Sexy feminism?

Feminism is about choice. Sometimes I think if I repeat that enough, people will get it. This time I’ll let another blogger repeat it for me, since I think she’s spot on:

Feminism (at least my brand) doesn’t oppose sexiness, but it opposes compulsory sexiness.

It’s the difference between putting on makeup to look like your slutty fantasy, and putting on makeup to leave the house. Between wearing heels because they make your ass tight and your legs long, and wearing heels because they’re in your dress code. Between smiling at a sexy stranger and having “hey honey, why aincha smiling” yelled at you. Between having sex because your pussy is wet and your muscles are quivering, and having sex because it’s time to put out.

And I’d go further and say it’s also the difference between being a sex worker because that’s a legitimate career option, and being a sex worker because it’s the only way you can eat. It’s the difference between sexified female bodies being used as porn, and them being used as decorations and advertisements. Maybe most importantly, it’s the difference between women being taken seriously when they talk about sexuality, and women not being taken seriously when they’re not sexy enough.

And I’d add that the opposite is also true. It’s the difference between dressing modestly because it’s comfortable or keeps you warm, and dressing modestly to avoid being jailed or raped because you were “asking for it.” Between liking football and Grand Theft Auto because they entertain you, and liking football and Grand Theft Auto because you don’t want to dare to have stereotypically “girly” hobbies. Between forgoing makeup because you’re too lazy in the morning and forgoing makeup because otherwise you won’t be taken seriously at work. Between choosing nerdy t-shirts because you think they’re funny, and choosing nerdy t-shirts because your friends will heckle you if you wear anything feminine.

Compulsory anti-sexiness is not the solution to compulsory sexiness. There’s not one right way to be a woman.


  1. says

    /slowclapWhat an excellent, excellent post! Thank you for the link, btw.Any good introductory primer for feminism should stress the emphasis of choice, and I agree with you in that I don’t think it’s ever said enough outside of Women’s Studies classes (where it’s pretty much drilled into you with every single reading and lecture — which is a good thing). We should always fight compulsory anything (motherhood, heterosexuality, and of course, sexiness) but hating all of those who do the practice gets everyone nowhere. It’s yet another example of the kyriarchy at work.

  2. mcbender says

    I think this is the right way to view this.While I hate to hijack the subject into “what about the men”, I also think that this framing makes it much easier to get men (or actually, people in general) to understand and support feminism. There was a time only a couple of years ago when I proudly proclaimed myself not to be a feminist, because I was in favour of egalitarianism and feminism seemed to have little to do with that (feminism seemed to be primarily concerned with making me feel guilty for having been born with a penis). Of course, I rethought this position in time, and I do call myself a feminist now.It is very difficult to object to “choice is good; restricting choice is bad”, and I think the fact that that is so self-evident is key for consciousness-raising. I also like the fact that, while situationally it’s often the case that we’re concerned with women’s choices, the principle of choice itself is a genderless one.

  3. Jeanette says

    Brilliant! Compulsory anything. I love that. I know I’ll be using this page to make many a point over the years :)

  4. says

    I have to question why “being a sex worker because it’s the only way you can eat” is such a bad, unfeminist thing. The stigma of sex work, surely, comes from a society geared towards sex negativity. Even with that stigma, people are forced to do other humiliating, dangerous shit all the time just to put food on the table – by and large, we would still consider those “legitimate career options”.We seem determined to treat the stigma against sex workers as legitimate – as though it is caused by factors which don’t stem from our societal disgust of unrestricted sexuality. If I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, though, do please set me straight.

  5. says

    It’s a bad thing because it’s so closely tied to the fight for bodily autonomy. If you’re doing sex work because you feel it’s the only way you can early money, your bodily autonomy is being compromised considering the nature of sex work. I’m sure that the analogy could be extended to other dangerous and humiliating jobs, too, but many of them don’t explicitly have the potential to compromise bodily autonomy.

  6. Azkyroth says

    Where does forgoing makeup because it’s expensive, unnecessary, and usually not even an improvement come into this?

  7. says

    Totally, totally, totally true! Although my lack of sexiness is mostly because I haven’t even the foggiest clue of how to go about “prettifying” myself up.Probably started as a response to just this exact issue… I was always a bit tomboyish and wanted to do “boy” things (i.e. love science, playing with bugs, go into geology, or use knives, or chop wood) and people (particularly guys who thought I needed help) tended to let me know when I was doing something non girlish… eventually you start feeling like if you do “pretty” yourself up (i.e. look like a girl) people will assume you don’t know what you are doing or aren’t competent (which isn’t true)… and that assumption isn’t wrong (in the field chopping wood the number of times guys in camp make comments about a girl chopping wood or offer assistance, I like to chop my own wood! how many times do I have to tell you! graaargh!). ..and so you fail to even learn what to do… not a problem on your average day (I’ve never understood the people who gussy themselves up every day… well I sort of can see it, but NOT my thing), but every once and a while it would be kind of nice to be able to do it… just for fun.On the other hand sex is not bad, it is not evil, it is definitely not a chore… and sex doesn’t degrade women, nor does sexiness. People’s behaviors can… but looking like awesome because you feel like it? Nope, no degradation there. Fearing to look awesome because of other people’s judgments of your worth? Degrading and demoralising? Hell yes!(As a side note I have literally seen a direct correlation with this behaviour and how I look… when I have super short hair in the field I get fewer offers of assistance or comments, with longer hair I get more people assuming I’m incompetent, telling me not to lift things (funniest instance being from a guy who definitely cannot lift more than me… any day) and commenting on my gender… or my favourite from this summer drillers calling you “blueberry” and/or “sweetie”… grrrr)… so the reasons for push away from looking “girlie” to be taken seriously can be seen… but that doesn’t mean they are valid or good… and really, I think the more people who decide NOT to change because of these pressures, the better off we will be.

  8. says

    I love this! Greatly explained, Jen. It is a bit like I was talking about with a friend recently who was teasing me and my boyfriend a little for being gay. The idea that you have to do things a certain way to earn the right of being male or female. Sure there are activities that are either factually mostly performed by man and women, or used in language as a male or female activity and saying that is not a bad thing; it is not terrible to note that a man is doing something that is usually reserved for women. The bad thing is the judgement behind it: because you are engaging in a female activity, you are less of a man.It is unavoidable that a person will have both male and female interests (meaning either the factual or stereotypically male/female), and it becomes problematic when one tries to force themselves to like different things just because that would be more fitting for a man or woman to do.

  9. EdenBunny says

    “…I’m sure that the analogy could be extended to other dangerous and humiliating jobs, too, but many of them don’t explicitly have the potential to compromise bodily autonomy.”I can’t think of a single job that doesn’t compromise bodily autonomy. Even psychics claiming to help clients with some “out-of-body experience” have to surrender the productive and recreational use of their bodies to their clients when performing their jobs. The bottom line is that nobody today unhappily becomes a sex worker because it is the only job that pays well enough to survive. People unhappily become sex workers today because it is the only job that has no strong educational requirements and pays well enough to live an easier life (or a life that better feeds a drug addiction) than one could live changing old people’s diapers (disease risk), cleaning floors (chemical inhalation risk), flipping burgers (burn risk), pumping gas (chemical inhalation/fire risk) ringing up groceries (usually low risk), or washing dishes (usually low risk). Most Americans are simply ignorant of what it actually means to be unable to survive. A better statement would have been that it’s the difference between working as a sex worker because is something you wish to do and working as a sex worker because [you legitimately view it as not much different than any other job because the law doesn’t effectively stop sexually abusive bosses / you need the extra cash so that you can afford the boob job that you need to advance in your socially accepted career / your husband turned out to be a pimp and the law doesn’t protect you from him / you couldn’t have an abortion because of legal hurdles created by a local right-to-life movement, and the father’s child support is insufficient or inadequately enforced /etc.]Another point that could have been made is that it’s the difference between being a sex worker with the full protection of the law and social acceptance that every peaceful citizen deserves and being a sex worker that has to hide from the law, buy protection from corrupt cops, and/or fight the legal system in order to engage in your chosen profession.

  10. A-M says

    I never used to call myself a feminist, exactly because my experience of feminism was the man-hating, sexiness-quashing kind, that always struck me as just as off-putting as chauvenism. So glad websights like this put into words my feelings on the issue. I can call myself a feminist and still explain clearly how it can be that as a feminist I am married to a lovely man who mows the lawn while I do the washing up. I know we’re living in our stereotypical gender roles, but guess what, we chose to! Yay feminism!

  11. says

    I don’t know… I agree with what I have read and understood, but I’m not sure about the responses to it. There is a lot of makeup-negative comments and I don’t think that was the point. I think the choice to wear it or not should not impact our being feminist. If you want to wear it, wear it; if not, then don’t. That should be easy.But, as I read the blaghag and get ready for work… I’m looking at my pile of makeup and feeling judged negatively for it. I wear it almost every day. I enjoy wearing it and am good at it. Am I less a feminist for it? I don’t judge those who choose not to wear it; choice is awesome and you made one hooray for us all. Why can my lipstick not get the same courtesy?

  12. says

    The point is though, is not whether you choose to wear make up or not, but the why’s of it..Do you wear makeup because you like to? Because it makes you feel pretty/sexy/confident? Or do you wear it because you’re afraid you’ll be judged if you don’t?That’s the difference – Wearing because you want to=good. Wearing because you feel you have to based on the prevailing expectations of society=not-so-good. The problem with radical feminism was that it wanted us to eschew all things feminine and saw them all as trappings of the patriarchy, meanwhile all that sort of attitude accomplished was to further devalue traits of femininity, by saying that a ‘true’ feminist wouldn’t want to be sexy, because then we’re just a tool of the man. This only served to alienate from the feminist movement all those women who were all “But hey! I LIKE getting all sexied up.”What Jen and the article she’s posted here are getting at is that you can be sexy.. or you can not be sexy. That’s up to you. Feminism is about the choice.. not to be prescribed into certain roles (ie. you have to be ‘sexy’ to be valued as a woman) and that you shouldn’t have to throw away these choices in order to be a ‘good feminist’ (ie, the idea that a ‘good feminist’ wouldn’t WANT to be sexy). The focus should be (for both Men and Women) to have a CHOICE about how we present ourselves, or how we negotiate our sexual lives (or lack thereof).

  13. Julie says

    There’s always a lot of anti-makeup sentiment around here. You should go back and find the post where the comments were full of comments from men about how OMG DISGUSTING and SHALLOW women who wear makeup are. It was a real treat.

  14. JediPsychologist says

    And don’t forget stay-at-home-moms. There are a lot of feminists who would oppose the right of a woman to choose this as their career. Feminism isn’t forcing all women to get careers, whether or not they want to, it’s acknowledging that stay-at-home-mom is one of many legitimate career opportunities. And that option should still be open, right alongside architect, scientist and lawyer.

