So, when I ranted on facebook about something I run into pretty much all the time, someone drew my attention to this blog post, by M. K. Hajdin, about how feminists should have a right to use playground bullying tactics against those who are pro-sex work. The arguments that she makes are actually a pretty common set of arguments and I feel that most feminists from that angle are often just unaware of a lot of things. So, I’m going to go through this article piece by piece and address most of the points that she makes. So, be sure you have a snack, because while I’m sure this will be interesting, we’re heading out for a very long ride:
Someone objected to my use of the word “funfem”. This abbreviation of “funfeminist” is a “slur”, I was sternly told, and I am not to use it.
It isn’t that a person should not use the term. But, for those out there who are going to use the term, at least accept that you’re using it for what it is-it is name-calling. It is no different than pro-life people calling pro-choice people “babykiller.” To them, that’s what they think we are. That doesn’t mean that their strategy of making fun of us is any better or any less childish. So, sure, use the term all you like, just be sure to also remember that the reason you’re using it is because you want to belittle those you are using it on. It is not a good argument and it isn’t going to make a case against whoever you’re using it on.
For those unfamiliar with various flavors of feminism, “funfeminism” is the kind whose adherents believe they can achieve human status for women by Being Sexy.
That’s a pretty big misportrayal of the people who are being called “funfeminists.” Instead, most of the people who end up with that label are people who are saying that they can be who they want to be, sexy or not, and still be a feminist. In other words, I can wear evening gowns constantly, work in the adult industry and still manage to advocate for the rights of others, all as a part of who I am. I can be a feminist while still doing my job. For me, this is because I don’t see culture as a two-parts entity. Culture is a set of spectrums that interact with each other. I like to think of culture as a kind of pile of variegated threads. On each thread is a spectrum of people, and this thread, which is tangled up with the others, winds through knots under the feet of all of the people connected to that social or physical element. The obvious analogy, here, is one of people from different ethnic backgrounds. But if you look closely, each of those people are standing on a knot, which involves other threads. Aside from just the race thread they’re standing on, you might also find that they’re standing on a thread that are connected to all the different people from different religions. Also tied into their knot are all the different people of different gender types. Because each thread bends and twists through all the other different threads, the combination of knots is infinite.
If you haven’t caught on, by now, that’s a description of what could be the start of a lesson on intersectionality. Sex, gender and erotic preferences are what makes the variegated thread that is the difference between if some people call you a “funfeminist” or not. The discrimination comes from the problem that many people realized that while feminism has a ton of really interesting and worthwhile things to offer us, that what has come to be seen as the anti-sex element of it means that they can’t do what they want to with their own sexual interests. For those who are anti-kink, for example, a woman can’t explore her sexual interest in being an exhibitionist because to do so, according to critics, is somehow entertaining the patriarchy. The criticism doesn’t take into account the individual’s need for a healthy sexual experience and it doesn’t take into account that sexual diversity encompasses not only those with different gender identities, but also how people wish to express themselves, sexually, within those identities. Sexual expression is actually a different thread than gender or sex, in our mass of threads.
They think Helen Gurley Brown was some kind of hero.
Actually, most of the voices of consent culture, which includes myself and my peers, don’t idolize her. In fact, I didn’t even know who she was until I clicked that link. Someone who advocates sexual harassment is not someone I would want to be idolized. This does require me to elaborate, some, though. My problem with Ms. Brown is that she seemed to misunderstand consent. She and others like her have a right to build careers out of their sexuality. Such an exchange should be completely transparent. It would be wrong for a sexual secretary arrangement to be made where the person being hired didn’t know that their boss was going to make a pass at them. However, if it were the case that an employer actually set out to get such a secretary and a woman who wanted a job like that were to apply, then it would be completely reasonable as an arrangement. The key, here, is consent. So, I wouldn’t judge Ms. Brown for her employment choices. I would, however, criticize her for judging others who complained about sexual harassment. Knowing the difference between those two things is extremely important in my version of feminism.
They adore Pussy Riot.
There’s a difference between adoration and knowing when someone’s rights have been violated. There’s a difference between adoration and noticing that happened when they were trying to fight for someone else’s rights. While I’m sure many people adore Pussy Riot, many people also defend them because they understand that the implications of what has happened spreads beyond Pussy Riot’s incarceration. Instead, this is a violation of a person’s right to peaceably assemble; a violation of a person who has a right to exist, it is a violation of their right to protest. Unlike many of us in first-world countries, Pussy Riot does not enjoy Freedom of Speech. There are many things that are wrong with Pussy Riot’s imprisonment and those who are talking about it don’t need to feel adoration to understand them.
They have “SlutWalks“.
