Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Anger Awareness

Thanks for posting this, Rachelle. I think the more we can bring this conversation into the open, the more people are able to really examine the ways in which they have been indoctrinated into a culture that says not only that the dehumanization of women is OK, but that it is actually the ultimate sign of liberation for a woman to demean herself thus. I find it telling that pornography is the only remaining product of a capitalist, consumerist culture that self-proclaimed liberals refuse to criticize and often defend. What is it about porn allows it to have this kind of control over the minds of intelligent people? There is no outrage, there is no backlash when someone criticizes the problem of obesity propagated by the fast food industry. No one balks at criticism of racial hatred bred by fear-mongers. Why are people so eager to defend misogyny that is spoon-fed to them by a culture backed by the porn industry that makes billions on the sale of human bodies? Why is this not a civil rights issue? Why is this not a social justice issue? Why is this not even a public health issue?


Quinn said...

First of all, let me say I completely agree with everything Rachelle wrote. I find pornography offensive and degrading, and was glad to find a site like the one Rachelle linked to as a source for getting more information on the subject.

Turning to the question you raise, Kate, I believe the main reason that the issue is difficult has to do with freedom of speech. I know that a slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy, but where would you draw the line? The same things true of pornography are often true (in less obvious ways... but perhaps more insidious ways) of music videos, comic books, sitcoms, etc.

That being said, we should be intelligent enough to handle some nuance with the issue.

My main point is that I think people are scared to touch this because it strikes very close to free speech issues. Education, not regulation, is indeed the key.

Kate said...

I agree, Quinn. It's in the whole culture.

I do not advocate censorship; I do advocate education and awareness. I also know that some forms of speech are not protected: for instance those that slander or those that are considered hate speech. If we are willing to say that pornography is degrading and misogynistic, it's not a far jump to say that it is akin to hate speech. Another problem I have with the "but it's free speech, and it must be protected" line is that the speech of those of us who criticize porn is marginalized as the polly-anna-ish complaints of sexually immature prudes: an obvious defense mechanism of those who are not willing to take responsibility for their own sexuality.

So, where do I draw the line? I think the line is not sliding down the slippery slope but remains where it is : hate speech is wrong. I am responsible to speak against hate speech whenever I encounter it, whether its in obvious porn or music videos, comic books, sitcoms, films, magazines, catalogs, billboards, emails, blog posts, phone calls, face-to-face conversations, lectures, sermons, or any other type of human communications conceivable.

As far as handling nuance with the issue, again, no one is worried about the nuances of racist speech, and no one jumps to protect it when it presents itself in any format. Are you saying that "we should be intelligent enough to handle some nuance" to mean that we should be smart enough to overlook the problems that are systemic in our culture? Smart enough to say, "oh this really doesn't matter; it's just a sit-com?" Smart enough to continue to submit to a culture that tells us women are sub-human?

Quinn said...

I actually would take issue with your last paragraph. Is Faulkner hate speech? Is Twain hate speech? In many ways, it could be argued that they are. Should they be banned? Our understanding of the nuances of their literature allows me to say that their racist attitudes are reprehensible but, no, they shouldn't be banned.

Also, when I said we should be able to handle nuance, I was talking about realizing that it should be fairly easy to say certain forms of pornography should be illegal (for instance something that depicts rape -and I understand that many types of pornography that do not present itself as rape per se, are still pretty much depicting just that-, I think, should be illegal for the same reasons child pornography is illegal). However, just because Two and a Half Men depicts sexist attitudes, does not mean the show should be banned.

Hate speech is wrong, and we should advocate against it. And because freedom of speech is protected, we can.

I just reread your response. I understand now that you are not advocating for any kind of censorship, just for your own right to speak against hate speech, and to speak out about the moral imperative for others to do so as well. I would have not left the first part of this response up, but I do think it raises some important question about censorship (noting that that is not what you are writing about!)

Kate said...

Thanks, Quinn. I am not advocating censorship or a ban of any kind. I am not advocating censorship or a ban of any kind. I am not advocating censorship or a ban of any kind. Still, people will inevitably accuse me of advocating censorship and bans. Thanks for realizing this at the end.

I read Faulkner and Twain and others who make racism and/or sexism normative, and I am angered by that and criticize it in my academic work. But I do not advocate not reading them (and consequently, no one is using them for masturbatory purposes). But Faulkner and Twain are nowhere near the same as pornography. Two and a half Men is a far cry as well. These casual manifestations of sexism underlie the culture nearly unnoticed. That does not mean that they are not problematic, nor does it mean that they should be abolished. They can be valuable learning objects for showing how not to behave like a human being. Porn can too. Unfortunately, no one wants to face up to the prospect that they are losing their own humanity when they act in a way that dehumanizes another. So no one wants to learn the lessons that our culture is teaching in these sexist and racist depictions. Instead, people want to be gratified. They want to laugh at sit-coms and get off to porn. They do not want to take a moment to realize how the object of their pleasure feels about being the butt of a joke or as Jensen says "three holes and two hands."

I am not advocating censorship but education and awareness. This means that we need to educate people to be aware of the nuances of sexism and racism in our culture, to be able to recognize that they promote the dehumanization of people, to realize that this is wrong, and to promote a freer society. These nuances largely go undetected, but to know they are there and ignore them is indefensible.

I think we are mostly on the same page, and I have enjoyed discussing the challenges you have presented to my posts. I get nervous when I hear porn equated to any other cultural manifestation that is less severe, thereby making porn, by association, less severe. Again, just to be clear: no censorship, no bans. ;)

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