help sex workers from the "not necessarily pushing to get them all out" side. It's true that people have different ideas of what's helpful and what's not; but I see a *lot* of distortion on the anti-side; I've come away from some threads with the impression that it's all being puppeteered by sinister pimps and johns and "the industry," none of whom want anyone to escape or are concerned about any woman's well-being. or, well, I might've done, if I didn't know better.

But I mean, there are also organizations like this:
tangentially, at some point I do want to get back to antip's speculation about any possible parallels to the Prohibition movement. because the more I've been doing research about first-wave feminism and activism of that period in general, the more I've been intrigued.

where I really see a lot of parallels is that

1) back in the day, across the boards, there's a -lot- of overlap between Christian evangelical activism and civil rights, women's included. Which in itself is something I really want to look at; I don't think a lot of people realize just how much of a sea-change evangelism has gone through over the last century. (along with everything else, of course)

These days, there isn't nearly as much of an *overt* overlap, people like Hugo Schwyzer and some other Christian feminists being more of an exception than a rule, I think.

But definitely I see a very big, perhaps not entirely conscious, Christian influence in a lot of the assumptions among the anti camp(s). I'm -not- saying that feminists and fundamentalists are the same, here, at all. What I am saying, though, is that there's a strong cultural/ideological heritage at work here, both from the mainstream and -within feminism-; and that, in the spirit of rigourously examining one's cultural baggage, this might be worth some serious unpacking.

2) The Temperance movement was very much entwined with suffrage, among with other movements we'd today consider "progressive."

>A majority of the temperance crusaders were women, and the history of the temperance movement is inextricably linked with the history of the suffrage movement. Temperance was infused with the message of the Social Gospel, but is was also compatible with the ideologies of maternal feminism. Urban women saw the linkages between poverty and alcoholism, while many rural women were aware of how the isolation of farm life amplified the horrors of alcohol abuse. Embracing sobriety as a solution to what they perceived as the moral decay of their society, temperance activists increasingly abandoned persuasion and education to lobby for the outright ban of the sale of alcohol. Prohibition required the passage of legislation, and thus the link between temperance and suffrage developed. The W.C.T.U was all but incorporated into the Political Equality League in the years from 1914 to 1916.

Despite its strong class and nativist overtones, the temperance movement and the feminism that drove it are not to be dismissed. That the temperance movement favoured a form of social control which would result in the creation of a stable, disciplined workforce serving the interest s of the middle classes is not questioned, but it also struggled to defeat domestic abuse, poverty and alcoholism.>

>With this discomfiting history behind it, the Anti-Saloon League arose to the challenge, while Carrie Nation independently thrust her way into the public eye. The League was to develop the art of lobbying or "pressure political" to its most dramatic heights. Scarcely more than 10 years after organization, it was described as "the most dangerous political movement that this country has ever known" by the National Model License League, a wet (and harassed) association. A more rational viewpoint was expressed by the president of the New York State Brewers Association in 1913:

We are not dealing with a theory which is the delusion of the fanatic alone, but with a real condition which is in the hands of a well organized force, led by aggressive, experienced, and untiring leaders (Odegard, 1928: 23).

The focus of the League's indictments included not simply alcohol, but the saloon itself, as the purveyor of spirits. The myriad League publications denounced the saloon for "annually sending thousands of our youths to destruction, for corrupting politics, dissipating workmen's wages, leading astray 60,000 girls each year into lives of immorality and banishing children from school" (Odegard, 1928: 40-59).

"Liquor is responsible for 19% of the divorces, 25% of the poverty, 25% of the insanity, 37% of the pauperism, 45% of child desertion, and 50% of the crime in this country," the League determined. "And this," it concluded , " is a very conservative estimate" (Odegard, 1928: 60).>
i guess the big misconception is that there are only two sides, and that everyone on either 'side' agrees with everyone else. so the sex-pos fems are said to be in league with the pimps and the anti-porn fems are said to be in league with the religious fundamentalists.
...Carrie Nation, of course, is well worth independent consideration. She'd married an abusive alcoholic; the alcohol became the target of her activism. She was scarcely alone, especially among the working classes, in blaming the taverns and saloons and their demon rum for the men staying out all night, pissing away the earnings that were meant to be supporting the women and children; and then coming home in a drunken rage and beating the crap out of said wife and kids.

Consider how few people were addressing this shit (abuse that is) *at all*, back in the day. Also consider that your average fed-up wife and mother is probably not going to be too inclined to look up and blame the system that squeezes both her and her and her husband into these small, cramped spaces; any more than the husband was likely to see much beyond a scary enormous woman with a hatchet sweeping into what he sees as his only refuge and smashing up the place.

