Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

still circling around the Swedish law against buying sex, together with its self-congratulatory evaluation published by Swedish government this post might allow to take a somewhat different view on the issue of prostitution and its regulation. the entry was prompted by two remarkable images posted on the blog An Anthology of English Pros in an article Swedish Justice Minister to the pillory! by Helena von Schantz (link to her blog in Swedish).

(Photos of sex worker executions in Ghanzi Province, Afghanistan, by Rahmatullah Naikzad, AP Photos)

apart from the pictures and author’s insights that go with them the post begins with yet another shocking (at least for me) piece of information which is worth reporting. according to von Schantz, on the 18th of March during the seminar on prostitution, Swedish Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask said:

“I want to send garish envelopes to the sex buyers, because I think the worst thing that can happen to a sex buyer is that somebody in their surroundings finds out what they have done, the wife or the neighbour… We should have purple envelopes, it should be clear that you’re suspected of having bought sex.”

however shocking this may seem, von Schantz proceeds:

“When confronted with the question, what if a child finds the envelope, she answered thus: “The daughter might just as well find out what kind of father she has. You have to remember not to protect the wrong factor (just as abstruse in Swedish). If the daughter has been abused by her father the letter may give her the courage to come forward.””

and i though that duo bindel and harman were lunatics!

“Naturally there was a lot of outrage and also demands for Beatrice Ask’s resignation. In the beginning she stuck to her guns, but six days later she made a half-hearted apology that allowed her to remain in office.”

one might wonder were do they find these people?

subsequently, we are referred to the evaluation report and in this respect von Schantz mercifully points out lack of any data that could warrant the conclusions reached by the author of the report; and while addressing these few figures that are presented in the report she mentions shambles with numbers of Danish prostitutes used by Swedish officials in their evaluation, which turned out to be false and inflated (i reported on that story in one of my earlier posts).

“If you consider the purple envelope debacle in March, things become a bit clearer. What can you expect from an Attorney General who suggests that men suspected of buying sex should be paraded in the square? Convicted murderers, bank robbers, smugglers and rapists do not need coloured envelopes and public condemnation, prison suffices for them. Men suspected of having paid for sex, however, they should be tarred and feathered. From this follows that being suspected of buying sex is worse than being a convicted rapist. What happens to rape statistics when the authorities send out that kind of signal?

The European Council has recommended that prostitutes should have their say in decisions that affect them, but that advice falls on deaf ears in Sweden. Beatrice Ask’s starting point is a zero vision. We are supposed to heap shame and disgrace on sex buyers until the market is dead, because sex is not a commodity.’”

and that’s how we arrive at the pictures of afghan prostitutes before and after execution; von Schantz writes:

“(…) There are prostitutes of both sexes in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran, although the penalty is death – usually a painful and disgraceful death at that. Have none of the pro sexlaw people watched the documentary ”Prostitution behind the veil” by Nahid Persson? Do they really think that the Swedish sex law will succeed where Sharia laws have failed? Are they under the illusion that buying or selling sex without getting caught is hard in Sweden? I could probably not steal a car or rob a bank without going to prison, but I could definitely buy and/or sell sexual favours morning, noon and night without anyone being the wiser.

Consequently there were all of 69 poor sods prosecuted for buying sex in Sweden in 2009. I’m thinking that they were either drunk, incredibly stupid or had really nasty enemies, because this is a “crime” any fool should be able to perpetrate without being caught. You would have to have an advanced system of informants or police with Orwellian rights for us to keep track of whether people are paid for sex or not.”

it seems disturbing but at the same time hard to deny that the purpose of the Swedish law is not to aid sex workers nor is it related in any way to the notion of equality between the sexes; it seems clear that the primary goal of the law is to impose on every individual one particular, obtrusive and highly questionable kind of morality with the full force of the state.

one might wonder what century are we living in? public executions and shaming practices for those merely accused of minor and by all means questionable offences? which were concocted by governmental officials who seem to regard some dubious moral standards as being superior to factual data? which is further entrenched by these officials complete disregard or maybe even ignorance of scientific method of enquiry? aren’t these the main characteristics of inquisition tribunals? it seems like it; maybe the next step of Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask and Swedish government will be to publish fit for XXI century’s social ills new version of once renowned and highly regarded Malleus Maleficarum.

and indeed, doesn’t the reasoning behind the Swedish report and official news-releases resemble the kind of “logic” brilliantly depicted in this unforgettable scene:

i would say it does.

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on the one hand this post could be seen as an update to my earlier writing about Swedish sexköpslagen (pdf); however, today i am not going to merely dump on the page quotations, links and/or references but i am going to encourage my readers to conduct their own bindel-style social research into sex markets. however, in doing so i am not going to be particularly inventive and quotations will remain crucial part of my post. nevertheless i can assure any potential reader that this time the quotations are going to be of particularly cheerful nature.

unwilling to waste any more time i would simply refer those who are unfamiliar with the sexköpslagen to aforementioned article or in fact to any other one treating on this particular subject (more detailed examination of the report could be found in “Smoke gets in your eyes: Evaluation of Swedish anti-prostitution law offers ideology, not methodology”, “Evaluating the Swedish Ban on the Purchase of Sexual Services: The Anna Skarhed Reportand “Behind the happy face of the Swedish anti-prostitution law.“)

in this post, however i am going to take a look at “Swedish Sex Law Report: ‘We’re Sorry We Haven’t a Clue’ (or, How to Make the Channel Tunnel Profitable)” from An Anthology of English Pros. apart from many facts and references found in the text and which link to other interesting articles and studies carried out on prostitution within last few years, we could also find some hysterically funny material:

“With a degree of effrontery that had to be heard to be believed, the chair of the inquiry, Anna Skarhed, told a press conference that they started with their conclusions and then worked out a rationale for them: “I think that these are quite obvious conclusions. But the important thing for the inquiry has been to try to, so to speak, get the basis for being able to draw them. And this is how we have worked,” she announced.
Oh, for such refreshing transparency at Westminster!”

i cannot think of any plausible term that could possibly describe such baldness and honesty about own ignorance on the part of government official but it seems quite certain that Ms. Anna Skarhed is not very familiar with “mystical and ancient knowledge” represented in the drawing below:

