Plastic Feminism

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Ok, second rambling rant, I mean blog post is here. Firstly I want to say I do respect differing opinions from my own (honest!) and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I enjoy speaking with people with a completely different outlook, it helps me to critique my own ideas, and helps me to grow. No opinion is more valid that any other. Some incredible argument may even sway me from my own posiiton, hey, I am open to change. (Although I actually started off as pretty anti-pornography [not erotica or fetish] and am now supportive of those who choose to partake in it or consume). But what I object to is the increasing use of opinion, emotion, feeling, not liking something, to justify banning it. This doesn’t just worry me or concern me, it genuinely scares me. Not just for sex workers or lap dancers or page 3 models, but for other marginalised groups. My PhD is researching lap dancing clubs in Liverpool, and something I am particularly interested in is how policy can be implemented not on evidence (as policy should be) but on feeling, on the basis of moral panics, wider cultural anxieties and on demonising the dangerous ‘other’. I aim to investigate this fully. My research proposal mentions Bauman and his strategies of otherness, how we kill what is different in the other to make them more like us, or we kill the other (2000, p.201). Foucault is also a great theorist for this. Sara Ahmed’s (2004) work on emotion and affect is also incredibly useful and I plan to explore lap dancing using this framework. Satre (1943) is also incredibly useful when he suggests that we objectify the other, or the other objectifies us. This is very thought provoking when considering if we really do live in a culture of sexualisation.

My blog is called Plastic Feminism, because that is what I see a certain trend emerging as. Plastic Feminism is well-packaged, well-marketed, and rigid. Twitter is great, it gives me bite-size chunks of info, helps me to network, debate, find out about events, and gives me useful links to blogs and articles. But this bite-size information can also be disastrous: a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. The new Plastic Feminism is a mix of middle-class Guardian journos, and trendy glossy-front books that feature prominently in best-selling mainstream lists (usually with a cover image that features what the book protests about). They are not scientific studies or impact-based reports, but glossy Plastic Feminist propaganda. And that scares me. They look credible, they look believable. Hell, I was once completely fooled by these types of books. They often start with common-sense assumptions and some valid points. Then slowly, slowly, they start to turn. Outlandish and impossible to prove claims are wedged in between believable snippets. That to me is not fair. People do not realise what they are reading. Most people do not have access to academic journals, or reports, or a nuanced debate. This Plastic Feminism excludes entire groups of women that do not fit in with the neat branding. Entire groups of women are demonised by the discourse of Plastic Feminism.

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When I decided to embark upon postgraduate study what first angered me was the conflation of consensual sex work and exploitation. Then I heard a fantastic address by Professor Jo Phoenix on the conflation of consensual sex by teenage girls and exploitation (Based on her 2012 report ‘Out of Place: The policing and criminalisation of sexually exploited girls and young women’). Now I am hearing daily via twitter about the issue of sexual harassment and violence being conflated with the existence of Page 3 and glamour modelling. This is lazy. And one of the organisations who need not be named will not answer my question that are they not exploiting page 3 models by using their photographs without permission or payment? The same rhetoric is used to argue why lap-dancing clubs should be banned, with The Lilith Project originally claiming that the existence of lap dancing club in Camden correlated with incidents of rape. Saying we don’t like something is no longer a credible reason for banning something, so instead folk devils emerge. ‘What about the children’ is the most common moral panic at the minute. I am not missing the point of many of the Rad Fems or Plastic Feminists, I understand what they are saying, that lap dancing, sex work and/or page 3 reinforce a misogynistic culture and may benefit the individual but not women as a whole. But I disagree with them. And I do not wish for policy to be borne on the back of false statistics and moral panics. Nor do I believe in patronizing and infantilizing adult consensual women for the choices they make. That they do not ‘really’ have agency (does anyone, what does that even mean?) that they have false consciousness, that they need saving from themselves. Or that we need protecting from them, that the contagion risks spilling out and spoiling all women. Is that not misogynistic? Do men have to constantly justify their choices? Do men have to justify whether their jobs or choices are ‘empowering’? Is any work empowering? I am very wary of censorship, and I am very wary of supporting most campaigns without thoroughly researching their background and agenda.

It also concerns me how these arguments go hand-in-hand with slut-shaming and reinforcing the good girl/ whore dichotomy. Does this not justify rape against sex workers or porn performers or glamour models? Does it not perpetuate harassment and sexual violence against all women? Is it not misogynistic to be debating and regulating the dress and sexual behaviour of women, or trying to protect them from themselves? Who gets to make the rules? And what if women break them? What I personally like and what I personally do cannot speak for all women. Because that is surely misogyny. And I’m a feminist.

plastic11

As always, I am grateful for any constructive feedback/ questions/ comments. If I have made a mistake, or haven’t included something you think should be here, please let me know and I will be sure to rectify and cite you. Thanks for reading. x

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