>Yes I represent the mothers. "Rachel wept for her children and
would not be comforted because they were not." So I am crying for
help, asking men to vote for what their forefathers fought for--their
firesides. Republican and Democratic votes mean saloons. There is not
one effort in these parties to do ought but perpetuate this treason. Yes,
it is treason, to make laws to prohibit crime and then license saloons,
that prohibit laws from prohibiting crime. There is not a lawful or
legalized saloon. Any thing wrong can not be legally right. "Law commands
that which is right and prohibits that which is wrong." Saloons
command that which is wrong and prohibit that which is right. This
is anarchy. There is another grievous wrong. The loving moral influence
of mothers must be put in the ballot box. Free men must be the
sons of free women. To elevate men you must first elevate women.
A nation can not rise higher than the mothers. Liberty is the largest privilege to do that which is right, and the smallest to do that which is wrong. Vote for a principle which will make it a crime to manufacture, barter, sell or give away that which makes three-fourths of all the crime and murders thousands every year, and the suffering of the women and children that can not be told. Vote for our prohibition president and God will bless you. Pray for me that I may finish my course with joy, the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus.
Your Loving Home Defender.

(I sometimes wonder if the original "feminazi" stereotype wasn't derived from the legend that was Carry Nation. giant angry woman with an axe, bent on attacking men and their only source of relief.

I also tend to think of the MRA's at Hugo's site as a kind of descendent of the "muscular Christian" that arose in backlash to the Women's Temperance influence, among others; even when they're not Christian--a lot of them are--I think they think of themselves as a kind of Huck Finn, cocking a snoot to the sivilizin' ladies and prim humorless milk-and-water men who want to take away everyone's fun...)
definitely there are many sides here, and many influences.

and while, as I said, the people that I know in no way resemble the image of the "pro-porn" people that I've seen represented among some peoples' posts, I don't doubt that in at least some cases the stereotype comes from *somewhere.*

likewise, I certainly don't see most anti-porn feminists, even the ones I disagree with most, as being in league with religious fundamentalists.

but the fact remains that there have been a few alliances. and I have enough of an allergy to fundamentalism (of any form) that it tends to push my buttons a lot stronger than for example the fact that Susie Bright wrote articles for Playboy and did an interview with Larry Flynt.

other peoples' mileage varies, clearly.
...the other -other- problem that I see, one that I never do seem to get around to addressing much even though mentally it's been a big theme for me for a while, is that nowadays there is among many lefties, feminists included, a deep suspicion of anything having to do with organized religion, particularly the Big Monotheistic Three.

which, and I think for a number of very good reasons. spiritual abuse abounds, personally and collectively; fundamentalism is a *giant* problem, maybe (to my mind) THE problem, or well one of them.

otoh, there does seem to be this this widespread idea on all sides that all Christians, never even mind all evangelicals, are, not fundamentalists, well they may as well be. we'd be better off without any of it, is the gist, from some. (and from others: of *course* this particular variant is the One True Way; and if you don't believe thus-and-so, You're Not A Christian).

I speak less to this because, well, I'm *not* a Christian. I'm not even traditionally religious (eclectic semi-agnostic pagan/deist, but that's another story).

but, again: I think it's really important for everyone to realize that there -is- a strong history of Christianity in particular associated with "progressive" causes. (Jews associated with lefty-ism is of course a better-known tradition). as you say: it's not so simple.

so when I say that I see a strong Christian influence on the current anti-porn/sex work movement, I mean that at least somewhat separately from my concern about certain hardline feminists getting in bed with religious rightwingers. I honestly don't see that as a bad thing, in itself. And I admire what say Hugo is trying to do, and obviously I see him as very different from say Pat Robertson. I just don't happen to agree with him, as with many of the the non-religious anti-"pornstitution" camp, about certain things; and yes I think they do tend to revolve around assumptions about sexxxx, at least tangentially.

but well more on that later, I gotta eat.
i havent really read hugos blog, i must admit.

im not religious at all and i was brought up in an atheist family. im very ignorant of religion in general, and i think maybe i miss the influence that organised religion has, i maybe dont notice it when i should. also i think religious influence is a bigger deal in the US than here, or maybe its just more underground in the UK.
yeah, I'm definitely coming from a U.S. perspective here.

course it's even harder to really know once you're talking about large-scale influences dating back to before the first World War...
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