Since whatever was linked to was marked as private, I can’t access it by just clicking. I have no interest in joining fan-club style, just to see it (and I’m going to remove the link from my post, because it is useless). Anyhow, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of SlutWalk and most of the criticism is in how people seem to have not paid attention to what it was about. Honestly, though, it is tiring to explain it. Basically, it all started because the criticism towards victims that is usually made was publicly stated by a police constable, who said that women should “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” This kind of thinking places the blame for rape right on the shoulders of the victim. SlutWalk was intended to teach a lesson to others about how clothing is not consent. It was a great way open up a conversation with others about the problem of slut-shaming and how it relates to instances of rape. Gaining people’s attention in order to teach a lesson in rights and justice is not a bad thing. I’m actually trying to create something else that is positive from SlutWalk. I want to see an education-focused event because I feel just yelling at people about our rights isn’t going to do enough. We need to get people’s attention and then we need to talk about the issues. Thus, I see SlutWalk as useful for what we used it for and now it is time to build on that foundation. Since that pattern of activism has existed throughout the history of feminism, it seems pretty much right in line with how feminism has evolved.
They write things on their naked bodies a lot.
In this link to herself, the Hajdin misinterprets how other people view her complaints. While I’m unfamiliar with the specific campaign she’s complaining about, the reality is, if a woman wants to write on her naked body, if she wants to share a message with her naked body, she should have the right to do so. Nudity should not be controversial. There’s not any rational argument that makes it so.
They “reclaim” misogynist insults and bandy them around a lot to prove how empowered they are.
It is weird to be reading and writing about a blog by someone who obviously wants to be heard who seems to be implying that words don’t have power and that the power of words can’t change how people work in the World.
And yet, they get upset when someone calls them a word they don’t find flattering.
There’s a significant difference between owning a label because the stigma associated with it has power over us and not liking it when someone uses a word to try to shame us. People who are advocating the reclaiming of words like “slut” still don’t usually like it when that word is thrown at them as an insult. That’s because the connotation of a word changes based on context and so when one uses it to describe something they’re doing that is by their own choice and empowering, the word has a totally different meaning than when someone uses the word as an insult. To illustrate, there’s a difference between me calling myself a “slut” because of SlutWalk or to express that I’m not ashamed of the fact I’ve had multiple sex partners and, say, Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut.” While the same word is used, the connotative meaning changes. Also, just to continue from the obvious implication, in Hajdin’s post that because we use words like “slut” to describe ourselves, we shouldn’t be upset at her calling us “funfeminists, let’s look at an example related to that. There’s a difference between Hajdin calling herself a feminist and, say, Rush Limbaugh’s use of the word “feminazi.” In fact, that’s a perfect illustration of the difference between me calling myself a feminist and Hajdin calling people like me a “funfeminist.”
In other words, their intentions are feminist but their practices largely aren’t.
A case hasn’t actually been made for that, but Hajdin just makes that claim. Also, a case hasn’t been made for her somehow being the sole definer of what a feminism is, either. For some of us, feminism is about equality and equality includes being able to decide what we do with our own bodies. If a guy can walk around mostly naked, we should be able to as well. If a guy can have a full, varied and healthy sex life, we should be able to as well. The reasoning behind accepting sexual diversity and pursuing one’s own sexual interests isn’t bad reasoning. It is consistent with the narrative of equality that feminism has been seeking for decades.
Calling this set of behaviors “funfeminism” is reminiscent of HGB‘s “fun, fearless, female” motto; a gently ironic way of saying fake. It is this accusation of fakery, I suspect, that angers its practitioners so much.
Well, for me, it is the childishness of the thing. Of course, this also implies that by insulting us as “funfeminists,” that means you’re the “notfunatallfeminists.” I suppose if I were still an eight year old playground bully, that would be the route to go. “Fake” is just another insult. There’s really no basis for claiming that other people are fake. I mean, Hajdin is an artist and if some other artist came along and saw her art, does the other artist get to say that because this art doesn’t contain elements of art that other artists use that somehow Hajdin is not really an artist, that she’s fake? I imagine that would be a really shitty way to treat someone. So, why would Hajdin think that she’s entitled to decide who is a fake feminist?
It angers them precisely because it’s true.
Or, it is just annoying playground-style bullying. See the above. Hajdin continues in attempting to define the patriarchy in our culture, and then:
But going along is appeasement, not activism. Feminism is resistance.
Appeasement is not resistance. Compliance is not activism. Not even when you put ironic, subversive, empowered sprinkles on top.