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in any case, subsequently in his article the author considers the research findings in respect of prostitution on the internet; this part of the text could show to all interested in conducting their own study in what way one should approach methodological issues of social research in a bindel-like manner (it is important to remember that at this point one must forget the ideas presented in the picture above as they are incompatible with bindel-like mode of research). so firstly we read:

“The Swedish evaluation then turns to internet prostitution, saying:
“In the last five years, Internet prostitution has increased in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. However, the scale of this form of prostitution is more extensive in our neighbouring countries, and there is nothing to indicate that a greater increase in prostitution over the Internet has occurred in Sweden…”
“Nothing to indicate” is, of course, another way of saying they haven’t a clue. The report is peppered with such phrases: we do not know very much (about male prostitution); there [is no] information that suggests that (prostitutes formerly on the streets are now involved in indoor prostitution); and there is nothing to indicate that (prostitution in massage parlours, sex clubs, hotels, restaurants and nightclub settings has increased in recent years)…etcetera…”

afterwards, wannabe-bindel-like-researcher is given step by step instructions on how to conduct the actual research, and the description provided bears remarkable resemblance to the methodology used by julie bindel and her gang of “social scientists” in their academically “acclaimed” (for shorter text see here) research report “big brothel”:

“Now let’s try a quick and inexpensive (if unscientific) experiment with a Google search engine.
Iceland: Reykjavík + escort = 77,400 results in 0.21 seconds.
Finland: Helsinki + escort = 136,000 results in 0.35 seconds.
Norway: Oslo + escort = 246,000 results in 0.19 seconds.
Sweden: Stockholm + escort = 491,000 results in 0.16 seconds.
Back in 1999, the official estimate of sex workers in the whole of Sweden was a mere 2,500. Even rabbits, it would seem, could only aspire to multiply as fast.”

and there we have it! now we would have to add more or less plausible “explanation” of our “findings” which necessarily must incorporate some kind of suffering endured by one or another group of individuals and with report prepared in such a manner we might try to approach government officials with a hope to secure monetary grants from government for carrying out further research into this particular area in order to end inequalities and suffering of those in need.

i would be glad to hear from anyone who like our noble star julie bindel would manage to turn bindel-style social research into successful money making scheme.
good luck

i was deeply disappointed when several weeks ago i read (1, 2) about Swedish officials struggling to produce their final evaluation of controversial sexköpslagen. obviously i read earlier reports attempting to assess the impact of the law against buying sex published by swedish and norwegian governments (Kännedom om prostitution 1998–1999, Kännedom om prostitution 2003, Kännedom om prostitution 2007, Purchasing Sexual Services in Sweden and the Nederlands. Legal Regulations and Experiences) and was extremely eager to see the final evaluation. i admit that lecture of earlier reports as well as my broader studies into the available literature on the subject left me feeling that most of the critique of the law presented by academics and sex workers themselves was not wholly unreasonable. which means that in my view most of the pessimistic prognoses as to the impact of this moralistic legislation was sadly true. not to mention that it entrenched my somewhat racist and totally unreasonable beliefs in that people living in northern part of Europe are rather strange folks.

nonetheless, the report was published on 2nd of july and in accompanying press release Swedish Ministry of Justice announced that

“(…) criminalisation has contributed to combating prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes.”

also we are told that

“The ban has proved to act as a deterrent to sex purchasers. The Inquiry could find no indication that criminalisation has had a negative effect on people exploited through prostitution.”

the original version of the report can be accessed here (pdf) while the 15 pages long English summary (pages 29-44 of the original report) can be accesed here (pdf). in this entry i hope to shed some light on the report itself however I hope to achieve this by listening to and commenting on some glorious fanfares that immediately announced to the world that the law presents one great and unequivocal success against evil forces of patriarchy and male domination over women. and that’s how we stumble upon the greatest fan of snoop dogg among lesbian-feminists, julie bindel and her commentary “Legalising prostitution is not the answer”.
in the article (which by the way was published by the guardian on the same day as swedish report) our feminist diva provides her fans as well as other casual readers with her invaluable insights into the background and realities of work as a researcher in the context of prostitution and trafficking. so, we learn that:

“It is rare to have academic consensus on controversial areas of study, but currently in the UK it seems that the vast majority of academics studying prostitution and the sex industry are in agreement. It is almost impossible to find even a handful involved in this massively expanding area of study that will deviate from the opinion that the sex industry should be legalised or decriminalised, and that penalising sex buyers has a negative effect on those selling sexual services. Most academic studies produced in the past few years conclude that little harm is caused to those involved in prostitution, despite the thousands of testimonies on record of survivors of this abusive trade.”

without single qualm she then proceeds to mercilessly criticise, mock and sneer at all the pimps, traffickers, punters and at all other kinds of rapists who backed by hordes of ignorant academics dared to reject her holy principles and her sacred quest to crush the patriarchal oppression of women in prostitution. finally the readers are told:

“No one working in or on it [prostitution] is devoid of a view regarding this important topic, which is why it is somewhat frustrating that so many academics seem happy to be selective about the “evidence” supporting their claims that the Swedish model has been a disaster. Similarly, these same academics regularly accuse authors of research that reaches different conclusions from theirs of being biased.”

after cynically listing few of the numerous doubts expressed by opponents of the law she exaltedly shakes above her head 300 pages long copy of the Swedish report (even though she probably read no more than fifteen pages of its English summary) pointing at it as a solid and undeniable proof against all those of small faith and most certainly fable mind who expressed any doubts about the sexköpslagen.

“However, today’s report, a comprehensive evaluation of the Swedish law, conducted by an independent commission appointed by the government, and led by the chancellor of justice (the highest legal officer in Sweden) shows that legislation criminalising demand has been a resounding success. The evaluation concludes that, since the law came in to force in 1999, the number of women involved in street prostitution has halved, whereas neighbouring countries such as Denmark and Norway have seen a sharp rise; that there is no evidence of an increase in off-street prostitution; and that, despite a significant increase in prostitution in the neighbouring countries during the past 10 years, there is no evidence of a similar increase in Sweden.”

in her usual style she is more than happy to dump on her readers buckets of unsubstantiated rhetoric based on misguided analysis of cherry picked factual data. however in this case I have to admit that my own article on the subject would look exactly a like and that’s because dates are the only numbers that can be found in english summary of the report! it’s 15 pages are simply speaking composed of number of loaded and vague statements referring to some data which is never given up for the reader to asses and which often seem to contradict statements made in other places or data published in earlier reports or the very conclusions drawn by the authors. one might wonder whether the report was not written a decade ago together with the law impact of which it purports to evaluate. and it seems that i am not the only one brought to such a conclusion and for example Laura Agustín writes on her blog:

“An astounding absence of objective and unbiased guiding principles, a lack of solid evidence and a confusing methodical picture that could mean outright guesswork.

