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66 responses to “It’s complicated”

  1. derrida derider

    Sorry, I don’t agree with the main point. MTR’s arguments are not to be trusted because she is not making her real arguments. Her religious beliefs are relevant precisely because she pushes OTHER arguments for opposing abortion, stem cell research and pretty well anything to do with sex.

    It’s one thing if she says “I oppose abortion because God tells me it is wrong”. It’s quite another if she says “I oppose abortion because it hurts women”. Given she believes the first we are entitled to question the reliability of her evidence and argument when she proffers the second. And the same goes for her discussion of sex generally.

  2. Robert Merkel

    Interesting post.

    …But she has given prominence to an important issue, and we can either mess around with the sideshow, or we can take the issue and make it our own.

    I’m not sure I’d characterise everything else surrounding Ms. Tankard-Reist as a “sideshow”.

    But getting back to those two videoclips, and apologies if this is kinda missing the point, the 2011 version is just plain weird. A mature woman singing a sexy, joyful duet with a 17-year-old boy who is styled to look even younger…and whose singing is directed anywhere but at Carey.

  3. G-G

    It’s a great post – a really great post Anna.

  4. Mindy

    Great post Anna.

    @Robert – is it just the respective ages in the videoclip that bother you?

  5. Robert Merkel

    Not just the ages, Mindy – though that adds to it.

    You’ve also got this strange contrast between the in-your-face sexiness of Carey vs the sexlessness of Bieber in the same duet.

  6. Terangeree

    Forget the purported sexiness of the latter clip. I found the product placement overpoweringly offensive.

  7. verity violet

    I’m sure that clip was made to cash in AGAIN on MC’s tune as it is now a xmas staple in the States. Bieber wasnt singing to her, or even near her. I think that was intentional as it would be otherwise be a bit pervy and American prudes might object and hurt sales. To me it looks like killing two birds with one stone. Re-release a remixed xmas tune to make extra bucks and include Bieber to get under 15’s to hassle their mums to buy it. I dont think its a great example of ‘pornification’ of culture in the context of this article though.

    While I agree with some of the concerns of MTR, I also have real concerns about the retreat of feminism and the sexualisation of mass culture. I subscribe to MTR facebook group ‘Collective Shout’ as I do think that its valuable to work to create a space for people who dont want all ‘public’ spaces filled with commodified images intent on selling stuff. That stuff is sex, but as I see it, it’s also everything else corporations want us to consume needlessly and unsatisfyingly as well. Commodification and commercialisation of all aspects of our existence is what I am railing against.

    MTR has some of the same concerns as I do, and I am happy to identify those and support them. But her baptist conservatism should be challenged heartily as well. Unregulated religion is as bad as unregulated capitalism.

  8. Chris

    dd @ 1 – I disagree. If MTR makes arguments based on grounds not related to her religious beliefs then they should be judged and criticized on those arguments alone. Her religious beliefs should not be brought into the discussion.

  9. Mindy

    But Chris if those beliefs are undisclosed then how do we know that those arguments are not related?

    For example: I am pro-choice. My atheism directly influences this choice as I do not believe that there is a God to care whether or not women are able to safely access abortion. How do we know that MTR’s views on abortion (she is anti) porn, and sexualisation of culture are not influenced by her beliefs? I would find it strange if they were not.

  10. G-G

    The diversion created by this sideshow also obscures a really good point raised by Eva Cox, who was quoted in Rachel Hills’ original article:

    I was at a debate recently where a lot of people were saying we needed to reinvent feminism because it has become loaded with too much negativity,” says Eva Cox. “But if it’s negative, it is interesting that the right is picking it up.”

    Still, Cox warns, “Those who don’t want feminism to be co-opted by the Palins and the Tankard Reists need to do some thinking about what direction they want to take it in instead.

  11. faustusnotes

    I think MTR might be a good example of both the illiberalism and the fundamental conservatism of “radical” feminism. I think the types of theory she’s presenting – about pr0nification and sexualization especially – tend to ignore the way that women have consented to and even been engaged in these cultural changes over the past 20 years.