Sometimes, things we do for ourselves are things that make men happy. For example, I have a really strong sex drive. My boyfriend would probably love me even if I didn’t, but it does make him happy that I have a really strong sex drive. It would be unhealthy for us if we didn’t simultaneously respect each other’s boundaries while also taking care to meet each other’s needs. I think that’s where Hajdin is failing, here. While much of society does work against women’s rights, at the same time, we still need to meet our needs within this society and sometimes our needs are actually in line with the ongoing tendencies of our culture. Sometimes, our needs actually are consistent with what others want. What’s important is that each person gets to set their own boundaries while getting their needs met, and that’s the major flaw in society. Working against all of society’s needs and desires is extremely counter-productive and isn’t really going to get us where we want to be, because that approach is going to keep us from getting our own needs met, as well. It would be like starving ourselves in order to starve the enemy. The reality is, seeking equality means exactly what it sounds like. Seeking equality means ensuring that people on all the different types of intersections of threads are able to have their needs met and that their own knots don’t get cut out by others or tangled in other knots without their consent. It means that each individual should be free to add or remove what threads they can control, so long as their actions don’t harm others. Empowerment is control over those threads in our knot that we can alter or act on. If I stand on a thread that says I’m a kinky person, exhibitionist and sexually dominant person, then empowerment is my ability to live out those fantasies without harm to myself and without harming others. If those desires are restricted, either by a patriarchal background noise, or by some person who thinks I shouldn’t do it because their brand of feminism is better than every other brand, if their line of thinking affected my actions, then obviously my power has been taken from me.
That’s right, intrepid female activists for women’s sexual freedom. Making a “free, fearless” choice to present yourselves as sex-ay is feminist in no way, shape or form. Nor is it fearless, free, or much of a choice.
It is weird to see someone’s feminist view be one that seems to be against sexual freedoms of her peers. The pro-choice movement, the fight for easily available birth control, are each movements that are based on the founding idea that women should have control over their reproductive capacity. Our sexual freedom is just one element of that. So, I’m not entirely sure where the disconnect is that says that a woman can’t be both sexually free and in control over her own body. That makes no sense, whatsoever.
We appease because we fear being shut out, excluded, called ugly, losing validation through male attention and approval.
Correction: Hajdin might appease for those reasons. I have no reason to believe that her commentaries on other people are representative of everyone. I’m pretty sure that most people are sexually expressive because that’s what they need. Making assumptions about other people’s sexual desires is patronizing.
We fear losing even the secondary validation we get from being admired by other women who’ve absorbed the beauty imperative and are practicing this form of misogyny not only on themselves, but on others.
Wouldn’t the problem, in that case, be that we want others to change their narrow-mindedness, instead of, you know, forcing our idea of what others should be onto them? That’s the point of the whole equality concept. We should all have equal opportunity to be who we want to be. That might mean we want equal opportunity to wear make-up, or it might be that we want equal opportunity to not wear make up. Fights for equality are not either-or menu items. If you’re trying to fight how racism affects a culture, you don’t tell the minority group that they can’t do anything that the non-minority does. That would just lead to self-segregation which reinforces the problem of a separated and discriminatory society. Instead, you encourage the majority to examine what they are doing to the minority and give the minority the freedom to choose how they want to be within the context of the resulting diversity. The same thing applies to feminism. It is irrational to boycott every option that we have to define ourselves just because we don’t like that men were somehow connected to its conception.
No woman in a male-dominated society is free of these fears. No woman who ‘chooses’ to go along with what men want has made a free choice.
Again, this is a conflation of two different things. Just because patriarchy leads to pressures to force women a certain way doesn’t mean that whenever a woman wants to do something that is in-line with how men want things is magically unable to make that decision. That’s not how decision making works and we can’t just ignore our own desires in the name of defying a society that we need. Someone who chooses something for themselves can make a free choice. Sure, it may be in-line with what some men want. But, we can’t just cut all ties from what we want and need just because men want and need things that are related. Men also want and need women in the workforce. Men also want and need women to function in the same society. Men also want and need women to contribute to society and the economy. If doing what men wanted and needed was going to forever keep women in submission, the only solution would be to leave society permanently and accept that women can never, ever, ever have what they want and need. The reality is, humans have to function together in order for our society to work. There are serious flaws in how it works, now, but the answer to those flaws is not to make bigger flaws by denying ourselves things that we need and desire, just because we’re trying to avoid giving others what they might need or desire. The way to deal with the conflict between getting our needs met and dealing with the problem of the unreasonable expectations set out for us, from society, is to teach others that they can’t push us beyond our personal boundaries. Teaching people about individual rights, consent, personal needs and boundaries enables us to have what we need and want as well as deal with the problem of inequality within our society.
Free choice is not possible for women in a male-dominated society. We choose from an extremely limited menu presented to us by Dude Nation and none of those choices are all that good.
If that’s her complaint, then I don’t see how asking people to stop making more choices is a solution. How is “stop making that choice” an answer to “we don’t have choices?” That makes no sense.
Certainly none of them are as good as what the dudes get. And all of them stink of exploitation.
Again, how is making the decision to get what men get enabling us to reach equality?
Pretending compliance is empowerment impedes the revolution, because we can’t challenge things we refuse to see clearly.
