On the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, let's remember what feminism is actually about

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It is also the anniversary of the day when 14 women were shot and killed at École Polytechnique by a gunman who shouted: “You’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!”

Clearly December 6 is a day of feminist action. It is a day to challenge male violence against women. It therefore feels appropriate to talk about what feminism actually is and means — what is it we are fighting, precisely, as feminists?

I define feminism as a movement to end patriarchy and male violence against women.

This definition makes sense and feels obvious to me because without patriarchy there would be no need for feminism and because male violence against women is a product of — and the core impact of — patriarchy. The threat and reality of male violence functions as a control mechanism and as long as women are an oppressed class, they will be subjected to violence at the hands of men. The actuality of being disempowered economically and socially makes individuals vulnerable to violence.

Some people say that feminism is about women being “equal” to men but I disagree with that definition. The goal of feminism is not and should not be to become more “like men.” Male power is a problem. Masculinity is a problem. Hierarchy is a problem. This definition positions men and “masculinity” as somehow “better” than women and “femininity” when, in reality, masculinity and femininity are prescribed gender roles that maintain the very systems of power we are fighting against. Also, masculinity and femininity are not real things. As in, they are not innate qualities but rather a series of characteristics applied to men and women and taught to us from the time we are children. I do not want to be more “like a man,” I want to be respected as a woman. I do not want the power that men have, I want there to not be a dominant sex or class or race. Saying we want women to be “equal” to men doesn’t address the root of the inequality and doesn’t address the fact that women are, in fact, biologically different than men and that, therefore, our rights may not look exactly like men’s (re: reproductive rights, for example).

Some say that a feminist is simply a person who believes women should have equal rights to men or that it is about “equality of the sexes.” While I agree that women and men should have equal status, opportunities, and rights, I think that if we don’t name patriarchy as the root of the problem and male violence against women as the key result of patriarchy, we have lost sight of what it is we are fighting.

There are a number of things that feminists disagree on: the best way forward with regard to prostitution law, whether or not pornography can be feminist, how much pubic hair is acceptable to keep or remove, what types of locations we should or should not twerk, how much fun we should be having while eating salads alone, and whether or not women like whiskey, but what is not up for debate is whether or not sexism is ok, whether or not male violence is ok, and whether or not patriarchy exists and is bad for women.

Now that we have that all settled, I would like to direct you towards a recent article published by Joyce Arthur, whose bio specifies that she is “a founding member of FIRST, a national feminist sex worker advocacy organization based in Vancouver that lobbies for the decriminalization of prostitution in Canada… and [a] pro-choice activist.”

The article implies that December 6 is an inappropriate day upon which to launch Canada’s new prostitution legislation, which will criminalize pimps and johns. I already responded to that assertion yesterday, arguing that,

The fact that the new law, which will criminalize those sweet old johns out there prowling the Downtown Eastside, perhaps and likely looking for a young, vulnerable, Aboriginal girl to satisfy his ‘needs,’ will come into effect on December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, is perfect.

December 6th is the day we remember and take action on violence against women. That is the name of the day. What better action could we take on that day than to say to perpetrators of violence: no more. It is not your right, these women and girls are not for you. They deserve better and are more than a series of holes for you to penetrate on a whim. Women who are poor and racialized deserve better options than prostitution.

I also already responded to the assertion (repeated by Arthur) that “the law will lead to violence against sex workers.” Not only is there no evidence that this is true, but there is actual evidence that shows legalization and full decriminalization “leads to violence against sex workers.” The fact that legalization leads to an increase in trafficking is one way we see an increase in violence, another is in the fact that, since the Nordic model came into effect in Sweden, no prostituted women have been murdered, whereas murders of women who work in the windows of the legal red-light district in Amsterdam are annual occurrences.

Arthur makes the oft-repeated claim that “stigma” causes violence against prostituted women and that the Nordic model perpetuates said “stigma.” But in places that have legalized, that “stigma” still exists. Women still don’t want to be prostituted and only a tiny number of prostitutes actually register to pay taxes (meaning that the bulk of the industry still exists underground, which counters the claim that the Nordic model “pushes prostitution underground”) — why? Because they don’t want the public record to show they worked as a prostitute. Because they hope to exit the industry and do something else.

Men don’t kill prostitutes because of “stigma,” men kill prostitutes because we live in a patriarchy within which men learn that violence against women is acceptable and sexy (see: BDSM), because johns are misogynists who don’t respect women (if they did respect women as actual human beings, they wouldn’t treat them as objects and commodities), and because most women in prostitution are marginalized on economic, social, racial, and gendered lines, which gives the johns power over them and makes those women less valuable and less visible in a capitalist patriarchy.

I’ve made many of these arguments a number of times over in the past and have already addressed many of the unfounded claims Arthur repeats in her piece in various other articles as well, so I’d like to move on now to the “what feminists actually think and believe,” “what a feminist is,” and “what feminism is” portion of of my critique, point by point.

On being in bed with political parties

Arthur writes:

To their shame, radical feminists who oppose sex work have joined forces with right-wing groups and the federal Conservative government to pass this law. The latter are both motivated by animosity towards women’s rights and autonomy and non-traditional sexual expression, which strongly implies that radical “feminists” have some problems with those things too. I believe they do, at least when it comes to rights for sex workers.

I have not “joined forces” with any political parties, certainly not the federal Conservative government. This is not a partisan issue. I supported Bill C-36 because it was a good bill, despite the fact that I don’t support the Conservative party. I don’t support the NDP’s position on prostitution because I think it’s bad and misguided but, at the end of the day, I still might vote for them when election time comes around. Who knows. But certainly I’m not going to oppose what I think is good legislation simply because I am not voting for the party who drafted the bill, just like I would not support a shitty bill drafted by a party I did vote for. I don’t support everything any party does, whether or not I vote for them. My vote for mayor during the municipal election this year proves that. I’d love to vote for a party I support unequivocally, but I doubt that’s going to happen any time soon.