(…)

‘Sources’ are mentioned, but absolutely nothing is explained about methodology.

(…)

there is nothing about how interviewees were chosen, why they were relevant, what questionnaire was used or how interviews were analysed.

(…)

Sexworkers themselves are listed as sources, but they seem to have been forgotten until quite late. They are called, in a discriminatory manner, ‘exploited persons’ (p. 126-127). A total of 14 persons from two organisations filled out a questionnaire (…).”

indeed, the authors of the report noted on the page 34:

“Even though there are many reports, articles and essays that address these phenomena, knowledge on the scale of prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes is consequently limited. This particularly applies to knowledge of people who are active as prostitutes in arenas other than street settings and on the Internet, and knowledge of the prevalence of prostitution outside metropolitan areas.

(…)

The empirical surveys that have been carried out have, in some cases, had limited scope, and different working procedures, methods and purposes have been used. In light of these and other factors, there can at times be reason to interpret the results with caution. However, despite these reservations, we still consider that it is possible to draw conclusions based on the material to which we had access, and the results we are presenting based on this data give, in our view, as clear a picture as is currently possible to produce.”

this of course would not shake julie bindel’s belief in unequivocal character of the report and its undeniable conclusions, so she goes on:

“The commission, which took evidence from women currently in prostitution, those who had left the sex trade, police, social workers and other key stakeholders, also found that the law functioned as a barrier against the establishment of traffickers and pimps in Sweden, and had led to a reduction in organised crime.”

it is worth mentioning that in published in 2007 evaluation, authors expressed their concerns about this methodology:

‘The people involved may have had vested interests in promoting certain information based on their mission, ideological grounds, orientation, experience, need for funding, etc’

but julie bindel continues her tirade and states:

“No doubt critics of this law will soon be arguing that the research that formed the basis of this evaluation is flawed and biased. But the commission was careful to include a wide range of views, including Pye Jakobsson, who has worked in the Swedish sex industry for several years and has actively campaigned against the criminalisation of punters, and other pro-prostitution activists.”

this statement is particularly unfortunate because as Laura Agustín points out:

“The report’s claim that sexworkers are not marginalized is bafflingly arrogant, ignoring what many sexworkers say about how the law increases stigma and therefore their marginalization in society. See this video with Pye Jakobsson of Rose Alliance, as an example.”

and in a footnote:

“I asked Pye Jakobsson, president of the Swedish sexworker organisation Rose Alliance, about her contact with the inquiry. She says they were sent a questionnaire last January and put in online, but very few sex workers took an interest in filling it out, because the questions were ‘idiotic’.”

furthermore on pages 129-30 of the report we could find the real gem:

“Those individuals who are being exploited in prostitution say that criminalization has strengthened the social stigma associated with selling sex.  They describe themselves as having chosen to prostitute themselves and don’t see themselves as being involuntarily exposed to anything.  Even if it’s not forbidden to sell sex, they feel hunted by the police.  They feel as if they’ve been declared incapable of managing their own affairs in that their actions are tolerated, but their will and choices are not respected.  Further, they believe it is possible to distinguish between voluntary and forced prostitution…(These) negative effects of the ban that they describe can almost be regarded as positive when viewed from the perspective that the aim of the law is to combat prostitution (SOU 2010:49,129-30).”

(quoted after Bucken-Knapp, G. Evaluating the Swedish Ban on the Purchase of Sexual Services: The Anna Skarhed Report)

the last sentence of this quote is an invaluable display of authors intentions and the purpose of the report and the law itself. but also seem to fit neatly with convictions so often voiced by “j bizzel the gangsta lezzer” in her writings.

there is another interesting point made by the authors of the report; on the page 30 i found this curious remark:

“Our remit has been to evaluate the application of the ban on the purchase of sexual services and the effects that prohibition has had. (…) One starting point of our work has been that the purchase of sexual services is to remain criminalised.”

according to laura augustin “(…) explanation lies probably, and most importantly, in the government’s original directive to Skarhed: the objective was to evaluate whether the law has had any deterrent function, which was the original ambition behind the law, and to recommend how it could be strengthened to meet that ambition. The directive stated that the law is important and that the inquiry could not suggest, or point in any direction other than, that buying of sex should be criminalised.”

however, julie bindel talks about “an independent commission appointed by the government” and i will only add that it is a very interesting view on “independence” of this commission. is such “independence” normal in Sweden?

as for the very scarce claims made on the basis of actual data i will again quote laura augustin:

“(…) on the one hand, they haven’t a clue about how many sexworkers there are in Sweden, and, on the other, that the law has successfully reduced street prostitution by 50%. But she also said the increase of services offered on Internet sites is no different from nearby countries’, from which she concludes fuzzily that this shows that the law has not contributed to any increase in ‘hidden’ prostitution. This is clearly an attempt to head off arguments from the law’s critics. The only actual conclusion is that the decrease of street prostitution in Sweden is a real decrease resulting from the law. Causation by confusion? It is indeed remarkable what conclusions can be drawn based on not having a clue, i.e any figures, a point already noted in another government assessment of prostitution in Sweden in 2007 (Socialstyrelsen-National Board of Health and Welfare).”

in mentioned assessment from 2007, officials noted that:

‘we can discern that street prostitution is slowly returning, after swiftly disappearing in the wake of the law against purchasing sexual services. But as said, that refers to street prostitution, which is the most obvious manifestation. With regard to increases and decreases in other areas of prostitution – the “hidden prostitution” – we are even less able to make any statements.’

in terms of comparisons to other Nordic countries made by the report and their account in julie bindel article i will only say that if she would have waited with her article just one day she would have learned that at least in respect of Denmark the numbers on which the conclusions of the report were based are known to be false:

