The Conservative Gendered Stereotyping of Children, Radical Feminism and transgenderism.

This is Part One of a series responding to the issues around transgenderism and the media representations therein.

 When my daughter was 3 she decided she wanted to be a mermaid for the ability to swim underwater. This lasted until she realised that mermaids do two things: swim and brush their hair. Understandably, this was deemed too boring. So, she became a mermaid superhero, which combined awesome swimming skills (and potentially a visit to Atlantis) with the ability to fly and read minds (and ignore her mother). Eventually this became a superhero mermaid rock star since I, in a moment of extreme unreasonableness, refused to let her dye her hair bright blue. (She decided her way around this was to become the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as the band could veto my no blue hair rule, but that’s a whole different story).

My daughter no longer wants to be a mermaid or a rock star. She still loves superheroes and we spend a lot of time in comic book stores and at Comic Cons. She also has short hair. Despite clearly being a girl, at a recent Comic Con she was referred to as a boy because she chose to attend as a male superhero. The fact that many of the traditional male superheroes, such as Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Green Lantern,  are being replaced by women was deemed irrelevant. GrantedIMG_7717 this had a lot to do with the extreme sexualisation of female superheroes and villains, as seen in the comic artist Frank Quitely exhibit at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. Quitely was involved in the changes to the X-men costumes to make them more ‘practical’, except for Emma Frost who is wearing platform boots and two tiny pieces of cloth covering her breasts.*IMG_7716

Whilst deeply annoying, the ‘misgendering’ of my daughter did raise some interesting questions on why men assumed a primary school child had to be a boy because her costume featured neither a tutu nor a corset. The teenage boys dressed as female superheroes were classed as ‘transgressive’. My daughter, however, had to be a boy.

I was reminded of this situation when the utterly dreadful Good Housekeeping article on a boy whose Conservative Christian parents decided he must be a transgirl went viral. This child was forcibly transitioned by his parents in response to their relatives suggested he might be gay because he liked to play with toys that were for ‘girls’:

“Shortly after Kai turned 2, friends and family were starting to notice her behavior. Living in Pearland, Texas, that meant we were getting a lot of sidelong glances and questions. Kai would only play with other girls and girls’ toys. She said boys were “gross.” Family members were flat-out asking me if this kid was gay. It made me nervous, and I was constantly worried about what people would think of me, of us and of my parenting. While family was questioning whether Kai was gay ….”

Kai’s parents were so horrified by a son who like to wear bright dress up clothes that they decided he must be a girl.  This poor child has to contend with homophobic parents more concerned about appearances than raising an emotionally healthy child with a wide range of interests.

The correct response to such homophobic comments from family and friends should be to remove them from your child’s life (and deal with your own homophobia). Yet, these parents were feted by Good Housekeeping for transitioning a child to cover up their homophobia. Because having a gay child is the worst possible thing than raising a son who plays with toys traditionally assigned to girls and who may be gay (or, you know, just a kid who likes playing with toys). We are expected to celebrate these parents for their homophobia and for caring more about the neighbours than their own child.

This Good Housekeeping article encompasses all of my fears about the ways in which the construction of the Trans narrative is both deeply conservative and harmful to children.** Rather than recognizing the ways in which gender stereotypes create a hierarchy of male/ female and the decades of feminist research into the negative consequences this has for girls, we have, once again, arrived at a point where gender is deemed a binary with children unable to be just children. So, my superhero loving daughter, who only reads comics featuring female superheroes and villains, is being defined as male by so-called leftist people, who cannot conceive of women outside of a hyper-sexualised, violent pornographied object and by right-wing religious fundamentalists who believe women are inferior to men. It is not unsurprising that an Islamic fundamentalist country like Iran forcibly transitions people with the other option being death. The story of Kai demonstrates a similar trend in fundamentalist Christian communities in the US – the isolation and shaming of gay and lesbian children within these communities is well-documented and is responsible for the self-harming and suicides of far too many children.

I cannot see anything liberating about forcing children into categories of boy/girl based solely on whether or not they like trains or tutus – and all the subsequent medical interventions – or the entirety of the bigender/agender/ genderqueer constructions that continue to reify the sex based hierarchy rather than challenging them. Certainly, the recent article in the New York Times entitled “My daughter is not Trans, she’s a tomboy” still supports the theory that ‘girls’, unless they do ‘boy stuff’ are not as good as being born male. Girls who play with Barbies are bad and girls who climb trees are good is an asinine narrative that punishes children for trying to learn who they are within a culture that punishes children who try to conform or challenge the gendered patriarchal constructs of  masculine/ feminine.