On abolitionists

Abolitionists oppose the sex industry (Arthur says we oppose “sex work” but we don’t use the term “sex work” because it is too vague to really mean anything and because it is more accurate to say that we oppose the sex industry). This is not because we have “problems” with “women’s rights, autonomy, and non-traditional sexual expression.” That is literally an insane thing to say if you have even the most basic understanding of what feminism is and what prostitution and patriarchy are. All feminists support women’s human rights. This does not mean that we support male power and the resulting industry within which women and girls are made to sexually service men who have more power than they do. We support women’s autonomy in that we advocate for a society that creates choices for women and girls that extend beyond being fucked by strangers because they can’t feed or house themselves otherwise.

On traditions

Sex work advocates and ignorant male chauvinists are always on about prostitution being “the oldest profession on earth” (which it is not, for the record), which would tell us that, far from being “non-traditional,” prostitution is, in fact, part of a long, long tradition that is inextricable from the long, long “tradition” of patriarchy. This is to say that, not only is it ludicrous and laughable that anyone with half a brain would refer to prostitution as “non-traditional,” but that it has absolutely nothing to do with female “sexual expression,” as the only reason prostitution exists is because men have more social and economic power in this world. Not because women are voluntarily entering into the industry in droves. If that were the case, there would be no need to drag women across state lines and international borders, kidnap, trick, coerce, or force them into prostitution. Because they’d simply be “choosing” it as part of their “non-traditional sexual expression.”

On choice

There are, of course, some women who do enter into the industry by choice, who aren’t forced or coerced. But there are also thousands of women around the world who undergo breast augmentation surgery (by choice!), who shake their tits at rap shows (by choice!), and post belfies on Instagram (by choice!) — does that mean self-objectification is totes feminist? Or that breast implants are good for women? Or that getting naked for dude-applause has nothing to do with patriarchy? Whether or not an individual chooses something has nothing to do with whether or not the thing they chose is feminist (or, generally, “good” or “bad” or “ethical” or “healthy” or any number of other adjectives). It is simply a choice that they made within the context of a number of influences — in this case, the influences are primarily capitalism and patriarchy and, if you refer back to our earlier discussion regarding “what feminism is,” you will see that it is a movement that fights patriarchy and that, therefore, if your feminism is not firmly rooted in the fight against patriarchy, you are not, in fact, doing “feminism.”

On victims

Despite the fact that Arthur appears to believe otherwise, whether or not someone claims the identity of “victim” doesn’t have much to do with whether or not the sex industry victimizes women. What abolitionists focus on is male behaviour, not female behaviour. This is to say that the perpetrator is the person who does the victimizing, so whether or not an individual chooses to identify as a victim doesn’t actually change the actions of the perpetrator. If, for example, a woman stays with her abusive husband and does not relate to the term, “victim,” that’s her choice. But it doesn’t mean her husband’s actions are acceptable, that feminists need accept his actions and look away, or that what he is doing doesn’t constitute victimization. With regards to prostitution in particular, an individual woman might feel totally empowered in or by her choice to prostitute but, 1) She is in the minority (most women and girls in prostitution are poor, are minorities, “choose” prostitution due to lack of choice, and aren’t giving media interviews) and 2) That doesn’t change the dynamics and significance of the industry, as a whole. There are upwards of 20 million trafficking victims in the world, the majority of whom are women and girls, the majority of whom are trafficked for the purposes of prostitution. There are not millions of adult women, worldwide, “choosing” prostitution of their own free will simply because they enjoy it.

On anti-feminist feminism and other things pertaining to “feminists” and “feminism”

The remainder of Arthur’s piece mostly adopts sexist insults and tropes, usually reserved for MRAs, gamers, and frat bros, such as accusing feminists of being “fanatics” and comparing us to fundamentalist Christian patriarchs who repress “sexuality.” She then proceeds to imply feminists who oppose the sex industry are “prudish” and seek to “repress male sexuality and encourage male monogamy,” which, again, sounds like something a sexist man would say… Not someone who claims to align themselves with the feminist movement. In any case, if prostitution is part of men’s innate sexuality, is rape? Is anything we do to confront men’s entitlement to sex and female bodies “repressing male sexuality?” Are men somehow biologically inclined to have sex with women and girls who don’t desire them? Because I find that concept troubling, to say the least.

Feminists are used to being called all sorts of things by anti-feminists: nazis, man-haters, sex-haters, ugly, hairy, angry, crazy, prudish… And Arthur calls us some of these things. But she also accuses us of hating women: “Is it possible [radical feminists] also have a punitive streak that secretly despises female sex workers?”

Allow me to answer: no Joyce. For the billionth time, no. Feminism is not about hating women. It is about holding men accountable and challenging male power. Also, many radical feminists, and feminist feminists, and abolitionist feminists have been prostituted. And they don’t hate themselves nor do they hate their friends and sisters and daughters and mothers who are currently or once were also prostituted. My feelings on that particular insinuation align with my middle finger, which I’ll keep to myself for once.

In her final misogynist hurrah, Arthur pulls out one of the classics: You’re all just jealous, bitcheeeees. In her words, “radical feminists… see sex workers as competitors who ruin things for other women by being too sexually available.” This is a little confusing because I was given the impression that radical feminists hated men and sex, so it’s weird that now they are being positioned as actually being jealous because they wish those johns were fucking them instead!

I don’t know you guys. You’d think that if feminists were so desperate for sex and if prostitution was such a fun way to make money, there would be a substantial pool of male prostitutes for to choose from, solving the problem of the underlaid radical feminist (they’re all hetero too, donchaknow) who can’t gain the attention of a man due to his biological need to pay for sex. Surely all the cashola our Conservative party buddies are lining our pockets with would afford us the privilege of paying for sex?