“The wrong numbers come from Reden in Copenhagen (…).
In the official statistics the number of visitors to Reden has been made equal with the number of sexworkers working on the street. But Reden has misreported how many visitors they have (…)
[which is] documented in a number of answers to Parliament from former Social Minister Karen Ellen [here and here], and this is the background for, why SFI (a national social research institution) has now been asked to start over with a completely new counting.
Reden has claimed that there are more than 1200 sexworkers in the streets of Copenhagen. Estimates from the police and Reden International suggest that the number is only around 200.”

however, could such information really undermine jb’s firm opinion about the report? i don’t think so, julie bindel is not a type of person who could reject her views even if she would be drowning in contradictory information. sometimes i wonder how more delusional can you get?

finally, we are given her musings as to the brighter future:

“This evaluation report will enable those of us in the UK who are campaigning for a blanket ban on the purchase of sexual services and the decriminalisation of those selling sex to refute the claims made by lobbyists for legalisation. It may also lead a few prospective PhD candidates to use their imagination and not follow the current academic line, and to conduct some research that does not begin with the assumption that legalising this vile industry is the answer. I live in hope.”

i would like to make two points in relation to this paragraph. first, that imagination is a good thing for writing fairy tales and not for social research reports and it seems as in her work as researcher jb uses too much of it. secondly, i hope that in the uk the officials and the public might wish turn to more reliable and comprehensive source of information about prostitution than the Swedish report. i would even prefer if they would look for valid information there:

wpid-thumbnail-aspx-2010-07-13-00-15.jpeg

[this is the third part from series of posts on feminism:
feminism as philosophical theory (part 1); feminism as political ideology (part 2); feminism as a marketing campaign (part 3)].

finally i would move on to consider feminism as successful marketing campaign run by strictly commercial feminist organisations. short explanation of this view would have to start with consideration of mechanisms and techniques used by pressure groups and various activists to raise awareness among the public about their “causes” and by doing so apply pressure on bureaucratic apparatus of modern welfare-states. which subsequently translates to inflow of large governmental grants, facilitating further promotion of the “cause” and allowing to maintain achieved status. and all this in the name of equality and war on unjust treatment of victimised groups in society. quite clearly there is hardly anything unusual in such relationship between pressure groups and governmental agencies. however what makes feminist activism so successful is the fact that unlike other social movements it does not advocate for the rights of minority groups but on the contrary has an direct appeal to the majority of the population. which makes politicians particularly susceptible to propagated by feminist groups ideas and their agendas.

it is important to note that such activism should not be necessarily a bad thing; and history of women liberation movement shows how this can be truly aimed at eradicating gender inequalities within legal system. however, after securing its main victories during the second wave the largest feminist organisations resembled powerful and well organised multinational corporations which could not simply disband and disappear. their enormous influence enabled them to pursue other social agendas not necessarily concerned with equality which is hardly a well defined concept. in such an environment emergence of high flying activists/entrepreneurs was just a matter of time.

in favourable environment, reinforced by existing organisational structures and encouraged by politicians from all sides who were keen to jump on the bandwagon of equality , these feminist activist/entrepreneurs were highly effective in securing grants handed out by governments of most powerful states. in addition the absence of any kind of competition meant that these organisations gained monopoly in number of areas now considered as women issues.

finally, in order to maintain their superior positions these organisations flooded the media with their research reports based on questionable “evidence”, dubious “facts” and misconstrued accounts official statistical data. unsurprisingly, in such ferocious medial storm over certain social issues and faced with unscrupulous propaganda techniques, the underfunded academic research tended to pass unnoticed by general public and effectively could be ignored by governmental officials and policy makers.

in interesting comment to the guardian, Belinda Brooks-Gordon gives an account of such mechanism in relation to sex work and trafficking (Vested interests have inflated the numbers of trafficked women).

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there is abundance of various materials in relation to feminist propaganda aimed at achieving certain ideological gains in many other areas and i touched on these issues in my earlier posts (“when ignorance reigns, life is lost”, fact is a feminist issue and on julie bindel’s unhealthy and disturbing fantasies) but since this entry (and previous two) turned out to be solely based on my misguided rumblings and is so obnoxiously free from any kind of references i feel compelled to invite those interested in the subject to consider how effective these “feminist techniques” proved to be by looking at some of the issues deterring researchers concerned with intimate partner violence for the last few decades and which were brilliantly summarised by prominent academics from the University of British Columbia, Donald G. Dutton and Tonia L. Nicholl in their article “The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and theory: Part 1-The conflict of theory and data.”. [Dutton, D.G., Nicholls, T.L. (2005), The Gender Paradigm in Domestic Violence Research and Theory: Part 1 – The Conflict of Theory and Data, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, pp. 680-714].

also i would like to take the opportunity and strongly recommend further reading of academic articles treating on the same subject in context of domestic violence :

Dutton, D. G., Corvo, K. N., & Hamel, J. (2009). The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and practice part II: The information website of the American Bar Association. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 30-38. (link)

Gelles, R. J. (2007). The politics of research: The use, abuse, and misuse of social science data – the case of intimate partner violence. Family Court Review, 45, 42-51. (link)

Kelly, L. (2003). Disabusing the definition of domestic abuse: how women batter men and the role of the feminist state. Florida State Law Review, 30, 791-855. (link)

summing up, the presented above general overview of feminist theoretical underpinnings and its political activism, as i understand them show how this once credible and powerful social movement was subsequently reduced over the past decades to lacking legitimacy cultist following built around particularly hateful dogma which subsidises large number of horrendous, money making enterprises. and having very little concern about equality and women issues. having said that I am glad to announce that I am officially through with feminism in all its shapes and forms because in my humble and misguided opinion, modern feminism (with exception of egalitarian strain) at best should be seen as some prejudicial and vicious money making scheme which has very little to offer for modern societies (western) which regard equal, fair and just treatment of all individuals as the highest priority.

which does not mean that reports on curious feminist stunts will disappear from this space.
it’s just too much fun.

