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Perpetuating hegemony: How the left collaborates in its own defeat

Our state apparatus is so deplorable, not to say wretched, that we must first think very carefully how to combat its defects, bearing in mind that these defects are rooted in the past, which, although it has been overthrown, has not yet been overcome, not yet reached the stage of a culture that has receded into the past. – Lenin, 1923 As leftists we are confronted by an immediate duality when we begin to think of taking control or achieving power within the state. We need the state and ultimately to control the power of the state’s arms to a greater or lesser degree to realize our goals and to effectively begin to work to end the societal institutions of oppression that are embodied in patriarchy, hierarchy, class, racism,...
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Defending the ‘Terf’: Gender as Political

The philosophy and race class, for which I was serving as a teaching assistant, had just discussed the metaphysics of race.  One day I stood in front of my students and asked: “My mom is Mexican. My dad is white. I’m seen and treated as a white person. So what’s my race?”  First, a short silence. Then, the response I expected: “Whatever you want to identify yourself as.” “But race is a social construction,” I insisted.  “And I’m seen and treated by others as a white person. So doesn’t that make me white?” Depending upon your definition of race, I might be Latina, biracial, or — as I was trying to explain in class — white.  I’m seen as a white person; I’ve been raised as a white person...
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Tom Junod declares 42-year-old women fuckable

Oh happy day! For today is the day that women’s fuckability has extended beyond the age of 29. Esquire writer, Tom Junod, says so. It isn’t just that the 42-year-old woman is now tolerable enough to objectify — no longer a pitiful laughing stock — “tragic,” as Junod says — but she is interesting. Can you handle such high praise, 40somethings? Are you overwhelmed at the notion of no longer being a Tragic Woman? Take a few yoga breaths …You are doing yoga right now, aren’t you? “Which one of us will Tom fuck first?” is naturally your first question. Your second being, “Have I done enough pilates this week for Tom to fuck me?” Tom’s generous praise — that is he willing to consider fucking a 42-year-old woman...
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#Notalljohns: Notes from the hearings on Bill C-36

The hearings on Bill C-36, the federal government’s proposed prostitution law, continued today. You can watch all of the testimonies, which began on Monday, on CPAC. Today’s hearings featured, among many others, john-advocate, Chris Atchison (begins at about 10:30), who began his testimony by stating that he is not an advocate “for any individual, group, organization, or moral position on the sex industry.” Atchison, in his own words, “stud and does research with adults who are involved in the purchase of sexual services.” To be clear, Atchison’s work focuses on destigmatizing johns and he advocates for their decriminalization. He is not a neutral party on the issue (not that I believe anyone should be or is neutral on this issue). Regarding the question of whether “prostitution is inherently exploitative,”...
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Podcasts

PODCAST: Reframing the ‘natural birth’ vs. ‘medicalized birth’ dichotomy with Ness Fraser

In this episode we explore the debate around “natural birth” vs. “medicalized birth” — an issue that has been quite controversial among women, feminists, and, more generally, society as a whole. But is that dichotomy a necessary one? Is natural birth “better,” is medicalized birth “worse?” Is there a middle ground? What kind of pressure is placed on pregnant women as a result of these debates? Ness Fraser is a full-spectrum doula, reproductive rights activist, and midwifery care advocate. She has supported low-income and immigrant women in Toronto through pregnancy, birth, and abortion and hopes to attend midwifery school in the future. I spoke with her about the natural birth movement, the medicalization of birth, the debate that’s happening within feminist discourse, and options for pregnant women in Canada,...
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Meet the ‘nice,’ ‘normal’ johns of Canada

The Invisible Men project Canada just launched a tumblr compiling comments from boards where men go to discuss, recommend, and review the women they buy sex from. The “reviews” are truly horrifying (though no more than you might expect from men who don’t believe women are actual human beings, I suppose) so be warned that they are very graphic and disturbing to read. Last month an article by Max Paris for the CBC asked if “the prostitution law debate hear from johns?” The article cites the work of Chris Atchison, a sociologist from the University of Victoria whose project, “John’s Voice” sought to challenge “stereotypes” around the men who buy sex and why. Apparently the john advocates don’t like that, in introducing Bill C-36, Peter MacKay referred to men...
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Happy belated bday to us!

Oh esteemed readers, apparently we have been so busy over here at Feminist Current that we managed to miss our own bday. But now we are two! Since our launch on July 1, 2012, Feminist Current has become the most-read feminist blog in Canada, our stats went from averaging 20,000 a month to over 100,000 a month, and we’ve developed an incredible, amazing community of readers and commenters. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all of your participation, time, energy, input, feedback, support, and donations. It means so much to me that you would spend your time and energy here and I’ve learned and continue to learn so much from you all. I’ve said it many times before and it is absolutely no exaggeration to say...
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Eve’s punishment rebooted: The ideology of natural birth

There’s something pornographic about the way we depict childbirth. A woman’s agony becomes either the brunt of a joke, or else it is discussed as an awesome spiritual experience. One of the central ways women are socially constructed and treated as sub-human is through the normalization and glorification of women’s pain. In the case of sex, we normalize women’s pain during intercourse (“It always hurts the first time”) or we glorify it through sadomasochistic practices (“Physical abuse is liberating!”). Similarly, we talk about the pain of childbirth — with few exceptions, the most excruciating, exhausting, and dangerous ordeal within human experience — as valuable in and of itself. Hurting women is sexy. The euphemistically termed “natural childbirth” is often justified on the basis that it is a woman’s choice,...
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Johns are now an oppressed sexual minority

