Following the recent documentary series on BBC4 ‘Women’, this piece was written in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/24/middle-class-feminism-politics, wherein the author seems to blame the entirety of contemporary feminism for the choices made by a lone director in the cutting room and in which feminist organisations she chose to highlight. The author takes issue with the fact that the feminists featured seemingly concentrate on the issues of prostitution and pornography at the expense of other issues more relevant to your ordinary, everyday woman. I’ll be honest, I think the whole article is pure crap, not on an ideological basis (though I suspect I’d think that too if I could really understand what exactly was getting her goat), but just on a ‘oh, I think I could write about that and maybe get it in The Guardian and I don’t have time to do anything other than jerk my knee and see what falls out onto the page’ basis.
As it so happens, the organisation featured, the London Feminist Network, does somewhat concentrate on prostitution and pornography and it is quite open about it, stating clearly on its memebership application page that it works to ‘increase women’s resistance to male violence against women in all its forms, such as r*pe, sexual assault, domestic violence, p*rnography, pr*stitution and the wider ‘sx-industry’. Note that there is nothing there about ‘and this is all we’re concerned about and we presume to speak for every woman on Planet Earth.’ The other organisation featured, Object, is even clearer about it’s own particular aims being entirely about challenging ‘sex object culture’. The director chose to concentrate on these organisations, but even that, apparently, is the fault of feminism. Jeez, and I haven’t even read the Daily Male today.
The basic idea is that prostitution is an abuse of human rights, as is pornography (an idea I happen to agree with). Organisations like LFN (and I’m being a bit presumptive here, because I certainly don’t speak for them, but only as I understand their aims) feel that once you get some basic acceptance of the idea that women are human beings, as opposed to various body parts up for sale for men to dribble bodily fluids over, then all that other malarkey like equal rights, equal pay, reproductive rights etc etc will be a darn sight easier to achieve. See? It’s a lot easier to laugh at a chained monkey dancing than a similarly chained organ grinder.
But, according to Hamilton, these are concerns of ‘middle class’ feminists. Which just seems odd to me. I grew up solidly working class but, whether I like it or not, I would now have to describe myself as middle class – I know I’m middle class because my list of ‘problems’ has changed entirely from those I had when I was working class. And I also know that the direction of my transition means I’m now far less likely to feel inclined to become a prostitute or work as a lap dancer or sign up to appear in porn films. Women who ‘man’ (ha ha) these industries are predominantly drawn from the working and under-classes. Belle du Jour aside, that’s just a fact. But because I’m middle class I’m assumed to be ‘patronising’ women in these industries by saying they’re wrong. Even ignoring the fact that studies have shown that the vast majority of women in these industries want to get out of them but don’t know how, I’m still not ‘patronising’ anybody. I believe that these industries do indeed damage all women – myself, and more importantly, my daughter – and thus believe they should be made illegal. And I say that even if i believed that the women in them truly did make a ‘free choice’ to be in them – lots of people want to murder people but the choice to do so affects others in negative ways (mainly the murderee) so I’m also in favour of murder being illegal on the same basis. Even though I’m in no danger of becoming a prostitute I want to give those women who are in danger of doing so proper choices – how is that patronising? Surely more patronising would be to say, You made your choice freely, Ms. Abused from childhood, so fuck you, I’m going to ignore you and pretend you don’t count and pretend that your ‘choice’ has no effect whatsoever on me in my privileged little castle of frilly pink. That’s fucking patronising.
And as for the line that ‘these are not the most important issues for the majority of women’ I can only disagree. Whatever else women may be busy dealing with in their day to day lives, prostitution and pornography affect us all on a daily basis, whether it’s through being attacked by our partner because he views us as nothing more than a sex toy who deserves no respect or consideration, or being coerced into sex by a man taking his cues about what women want from pornography, or simply carrying our keys linked through our fingers because we’re afraid from childhood of being raped by a stranger because prostitution and pornography has taught men who become rapists to view women as nothing more than tarts who want it really even when they say they don’t. We’re all affected, every, single day by violence against women. How you can take exception to organisations trying to combat that is a bit beyond me.