  15. says

    Men and women were born free, but everywhere they are in chains- to play with the Rouseau quote.I try to be more than my class, race, gender, and history. Freethinking is personally as well as socially transformative.

  16. Nyota says

    Whatever happened to individual freedom for god’s sake. Feminists didn’t approve Sylvia Plath’s desire to get married and have a baby. Macho males didn’t approve her exceptional intelligence. Groups of people usually have a Greater Cause that unites them, and often times personal liberty is undermined by it.To people who will make comments about dressing, makeup, hairstyle; to society’s rules and regulations about what I do with my own body; to people complaining that I’m hurting their cause; that I should do this and shouldn’t do that because people will get offended in one way or another: Fuck you. Okay?What ever happened to “if you don’t like it, don’t watch”? It’s so simple. You are entitled to do whatever you want with your own body. It you want to use high heeled shoes, fine. If you don’t want to use them, fine. If you want to cut your breast open and put two pieces of plastic inside, well, I don’t understand why anyone would do that, but fine. Whatever. Even if your reasoning to do it is “because men like big boobs so I must do it or else I won’t look pleasing to men, which is the sole purpose of my life because I’m stupid” or something along those lines. Whatever. Your body, your life.Now, if you want me to do something like that, then we have a problem.

  17. says

    It seems to me that some “feminists”(note the quote thingies) have a rather sexist viewpoint towards men, which is to be expected. What’s shocking is that these same “feminists” seem to be just as sexist towards other women. In their view, women are almost always victims of the “patriarchy” unless they fall into a VERY narrow range of views and behaviors. If a women falls into any of the stereotypical feminine gender roles, they must be brainwashed by “dudes” into being Barbie dolls for their pleasure. Just forget about enjoying heterosexual sex acts! Real freedom is about choice. It is not about automatically accepting what society expects from you, but it is ALSO not about reflexively rejecting those expectations whether you like them or not.

  18. Lepal says

    I have never heard anyone oppose a woman’s right to be a stay-at-home mom. I have heard people point out that being a stay-at-home mom does not provide health insurance, does not pay into social security or a 401k, and puts you at an extreme disadvantage if you need to re-enter the workplace because whatever source of income you were depending on dried up. I have known women who left the workplace to raise kids because their salaries were so low and the cost of childcare is so high that it wasn’t worth it in the short term. This can be a reasonable choice given the external factors of the wage gap, lack of paternal leave, and the prohibitive cost of childcare, but it’s still damaging in the long term and it doesn’t mean we should ignore those external factors in favor of waving the situation off as the woman’s ‘choice’.

  19. says

    I was in favour of egalitarianism […] I do call myself a feminist now.Why?I can see that this, ‘choice good’ view of feminism isn’t as exclusive as the narrow-minded ‘compulsory anti-sexiness’ feminism that the post is arguing against, but I can’t see why you’d prefer to call yourself a feminist rather than an egalitarian at all; equality for women is included within egalitarianism’s equality for everyone. Unless you’re actually trying to exclude other groups, why switch from the generic term to a specific?

  20. says

    For some though, the idea has been that being a stay-at-home mom is somehow ‘anti-feminist’, which is B.S. A more practical ideal would be if we recognize being an at-home mom for the difficult (and wholly underpaid) job it is, instead of saying that at-home moms just don’t want to work.Again, people who decry stay-at-home moms as somehow unenlightened and anti-feminist are doing just as much of an injustice to women as those who insist that a woman’s place is in the home and that we shouldn’t raise kids and have careers outside the home.It’s not a case of one being better than the other, it’s a case that we should be able to choose what we are more comfortable with. Men should also be able to choose to be at-home parents without being labelled as ‘Lazy’ or ‘unemployed’ or ‘not supporting his family’.

  21. jimmyboy99 says

    Because actively identifying with feminism is actively identifying with a group that has been oppressed and suppressed for ever – and needs to be identified with. And by making that identification, I am actively opposing the anti-feminist rhetoric and stereotypes which are so common. The difficulty comes because there are so many feminists who fullfill a stereotype that is totally inacessible to men (and I strongly disagree with). But that doesn’t stop me from identifying clearly with feminism: I’ll make the clarification argument when I need to…You could use the same argument about racism. Why call myself an anti-racist – not just an egalitarian? After all, egaliterain surely includes racism?

  22. jimmyboy99 says

    Exactly. To take a contrary position (I think?) to the quote: if a woman wants to put on makeup to look like her slutty fantasy…well – just fine. Her perogative.Feminism is surely at base just about women being able to be what they want to be, without further comment, judgement or consideration.

  23. jimmyboy99 says

    “Between wearing heels because they make your ass tight and your legs long, and wearing heels because they’re in your dress code.”OK – I’m struggling with this now. Surely, a very valid reason for having heels in your dress code is because they make your ass look tight and legs long? There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a tight looking ass or long legs, surely! What’s wrong is stereotyping it and promoting the view that this is what beauty looks like (and this alone); with being part of the objectification of women. But any woman who wants to wear heels because they make her ass look tight and her legs look long, is totally entitled to do so, without having to feel guilty about it! This is the joy of feminists reclaiming their world, their decisions, their choices to be who they want to be. It’s great!

  24. says

    Oh no! I can’t believe you’ve become a Canadian after being in Canada for only two days! Canadians love playing the game of the opposites and usually try to define something in term of not something.Examples:Canadian = not AmericanCanadian cheese = not American cheeseCanadian bacon = not American baconAmericans use miles to measure distance; Canadians use kilometers.Americans eat at McDonald’s; Canadians eat at Tim Horton’s.

  25. says

    Whoa; I’m not saying that sex workers are all brainwashed and need to be saved, so please don’t assume that I am. You asked why it would be bad and unfeminist if a person felt forced to turn to sex work, and I explained why that would be the case within the context of contemporary feminism. I brought up the issue of bodily autonomy because most Americans consider sex to be a personal act (much more than traditional labor), and most Americans will also put manual labor in a different category than sex work because it’s somehow less degrading to them. Sex is isolated in its own little sphere. But notice that I didn’t say I agreed with these things.

  26. says

    Based on my experiences, I can’t help but get the feeling that a lot of these comments are fighting strawfeminists. Women who actually identify as feminists who I’ve spoken with in real life have never expressed these kinds of views openly. Yes, this kind of crap (looking down at mothers, housewives, sex workers) was the norm in mainstream feminism, but that was in the 1970s and most of them have since renounced their positions because they realized they were being exclusionary assholes. Their agenda pretty obviously failed, especially for the sex-negative set (lookin’ at you specifically, Dworkin and MacKinnon). So I’m asking this in earnest rather than trying to discount anyone: where do (did) you meet these “feminists”? Hating on the choices of others isn’t really an acceptable practice anymore, and it’s precisely why Sarah Palin is a scare-quote “feminist” rather than a genuine one.

  27. says

    What that isolation of sex comes down to is (or is at least tied up with) the idea of sex-negativity, surely… and one then gets into interesting ethical/philosophical water about to what extent sex should be considered distinct. Personally, to me, while I view ‘light’ sex work (stripping, dancing) as something that shouldn’t be stigmatised or held separate, full-on prostitution still stirs in me that separation. Intellectually, I lean towards the view that it shouldn’t, as long as it is consensual, etc etc, but socialisation won’t let me feel that in my gut.As an aside, one way of making a living I’ve heard of that compromises body autonomy, technically, without having anything to do with sex, is being a paid lab rat.

  28. says

    That’s not contrary, that’s what it says. If women dress up a certain way because they want to, as a free and individual choice, that’s fine. If they dress a certain way because they’re compelled (in whatever way) to conform to a social norm, that’s a problem. Not that the woman is necessarily doing something wrong herself, although they could be described as reinforcing the patriarchy.

  29. mcbender says

    You’re making a false dichotomy. Nowhere did I say “I ceased calling myself ‘egalitarian’ in favour of ‘feminist'”; I merely said that I identify as feminist now where I wouldn’t have before. It’s an addition rather than a substitution.As to why… well, jimmyboy99 said it well enough that I don’t think I need to.

  30. says

    If you ask me, the “problem” in the make-up situation isn’t so much with the woman, as with the society leading to the feeling of compulsion. If you could perfectly well get by, and are sure it would lead to no problems, if you didn’t wear make-up, but you choose to anyway because you *like* it (rather than disliking the results of not wearing it), then no problem.In either case, you’re pretty blameless, unless you count the whole “supporting the patriarchy” thing. Never sure what to make of that, myself.

  31. says

    The fact that people who are contributing to society by raising the next generation (for the sake of argument) don’t get healthcare is a problem. It’s not a problem with that woman’s choice, it’s a problem with society’s handling of healthcare. Same for effects on retirement, etc.That said, if you’re going to give NI credits (to use the UK example), never mind benefits, to full-time parents, you (the state) should be able to make sure that the parent in question is actually putting in the time and everything, not just dumping kids in front of DVD players…

  32. says

    Um, what Americans call “Canadian Bacon” is mostly called “Bacon” by Canadians. I think they use the same term for what Americans call “Bacon”, with qualifying terms to be more specific. That’s certainly how we do it in the UK… back bacon versus streaky bacon. “Bacon” in the US is always streaky, as far as I can tell…

  33. says

    I’ve heard the views being objected to expressed by prominent figures in campus feminist groups at a number of British universities, and seen them expressed on bizarrely-widely-read blogs.I just wish they were “strawfeminists”. Love that word, btw…

  34. says

    I totally agree, the point was totally NOT anti-makeup or anti-sexifying yourself… it was the opposite…. I didn’t really see all that much in terms of anti-makeup sentiments either, though there was one comment about its expense… most of the other comments were all about choice (it shouldn’t matter if you choose to wear it or don’t).Most of the discussion has been saying that everyone should be allowed to choose how to make themselves up or not without fearing stereotypical judgments such as “if I look sexy/girly/etc. people will assume I am incompetent at [insert task here]”. And that the fact that we do fear those judgments tells us that something is still not right within our society.I mean I don’t wear makeup… and I really don’t know how to wear makeup… my fashion sense is pretty much non-existent and I feel hesitant every time I try to “dress up” for a fancy occasion, partially because I feel lost and partially because I feel like I shouldn’t be “allowed” to wear things like that (even if I really like them), because I don’t usually and I think people will think I’m trying to act like someone I’m not… this is in spite of the fact that sometimes I really do just want to dress up. So no! Do NOT feel judged for your makeup pile. Use it! Wear it! Enjoy it! If you want to wear it and you wear it despite other people who might be trying to shunt you into other roles or ideals then you are most certainly more of a feminist than those (such as, yes, me) who allowed themselves to be pushed by the vicissitudes of society… we need people who look awesome AND kick seriously smart ass… just like we need people who don’t look as awesome and kick ass… the more normative kicking ass is the less it will matter to other people what you look like while doing it.

