Feminism For The Few, Guardian-Style

Stripper Edie Lamort
Photo of Edie Lamort, courtesy Millie Robson Photography www.millierobson.com

Welcome back MoronWatch guest-blogger and Striptease Correspondent, Edie Lamort, as she takes on the Guardianista approach to “feminism”

Occasionally on those Sunday morning TV discussion shows, there will be a topic entitled ‘Has Feminism Gone too Far?’. A rather patronising title as no-one would ever have a discussion entitled ‘Have Civil Rights Gone too Far?’ or ‘Have Rights for Homosexuals Gone too Far?’ Better questions to ask would be something like ‘Why is Feminism so divided?’, ‘Has Feminism lost its way?’ or ‘Why is Feminism Obsessed with Moralism?’

The recent resurgence in a certain type of ‘feminism’ has certainly polarised debate and alienated a lot of women due to its anti-sex stance. This has been pioneered by fanatical fright groups like Object who are given a voice by media such as The Guardian. The patron of Object is the ever-angry Polly Toynbee so this is not surprising. I no longer even bother to read what she writes as it is just so negative. The same goes to Julie Bindel, who seems to be so full of righteous rage and venom, that I can no longer bear to listen to what she has to say. Her recent tirade against Dr Brooke Magnanti was appalling and surely cannot be called journalism? Dr Magnanti’s response to this was far more magnanimous and reflected positively on her.

The article was entitled Brooke Magnanti Vs Julie Bindel so I clicked through, thinking it would be an interesting debate between two strong women, who both describe themselves as Feminists, but come from very different ends of the spectrum. I was shocked to read the one-sided, abusive rant from Julie Bindel and wondered why The Guardian would print such a thing. Why employ this provocateur to write in this ‘playground bully’ style? Isn’t this supposed to be a reputable paper?

Then I read the comments below, which generally condemned Ms Bindel’s bile, and realised how many clicks and comments this article had generated. Could this be the reason? As we know, many forms of media have suffered large revenue losses in the past decade, due to free online media and recession, so have to rely on dwindling advertising revenues. I wonder if the only reason they print these kinds of articles is to generate unique page visits and up the volume of clicks on their website? People always love a good cat fight don’t they?!

Imagine how much good this is doing for the web stats of the Guardian and how they can use this to sell their brand. When presenting the medium as a good place for advertisers to raise brand awareness, they need to demonstrate a healthy readership, who also interact with the medium, thus increasing advertising revenue. Call me cynical but it’s always worth looking at the financial angle. The prohibitionists and rescue industry have long been making careers and money out of the workers in the Erotic Industries. Stanley Cohen, in his groundbreaking book, Folk Devils and Moral Panics describes this phenomena as “deviance exploitation”. It is where the control culture financially exploits the current “folk devils”, supported by the tool of moral panic.

Another major contradiction in this paper is the question of who has the ultimate control over a woman’s body. The main theme of Feminism has been about women gaining ownership over themselves yet the Guardian takes differing stances depending on the debate. It depends who we’re talking about: women wanting abortions, those choosing to wear the burka and then those choosing to strip for a living.

In Guardian World the right for a woman to choose whether to abort or not is sacred. Fine within reason and I agree. The right for a woman to wear a burqa, as long as it is her choice, is not questioned. OK, banning an item of clothing is a silly idea and it can be argued that the symbolism of the burqa is changing. From the ultimate objectification; saying a woman is a black hidden mass, fit only for cooking, cleaning and breeding. (Full burqa only applies here because if you can see someone’s face you can see who they are.) To what is now sometimes a political stance, an anti-establishment gesture, especially in countries like France, that have banned the burqa.

However if you’re a stripper, your right to choose what you can and can’t do with your body, is forbidden in Guardian World! We must be roundly condemned as poisoning society and leading to the abuse of women. You will be told that you have been brainwashed and suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. To dance naked and celebrate feminine beauty is a betrayal in Guardian World. To enjoy and exhibit your sexuality is seen as ‘bad’ and ‘corrupt’.

I find this new slut-shaming ‘feminism’ ridiculous and unhealthy. I don’t want to be part of it. A feminist revival that alienates and denounces other women is not the kind of angry and divisive ideology I want to sign up to. They say Feminist, I say Witch-Finder General, stoking the bonfires of moral panic.

15 thoughts on “Feminism For The Few, Guardian-Style”

  1. Sadly, over the last couple of decades, the Guardian has degenerated into the postmodern ‘liberal’ equivalent of the Daily Mail. And Julie Bindel is their rad-fem answer to Samantha Brick.

  2. “The Guardian is the left cheek and the Daily Mail is the right cheek of the same farty, whinny arse.”

    I read that a couple of years ago on the BTL section on The Guardian and thought it was a good description.

