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Laurie Penny, you’ve lost me

A much-revered excerpt from Laurie Penny’s most-recent book, “Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution,” is published over at Salon. The headline reads: “Mainstream feminism is tepid and cowardly: Work, sex, race, ‘having it all’ and true liberation.” Tips for newcomers: the hot and trendy thing to do in feminism these days is shit on it. Everyone is simultaneously too radical or not radical enough and no one’s really sure what radical means anyway. Since we aren’t quite sure what it is we are talking about and who “everyone” is, you can pretty much pick from a grab bag of labels, toss them around vaguely at no one in particular, and folks will pretend as though they know exactly what you are talking about and congratulate you for saying the...
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Agency is magic and so is twerking

Another day, another article arguing that criticism of sexualization and objectification is proof that men are afraid of women’s expressed sexuality and that women are jealous. What an innovative, groundbreaking notion. A recent article at Huffington Post defends a twerking video model, Amber Rose, posted on YouTube for her husband Wiz Khalifa’s birthday and Beyoncé’s pole-dancing at the VMAs, on the basis of “agency.” The author writes, of Beyoncé’s “sometimes provocative dancing”: ‘”What is she teaching her daughter?” some asked, pearls tightly clutched. I would answer, “Agency. Independence. Talent.” But others, it would seem, say watching her mother dance and sing in front of millions — while making millions — is teaching Blue not to respect and value her body. Even when married and a mother — the supposed safeguards against...
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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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The divide isn’t between ‘sex negative’ and ‘sex positive’ feminists — it’s between liberal and radical feminism

I’d prefer not to draw hard and fast lines between feminists and have tried, lately, to avoid painting what feels like an overly simplistic “liberal feminist” vs. “radical feminist” wall that divides us. It isn’t always that simple. Some feminists I know disagree with me on the best way forward with regard to prostitution law, for example, yet don’t fall squarely into the category of “liberal feminist” and I myself don’t actually identify as any particular brand of feminist either — I simply call myself a feminist and a socialist. I also am trying to avoid vilifying all of those who might be described as “liberal feminists.” Some feminists do and say good things, despite the fact that I may disagree with them on, say, selfies (I know, I...
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The Melissa Harris-Perry show talks circles around the porn industry

A few weeks ago, on July 7, 2012, Melissa Harris-Perry hosted a discussion of pornography. The guests she brought on to talk about the American porn industry included: feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino,  Zephyr Teachout, who is an associate professor of law at Fordham University, Jaclyn Friedman, and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson. Apparently, Gail Dines was initially asked to join the discussion but received an email a few days before the show letting her know that the “segment is changing” and that they would no longer need her. She was pulled from the show. Dines wrote an article for Counterpunch detailing how this all went down, adding: Gone was a critical feminist analysis of the porn industry, and in its place was a “fun” discussion of women’s sexual agency,...
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On 'sex-positivity' and misunderstandings

The Pervocracy published a post on Friday, intended to set all us feminist critics of ‘sex-positive’ discourse, language, and arguments straight. According to the author, who, strangely, avoids referencing anyone or using any specific quotes to back up many of her claims, argues that feminists who critique ‘sex-positivity’ A) don’t understand what the term ‘sex-positive’ means, and B) generally are just hating on women “who wear high heels and shave their legs and…giggle and… act all flirty and give blowjobs…” We are, apparently, “disgusted” by these women and therefore we are not only “obnoxious, elitist, sexist, and counterproductive,” but our criticisms are straight up wrong. This is a common rebuttal made by those who identify as ‘sex-positive.’ Charlie Glickman, in response to Robert Jensen’s critiques of the language and discourse of ‘sex-positivity’...
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Grasping at Straws: Comparing Slutwalk and Occupy Wall Street

Recently, there have been a slew of articles written about women and Occupy Wall Street. Particularly, the need for a feminist presence in the movement and the recognition that women are often the ones who suffer the most under an inequitable economic system. In an unfortunate, but hardly surprising, male-centric lapse of judgement, some dudes decided that the best way to get folks out to protest was to turn women into sacrificial lambs, with a site and video called “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street.” I mean, why bother paying any attention to women if they aren’t turning you on? In fact, why bother doing anything at all if you can’t reinforce your male power by objectifying women? Though this kind of attitude towards women in progressive movements is...
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This week in faux-feminism (or, seven days of rage)

