Friday, April 11, 2008

Feminists, Nottafeminists and Prudo-feminists

A lot of guys who are defending comics and other media against the onslaught of feminists who wish to censor comics of all that is sexy and fun are making what I think is a really serious mistake.

They are taking their ideological opponents at their word and are calling them "feminists." I don't deny that these women are a variant of feminism, but I know they don't represent all feminists, and I strongly suspect they are a tiny minority of feminists.

Many, many feminists are either opposed to censorship on ethical grounds, or feel that censorship is a poor tactic for developing support for feminism, or simply figure they have bigger fish to fry than fictioinal depictions of violence against women (when there's so much of the real thing going around).

There is also a huge contingent of feminists I call the "Notta Feminists" because they typically voice their support for feminist ideals by saying, "I'm not a feminist, but ..."

NONE of these feminists are not your enemies. They are not interested in censorship. The feminists who are interested in censorship I call "prudo-feminists" because no matter what they say, the emotional energy that drives them to censor comes from the same place that your standard prude's emotional energy comes from: a sort of cringing fear of sexuality.

Now when you start complaining about how those evil feminists want to censor comics and whatnot, you are making THREE mistakes that are going to hurt you, and hurt you bad.

First, and most obviously, you are pissing off a lot feminists who are not really your enemies by lumping them in with the prudo-feminists. Some of these women are natural allies of yours: I refer you to the book "Defending Pornography" by Nadine Strosser, a committed feminist and former president of the ACLU. It is really dumb to lump women like Strossner in with the prudo-feminists.

And among feminists who might be willing to support censorship of images of violence against women in a perfect world, many consider censorship to be simply a bad tactic in this world. These women are not your enemies right now, and may never be ... there's a long laundry list of evil things being done to women in the real world that they'd rather attend to, and that's gonna take some time.

Even the notta-feminists tend to identify with feminism, and to view atacks on feminism generally as attacks on them. Since the notta-feminists have very little awareness of the issue of comic book censorship, and no real emotional investment in the whole censorship thing, you are making a LOT enemies unnecessarily.

Two, you are making your opponents look much larger, more organized and more formidable than they actually are. You are only being attacked by a small splinter group of feminism. Why lend them what credibility feminists in general enjoy, when a lot of people would be perfectly willing to figure that women who want to censor comics are a small group of, to put it bluntly, nuts?

There are a lot of divisions within the feminist movement, and many of the women in these divisions get the shivering fantods at the thought of a new feminist censorship campaign.

They get the shivering fantods because many moderate, progressives and leftists have disapproved of censorship because it has long been a tool used by the right wing to suppress their ability to express their opinions. The practice was widely used from the 1800s when disseminating birth control information through the mail was banned, to the 1930s when the Hayes Code expressly forbade movies to challenge authority figures (really, the Code said exactly that) to the 1950s when the McCarthy hearings attacked Communism (and every group to the left of Attila the Hun by association) and expressing ideas on the goodness of socialism much less Communism was a fast track to the unemployment line.

But worst of all, as far as some feminists are concerned, in the 1980s feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon joined forces with Ed Meese and the Republican cultural conservatives in an attempt to re-impose censorship on American media. It was pretty much a dismal failure -- there were far too many voters out there with video porn collections for that pig to fly. All they really managed to do was prevent the production of movies that combined explicit sex scenes with bondage imagery for a few years, without being able to prevent the production of either hardcore sex scenes or bondage imagery that didn't include explicit sex scenes at all. Big effing deal, really.

Many feminists feel that the movement lost a great deal of credibility, especially with moderates, progressives and liberals when they, or at least some of them, joined forces with the right to impose censorship, for little or no benefit. And for the most part people on the right still oppose feminism as they always have. They made no friends there.

Many older, smarter feminists are LOATHE to repeat that mistake.

There's also a split within feminism between some straight feminists and some lesbian feminists. The straight feminists feel that the lesbian feminists, unencumbered by families for the most part and thus having more free time and money, were over-represented in the leadership of the National Organization of Women, and that's why they were focussing on stuff like censoring porn that serves the patriarchy rather than more practical stuff of interest to women generally, like child care (a real problem for working straight women then and now). They feel that the focus on censorship lost them a lot of crediblity with the mainstream (and they are right).

So, a lot of straight feminists would REALLY like a do-over of that whole 80s censorship-charge led by lesbians (like Andrea Dworkin). A site like Girl Wonder would give most of them fits -- they'd want nothing to do with it.

Lumping THESE women in with the Girl Wonder prudo-feminists is just going to make a lot of unnecessary enemies.

Third, you are making yourselves look like cranks. Why? Because being opposed to feminism generally makes you sound like you're against EVERYTHING feminists stand for.

Sure, the reputation of feminists in general has taken some blows over the years, but a lot of their ideals have been accepted into the general culture. The mainstream is all for things like equal pay for equal work, combatting real-world violence against women, seeing that women's health care issues are properly addressed, addressing child care issues and so forth.

If you just lash out against feminism and feminists generally, people will assume that you are opposed to these things as well as censorship, and you'll sound out-of-touch. You'll sound like a crank.

I know this because I've visited some blogs by guys who oppose comic book censorship, and their general opposition to feminism makes them sound like cranks.

Often, if you read a little further into their texts, you'll discover that many of these guys support equal pay for equal work, oppose violence against women, and are all for dealing reasonably with child care issues, but I'll bet a lot of people never get that far because of all the frothy ranting against feminists generally.


Don't attack feminists generally, guys. It's a mistake. Make some critical distinctions. Call your opponents prudo-feminists or anti-sex feminists. Isolate them from the feminist mainstream and make it clear they're the cranks, a splinter group that doesn't deserve the little attention it has gotten outside the blogosphere.

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