    I think this bias is inherent in the “radical” feminist project of folks like MTR because they have a fundamentally conservative view of sex – that it’s only positive when it expresses love and respect, and that women are fundamentally incapable of instrumentalizing, objectifying, etc. I would go further and say that I think most “radical” feminist scholarship and political action is based on only a very narrow cross-section of women’s voices: this type of feminism ignores the views of sex workers and pr0n stars, for example, or chooses only to present the experience of the trafficked and abused women. If MTR is exaggerating abortion regret than that’s a good example of exactly the type of shenanigans one sees over and over again in this type of political program.

    To my mind there’s little difference in political perspective between radical feminism and christian fundamentalism. They’re both driven by an underlying magical or superstitious view of sexuality, an essentialist view of differences between men and women, a lack of openness to the diverse range of women’s experiences, and an excessive emphasis on the “specialness” of sex. I find the similarities in theoretical basis and practical political perspective way more interesting than the possibility that MTR is a closet christian. The fact that the one could be inferred from the other is interesting, though …

  12. Chris

    Mindy @ 10 – the arguments might be related to her beliefs. But I don’t think it matters if they are as long as she doesn’t reference them in her arguments. What matters is what those arguments actually are. I’m assuming that she doesn’t just say “this advert is bad because it shows this person in sexualised manner”. But has an actual argument along the lines of “its bad because this person is shown in a sexualised manner which can cause X, and Y and often Z. Here’s the research that it causes X and here’s the data that I believe it causes Y, etc…”.

    So if you disagree you can contest the data or the causation etc without bringing up her religion. However, if she also says that she doesn’t like X because it says so in the bible, then of course her religious beliefs should be up for discussion.

  13. Sam

    Re DD @1


  14. Link

    but the question of whether something should or should not be removed from public view (and by whom) is still only part of the issue.

    well I think the real question is not so much who will remove whatever it is, but who put it in the public view in the first place.

    we can also provide space for women to choose not to care about their appearance.

    I don’t think there are many people who choose not to care about their appearance–entirely. I don’t think it just to consider women who don’t conform to a mainstream standard of what is visually acceptable as not caring about their appearance. I think that alternatives to how women ‘should look’ need to be challenged. Seen any pubic hair lately?

    Women are portrayed in our culture, by and large as intellectually challenged, handmaids in heels, while at the same time individual members of the society that produces such a culture know this to be total tosh, but still they persist with the objectification of the little woman.

  15. Keithy

    Will Mariah Carey and Madonna please please please please see it in their hearts to finally come and Rescue Me!

  16. alfred venison

    dear verity violet
    nicely put.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  17. Mercurius

    Thanks Anna, lots to think about.

    And I don’t mean to be glib, but can’t resist this…

    What are the differences between The Pussycat Dolls and Lady Gaga.

    Ooooooo, let me count the ways.

    For one thing, Her Gagajesty gives great cabaret…

    (watch from 1.20)

  18. Mindy

    @Chris, I’m not sure that she does, you know.

  19. faustusnotes

    Another way of interpreting the differences between those two MC videos could be that it’s now much more acceptable for older women to be sexualized, and the cougar image is no longer completely off the table (as it was in the 80s). If so, the sexualization isn’t all bad.

    MC videos are, however, all bad.

  20. Joe

    Anna said,

    … we need to focus on making sure all women have the ability to choose […] for themselves. Surely we can celebrate a wider diversity of body types in ways other than simply increasing the number of women asked to pose naked in a magazine – we can also provide space for women to choose not to care about their appearance.

    I think, sure, this is true, but it’s not realistic. The kind of pluralism, which is necessary in a society to allow that amount of individual freedom would destroy the society. We need to learn how to live together again, not how to live apart.

    This is a quote from Jeffrey Sachs Book:

    The American economy increasingly serves only a narrow part of society, and America’s national politics has failed to put the country back on track through honest, open, and transparent problem solving. Too many of America’s elites-among the super-rich, the CEOs, and many of my colleagues in academia-have abandoned a commitment to social responsibility. They chase wealth and power, the rest of society be damned.

    We need to reconceive the idea of a good society in the early twenty-first century and to find a creative path toward it. Most important, we need to be ready to pay the price of civilization through multiple acts of good citizenship.

    I think, that choice is important in as far as it is a requirement that people need to freely decide to live together. We can’t decide otherwise, that’s the irony– we do live together, herd-like, but it seems that we are unable to put a price on the value of our social living together, whereas it is very easy to price in the effects of our individual actions.