All joking aside, the arguments Arthur is making are not feminist arguments. They are damaging, sexist, anti-woman stereotypes rooted in mythology and male fantasy. They are arguments that maintain the subordinate status of women and naturalize our objectification, our sexualization, and our inequality. They are arguments that normalize male power and violence. They are arguments made by those who hate feminism. And, as we will are all reminded on December 6, every year, the hatred of feminists is a very dangerous thing, indeed.

 

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • THANK YOU!

    • Meghan Murphy

      🙂

      • Derrington

        I think ‘feminists’ that position themselves as pro sex are deluding themselves, they would be more accurate if they said they are pro sex-ism. You cannot be a feminist and remove all interest in women as a group. Its a team game or nothing at all.

  • Thank you indeed. The “On Victims” paragraph is especially good, that’s a great standalone quote.

    I’d also like to note as an aside that not all feminists have opinions about whether what other women do or don’t do with any of their hair is acceptable or not. Some of us consider such opinions intrusive.

  • Missfit

    Wow. Clearly, this person doesn’t know anything about radical feminism. She seems to confuse us with…I don’t know who but confused she is.

    I noticed too how pro-sex industry advocates, including the self-proclaimed feminists, sound exactly like MRAs. They resort to the same language, the same theories. When they accuse radical feminists of joining forces with right-wingers, what about them joining forces with MRAs and traffickers/pimps (including of minors)? Because MRAs and traffickers are pro-prostitution-legalization. So if we are to imply that radical feminists share the same beliefs of right-wingers, I can only imply that Arthur and cie. are for the pimping of minors and share MRAs belief that women must be subservient to men. Right?

    Personnally, I don’t care for the right or for the left. I’m a radical feminist and as such I feel I belong outside these boxes, both sides displaying male supremacist beliefs and attitudes. I’m on the side of women, first and foremost. I may have more common interests on many issues with a right-wing woman than a leftist man. And I will side with them on issues that aim at liberating women any time. And I’ll side with Arthur when it’s time to defend women’s access to abortion.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Today they told me I hated sex, was probably ‘a failed sugar baby,’ that I hated sex workers. #feminism!

      • Meghan Murphy

        Oh! And apparently I moisturize my wrinkly face with the blood of sex workers???!?!?!!? Holy christ, these people! https://twitter.com/blk_bk/status/541064221455155200

        • corvid

          Re: the “blood of sex workers” comment…. The person who said this should think about the hands that really spill the blood of the prostituted: men’s hands. *Name the perpetrator.* Men do this literally, and in metaphorical terms they do it by creating and maintaining a system (patriarchy) where some women have no real choice but to prostitute themselves. Men do this, not women, not feminists, not Meghan Murphy.

          Further, if prostitution is about women’s choices as they say, then what bars women from choosing something else? “Sex”-industry supporters need to admit that it is NOT about choice, but a lack thereof, and there lies the danger, there lies the reason for this talk about the spilling of blood.

      • Ever since you described in another post how you love sex with men and particularly PIV, I’ve found it highly amusing that people think you “hate sex.” I guess saying you love sex doesn’t indicate that you love sex, but saying that you hate sexual exploitation does. It shows what these people think about sex, doesn’t it?

        • Meghan Murphy

          I know… All I can do is lolllllll at them. I mean, it’s not like I’m gonna be like NO YOU GUYS I REALLY LOVE SEX WITH MEN!!! Fuck that noise. What a bunch of idiotic misogynists.

          • Some people really need to learn about logical fallacies, such as straw men. People attacking feminism seem about 80% using straw man arguments as an effort to waste women’s time defending ourselves from ridiculous claims. I’m glad you don’t fall for this.

          • jo

            Radical feminists and others who are against the buying and selling of women by men are the most sex-positive people out there. We think sex is something people should do together because they desire it and each other, not something a woman performs without lust for a man because he is paying or because she is forced to. We don’t think exploitation and rape is real sex. Pro-sex industry people appear really anti-sex and non-empathic to me.

      • Missfit

        Why do they always equate ‘men buying ‘ with the much broader definition of what constitutes ‘sex’? I mean they could easily accuse you of hating ptostitution, but they choose to say you hate sex. They could accuse you of hating johns, but they accuse you of hating sex workers. I see a lot of derailing tactics and disingenious attempts to twist the discussion in the way they frame things. As for the ‘failed sugar baby’ accusation, I guess that is just another version of ‘you are jealous’? It’ s sad to see how they have absorbed the notion that a woman’s sense of worth is tied to her capacity to please any random (old) man.

        • Meghan Murphy

          It’s really disgusting and sexist. They must do it because they know there is no response? It seems all of their arguments are simply efforts to derail the conversation and avoid addressing our actual words and arguments. I mean, to accuse someone of hating female sexuality and pleasurable sex because they oppose prostitution would mean that they believe that women enter into prostitution because they enjoy the sex they are having with johns, which contradicts their argument that it’s ‘just a job.’ I mean, surely no one believes that prostitutes are into all these guys, otherwise they’d just have sex with them for free…

          All that aside, the fact that they are so obsessed with the idea that anyone who opposed the sex industry must be ugly and ‘unfuckable’ only goes to show what a deeply sexist view they have of the world — like you say, that women’s worth should be tied to whether or not a man finds them ‘fuckable.’ It’s quite sick.

          • Laur

            And so what if you were ugly (you’re not) or “a failed sugar baby”? Would that make what you say untrue? Would that change what exited women say about their experiences in the sex trade?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Exactly. It’s just the same old male-centric attacks our oppressors have been using against feminists for decades. Why do they think we care about these kinds of ridiculous, irrelevant insults? It’s grade-school level logic and insults.

          • Missfit

            You most often hear that feminists are ugly than they are wrong.

            Anti-feminists used the same tactics with the suffragists, portraying them as being ugly. The thinking seems to be that if they were beautiful, they would simply be happy being devoted housewives, letting the men taking the decisions for them.