There seems to be an assumption, here, that doing what is in line with our needs and wants somehow means that we can’t see the problems around us. Yet, “funfeminism,” is the foundation for things like the consent culture movement. It is one of the mechanisms that is getting consent talked about in places like kink communities. It is what is enabling sex workers to reach out, more, to clinics and to each other, for support and safety. The reason it is doing that is because it allows the individual to be immersed in the environment where these issues exist. It works because, much like an anthropologist has to experience as much of a culture as possible to get a fair picture of how it works, the feminist who experiences her life that allows her to exist in an environment that can meet her needs can better see the boundaries that get in the way of reaching those goals. It seems to me, working within the fabric of our society in order to enable change, without denying ourselves, is actually enabling us to see things MORE clearly.
So funfeminist, or funfem for short, is a nice way of saying antifeminist. I will keep using it. Sometimes I’ll come right out and say fakefeminist. You’re welcome to consider that a ‘slur’. I don’t mind. Feel free to send me all the complaints you like, but the form letter you will get from my customer service department will explain that only people who practice funfeminism think an accurate descriptor of their behavior is an insult.
It seems to be the case that she thinks an insult is not an insult if she’s the one using it.
Pouting and accusations of “shaming” will not be accepted as credible arguments.
And I won’t accept insults as arguments. Go figure.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think that the next part was a pro-lifer arguing against pro-choice people:
Liberals will be especially shocked by this revelation. Choicey-ness is their sacred cow. “How dare anyone criticize MY choices!” is their outraged cry. Choosy choicesters, you need to understand that the things you do don’t happen in a vacuum.
Yeah, if that were true, then any anti-birth control person, any anti-choice person now could use that argument against anyone who wanted birth control or an abortion. This isn’t surprising, because a large portion of anti-sexuality feminists tend to make arguments exactly like that, arguments which sound frighteningly close to arguments against abortion.
They affect other people around you. The more antifeminist ideas and practices you personally choose to embrace, or even tolerate, the more you support male supremacy. And that has immediate, shitty consequences for all the women around you. So stop it.
I’ll just point out, for the sake of clarity, that no idea has yet been presented with any evidence that what she’s criticizing is “antifeminist.” She just claims it is and expects everyone who is reading this to agree with her. I am going to use part of this to address one of the complications with the feminist movement. There is a problem of expectations in our society and those expectations are often in conflict with our needs. That means that each of them has to be evaluated based on who’s rights are being taken away, who’s being affected and why. So, if a woman goes around without a shirt on, it is not unreasonable to think that could lead to a man expecting the same of another woman. But, the flaw is not in the woman who went around without her shirt on. The flaw is with the man who thinks that the same rules and expectations that he had for one woman should apply to all women. That’s one of the problems with patriarchy and it is worth fighting against. But, you can’t fight against this problem simply by asking all women to behave the same, or to keep their shirts on. How does that allow people to accept and understand diversity in women, so that women can have equal rights?
I recommend eschewing funfeminism altogether. Here’s how: Accept that not even the greatest among us can be feminist activists all the time.
I’m trying to decide if I should be a smartass and point out that this means that this post might not be Hajdin being an actual feminist when she wrote this.
The other problem is, this thinking is a great way to excuse all kinds of things. It sounds like she’s suggesting we just remove our feminist hats in order to do certain things. If I decided to be an awful and cruel person, do I remove my hat before beating a dead dog, too? Do you just put your feminist hat on when you go to rallies and women’s conferences? We may not be talking about feminism all of the time, but it is certainly the case that I always believe in equality. I don’t stop believing in equality just so that I can have sex. That sounds like it would be a good recipe for really bad sex. What Hajdin is calling “funfeminism” isn’t really a bunch of people simply taking off their feminist hats to do what they want. Typically, they’re doing what they want because they are feminists.
And that’s OK. Resist wherever possible. Appease if you have to. But don’t lie about it. Lying just transports you right back into that maze of sucky little choices, all alike.
I also have a problem with the accusation of- lying. I wouldn’t accuse Hajdin of “lying,” even though I think she’s wrong. Lying is not the the same as wrongness. If I were to accuse someone of lying, I would want there to be evidence of deception. I have called people liars, before, but I try to be very careful about when I use the word and I prefer to have lots of evidence for such a claim. Thus,I get the impression that Hajdin is accusing other feminists of lying about being feminists because it is just another insult she can use, which brings us back to the problem of this being more of a matter of name-calling than a matter of actually making an argument.
And choices are a product of freedom. Having more choices means we have more liberty. Enjoying our ability to freely make those choices does not mean that we’re somehow contributing to our own oppression. Instead, making those choices while setting boundaries that educates others about their influence on us as we have made choices is actually a very rational and direct approach to much of what contributes to things that restrict women and any other minority group.