    It is the same issue, as not being able to price in the effects of polluting the atmosphere. That’s where the will to power of the individual, (and the exercise of sexual power is an example,) needs to be controlled. Something like that… I realise this is a kind of a “civilization” argument.

  21. Joe

    Well, for example, attractiveness is not really in the eye of the beholder but a socially constructed norm– an ideology, in other words. To pretend it’s an individual’s choice is disingenuous.

    Certainly, concepts of beauty have been associated with civilizations– and still are, think architectural theory, for example.

  22. Joe

    I didn’t read it, but didn’t Germain Greer write a book recently about the attractiveness of the naked male youth in classical society?

  23. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Pardon, faustusnotes? Maybe I’m having too much 80s flashsbacks, but I remember The Secret of My Success for its bizarre love quadrangle. There were one or two Diana Ross / Michael Jackson duets around that time as well. What I’m getting at: even in the decade of Reagan, older women / younger men relationships were not the love that dare not speak its name. They were certainly more believably sexy and less ridiculous than the MC – JB clip.

  24. Joe

    Anna, I said, that “being able to provide a space, where women can choose not to care about their appearance,” is not possible. This space would be extra-social.

    You mean, I was pretending that you were pretending! I think you’re right.

  25. Chris

    Mindy @ 19 – I think I’ve only heard MTR a couple of times being interviewed on the radio. But on those occasions her explanation of her positions were significantly more than a 1-dimensional statement of her beliefs without an explanation of why she believed what she does (and didn’t involve her religious beliefs). If she’s just making assertions of what is good or bad, then I think its fine to challenge her on why she believes what she does and that may include questioning if its based on religion.

    I don’t agree with her threatening to sue (I can’t see how she’d succeed) but have some sympathy for her belief that if she is portrayed in public as a baptist first, that there are people who will just write her off as a religious nutter without listening to her arguments.

  26. Link

    nor does it explain why if attractiveness is socially constructed why we can’t, as a society, change what’s “constructed”.

    Studies of what people find most beautiful to look at in a face usually come up with symmetry of features and stuff ? Ideas of beauty cross cultures to a fair degree, but it’s not as far as I can tell a majority vote of consensus as to how fashion houses, advertisers and motion picture producers decide to exploit our delicate vulnerability to be totally sucked in by appearances; to inhabit a highly visual world, where thousands of images are trying very very hard to suck us in and influence our behaviour and prejudices.

    Such high-flying, execs, have even managed to make us too perfect and therefore improbable. Not so surprisingly there seems to be a reluctance to just handing it all over to CGI departments and merely assembling perfectly symmetrical parts.

    I think the continued promulgation of a beauty myth lies with a handful of powerful, mostly white, middle-aged men who wield the influence of their own ideas, ‘supported by research’, without rival or challenge. Not something society constructs. I don’t actually think society is that stupid to try to contain women. It’s gotta be a conspiracy of dumb blokes, with thousands of years of history to support them. Which for me as a woman totally gets up my nose. Fostering superficiality, style over substance, doesn’t seem to me to be very far sighted or rational or sustainable. But obviously I’m wrong.