            It’s as stupid as some of what these ‘i’m-not-but-pretend-to-be’ feminists say. Not sure where they think they’re going with their insults but it’s nowhere feminist.

          • I don’t even know what “ugly” means, really. “Beautiful” and “ugly” seem to be random assignations applied to women by men that reduces them to how much the man wants to fuck the woman in that moment and it’s founded on the notion of women’s fuckability being the beginning and end of their value. Women who question men’s power are “ugly”.

            I can’t comfortably use either word with regards to women.

          • Missfit

            I am not comfortable using these categorizations either. When I use them in such context, I know I am using men’s language. And when I do say I find a woman beautiful, it does not have the same meaning as when men (generally) say so.

            Men think that when they ascribe the word ‘ugly’ to a woman, they have magically ripped her of any value. This is how powerful they think their judgement/male gaze is. Anti-feminists love to use this word against feminists, as they seem to think it also has the power to magically remove the value of any argument made by a woman without having to actually address it.

          • Yes, I agree completely – and I was in no way intending to disagree with you but rather to add to what you were saying. 🙂

            Countering that a woman who expresses ideas that you find threatening is saying what she’s saying because her appearance is “ugly” is based on the idea that women’s entire motivation and sense of self is based on how well we score on the fuckability yardstick. It’s disconcerting how deeply ingrained that idea is in our culture.

            Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid using that language even though it’s confounding. Many appearances that are deemed “beautiful” I find to be quite ugly. I also find intellectual expressions, like that ridiculous, opportunistic, hateful piece of writing by J Arthur, to be very ugly; particularly the section where she refers to Baumeister to make the case that sex is something us ladies use to manipulate our natural overlords. That position and the mind that can get be hind it publicly is horrifically, repellently ugly to me.

            Meghan’s courage backed by the strength of her knowledge and the clarity of her speech, on the other hand, is truly beautiful.

          • Meghan Murphy

            If men don’t want to fuck us then who cares what we think, right? Women’s existence only matters in relation to men/their fuckability.

          • Sorry Missfit, I meant to refer to “You most often hear that feminists are ugly than they are wrong.” You are absolutely right.

            I think in most cases ugly =”wrong”, “wrong”= speaking truth.

          • Oops – that was in reference to another comment that seems to have disappeared. 🙁

          • Oh dear – its at the bottom. Sorry. #postingearlywithoutcoffee

          • Missfit

            Also, if Meghan really truly loved sex, she wouldn’t mind women being exploited/raped for the sake of men’s orgasms.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Love of sex is all about getting paid to have sex with someone you are disgusted by. Fact.

          • DS

            Charming….They use feminism to manipulate women, it is the ole if you are not super nice and concerned about hurting peoples feelings then you are a bad women tactic. Oh you think prostitution and stripping are degrading? Well some women think it is empowering! When the reality is no, “sex work” is not empowering and it ruins lives.

        • jo

          Re: the “ur ugly” insults –

          You would think that they would be too embarassed to stoop to such immature insults instead of addressing arguments. But, such comments shows the values of the porn/prostitution industries very clearly.
          It shows that they think that the only value a woman has is extreme youth, looks, and ability to prostitute herself successfully to men. It shows that they don’t see a woman’s mind, knowledge and opinions as important.
          Also, if a woman in the industry attacks feminists based on their looks, it shows her own fear. She knows that her own value will decrease as she grows older.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Totally, jo.

    • Yes, but you can’t overthrow patriarchy without overthrowing capitalism – and vice-versa, and nowadays, ecocide.

      • Missfit

        Radical feminism is by definition anti-capitalism. The left, from what i am seeing, is as male-centered as the rest and does not seem interested in attacking gender hierarchy.

  • Sabine

    Meghan nails it again! Excellent.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks!

  • Emma

    I have a lot of feminist friends, but not so many radical feminist friends. And some of my feminist friends are pro-sex work. It kills me when we get into discussions about it. It seems to me that many feminists these days, like the sex pozzers, believe feminism is about making women feel better about themselves. They believe the purpose of feminism is to enable women to feel better about the choices they make – the choice to stay with men who treat them badly; the choice to objectify themselves, etc. I can understand this approach because most women I know make choices every day that ‘bargain with the patriarchy’, but this approach makes me sad. So sad that women have, it would appear, given up. It’s like it’s too hard to challenge patriarchy and the structures that keep in in place, so instead they focus on making women (including themselves) feel better about the choices they make within the ever-solid framework of patriarchy. But this isn’t feminism… this is making women feel better about their shit situation. How have we come to a place where so many women think this is feminism? It depresses the shit out of me. Thanks for this great post. I am an avid follower and your blog gives me hope.

    • amongster

      Yes! All those queer indenity activists which confuse themselves with feminists are only trying to make it seem like we could all just identify us out of our oppression – or they say that being the oppressed was actually really empowering and reclaiming the insults thrown at us would magically change them.

      I recently watched a speech by Gail Dines in which she criticized the term “slut shaming” and said how bizarr it is to use the oppressor’s terms. She said:

      “What the fuck is slut shaming? How do you shame a concept that grows out of shame? “Slut” is in and of itself a concept of shame, to police women’s behavior. There is no such thing as a slut. To call a woman a slut is to shame her.”

      http://youtu.be/sJMyznI1H-0?t=18m17s

      Of course the whole speech is very good and makes it clear that feminism is not what every individual woman wants it to be.

      • Is it just me, or does it seems as though liberals are using the word “slut-shaming”, because they do not want to use the term “victim-blaming”, the term people used to use to describe situations where rape victims are blamed for the rape, before the word “victim” became an insult? They have made a struggle against rape into a struggle about “sexual liberation”. Well suppose a rape victim has little interest in “sexual liberation”. What if she just wants to be part of a movement to end rape? What if she does not think that the solution to rape is to tell men that the most violent, degrading, loveless sexual acts they can imagine are totally acceptable so long as they can get women to consent to them? Like conversatives, liberals seem to only care about rape victims who meet their standards of (im)morality.