  35. says

    The idea of a dress code is that it is an enforced way of dressing at a certain place of employment (or at least by an outside force). To have an enforced “tight ass and long leg” policy IS sexist because it assumes that the value of the women working there is in a large part how sexy they look.And sexyness doesn’t have any correlation (negative or positive) to actual excellence at work…. Now what I think you were interpreting “dress code” to mean was personal wardrobe choices… which is absolutely fine. But to have your workplace enforce a “sexy” appearance? Not so fine…

  36. says

    >>Most Americans are simply ignorant of what it actually means to be unable to survive. While I disagree with that statement, you’re making the assumption that feminists and feminism apply only to the US. In some places, sex work may, in fact, be the only job available to survive – whether because of the money that comes in, or the “protection” of a pimp.

  37. guest says

    Sure in theory there is vast difference between dressing sexy because you enjoy it and dressing sexy because its compulsory, but in practice the line between the two is pretty blurry. For instance, I know women who say “I just feel more confident with make-up on”. Ok. But why? Because they are doing something they like? Or because they get more positive responses from others? If its the latter, is wearing make up a choice or a response to a subtle form of coercion? A little of both? Saying any woman in makeup is brainwashed is patronizing. But let’s be honest, most women, and especially young women, may not be aware or think too hard about the way all the little messages we get every day influence their “choice”.

  38. says

    What I saw in the comments this morning was a lot of “I CHOOSE not to wear makeup so it’s good!” The most negative I found to be Azkyroth “Where does forgoing makeup because it’s expensive, unnecessary, and usually not even an improvement come into this?”; a lot of the not-wearers made statements that reflected negatively on those who chose to wear. This has been true on other posts as well. Even saying that it’s ok for me to wear makeup as long as I have the proper feminist motivation is kinda negative.Are you going to ask random makeup wearing women what their motivations are when they’re applying lipstick? Do I have to wear a sign saying “I paint my face for me”?Sometimes, I chose to paint my face because I enjoy the ritual and art of it. Sometimes, I chose not to wear anything at all. Sometimes, I chose to make myself look good for me and sometimes I chose to make myself look good for my Fiance and I don’t think there is anything wrong about that; that I can make a choice and we should all know that we have the option to chose is what’s important.

  39. says

    I can’t help but wonder, how old are these prominent figures? In the US, most (but not all) academics are middle-aged or above, and I can’t help but wonder if they’re still following along with the second-wave school that expressed scorn about women choosing traditional roles that I mentioned above, since a lot of their ideology was based from older writers. Then again, I’m not really familiar with British feminism.The blog and commentator thing is really staggering to me; it’s amazing how a few people can easily come to be seen as the face of something (in this case, feminism) even then you’ve got others shouting pretty loudly that HEY they’re full of crap. It’s a good example of it’s really necessary to be critical of everything you read, especially on the internet. Without an actual background on feminism and meeting actual feminists through volunteering and at conferences, I would still probably be buying into the right-wing vision of feminism as man-hating and anti-traditional roles.Thanks for your response. :)

  40. says

    Canadian Bacon = Ham in Canada. Bacon is bacon. :)I’ve no idea what this post is trying to say. It just doesn’t make sense. O_o Cheese is just cheese in Canada, Americans feel the need to distinguish it as American cheese, I guess? And kilometres is because of the metric system, and not ALL of us eat at Tim’s, but the food is certainly healthier (soups and sandwiches and coffee and donuts) versus McDonald’s (deep fried things and mystery meat products). I’m… confused… O_OWhoops, just editing this to say that I’m referring to the original post, not the one by Sam :).

  41. Julie says

    Absolutely. I remember when I was in middle school and bought into the idea that eschewing the heteronormative view of femininity was the only path to womanhood. I cut my hair short, stopped wearing makeup and openly proclaimed how much I hated dresses and the color pink because I thought it was the only way to be a real womynz. It wasn’t until I was around 14 or so and I finally woke up and realized that the whole conforming to nonconformity thing was bullshit.

  42. says

    Yeah, I’ve been following the debate, but I still can’t help but erect a level of separation between what some person says on the internet and what people actually say in real life. (I know there are actually people behind these screens [gasp], but the tone and content of the discourse is significantly different.) I’ve been reading feminist blogs for many years, but I also volunteer and go to conferences on feminism and gender studies, and it’s seriously two different worlds even though both are working under the heading of feminism. It strikes me as a case of the crazies yelling the loudest and screwing over the rest of us in the process.Thanks for answering my question.

  43. says

    Yeah, it might be just a British thing… at the times I knew them (a few different two-year-ish periods over the last 10-and-a-bit years), they’ve all been students (some undergrad, some postgrad) of roughly the expected age… and a lot of them have had awful (without being actually hateful) attitudes to men. Not the most common attitude, but I know at times they’ve had the strongest influence in Lancaster’s femsoc. I’ve also known many lovely, liberal, egalitarian, sex-positive feminists at British unis as well – the bad ones are just a vocal/visible minority.

  44. says

    I just did some reading, and apparently our linguistic cousins in the US use the term “Canadian bacon” to refer to both what Brits and Canadians would call (back) bacon, *and* to a sort of ham. Now that’s confusing…

  45. n0b0dy says

    You say that it’s ‘kinda negative’ to say it’s ok to wear makeup as long as you have ‘the proper feminist motivation.’ But ‘the proper feminist motivation’ has just been stipulated to be ‘because you want to.’ I have trouble with the notion that it’s negative to say that it’s ok to wear makeup if you want to. I get as a makeup wearer surrounded by non-makeup wearers in one of the places where it’s safe for them to vent, that you’re going to feel judged.I changed my name when I got married because I hate my family and I like my partner’s family, so I feel similar flack on occasion. But blame the right thing. There’s a huge difference between implying that you’re dumb to wear makeup because it’s a foolish economic choice (never mind that all purchases beyond subsistance are foolish by this reasoning and it’s not clear why makeup should be viewed as any stupider a purchase than a video game, tastier food, or new pants) and the stated feminist view that you should only be wearing makeup because you enjoy something about it rather than feeling obliged to do it.

  46. n0b0dy says

    What my British grandmother called “bacon” is what USians call “Canadian Bacon.” What USians call “bacon”, my grandmother called “that nasty streaky stuff.” Does this help?[edit: typo]

  47. n0b0dy says

    Yeah, but do we have to say stay-at-home-moms? Feminism is about choice for everyone, not just women. I don’t actually have any stay-at-home moms in my circle, but I have several stay-at-home dads. They stay at home because they want to. They love kids and they didn’t much care for their jobs. Their jobs didn’t pay well, offered little opportunity for advancement, and their wives were high powered professionals who were making 2-3 times as much as them. Why go through the drudgery when childcare is expensive and they weren’t getting benefits from those jobs?

  48. says

    I’ve never understood that expression… If I’ve got a cake I am damn well going to be eating it, you can be sure of that! (although I might be convinced to share).Also, not sure if I understand your comment =)Are you saying that you think it is asking too much for women to be able to be judged on their merits within a field, or at their workplaces, or by their colleagues, rather than on what they are wearing (whatever that might be)?

  49. says

    Fair enough. I’m gonna do a little self-psychoanalysis here.. Why do I wear make-up? Because I like to, I feel confident, I like experimenting with different personas, I feel sexy. Why does wearing make-up elicit such feelings in me? Well, when I wear make up I get attention, I get complimented. Why does that feel good? Because I feel socially accepted. Why? Because society has decided women should be valued on their level of sexy.Now, if I go into the bathroom in the morning, and knowing all this, and knowing where my desire to wear make up comes from and represents.. if I still pick up that eyeliner, that lipstick, am I still allowing myself to be a tool of the patriarchy, or am I using my knowledge of the patriarchy to empower myself by ‘working the system’?If I make an informed decision in the morning to put on my eyeshadow and rouge, is that anti-feminist? I’m gonna say no, sir. No, I’m not. Because I chose it.

  50. says

    Americans call cheddar cheese “American cheese.” Canadians know it, so they decided to start to call Gouda cheese “Canadian cheese.” Whenever Americans do something, Canadians have to follow but change whatever it is in order to differentiate themselves from the Americans. If you live in Canada long enough, you’ll see this phenomenon every day. There is no such thing as a Canadian. There is no Canadian-ness. Canadians are just a bunch of people who are too similar to Americans but try really hard not to be Americans.

  51. Demitri Morgan says

    It sure isn’t nice when women get made fun of in academia or the workplace because they choose to make themselves look nice or are “too feminine”, that’s just wrong. But “sexiness” has absolutely no place in academia or the workplace. One doesn’t go there to attract members of the opposite sex, but to work or do research, which is why sexuality at large is nothing more than a distraction. There’s a fine line between making oneself look nice for vanity’s sake and “dressing to kill” so to speak.When men try to “pick up” women at work it’s deemed sexual harassment, and for a good reason: it’s demeaning and distracting to them. I believe that flaunting one’s appearance with the same intention is wrong for similar reasons, unless men are capable of (and expected to be) denying every impulse and completely ignoring it, which defeats the purpose.

  52. Azkyroth says

    I think the implicit reading is “eat your cake, and STILL have it.” IE, have both the pleasure of possessing the thing in question and the pleasure of consuming it, which would ordinarily be mutually exclusive.

  53. jimmyboy99 says

    I kmow plenty of Canadians who shout you down for that pretty offensive set of generalisations: “there’s no such thing as Canadian. There is no Canadianess. Canadians are just a bunch of people who are too similar to Americans but try really hard not to be Americans”.Really? Do you know any history at all? About either the US or Canada?

  54. says

    Yeah, American bacon, also known as streaky bacon (the usual term here) or belly bacon (describing where on the pig it comes from), is widely available in the UK, but not terribly popular. Those who like it, like it, and usually like back bacon (the ‘default’ bacon here), but those who don’t tend to find it very unpleasant due to the large amount of fat in it.I use it to make crispy bacon, for which it is better than back bacon, and for cutting up and using in recipes, where the greater amount of fat gives it more flavour and imparts more flavour to sauces.

  55. says

    Mnyeh…It’s okay if women are using it for “the proper feminist reason”, certainly, and what that reason is is debatable. I would say there’s a problem if women are wearing make-up for bad reasons, but that problem isn’t necessarily with the woman. It’s a symptom of a problem in society. I’m going to keep saying this at each opportunity to make sure people hear it – unprivileged group members doing things that are in line with expectation, for bad reasons, is far less a problem with them than it is a symptom of a problem in society.