  Such a busy week! So much to do, so much to say. Too much to say, in fact. The rage, it is almost paralyzing. So instead of writing a real blog post I made a list!   This week’s faux-feminist round-up: 1)  Article at The Huffington Post explains why, if we don’t join Slutwalk, we are ruining feminism for everyone. 2)  Blog posted at Feministing explains that anti-exploitation, anti-violence, anti-misogyny, anti-oppression, and anti-rape actually equals ‘anti-sex.’ 3)  Feministing commenter explains that radical feminism is “not true feminism” and that it “does not belong on college campuses or anywhere” because of “frequent racism.” So like, in comparison to our completely free-of-racism friend Slutwalk? Possibly the least radical ‘feminist’ ‘movement’ ever? Got it, folks? Liberal feminism = good-thing-we’re-all-so-awesome-let’s-keep-patting-each-other-on-the-back-while-explaining-to-women-of-colour-that-the-n-word-isn’t-actually-racist/offensive,  radical feminism...
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Slutwalk NYC: More of the same

I’ve got to be honest here. I truly believed that Slutwalk NYC was going to be different. Not different enough to lose the ‘slut’, and therefore, not different enough to convince me that this ‘movement’ was one I wanted anything to do with, but perhaps different enough to hold validity beyond personal catharsis. Maybe this Slutwalk would actually say something radical. Maybe this Slutwalk would comment on systematic oppression. Maybe even this Slutwalk would present a challenge to male power. It didn’t. Today, this video was posted, along with a blog which notes, among other things, the frustration felt by many about the way in which the media has focused “on the most elaborately undressed and risque marchers.”     Strangely, this video did just that. Which leads me...
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Is being an abolitionist a 'red flag'?

Last week Newsweek published an article covering an extensive study on men who buy sex done by Melissa Farley, director of Prostitution Research and Education. The study revealed that which is known by many feminists, critics of the sex industry, abolitionists and even, I would go so far as to speculate, that which is known by most men (though whether or not they perceive this as problem is a whole other issue). That is, as one man put it, buying sex means: ‘you’re supporting a system of degradation.’ Because the many various forms of buying sex are so normalized in our culture, Farley noted that the researchers had trouble finding men to interview who actually didn’t buy sex. Activities like going to strip clubs and using pornography are simply...
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Radical feminism: Just making it up as we go along.

Today I plan to go where many have gone before. Answering the question: ‘What is radical feminism?’ is as easy as reading an enormous amount of radical feminist theory or as challenging as googling ‘radical feminism’. Regardless of the magnitude of work other radical feminists have done defining and writing and talking and acting and building radical feminism, as well as the convenience of Wikipedia, there continues to be a rather consistent confusion around the fact that a) radical feminism is a real thing and b) it actually means something. Radical feminism is a thing. It’s true. We didn’t just make it up. Or did we? Radical feminism is not extremism, as many believe, nor is it simply ‘employing radical methods of everyday resistance‘, though I certainly support that...
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Of course pornography is a prisoner's right. Because women aren't actually human beings.

Last week, Feministing linked to a news story about a 21 year old prisoner in Michigan who filed a lawsuit against the State of Michigan because, get this, he had been denied access to pornography. Yep. The nerve! I mean, isn’t objectifying women the God given right of every man in America? AND, don’t civil and human rights really only apply to men, seeing as men are the only real humans? The answers to these sarcastic questions can be answered with a less sarcastic and more somber ‘yes’. Men (particularly white men) have long been viewed as the only true human beings who are deserving of rights and freedoms. White men have been the standard to which all other living things must measure up. And, unfortunately for all other...
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Legalization, morality, and the myth of the feminist 'sex wars'.

And by myth I don’t mean that this didn’t happen. Or that there are not some serious debates around pornography and sex work that are still happening within the feminist community. What I mean is that I thought the extremely dichotomous idea that there is such a thing as a ‘sex-positive’ feminist and, by this implication, that there is some kind of  ‘anti-sex feminist’ (this kind of labeling tends to assume that anti-porn or ‘abolitionist’ feminists are anti-sex and that, therefore, porn and sex work = sex, a line of thinking that is obviously highly disputed and, as far as I’m concerned, offensive, sexist, and misleading) had been left behind in the 70s and 80s, along with the idea that all feminists hate men and have no sense of...
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