Will the real liberal feminism please stand up?

Feministing’s Hannah quotes Catherine MacKinnon:

I do not think it can be said that liberal feminism is feminist. What it is, is liberalism applied to women. If the sexes are equally different but not equally socially powerful, “differences” in the liberal sense are irrelevant to the politics of our situation, which is one of inequality….What can freedom for women mean as long as we remain unequal?….

When reading what Catherine MacKinnon and some other academic feminists (especially Alison Jaggar) (or maybe not Alison Jaggar – see update below) say about liberal feminism, keep in mind that they’re using what is (in my opinion) an inaccurate definition of liberal feminism.

To me – and to most active feminsts outside the university I’ve discussed this wtih – liberal feminism is represented by mainstream, politically liberal feminists, who concentrate more on women’s economic equality and less on attacking pornography. Liberal feminism is, frankly, the popular face of feminism: Ms Magazine, The Feminist Majority Foundation, NOW, Bella Azbug, Naomi Wolf, Molly Ivans, Nancy Folbre, Katha Pollitt, and folks like that.

Contrary to MacKinnon’s claim, none of these folks ignores the need for social equality as well as formal equality. Alison Jaggar, writing along similar lines, has suggested that liberal feminists believe that all women need is equality under the law; I doubt there’s a single liberal feminist writer today who’d endorse that nonsense.

The more I read MacKinnon and Jaggar, the clearer it becomes that they’re using “liberal” in the old sense of the word, which we nowadays call “libertarian.” MacKinnon and Jaggar thus share a very inaccurate view of modern feminism.

First of all, they talk as if there is a significant theory of feminism combining libertarianism (aka “classical liberalism”) and feminism. But in fact, the libertarian feminists are a tiny minority of feminists[*], and their organizations are dismissed by most feminists as anti-feminists in feminist clothing. So MacKinnon and Jaggar’s conflating “liberal feminism” with libertarianism credits right-wing feminists with far more influence and support within feminism than they actually possess.

Secondly, MacKinnon and Jaggar basically ignore or misrepresent the views of actual liberal feminists – who are, I suspect, the large majority of feminists in the USA today, although they’re probably a minority within academic feminism.

Compounding the problem, MacKinnon and Jaggar are two of the most widely read authors in undergraduate women’s studies programs. Jaggar, in particular, has written some very popular textbooks which give a wildly inaccurate view of liberal feminism. As a result, women’s studies programs teach their students a view of liberal feminism that has no relevance in the real world, and is more than a little insulting to the majority of non-academic feminists.

[*] I have no idea what Ifeminist’s membership is, but I’m sure it pales compared to NOW’s. Ditto for the IWF. Concerned Women for America has a membership comparable to NOW’s, but they don’t claim to be feminists.

UPDATE: Never post from memory rather than from research. I remembered being very affronted by the description of liberal feminism in a Jaggar-edited textbook, and a bit of online searching found a feminist philosphy professor who seemed to confirm my memory. Another feminist on the net had gotten a similar impression of Jaggar’s view of liberal feminism.

However, after reading my post, my co-blogger Bean suggested to me that my description of Jaggar’s view of liberal feminism was incorrect. Kasala, who is one of Jaggar’s students, suggests in the comments that I’m mistaken. I must admit, they may be correct – Kasala actually knows Jaggar, and Bean’s memory for feminist theory is usually better than mine.

I’ll do more research (i.e., read Jaggar herself, rather than looking at secondhand sources) and return to this issue, either to stand by or to apologize for my criticism of Jaggar.

UPDATE: I can’t support my criticism of Jagger, from what I’ve read. So I withdraw my criticism of Jagger, and apologize to her for my error.

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32 Responses to Will the real liberal feminism please stand up?

  1. 1
    Amanda says:

    Thanks for this post. I consider myself a bona fide liberal feminist, and I am insulted by being called Not a Feminist. And frankly I find the anti-porn thing plain silly. If porn is sexist, it’s because it reflects a society that is sexist. But showing pictures of people having sex is not inherently sexist, which isn’t really their argument, no, but definitely the final impression you get from Kitty MacKinnon & Co.