[this is the second part from series of posts on feminism:
feminism as philosophical theory (part 1)feminism as political ideology (part 2)feminism as a marketing campaign (part 3)].


analysis from this viewpoint allows to tolerate certain theoretical inconsistencies and gives greater flexibility by significantly lowering the standards. moreover, such approach might seem the most appropriate since the feminist movement initially was geared towards political changes and remains closely tied with political activism.

i would begin by restating the undoubtedly most emphatic and crucial feminist claim that gender equality is the main objective of its political activities. this assertion is crucial to the feminist political movement for it grants legitimacy to its agenda. however it is fairly obvious that majority of feminists would insist on the notion that gender equality should not be confused with equal treatment in law and gender neutral legislation. i have very little interest in elaborating on what could feminist idea of gender equality entail. thus i would simply narrow down my analysis and consider only those aspects that would necessarily apply in every circumstances regardless of the feminist definition of gender equality.

at first i would point to patently obvious fact (which in this context i find quite amusing) that “equality” is a mathematical concept and as such does not exist in natural world. which means that the best we could hope for is certain “degree of equality”. having said that one might note that methods capable of measuring this “degree” at any certain point in time might present quite a challenge. furthermore, once desired levels are attained there would be similarly difficult task to fulfil in respect of means to monitor such a “heavenly equilibrium”.

however tough these problems might seem (or not) to anyone they are unfortunately just a warm up, because next we would have to account for practicalities of political processes applicable in all complex societies. in doing so we would have to make significant allowance for constantly changing circumstances and complexities of social interactions across different societies which are typical to our times.
it is not difficult to imagine what would happen to feminist (or for that matter, any other) definition of gender equality once it is put through such a grinder as presented above. but it would be a safe bet to say that once it is exposed to realities of politics the initially egalitarian agenda might turn into something quite nasty and be easily hijacked and further derailed by some radical and highly vocal political players. obviously such players would at all time insist and pledge their allegiance to the idea of equality while proclaiming their holy war on injustice in modern societies.

at this point it might seem plausible to take a closer look at initial feminist claims in relation to equality. it is patently obvious that essentially feminism is built upon the notion of social conflict. unsurprisingly the struggle for power between conflicting sides forms the main theme in feminist political activism; without conflict there would be no need for feminism. i do not see how political ideology that insist on existence of social conflict could strive for power in order to allegedly end the conflict. or maybe it doesn’t. one might only wonder what are the real motives behind feminist political activities.

on the other hand however, it could be argued that conflict is inseparable quality behind every political activity. however, what this claim encapsulates is a conflict as a difference of opinions or difference in preferred approach to certain issues held by conflicting sides. in such a conflict individuals are free to chose their sides or opt out from the argument; they are free to switch sides as many times as they see fit; they are even allowed to agree with one another ending the conflict all together! the conflict presented by feminist ideology is markedly different in that respect and it goes far beyond difference of opinion or disagreement between conflicting sides, for it insist and depends on differentiating between individuals on the basis of their sex!!!

this notion of conflict inherent in feminist ideology should make most of us feel a bit uncomfortable. however, we might still reasonably agree that many actions taken by feminist organisations are intended to eradicate inequalities in modern societies. in this case we might even decide to ignore alienating ideas and divisive character of their inconsistent theoretical framework as long as it does not have influence on their activities. this however cannot be said about radical strain of the feminist movement which due to its vociferous activism and reckless campaigning managed to gain ground, captivating public attention and contaminating public debate. their openly hostile discourse would have to be described as dangerous and hateful rhetoric based on supremacist ideology which vindicates one particular group of individuals above the other. these groups together with their alienating doctrines should not be ignored as most of us would not ignore angry, racist comment made in our presence.  and this is where i would gladly end my evaluation of feminism as political ideology and would move on to consider feminism as a marketing campaign.

this is the first instalment from a series of posts treating about, yes, feminism at which i intend to look from three different angles. the first two posts will consider feminism as philosophical theory and political ideology, respectively and then, finally, i would consider feminism as particularly lucrative business model bringing significant financial gains to certain feminist groups and organisations which turns women liberation movement into strictly commercial enterprises; in short, nothing new and nothing serious.

it must be noted at the beginning that i am fully aware of simplicity of the following analysis, but i believe that despite the high level of abstraction, my approach could provide feasible framework for more detailed examinations. what’s more, it seems to me that furnishing such a framework with necessary details could be done with reasonable ease and in fact such work has already been done to certain extent. so, let’s begin.

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looking at feminism from strictly theoretical point of view it is quite impossible not to realise that the philosophy behind the feminist movement presents something of an intellectual backwater. this lamentable state of feminist theory is largely result of its heavy reliance on psychoanalysis and ideas which for short i would describe as postmodern relativism, as tools of its philosophical analysis. i am not going to elaborate on circumstances surrounding this curious “choice” of tools but i will mention that it might have something to do with intellectual fashions but also it is not inconceivable that it stems from patently obvious nature of some of the feminist claims. for example, feminist insistence on lack of agency on the part of women in creating rules of social interactions could be seen as one of such claims and at best it is … well … unjustified if not rather naive.

in a very similar manner, i intend to brush off any detailed examination of the exciting relationship between feminist theory and psychoanalysis or relativism. and in respect of psychoanalysis i would merely point out that even though psychoanalysis might seem as useful tool in the field of literary criticism it cannot be reasonably regarded as reliable means of serious enquiry (“most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century”). this particular feature of psychoanalysis becomes almost self-evident once we consider that it tends to produce number of contradictory explanations of the same phenomena, which justifies the claim that this explanations give more reliable information about those who conduct the study rather than about the phenomena being studied.
moving on to curious world of relativism i must admit that i have no inclination whatsoever to drown myself in futile epistemological deliberations which comprise the only serious relativist argument. so in relation to feminist arguments invoking any notion of relativism i would simply note that these arguments by definition would validate multiple conclusions being drawn from the same premises. which would mean that feminist narratives and its reliance on women experiences of “otherness” are merely one of many equally valid narratives and being “other” is normal human condition applicable to all individuals regardless of their sex (or gender, ha!). i cannot imagine how this could be incorporated into feminist theories.

