yeah, so um, ms enid threw down the gauntlet, and put forward a very interesting post, about which there has been some very interesting discussion. and i did say that i'd think about it and provide a response. let me say that i'm feeling a little squeamish about that, and the source of of my squeamishness most likely lies in the fact that when feminists put up arguments against porn, there seems to be quite a vocal opposition to it.
and it's not really surprising that this is the case. because if there's one thing we know about a patriarchal (or any other kind of) society, it is that it rewards those who uphold its values. those who play along nicely fare much, much better than those who challenge the status quo. that is the context in which feminists work, and i don't believe that this discussion can happen outside of that context. that's why i'm feeling shaky about putting this post up.
also, i know ms enid is one very clever and totally amazing woman, and going head-to-head in a debate with her is enough to make anyone shake in their shoes! i don't know that i'm entirely up to the task, but i'll give it a try.
the whole discussions began with filament magazine, and whether or not the hand mirror should have hosted an interview on this blog. to which i responded thusly:
i read emma's post and wasn't too impressed with this new magazine. yes, it's trying to do something different, but it's still doing it in a society that's strongly objectifying women & my own personal belief is that you don't solve the problem by doing the same thing to men, no matter how "tastefully" it's done nor how much you supposedly treat the person as a whole human being by writing up a nice article about them.
ms enid's first response (and i'm eagerly awaiting part 2) is to discuss objectification and porn outside of any social context. to discuss porn as stand-alone concepts. i'm agree with some of the commentors on that post - porn can't be divorced from social context. because it is our socialisation and our environment that determines whether or not we objectify, when we objectify, where we objectify, and how we objectify others.
when i read ms enid saying "objectification is perfectly fine",
it takes me straight back to one gordon gecko standing up and saying "greed is good". and he provided all the nice, rational and very logical sounding reasons for why greed is good. he totally believed it, and because greed is something we feel guilty about even though we still totally want to indulge in it, we take on board the message so that we can keep on being greedy without having to feel guilty about the harm it might cause others. if we're being self-serving, it's for the greater good after all! it's an argument we're seduced by because we're so desperate to be seduced.
now, i'm not equating ms enid's arguments with mr gecko's, i'm just saying that they take me to the same place. and i can just see myself trying to argue with mr gecko without having anything coherent to say, except "but, but, but... that's just so wrong. i can't explain why it is, but it just is". it's exactly the same way i feel about objectification, it's just wrong to divorce someone from their humanity, to treat them as an object without feelings, desires, dreams and all the other aspects that make us human. it's wrong even if the person consents to it, because in dehumanising themselves they not only dehumanise the objectifier, they also serve to dehumanise others who are perceived to be in the same group as themselves.
that it's wrong is a moral judgement. and i have no problem with that. we make moral judgements all the time. that's why we have laws. every statute is a moral judgement of one kind or another, because it restricts a particular behaviour. we are happy to make moral judgements about things that have no legal context as well, eg many of us believe that telling a lie is wrong, cheating on your spouse is wrong, etc. so i see no reason for suspending all moral judgement when it comes to matters of porn. that makes no sense at all.
so, what i've established after so many words is that i think objectification is wrong. that's my view, and if you don't like it, that's too bad. it's not going to be changing any time soon & it certainly won't be changed by watching "the right kind of porn".
a couple of things flow from the fact that i think it's wrong. first is that i don't want to be objectified. i don't give anyone the right to objectify me without my consent. to which you say "there's no way you can police that, there's no way you can stop people objectifying you because you have no control over their thoughts". that is correct, i have no control and do not want to have control over their thoughts. what i can do is make it more difficult for them to objectify me. one of the ways i do that is by the way i dress. another way is by making it clear where and when i can that i don't consent to being objectified. yet another way is to be an activist in this area and challenge prevailing views. maybe i won't entirely solve the problem, but i can and will do my best to minimise it as it relates to me.
the problem i see with the "objectification is morally fine" argument posed by ms enid is that she does not limit it in any way. ergo, if our cultural norm is that objectification is fine all the time, where does the person who doesn't want to be objectified go? for example, i don't see why i should have to be objectified in my workplace; i want to be judged on my skills and performance. but under the "objectification is fine" model, i get no choice about that and have to face the consequences of objectification whether or not i like it. under this model, the only way to avoid objectification is to not have a job. and similarly the argument goes for any other sphere i move in. ultimately, the only way i can avoid being objectified is by shutting myself in a room and never meeting anyone. i don't accept that as fair.
next you'll say to me that this is just how human beings are, and we can't change our nature. just accept that this is the way of the world because there really isn't anything you can do about it. to which i say phooey - well, i'd more likely say f**k off, but i'm trying to be polite here. if i accepted that argument, then i'd never have done a lot of the things i do. it's because i challenge many of the prevailing norms and expectations of certain parts of my community that i am able to do what i do. i have had to fight every inch of the way for certain freedoms that many of you take for granted. so many times, i'm told about my feminine nature, and told what sphere i should restrict myself to, and told that this is just the way God made the world.
well i've never accepted that argument, and i never will. don't bother saying "that's just the way it is" to me, because i know that humans evolve and people who are willing to agitate and take a lot of flak can change the way things are. there is nothing that is set in concrete. any aspect of culture, environment or humanity is subject to change. i dont' have to accept that men are naturally violent and that's the way things are. i don't have to accept that men will sexually harass me and i should just harden up and tell them to f**k off. i don't have to take any of the evpsych or venus/mars nonsense as if it's some kind of gospel truth. i don't have to accept that men generally have a higher sex drive than women. and i don't have to accept that objectification will happen to me and i am powerless against it.
if ms enid were to at least posit that objectification should happen in certain spheres, so that people who don't want to be part of it they can opt out, well that's an argument i could live with. if you were to say "if you go to to such and such place, you're going to encounter people who are in to objectification. so if you don't want to be part of that whole scene, just don't go to said place". at least then, i'd feel like i had some safe spaces left to me. but the way the argument has been presented, there is no room for safe space. that's not good enough.
another thing flowing from my belief that objectification is wrong is that i don't want to participate in the objection of others. which means that i don't want to be looking at images which objectify, i don't want to be watching films, tv, or looking at magazines which objectify. i don't want to be looking at live people to objectify them. i want to be able to have that choice to not objectify.
yesterday, i was driving down the main street of hamilton, on the way to picking up my child from school. in front of a me was a vehicle with a covered trailer attached to it, and the trailer was covered with pictures of nude women as it advertising some kind of strip joint. i had no choice. if i didn't want to cause an accident, i had to look at that image. last year a similar incident on the road with real-life strippers driving pillion on a motorbike with very little on, and i was left without any choice but to look. they might be quite happy to be doing what they were doing, but i want the choice to not have to look at it.
increasingly, i'm feeling that the choice is being taken away from me. there are increasingly fewer public places where i can avoid images that i disagree with, and that bothers me. those who think objectification is good also seem to think that they have the right to impose that objectification on others whereever and whenever they choose. should i dare to complain, i'm immediately faced some pretty harsh negative consequences.
it's ok, i've almost run out of words now. i just want to throw in the fact that i'm little impressed with president wahid's justification for ogling ms bardot. it's like the whole erotica/porn division, of which i think there is none. it's just an attempt by individuals to elevate what they're doing as being somehow above what everyone else is doing, because supposedly they're doing it with "taste". i have more respect for people like ms enid, who are honest about what they're doing & are unapologetic rather than people who want to convince you that they're doing something else altogether.