        • amongster

          It’s crazy that the word “victim” has become an insult while it is said to be empowering to call yourself “slut”.
          I wish you could say that those liberals live in their own world but unfortunately their madness is contagious and spreading like wild fire.

          And yes, it seems like liberals want to create a world where everyone shouts YES all the time and not a world in which a NO is accepted. I don’t want their kind of sexual liberation.

          • corvid

            Exactly! I always felt that the message we’re being fed about sex is, “well you CAN say no, but the only right answer is YES.”

    • jo

      Your comment was a lightbulb moment for me. I have never completely understood the thinking process of light/choice/sexpozz etc feminism.

      So it’s “I want to feel better about the situation” instead of “I want to change the situation”, because they think that is impossible. So that is what they mean with empowerment. Tragic. Women’s situation is tragic, though. It’s extremely painful to have your eyes truly open. But I don’t like the idea of basically giving up which choice/empowerment “feminism” seems to be. We need hope, that things can change, that is how we change things!

    • lo

      “It’s like it’s too hard to challenge patriarchy”

      It’s like there is no patriarchy at all for them. It’s kind of amusing that they claim to be feminist and say that radfem are the “new” patriarchy, and yet call us “prude, sex negative, jealous, anti sex, crazy, not sexy, etc” just like misogynist men do. #sigh

    • Sabine

      I so agree Emma. We radicals are such a teensy minority within what passes for feminism these days. It is indeed deeply depressing to see so many women fully embracing this delusion of “empowerment” and celebrating their oppression rather than recognizing it for what it is and saying NO MORE! But like you I too feel great hope when I read this blog and connect with so many genuine feminists.

    • Dolkar

      Your comment is insightful Emma – and yes, very sad. There does seem to be a lot of “let’s just feel as good as we can in the system” attitude. I’m going to bookmark this article of Meghan’s (along with many others!) to have on hand for those difficult discussions with women who feel that way.

  • Donkey Skin

    Excellent article Meghan.

    I’d like to point out that Roy Baumeister, whose ‘fascinating study’ on female sexual behaviour Joyce quotes in support of her arguments, is an MRA evolutionary psychologist who argues that women are inherently intellectually inferior to men, and have contributed nothing to human culture or society beyond getting fucked by and birthing males:

    The sadly missed feminist blogger Violet Socks did a great takedown of Baumeister and how his ‘bitches ain’t shit’ hypothesis of human cultural evolution is contradicted by, well, all the available anthropological and archaeological evidence:

    http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/2007/09/17/extreme-misogyny-at-the-american-psychological-association-convention/

    We are at some kind of surreal juncture in the co-opting of feminism and degradation of its meaning if women who concur with men who argue that women are literally inferior beings are going around calling themselves feminists.

  • Stephie Smith

    I have always thought that feminism is about one simple fact. The fact that women are human beings with the right to walk freely in the world and to control their own minds and bodies. That is not a choice, it is human right.

  • Riley

    YES YES YES! Everything said is awesome.

  • corvid

    Thanks for this amazing piece Meghan. The paragraph “on traditions” I found particularly salient. How indeed can they go on about “the world’s oldest profession” but also hold that prostitution is about bucking the norm and being unconventional? It doesn’t wash.

    Another thing I’ve been thinking about… how often do we hear the pro-prostitution crowd accuse feminists of “playing with words” or putting forth pointless “ideology”? What, are we supposed to simply point and grunt in an effort to describe women’s oppression and male violence against women? Leftists would never accept such facile shutdowns on other issues but somehow it flies on this one.

    Honestly, on this issue, talking to so many people who identify as left-wing or liberal (my demographic) is like talking to a wall. As exited women have pointed out, the “sex” industry purposefully shrouds itself in mystery and the appearance of being unorganized. They appropriate left-wing language and tactics and have trampled all over women’s human rights, making the concept of “sexual freedom” inseparable from women’s sexual servitude. Accusing radical/anti-prostitution feminist women of literally wanting to hurt prostituted women by opposing this oppressive institution is incredibly cruel. To repeat misogynist men’s myths and fantasies about feminists is an incredibly easy method of shutting down the conversation, to have a woman confirm their delusions seals the deal from their perspective.

  • nightcap

    Also “On traditions”: Prostitution is less about sex than about shoring up masculine identities, especially at the middle and higher range of the market. So the modern, liberated prostitute’s job is to pamper and flatter the man and to feign enjoyment of sex she does not want, just like the 1950s’ ideal housewife.

    • corvid

      True. Which begets the current predilection for uncritically adopting a 1950’s image in “sex-positive” culture. Totally regressive.

  • As fucknopornblogs recently posted:
    “Like how do you sleep at night after glorifying and sexualizing someone else’s abuse/trauma? You’re hardly human let alone even remotely feminist. So just drop that act.”

  • CD

    Great article!

    I really wonder whether the sex industry advocates actually believe what they say. I mean, maybe these women have actually had positive experiences in the sex industry, but you can hardly call yourself a labour activist when you’re a person who lobbies for the deregulation of your industry and who completely glosses over the experiences of the most exploited people in that industry.

    If they believe that prostituted women are actually “empowered sex workers”, why are they doing so little to advocate for workplace safety or labour rights? They sure as hell aren’t trying to organise unions, support groups, workers’ welfare funds, or… anything, as far as I can see. I’m a shop steward for my union, so I help people with grievances and hold workshops to help them understand their rights. Even with no formal “sex workers'” union they could still do something similar and devote their time and energy to advocating on behalf of women with actual concerns/grievances from their time in the sex industry. (Maybe they could run a campaign against violent johns? Promote needle exchange or something to help drug-addicted women in the sex industry? Distribute condoms? Anything?)