  2. 2
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  3. 3
    Samantha says:

    “If porn is sexist, it’s because it reflects a society that is sexist.”

    What, exactly, is the point of saying this in refutation(?) of Catherine MacKinnon’s analysis of the inherent gender inequalities of sexual capitalism? I’ve heard others say similar things before, and since I have the opportunity to ask you what you mean I’m taking it.

    “And frankly I find the anti-porn thing plain silly…But showing pictures of people having sex is not inherently sexist, which isn’t really their argument”

    Perhaps with a better understanding of the antiporn argument you might not find it so silly.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t find the anti-porn thing “silly,” but I think with the benefit of hindsight the MacKinnon/Dworkin ordinance of the 80s was a mistake. It didn’t actually reduce porn, and it created a split in feminism that we still haven’t recovered from.

    That ordinance aside, I think MacKinnon is brilliant, even when I don’t agree with her. Nonetheless, I think her discussions of “liberal feminism” are deeply flawed by her mistaken understanding of what liberal feminism stands for. Just because liberal feminists are relatively libertarian on first amendment questions, doesn’t mean they (we) are libertarians overall.

  5. 5
    Julian Elson says:

    I agree: feminism needs a big tent, in which liberals and radicals can both be regarded as feminists without being considered heretics or apostates. If feminism becomes a narrow, academic movement that regards change within the system as impossible because the system itself is illegitimate, then it discredits itself, and you get the Unwashed Masses (TM) saying things like, “Well, of course I believe men and women are equal, but I’m definitely not a feminist,” and similar silly, anti-feminist prejudice.

  6. 6
    Amy S. says:

    I call myself a no-wave feminist. That would be a feminist whom Radical feminists call Liberal and whom Liberal Feminists call Radical. I’m also a feminist who thinks that if 99.99999% of porn disappeared tomorrow, the world would be a better place. I’m also a feminist who believes that the leaders of anti-porn movements (ie-the Christian Right) are no friends of feminism, and that so-called “free-thinkers” who want to terminate every last discussion about the detrimental effect of porn on women and society in general by calling me a “censor” or claiming I’m in league with the Christian Right are a bunch of stupid assholes.

    Whew. Good luck getting THAT on a bumper sticker. :p

  7. 7
    Maureen says:

    I believe that people have a right to view porn.

    I also believe that much porn is anti-woman garbage.

    So, a quick note: If you’re into porn, either get free porn or stick to female-friendly production companies so you won’t be giving money to some really sick minds.

    Thank you and have a nice day.

    (To continue on Julian’s point re: “I’m not a feminist but…”, this guy in my History of Medicine class was completely misrepresenting feminism as the academic kind you frankly don’t see much of at Chicago. This got into a pointless and off-the-topic debate over how people try to recontstruct words.)

  8. 8
    Sheelzebub says:

    This is very similar to the pissing match between liberals and radicals in the progressive movement. That kind of “I’m more radical than you are” or “I’m more realistic than you are” BS is silly and a waste of time. Same goes for the feminists who like to deride women they don’t feel are radical enough, or the feminists who insist that they aren’t like those naughty man-hating radicals.

    About the porn thing–right now, it’s so geared towards men that I just get cheesed off. People who call themselves open minded about sex ironically don’t seem to realize that a lot of porn out there reinforces very archaic views of gender and sexuality. I wouldn’t get so bent out of shape about porn if there was stuff out there geared for women (and I’m not talking about those stupid and sickly sweet videos with roooooomannnce and flowers.)