Labelling children transgender at the age of 2 is a conservative and reactionary response to the questioning of gender. It is inherently homophobic and it fails to challenge the neoliberal discourse of ‘choice’ which depoliticises liberation politics and renders any discussion of class-based politics as ‘hateful’. As a radical feminist, I want nothing less than the full liberation of all women from the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.  This includes recognising that gender is not a performance or an ‘identity’. It is nothing more than the systemic social, cultural and physical oppression of women’s bodies, predicated on women’s reproductive, sexual and caring labour, which does nothing more than a reinforce a hierarchy of man/woman.

*Thank you to Claire Heuchan who pointed out this part of the exhibit to me.

** Part two is a discussion of the medical establishment and the transitioning of children.

Suggested Reading:

Dr. Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences, (London,2010).

Dr. Cordelia Fine, Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of our Gendered Minds, (UK, 2017)

Glosswitch, ‘Our culture dehumanises women by reducing them all to breeders and non-breeders‘, (New Statesman, 2014)

Claire Heuchan, “Sex, Gender and the New EssentialismSister Outrider, (7.2.2017).

Claire Heuchan, Lezbehonest about Queer Politics Erasing Lesbian WomenSister Outrider, (15.3.2017).

.Claire Heuchan, The Problem that has no name because women is too “essentialist”Sister Outrider, (22.2.2017).

bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody, (UK, 2000)

Miranda Kiraly  & Meagan Tyler (eds.), Freedom Fallacy: The Limits of Liberal Feminism, (Australia, 2015)

Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, (Oxford University Press, 1986)

Peggy Ornstein, Girls & Sex, (Great Britain, 2016), see pgs 160-165

PurpleSage, The Relentless Tide of Sex Stereotypes, (20.5.2016)

Dr. Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, “Gender is not a spectrum”Aeon, (28.6.2016)

Dr. Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, What I believe about Sex & GenderMore Radical with Age, (2015)

Denise Thompson, Radical Feminism Today, (London, 2001)

 

Donald Trump, Male Violence and Misogyny

Despite a clear history of misogyny, racismclassism, homophobia and being the poster boy for toxic hyper-masculinity and male entitlement in a rape culture, a large segment of people seem somewhat shocked by the release of a video from 2005 in which Donald Trump brags about committing sexualised violence. Even more people seem shocked that the Washington Post, and other mainstream publications, refer to this as a “lewd conversation”. Our only response to this “shock” is: have you ever read mainstream media? It is full of misogyny and racism and homophobia and classism. It is full of victim blaming and the erasure of perpetrators from their own crimes. If perpetrators are named, as with family annihilators, it is solely to paint them as ‘good fathers’ driven by jealousy and rage. It’s just a ‘domestic incident” and, therefore, not really a problem. They have “mental health problems” (and no one ever mentions that women who experience mental illnesses are very, very unlikely to commit violence against other people. If they do, it’s not because they are mentally ill. Or that the men who actually live with mental illnesses are more likely to injure themselves than anyone else). Their victims are erased. Their crimes deemed less important than their careers.

We’ve collected some of the best articles and blogs we’ve read on Donald Trump this weekend. Unfortunately, a lot of MSM which purports to be critical of Trump’s language simply failed to engage in a meaningful way with rape culture and systemic misogyny, rather they focused on “not all men” as though offending men were more problematic than holding Trump, and the millions of men who believe they are entitled to perpetrate violence against women and girls, accountable for their language and their crimes. #Notallmen is a useful way to derail conversations about the ubiquity of male violence against women and girls. It ignores the power differential between men and women as a class and the specific experiences of individual women within the white supremacist capitalist-patriarchy.

Trump’s comments, which have been dismissed as ‘banter’ are not an anomaly. We see similar comments submitted to this website. We’ve heard similar comments in pubs, restaurants and bus stops. We’ve see these men every single day in media coverage of male violence – in mainstream media articles desperate to mitigate men’s responsibility for violence. We hear it in discussions amongst politicians about the welfare system, reproductive justice, and immigration (which fail to address the intersection of race and sex for Black women). What Donald Trump has been caught saying on video might be considered an outlier by some but it is no different than much of the language used to define women in pornography; as one of the largest and most commercially successful industries in the world, it’s fairly obvious that millions of men watch it.