  56. says

    Wow. Impressive set of offensive generalisations there. In my experience, English-speaking Canadians are closer culturally to British than American, and French-speaking Canadians are closer culturally to French than American… a lot of the deviations from this are towards American things, true (like playing gridiron football…)I can’t help but have questions, though. Last time I looked at an international-English review of cheese (in terms of tasting, industry and trade), the US still imported a lot of cheddar. Do they then call it (for argument’s sake) “Irish American Cheese” or “American Cheese from Ireland”? I was also under the impression that ‘default’ cheese in the US was that awful processed stuff, although that’s apparently getting less true.Calling gouda ‘Canadian Cheese’ would just be insane, though, what with it being Dutch… okay, it’s no more protected than the name cheddar at the moment, but the EU is shortly planning to protect the name Gouda (so all cheese sold in Eurpose as Gouda will have to be from the Netherlands)…Can’t they just use the term “American Cheese” to refer to any cheese made in America? Did it grow out of cheddar being the ‘default’ cheese, and Americans use the term “American” to denote the ‘normal’ form of things? Wow… just… wow…

  57. says

    Of course, it’s a double-edged thing, because arguably such behaviour *does* facilitate the patriarchy. It doesn’t halt progress, however, and it represents empowerment right now. Hell, I don’t think it would be a good thing, but it would still be an egalitarian step if the movement was that women were still significantly ‘valued’ on the basis of ‘sexy’, but so were men… if they’re treated the same, it’s equal. It’s just equally stupid. And one impression I have of empowerment of women in my own generation is that they’re more willing to objectify men. It’s not common, nowhere near as common as men objectifying women, and it’s still a bad thing in some ways, but from the point of view of equality, objectification occurring equally for all genders is progress. Maybe we’ll meet in the middle before reducing objectification too far…To clarify, though, I’d rather casual objectification just stopped. I just know it won’t happen.

  58. says

    Still doesn’t entirely explain what the problem “Dave_leech22” has, though… I can only see it as suggesting that “enjoying stereotypical/heteronormative behaviour on your own terms” and “being judged on merit”/”not expected to be stereotypical/heteronormative” are mutually exclusive… I can see where some tangling happens, and it’d be easier to force people to judge women on their merits if there’s no such behaviour at all, but the argument is that they *shouldn’t* be mutually exclusive.

  59. says

    It’s possible to make an argument that dressing “too sexy” at work is sexual harassment in itself, or incitement to such. I wouldn’t make those arguments, but I can see how someone would.There’s a “thin end of the wedge” problem with your argument, in that the same logic leads to veils and burqas. However, I would agree that active or passive sexual behaviour at work (or at least while people are working) is bad form.

  60. says

    Yeah but how do you characterize the line between flaunting one’s appearance and just making a concerted effort to look nice?There’s one of the problems right there.. if a guy dresses up nicely for work, he may look incredibly sexy to me and others around him, but no one would accuse him of ‘flaunting his appearance’ in order to distract people. But because everything we as women fucking do seems to be in order to attract or detract from the male gaze, we get told that we are ‘Flaunting ourselves’ if we just want to fucking look NICE. Dressing nicely doesn’t mean we’re there to ‘Pick up’Sorry, but I hate the whole blurring of the lines between outright harassment (“Hey doll, why don’t you and I hook up in the supply closet” – and yes, I’m being hyperbolic) and the idea that women are harassing men simply by having bodies and faces and just BEING there. It’s insulting to both women and Men. Yes, what the fuck is wrong with denying an impulse? I’ve had a few co-workers who I’ve had to resist the impulse to walk into their office and straddle them, but I deny it because THAT would be inappropriate in the workplace. It’s not just men that have to deny certain impulses, we do it too. Thing is, I don’t blame the guys I’ve worked with for looking hot, like it’s their fault I’m frustrated.

  61. Christopher petroniP says

    Well, “egalitarian” derives from equal, so no, it does not include the notion that others are inferior on the basis of race.

  62. EdenBunny says

    As a male, I’m thoroughly familiar with the concept of childbirth, I know that it is a painful, frightening, and energy draining process, but I am totally ignorant of what it feels like. Not ignorant of any definitions involved, ignorant of the experience…However, I’ll grant that my statement was ambiguous in that sense, and maybe even technically false, so I’ll put it another way. Most Americans have never experienced anything even substantially close to an inability to survive. Even homeless people here can generally survive through charity, and most people here are not even homeless.As far as sex work being the only option for survival in other countries, that usually has more to do with poverty than with sexism; the fact that most poverty stricken nations are also sexist societies does not mean that there is an automatic relationship between sexism and sex work as the sole choice for some (or even most) females. The proof of this is in places like America, where prostitution is never the only possible income source, yet sexism still exists.Hypothetically, if the society is one in which there is no sexism, a male of equal skills might be worse off than the woman, as he may not even have that choice. (-Not due to sexism or “heterosexism”, simply due to supply and demand. Of course, there is the argument that sexual preference for one sex over the other is a form of sexism itself, and in fact it is the irrefutable truth, but I would view it as an acceptable form of sexism, and therefore ignore it in discussions of this nature.)A limited choice of vocational options is not a human rights issue unless it is directly due to a violation of human rights, in which case is still only a byproduct of the real human rights issue. If women in a society are unable to work in any non-domestic job because the law forbids them the right to walk outside, the issue that should be the target of discussion is not the unemployment. The only exception to this rule would be one where the economic hardship is directly and intentionally applied by force of law, but I don’t know of any society in which prostitution is the only legal career option for women, so this exception does not apply to the above given example.The economic hardship caused by supply and demand is not the equivalent of the necessity for protection from an unjust law. Prostitution being “the only job available” neither implies nor results from the necessity of such protection.

  63. Christopher Petroni says

    American cheese is not cheddar cheese. It’s a sort of vegetable oil-based, individually sliced and packaged abomination. NOT cheddar.

  64. jimmyboy99 says

    Hi Sam Barnett-Cormack,OK – I think I read all of the early part of the article backwards: as I read it I couldn’t work out which of the two was supposed to be a problem. But – that’s it – I agree: compulsion (in its many forms) is the issue.The “reinforcing the patriarchy” arguments are used all the time though to splap down women who are not comforming to the True Feminist model. Get those high heels off – you’re just reinformcing the patriarchy. Marriage? That’s so patriarchal. Etc. Stay at home to look after the kids while Dad goes to work? Mediaeval!It’s not an easy one: women can easily get caught up in patriarchal systems, processes and find that the easiest way forward is to conform. That’s maybe not helpful long term. But if it just ends up in more guilt and accusation…I think: women should just do what they want to do and when we see public judgement, dodgy role models, etc, we should call those things.

  65. says

    Actually, I do. And I know it well enough that I don’t want to live there. A culture dominated by socialism and social justice isn’t for me. Don’t get me started on socialized medicine. I am an evil capitalist. lol.

  66. EdenBunny says

    ” Whoa; I’m not saying that sex workers are all brainwashed and need to be saved, so please don’t assume that I am.”I assure you, I make no such assumption.“You asked why it would be bad and unfeminist if a person felt forced to turn to sex work, and I explained why that would be the case within the context of contemporary feminism.”I asked nothing of the sort. G. Syme asked that.“I brought up the issue of bodily autonomy because most Americans consider sex to be a personal act (much more than traditional labor)…”The implication here is that if a society can steal something without the majority noticing it, it has not really been stolen. “…and most Americans will also put manual labor in a different category than sex work because it’s somehow less degrading to them.”Sex is isolated in its own little sphere.”Which is exactly what G. Syme was pointing out. Just because society treats the job itself differently does not make its economic necessity toward personal ends (whether those personal ends be a college degree, a profitable life without one, a next month’s rent, or a next drug fix) a symptom or cause of sexism.“But notice that I didn’t say I agreed with these things.”Then why use them to support your argument as if they are valid distinctions? -Or are you saying that some contemporary feminists (e.g. the ones who criticize Jen and the woman she was quoting in this article for being sex-positive) are misguided? If that is the case, then you’re basically agreeing with both G. Syme and myself that the mention of the case where it is “the only job available” was a bad example. In fact, I’d point out that the second part of the same paragraph makes a similar error; the right to personal autonomy gives a woman the right to sell the use of her body for porn, decoration, or advertisement. The message of such porn, decoration, or advertisement may be subject to criticism, but again, the difference between porn and decoration or advertisement is not relevant. The final sentence of the paragraph I would totally agree with, but I would amend it as follows:“Maybe most importantly, it’s the difference between women being taken seriously when they talk about sexuality, and women not being taken seriously when they’re not sexy enough (or when they’re too sexy, which, incidentally, is what this article is all about).”

  67. EdenBunny says

    “As an aside, one way of making a living I’ve heard of that compromises body autonomy, technically, without having anything to do with sex, is being a paid lab rat. “-Or being a lab worker, paid to devote the use of your body, including your brain (the most personal organ you have), several hours a day towards studying lab rats, any one of which might bite you and give you an incurable disease if you’re not careful, or even if you are careful but someone else in the lab isn’t.

  68. loreleion says

    Women don’t necessarily want to look sexy to pick up men. I like looking sexy because it makes me feel confident and better about myself, not to please anyone else.

  69. says

    Absolutely – the “reinforcing the partriarchy” argument can be, and often is, over-used. But it’s also not completely wrong either. I suppose the ideal situation is where people (men and women) make their choices with full knowledge (which is impossible) of the factors weighing on them and what contribution it will make to what longer term effects. That’s impossible, but the closer we get to it the better.

  70. says

    The point is that there’s a general societal attitude that sees sex as different; whether we think, individually, that the attitude is reasonable or not does not alter the fact that the attitude is there and deeply socialised in our society.

  71. says

    I think the *valid* part of what Demitri is saying is that women should be aware of the affects that might have on people around them, including men, and not treat a man who reacts to it at all as some sort of villain. I’m not suggesting that you would do this, or are unaware, merely that it’s a phenomenon that does happen. I can say anecdotally that sometimes it appears to be deliberate, provoking a reaction from men and condemning them for it. Should men be able to act professionally however a woman is dressed? Of course. Is it their fault they can’t? I would argue in some cases that it’s not. Socialisation is a strong factor. Of course an out-and-out unacceptable comment is always unacceptable, just as a woman turning up to work in, say, a tax office in lingerie would be. Men are sometimes punished for unintentional slips, like looking at an inappropriate part of a colleagues body.Yeah, everyone should be able to dress however they like, without it altering anybody else’s attitude or behaviour. However, while we can fight assumptions following on from behaviour, we can’t significantly alter, in one generation, the involuntary reactions and alterations in mental state that are induced in others. This includes women dressing sexily along with people goose-stepping or teenagers in hoodies. I’m sure you can think of more examples…(Don’t take this to mean I disagree with you in principle, though)

  72. says

    “Social justice” is one of corporate America’s propaganda bogeymen now? That’s… impressive.Canada really isn’t socialist. It’s pretty middle-of-the-road as socialism goes. The US just floats off the far opposite end of the scale and calls itself “normal”.