    It was interesting how the anti-porn activists (before trying to change the laws) were turned away from porn venues by the owners and managers. And they would take people in just to see it, not to disrupt, in order to educate them. (So much for the so-called free-thinkers who have nothing to hide. Read “In Our Time” by Susan Brownmiller. Here’s an exerpt:

    In what became our most popular tactic, Women Against Pornography opened up the hidden life of Times Square for a suggested five-dollar donation. I plotted the intinerary and wrote a script based on information, supplied by Carl Weisbrod and Maggie Smith, about which mobster reputedly owned what X-rated theator or coin archade, and what sort of wages the employees at Show World, the Dating Room, the Mardi gras, or the Pussycat received of an evening. . .The unexpected appearance of women in clothes, to observe men in clothes watching naked women writhe in mock sexual pleasure for the men’s entertainment, dratmatically altered the atmosphere of the live sex shows’ self-contained world. . .

    They were often forcibly ejected from these venues. What a shock.

    . . .We escorted, most memorably, two intrepid Benedictine nuns from Erie, Pennyslvannia, a delegation from the Jewish War Veterans and the Anti-Defamation League, livid with rage when we showed the the Nazi porn genre, a study group of Chinese-American women wanting to see how they were portrayed in Cherry Blossoms and similar magazines.

    In theory, I don’t have anything against sex, watching it, or looking at naked people. (Though being a heterosexual female, I’d much rather look at guys than women, thanks.)

    If most porn (and the sex industry in general) serviced women in the same proportion it did men, then I think the debate would definitely shift to things like workers’ rights (it’s very exploitive on several levels).

  9. 9
    Avedon says:

    I used to think Kitty MacKinnon was pretty cool before she started describing women ash too brain-dead to be able to choose to sign a contract to be in porn. She also talks about porn as if it is the only job anyone ever does just for the money. She’s just wrong. (And there truly are a number of women who do it because they are exhibitionists and like doing it.)

    I don’t like an analysis of sexuality that makes all men into rapists and all women into victims, and I don’t like an analysis of porn that makes it the only industry that is affected by capitalism. Both sexuality and capitalism are a lot more complicated than that.

  10. 10
    Julian Elson says:

    I’m no MacKinnon fan, but she never said the “All sex is rape, all men are rapists” stuff:

    http://www.snopes.com/quotes/mackinno.htm

  11. 11
    Amanda says:

    Well, that is exactly one of the differences between us non-feminist liberals and Kitty MacKinnon. We disagree; we are told we don’t understand. We need to be grabbed by our nose and lead to the Promised Land of True Feminism. It’s insulting and it’s hardly pro-woman. Call me stupid, but I tend to think of feminism as pro-woman.
    Take it how you like. I’m not dumb, and I’ve read my share of various types of feminism. And the anti-porn crew *is* mixing up cause and effect. They think censoring porn is a good idea, and they think it will reduce sexism. I find that highly doubtful and it’s not because I’m dumb.
    I have defended what others would like to call “radical feminists” in many an argument. They have a right to exist, and intelligent people need to accept that without holding all feminists responsible for what they say.
    But like it or not, if it wasn’t for boring ol’ liberal feminists carefully trying to achieve equity in law, education and the workplace, MacKinnon wouldn’t have had the chance to put her opinions out there.

  12. 12
    dana says:

    face it–whether you like it or not, porn is an art form. and life does not reflect art–rather, art reflects life. always.

    porn would not be sexist if society were not sexist. period. i am reminded of the bumper sticker, “people are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it’s easier to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs.” same principle–radical feminists seem to be more violently opposed to porn than to institutional sexism because the former looks easier to eradicate than the latter. looks are deceptive, but that never stopped anybody.

    and, am i the only one here who’s noticed the heterosexist nature of most of the standard “feminist” objections to pornography? essentially, porn’s bad because it reinforces the male-as-superior/woman-as-inferior patriarchal stereotype. to which i’d reply, what the hell about gay male and lesbian porn? do these simply not exist?

    sad thing is, i’m straight… and i see this. what’s up with that?

