Monday, March 05, 2007

I argue with vera

If women are free to chose what they want, then what difference does it make if they chose to shave their legs? Is someone who avoids shaving her legs solely on the basis that patriarchy says she should a better feminist? Or, is she too making her choices based on patriarchy rather than her own preference?

Because the truth is that one of the things that the patriarchy demands is that women lie about their beauty choices. We're supposed to pretend that we woke up one day and 'chose' to shave our legs apart from society. That's a lie. If we want to shave our legs, we need to be honest about it. We need to admit that we didn't wake up and decide that hairy legs are wrong and gross by ourselves. We need to admit that men's legs are considered acceptable with their hair on them.

For example: How many times have we heard that women can’t be strippers and feminists because the sex industry objectifies, commodifies and demeans women for male pleasure. Whether or not she enjoys such work and chose it because she likes it, isn’t discussed. Just like in patriarchy, her choice, her preference, her autonomy, is ignored. But, who decided that stripping is demeaning? Patriarchy. What made stripping “unseemly” for “good” women? Patriarchy. What gave objectification and commodification their titillation factor? Patriarchy. What conflates male sexual pleasure with violence, humiliation, and degradation of women? Patriarchy.

We’re not fighting patriarchy when we shame a woman for choosing sex work, choosing high heels or choosing to view porn (as other examples). We’re not fighting the preconceived notion from patriarchy that women exist only to be used for male pleasure. We’re not fighting for a woman’s right to chose. We are simply doing precisely what patriarchy would have us do - fight each other instead of the actual enemy.

In Memphis, most of our strippers and prostitutes aren't rich white women just
'choosing' this line of work. Our strippers and prostitutes have been failed by our educational system, fucked over by racism, shat on by classism. I think another problem with patriarchy is that we're supposed to pretend that it's just a coinkydink that it's women and marginalized men- the trans, the homeless gay men, populate this work. We hear ad nausem about how great about empowering it is to be a stripper or a whore, but the truth of the matter is- around the globe, for most women and men in this position, it's more getting the best out of a bad situation forced on you by colonalism(I think that going to foreign countries to have sex with brown children is some form of imperalism.), by sexism, by poverty. It's not a life path choosen freely. We lie when we ignore this.

Also, while I'm ranting, I'm sure sex rots your brain. Nobody ever goes around saying that the strawberry pickers of this world are grown adults and choose to pick strawberries, nobody talks about how the Miccy D's workers of the world choose to work at Miccy D's, but put sex in, and all the sudden, it's choice,choice,choice.

I work with a lesbian couple who routinely refer to each other as “dykes” and by other well-known slurs. If asked why they do it, they say that by using these words in a different context- i.e. as a joke, rather than an insult - it lessens the sting if the word is used against them by some random bigot on the street. By disempowering the slurs, they disempower the bigot - and empower themselves.

Feminists need something similar.

As one example (and to include other points of contention than just beauty practices):

How about instead of agreeing with patriarchy that sex work is “bad” and only for poor/victimized women with no other alternatives, or for “bad” women who carry water for the patriarchy, we put the word out that sex workers are also - GASP! - adult women capable of making their own choices*. That being such, they deserve the same respect and consideration afforded to non-sex workers. How about we mention that because a woman makes a living with sex work it doesn’t make her less than others, that it doesn’t make her available for abuse from others, and doesn’t have to be humiliated, or demeaned by it.

We do this already. We defend the strippers that are spat on, and raped by the powerful men of the world. But we still need to be honest. The truth of the matter is that you can't de-power those oppressive systems by doing the same thing and putting a new label on it. We've been trying that for years. It. Hasn't. Been. Working. We can put on all the roller derbys and burlesque shows we like, but you know what? That hasn't moved this shit an inch!

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