    And, you know, I’d love to be told that I’m wrong and that these women are out there doing real advocacy work. But if they are, any information about it is apparently buried under a mountain of articles/blogs/tweets about how empowered they are, because I can’t find anything on the subject. And, from speaking to “empowered sex workers” myself, I’ve never heard them say anything about women with negative experiences in the industry, and definitely nothing about women who didn’t have any choice about entering the industry. (I mean, I live in Vancouver, and I’ve heard more complaints from these women about feminists than about someone like Pickton, for the love of god.) It’s always “the cops accuse my boyfriend of living off the avails”, “the government is making it difficult to place ads”, “I provide a valuable service to disabled men”, etc.

    • CD

      And… that got to be a long comment. But I also just remembered that your rebuttal to Arthur’s article reminded me of this story:

      http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/03/04/Aboriginal-Sex-Workers-BC/

      I’d encourage anyone and everyone to read this; it provides statements from several First Nations women, as well as statistics about prostitution in Canada/Vancouver which show why arguments like Arthur’s are complete BS.

      (Fair warning, the article is horrifying, but it’s about things that have happened to prostituted women on the DTES, so that pretty much goes without saying.)

      • Thanks so much for this article, CD. I thought the Tyee was pretty hardline decrim, so it is a pleasant surprise, if one can call such a tough account that.

        Of course it is horrifying. Extreme racist and misogynist violence is. I have a background in history as well as languages, and have had to read many horrific accounts of slavery, genocides, colonial massacres etc. These always involve rapes, and often forms of forced or survival prostitution.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Oh that’s my friend Krystle’s story!! She did a really good job, eh?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t think they believe what they say, no… They flat-out lie. They must be aware they are lying, no?

      • They don’t want to acknowledge that the Nordic model includes exiting services. This is constantly ignored.

  • Meh

    Meghan, you are soooooo powerful! Keep writing – I’m absolutely loving it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Meh!

  • Meghan,

    Thank you so much for writing this! As a represenative of a group of former sex industry women we are always confounded by the argument that it is stigma that is hurting the women. No.No, it’s not.
    It is men. One of our members pointed out that when she was in a car it was her and her trick, when the trick brought out a knife and attempted to stab her it WAS A MAN THAT DID THAT , not stigma.
    Stigma has never waived a knife, forced a penis into a women, wielded a fist demanding sexual acts he wanted done on him…. those would all be acts of men.
    If we want to stop these abusive but oh so common actions on prostituted women we stand up to the men! We say to men, no you cannot do this like out new laws say. Is bill c36 perfect? No. We take HUGE issue with section 213 amongst other things but it is a HUGE step forward towards saying to men, no more. Your sexual entitlement will no longer impede women’s equality, and not only will it not impede women’s equality but you will understand that your acts are now criminal. Changing male behaviour is what will keep women safe, not fighting stigma. Fighting stigma does not concretly stand up to male violence, fighting stigma is like some enigma that can’t quite be defined or acted upon. Men breaking the law and being fined or going to jail for using their power and privalige to purchase sex, now those are concrete ways to keep women safe. I know you wrote about many other great topics in this story and I could write a book length response but I’m tired and it really is the stigma argument/point that drives me around the bend!
    Thanks muchly for writing Ms.Murphy, you always impress

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you Trisha! Your work has always been foundational to my analysis. You are brave and amazing. Solidarity, sister!

    • Thank you for commenting here, Trisha. <3

    • Sabine

      Absolutely RIGHT ON Trisha!!!!

  • The commemoration ceremony of the 26th anniversary of the Polytechnique Massacre at Chalet de la Montagne, Montréal:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/polytechnique-shooting-25th-anniversary-commemorated-in-montreal-1.2863096

    This is mostly in French: no subtitles on either French or English. And is almost 2 hours long. Some comments much stronger than others, especially those by former mayor Jean Doré, most forthright among male commentators that it was a femicide, and of course by Francine Pelletier and Monique Simard, two of the women on the killer’s hitlist.

  • Magdalene

    I was wondering if you guys had heard about this: https://nowtoronto.com/news/premier-wynne-blasts-bill-c36/

    • NOW magazine is appalling in it’s commitment to pimp’s propaganda.

      I would love to see VRRWS, AWCEP, NWAC write an op-ed calling out the publication for both the advertising department’s obvious influence on the editorial policy and for their refusal to differentiate between prostituted women and pimps when they use the words “sex workers”.

      I would also like to see an open letter from these groups to any politician, like Wynne, who makes such misguided and ignorant statements.

      • corvid

        It’s awful. The content these magazines publish has a huge influence on its predominantly young, leftist readership’s views. Magazines like NOW are core pieces of urban culture, and few people seem truly aware of the relationship between advertising and “content” there. Fewer still would recognize the massive lie we are being sold about the sex industry, as exited women and feminists’ voices are drowned out in a torrent of misogynistic lies and misrepresentations.

        • “The content these magazines publish has a huge influence on its predominantly young, leftist readership’s views.”

          Yes. And when they publish this nonsense it makes me really angry.

  • Magdalene
    • This edition of Meghan’s blog is also up at “blogs” on the rabble.ca page. I’m pointing that out because I think so far, only pro-sex industry people have responded, blasting Meghan’s post. I’m really sick of arguing with susan davis; perhaps someone else would like to weigh in.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Thanks @lagatta (here’s the link, fyi http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/feminist-current/2014/12/on-national-day-remembrance-and-action-on-violence-against-w).