furthermore, even though feminism fails miserably to present independent and consistent philosophical argument it could incorporate theoretical framework developed by other schools of philosophical thought. however, this would make the very notion of feminism quite unnecessary and the very term “feminism” would only make artificial distinctions where they clearly don’t exist. as a good illustration of this principle one might look at egalitarianism and particular strains of modern feminism which are “feminist” only due to their insistence on using that term.

given that ideas forming the basis of feminist theory could not sustain serious (as opposed to confused) philosophical inquiry i am rather sceptical whether feminist narratives could endure serious scientific scrutiny. for this reason i am more than happy to avoid areas where serious empirical arguments are being presented to less than serious disputants and would happily move on to consider feminism as strictly political ideology.

since this post turned out to be particularly long one I’ve decided to cut it into three separate pieces: feminism as philosophical theory (part 1); feminism as political ideology (part 2); feminism as a marketing campaign (part 3).

enjoy

it is indisputable that modern science fails to answer vast number of questions and appropriately explain various observable phenomena. and like with dreams, the circumstances encapsulated in such unanswered questions sometimes turn out to be exciting and sometimes quite terrifying; understandably such emotions could place heavy burden on our conscious understanding of the world. and because this might create various problems, as a form of coping strategy, i designated a special place in my mind for all this yet to be explained phenomena and other anomalies. it is rather obvious that such a place must be a very strange place. and indeed, once there, we would see that the laws of logic are seriously distorted (if this sentence could makes any sense) while mathematical relations are striped of their usual certainty and coherence. furthermore, like some outlandish zoo, the place is inhabited by extraordinary individuals who as a matter of daily practice, effortlessly and with remarkable ease defy otherwise unshakeable laws of physics and natural sciences. one such an interesting specimen goes by the name of julie bindel.

thus, it is no surprise that this name often appears in texts posted on this blog and stars in my recent “on julie bindel’s unhealthy and disturbing fantasies”. i would allow myself to assume that julie bindel as lesbian-feminist diva of national prominence, does not need any introduction and those who for some reason happened to be unfamiliar with her work might want to check wikipedia or read some of her articles published on quite well known website devoted to the promotion of the “often misguided, english middle-class propaganda”, a.k.a. the guardian. i myself would suggest doing the latter for her work is definitely worth looking at due to its undeniable, entertaining if not outright comical qualities.

however, to make sure that the events which are described below could be properly understood and could be considered with due attention i must highlight certain features of her work which determine its specific character and which are most important for my narrative.

so, who is julie bindel? well, she’s a lesbian-feminist of the radical kind and a personal friend of long dead andrea dworkin who famously claimed that sexual intercourse is an act of violence against women and initiated radical anti-porn crusade in the u.s. some thirty years ago. julie bindel herself holds equally strong views in respect of pornography and prostitution which in her view reflect and perpetuate patriarchal oppression of women. she is one of the authors of loathed and strongly criticised by academics paper “big brothel” in which she made numerous fantastical claims in respect of indoor sex work based on phone calls made to agencies by her male colleagues acting as prospective clients and which formed the basis for highly controversial anti-prostitution law passed in 2009 with the blessing from harriet harman and jacquie smith. furthermore, she is a highly vocal supporter of far-reaching and some might say discriminatory measures which supposedly are necessary to meaningfully fight with violence against women in all forms, shapes and sizes. however, it is worth mentioning that the definition of violence in this context is a very broad one and might include acts which most people would consider as normal and definitely not inappropriate aspects of human interactions. nevertheless, the main point to remember for the purpose of this article is her stance on pornography and prostitution.

a week ago i would consider the above text as reasonably well presented summary of complicated and colourful ideas which characterise work of julie bindel. a week ago i would consider her naive, ignorant and infantile attitudes towards serious social issues as quite easily predictable. a week ago i enjoyed feeling of certainty stemming from the belief in julie bindel unshakeable radicalism. but that was a week ago…

as a twitter addict and a great fan of all that is ridiculous, i am a faithful follower of her insights and musings which she might be willing to share on twitter with her devoted fans; and exactly a week ago, on wednesday 23rd of june at 0804 p.m. she wrote:

“On a train listening to Snoop Dogg having interviewed a pimp. Sitting next to Cath Elliott who is reading about rape. Business as usual.”

‘quite right, business as usual … wait a second! julie bindel listening to snoop dogg! is this a part of some new “research” that she is conducting?’

but then a day later she wrote:

“Help! What does a lesbian feminist wear to Glastonbury to meet Snoop Dogg? Is anyone there from Guardian Fashion who can advise!”

‘jeez! lesbian feminist don’t meet snoop dogg! are we talking about the same snoop dogg? the former pimp? who sees pimping as his “natural calling“?’

‘but even supposing that lesbian feminist would decide to meet him they would probably opt for a boiler-suit which can be easily disposed of after extremely violent acts performed on the dogg, followed by prolonged mutilation of his body as a form of pay back for selling women as sex slaves! isn’t that right?!’

well apparently not because radical lesbian feminists had something else in mind:

“Do you think there is any chance Snoop Dogg will ask me to step in as a backing singer?”

‘shit! what is happening to me? does everybody have this?’

i must admit that at this point i was seriously concerned about my sanity and desperately blamed everything on my ipod and on my macbook, purporting that there must be some apple’s conspiracy going on, aimed at discrediting julie bindel! not to mention that i was worried that the picture of her as a backing singer for snoop dogg would probably haunt me every time I’m in bed with my girlfriend, which could have devastating effect on my sex life!

‘jesus! i probably won’t even be able to sue her for this!’

but she just continued mercilessly :

“That puppy dog has no greater feminist fan than me!”

and

“Beside myself with excitement at seeing the Snoopster”

‘my god how far is she prepared to go? soon she will be just “feminist”!’

and while i was feverishly contemplating whether she would cease to be “lesbian” in such particular circumstances, she wrote:

“He has a voice like honey dripping on rose petals, raps like a demon, and is dripping bile about women. What to do?”