The lessons from responses to Donald Trump is that still far too many people believe this level of misogyny is an aberration rather than reality for the majority of women. Men standing up to denounce Trump in this specific incident but nothing else are still part of the problem. Saying Trump ‘crossed a line’, as former presidential candidate John McCain has suggested, misses the point. The misogyny of Trump is institutionalised, systemic and ubiquitous. And, it is certainly not limited to the US when the British media is giving Nigel Farage a platform to defend Trump’s history of sexualised violence (like they do in giving Farage a platform in which to espouse racism. Daily.).

We need to stop talking about being ‘shocked’ by Trump’s language (and Billy Bush encouraging him) and start talking about how normal it is. Only that will lead to a real change.

Why Donald Trump and Billy Bush’s leaked conversation is so awful by Alexandra Petri

… A repellent, but remarkably unexamined, idea that we carry around in society with us is the notion that somehow this is okay. That this is just boys being boys. That we must give boys a safe, unpolluted, secret space where they can stop the exhausting charade of acting as though women contain the same internal worlds that they do themselves.

This is what it gets back to: the idea that men are people, and women are just women.

Of course what Donald Trump said is awful. But, as Kelly Oxford noted on Twitter, it’s the fact that Billy Bush just nodded along that gives us rape culture.

It’s the idea that boys will be boys, and it does not matter what you leave in your wake, because you are the protagonist of this story, and the girl is just … an appealing body, to be discussed and dissected at leisure when you are back in one of the myriad locker rooms of daily life. If that.

This is egregious, but it is not isolated. It’s every time the Serious Concern is that a young man’s life might theoretically be ruined — by the act of punishing him for what he did to ruin someone else’s life. It’s every time someone talks about how awful something would be if it happened to your wife or your daughter or your mother — instead of just to you, to a person. Every time women’s existence is limited to their relationship to men. Every time women are treated merely as gatekeepers of sex, a resource that is somehow obtainable without the enthusiastic participation of another person who might have opinions on the matter. Every time men don’t read books by women, every time boys can’t find it in themselves to identify with a female protagonist. Every time people look at a movie with one woman in it and nine men and say “yes, this seems fine.” Every time we say to little girls in countless ways that what matters is how you look, not what you think. …

Donald and Billy on the Bus by Lindy West

… Mr. Trump is rape culture’s blathering id, and Sunday night Hillary Clinton (who, no doubt, has just as many man-made scars as the rest of us) has to stand next to him on a stage, and remain unflappable as she’s held to an astronomically higher standard, and pretend that he is her equal while his followers persist in howling that sexism is a feminist myth. While Mr. Trump boasts about sexual assault and vows to suppress disobedient media, cable news pundits spend their time taking a protractor to Mrs. Clinton’s smile — a constant, churning, microanalysis of nothing. …

Meanwhile, right-wing lawmakers are scrambling, sanctimonious and pathetic, to distance themselves from their own hideous progeny, clearly hoping to salvage some personal credibility and perhaps even save their party. But here is the thing, the big thing, that Paul D. Ryan and Reince Priebus and Mike Pence and all the spineless Billy Bushes of the world (and plenty of progressive men too, for that matter) don’t understand: Most of you are no better than Mr. Trump; you are just more subtle.

If you have spent your career brutalizing and dehumanizing women legislatively rather than personally, you are no better. If you were happy to overlook months of violent racism, xenophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia from the Trump campaign, but now you’re mad that he used a bad word and tried to sleep with another man’s wife, you are no better. If you have derided and stigmatized identity politics in an effort to keep the marginalized from organizing, you are no better. If you snicker or say nothing while your fellow men behave like Donald Trump, you are no better. …

We grew up with this by @sianushka 

 … So while desperate Republicans are trying to persuade us they care about women because they have female relatives, other commentators are trying to tell us that grabbing women by the vulva isn’t sexual assault at all. 

And that’s rape culture too, right? 