  73. says

    Ah. The processed crap. We have that hear (UK) as well, but it doesn’t get used very much. Some people like it on burgers, although I’d prefer a bit of pre-sliced real cheddar – pre-sliced to save time and effort, and to make it evenly thick. Some people also think it’s better to give kids, which I really don’t understand.

  74. EdenBunny says

    I feel like I’m Mark Twain’s “Connecticut Yankee” discussing economics: “Confound it, I’ve never denied it..!”Yes the societal attitude exists. I have not missed that point, but how does that contradict or even relate to anything in my post? It is not the attitude’s presence in society that I’ve been responding to, nor even an assumption of the attitude’s validity. It was the errant assumption that the choice of prostitution (or of sexually provocative modeling or acting) as a vocation for one purely economic consideration is less socially coerced than any other (with the obvious irrelevant exceptions that I discussed elsewhere in this thread).Maybe I should quit before I get chased up a tree and sold into slavery…

  75. Demitri Morgan says

    The problem is that so many women’s clothing items are designed to exaggerate the shape of the female body, and at least some of that design is motivated by male chauvinism. However, I’ll be the first to concede that, conversely, tight mens’ pants and other close-fitting items that try to do the same on men betray their similar intention just as obviously (some of them were probably designed by gay men) . Simpler clothing, on the other hand, masks physical appearance when worn by either sex.I admit I’m not a clothing anthropologist, so I’ll just stop there before I say anything even more ridiculous than that.

  76. jimmyboy99 says

    OK. You can be an evil capitalist ‘lol’ if you like – but I’d avoid it if you could, coz it makes you sound like an arsehole. I’ll tell you a little story about that so called socialised medicine shall I?In 2001 my 20 month old was diagnosed with a rare leukaemia (5 or 6 a year in the UK). He was given 40% chance of survival – if he had a successful bone marrow transplant. Fortunately I’m one of those poor unfortunates living with ‘socialised’ medicine in the UK. So I live 20 minutes from the hospital which had the best prognosis for his condition in the world – Great Ormond St. We had the treatment, which cost about GBP500k, over 3 years. He was a lucky lad and got through.It cost us not a penny. Good job, coz he’d have been dead if we’d had the US system. Sounds a little melodramatic? Well, I got to know, via the JMML Support Group (now the JMML foundation) all the on-line families in the world whose kids have this disease. So I know what happens in the wonderful capitalist US. It’s like this.If you are rich. Great. Your kid will hopefully end up at the Children’s hospital in Memphis where they have the best expertise in the US on the disease (and they are very good).If you are not rich it goes like this. Your insurance, if you’ve got some, does some stuff, and then runs out. Then you get into various schemes – which are not sufficient for the cost of the treatment. So your kid gets substandard treatment. They don’t get to the clinic for follow up when they should. The meds might be out of reach. So you beg, borrow, steal and remortgage your house. And it’s still not enough. And then, probably, your kids dies of some infection you weren’t quick enough to react to because you couldn’t afford to go back for more treatment and meds.I know: because I know the families it happened to. I was shocked by how uncivilised the US is. Their kids were just allowed to die.So OK – bring on your bigotry and racism if you like. But – OK Jen? – I’m going to call you on it.I’d say the Canadians are well off without you.When I went to Canada last year I found a load of people who were very different culturally from a) each other depending on where you went, and b) from Americans. Funny that. I found lots of people who were much closer culturally to a) the new mixed Candian identity and b) to their cutlures of origin. And yes – pretty keen not to be confused with Americans. I think we can all understand why if you are representative.

  77. says

    In fairness, in much the way that some men are punished for ‘unintentional slips’, women are punished for looking ‘too good’ which is often something they are unable to help, especially in the context of a professional environment where it’d be unnacceptable to show up in track pants and looking like hell.

  78. loreleion says

    Sex work is different and there should be special protections for it and no one should ever be forced to do it in order to survive or feed their family or whatever. While I wouldn’t deny a person the right to be a sex worker, I find the idea disgusting and I would never voluntarily get into prostitution.I do filing and document transfers for a living. I hate it, but I do it to pay the bills and feed myself. That’s not the same as being a prostitute to pay the bills and feed yourself, and to say it is is to deny that there is an essential difference between sex and other actions. If I were kidnapped and forced to file at gunpoint, that would suck. If I were kidnapped and raped at gunpoint, that’s a whole other league of suckitude.

  79. says

    “Represents empowerment right now” is exactly where I am on the Science Cheerleaders. Do I think they’re making a free choice without social coercion to value and promote their sexiness? Of course not; they’re getting literal, monetary compensation for being sexy, and I’m just guessing but there might be some tiny amount of social approbation as well. (Note that I am not saying they’re not athletes; their brand of sexiness requires physical prowess.) But I am thrilled to see them, because they’re compensating for other social pressures that are leading girls not to develop as the scientists they may want to be because it’s considered unsexy, and sexiness is supposed to always be a good and necessary thing for girls. The reinforcement the cheerleaders provide to that idea worries me, but I predict that more critical thinking skills taught to more different people will lead to more questioning and social improvement later.

  80. Demitri Morgan says

    I appreciate your response and am glad you agree, but the objection amounts to a slippery-slope argument.I think it’s fair to say that demanding women turn themselves into Pac-man ghosts or be punished with flogging/stoning because it will lead to moral decay in the community is a very, VERY long shot from encouraging women to not show five inches of cleavage and/or wear an incredibly tight skirt because it is distracting/inappropriate for work, and making them aware of that.

  81. Azkyroth says

    It also leads to potentially excessive pressure on the partner who has a paying job, can easily feed into power and role imbalances in the relationship given that societal messages have pre-worn a rut for partners who take this route to fall into, and leaves the person doing it with one less thing to devote her time and energy to, to take pride in, and to define and measure herself by, all other things being equal. When they’re not equal, this can facilitate a situation where the stay-at-home parent has NOTHING to give their lives meaning or focus except their households and families, which I have anecdotally but consistently observed to have a markedly detrimental effect on the psychological health and relationships of the stay-at-homer.

  82. says

    Fair point. It illustrates the point that men and women are equally (but not identically, far from identically) affected by social conceptions of gender normality. We call it the ‘patriarchy’ because men got the better end of the deal. But now I’m just in exposition mode…

  83. Azkyroth says

    Yeah, really. Canada, as I understand it, mostly uses the Britainese spelling conventions, so it’d be “Canadian chaeaese” or some such, wouldn’t it?

  84. says

    I find the military discussing, and wouldn’t voluntarily go into it… social convention is arguably part of that for me.What I consider an open question, and don’t presume to know the answer to, is whether this, very widely felt, exceptional feeling about sex work is a product of societal norms or not. For the vast majority of us, myself included, sexual behaviours (which ones are included does vary) are felt very deeply to have special considerations. For different people, some others are included, such as myself for violence (and other conflict). This may reflect some underlying “truth” that would be true of all (normalish for their society) humans at all times, or it may reflect a widespread and deeply-ingrained societal norm. I don’t have the knowledge to even begin to answer that, but I recognise it as a possibility.

  85. jimmyboy99 says

    Sam – isn’t the problem here that, yet again, women are being intellectualised at again?I went to the Westminster Sceptics in the Pub meeting in October and heard a truly excellent talk on the sex industry – including a presentation from Belle du Jour. I will never again suggest that women should do anything other than what they want to do. If they want to sell their bodies, then lets just make sure they have safe places to do so and don’t have folks judging them for it.

  86. says

    I can’t express how much I agree with this. In fact, it is attitudes like the ones being dismissed here that stopped me from joining my university’s FemSoc. I AM a feminist — I don’t understand how as a woman I couldn’t be, and I believe 100% that equality relies almost solely on choice. The FemSoc at my university don’t seem to understand where their opinions lie — they had a huge issue with a college bar crawl which invited women to dress in very little and men to dress… in women’s very little. I should point out here that the college made it clear from the outset that no one joining in the bar crawl was in any way forced to dress this way, it was supposed to be a fun, themed night out. Our FemSoc claimed we were glamorising prostitution and rape. I personally attempted to persuade the president and secretary of the society that their very loud, obnoxious attempts to get the bar crawl banned were removing the choice of the girls (and boys) to dress in a provocative way if they wanted to. I was then told that I wasn’t a feminist if I thought wearing a miniskirt was a good idea. It was at that moment I decided I would rather be a feminist in my own way, rather than being part of a group that I just did NOT agree with. They then tried to get all public toilets on campus to be made unisex. They were told that there are already unisex toilets available, but this wasn’t good enough because they were only the disabled toilets. Once again, I tried to point out that while in theory the idea of being able to share lavatory experiences with the opposite gender is not necessarily a bad thing… well, a young man might be intimidated by walking into a public bathroom full of women, he doesn’t know, right? And vice versa, of course. Just… making up issues for the sake of it is NOT activism. Leading a march through our city centre to raise awareness of the horrific crimes against women in third world countries, that is more like the activism I want to see.

  87. says

    Are you kidding me? Do you know the tax rates in Canada? Do you know how popular volunteerism is in Canada? Do you know how anti-achievement an average Canadians are? Do you know that an average Canadian think that helping the poor is more important than becoming rich? How many Canadian companies are unionized and how many union strikes happen every year in Canada?

  88. says

    With the exception of the point about union strikes (which ARE a pain in the ass.. but you guys have unions too) I’m not really seeing what’s so bad about any of this.OMGZZZ THEY WANTZ TO HELPS POOR PEOPLES!!Yeah, we get taxed a lot, but I’m happy to deal with that if it means that when I fall on hard times I’m going to be able to have a safety net.Enough feeding the troll from me, though. *goes to drink good beer, eat poutine and listen to some Tragically Hip.*

  89. says

    You can call me an asshole all you want, but you can never make me guilty. I’m not going to believe any story that a medical treatment is free or close to it.And there is no racism in my part. Stick with the agenda. The purpose of my original comment is to point out that defining something in term of the opposite of another is a form of nihilism. It simply doesn’t work. Many Canadians I know in real life have tried that, and most people I know still don’t know what a Canadian is.