  13. 13
    Trish Wilson says:

    “I think with the benefit of hindsight the MacKinnon/Dworkin ordinance of the 80s was a mistake. It didn’t actually reduce porn, and it created a split in feminism that we still haven’t recovered from. ”

    Have you read Susan Brownmiller’s “In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution”? She discussed the porn split in the feminist movement in great detail. It was damaging to the feminist movement.

  14. 14
    Trish Wilson says:

    “It was interesting how the anti-porn activists (before trying to change the laws) were turned away from porn venues by the owners and managers. And they would take people in just to see it, not to disrupt, in order to educate them. (So much for the so-called free-thinkers who have nothing to hide. Read “In Our Time” by Susan Brownmiller.”

    LOL I really need to read ahead first…

    Maybe I’m just strange, but I like to read porn. When it’s well-written it can be quite good. So much visual porn is so geared towards straight men that I find it unappealing because it doesn’t relate to me at all. The woman is just a receptacle.

    I’m not even sure if I’m a liberal or a radical feminist, especially since the issues I work on are not popular with mainstream feminism and major feminist groups like NOW and the Feminist Majority. Feminist motherhood and parenting aren’t likely to be big ticket issues at NOW conferences.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    Trish: Yes, I have read In Our Time, and I thought it was excellent.

    Dana and others: Actually, MacKinnon is quite aware of lesbian and gay porn; why would you assume she’s not?

    Look, I don’t agree with MacKinnon on porn. But here’s the thing: she is very, very, very, very smart. Smarter than me. Probably smarter than you, too (whoever you are). That doesn’t mean she’s right; but it does mean that she’s smart enough to have thought of most of the obvious objections to her proposals.

    So if you think that MacKinnon hasn’t even thought of [insert obvious objection here], chances are you’re mistaken about that. Chances are, she has thought of it, and if you look through her writings you can find out what she says about it. You may not agree with her, but it’s not safe to assume that she’s so stupid she hasn’t thought of the obvious objections.

    Although, frankly, I think to do so is a waste of time. The M/D porn ordinance war is over; MacKinnon lost; the ordinance is dead, dead, dead; discussing that issue further is moot. If you’re going to read MacKinnon, it makes more sense to read her other writings, rather than trying to refight a debate that’s been over for years.

  16. 16
    Amanda says:

    That the whole porn issue split feminism in very interesting to me, because in a way it just sometimes seems so inevitable.
    But yeah, I think that alot of feminists who disagree with MacKinnon are just plain irritated. I make 1/2 of what my boyfriend does even though he only has a high school degree and I have a college degree. To me, that sort of thing is much more relevant than what porn *really* means, even though yes, it’s less sexy.

  17. 17
    grainne says:

    I haven’t read enough MacKinnon to know whether she mischaracterizes liberal feminists, and if she equates liberal feminism with libertarian feminism then she clearly does. But you seem to be arguing that academic theoriest (or theorists in general) should accept the colloquial American usage of “liberal,” and I really stenuously object to that. First of all, that usage is only standard in the U.S., and theorists are speaking to a global audience. But also, “liberal”, in the classical sense, is a useful concept. It really doesn’t mean the same thing as “libertarian”, although libertarianism is a strain of classical liberalism, and there’s really no other word to describe people who believe societies work best when you create conditions of freedom and equality and allow individuals to compete for resources. (The big debates have to do with what people need to be free and equal, and most classical liberals don’t think that equality under the law is sufficient.) You do have to explain what it means to undergrads, but that’s kind of part of the task of teaching undergrads.

    I think the larger problem might be that undergraduate women’s studies classes focus too much on theory. If students studied and had experience with the real American “liberal feminist movement,” then you might be able to ask them to account for the differences between that movement and what MacKinnon describes.

  18. 18
    Lorenzo says:

    “That ordinance aside, I think MacKinnon is brilliant, even when I don’t agree with her. Nonetheless, I think her discussions of “liberal feminism” are deeply flawed by her mistaken understanding of what liberal feminism stands for. Just because liberal feminists are relatively libertarian on first amendment questions, doesn’t mean they (we) are libertarians overall.”

