Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A glimer of light in the fog

I surf through dozens of internet conversations every day without finding something that really interests me. Every once in a while, however, something rises up from amongst the din and today is one of those days.

Via the Ninth Carnival of the Feminists I came upon a discussion thread at the "Den of the Biting Beaver" entitled Women and Patriarchy

I've just finished reading the original post as well as the 146 (!) comments. It's 11:48 and I should be in bed, but instead my mind is humming. The "Biting Beaver" initiated the discussion along the lines of: how should radical feminists deal with women who seem to side with the patriarchy. THe thread was, unfortunately, sidetracked by an altercation that has since been dealth with.

But I am left hanging with the discussion that did not occur and that I hope can occur in one way or another. Biting Beaver raised the topic because she wanted to discuss how feminists should deal with women who apparently are happy as clams to participate in male patriarchal fantasies.

The commenters discussed several issues, with many self-identified "radical feminists" expressing their frustration with "sex-positive feminists" and porn stars like some woman I've never heard of named "Jemma Jamison" who has become rich by starring in porn films.

I have two major misunderstanding regarding the posts I read there:

One thing is the overall assumption that women who participate in pornography or sex work are victims of sexual abuse who do not fully understood their victimization. This strikes me as a kind of "pop psychology" simplification -- and a condescending attitude toward the women who participate in the porn industry. It may be true that some women have entered into the industry via brutalization. But I also believe that some women are attracted to the industry because it provides a certain kind of power and privilege that can seem preferable (and profitable) as compared to other choices available to women in our sexist society.

I would love to hear what these women, who have clearly given a lot of time and effort to study the way men and women interact in our society, think about the "power" that can come to women who choose to enjoy the privilege that can be attained by playing into male fantasies. These privileges can come from minimal activities such as dressing the right way, wearing makeup and flirting effectively on up to full-blown (I can't avoid the pun!) pornographic fantasy-fulfillment.

I'm not sure I am ready to castigate women who chose to utilize this method of gaining power as opposed to any other method of gaining power in our crazy mixed up society. I'm not sure these women have any idea that another world is possible. Have they ever learned that a woman can feel powerful without using these methods? Have they ever experienced the power that comes when women work together to create a greater good for all?

For what it's worth, I'm going to post a link to this post and ask those fascinating people who participate in "Biting Beaver's" blog to direct me toward a place to continue the discussion and help each other understand how to make this world a better place for women and men.