  3. While I don’t support Bindel’s version of debate, you should also consider that Magnanti has spewed her own kind of bile in trying to put forth her own agenda. (Putting words in people’s mouths, taking research out of context, conflating women who don’t agree with her as ‘ultra-right religious militant feminists,’ regardless that these women oppose religious extremism.)Magnanti is not much more deserving of respect when it comes to attempts at sane discussion. She’s just at the other end of the spectrum.
    As far as stripping and such, it’s really not as simple and neat as “My body, my rights!!” It’s also about women using society’s hypersexualization of women and women’s- sexuality-as-product for personal profit. This affects all women. We all need to consider the gray areas of the issues.

  4. So hypersexualisation which the average dictionary doesn’t have is wrong? So we going to see calls for Magic Mike to be banned as it hypersexualises men? The end of the chippendales and dream boys? I would suggest that the human race is a sexual species beyond the basic concept of the need to reproduce. Does women’s sexuality truly keep women down? I can’t see how. Realistically it is likely to be the media which causes damage but the rad fems need an easy target and striptease is always good for getting the moral police up in arms.

    Having read a lot of Bindel’s work in the Guardian would say her claims and judgements are just a little beyond extreme. Think the one where she suggests unless you are a lesbian you are empowering the Menz is a little beyond the pale for most people I know.

  5. What actually is feminism?

    One woman’s feminist, is another woman’s fascist.

    Herein lies the problem, across the great span of what claims to be feminism that are enormously divergent views. Yet despite this varies women assert the right to define feminism according to their perspectives and ambitions. Many of such comments reflect a certain self-deception / delusion that women are and should be a unified sisterhood with shared objectives / concerns etc.
    The article referred to is interesting because while Bindel accuses Magnanti of poor scholarship and misrepresentation of statistics etc, probably no movement in modern UK has so consistently manipulated statistical evidence more than feminism.
    Like all people propagating revolution there are two primary fears; 1. that the revolution shall achieve its goals and thus render the revolutionaries irrelevant; 2. that the pendulum of change will swing back to some compromise position to reflect the will of the masses. Bindel fears that alternative views may gain equal legitimacy and thus undermine her struggle, so she condemns others ostensibly as traitors to the cause.

  6. Are we really hypersexualised? What does that word even mean? It is one of those media buzz words along with ‘objectification’ and ‘pornification’ that always strike me as a-far-too-simple-way to explain human interaction. I don’t really know how people’s lives can be ‘hypersexualised’ all the time. One of the reasons we are bombarded with ads is because we are so saturated we tend to ignore them. Raising brand awareness is actually a difficult thing to achieve.

    Tonight I’m dancing and I will be playing the role of ‘sexy lady’ but meanwhile I need to clean the bathroom and go to the dentist and that really isn’t sexy! We tap into different facets of our personality at different times for different occasions. These sound like a scare words not realistic descriptions of peoples lives – no matter what job you do.

    Also the issue of striptease negatively influencing society is, I think, mainly based in old fashioned religious morality. In fact religions have been the most harmful things to females for centuries. Empowering women sexually is a new thing and is still controversial. We still seem to have the ideal of the Madonna and the Whore deep within our psyche. I think stripping and it’s various off shoots like Burlesque and Pole Dancing have done great things to break down that narrow view.

    I feel that this ‘sex issue’ is one of the final frontiers in feminism and that it will be a long struggle. We are battling centuries of shame and guilt, and being told that to be sexual is to be a whore. It ends up feeling like my strip shows are an essential part of this evolution. It feels like dancing is in fact a feminist statement!

    And here’s an interesting piece in Huffington Post along the same lines – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joyce-mcfadden/sex-ed_b_1657932.html

    1. I agree Edie – “hypersexualisation” seems to be one of those terms with zero scientific basis but plenty of scare-power. Our degree of “sexualisation” is determined by our hormones. Our sexuality can neither be diminished nor enhanced by outside influences – but attempts at suppressing it can warp it unpredictably.