    I wouldn’t be so quick to come to that conclusion Amp (BTW Hi, long time no speak, it’s Lorenzo);

    While you could narrowly define liberalism as libertarianism, I don’t think that doing so gives fair treatment to the point, and ideologies that social theorists (political economic and radical feminist alike) are describing when they use the term. The way I interpret it, she means liberalism in the sense of liberal individualism in general, rather than the specific strain reffered to as classical liberalism (also known today as neo-liberalism as I’m sure you know). A political example is that those who are progressives, yet come at things from an individualist liberal perspective very much do not share the same perspective as those comming from a class analysis based perspective(s) and I think it is this difference she is stressing between a feminism of class analysis and social revolution and the extension of liberal individualism to women.

    Of course, one could be equally uncharitable and say that radical feminism is merely the application of marxian class analysis to gender. While both may hold seeds of truth, they are both rather uncharitable and unecessarily insulting.

    That’s just my opinion, having recently gotten to read a good bit of MacKinnon.

  19. 19
    Lorenzo says:

    “Thanks for this post. I consider myself a bona fide liberal feminist, and I am insulted by being called Not a Feminist. And frankly I find the anti-porn thing plain silly. If porn is sexist, it’s because it reflects a society that is sexist. But showing pictures of people having sex is not inherently sexist, which isn’t really their argument, no, but definitely the final impression you get from Kitty MacKinnon & Co.”

    I certainly did not get any such impression reading Catharine MacKinnon’s “Only Words.” The impression I got was of a well constructed and supported argument that porn did not constitute speech and thus should be actionable as actions, and should be acted against on that basis.

  20. 20
    Vardibidian says:

    I’ve only read three or four MacKinnon articles, (and none by Jaggar to show my state of ignorance), but I thought that she had a tendency to reject, rather than argue against, certain arguments. It’s certainly true that she’s brilliant, and that she has thought of (and written about) arguments against her proposals, both her practical proposals and her theoretical ones. However, I never found her writing persuasive, in part because she never seemed to understand why people took up positions she disagreed with. Several writers have responded that they don’t recognize themselves in MacKinnon’s universe; that makes it easy for them to reject her arguments.
    Just my thoughts.

              ,

    -Vardibidian.

  21. 21
    Echidne says:

    Ifeminists are not feminists, as far as I can see. Their website consists of articles, the majority of which argue for better treatment of men and for the avoidance and destruction of feminists. This would only contribute to equality in some parallel universe where men are the subjugated sex.

    But it is also true that there are feminists of different schools of thought and that communication between the schools of thought can be difficult at times. I like reading MacKinnon, but I don’t always agree with her arguments, because she starts from different basic assumptions about human nature, and in particular the nature of men, than the ones I have chosen to have. Still, I find her very correct in some places, and it’s hard for me to decide what kind of a school of feminism I belong to.

    Maybe the most decisive theoretical difference is not between the so-called liberal and radical ones, but between feminists who believe in the inherent difference of genders in a wide variety of ways and those who don’t believe in this. That’s where the debate gets very bogged down and unproductive, and it’s once again due to basic assumptions, not the actual point that’s being debated.

  22. 22
    Samantha says:

    It would be nice to actually discuss the production, use, and effects of pornography when discussing pornography instead of focusing all attentions on the celebrity personalities and internal politics of The Movement, but then that would minimize pro-porn persons favorite distraction from the facts of pornography production, use and effects.

    Ampersand, I disagee that attempts to remove anti-woman propaganda from our society are dead. I am 28 years old, alive, and many others I know who are against sexual exploitation are just as alive as our letters, essays and legal requests prove our not-dead status. Other industrialized countries that don’t have quite the same confusion between liberal and libertarian as the US does are making strides in defending women’s humanity. For one example, liberals elsewhere are perfectly all right mandating affirmative action to increase the number of women in politics, business and education while enough US liberals still consider affirmative action initiatives ‘reverse discrimination’ to prevent implementing them.

