The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. – Alice Walker
In 1970 Carol Hanisch published a second-wave feminist manifesto entitled “The Personal is Political”, and its title soon became a big feminist catchphrase. The only problem with that is, it’s a load of crap; usually, the personal is just personal, and declaring it to be political merely holds the door open for increasingly tyrannical intrusion into people’s private lives. The idea that “the personal is political” is borrowed from Marxist dogma and basically means that nearly any problem experienced by an individual woman is the result of “systematic oppression.” If she’s unhappy or has a screwed-up life it isn’t because she’s irrational, poor, uneducated, overly emotional, foolish or unlucky in the genetic lottery, or because she’s made bad choices, or because the world is intrinsically unfair and many people of both sexes are unhappy and have screwed-up lives; it’s because she is oppressed by the Patriarchy. This is, of course, a fundamentally defeatist, paranoid and narcissistic view which removes responsibility from the individual and places it into a social context that encourages permanent class warfare (or in this case, gender warfare). Since the two sexes are different by nature and will always be unequal in one way or another, this provided political feminists with a path to political power; women were essentially told that their situation was hopeless unless they supported the schemes of the feminist leadership in its brave and determined struggle against the Male Overlords.
There are many kinds of power, but the inherent simple-mindedness of second-wave feminism recognized only one type, political power, because it was the one political feminists craved and also the one women in the postwar era had least of. Power had to be portrayed as something entirely external to the individual, which helps to explain how neofeminism was able to take control of the movement so quickly; if women realized that one of the greatest (and biologically speaking, the greatest) forms of power, namely sexual power, was already ours from birth, the Neomarxist catechism would be revealed as absurd and organized political feminism would collapse. So neofeminists intentionally reversed the truth, portraying sex as something men used to control women rather than the other way around. Second-wave feminism had launched itself by proclaiming that a woman could not take power for herself; she had to be empowered from outside (by a benevolent government controlled or at least influenced by political feminists). Neofeminism merely established a dogma designed to cut women off from their own natural powers by alienating them from their own bodies and femininity, the sources of those powers. To use a concrete analogy, the only way to consistently sell baby formula is to dry up women’s own milk or to convince them that nursing is unhealthy, disgusting or morally wrong.
“Empowered” is a deceptively simple word; it seems straightforward enough until you realize its underlying assumptions. To “empower” someone is to grant her power; it automatically implies A) that she hasn’t got any in the first place, and B) that such power is the speaker’s to give. Using the word in an active sense (“we need to empower women”) establishes the speaker or his organization as the intrinsic superior and benefactor of the person or persons so “empowered”, and using the word in a passive sense (“an empowered woman”) robs the person so “empowered” of agency, reducing her to the passive recipient of someone else’s benevolence just as people were imagined to be “granted” rights by a king in archaic political theory. Consider the way bureaucrats from Western nations use the word in reference to the people of developing nations, and you will understand how neofeminists and politicized second-wave feminists view other women.
The word “disempowered” is equally patronizing because it implies that the one so “disempowered” (usually a woman) is a weak, passive, vegetable organism who can be “empowered” or “disempowered” at will by her political masters as easily as one installs or removes batteries from a toy. With all that in mind, take a look at this article by Tracy Clark-Flory from the September 12th Salon:
…a new study investigates the link between a country’s relative gender equality and the degree of female “empowerment” in the X-rated entertainment it consumes. Researchers at the University of Hawaii focused on three countries in particular: Norway, the United States and Japan, which are respectively ranked 1st, 15th and (yikes) 54th on the United Nations’ Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM). To simplify their analysis, their library of smut was limited to explicit photographs of women “from mainstream pornographic magazines and Internet websites, as well as from the portfolios of the most popular porn stars from each nation.” Then they set out to evaluate each image on both a disempowerment and an empowerment scale, using respective measures like whether the woman is “bound and dominated” by “leashes, collars, gags, or handcuffs” or “whether she has a natural looking body.” Their hypothesis was that societies with greater gender equity will consume pornography that has more representations of “empowered women” and less of “disempowered women.” It turned out the former was true, but…the latter was not. “While Norwegian pornography offers a wider variety of body types — conforming less to a societal ideal that is disempowering to the average woman — there are still many images that do not promote a healthy respect for women,” the researchers explain…
All researchers have biases which negatively impact the objectivity of their studies, but it’s rare that any outside of “women’s studies” are so glaringly obvious. These academics are clearly laboring under the delusion that sexual desires are “socially constructed”, revealing a deep ignorance of biology and evolutionary psychology. Furthermore, they clearly accept without question insulting and ignorant neofeminist beliefs about BDSM, have what I can only interpret as bigotry against cosmetic surgery and promote the degrading collectivist notion (perhaps related to the neofeminist gestalt myth) that it is “unhealthy” for men to be attracted to whatever kind of women they’re attracted to because it might make less attractive women feel bad. Flory, who is generally pro-sex and pro-sex work, sees the flaws in these assumptions:
…One explanation might be that…cross-cultural biological imperatives are reflected in pornography. Some of the study’s disempowerment markers could be more a reflection of the gender disparity in porn’s audience. The researchers note, “In a large portion of hardcore pornography…the erect penis is the most important organ” and “women are often used as little more than receptacles for the penis.” Is that because of sexism or because porn viewers, who are largely men, identify with…the male member?
…You can’t so easily equate dominance with empowerment and submission with disempowerment. Take, as one example, that the researchers designate a woman in an “authoritative” position as a sign of empowerment. That formula can be easily upended — clearly, submission feels empowering to plenty of people. It’s also awfully subjective: The popular line within the BDSM community is that it’s the submissive that has all the power, because they’re the ones calling the shots…sex isn’t always empowering or disempowering, equitable or inequitable — it’s much too complicated for that.
The researchers’ appalling ignorance of BDSM is apparent in their interpretation of dominatrix characters as a sign of female “empowerment”, despite the fact that such characters are as much archetypal male fantasy figures as are female slaves. Actors play roles; to assume that an actress playing a dominatrix role is somehow more “empowered” than one in a sub role is as ridiculous as assuming that the actor playing a king in an historical drama must be the star simply because his character is more important inside the fantasy world of the movie. But the most important point to note is the researchers’ patronizing assumption that male porn viewers are so impressionable that their level of “respect for women” can essentially be programmed by the content of their wanking material, and that women are such passive, childlike beings that mere images on a screen can grant them “power” or take it away.
One Year Ago Today
“Imaginary Victims” examines the difficulty trafficking fetishists have in coming up with even a few poster children to represent the phantom multitudes upon which their propaganda depends.