  7. The depiction of women as sexual objects in advertising is fairly limited, most advertising isn’t like that at all. The feminists who denounced the advertising that shows women in “sexualised” ways, are curiously silent about some other forms of advertising which shape women and men’s expectations. The ING ad where the young woman rejects the affordable ring in favour of the most expensive one with the implied (non too subtly) suggestion that if the man does buy it any intimacy (& thus love) on her part will rapidly be terminated. The message is that men buy sex (& love) from women. from a feminist perspective this is appalling, but where are the strident objections to it. About a decade ago a furniture outlet ran a series ads which basically legimitised non-violent forms of spousal abuse against men to obtain material goods by women. Again these feminists were curiously silent.
    IMO radical feminists rely upon core Victorian / Edwardian depictions of women as victims of predatory & brutish men, but upon whom women are financially dependent. Thus the dancer whose performance may provide “titillation” for men, provides the impulse for men’s appalling conduct to women and must be condemned. In the same manner that a prostitute challenges the monopoly that the classic married women had in terms of providing sexual satisfaction, and from which they derived socio-economic power. Thus maintaining scarcity is the key to achieving a high market price.
    Strippers, prostitutes and purveyors of porn provide an affordable alternative which diminishes the market value of the “classic woman”. The stripper who removes her clothes in front of a male audience, it affording those men greater exposure and access to a woman’s body than most of those men’s wives and provides some satisfaction even though the men do not touch the stripper. It is not a coincidence that the largest single group of clients for prostitutes are married men. As are the repeated jokes that married men have no recent experience of sex.
    The continuing painful reality for feminists is that women remain dependent upon men’s capacity to generate wealth. 2/3’s of all household income is derived from men’s activity. men are overwhelmingly net contributors to the national commonwealth through tax and their comparative low take up of public services. The challenge remains how do they continue to benefit from this resource while seeking to disengage from men? Their only response has been to use what moral condemnation and shaming they can muster, which they do successfully.
    If your activities as a stripper are legitimised, society then acknowledges the realities and legitimacy of male sexuality. But the heart of current feminism is the de-legitimisation of men’s demands and requirements at every level. The demands that strippers should be excluded, is in the same vein as de-prioritising men’s health requirements in terms of NHS spend allocations.
    At the end of the day these “feminists” are as oppressive as Stalinists. the only difference is that feminism is incapable of mustering the resources to impose their demands in the same way at present.
    Another example of feminism’s curious silence is; In the USA today all males at 18 must register for military service (even though there is no draft at present) and may be subject to a fine of $5000 or 5 yrs in prison for failing to do so. females are not required to do this and thus face no such potential sanction. Surely if men and women are legally equal, women should also register for the draft, and feminists should be demanding this equality. But they say nothing at all about it, content that it only applies to men. Curious, when they insist women are men’s equals in ever way.

  8. I think your argument above is confused, If as you say ‘sexualisation is determined by our hormones’, then how can it be that ‘attempts at suppressing [ie non genetic influences] it can warp it unpredictably’

    Its either biologically determined or socialised or a combination of the two, otherwise how do explain a sexuality that changes through ones life, eg men that become gay or bisexual in later life but are hetrosexual in their youth? Also sexuality has historically been very different to that which we understand now. Ancient Greece as another example where again homosexuality was considered the highest form of love/sex.

    Also I think it would be helpful to discuss Feminism not as a homogenous theory/organisation as there are a multitude of theories that explain sexuality and womens oppression in feminism.

    RS Davies I think should take a couple of moments and join the 21st century, the assertion that ‘The depiction of women as sexual objects in advertising is fairly limited’ is really quite laughable as are many of the statements in the piece. And this sort of attitude is why I believe many rail [wrongly I believe] against the industry in the first place

    It is possible to discus and celebrate female sexuality in whatever way women choose to articulate and celebrate this sexuality, this is their right as is abortion or the right to wear a burqua. However this surely does not therefore stymie a serious discussion about women’s role inside society and the discrimination women face on a systematic & sustained level, pay-childcare-career opportunities-rape etc etc.

    Sexuality is one aspect of the discussion it is NOT the only one any serious feminist would acknowledge this.

  9. The fact that sexuality shouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the agenda for feminists. However when feminists like Bindel and Object force it to the forefront it is silly but needs to be discussed. I have met quite a few dancers and they are in general strong women who are capable of making their own minds up. When a vocal minority decry and abuse them, ignore their opinions and will not listen to arguments then whatever the agenda should be changes.

  10. Rick, the fact that we notice women depicted as sexual objects in advertising is because partly it jars against some people’s values and partly because our attention is drawn to is as an explanation why certain social events occur. In fact the majority of advertising in UK does not depict women as sexual objects.
    Advertising seeks to persuade us to part with our money, and thus it does not promote or present things in ways that we find objectionable. As such advertising is a very reliable indicator of popular values, and in particular the target audience. While advertising may influence values, this effect is overstated, usually for political purposes.
    Over the last 50 years, feminists have complained about the depiction of women in advertising where they felt that it demeaned women. But it equally reveled in the depictions of women as being superior, morally & intellectually, and that depicted women being disdainful of or abusive towards men.
    The absence of a male equivalent of the feminism, means that we don’t receive a balanced commentary regarding advertising and its depictions of men and women.

    As you state there are serious issues facing women, but there are also equally serious issues facing men. Our awareness of the women’s issues, and lack of awareness of men’s issues, reflects the immense political success of the feminist movement and its dominance in the media. Part of the problem is that inadequacy of debate and the extensive misuse of data to support political decisions, and thus direct public funding towards women’s initiatives. An example of this is that there is no significantly statistical difference between men and women in relation to their victimhood of IPV, yet there are almost no men’s refuges nor support initiatives to help male IPV victims. The conflation of Women & Children as a victim groups has assured women of public funding, even though in the case of child abuse, women are overwhelming the main perpetrators of it. Of adult NHS healthcare provision, excluding gynecology, over 80% is allocated to women and according to the RCN men are dying & suffering for the want of appropriate treatment.