To say that violating a woman’s personal boundaries is a clumsy attempt at seduction. To say the comments are lewd – as if speaking the word pussy is beyond the pale but sticking your hand on one is a-ok. Let’s pretend it’s not sexual assault, it’s just what guys do. Boys will be boys. Top bantz.

Women know this. We know what it’s like to be told not to complain. To keep quiet. Not to make a big deal out of it. We wouldn’t want to upset him, after all. We wouldn’t want to get him into trouble over just a bit of sexual assault. We wouldn’t want to make a fuss. It’s just a slap on the ass, a pinch of your tits, a hand on your thigh, a hand up your skirt. He didn’t mean it. He didn’t mean it. It was just a joke. It was just a clumsy attempt at seduction. What, are you going to criminalise flirting now? …

So Trump has crossed a line? His views are as old as misogyny itself by Suzanne Moore

… His campaign is an anxiety performance. Machismo by its nature is always an exaggeration, an overcompensation. It works for losers precisely because it covers loss. Look, he says to the disempowered, white male, look at me and my phallic boasting. I will make you hard again.

His hatred of women, his refusal of their bodily autonomy, whether over sex or reproductive rights, is not suddenly being revealed. This is his lifestyle. Now he has crossed a line apparently. Well, the line is a moveable feast when you can hint at assassinating your opponent, at the black vote being rigged, at interviewers menstruating. Multiple choice offence is his USP. Suck it up, bitches. …

Trump’s latest comments about women are rape culture in a nutshell by Emma Gray

… In Trump’s world, women are objects ― objects that only hold a value based on how physically attractive he personally finds them to be. And if women are objects, rather than whole human beings, it follows that Trump must deserve them. Women are things. And when he wants them, he wants them.

As he says to Bush: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

This is what rape culture looks like.  …

Rape culture is why victims of rape and sexual assault feel unsafe reporting their assaults to law enforcement.

Rape culture is why even when these crimes are reported and prosecuted, the perpetrators rarely see the inside of a jail cell.

Rape culture is why the vast majority of women have experienced street harassment.

Rape culture is why many female victims of sexual violence are still asked what they were wearing and drinking when the assaults occurred.

Rape culture is what allows famous men like Bill Cosby to remain untarnished in the public eye until more than 50 women publicly accused him of sexual assault.  …

The Violence of Donald Trump by @bridgettedunlap

… As Harry Hurt III reported in his 1993 book, Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, Ivana Trump, the real estate tycoon’s first wife, testified in a sworn deposition during their divorce proceedings that Trump was angry with her for recommending a plastic surgeon he believed had “ruined” him with a painful scalp reduction surgery to remove a bald spot. Ivana testified that Trump held back her arms and pulled out fistfuls of her hair from her scalp before forcibly penetrating her. Trump denies that the attack or the surgery ever happened.

Trump was never tried or sued, so we’ll never know if he is guilty of raping his wife. But the way Trump and his legal team reacted to the allegations tells us they do not believe the law applies to him.

Prior to Hurt’s book being published, Trump and his lawyers got a statement from Ivana saying she felt “violated” by the events of that night but that she didn’t mean that she’d been raped “in a literal or criminal sense” – even though what she described in her deposition amounted to rape as a legal matter. She’s since said the story of Trump raping her is “without merit.” …

Trump’s leaked comments aren’t just “lewd.” They describe sexual assault. by @emilycrockett

… Whether or not Trump is bragging for effect or machismo, he is saying that he thinks it’s no big deal to grab or kiss a woman in a sexual manner — either by moving too fast for her to consent or resist or by exploiting his power until “they let you do it.”

It is sexual assault to “just start kissing” a woman, much less “grab” her “pussy,” and not “even wait” — in other words, to act without warning or consent.

It is sexual assault to exploit your power over a woman for the purpose of sexual favors.

This isn’t a joke. This isn’t even just a much worse version of the usual sleaze or insults that we’re used to on Trump and women. This is serious.

It’s serious because this kind of cavalier treatment of sexual assault is the definition of rape culture. When men see sexual assault as a punchline, or even something to brag about, they take it less seriously when they see or hear about it happening, and they take women less seriously who talk about it. …

This post was originally published on Everyday Victim Blaming.