  27. paul walter

    As it happens, I think the notion that childen are conditioned into self limiting roles is a fairly basic concept. It doesn’t work in a post industrial society because the techniques passed down as part of the process are no longer relevant to life as we know it. What’s the point of conditioning women to be able to cope with neolithic conditionality imposed on their fertility and lives, when they are no longer impelled to vast litters of kids, many of who die before adulthood, often “taking the mother with them” before she’s hit thirty?
    So withTankard Reist, it’s not the point she raises re commodification or sexualisation that I’d argue with, our culture is full of Jon- Benet Ramsay through to Brady Bunch or Mariah Carey reinforcement of sexual and maternal roles, as well as drunken macho footy hero stuff with lads- stuff largely intensified since the sexual division of labour a few centuries ago when industrial discipline wrecked the way in which earlier socialisation occurred in village and extended family situations, in coopting the masses as factory fodder, creating the sort of alienated beings described in a novel like Sons and Lovers.
    Its her apparent recourse to ineffectual and atavistic memes that inadvertantly reinforce sexual stereotyping, that have me wary of whether she actually understands what she’s talking about.
    She doesn’t want to see women commodified, yet she denies women choices to do with their fertility, or the chance to grow outside of environments that reinforce old patterns; that encourage people to think critically or live free of the sexual guilt hangups of previous eras.
    The stem cell research case is thus a good example.
    Must recall the comment that she is not into shaming teenage girls who are pregnant. She mourns the loss of a foetus both for its own sake and as a sign of the cultural profligacy of an era where values are out of sync with the dominant economic mode, so I understand that the underlying bases for her motivation are initially genuine. But she unthinkingly advocates a mode of patriarchal and capitalist conditioning that reincarnates a system based on the greed and expediency that is an insecure response of people already ruined by the system, before they were ever conscious of it. She doesn’t see the dark side of Tparty dumbing down and authoritarianism as a patriarchal and capitalist reactionary modernist response to new times that present alternative opportunities for people, out of a sentimental attachment to obsolete forms intended for an earlier era.
    She gets good service from the SMH, an organisation consciously embarked on a reinforcement of conservativist capitalism, at the expense of its human subjects, through the most crass examples of junk culture as diversion and reinforcement, as well as anti worker politics designed by the loony one percent at the expense of the rest, that relies on the gradual dissolution of the justice system, and dumbing down to precisely the level of apathy that she seems to claim conservatism rejects.
    It’s a permanent becoming with the sort of stuff she writes appearing in the papers because the papers represent exactly the forces that wont stop the sort of commodification she fears. The system doesnt (only) condition women to be whores/madonnas/ mobile incubators, it conditions them to be consumers and the very system she upholds wouldn’t care care less whether whoredom or apathy is an incidental consequence of this, or not, except as a means to further upset, conflict and divide and rule
    Ten years ago people whined about grubby photos. In ten years time they will still be worrying about grubby photos, curiously for the want of something more relevant to occupy their minds. The punters will still be fighting amongst themselves as one consequence, but the real game remains obscured, we are but grist for the mill..

  28. Brian

    Curious. On my screen where the video links are supposed to be, there is just a blank space. I went into the ‘edit’ screen and all I see is “&” followed by “nbsp;” – twice.

    I use AVG as anti-virus software. Seems it has ways of keeping my viewing clean and pure! But Lady Gaga @ 18 is deemed OK.

  29. Katz

    [email protected]:

    [MTR] unthinkingly advocates a mode of patriarchal and capitalist conditioning that reincarnates a system based on the greed and expediency that is an insecure response of people already ruined by the system, before they were ever conscious of it.

    Mostly agree.

    My one refinement would be that MTR has deliberately as oopposed to “unthinkingly” bought into the patriarchal social order. By implication, she is asking men to be “better” in so that they may be more effective operators and subalterns of the restored old order.

    MTR is a nostalgic yearning for the return of a Golden Age that never really existed.

    Women could never depend upon the patriarchy to be “better”. The only way forward is for both women and men to reject patriarchy.

    Unfortunately, both women (including MTR) and men often think that their salvation depends upon clinging to the wreckage of patriarchy.

  30. Link

    The only way forward is for both women and men to reject patriarchy.


  31. Helen

    Still, Cox warns, “Those who don’t want feminism to be co-opted by the Palins and the Tankard Reists need to do some thinking about what direction they want to take it in instead.

    I made a similar observation over at Hoyden: This attitude is incredibly friggin’ unfair. As a blogger who writes for nothing, I have to fit my research (not privileged by access to peer-reviewed journals or academics, as I’m attached to no uni) and writing into the minutes I scrape together from fulltime work, parenting and domestic work. Eva Cox should know that MTR, Palin and other prominent commenters get to incorporate their ideological advocacy into their paid careers. In Palin’s case, a VERY highly paid career. They have access to MSM outlets that we don’t have. Sure they may not be paid for every single article or appearance, but in general, they are much better set up to advocate their particular ideology than I am.

    Also, the writings of the Palins and MTRs appeal much more to the gatekeepers of the MSM which, as you know, is dominated to a large extent by conservative interests. I really reject the implication that the greater success of these people (and the Devines, Roiphes, Flanagans and the list goes on) is my fault because I and the other unpaid labourers of feminism aren’t trying hard enough!

