Feminism, single issue campaigns and disagreeing

I’d like to be able to write this without referring to the campaign that has prompted this piece, I’d like to but I’m not sure that in doing so I’d be able to express myself well enough; I’d like to because I support the single objective of that single issue campaign and I don’t want to knock women who are trying to make a difference. Sadly however, as described in this blog by Terri Strange, by describing themselves as “not anti-porn” the campaigner(s) behind ‘No more Page Three’ have located the campaign within a feminist political position that I cannot ascribe to.

I supported the ‘No More Page Three’ campaign because the sexual objectification of women – like men’s violence against women – is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men.  My support of the single issue campaign was and is consistent with my wider perspective.  Pornography is the eroticisation of unequal power relations and women’s subjugation. Add a racial analysis to that perspective and the problems are exacerbated. This is not my feminism.  My feminism is rooted in a structural analysis of power relations rather than identity politics and choice.  A feminism based on a structural analysis of power relations is just as able – in my opinion, better able – to encompass multiple forms of advantage and oppression, such as class, race and disability within and in addition to analysis of sex-class inequality, as identity based feminism.

The eroticisation of women’s bodies as objects of consumption works because women’s and men’s bodies serve different purposes in a patriarchal capitalist society.  For a decent and thorough analysis, please read Julia Long’s ‘Anti-porn or Gail Dines’ ‘Pornland’. For the purposes of this piece, the parody Wrecking Ball (Chatroulette Version)  illustrates my position perfectly well.   In patriarchal society, treating women and men’s bodies the same, isn’t the same.  It just doesn’t work.  Why?  Because of sex inequality.

I understand why some feminists are reluctant to support single issue campaigns.  They’re absolutely right if they argue that we are not going to achieve the liberation of women, the end of women’s subjugation under patriarchy though relatively easily achievable single issue campaigns.  I however, can live with that.  As a feminist whose primary focus is male violence against women, I was  more than happy to support Caroline Criado-Perez’s bank notes campaign and explained why here:

Violence against women and girls is both a consequence and cause of inequality between women and men.  Of course, I am not suggesting that the inclusion of a woman on banknotes would reduce male violence against women and girls.  But I do believe that when we have a choice about whether our actions reinforce or challenge inequality between women and men, if we chose to ignore or exclude women, then we are guilty  of relegating women to a second-class status.  If we think that making women invisible is acceptable, then we are part of the problem.

The problem is different where single issue campaigners knowingly place their objectives outside or in opposition to a wider political analysis.

As a feminist, I have learned a lot from women who have disagreed with me and challenged me, women who have pointed out the inconsistencies within my own comfort zones.  It’s still happening all the time and yet I still cling to behaviours, habits and thought processes that I  know don’t cut it. And I recognise the inadequacy of the choice based defence that I occasionally fall back on.  However, sometimes I listen, sometimes I learn, sometimes my position shifts.  That’s why I cannot agree with those who are critical of the feminists who are critiquing the “not anti-porn” position of the ‘No More Page Three’ campaign.   I am not criticising their campaign, the huge time and energy that has been invested in pushing for change, but I am challenging, questioning and disagreeing with the political – or lack or political –  analysis.  As a feminist, I hear and learn from women that I sometimes agree with, sometimes disagree with, all the time.  Most disagreements do not negate the value of the things I learn.  We need to be able to discuss and disagree.

I hope that the ‘No More Page Three’ campaign achieves its aim.  But I want to see the campaign succeed because pornography is a cause and consequence of inequality and I want to be able to support the campaign because it is part of the solution, not just shifting the problem. And I want to be able to say that – in the hope of spreading a structural feminist analysis –  without it being seen as an attack on other women who are fighting for a better world.

5 thoughts on “Feminism, single issue campaigns and disagreeing

  1. But maybe the No More Page 3 is a gateway campaign into deeper levels of feminism. I agree with all of the above analysis but most girls and women are not brought up in feminist households so it will be quite a journey to get them into radical feminism from day one.

  2. Agreed. What’s the point of being anti soft porn newspapers and being pro the rest. I see no point in tearing down a poster, when the wallpaper remains as insidious as before.
    This campaign is never going to appeal to the majority of men, so the campaigners should grow some backbone and stop using the “choice” and “context” chestnuts to appease them.

  3. Unfortunately you fail to note that when Terri Strange asked No More Page 3 for clarification as
    regards their stance on pornography, one of their representatives said this: ‘We’re pro-choice. If people choose to access porn, but it should not be available in a newspaper. It’s about context.’

    So according to this representative it is okay for people (sic) sex undefined to view/access pornography because ‘people’ (sic) have choice. But as we know ‘people’ is a term men commonly employ when specifically referring to males because women and girls are never referred to as ‘people’ by men. Therefore this representative is referring to men and it is men who are the ones making the choice to view/access pornography. Women do not have this choice because women live in mens’ Male Supremacist System, which means women are subjected to male created societal constraints and men punish them if they dare to challenge men and their male system. The reason why men refer to other males as ‘people’ is because men continue to believe men are individuals not a sexed group whereas women and girls are a sexed inferior group which is why men always refer to women and girls as ‘women/girls’ because men have to maintain their misogynistic belief that men are individuals and their sex is irrelevant.

    I have read Julia Long’s book Anti-Porn and Ms. Long recognises and states that mens’ sexual commodification of women is intimately connected with mens pornography industry. Therefore challenging The Sun’s continued publication of naked sexualised images of women for male readers’ sexual titilation cannot be seen as a ‘single issue.’

    Given malestream pornography is everywhere, including advertising posters placed in public streets which means women cannot make the choice (sic) to avoid these degrading male created advertisements; means the campaign against No More Page 3 is a ‘side issue.’ This campaign in no way challenges one of mens’ central tenents which is their male pseudo right to view/access sexually degrading images of women and girls for male sexual pleasure.

    We need to go to the root of the issue which is mens’ Male Supremacist System and their male created structures and institutions which uphold and legitimise male pseudo right to dehumanise women and girls.

    If page 3 is removed from The Sun this will not even ‘dent’ mens’ belief in their innate right of viewing/creating degrading sexualised images of women and girls for males’ sexual entertainment and sexual titilation.

    Focusing on single issues is a gift to men and their male supremacist system because whilst we feminists are focusing on just one issue of how men continue to enact male oppression over women, the men meanwhile continue to enact their right to view pornography; purchase women in prostitution and enact male pseudo sex right to females because ‘rape’ is not ‘rape’ when the male claims ‘but she didn’t say no loud enough!’

    Identity politics is a term coined by men because men continue to proclaim it is not men and their male supremacist system which oppresses women but ‘race; class; ethnicity’ and is it not convenient that males are to located within these groups whereas the fact males as a group/class continue to enact their right to oppress/dominate/control women as a class/group happens because it is women – ergo the female sex which is being oppressed by males not ‘race/class/ethnicity.’

    Radical Feminists go to the root of the issue which is mens Male Supremacist System and how this system justifies and maintains male oppression over all women. Note this does not mean all womens’ material reality is identical but it does mean all women because their sex is female are subjected to male oppression and male domination. The male created structures which justify male pseudo right to oppress women and girls because their sex is female, varies from society/culture but the central tenent is always the same – male oppression of women and girls because their sex is female.

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