Even Brownies has been pornified

Small is a Brownie. I’m not overly-enthused by the commitment to the Queen twaddle in the Brownie promise but the girl-only space more than compensates for any pro-monarchy drivel. This morning, at that grand hour of 6:47, Small woke me up to discuss what my Brownie uniform looked like as a child. Being way too early, I used Safari to google images instead of the child-friendly one I normally use with her (not that the child-friendly one isn’t without problems – it doesn’t allow any images for small children so we’ve had to set the parental controls at high school so she can look at pictures of kittens).

This is what I expected to find:

Unknown Unknown 1 Unknown 2

This is what I found:

brownie 1 images 2

 imagesimages 1

Some of these are marketed as hen night outfits. It just makes me so very sad that even an outfit designed for 7-10 year old girls has been sexualised. Who finds an organisation created to help young girls grow confidence in themselves, nurture friendships and become responsible citizens sexy? At what point do people start to recognise the harms of pornography?

Because, “sexy” outfits using children’s characters is beyond creepy. It looks like child sexual exploitation – grooming children.

Ethical Porn: The Sources

I made the decision not to include direct links to radical feminist blogs in my New Internationalist piece in March because of violent, creepy men. In my experience, left wing dudebros can be some of the most aggressive and nasty when disagreeing with women.

I believe pornography and prostitution constitute violence against women. Below is a full list of the books, articles and blogs I consulted when writing the piece. Many I had read before agreeing to the discussion with Kitty Stryker but some I came across when googling.

Blogs:

The Intercourse Series at Fact Check Me

Consent is Sexy and Sexy is mandatory at Rootveg

The problem with the consent to intercourse at When Women Were Warriors

so what you like PIV at mechantechatonne

PIV is always rape at Witchwind

The Tyranny of Consent at Feminist Current

The Cult of Pornography – A Black Feminist Perspective at Black Feminists

It’s just PIV at Fact Check Me

All porn is rape at Fact Check Me

There is something wrong with me at Ann Tagonist

Let me slip into something a little less uncomfortable by Ann Tagonist

Pornography, Patirarchy and Liberalism: Re-Reading Andrea Dworkin at New Left Project

Principled Pornography: How Queer/ Indie Sites are Reframing the Industry by Kitty Stryker

Books:

Kathleen Barry’s The Prostitution of Sexuality: The Global Exploitation of Women

Jennifer Hayashi Danns with Sandrine Leveque’s Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing

Gail Dines’ Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked Our Sexuality

Andrea Dworkin’s Pornography: Men Possessing Women

Robert Jensen’s  Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity

Trine Rogg Korsvik & Ane Sto’s The Nordic Approach

Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

Julia Long’s Anti-Porn: The Resurgence of Anti-Pornography Feminism

Linda Lovelace’s Ordeal

Linda Lovelace’s Out of Bondage

Laurie Penny’s Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism

Melinda Tankard Reist’s Big Porn Inc.

Natasha Walter’s Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism

(This is an old post that somehow ended up in the draft folder. )

Baby Pacifiers: Porn Style

Seriously, people? This is what we’ve arrived at: pornified soothers for babies? Way to teach baby girls they have no right to bodily autonomy and that their only value is in how well they flirt. What the hell kind of creepazoid comes up with this product in the first place? And, who approves this shit? No one, at any point in the production or distribution, thought that sexualising babies might just a little bit creepy?

pacifers

There is a petition on change.org to have the product removed. Frankly, the dudes who came up with it should be thinking alternative employment as well.

The text of the petition by Owen Lloyd is below:

 Recently, my wife and I were looking around a Target store for shoes for our 13 month old daughter, Violet. In the process we came across many disturbing products on your shelves, one of the worst of these being “sexy” pacifiers for baby girls, one with a lipstick mark on it, the other with the word “flirt”. We find it repulsive that you would think it is appropriate to openly sell products that represent infant girls as sexual objects for men’s pleasure. 

More than that, we find it terrifying that you are selling products that normalize rape against children by selling products that send the message to abusers that little girls are sexually interested in men. Abusive men are constantly looking for ways to justify their abuse to themselves, and your product provides them such an opportunity.

Young girls like my daughter, seeing a product like this in a popular national chain store, are being told that it is appropriate and even expected that they engage in “sexy” behavior. And while you might think your product is just some quirky little harmless joke, girls who have survived assault are receiving the message that it is normal or even “funny” for men to abuse them.