  32. Helen

    And to clarify: I wasn’t attributing that idea to you, Anna. Great post.

  33. Helen

    Anna, I said, that “being able to provide a space, where women can choose not to care about their appearance,” is not possible. This space would be extra-social.

    *Slack-jawed, glassy eyed stare*


  34. Fine

    There’s so much worth commenting on here.

    But just a couple of brief comments:

    One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever anyone talks about abortion, regardless of their position, they tend to preface their remarks by commenting about what a dreadful decision it is and how women go through heartache etc etc. This plays into MTR’s anti-abortion argument about grief and it’s demonstrably wrong. I’ve known women who have a bad time deciding whether or not to have an abortion. I’ve also women whose abortion has caused no more grief than any other minor medical procedure. Not a pleasant task, but something that had to be done. Why do so many people need to pretend that it’s always traumatic?

    My other comment is about the increased sexualisation in the representation of women. I’m not so sure about this. As Anna commented in the OP, I’ve seen images that MTR has shown as problematic, that I’ve just though have been images of women looking conventionally pretty. I’ve seen Clive Hamilton do the same things with images of children in advertising.

    I also want to say how I agree with faustusnotes @12. so much of this moral panic (as that is what it seems to be to me) denies women agency. It ignores the voices of women such as sex workers who speak positively about heir experiences etc. It also ignores many of of the other problems facing women.

  35. alfred venison

    dear editor
    if anyone’s interested, eva cox, on this controversy, in her own words, can be read here:-
    for what its worth, eva cox didn’t come down in the last shower.
    yours sincerely
    alfred vension

  36. Link

    I like what Eva Cox has to say, but I think she’s doesn’t go far enough by arguing within the walls of the establishment.

    Rightwing, relgious nuts could never co-opt feminism–their husbands wouldn’t let them.

    Feminism needs to continue in it’s push for humanism.

  37. Alex

    This is a truly excellent post, Anna. Please post more often 🙂

  38. G-G

    Thanks for that link Alfred Venison. Cox makes a strong case.

  39. Mercurius

    Thanks for the link, Alfred Venison @ 39.

    I certainly did appreciate the Eva Cox article, especially her very succinctly put:

    It is not feminist to infantilise women by removing our right to make the wrong choices.

    However, the Thread of Doom slowly taking shape below the Eva Cox article is another story! Especially its pro(an)tagonist! Hoooo, boy…enjoy the post, avoid the thread, folks — you have been warned!!!

  40. su

    It isn’t the women who are claiming to have chosen a hypersexualised image freely who are silenced and shamed. This opinion is now the majority opinion. This is not the seventies. The people who are now attacked with vigour are current and former sex workers who don’t hold to the Scarlett Alliance position that “most employers are doing the right thing” and women who don’t believe that the beauty and image making practices which first sprang up in commercial media are wholly natural upwellings of self-expression.

    On the whole I don’t agree with MTR but nor do I accept that because someone is known to be a relatively conservative Christian this means that you should refuse to argue by examining her stated rationales and simply dismiss everything she says by claiming she is enacting a religious agenda by stealth.

    Or is it Ok to deny a woman’s agency as long as she is a conservative and a christian. Is there anyone else whose arguments I can thus ignore? How about Kevin Rudd. He was a pretty conservative Christian but ye gods we have entrusted him with our nation’s foreign policy agenda. Oh noes. Better reinterpret everything he has ever said on any topic as primarily religious whether he himself argues from religious grounds or not.

    The whole thing is ad feminin writ large. People want to dismiss any consideration of the questions raised by claiming that any argument that doesn’t accept the premise that commercial representation of women is identical to women’s own self-concept and expression is socially conservative because of MTR. Bullshit.

  41. paul walter

    Noted the Eva Cox article out a day or two ago, was going to come back to it, apparently at Crikey.
    But for the life of me cannot now track it down and cannot, for the life of me, track it down most of all at Crikey itself.
    This is the last significant component am missing that I feel would inform somewhat on the issue discussed in the thread. Am perplexed. Can someone offer me a “guide”, a reliable link with which to access the article and do my difficulties descend from my own incomptence (first guess), or is something more sinister afoot.