    If the women who met at Seneca Falls to discuss women’s suffrage gave up on their demands for full inclusion in humanity because it was wildly unpopular with other women and threatened to split the feminist movement on occasion, they wouldn’t have worked for several more decades until women’s suffrage was passed. For several years now campaign finance reform has split the progressive movement in the USA, but that doesn’t mean campaign finance reform isn’t a noble, constructive and necessary reform that happens to be facing a losing battle in the USA right now. The issue of slavery also caused mighty political splits, just as all substantial progressive reforms started out very unpopular and very divisive. This should stand as a testament to their worthiness, not as a reason to throw up hands in premature defeat.

    As a linguist, feminist and activist, I consider “Only Words” 100 pages of pure brilliance. If you have not yet read it, go to your library website right after reading this and put it on hold.

  23. 23
    Sheelzebub says:

    I haven’t seen all that much porn geared for heterosexual women. I’ve seen a lot of porn geared for heterosexual men. Yes, I know that gay porn exists and is actually a big industry (and I’ll give them their props–their condom policy is a good one. Sadly, het porn doesn’t follow such a policy in its search for the almighty buck–I mean, who cares about the health and safety of your workers?). That doesn’t negate my points about porn and the perception of women’s sexuality, and I disagree that in making them one is heterosexist.

    Frankly, I’ve had it with pro-porn evangelists leading me to the great altar of porn and insisting that I accept that version of sexuality as the best, lest I be considered a frigid manhater. And when they realize that there is porn out there that I do like (mostly written, sadly, the photographs and films aren’t geared for women), it confuses them. Questioning the rigid sexuality of the majority of porn out there (naked chicks, naked chicks, naked chicks. . .boooooorrriiiinnnggg) but liking sex doesn’t seem to compute.

    I haven’t tried to censor porn, I don’t think it should be censored, and I fully support anyone’s right to buy it and use it. That doesn’t mean I am going to censor myself or my opinions for other people’s comfort. There’s a lot about the industry and its reinforcement of archaic sexuality that I find troubling. There’s a lot of pop culture that does the same thing, and I question that as well–even though the same rationalization that it sexist because society is sexist holds.

    I don’t agree with censorship. I know I sound like a broken record, but I get sick to death of people accusing me of that for daring to question the status quo. I don’t agree with censorship and I thought that MacKinnon and Dworkin shot themselves in the foot in their quest to censor porn. If the anti-porn activists had continued with their education and outreach via the “field trips” I think they would have had a much broader effect. Certainly, it was telling that they were forced out of the porn venues, and it’s even more telling that no one is noticing that and asking why that is. What was the big deal? They weren’t causing a disruption. They paid the money. What did these owners have to hide? You’d think that if these owners and managers were good little capitalists, they’d try to entice them with shows geared for women. That’s what I would have done.

    I wouldn’t even charecterize the porn debate as one that split the feminist movement. I’m sure some feminists on both sides of the issue feel rather bitter about MacKinnon and Dworkin’s (failed) attempt to censor porn and left the movement. But most of us have too many pressing wrongs to right (including, BTW, pay equity) to hold a grudge and ditch the whole movement. In fact, most feminist activism has been centered around choice, reproductive health care, violence against women, poverty, pay equity, job discrimination, health, and a whole host of other issues. So I’m not sure where this irritation at feminists comes from, since we are fighting those battles, more so than the battle over porn.

  24. 24
    Amy S. says:

    [breaks off half a chocolate-chip cookie and passes it to Sheelzebub.]

  25. 25
    Sheelzebub says:

    Amy, I’ve got a nice Keemun tea. Wanna cup?

    ;)

  26. 26
    Amy S. says:

    Mmmm… caffiene… :D

  27. 27
    kasala says:

    Hi Amp,
    I have to say, as one who has taken Alison’s Women and Democracy grad class (and had many conversations with her), I don’t think your construal of her view on liberal feminism is correct. She certainly does criticize classical liberalism and I would probably characterize her more as a Marxist feminist, but your portrayal is really uncharitable and I think flat out mistaken. But I need more time to formulate a better response on where I think it goes wrong. I haven’t read her Liberalism stuff in quite a while.