Take these products off the market.

 

 

 

Nick Ross: There is no such thing as Child Porn

I didn’t think Nick Ross could say anything more offensive but it turns out he’s worse than I originally thought. He’s not just a misogynist, he’s also a racist. I’ve reproduced the Telegraph article on Ross’ appearance at the Hay Festival below. Even if the Telegraph has gone for the most extreme out-of-context quotes, Ross is a deeply hateful man. Ross has gone for the “police aren’t institutionally racist, West Indians are more likely to mug people” construction of crime. 30 years as a journalist heading Crimewatch and he thinks that skin colour and community dictates criminality . I would write further about that one comment but, frankly, that’s just the level of stupid I would expect from a man peddling rape myths in the Daily Mail.
Ross also suggests he might peruse some child porn, if offered, just to see what the fuss is all about. Yep, he wants to peruse some “child porn” to see what the fuss is about. 
“Child porn” does not exist. 
Ross wants to view images of children being sexually assaulted, raped and tortured just to see what the fuss is about.
He wants to view images of 2 year old children being raped until their pelvises break. 
He wants to view images of a 5 year old child being sodomised.
He wants to view images of a 12 year old child being gang raped.
That is the reality of “child porn”
It is the violent sexual and physical abuse of children.
It is not something that normal people view because they are “curious”.
It’s what violent, hateful men think is entertainment.
Ross needs to shut the fuck up.
The Telegraph article
Speaking at The Telegraph Hay Festival, Ross, who provoked censure last week with his views on rape, claimed that all humans were essentially curious.
“We’re all inquisitive,” he said. “I had never seen, until I started working on Crimewatch, child pornography.
“I think if someone came to me and said: ‘Would you like to see what all the fuss is about?’, I’m sorry, I probably would say yes.”
Ross referred to a study in which internet users clicked on links to extreme pornography even if they had not searched for it.
He said: “Does this tell us that we’re all awful? I think not.”
The presenter courted further controversy when he claimed some races were more likely to commit certain crimes. He argued that there was no evidence of institutional racism in the police force, claiming instead that West Indians were simply more likely to mug people.
Ross had already admitted at the festival that his views were likely to get him into “hot water” again.
Last week, he was criticised for his comments on rape, when he compared “provocatively dressed” women to a bank “storing sacks of cash by the door”.
Yesterday, he urged critics to read his book, Crime and How to Solve It, and Why So Much of What We’re Told is Wrong. He discussed the relevance of race to crime, claiming that particular ethnic minorities had a tendency to commit certain offences.
He said there was no evidence of institutional racism in the police force simply that some minorities were likely to commit certain crimes.
“We’re very bad pickpockets in this country,” he said. “We’re incredibly good at car crime. It does seem that contact crimes of the sort people don’t like, such as mugging, are specifically of some communities from the West Indies.
“Does that mean they’re worse than us? No. Does that mean they’re less moral, than us? No. It just means they’re not very good at pick pocketing, they do this sort of crime.”

Kathleen Barry’s The Prostitution of Sexuality: The Global Exploitation of Women

Kathleen Barry’s The Prostitution of Sexuality was first published in 1995 and grew out of her work and activism following the publication of Female Sexual Slavery in 1979. The first half of the book, which is just theory, is brilliant. The second half felt outdated as it is based almost entirely on the research undertaken for Female Sexual Slavery. I would argue that the situation is actually worse now than it was even 10 years ago, particularly in relation to rape as an accepted tactic of war. I’d be interested to read an epilogue to the book which examines the reality of women’s experiences of sexual exploitation now and whether Barry thinks it is worse for women or if its just that I’ve become more aware of sexual exploitation.

I cannot recommend this book enough though. Barry’s theory on the global exploitation of women is incredibly important. She destroys the idea that prostitution can be consented to within a capitalist-patriarchy. She clearly proves that the sexualisation of human bodies renders women passive objects and men active participants. Barry challenges the heteronormative construction of pornography and prostitution and the hegemonic nature of capitalism which is built on the bodies of women.

I am adding this book to my list of Top Ten Feminist Theory Texts (in no particular order):

1. Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse

2. Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences. 

3. Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women

4. Kat Banyard’s The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today

5. Susan Maushart’s Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women

6. Sheila Jeffreys’ Beauty and Misogyny

7. Susie Orbach’s Fat is a Feminist Issue

8. Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics

9. Melinda Tankard Reist’s Big Porn Inc

10. Kathleen Barry’s The Prostitution of Sexuality: The Global Exploitation of Women

#ReadingonlyBooksWrittenByWomen : On Pornography and Prostitution


I’ve been enjoying theme reading these past few months: February was Black History Month in North America and March was, obviously, a celebration of women’s history. This month I’m going to read feminist critiques of prostitution and pornography. As ever, I probably won’t make it through the whole list but these are the texts I have lined up:

Melinda Tankard Reist’s Big Porn Inc.: Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry
Karen Boyle’s Everyday Pornography
Laura Lederer’s Take by The Night: Women on Pornography
Jennifer Hayashi Danns with Sandrine Leveque’s Stripped: The Bare Faced Reality of Lap Dancing
Trine Rogg Korsvik & Ane Sto’s The Nordic Approach: Feminists Write Candidly about the Nordic Battle to Ban the Purchase of Sex
Andrea Dworkin‘s Pornography: Men Possessing Women
Linda Lovelace’s Ordeal 
Linda Lovelace’s Out of Bondage
Kathleen Barry’s The Prostitution of Sexuality: The Global Exploitation of Women 
Sheila Jeffrey’s Anticlimax: A Feminist Perspective on the Sexual Revolution
Christine Stark & Rebecca Whisnant’s Not For Sale:  Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography

These are some texts I highly recommend:

Gail Dines’ Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality
Robert Jensen’s Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity
Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
Julia Long’s Anti-Porn The Resurgence of Anti-Pornography Feminism
Melinda Tankard Reist’s Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls
Natasha Walter’s Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism

Anne of Green Gables is a Redheaded Child Not a Blonde Playboy Centerfold

This is the new cover of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s children’s classic Anne of Green Gables. You remember Anne: a redheaded, 11 year old orphan who hates her hair and who is sent to live with Matthew and Marilla who wanted a boy; a girl who spends the first two books learning to love herself both as a female and one with a red hair. At least, it’s been a while since I’ve read the book but I definitely remember Anne being a redhead and a child; not a retro-Playboy centrefold. I definitely don’t remember Anne rolling about in a haystack like a supporting body in Dukes of Hazzard. Being 7 am, I have taken the liberty of checking with Wikipedia  to make sure I’m not completely out-to-lunch with this. They’re pretty sure Anne is supposed to a redheaded child too. Now, I do know that Wikipedia isn’t always the most accurate source of information but even they can’t confuse a redheaded child with an 18 year blonde with breasts being posed in a sexualised manner.

Has it really come to the point that one of the best books written for girls by a brilliant author which has already sold more than 50 million copies and been translated into 20 languages needs to be repackaged as if the target audience is middle-aged men with a teenage girl sex fetish? Because, they’ve never struck me as the target audience for Anne of Green Gables. And, frankly, everything else in our culture is targeted at them. Why can’t girls have one book that doesn’t erase our lived experiences?

Why does everything have to reference a pornified, heteronormative sexuality?

Why do we assume young girls won’t want to read a book about another young girl, especially since 50 million of us already have, if she isn’t sexualised?

FFS, the whole point of Anne of Green Gables is learning to love ourselves even if we have freckles, red hair and aren’t called Cordelia. It is not a book about a blond teenager learning to be a sex object. It’s a book about a child discovering themselves and loving themselves.

This is precisely the kind of shit which evidences why porn culture is so insidious.

Anne should not pass the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. 

She is a child; to pretend otherwise is disgusting and creepy. 


This is the cover of the edition I have. Notice that Anne is both a redhead and a child; not a blonde woman being posed in a sexualised manner.

Plus, let’s be totally honest here, there is NO WAY Marilla would let Anne prance about in a boy’s shirt.

This is from the Mumsnet thread I started today. I thought it needed sharing:

FastidiaBlueberry Thu 07-Feb-13 12:04:17
Who is the publisher?

This really is pernicious and a brilliant example of porn culture.

Any child buying this book is receiving the message that being a girl means being sexy before being anything else. Even if the words in the book say something completely different and don’t even talk about the need to be fuckable, the subliminal message is that even when you’re busy doing other stuff, sexy is where it’s at. If this goes on, it will almost be impossible to find pictures of female humans which don’t emphasise their fuckability above every other aspect of them. Are we to look forward to a representation of Hermione Granger suggestively holding her wand in her mouth, or near her arse or something, a la 50 shades? WTF?