‘what do you mean “what to do?”?! what to do with what?!’

in any case, whatever she decided to do after posting this last message it seems as if it was the highest point of this insanity, and some time later she wrote:

“Am writing my piece on Snoop whilst sitting on the grass amongst some very stoned and drunk folk. Ah well, maybe later.”

which made me think that she should rather keep away from any drugs because she might hurt someone and most probably herself. nevertheless, subsequent messages contained something that looked as some form of rationalising of her behaviour:

“That pup Snoop really played it a bit safe today. Took out a couple of mentions of ‘ho, replaced ‘bitch’ with BIRD can you believe one time!”

and finally:

“Maybe he heard I was there and was really scared. What do you reckon? I am J Bizzel the Gangsta Lezzer.”

j bizzel the gangsta lezzer!….?

my god, this was really sad.

besides, i found the whole experience emotionally exhausting. something like seeing the pope during a gay parade, prancing around on some moving platform and making out with the village people.

my conclusion was that if one cannot even trust julie bindel then there must be some truth in all this blabbering about broken societies, decline of moral standards, lack of authoritarian role models, the end of the world, armageddon and so on and so forth.

so, when couple of days ago a friend of mine sent me her article i refused to look at it. does this make me a quasi-religious person refusing to know the truth in order to preserve my shaken beliefs? i guess it does.

wpid-goya-2010-06-19-05-00.jpg probably most of us would agree with francisco goya; el sueño de la razón produce monstruos. but it is one thing to repeat after the inscription on 43rd plate of the caprichos that the sleep of reason produces monsters, and quite another to fear monsters when the reason is awake.
i find such feeling extremely irritating and highly unnerving because even though i might proudly reject every form of belief and laugh at superstitions, i would still feel intimidated when approaching modern taboos created by our secular societies.
personally i find manoeuvring between these numerous “no-go areas” as insulting waste of energy; and tendencies of certain groups to get upset and worked-up while discussing certain subjects as affront to their and my intelligence.

deliberation on false rape claims and on incidence of rape would have to be regarded as one such area. so in order to avoid certain misunderstandings i feel compelled to explicitly state that i am indifferent to numbers of both rapes and false accusations of rape, to their frequencies and rates when compered to each other. it is not my intention to argue nor to present evidence nor to make any specific claim in respect of these two types of crime. my intention is to briefly analyse certain attitudes towards the subject. and by doing so i hope to shed some light on the mechanism which makes this particular subject area very difficult to talk about and for researchers to operate in which effectively prevents creation of evidence based policies designed to tackle these social problems.

according to message posted on twitter by UK_Feminista, “The Daily Mail’s campaign of trying to convince the public that all rape accusations are false is getting ridiculous: http://is.gd/cIYZi”. needles to say that the message quite well summarises main points of the text linked to together with the comments left by the readers. in addition the authors provide links to several articles published by The Daily Mail as examples of said campaign.

of course i am very well aware of the daily mail’s dubious reputation. however, after skimming through few of the articles and after checking up on the facts with other sources i could not find any clues that could indicate that these stories were complete fabrications. in this assessment i focused primarily on the facts behind each story but i also paid great attention to any broad and unjustified statements made in the articles as well as any instances of stereotyping. overall there were very few minor instances of misrepresentation of fact but none of these were material. as for reliance on stereotypes these were on level comparable with other newspapers (including guardian and times). it is important to note that i consider political bias in media reports as a norm rather than exception; with this in mind, the articles that i analysed were not exceeding the normal level of bias peculiar to this paper. overall, the articles would have to be regarded as factually sound reports concerned with particular type of crime which editors of daily mail identified as a more systematic problem and considering the number of cases to which even UK Feminista refers to as to campaign, this does not seem to be totally unreasonable conclusion.

in other words it seems that these articles reported on cases of false accusations of rape and gave accounts of devastating effect that such accusations have on lives of victims. the articles were reflecting on victims who were subject to humiliating and damaging campaigns by media and communities in which they lived and which would usually last for several months if not years and often result in imprisonment, broken relationships, splits in the families, victim’s alienation and suicides; the accusers were depicted as delusional liars who took advantage of the institutional veil of full anonymity and when (if) prosecuted and convicted the punishment this criminals were subjected to could be seen as not proportional to the damage that their actions inflicted on their victims.

unsurprisingly, the above assessment differs significantly from the one found on UK Feminista. according to this feminist blog “… there’s just page after page of stories relating to so called ‘false’ accusations of rape.” what i find quite remarkable is that apart from the links to daily mail articles the blog does not provide any information that could substantiate views that the articles are just “…misogynist lies about rape that paper insists on pedaling.” it seems as if the author consider this to be some self evident truth which does not require any further explanations. and indeed these unsubstantiated and broad allegations of hatred towards women on the part of dm are unequivocally accepted by commenting readers who then ask “what the hell can we do to challenge this evil women-hating rag?!!”. due to the lack of explanations i can only guess the rationale behind these claims; and it seems to be related to the role that reporting of these type of cases play in undermining credibility of true rape victims. direct accusations as the ones presented above are further sprinkled with other colourful complaints: “i think my head is about to explode in rage!!!”; “Jesus, two in one day? That’s just ridiculous….”.

despite gaping discrepancies between views on the issue held by the crowd on UK Feminista and presented by daily mail one thing seems to be certain; and that is the existence of some issue. and even though in such a case robust research into the nature of the issue might seem to be most plausible course of action, those taking part in discussion on feminist weblog seem to have quite a different view which stems from their perception of the nature of the issue. and so we read:

“It absolutely sickens and outrages me … what we could do to challenge this?”

“Demo is always a safe bet, or possibly something to call the Mail on it.”

“…campaign for more responsible media depiction of women…”

“…we can definitely plug it on the action section of the site”

“…to take full action on this?”