  90. says

    Oh my world that’s mindboggling. I understand the FemSoc’s position on the bar crawl (as in, *why* they’d take the mindset, not why it’s actually a sensible one to hold) but vying for unisex toilets at the same time?! Talk about two agendas that are straight up polar opposites. If they’re that seriously devoted to putting an end to rape culture, then why would they want unisex bathrooms at all? (That’s one of the larger concerns about them, in fact.) That literally makes zero sense.To be fair, vying for unisex bathrooms isn’t making up an issue. It’s a very real issue for individuals who don’t identify as their biological sex, are intersex, are genderqueer, are trans, and pretty much anyone and everyone who isn’t cisgender. Getting away from the Stick Man/Stick Woman bathroom dichotomy would be a helpful step, actually. But that’s still some horrible inconsistency right there.

  91. says

    Right on.”Choice,” for all its theoretical simplicity, seems to hold about as much weight with anti-feminists, or those very new to, and skeptical of, feminism as a bucket of feathers. It seems like this is the most frequently ignored basic tenant of feminism– although, in reality, it is the single most important tenant. One thing I’d add is that in order to make a choice and have it be a good one, it needs to be informed. Dressing sexy because it feels compulsory is obviously not dressing sexy because a woman has made the choice to do so; providing women with the knowledge and critical thinking skills required to make such decisions is the best way to go.For example, I know a lot of women who feel empowered when they dress in sexually provocative ways. This is something I don’t quite understand, in terms of the reasons why some women feel this empowerment. For one thing, we’re constantly told we must, so how do we know how much of our decisions are based on a nagging, albeit minimal, sense of compulsion or socialization, and what is purely a choice that we make of our own volition?It seems to me that that’s up to the individual to decide. I only wish that more people digged a bit deeper before making these decisions to investigate exactly why they’re making them. They may not be as “free” of a choice as it initially feels like it is.

  92. says

    Yeah. Safety net means punishing the achievers and rewarding the “less fortunate.” At the end, you’ll drive achievers outside the country.Unions are for people who want to collect money without working hard, i.e. lazy people. When a hard working person joins a unionized work force, they will become less and less willing to work hard. As time passes, their spirit will be killed and become a lazy person, just like what happens in a communist country.

  93. jimmyboy99 says

    I’ll call you an arsehole if you behave like one. And you did – and carried on. Arsehole.Paul Lin, are you a libetarian?Where did I say that the treatment was free? If you are going to be offensive (and you are) at least read the fucking post.The British NHS delivers medical treatment as needed, free at the point of delivery. It’s not always fantastic but it is really not bad. For acute situations it is fantastic. So I didn’t say the treatment my son had was free: I said we didn’t pay for it. And fairly clearly I meant we didn’t pay for it directly.Are you a dick as well as an arsehole?Are you suggesting I am lying? My story is replicated every day in hospitals all over bad old Europe where we provide medicine free at the point of delivery. Which means it’s universally available.So fuck off with your ‘don’t believe the story’. When I tell a lie, you can call me on it, Troll, with evidence.And by the way: the cost to the nation is generally considered to be about 25% of what US medicine costs because it is evidence based, not insurance driven. And we provide medication on a needs basis to all – and we are deeply proud of it.And let’s look at that racism:”Whenever Americans do something, Canadians have to follow but change whatever it is in order to differentiate themselves from the Americans. If you live in Canada long enough, you’ll see this phenomenon every day. There is no such thing as a Canadian. There is no Canadian-ness. Canadians are just a bunch of people who are too similar to Americans but try really hard not to be Americans.”Offensive generalisations about a whole nation? Sounds about as good a definition of racist as you can get. What planet do you live on Paul? Is it the planet of Richandprivileged by any chance?Moving onto the stupidity of your generalisations about unions.Fuck it – why am I bothering? You are a troll. Go and educate yourself.

  94. jimmyboy99 says

    And Paul Lin:”The purpose of my original comment is to point out that defining something in term of the opposite of another is a form of nihilism. “Who cares what the purpose of your comments are if you couch them in racist, bigoted terms?

  95. EdenBunny says

    You obviously didn’t choose sex work as your vocation, and if you had, my guess is that your reason would not have been a preference for that kind of work over filing.If a person with a preference for sex work over filing were kidnapped and forced to file, she/he might well find it less pleasant than being kidnapped and raped. Not everyone shares your values, your fears, or your preferences.Your comparison is not a fair one anyway, as sex work need not include intercourse, nor be illegal to be chosen purely for economic reasons. If you were kidnapped and made to dance naked in front of men (filtered by bouncers for good health and respectable dress, etc.) who strongly appreciated it and respected you for it, would that really suck more than being kidnapped and made to do filing work for an abusive boss and a political cause that you disagreed with? If it would, are you really that certain that your opinion is even the majority opinion, much less one universally held by women? Even when sex work does include sexual intercourse, admittedly there are more risks involved than exist in a filing job, but as mentioned before by myself and others, there are many non-sex-related jobs that are as risky as prostitution or even more so, depending on a number of parameters. Certainly there are worst case scenarios where death or severe disability is practically 100% guaranteed, but that holds true for some “legitimate” jobs as well, when management is unconcerned about worker safety.And of course, the whole “to pay the bills and feed yourself” issue is irrelevant anyway, which is what started this whole thread. If your reasons for taking the job are purely economic, whether you like the job or not, you are not being coerced unless the law or societal pressure prohibits you from acquiring, e.g., a filing job and allows sex work, which is clearly not the case here in America (as you’ve proven) or any other place that I can think of. Even where the worst human rights violations against women exist, sex work is not societally endorsed over housework. In fact, the only places I can think of where it is societally endorsed at all are the places where women are least abused both socially and legally.Every job has its own set of risks, unpleasant tasks, and practical disadvantages. Filing is no more or less different from prostitution than it is from working in a chemical waste disposal facility, or pumping gas and breathing in the fumes all day, or working behind the counter of a 24-hour bodega in a high crime neighborhood. Filing is no more or less different from modeling nude for porn than it is from modeling nude for a class of art students, or acting fully clothed as a socially inept dad in an automobile commercial, or performing in a character costume or clown outfit at children’s parties. As for myself, I probably wouldn’t choose any form of sex work as a full-time job, but I would strongly prefer being kidnapped and forced to dance naked for appreciative women (even if they were unattractive) to being kidnapped and forced to perform my office skills for an abusive boss or a political cause I disagree with (even if the boss was an attractive female). -And if I were neutrally bisexual instead of heterosexual, the sex of the persons in the former scenario would not matter.

  96. says

    One can be societally coerced into something that is socially not endorsed. This is what happens in a lot of western prostitution, in fact. Prostitution is, fundamentally, something most women are ‘qualified’ to do. Men as well, to be fair. So, where there is insufficient social safety net, or people slip through it, they have to do *something* to live, and they are unable to get a legitimate, socially endorsed job quickly enough, that’s what happens. It’s a remaining feature of our sexist society that women are generally more likely to end up in that position.

  97. says

    And that’s exactly the kind of thing I was talking about with the people who ran some of the femsocs I’ve seen, particularly Lancaster FemSoc about 8-9 years ago… they still did some good stuff, ran annual V-day Vagina Monologues productions for some time, including the problematic period… but they also tilted at a lot of windmills.

  98. says

    But how sure can anyone be as to how much anyone else has thought about it?Also, questioning how much your own feelings are due to socialisation and comfort of subtle compliance will eventually do your head in. Trust me.

  99. EdenBunny says

    (Actually in response to Sam Barnett-Cormack…)“One can be societally coerced into something that is socially not endorsed.”Certainly, as long as you play fast and loose with the definition of the word “societally” and/or the word “socially” and/or the word “coerced” and/or the word “endorsed”.Yes, society can have conflicting values but that is not what this thread is talking about. This thread is talking about what whether an economic limitation simply by definition (i.e. not with any specific cause) constitutes a social restriction of freedom in and of itself.“This is what happens in a lot of western prostitution, in fact.“Western prostitution is usually, if not always, a choice. Almost always a bad one, often resulting from drug addiction, but a choice just the same. (Yes, I’m aware that “white slavery” –probably a misnomer today, as blacks are probably no less vulnerable to it- exists here, but again, that is not what this article or this thread is talking about.)“Prostitution is, fundamentally, something most women are ‘qualified’ to do. Men as well, to be fair.”Not most men. The reason has nothing to do with social endorsement or coercion, or at least not recently.The reason is purely supply and demand, for evolutionary reasons. (The same fact applies to most forms of sex work.) Technically, it might be accurate to say that it is, at least partially, due to sexual abuse of females by males throughout our very early history, before the concept of human rights even existed. In fact it might even still be happening in the patriarchal extremely religious communities. (The idea is that women need to be sexually attractive more than men do to pass on genes, and need less to desire men, both of these facts being due to the irrelevance of whether the woman wants sex and the strong relevance of whether the male wants sex.) But again, that is not what this thread is talking about either. “So, where there is insufficient social safety net, or people slip through it, they have to do *something* to live, and they are unable to get a legitimate, socially endorsed job quickly enough, that’s what happens.”That is what this thread is talking about, and it is not a sexist issue; if anything, the woman is favored by having the option of selling her body where the man of equal skills has, well, nothing. It is not a lack of freedom for women, but a freedom that men don’t have, and it is the precisely the same freedom that exists in the case where a woman chooses it because it is a legitimate career choice. It is one of nature’s penalties for sexism, a penalty which, incidentally, has probably been around since long before the beginning of civilization, earning it the title of the “world’s oldest profession”.(Actually inaccurate; the world’s oldest profession probably at some point involved the use of a heavy rock forcefully applied to the back of the head of another human who happened to have some desired property, which at that time might well have included one or more female mates…)“It’s a remaining feature of our sexist society that women are generally more likely to end up in that position.”No, it’s a remaining feature of our sexist society that women are likely to end up legally unprotected, and in fact, legally persecuted in that position. That is patriarchal society trying desperately to avoid one of nature’s penalties for sexism.

  100. says

    (replying to EdenBunny’s reply to me…)Points considered in no particular order…Women are more likely to end up in that position than men because they are, statistically, less employable. As to why that is, it’s a very complex question, but it is generally accepted in most discussions I’ve seen. Unskilled labour jobs go to men more readily, for example. However, I will agree that it’s bad that women who end up in that position, by choice or not, without legal protection and with legal persecution. That’s just crazy on the part of society. If prostitution is going to exist (and let’s face it, it is), then it’s better for client, provider and society as a whole for there to be safe venues, safe practices, tailored healthcare, and so on.I do think that the view that all prostitution is by choice (is any sense but sophistry) in the west is as blinkered as the idea that none is. Yes, ultimately every prostitute who hasn’t been “enslaved” has, at some point, made a decision to do that. However, the alternative is usually things that people wouldn’t consider, such as death by starvation and/or exposure. Claiming that is a choice is just sophistry.I also didn’t mean that men could all find adequate work as prostitutes, I just meant that everyone (bar strange exceptions) has the essential qualifications. Your digression in response to this seems to imply that you assume that all punters would be the opposite gender to the prostitute.I think that covered the points that most got to me…

  101. katalina says

    I’ve always taken a lot of pleasure in being able to “work the system” so to speak… in school taking tests, in playing along with my religious family, in knowing that how we present ourselves in public affects our opportunities, etc. While it’s maybe not overt, understanding the “system” and using it to my advantage has been something I’ve enjoyed since I was a child. It is its own form of power, in my opinion.