    The imbalance, and the hysteria attached to much of the debate, does not serve women or men well, nor society as a whole. There cannot be equal liberated women, if men are not equal and liberated. The slaver is as much a prisoner as the slave.

  11. “…conflating women who don’t agree with her as ‘ultra-right religious militant feminists,’ regardless that these women oppose religious extremism”

    The rad-fems may oppose religious extremism in their day-to-day lives, but they’ve proven all too willing to cosy up to religious conservatives (both christian and muslim, in the UK and USA) on such issues as ‘pornography’ and striptease.

    Radical ‘feminism’ is rooted, both ideologically and historically, in Marxism-Leninism and has a history of both attempting to silence rational debate and demonising its opponents (including those who call themselves feminists). It has a totalitarian endgame, of which an oppressive approach to human sexuality is part and parcel.

  12. The most worrying thing about this ‘discussion’ above is that the very thing thing that most of you seem to object to ‘demonising opponents’,’silencing rational debate’, ‘refusing to listen to alternate opinions’ etc etc is precisely what you do.

    Your so-called open and free arguments are in reality a selection of ill-informed, misquoted, badly researched caricatures of an argument that ultimately serves as a self seeking legitimisation of what you already thought.

    This pretense of debate simply allows you to carry on smugly with the reactionary bile that you regurgitate, most worryingly masquerading it as free thought.

    Until the real issues that affect how people interact in life/society can be addressed in a sensible, serious and yes, grown up manner [ie Sexism does exist, the strains on the NHS are the result of underfunding-not women, the representation of women in all walks of life is at best unfair, how sexuality is distorted, and some er…basic research into the history of radical (or for that matter any other) Feminism] Then blogs like this will serve only the narrow minded interests of those who seek to stifle discussion not open it up to embrace a fuller understanding about Womens oppression,Religion, class & society as a whole.

  13. Rick – I don’t think this is silencing opposition nor do I think the debate is a pretense.

    “…blogs like this will serve only the narrow minded interests of those who seek to stifle discussion not open it up…”

    I’m sure you are aware that our mainstream media is narrowly controlled by a small elite who constantly beat out the same old thing. The Guardian masquerades under a pretense of respectability but is in reality no different to the Daily Mail. They all serve to reinforce an atavistic moral message when it comes to sexuality. So new media – like blogs, facebook, twitter – is the only way for other voices to be heard. That’s just how it is.

    The Rad Fems in particular despise strippers, sex workers, bisexuals (see Julie Bindle’s rants about bisexual women being traitors) and transexuals (google Sheila Jeffries). So this means they pretty much hate me and all my friends! Now that would not be a big deal if they didn’t have power and influence. But they have controlled the media and pumped out offensive rants for at least a decade. This lead to moral panic and Harriet Harman making ill informed, bad law. That’s when the hating gets dangerous! When the haters can manipulate public opinion and try to outlaw a subculture.

    I also agree that the sex and sexuality issue should be no where near the top of the feminist agenda as there are far more important things to worry about. Equal pay for example who sort out a lot of things. But the issues around controlling women’s sexuality and outside forces assuming ownership over the female body keep being pushed to the top of the agenda. By RadFems and right wing moralists.

    Most of us dancers are not inclined towards politics but we’ve been forced to defend ourselves against those we assumed would be on our side. We have responded to attack rather than antagonised. I personally hate politics! I’d much rather be the hippy, arty person that I am and not have to justify that to anyone. But alas………

    I think it’s a shame that the debate has become so polarised, as there is a lot of common ground between dancers and feminists, but it is now impossible to have a sane discussion. It’s very frustrating.

  14. fair enough. However the point here is that the focus of all the attacks in this blog are against the Guardian, the left and Feminism per se.

    Now I am not arguing that any of the above has a perfect and unblemished record in organising around female emancipation, however whenever there have been attempts at ameliorating the position of women, then Feminists and the left & The Guardian (sometimes) are there trying to articulate a strategy that helps this process along.

    The Daily Mail is not the same as the Guardian and you know it! Newspapers like that seek to perpetuate the myths about women and sexuality, Mary Whitehouse read the Daily Mail.

    Whatever the flaws of the Guardian-& there are indeed many- or the conclusions of SOME feminists and some of the left, they all start with the position that they wish to improve the lives of women not to prolong inequality & the status quo.

    Fine, disagree with the conclusions that some feminists draw, but remember that they are at least on your side for some of the issues. Right wing moralists, the Daily Mail and real bigots will never be on your side, ever.

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