  42. myriad74

    Anna, great post. I hope you’ll forgive me riffing off the central themes mre than doing a specific response to you.

    It’s rare for me to feel it about her pov & writing, but I was disappointed with Cox’s comment on this.

    I thought it triviliased a whole swath of long-standing and pretty much accepted critique of the portrayal of women in visual media, particularly advertising, the centrality of that critique being that fundamentally it reinforces womens’ status as ‘less than’ within the patriarchy. As Pringle’s reply illustrated rather well, her historical skewering of this was not particularly accurate either.

    Frankly I’m still slightly bemused that there is any argument about an increased – whether you see that in intensity, frequency, or degree – of objectifying imagery of women, and particularly the trends around girls are pretty disturbing.

    While I agree entirely that MTR and Hamilton tend to go to extremes in their choices to illustrate it (ie they use images amongst patent examples that have me going “nope actually, that one looks pretty fine”), I think that left feminists need to get to grips with the fact that MTR has an audience because really, she’s filling a void, even if she’s mainly doing that at the emotional level. By which I mean that I don’t want to live in a better patriarchy as envisage by her either, but her targeting of the issue and how many feel about it, is spot on. I certainly identify with it. Verity Violet puts it well above.

    Nor do I see it as a distraction from “the serious issues” be it wage equality and lowering violence/rape rates in Australia, to sex trafficking and the recent raising of awareness of female infanticide levels. They exist as parts of a complex spectrum of issues that reinforce patriarchy and the worthlessness of girls, or their value only as something to be used, and cheap at the price.

    I think MTR threatening is stupid. But given how aggressive and dismissive I find some athiests (I am an athiest) of people of faith these days, I have some sympathy. Perhaps she’s threatening because she’s worried her purpose as a right-wing astro-turfing co-opter of women’s issues will be exposed. Or perhaps it’s because she knows the focus on her religious beliefs will mean her work in this area is dismissed. The pity about her legal threat is we may never know, and intent does matter, it’s just that risibly dismissing someone’s clearly far more nuanced argument based on a wikipedia entry on their alleged religious denomination will never cut it for answering that question.

    Equally I decry her stance on abortion / RU486 and her work with Harradine on keeping women in the home (in a nutshell). I would and will campaign against any action she takes to further those aims. To my knowledge she’s not actively involved on any of those issues but has instead turned her efforts solely on sexualisation / porn. I can find some common ground with “conservative feminists” like her on these issues when I’m satisfied that their motivations are genuine. It’s careful territory to tread but I’m loathe to dismiss a fairly large section of the female demographic out of hand.

  43. paul walter

    Whaddya know !!
    Hercule Poirot, “..am thirty-two times an idiot”.
    Anyway, its only linked twice, and one those comes from Alfred Venison.

  44. su

    Oh very well said, Myriad. I wrote something much more ranty and incoherent which I hope will die unlamented in the spaminator.

    I wish people, would stop talking about the feminist support for prohibition as about policing male morality too. Feminists supported prohibition because of the violence towards and neglect of, in those days, dependent women and children which frequently accompanied male and female alcoholism. Were they correct in seeing prohibition as a curative? No. Were they correct in connecting alcoholism with high levels of violence? Yes, absolutely and it remains a huge risk factor for domestic violence and child abuse to this day.

  45. paul walter

    Yes, now have read it ( Eva Cox). There is not a lot I’d quarrel with, more than a couple of things to think on further within it, but observe the article examines the effects of commodification on a specific group, women, rather than being a general observation on the universal bases and nature of commodification and reification, of this seemingly self reproducing, apparent runaway train we call “civilisation”.
    Living in the Dark Ages is also a bloke’s problem, I’d propose.
    The system damages us (males) as well, so my take is probably a little more generalist “left” than straight feminist, as with Eva Cox, who rightly concentrates on this issue as it relates specifically to women, as subject to fertility control freakery and dumbing down, which has triggered the argument, which is problematic to me also: although this instance is an instance of the system specifically after women, I see it as an example involving women, of what also happens to men psychologically, and of a capitalist system employing different means of packing, racking in the stacking of different components of its human subjects, eg humanity, of which women and men are subsets.

  46. Myriad74

    Thanks Su, & I’m glad you brought up the prohibition/alcohol/violence link too.