  102. says

    (In response to Sam, mostly)But the first point still hasn’t been addressed – the distinction between sex-work and literally every other profession hinges on some metaphysical belief that having sex is somehow worse than, say, gutting fish. It assumes, then, that this distinction is not the product of a patriarchal, obsessively sex-negative society but rather some supernatural force for which we have no evidence – simply the convenience of not having to face our own irrational distaste for those who make money off their body IN A SEXUAL WAY.

  103. says

    If you have the ability to use “the system” to your advantage, it’s good that you do it. Really. But not every person has that ability, and it’s usually the more marginalized ends of society that lack it, which is why “the system” is incredibly problematic. Since you mention school tests, I’ll use that as an example: standardized tests are incredibly biased pieces of crap that skew toward traditional white middle-to-upper class values, starting as early as the children’s IQ test that they administer in primary school and continuing as far as the LSAT. If nothing else, tests are done in standardized English, which puts dialect speakers AND ESL speakers at an immediate disadvantage.So yes, like I said above, if you can work “the system,” by all means do it, but that shouldn’t really put the brakes on trying to actually achieve the closest thing to equality, especially since you’re exercising that (very real) power of yours.

  104. says

    Well, one way to be sure is to actually engage with that person in an honest, open conversation. They’ll do wonders. But, of course, we shouldn’t automatically assume that choices don’t have thought behind them. That’s why the conversation is important.And I’m going to respectfully disagree with your second point. Yes, you can over-think *anything*, but analyzing your motives is not an instant headache or mindboggle in the making. For me, thinking about why I feel the way I do has been a rewarding process that helped me come to feminism *and* atheism, actually.

  105. says

    I agree with your first point, and with your second… I was a little unclear. By “eventually” I meant “if you keep on doing it about one point hoping for a clear answer”. I my first- and second- hand experiences, you don’t generally every get clear answers when analysing your own motives. Even with therapy. You can get good insights, though.

  106. says

    (In response to G.Syme)My argument, possibly stemming from my increasing identity as a social scientist, and a surprisingly qualitatively-oriented one at that, is that the source of the belief/feeling isn’t as important as the fact it exists. Just because people feel a certain way about something for reasons that might be considered “bad” doesn’t mean you should ignore them.For example, crazy Christians get upset when people write, say, plays in which Christ is homosexual. You’d be crazy not to try to do some PR to mitigate the problem. You’d be crazy to ignore the fact that Christians will be upset (even if you’re not somewhere like the US), particularly when it creates security concerns. You’d be crazy to, say, put the play on in the middle of a Christian festival in one of the more Christian-homogeneous areas of the midwest. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put on the play. You can be sensitive without pandering.Thus, we should consider whether prostitution should be allowed on the basis of verifiable things, but one of the things that is verifiable is that it makes people uncomfortable. Thus, we should be cognisant of this in handling it. Don’t make it illegal because of it, because nothing should be illegal simply because of hard-to-define discomfort felt by some part of the community. I hold to the “no victim, no crime” idea, mostly, and where consensual prostitution goes on there is certainly no victim. The fact that people feel more bad about it, particularly applied as a hypothetical to themselves, means that we *should* make stronger steps to prevent and undo coercion into sex work.Bottom line: the fact people feel differently about it shouldn’t make things criminal that aren’t, but it should be seen as a worse form of existing crimes. Coercing people into anything is usually some sort of crime; coercing them into something that most people feel is degrading and dehumanising must be seen as worse, because the harm that a reasonable person would anticipate resulting from it is greater. That said, if a victim wants their own not-being-bothered-too-much to be taken into account, I figure it could be.However, this leaves aside the idea of social coercion – you can’t prosecute society (mores the pity). However, if we take the ideas above, meant for justice between individuals, and try to apply them to society, then we can see that social coercion into prostitution should be a bigger concern than other forms of social coercion (in the abstract) because the reasonable expectation is that it causes more harm in each individual case. The description of when this coercion occurs, and the justification of it occurring at the same time as societal disapproval of prostitution, was in earlier posts.

  107. says

    We’re not discussing whether prostitution should be legalised or banned outright – I find it abhorrent to even consider letting conditioned social opinion dictate legislation and people’s profession/lifestyle.I raised the question of whether there was any reason to oppose prostitution OTHER than conditioned social opinion. Since there hasn’t really been a compelling response to the contrary, I remain convinced that there is not. The delicate sensibilities of our family-values citizenry don’t enter into this – the issue is the social stigma against sexuality which marginalises those who make it their profession. To tolerate this stigma is to contribute to this marginalisation.If we’re so worried about people’s delicate feelings – enough to relegate those in a *legitimate profession* into danger, misery and shame – then maybe we should never draw Mohammed. Maybe we shouldn’t fight for gay marriage… maybe we should even build a time machine so we can ban interracial marriage and defeat those filthy liberal forces who seek to pervert our morally wholesome society.Or maybe we should harden the fuck up and make society work for the people who dwell within it, not their irrational and spiteful beliefs.

  108. EdenBunny says

    (In response to Sam’s response to my response to Sam’s response…)(Points considered in the order in which they were given and addressed specifically so as to avoid ambiguity.)“Women are more likely to end up in that position than men because they are, statistically, less employable.” Granted. “As to why that is, it’s a very complex question…”Which is exactly why it cannot be automatically attributed to sexism. “Unskilled labour jobs go to men more readily, for example.”How many “unskilled” labor jobs include things that women are statistically less capable of for biological reasons. such as rapidly moving heavy boxes, or reaching high shelves without a stepladder? Other factors figure in as well, for both skilled and unskilled labor, such as a man’s inability to get pregnant or suffer PMS, the fact that women are statistically not as good at negotiating salary and work conditions (though this is changing; as to why this is relevant, salary of a previous job figures into employability), the fact that women are statistically far more likely to be single parents, and the fact that women are on average statistically slightly less educated than men (as of 2000 census). All of this is may be offset by the fact that women are statistically healthier than men, but if so, offset by how much? Sexism exists, but its economic role is probably dwarfed by natural conditions. As I pointed out previously, some of those natural conditions may have indeed have been caused by sexism throughout history, but that is not the subject of this thread.“However, I will agree that it’s bad that women who end up in that position, by choice or not, without legal protection and with legal persecution. That’s just crazy on the part of society.”No, it’s sexist as well. It is probably the sole clear-cut western civilization example of a situation in which an economic edict specifically directed at women still exists, with the exception of obsolete laws that are still on the books. I’m defining an obsolete law as one that is no longer enforced. They are numerous, and I’m sure plenty of them are sexist, but I’m preemptively pointing out that they are not relevant to this discussion.“…Yes, ultimately every prostitute who hasn’t been “enslaved” has, at some point, made a decision to do that. However, the alternative is usually things that people wouldn’t consider, such as death by starvation and/or exposure…”…or worse, working in some low level minimum wage job and having (ecch!) roommates, and accepting charity from soup kitchens, and applying for government help, and doing other things that are just not fun at all…or, in many cases, discontinuing the use expensive recreational drugs, which just isn’t an option when you’re addicted, and everyone knows that the usual sole cause of drug addiction in women is sexism.“I also didn’t mean that men could all find adequate work as prostitutes, I just meant that everyone (bar strange exceptions) has the essential qualifications.”The essential qualifications are a body that is a saleable commodity, and the justified confidence that there is a high demand for it. No, not everyone has that. Not even every woman.“Your digression…Digression? Well, okay, I guess, as long as you define digression as addressing an errant statement head on, explaining why it is incorrect, or as referring to evolution in that explanation when posting to this Jen’s blog…“…in response to this seems to imply that you assume that all punters would be the opposite gender to the prostitute.”Not at all. You said “men”, not “boys”, so I figured I didn’t have to pre-emptively answer this argument. I must admit here that I was wrong to think that, so here we go… Women can do, and often still do, sex work even after reaching forty. Fifty or sixty is pushing it perhaps, but twenty is pushing it for men. In addition, the customer base is much, much smaller, even when you include in that customer base the small percentage of the population that is male, non-straight, and inclined to be a “punter” as you put it. Far fewer men than women are likely to find themselves in this line of work.When they do find themselves in this line of work, they are similarly persecuted and unprotected, but the law that causes it is obviously aimed at women, not men.And yet again, the subject of this thread is not whether sexism causes economic inequalities (it does). The issue is the errant assumption that the choice of prostitution (or of sexually provocative modeling or acting) as a vocation for one purely economic consideration is less socially coerced than any other (with the obvious irrelevant exceptions that I discussed elsewhere in this thread). It is not, and at no point have you given any valid reason for claiming that it is.A thing can be unpleasant, unjust, and widespread in effect without being an example of societal injustice. Such a thing can target women only without being an example of societal sexism (e.g. uterine cancer). In fact, in the original post that Jen referenced, the author talks about how sex that is forced in any way is just not sexy, and she is correct, but that extends into private relations that have nothing to do with sexism. If I promise my girlfriend that I will go down on her tonight if she washes the dishes even though it’s my turn, and then when we go to bed, I’m too tired but I force myself to anyway, she is not being sexist, even if I objected at first and she insisted. If the roles are reversed, it doesn’t change the nature of the situation itself regardless of what social constructs may have made the latter more probable than the former.If such social constructs exist (and they do), they should be attacked directly, rather than referred to by statement of effects to which they have only partially contributed, even if such partial contribution is the major part of the effect’s cause.We can argue forever about whether sexism is usually the major cause of a woman’s desperate economic choice of sex work, and although it’s pretty obvious that this is not the case, it is irrelevant to this argument. Blame sexism instead on the things for which it is inarguably and entirely responsible, and you’ll have much stronger arguments that will include its secondary effects as well.