        Twitter has been pretty nuts all weekend too. The pro sex work folks seem to think I came up with whole abolition/feminims/ending patriarchy thing all on my own. https://twitter.com/JoyceArthur/status/541989189839880193

        • corvid

          OMG, that Twitter post is so annoying Meghan. These people REQUIRE a definition of everything feminists have been talking about for decades, STAT, or else!! Jeezus, sorry you have to put up with this garbage.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Like, this from a woman who claims to have ‘been a feminist for 40 years’ — really??? Then how have you missed literally everything that is central to the feminist movement? How did you miss the MOVEMENT part of the movement??

          • C.K. Egbert

            I’m sorry you have to deal with that Meghan, it’s really unfair. I’ve gotten into my fair share of arguments and it’s really frustrating when they do everything to make you seem unreasonable/stupid/crazy, when not only do you have all the evidence on your side but you are also forced to defend positions that don’t need defending. It feels like getting gaslighted all over again.

            Stay strong, sister.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thanks C.K. It is pretty crazy-making. Appreciate your support.

          • Sabine

            My God, the IGNORANCE of some people! So you’re “anti” sex workers according to Joyce Arthur. Right. The woman is a moron and clearly has not read any of your work or indeed anything of note by any ACTUAL feminists! She’s a feminist of 40 years? Yeah, and my ass plays the banjo…

          • Meghan Murphy

            How could someone be ‘a feminist for 40 years’ and still not understand feminism at all? And yeah, she obviously hasn’t read anything I’ve written and doesn’t seem to have any clue what I’m about at all.

          • I don’t think Joyce Arthur is stupid; I think she has blinders on. What one calls wilful ignorance. She has actually done serious advocacy and research as “Choice Joyce” against the fetus fetishists and other rightwing relgious misogynists.

            I don’t know whether her stance on prostitution as “liberating” comes out of personal interest or a libertarian (capitalist) viewpoint.

          • Meghan Murphy

            She makes incredibly stupid, illogical, anti-feminist arguments… The things she says to me and about feminists and this debate seem irrational and not well-thought out at all. She comes off as childish and unintelligent. Like, over and over again she keeps trying to make this about women ‘who don’t like sex with men’ — it makes no sense and is totally anti-feminist. Like, first of all, it’s a little too clear, based on much of my writing, that I DO like sex with men, and second, WHO CARES IF WE LIKE SEX WITH MEN OR NOT?? Do women have to fuck men in order to have an opinion on their own liberation? I mean, if she thought her arguments through at all or had the ability to think them through, she wouldn’t make such nonsensical statements. Does she not know that prostitution isn’t about women loving sex? https://twitter.com/JoyceArthur/status/542158505856073728

          • amongster

            I tried to read those comments but had to stop. I actually thought I would be able to write one myself but so much ignorance and madness paralyzes me. It’s so upsetting. These days I only feel comfortable commenting on feminist current were debate is allowed but were the bullshit is criticized immediately and by the majority of the commentors.
            I hope I’ll be able to spread the word though. I’m really grateful that there are such brave women like Meghan and Trisha and many others who go out there again and again and don’t back down. You are my heroines!

          • We certainly don’t have to like sex with men; we have a right to equal credibility if we are lesbian, or if we would have liked sex with men who treated us well and have soured on it all. Sad, of course, in the latter case, but utterly understandable.

            I’m listening to CBC News and there is an utterly horrible story about a Métis woman whose mother was a 13-year-old prostitute and whose father was a john…

            She says that it is utterly stunning how many Aboriginal people are utterly lost, and feel they are missing key pieces of their lives.

            The story also mentions Rinelle Harper, the teenager who was horrifically assaulted and gravely wounded, calling for a National Commission of Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women…

    • That poll actually makes me feel somewhat optimistic. The first time I checked it, 42% of people supported the bill. I know 42% is not a majority, but I am surprised (and relieved) that the percentage of poll respondents supporting the bill is not 1-5%. That is the impression one gets if they go to university and are forced to interact with liberal so-called feminists.

      The percentage of support for the bill has since gone down to 37%, which makes me wonder if the pro-prostitution side has posted the poll somewhere and asked a bunch of people to vote on it. I do not generally trust internet polls when it comes to issues related to the sex industry. Many men go on the internet looking for pornography and internet users are more likely to be young and university educated (a very pro-sex industry demographic.)

      For an internet poll to show that 42% of people not only oppose prostitution, but also support a flawed bill that combats it is a pretty good sign in my view. If 42% of people responding to an internet poll support a bill that has been demonised by sex industry advocates, the percentage of real life people who have the basic understanding that prostitution is oppressive to women is probably over 50%. In fact studies from the US and South Africa still show (much to the disdain of the pro-sex industry people conducting the studies) that most people have a negative view of prostitution. In fact according to this South African study (http://www.ajol.info/index.php/pelj/article/view/85683/75597) the pro-prostitution viewpoint appeals to rich, white men, not to the demographics that sex liberals claim to represent (poor, oppressed, non-white women.)

      • Meghan Murphy

        They have most certainly posted it somewhere and have been actively working to get ‘their side’ to vote.

        • And yet the bill still has 37% support, which is probably far higher than the amount of support liberals expect it to have. Liberals have this annoying habit of assuming everybody is on their side. It shows how ideologically insulated most of them probably are. The fact that they are deliberately trying to manipulate polls shows how little they care about honesty.

      • Yes, there wasn’t a choice for supporting abolition but thinking this bill does not really conform to the Nordic Model, as it continues to criminalize people who are prostituted, and offers a laughable pittance in funding for services and support for prostituted people to leave the sex trade and secure training and employment. Nothing like the Cons’ support to upper-middle-class (and upper-class) heterosexual “traditional” families in which one spouse (almost always the wife), stays home an the other (almost always the husband) sallies forth into the world and “puts food on his family”, as the Bushism went.

        I’d have had a terrible time voting with the Cons, who are so destructive of women’s rights. I know that MP Maria Mourani, who was expelled from the Bloc Québécois for opposing the “Charter of Values” and has now joined the NDP, voted for the bill, though she has little indeed in common with the Cons. Mme Mourani is a criminologist who has studied the street gang phenomenon (including their role in getting underage girls into the sex trade). I believe this blog linked to a Dutch film about “loverboys” describing the same phenomenon over there, and the people in immigrant communities there fighting it.

