SEX(-positivism and the war over feminism)!!!Posted: March 29, 2012
Now that I have your attention.
Reader, as I’ve made abundantly clear in a previous post, I’m no expert on feminism or female sexuality (curb the “That’s what she said” jokes, please), and I encourage any who are of the fairer and increasingly better educated sex to weigh in on this post, but I’ll soldier on, as this is a topic that I find very interesting and one that has contemporary relevance.
I always tiptoe gingerly around the topic of feminism in conversation because I don’t want to offend with my ignorance. When asked whether I consider myself a feminist, I often rely on the good ol’ conversational standbys of fillers and stutters. On the one hand, I’m all for the Equal Rights Amendment and believe that women should get equal pay for equal work. On the other, I fear committing to feminism then committing a sexist faux pas and being outed as the chauvinist pig I don’t realize I am. In a word, feminism seems like a trap: seemingly simple but hopelessly nuanced. I’m not fully certain that I’d pass a feminism pop quiz, if there be one. On certain points I’m genuinely confused. I’m not certain of all the tenets of feminist dogma, all the stances I would have to take.
Here, I will drift into hyperbole to shine a spotlight on a particular point of confusion, for which I beg pardon. In contemporary America, to the unenlightened and uneducated mind, there seem to be two radically different, polarizing stereotypes of what a feminist is. The first is the bra-burning, leg and armpit-hair growing, man-hating feminazi. The second is the pole-dance-class-taking, SATC-loving, sexually liberated, Pussycat Doll, a la Madonna or Lady Gaga. Which is the true feminist?
Or, take prostitution and pornography as another example. For a long while I thought that feminism frowned upon the two p-words as blatant instances of misogyny and objectification of women. Then, in more recent years, I’d heard feminist defenses for prostitution and pornography, with phrases like sexual empowerment being bandied about. In fact, a recent article I came across even highlights the political power that sex workers wield in a modern twist on Lysistrata. Has feminism evolved completely?
Finally, a brief word on SlutWalks. I understand, kinda, when marginalized communities reclaim a formerly derogatory word. And a woman’s appearance or dress is never an invitation for rape. But as Dave Chappelle said, it can be damn confusing. How exactly does dressing (or actually not dressing) in a provocative manner advance feminism and women’s rights?
For the longest time I just wasn’t sure about all this. Upon doing some research, however, the proverbial lightbulb flickered to light. As in anything else, the world of feminism is a vast one, with various factions and denominations and perspectives and voices. The reason why feminism was so unclear to me is because there is no central set of stances that all feminists take. Feminism isn’t a closed book, movement, or philosophy. In fact, a lot of controversy and debate exists among women who call themselves feminist.
There are sex-positive feminists, and there are critics of sex-positive feminism. There are feminists who SlutWalk, and there are feminists who slut-shame. There are feminists who think we live in the best of times, and there are feminists who think we still have a hell of a lot of work to do.
Of course, this realization doesn’t make things any easier. As a guy, I still don’t know what to make of it all, or how to plug into all of this. Sometimes I wonder, though, if instead of comparing women to men and applauding when they get to do what men “get to do,” we did the opposite. We all know that there is a vast double-standard between male sexuality and female sexuality. Men are allowed, nay almost encouraged, to be promiscuous when women are demonized for the same behavior. Men, in fact, are negatively judged for non-promiscuous behavior. (Hello, Tim Tebow.)
So, a thought experiment. What if, rather than slut-shaming women, we slut-shamed men? What if, rather than saying that women are making “progress” when they reach the levels of promiscuity that men are allowed, we hold men to the same so-called moral standard that we hold women? After all, saying that women have made it when they get to do the same nonsense that men do is still hinting that male behavior is the norm, no? Ultimately, that seems pretty damn sexist to me.
Anyhow, questions about all this aside, it’s really up to the women. Feminism, I suppose, is granting women the freedom to make their own choices, free of the judgments of men. Women should be free to adopt whatever feminist modes they choose, to own their feminism and their sexuality.
Just as men are free to do.
Why, though, if I may ask, do we always assume that this freedom is a good thing?
Happy Women’s History Month, y’all.