    You’re rangy comment is there & it’s not that bad 😉 – but then we seem to be pretty much in agreement so I would say that. People should force s to disclose the basis of our beliefs that lead to that!

  47. tigtog

    I’ve been lurking on this one because stoushing elsewhere (plus cold plus workload) has been taking up the time I could use to post anything substantive. Just wanted to say that I’m enjoying the nuanced discussion in this thread. Great post, Anna.

  48. Katz

    Eva Cox:

    It is not feminist to infantilise women by removing our right to make the wrong choices.

    This is the sine qua non of any liberal approach to social policy.

    The problem is that adults begin life as children and the transition from one phase of life is neither instantaneous nor unproblematic.

    The barriers between adult culture and children are more porous and blurred than at any time in history. This fact poses many new and unprecedented challenges for government, schools, parents and community organisations.

    One solution is to abolish the legal identity of a minor. I assume that few persons would support this initiative.

  49. Alex

    I agree with DD, that her arguments are not to be trusted, and believe her hidden agenda is to disempowered women in line with her fundy Christian beliefs. She’s no feminist IMO.

    Radical feminist, Twisty, believes that within the patriarchal paradigm, it’s impossible for women to consent to sex with men. I wonder what MTR’s views are regarding consent?

  50. myriad74


    spot on.

  51. faustusnotes

    Alex, “radical” “feminist” twisty is an example of what I was talking about at 12. She patronizes young and non-feminist women, doesn’t listen to perspectives outside of her own, has a magical view of sex and sees sexual difference as fundamental. On top of that, she patronizes young women and any woman who thinks heterosexual sex with men is possible, or should be made possible.

    Given how closely her beliefs align with MTR (except, maybe, the patronizing young women thing), she probably doesn’t have much to disagree with her about.

  52. Fine

    “I thought it triviliased a whole swath of long-standing and pretty much accepted critique of the portrayal of women in visual media, particularly advertising, the centrality of that critique being that fundamentally it reinforces womens’ status as ‘less than’ within the patriarchy.”

    Of course that’s true. But, as per the heading of this post, it’s complicated. When it comes to cinema, only one form of visual imagery of course, there’s been many battles and disagreements between feminist film scholars about how meaning is produced. I don’t think there’s one accepted critique at all. The battlelines could drawn up really crudely between the ‘realists’ who want things like more positive images of women etc and those scholars writing from a more Freudian/Lacanian position who examine films and visual imagery as dreamscapes.

    I’ve linked to Wikipedia. The summary here is okay. But, yeah – it’s complicated.


  53. alfred venison

    dear editor
    did i hear right? the abortion-denying tankard-reist’s a “radical feminist” now? god, things things have changed a lot since i used to babysit for the lesbians at the library.
    yours sincerely
    alfred vension

  54. su

    That is an utter mischaracterization of Twisty IMO. Twisty has a very dry wit which isn’t to everyone’s taste but she employs her formidable writing talent to expose the ways that women are belittled, patronized, brutalized by patriarchal culture. The idea that she is about patronizing women is complete nonsense. I have had my nose thoroughly put out of joint in any number of places because my views were not in accordance with others, and every single time I have learned to admit complexity (Post!) in areas I had simplified and the most important thing I learned was that pro-prostitution, anti-prostitution, liberal, or radical, other feminists, because they are all concerned with furthering the status of women, are not the fucking problem here.

    As with all online feminist blogs, women are quite capable of deciding for themselves where they agree or disagree with individual posts or with the general tenor of posts. The fact that the women who are most critical of the status quo are also the ones who we are regularly told are dangerous to feminism is pretty telling. What we really don’t need is someone hiving off large sections of feminist thought and feminist history and saying “Here be Dragons”.

  55. su

    Yeah Alfred, you are right, she is anti-prostitution and anti-porn, neither of which position is identical with radical feminism. It’s just one of an army of strawfeminists people deploy in order to reduce feminists to morality police, something they have never been. Feminist arguments about putative harm, whatever its source, have never been about morality but about advancing the cause of women, by fighting their oppression. It seems to me that we need the plurality of feminist views on this and on other subjects because of the very complexity Anna mentions. It requires complex action to push back against systemic problems. I perceive that feminist groups of very different philosophies will often be working in parallel, not without a certain amount of distrust but the frequency with which common cause arises, even on the most disputed ground, is far greater than admitted by those who seem to find endless delight in foregrounding the conflict.