        I did vote yes in that rabble poll, though I think C-36 is a horrible bill that falls far short of the Nordic Model and contradicts its feminist, non-judgemental philosophy.

        Why? Because I knew that exactly what Independent Radical said would happen, and I don’t think most feminists here, at least in Québec, think that the sex industry is a good thing for women.

  • DS

    I made the mistake of going into shit reddit says on reddit which is supposedly a feminist community And I got in a huge debate about how yes, most women are unhappy in the sex industry, they have very very short career lifespans, stigma exists because people just don’t respect the sex industry, especially the male customers. I
    got told I was just like a Christian who hated gays….Apparently, sex workers love their work so much that it is part of their idenitity…also women don’t really want to work, they want to get money through sex!

    WTF, you can you even reason with people like that when they are anti reality and extremely anti woman. And no, most women are fine with being servers, or working jobs…trying to even compare actual work with trading sex for cash is horrifying.

    • We definitely need better pay and working conditions for women (and workers in general) in the hospitality industry – restaurants and hotels, in retail and in other service jobs. The people, overwhelmingly immigrant or racialised and mostly women, who work caring for disabled or frail elderly people, are also horribly underpaid for what they do. This was also the case for daycare workers here (Québec) though now they are unionized here and their pay and working conditions are better.

      I’ve been involved in several organizing drives in those fields.

      But that is rather a different issue in the fight for working women’s rights.

  • Alex

    I have a question. I know it’s not the main focus of this article or the subsequent discussion and I don’t mean to distract from any of that, but since it came up in the article: the one thing I’m still struggling to grasp is the question of what is to be done with ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’.
    I’m a super privileged white male, but I’ve been hanging around the radical feminist community in Vancouver for the past four or five years (Saturday was my third year attending the Montreal Massacre Memorial) and I recently married a member of said community, so of course I am totally on board with everything in Meghan’s treatise on feminism above (if I may call it that). Though, as a male, I’m still trying to figure out what I should do with my ‘masculinity’. Should it be entirely eradicated? And what would that look like?
    I have to admit there are some characteristics that I associate with the word ‘masculine’ that I think are worthwhile keeping – characteristics I might also associate with being a gentleman – typical behaviours you might find in a courting relationship which demonstrate mutual respect for my partner, i.e. acts of chivalry (which may not carry the same meaning if she did the same for me).
    Also, so long as the main focus of radical feminism is ending “patriarchy and male violence against women”, I feel comfortable with including my responsibility to support these goals as part of what it means for me to be ‘masculine’ – to challenge other men on what it means to be ‘masculine’ seems to me to be an appropriate part of my masculinity – to use my privilege to help emancipate the unprivileged (as I’ve heard another man put it). I don’t know if that’s a harmful way of looking at things or not?
    So does the generally held definition of masculinity in our patriarchal society just need a complete renovation? Or must we demolish it entirely? And again, what would the absence of masculinity (and femininity) look like? Is it just a void? What do Nordic men and women aspire to be like? Is that good enough? Is it okay if men hold onto some of these benevolent, respectful aspects of being a gentleman so long as our partners appreciate it and we don’t presume that everyone else must fit the same mold?
    I must admit I haven’t had any formal education in feminist studies so I don’t know if I’m mixing up ‘masculinity’ with ‘manhood’, but either way, I’m just looking to figure out what this community expects of men in terms of how their ‘identity’ and ‘behaviour’ should be characterized.

    • amongster

      Masculinity is not maleness. You should read up on gender abolition. There is nothing positive about either masculinity or femininity, as they are both parts of a social construct that puts males on the top and females on the bottom. You can’t reform that, you have to abolish it to free both males and females of the pressure to conform to gender roles in which they can never fit in anyway. Our traits are human, not masculine or feminine. A world without gender, in which everyone can express themselves freely, is richer. What we have now is a void of feelings. At least of positive ones.

    • C.K. Egbert

      Radical feminists are gender abolitionists. The structure of patriarchy requires the artificial construction of masculine (i.e., socially-sexually dominant) and feminine (i.e., socially-sexually submissive). The problem with trying to “salvage” masculinity or femininity is that there is nothing benevolent about masculinity at all, because all of masculinity and masculine behaviors are predicated upon maintaining men’s social-sexual dominance over women.

      “Chivalry” and other aspects of masculinity tend to be patronizing and paternalistic; treating women as children or lesser beings who need to be “protected” (feminists have termed this the “protection racket”–women who need to be protected by men from other men, who are then expected to become the protector’s sexual property. You see this trope in movies and stories all the time).

      The absence of masculinity and femininity would men that people are no longer artificially molded into behaviors, careers, dress, etc. People would be socialized the same and ideally socialized into norms that promote mutual respect. At least in my opinion, certain practices would fall out of use entirely because they cannot be salvaged: glorification/eroticization of violence, certain harmful beauty practices (e.g., high heels), etc.

      I’d recommend Marilyn Frye, “The Politics of Reality.” She has a good explanation of gender that is pretty accessible. Or others might be able to recommend resources.

  • Shauna

    Thank goodness you’re all here! As someone very new to using her voice (ie keyboard) for feminism and getting “dissed” online by those I’d considered to be fellow feminists when I support/defend them, the self-doubt and hurt made me want to give up and shut up. But now, thanks to the articles here, all the lightbulb moments and all the writers’ and contributors’ comments that articulate for me what I couldn’t manage before, I now know exactly what kind of feminist I am and I will carry on using said voice/keyboard in spite of the hate brigade’s loophole/strawman/insult tactics. Again, thank you for putting it all into ‘my kinda’ words and giving me strength and hope. You all rock! 