  109. Thuja says

    I am a guy who once called myself a “feminist”, but have recently become much more wary of using that label, since I’ve become aware of the downsides of feminist influence on many people in my generation. I am still open-minded about the “feminist” label and am very interested in dialog with self-described feminists..Most of the “Compulsive” examples offered here do not strike me as compulsive at all – they are not based on force, but rather social pressure and expectation (Sexy women being used in advertisements, what sort of women are taken seriously, pressure to wear or not wear make-up, etc). The post seems to suggest that these sorts of pressures should not exist, that people should be free of gender-based *expectations* and judgements of any kind. But without social pressures and judgements and expectations, there is no such thing as culture! The liberal sensibility that “people should be able to do whatever they want without being judged for it”, taken to it’s ultimate conclusion, results in a world where symbols have no meaning. If your choice to wear or not wear make-up will have no bearing on how people respond to you, then make-up will be irrelevant. Right now, you have the choice to conform completely to the tastes and sensibilities of those around you, and enjoy a quiet acceptance, or to shock and offend them by defying their expectations – Or choose anywhere in the range in between – perhaps you will inspire your friends to be more daring, or perhaps you will be the target of playful teasing for defying social norms. If social norms did not exist, then none of these exciting options would be open to you. It is a good thing that people respond differently to a skirt or pants – this enables individuals to express themselves, because it allows symbols to have meaning. When somebody verbalizes an expectation to you – “Hey Doll, why aincha’ smilin?” – you can choose how you want to react to that – would you like to sneer derisively and discount his expectation, warm up to his teasing flirting, or insult him back? There are infinite possibilities open to you. There is nothing compulsive in this interaction – this man’s comment provides a canvas onto which you can paint anything you want. The trouble I have with feminism is it makes this a political issue and proceeds to teach young boys that they should not have any expectations or judgements of women. I would happily teach my daughter a school of feminism that encourages her to pursue her calling in life regardless of what other people think. But I would not teach my son a school of feminism that makes him feel guilty for forming opinions of people based on their choices.

  110. says

    Hooh, yeah, gotta keep those social expectations and those loaded meanings; gotta keep that bigoted behaviour and heteronormative assumptions – otherwise we’d have less opportunity to express ourselves. I use the first person plural here, by the way, as assumptions constrain men’s expression as well as women’s.Firstly, there’s plenty of symbols that have meaning without heteronormative assumptions. Language is a pretty good set of symbols, for starters. However, there’s also plenty of things no-one is arguing should cease to be symbols. In the feminist agenda, all that is sought to be disposed of is gender-biased symbolism, and in modern feminism stuff relating to sexuality and trans issues is usually thrown in as well. Other sorts of identity or privilege issue don’t usually have such an amazing relationship to attire, or for purely voluntary symbolisms in clothing (looking back a while, we can see beatniks, mods, rockers, punks, goths, metalheads, emos, cyber…) they tend to be something that, as long as not taken too seriously, doesn’t tend to have too heavy implication. Where people dress like that all the time then they usually know what the message is that they are conveying and are choosing to convey it, and it’s possible to dress in a way that conveys none of those messages.Secondly, people (male or female) should be able to wear skirts, trousers, makeup, and so forth without it causing judgements and assumptions about their gender identity, sexuality, promiscuity, and so on. They should be able to express what they want to express. For comparison, consider cities that have gang territories in them, where gangs also identify with a colour, and have rivalries. I understand this happens. I also understand that a person who has nothing to do with the gangs, at all, can end up getting shot for wearing a shirt in the colour of a gang that is a rival to the gang whose territory they are in. The shirt conveyed meaning that they didn’t intend, and likely didn’t understand. While the understanding may be greater with gender/sexuality implications of clothing, they’re still very much imperfect, meanings being contextual and varied. In both cases, people should be able to choose their attire for the meanings they see, and they choose, not be forced into a situation where they have no control over the meanings, except to pick from a limited range of hideously poorly defined and separated meanings.

  111. Thuja says

    Thanks for your reply, Sam, and for clarifying the point about gender-based symbolism.I would argue that even sexual symbols are valuable and should not be thrown out. Fashion is one of the most powerful languages we have, and sexuality is one of the most important aspects of our identity. So the two tend to come together. I believe this is a good thing.”people (male or female) should be able to wear skirts, trousers, makeup, and so forth without it causing judgements and assumptions about their gender identity, sexuality, promiscuity, and so on. They should be able to express what they want to express.”If the people were to stop making assumptions about identity, sexuality, and promiscuity based on clothing choices, then the wearer would no longer be able to express any of these things via clothing. Clothing would cease to be a language for these things, which I think would be unfortunate because these are things that we need to communicate to each other somehow, and clothing is a much more elegant way to communicate with strangers than verbal language.I think your point about gang colours is a great example of the fact that symbols can have multiple, confusing, overlapping meanings. I agree completely, but that’s a reality of cultural life that we all must navigate. If we as individuals want to express ourselves through symbols, then we are interested in communicating with other people. In which case, we need to have some understanding of how other people will interpret our symbols. This comes only from sharing the same culture. Because communication is a social phenomenon, we have to be willing to accept the meanings that exist in the culture and use them to our liking. Eg:”people should be able to choose their attire for the meanings they see, and they choose, not be forced into a situation where they have no control over the meanings”Consider the equivalent of this statement for verbal language:people should be able to choose the sounds that come out of their mouth for the meanings they see, and they choose, not be forced into a situation where they have no control over the meanings.Well, people are allowed to make up their own language if they want, but if nobody else can interpret the meanings, then it won’t be very useful for communication. Personally, I accept that society has attributed meanings to words – this is a wonderful thing because it allows me to have a social life and the opportunities for personaly expression are very rich because I can choose which words I used based on what thoughts/ emotions I want to invoke in others. The same is true of fashion. If society did not have built-in interpretations for styles of dress, then fashion would cease to be a language and would be boring. Sexuality is a very important part of our existence, so it should be part of that language.As a guy, if I am in a sexy mood and I want to communicate my eligibility to women, I can go out wear tight clothing that shows a bit of muscle and alluring cologne. It’s great that this will cause women to make assumptions about my sexuality and intentions, because this allows me to communicate with them on a deeper level without having to use awkward verbal language. Of course, if I choose to communicate with people, I will also be risking negative judgement – people may think “Pffft! What a loser, he’s trying to be a player.” or “That’s hardly the appropriate dress for this occasion”. So be it. If I choose to express myself, I cannot prevent people from having an opinion of my expression. I, in turn, can respond to it however I like. Some people may even misinterpret my dress to think that I’m out for whatever I can get, and think they can get a free ride. Or they may interpret my hetero/homosexuality. So be it. Such is the risk of symbols. When the time comes, I will simply inform them otherwise.

  112. says

    As men in western society (can’t comment on other societies), we have options for clothing that convey no meaning whatsoever about gender identity (or at least they convey the default, although one can be subtle), sexuality, promiscuity, availability, etc. Women basically don’t. It’s not possible for women to dress in a way that society doesn’t judge in those terms. That’s what makes the real difference to me.It’s actually a privilege issue I’ve seen mentioned on a couple of different male privilege lists. The fact that it’s basically true but men aren’t aware of it is a further indication of privilege. Talk to women who care about these issues at all, even those with no experience of feminist discourse, and I believe you’ll generally get a response that recognises this. Some don’t care, but they see it all the same.

  113. Thuja says

    Interesting.. As a man, I do have the option of advertising various forms of sexuality, or dressing more “generically” and revealing less about my self.I would love to hear female opinions on this. It appears to me that women have a similar range of options. They can advertise different forms of sexuality or they can reveal less about themselves. Most women at my office dress in a casual-office style that reveals little about their sexuality. I can’t tell who is straight or gay from their clothing, who is monogamous and who’s a swinger.As another example, looking at Jen’s picture at the top of this page, I would consider that she’s wearing a fun, intelligent style. But I can’t tell anything about her sexual orientation or tendencies. So perhaps she have achieved the impossible?

  114. Thuja says

    The reason for my challenge is that I’m a Lefty Athiest who has become frustrated with progressives’ self-defeating behaviour. I think a lot of this comes down to our attitude. Most modern progressives seem to reflexively choose Victimhood over Empowerment. For example, we could be: 1. Teaching our daughters how to be who they want to be regardless of how people react to them. How to be assertive despite peoples’ negative opinions.Rather than:2. Telling society that it’s not allowed to form opinions about our daughters.I think (2) is based in Fear. How much more empowering is (1)! Modern feminism feels like a breeding ground for sexual shame. I think this is because it’s rooted in a victim model rather than empowerment

  115. Rollingforest says

    I agree with you that clothing has more meaning for girls than for boys, but to say that women have no neutral clothing is an exaggeration. There are plenty of t-shirts and pants that don’t obviously suggest one way or the other.

  116. Rollingforest says

    While I have disagreed with Jen on some of her posts on feminism, I did want to prove that I was a feminist in the classical sense (belief that men and women should have equal opportunity in the world). I will start to do that by saying that I agree with everything that Jen wrote here in this pro-feminist post.

  117. Rollingforest says

    The last word of jimmyboy99’s post should read “anti-racist”. That’s what caused the confusion here.

  118. Rollingforest says

    Loreleion might be right about the fact that people consider bodily autonomy to be of higher importance. The reason, I think, is that reproduction is the “meaning” of biology. All life strives to reproduce because otherwise it wouldn’t exist and thus wouldn’t be able o strive to do anything. Sexually reproducing beings desire the best genes in order to increase their likelyhood of winning the war of natural selection and sexual selection. So even though birth control keeps sex workers from getting pregnant, they still feel like they are risking impregnating themselves with inferior genes and this bothers people. It isn’t rational but it is instinctual and thus a very real emotion. Now, like many have said, i support sex workers having the right to choose to do it if they want, but I agree that we need to be careful about people feeling financial pressure to do it.

  119. Suzannah Burton says

    Why does being an empowered woman have to be synonymous with conventionally sexy? That kind of crap is anti feminsit and serves only the sexual patriarchy, a woman (a person in general) should just wear what they feel comfortable with, not whether or not their “ass looks tight”

  120. says

    The entire point of this post is that “There’s not one right way to be a woman” – people can be ‘conventionally sexy’ or not as they choose. Maybe you should give it another few months and see if it’s sunk in by then.

  121. hirdt says

    Holy shit there are a lot of comments on this post. I did warp-speed down-scrolling and it still took a while.I really enjoyed reading this, nice work, I think that what you wrote building off of the other blog post is awesome.

  122. sickofpeoplespeakinginmyname says

    As a sex worker, it’s offensive to read all this theorizing about the choices surrounding sex work. None of you are sex workers and don’t have any business spouting off in the name of sex workers.

  123. El says

    American cheese might be based on cheddar cheese, but it’s nasty “polyester” version of cheese. I actually welcome the distinction. As an American and not really a fan of cheese to begin with, I know EXACTLY what to avoid when I feel like cheddar cheese.Seriously, American cheese sucks hard.

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