Who the fuck thought it was a good idea, is the publishing house full of child-molesters or something?

I mean seriously, what possesses an otherwise normal person, to imagine that the best representation of an 11 year old red-haired girl with freckles (something the book is very specific about) is a sexualised picture of a teenager? There’s something actually quite sinister about this, what is wrong with the adults who authorised this cover? I really do think they should be forced to make a statement about why they felt it was appropriate to pornify the image of a child on a book whose target market is female children. It’s beyond disgusting, it’s actually amazing – as if peadophiles are working in the office and deciding the artwork and the normal adults there are accepting the paedophile view of the world, that every child is a potential fuck. 

And of course, we’re all going to be told that we’re overreacting, it’s only a picture and it’s fine for 8 year old girls to be brainwashed in this way.

FFS.

A teacher was fired because she was a porn actress.


So, not only has a junior high science teacher in California  been fired for appearing in a pornographic movie, a three-judge commission upheld her firing. She was fired because the internet means the porn films she starred in will *always* be available to students.


This is the point were I have to make my bias clear: I am anti-porn.  I do not think it’s possible to create pornography which is unharmful in a culture which constructs women as a sex class. In a post-patriarchy world things might be completely different. But, we aren’t there yet and I do believe that porn, in its current incarnation, is inherently harmful due to its reductive construction of a racist heteronormative sexuality which privileges the male orgasm at the expense of women’s physical and emotional well-being.

Being anti-porn is political stance. It is a critique of the capitalist-patriarchal structures which harm us all (within and out with porn).

However, this article isn’t about questioning the role of porn in our culture. It’s about slut-shaming. It’s holding one woman responsible for the ignorance of her former colleagues and the fact that porn culture is so pervasive that students in the middle school where she taught found and watched some of the porn films she was in. 


According to the district superintendent Jeff Chancer  her decision to “engage in pornography was incompatible with her responsibilities as a role model for students,”. Stacie Halas did not participate in the porn industry whilst a teacher. She made several films during a 9 month period in 2005 – 2006 because of poverty. She was not showing porn films in her classroom. She was not sharing the porn films with her students. She was not flogging them to her students. She appeared in several movies 8 years ago. And, this is enough to have her fired. 

I clearly missed the module in my education degree which said that only perfect people were allowed to be teachers. 

There is little discussion here of how the students, in middle school, accessed the films. Or, why children were watching porn. Surely, the access children have to porn is far more problematic than one teacher appearing in a porn film. Yes, I get that once the children found out, it would have been harder for Halas to do her job. But, let’s be honest here, teenagers are just like adults. They can be equally cruel and a bunch of teenagers writing profanity on the teachers window is part of the job description. It happens even to perfect members of staff who never found themselves broke and taking a job in a porn film. 

Really though, the reason Halas worked within the porn industry is irrelevant for this. It only impacted her job because her co-workers complained to the school administration about it. It only impacted her job because she was fired. Halas was forced out of her job by slut-shaming reactionaries.

I am anti-porn but I can not see how preventing a woman from working as a teacher will end the pornification of our society and the hyper-sexualisation of childhood. This has taught her students that porn actresses are all sluts who do not deserve respect or basic human dignity. It has taught her students that slut-shaming is a perfectly acceptable activity. It has taught her students that it is acceptable to mock those who make different decisions than ourselves. It has taught them that it is okay to humiliate those who have fewer choices than they do. 

This is a horrible story. My sympathy is with Halas and not the slut-shaming, hypocritical arseholes who are preventing her from doing a job she was trained for. More importantly, I wouldn’t want my children to be taught by people lacking in both empathy and the critical skills necessary to engage constructively in our Capitalist-Patriarchy. 

And, by the way Huff Post, those “student-teacher sex scandals” at the bottom are cases of child rape, possession of child pornography and other forms of sexual violence. Not “sex scandals”. They are also all women; women who are convicted sex offenders. They are not comparable to a woman who used to work in the porn industry. Working in porn is not a criminal offence; raping a 14 year old boy is a crime. Could you at least pretend to keep that straight?