  56. alfred venison

    dear Anna Winter
    thanks for the clarification; i think i maybe lost my way amongst some “free-floating” personal pronouns. glad i asked.
    yours sincerely
    alfred vension

  57. paul walter

    These sorts of thread starters are always worth a return. This time I checked the links at leisure.
    That I’d be comfortable with the first piece, a male perspective, will doubtless shake many LPers to their very foundations, although I’d think hard on his view that porn is not a commodificationary individuation process, at least in some cases, involving lads, including at a unconscious “cultural” level.
    But then arguably, so is the fashion industry and much TV, movies and women’s literature, as one can observe with sixteen year old “women of the world” teetering foul mouthed out of a pub on four inch spikes in a tiny black number on a freezing cold night and around the corner for a good chunder, as their oafish boyfriends look on laughing as they salivate on an “easy kill”, later on. So really, I do understand much of MTR’s distaste for consumerist “culture”, too much of consumerist sh-t through a life does addle the wits and contribute to boganism ( and susceptibility to simplistic, populistic, rightist political propaganda ), I’d surmise.
    Eva Cox, the complete objectivist, does appear to understand the issue, necessary and sufficient both as evidence and as verification of Anna’s broad sheet approach.
    As Anna has visited “Sheep” she’d possibly be aware that Paul Walter is also deeply suspicious of hard gonzo, snuff, or kiddie porn and what appears to be a vicious and coercive global racket involving trafficking and slave prostitution, at worst. Later Anna appears to suggest that for much of the work involving erotica involving adult people, maybe attention should be focus on OHaS, rather than villification of grown up folk who can make their own decisions and are merely attempting to make a living, in some cases getting at least some “job satisfaction”even, from a trade that likely feed off times of high unemployment.
    The second link followed the trend, in opening to “No Place for Sheep”, where the willing Jennifer Wilson has engaged in a long interrogation of what appears to be a curious emphasis on certain aspects of life at the expense of others. In including this, Anna does exactly what a rational debater should do and MTR and tabloid media conspicuously fail to do, in adding relevant contextual information in an ordered argument, for a reader, whilst witholding personal judgement.
    The link to Catherine Deveney sent me to a vacant powder-puff blue wall devoid of buttons, but I rather like the cheerful, noisy and sometimes combative Deveney, I can’t imagine there would be too much there to offend someone like me; I’d imagine she’d be more likely in Wilson’s “back off” camp.
    Actually I’ve got some of the best commentary on the issue from sites like Hoyden and Cast Iron Balcony, where educated feminists are engaged in debates not only with sexist hecklers of MTR , but some of the cup-cake “feminists” who seem to be trolling the sites on behalf of the MTR social conservatives. The people operating here, coincidentally, appear to follow the Eva Cox line, which is the one that satisfies my judgement best, also. The Scepticlawyer blog also remained, well, sceptical, which I thought was significant.
    To Anna, thanks for an excellent shot at an understanding of the incident, for readers.

  58. myriad74


    I’m not saying there’s “one critique to rule them all”, I’m saying there is a credible and long-standing body of work that interrogates the representation of women and its role in the patriarchy, and finds that this element of society is important for understanding women/patriarchy, yadda yadda.

    Cox in my view dismissed / trivialized it.Probably unintentionally given the irony of it, it made me think of how real right wing trolls attack left feminists for caring about when don’t we know muslims are out enslaving women?

  59. myriad74

    bloody hell, not sure what happened above. “…for caring about (insert a fillip of western society here) when don’t we know”

    somehow I lost it, sorry.

  60. G-G

    I think you it is correct to say that MTR has located a legitimate concern in her advocacy. I certainly think the sexualisation of women and girls is a real issue. I do not think it’s a moral panic. But I think what Eva Cox says is also true and need not be minimised either. MTR’s brand of feminism locates woman as victim, woman in need of protection – which returns to the same kind of essentialism that feminism has long tried to dismantle. I think both things are true and that both things can be true at the same time – which makes her a polarising figure to be avoided for some, and a contradictory figure to be measured on a cause by cause basis for others.