In a last-ditch effort to frame feminists as moralistic neocons and Oppressors of Freedom and Liberty, Alice Klein at NOW Magazine asks: Will johns become the new “fags?” You knew this was coming, right? Men are the real victims in all of this, after all — their right to have their dicks sucked on a whim is not about entitlement, it’s about freedom and sexual expression and anyone who says different is a bigot. Got it? I mean, its not all that far off from what’s been pushed by the sex work lobby for years — their incessant efforts to frame feminists as oppressive murderers of both sexy fun and of women is well-documented. Normalizing pimps and johns is important if we want to normalize and sanitize the sex...
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Hookers on Davie: an old documentary within a new context

Hookers on Davie, a documentary from the 80s,  was screened on June 24th at the Fox Theatre, a venue which caters to mostly white, liberal twentysomethings. The demographic who regularly attend events (music shows, burlesque, etc.) at said venue, were also the demographic who attended the screening. I did not see any local activists, feminists or other people I recognized from communities, other than a few familiar faces from the UBC feminist community. I question if the individuals present were there by default, as the pro-sex work movement seems to be supported blindly because it’s the “left” thing to do. The documentary and panelists gave some historical context for the film although the history presented did not reflect the reality of all women working in the sex industry, as...
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Why consent is not enough

Consent is the magical fairy dust which turns rape into sex; trafficking into free speech; and sexualized abuse, torture, and subjugation into sexual liberation — or so many people claim. Many “sex-positive feminists” acknowledge the legal standard of consent (defined as a lack of active resistance) is problematic: it is victim-blaming, it normalizes male sexual aggression, it arbitrarily draws a line between how much coercion is “too much” (it generally does not allow direct physical coercion, but permits social, emotional, and economic coercion), and it is irrelevant whether a woman wants to engage in sexual activity or merely submits to it. For many, valuing individuality through permitting us to pursue our personal preferences and determine for ourselves how we live is central to human dignity, which is why consent...
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Hair is back

It’s official. Hair is back. We’ve experienced a long drought since the heyday of hair in the 70s. Feminism was almost fashionable and so was women’s body hair. Having unshaven armpits was both the norm and a political statement. Since I’ve been alive and until recently, though, efforts to disguise and destroy all evidence that women *gasp* grow body hair, just like men, seemed only to increase to points of insanity. Suddenly the only acceptable pubic hair was a creepy-looking Hitler moustache, the merely symbolic “landing strip” –  absurd in its purposelessness — or literally none at all, because apparently the prepubescent look is hot (read: men are disgusting). I’ve announced publicly and privately a number of times that shaving or waxing one’s vagina is gross, unsanitary, and a...
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Podcasts

PODCAST: Janine Benedet & Alice Lee on Canada’s proposed prostitution legislation, Bill C-36

In 2007, lawyer, Alan Young, initiated a case challenging Canada’s prostitution laws as unconstitutional. After the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the laws criminalizing pimping, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, and running a brothel, the federal government was given a year to come up with new laws. Bill C-36, The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, was unveiled on June 4th. Justice Minister Peter MacKay called it a “uniquely Canadian response.” The Bill explicitly targets demand and exploitation, criminalizing those who buy sex and those who profit from the exploitation of prostitutes. It also prohibits advertising sexual services unless a person is advertising their own services. One provision that is concerning to many advocates is that the proposed legislation would criminalize communicating for the purposes of...
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Why I won’t be supporting Canada’s Next Top Progressive Startup, Ricochet

Ricochet has been making some big waves in Canadian media over the past month since it launched a crowdfunder and began work to raise $75,000 to help build “a new model of digital journalism in the public interest.” Ricochet, we’re told, will be “a counterweight to corporate media” and is “building a new model of media: independent, progressive and grassroots” that will “transform the Canadian media landscape.” Sounds great, I’m sure we can all agree. The question I asked myself when I first caught wind of the project, co-founded by Ethan Cox and Derrick O’Keefe was, of course, “what about the women?” I have a healthy and well-founded mistrust for the male left. History shows that women and the feminist movement have been abandoned over and over again by...
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Despite rape allegations, Conor Oberst still has a career

** Earlier this year, news broke that emo darling Conor Oberst had been accused of statutory rape. This is a short history of the case, from the woman who first brought it to the internet’s attention. ** Like many progressives, I spend a fair amount of time reading about social issues. When the story relates to my actual profession, I’m all in. Publications often seem like a desert in that respect, because despite our alleged postfeminist landscape, feminist politics haven’t seemed to make particular inroads into the music industry. Occasionally someone will pick apart especially egregious behavior from especially famous dudes, while many women on the scene self-describe as feminists whether they are or not; but hardly anyone seems eager to probe at this sausage fest any further. About...
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Mila Kunis should make Ashton Kutcher look at her ‘shredded vag’ if he wants kids

Here is what I think about men and babies. If you can’t handle what happens to a woman’s body when she grows a human being inside of it and then pushes it out of her vagina, you don’t get to have any babies. That’s pretty much it. Mila Kunis said in an interview with Marie Claire that she won’t let Ashton Kutcher see what happens to her “vag” when she gives birth. Specifically, it’s her “shredded” “vag” she doesn’t want him to see. Two people are allowed in my delivery room. My doctor and my significant other. And he is staying above the action. He’ll be head to head. Not head to vag. Unless he wants to risk his life and see. But I wouldn’t if I were him....
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I want 140 characters which will end rape

So men, what do you want to hear? Not all men are like that? You’re not like those other men? Let’s say I tell you men that you are wonderful, kind, heroic and humble. Will these words of praise stop the girl enslavement called “child marriages?” If women change tactics from demanding the return of girl children stolen in Africa, if instead we engulf men in a cascade of compliments assuring men that we know they are decent and devoted, will men return our generosity by raising the average age a girl enters prostitution out of the early teen years? So men, if it is not flattery you want from women, what are the words you want to hear? What can women say that will cause you to finally...
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