    -kasala

  28. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Kasala: You may be right. Please see the update I’ve added to this post.

    Clearly, I need to reread Jaggar. I’ve just ordered a copy of “feminist politics and human nature,” but it may take a week or two to arrive.

  29. 29
    Samantha says:

    I empathize with a lot of what you’re saying, Sheezlebub.

    “In fact, most feminist activism has been centered around choice, reproductive health care, violence against women, poverty, pay equity, job discrimination, health, and a whole host of other issues.”

    There is not one issue you listed that is not beeline directly linked to women’s global sexual exploitation.

    “I don’t agree with censorship and I thought that MacKinnon and Dworkin shot themselves in the foot in their quest to censor porn.”

    Only they weren’t on a quest to censor porn, they were seeking to allow people who have been harmed by a product to sue the makers of the product that harmed them. What they sought was the right for people to sue corporations over their gender discriminatory corporate behavior and have their chance to make their case in court to have the product, if successfully proven harmful, removed from the shelves. These aren’t unreasonable goals, but just as Hooters calls its food-serving waitresses ‘entertainers’ to avoid labor laws, so too does this mass-produced product hide behind empty claims of artistic merit and political freedom to avoid laws that have often ruled pornographic products in the workplace are gender discrimination. Women fought hard for sexual harassment laws and the right to a discrimination free workplace, now more women are fighting hard for sexual harassment laws and the right to discrimination free public and private places.

    There is the unfortunate neoliberal misconception that free markets are the best kind, that the economic marketplace has the ability to regulate itself through the cause and effects of competition, supply and demand. The effects of corporate deregulation under Clinton and then Bush are all around us, and it is quite the ugly spectacle to behold Corporate America 2004.

    In light of the evident failures of free marketism to produce diverse, consumer-driven and fair business practices, how well should the free marketplace of ideas fare under the same laissez faire system? Why wouldn’t we expect the same opportunistic consolidations, narrowing of the agenda, money equals the right to speech, more powerful trampling of the less powerfull? Pornography isn’t free speech, it is costly speech manufactured by corporations who market their product aggressively and profit enormously. Am I supposed to believe that in this so-called democracy the weight of my antiporn speech is the same as Hugh Hefner’s pro-porn speech and the free marketplace of ideas will triumphantly, evenhandedly let the best, most viable and most socially responsible ideas rise to the top? Martin Luther King, Jr. once mentioned how it is unfair to start a black man 300 years late into a race and then expect him to compete equally with the white frontrunners, and I think of that when told by my progressive peers that economic, political, sexual, and social gender oppressions faced by women for thousands of years are no noteworthy hinderance to the participation of women’s voices and opinions in prostitution and pornstitution. I am told that when it comes to public speech, all voices are equal and the free marketplace of ideas will sort it all out for the best in the end. Missing from the discussion is how the ideas of an oppressed, objectified people whose very bodies are needed to create the ‘speech’ of wealthy men could ever be able to begin to compete with the privileged big boys in this stacked system.

  30. 30
    Amanda says:

    Of course, all media is marketplace-driven, so why single out porn? Those economic criticisms are equally valid when applied to pretty much any kind of movie. In a way, Hollywood flicks are much worse because people actually do look for meaning in their narratives. Whereas in porn, mostly it’s watched for 3 minutes and all plot and character is pretty much ignored.

  31. 31
    Sheelzebub says:

    Only three minutes????

    Another reason why it’s not geared for women, LOL.

  32. 32
    Jasper Lily says:

    In what way is promoting antagonism between various factions of women in the feminist movement, and carelessly misquoting and misrepresenting the words of radical feminists in order to promote that antagonism and appropriate course of action for a male “feminist”?