“Anyone for starting a campaign about this? Shall we see if we can hook up some of our lovely groups?”

it seems fairly clear from the actions considered that what this “lovely group” perceive as a real problem is not the certain type of criminal activity reported by daily mail but the reporting of the crime itself!? strange as it may sound it does explain why no one commenting on the article even thought of actions aimed at establishing some means of support for the victims. the main thrust of potential actions is focused on reporting of these cases. i guess it would require some amount of mental acrobatics to connect such a viewpoint of the issue in question with quoted earlier allegations of contempt and hatred towards all women which supposedly are intrinsic to reports of such cases. i am disinclined to go into this subject any further and would gladly leave this peculiarity to others with more time to waste.

leaving on the side the issue of plausibility of these claims let’s consider the target of proposed actions. paraphrasing one commentator the aim is to “…campaign for more responsible media depiction of women…”. in current case this vague aim translates into application of pressure on media outlets in order to make them stop reporting on cases of false allegations of rape. i understand that the ideal outcome in this instance would be total removal of such reports from public view and subsequently from public debate.

again I am disinclined to consider whether such situation could bring so strongly desired by feminist readers of the blog raise in numbers of victims reporting rapes to the police; and whether attitudes of the later would change significantly and whether this would result in greater number of genuine offenders being brought to justice? i hope it would.

but is hope enough? what if there is an issue there? what if there are other factors behind the reports? what if daily mail editors are not as delusional as the crowd on UK Feminista would wish them to be? what do we actually know? and lets not confuse “knowing” with “hoping” or “believing”.

it is said that the cases as the ones reported by daily mail are exceptional. fair enough, but who says that?

and that’s where the fun begins, because it seems that we know literally nothing. the numbers on incidence of false rape accusations range from 2%, which is probably the most famous figure and the only one which origins i could explain, to 98%!

so not surprisingly baroness stern in her review (.pdf) said:

“The question of false allegations comes up time and again in any meeting or discussion about rape, with some arguing that the number is large and others insisting that the prevalence is grossly exaggerated. Faster progress could be made in improving the treatment of rape complainants if more solid evidence was in the public domain.
In view of the controversy surrounding false allegations, the strong feelings the subject arouses and the part the controversy plays in the response to rape complainants, we recommend that the Ministry of Justice commissions and publishes an independent research report to study the frequency of false allegations of rape compared with other offences, and the nature of such allegations.”

and in respect of incidence of false allegation i am not going to go any further than that. so, summing up, we know that: 1. daily mail are a bunch of liars and women haters; 2. there seem to be some issue; 3. about which we don’t know much.

but also we know that it is hardly a novel idea to restrict publication as means of dealing with problems that cannot be otherwise accommodated by ones theories. It was this technique that catholic church used in order to keep the earth flat and at the centre of the universe. but it also reminds me of remarks made by russian authorities claiming that in russia the problem of rape does not exist at all. they explained this by simply saying that there is no russian equivalent of the english word “rape”! sounds like brilliant idea, doesn’t it?

but above all we know that atmosphere of hatred, anger, threats and intimidation does have devastating impact on free flow of ideas and can undermine any attempt to promote knowledge and understanding of the world around us.

and in my humble opinion it is the “lovely group” of feminist who should sort their act out because, as we all know daily mail is a bunch of liars and there is no way to reform them.

just today in the morning:

Mornings with Joanne Malin: 15/06/2010 – BBC WM – BBC iPlayer Console

strictly speaking, WHERE ARE THE FUCKING EQUALITY FIGHTERS, FEMINISTS AND OTHER FUCKWITS SCREAMING THEIR GUTS OUT ABOUT DISCRIMINATION AN OTHER SUCH SHIT!!! debating pay gap i guess.
and that was perfectly well balanced comment

oh sweet irony. just few days after i posted a piece treating about frivolous attitudes towards official statistics and facts in general, among certain advocacy groups and policy making bodies, feminist blog the f-word published an article by Naomi Mc, “Fact is a Feminist Issue”. and even though the title could be reasonably regarded as promising (if not exciting considering where it was published) the article itself is a bit of a disappointment.

in short the author gives her opinions on scientific reporting in the media, which in her own words is … well, “piss poor”; nothing new here i guess. then we hear yet once again this old hackneyed phrase that “science or medical articles rely on the readerships’ preconceived ideas about women and men and feed gender stereotypes that are straight out of the 1950s;” which is followed by similarly overused short list of such stereotypes. subsequently author elaborates to some very limited extent on reporting of biological differences between men and women and provides “a few tips for approaching scientific and medical press stories that tackle biological sex differences”, which pretty much closes her argument about fact as a feminist issue. so much for excitement.

without paying to much attention to the tedious content of the article i was curious about the authors opinions on reporting of facts by more or less mainstream media outlets in relation to issues which are preoccupying feminist agenda and which on many occasions would have to be described as undesirable, damaging or prejudicial and most definitely as “piss poor”.

i wrote a comment under the article, at first agreeing with the author’s main point that “fact is a feminist issue”; however in order to show my somewhat different take on the subject i quoted Fawcett Society’s “Equal pay, where next? Changing Hearts and Minds” (pdf) with it’s poor treatment of official statistics; together with two quotes referring to publications from Eaves; and which could be best described as a forms of “creative writing” rather than social research. so, first of the two quotes was taken from article by Julie Bindel entitled “Why men use prostitutes” in which Ms. Bindel proudly proclaimed that “the reasons why many men pay for sex [were] revealed in the interviews that make up a major new piece of research; Read the research project’s report on men who buy sex (pdf). the second quote was taken from “Sexual violence fact-sheet” (pdf) published on Eaves website, containing examples of intentional misrepresentation of official statistics by this advocacy group, which was clearly aimed at strengthening misconceptions about the issue of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

overall, my comment was fairly short and in my opinion could hardly be regarded as provocative for it was mainly composed of quotations from feminist publications and this i suppose is a fact perfectly suitable for discussion on feminist blog. nevertheless, comments submitted to f-word are subject to some very general rules which are neatly explained under every article published on the website. among other things the rules state that the f-word:

“… is a safe and friendly space for feminists and feminist allies. Debate and critique are welcome where it is constructive and deepens analysis or understanding. Anti-feminist comments will not be approved. We get to decide what’s anti-feminist.”

so far, it seems that i am neither a feminist nor a feminist ally; and apparently quotations submitted in my comment in order to shed some light on “fact as a feminist issue” were not constructive enough; and elaborating on them could not possibly deepen analysis or understanding of the issue.

it’s hard for me to say whether my comment was anti-feminist. i would say it was not but then again it is them who get to decide what is and what is not anti-feminist. but i must admit that the f-word did inform me about means of appeal to the decision made by the moderator and the rules on commenting are very clear about this:

“We do not seek to censor debate: the beauty of the internet is that anyone can set up their own blog or website to express their views.”

which i duly did.

ironically, even though i was unable to find out what would be Naomi Mc’s (or other f-word readers) opinion on my approach to the issue represented in the title, one thing seems to be quite certain: FACT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE.