Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Andrea Dworkin on Men's not-so-impossible Task of Distinguishing between Sexually Graphic Material and Pornographic Material

[book cover image is from here]
These are some of life’s easier distinctions. I used to ask groups of folks how retailers of pornography could tell the difference between Joyce and hard-core visual pornography. I noted that although, generally speaking, they weren’t the best and the brightest, they managed never to stock Ulysses. If they could do it, I thought, so could the rest of us.
-- Andrea Dworkin, in Heartbreak
The whiteboys used to go on and on about this matter. Perhaps some still do, as privileged foolishness dies a slow and painful death. (Painful for others, that is.) The self-defined "bright" men would exclaim: Oh, woe is me!, however will law be able to determine the difference between something so utterly subjective as "pornography" from other sexually graphic materials sold in book stores across the country?!

The political and social truth-teller Andrea Dworkin, with the constitutional law professor and attorney Catharine A. MacKinnon, co-drafted what should have become a law twenty-plus years ago across this country. But, alas, the liberal/libertarian (and conservative) whiteboys doth protest so much, as whiteboys invariably do about anything that might ruin their rapist fun, that it did not become law.

The truth is the pimps themselves spent enormous amounts of money to misrepresent what the law was, how it would work, and what it existed to do. It wasn't, as they complained, a criminal law. It didn't empower the State to seize materials from the semen-soaked hands of male pornography users. It couldn't have been used in all the alarming ways whiteboy pimps feared it would. White straight men are a profoundly delusion bunch, all in all. There are exceptions, of course. But the group designated--always only by their own peers--as "the most brilliant human beings on Earth" just couldn't conceive of how we all might distinguish two different things--one from the another. As if distinguishing this from that were no longer a capability among human beings--well, whitehetboy human beings, that is.

There was so much ado about nothing back in the 1980s about "blurred lines" and "slippery slopes". White het men ran proverbially into the streets waving their arms above their heads declaring that the Dworkin-MacKinnon Anti-Pornography Ordinance might lead to confusion--great, unfathomable, cataclysmic confusion; a vast, gigantic cognitive tsunami of confusion--as to whether a book written for a "mature" audience was pornographic or just sexually explicit in some other ways. (You know, like the recently deceased J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. These "brilliant" men thought that it would be easily mistaken for, say, "Debbie Does Dallas".)

The deeper truth was that these and other histerical straight white men were actually up in arms, up in legs, up in breasts and buttocks, about the possibility that there might be a consequence--a negative one--to them accessing images of raped and pimped women or just their fetishised body parts. Since then, such images and other materials have become accessible 24/7/365 (and in a Gregorian calendar "leap year", 366).

But during the pre-Internet 1980s, there was a kind of fear among white het men in the U.S. only known to those who lived through The McCarthy Era, or The Cold War--a fear akin to that similarly irrational fear of COMMUNISM, which was always a greater threat in the U.S. white conservative man's mind than anywhere else. Feminism, when not radical, is like the more palatable version of Communism, aka Socialism. Each (feminism and socialism), if allowed to accomplish their goals, are sensible efforts for achieving a more humane society so that the oppressed and subordinated are not so damaged by those with significantly more material privileges, social status, and economic power.

As MacKinnon as noted in her ground-breaking book, Toward A Feminist Theory of the State:
Sexuality is to feminism what work is to marxism: that which is most one's own, yet most taken away. Marxist theory argues that society is fundamentally constructed of the relations people form as they do and make things needed to survive humanly. Work is the social process of shaping and transforming the material and social worlds, creating people as social beings as they create value. It is that activity by which people become who they are. Class is its structure, production its consequence, capital a congealed form, and control its issue.
Implicit in feminist theory is a parallel argument: the molding, direction, and expression of sexuality organizes society into two sexes: women and men. This division underlies the totality of social relations. Sexuality is the social process through which social relations of gender are created, organized, expressed, and directed, creating the social beings we know as women and men, as their relations create society. As work is to marxism, sexuality to feminism is socially constructed yet constructing, universal as activity yet historically specific, jointly comprised of matter and mind. As the organized expropriation of the work of some for the benefit of others defines a class, workers, the organized expropriation of the sexuality of some for the use of others defines the sex, woman. Heterosexuality is its social structure, desire its internal dynamic, gender and family its congealed forms, sex roles its qualities generalized to social persona, reproduction a consequence, and control its issue.
U.S. and UK conservative and libertarian white men don't want their gender identities and the systems which bolster and enforce them, tampered with by anyone who thinks a right to be free of violating gazes, grabs, and gang rapes ought to extend beyond the population called "straight men".

Such men in the U.S. at least, are utterly reluctant to grant the rest of society the right to free, accessible health care and college. Gasp. Imagine that in the U.S.!!!! (No student debt? No putting off getting an infected tooth attended to?) Why, what would the Founding Fathers think?!!? Oh, you say many of them had this very thing in mind? Oh, well, not THOSE Founding Fathers. I'm speaking about the ones who had plantations and slaves who didn't find anything morally or politically problematic with doing so, and who crafted laws so that they would be allowed to continue to own plantations and slaves. 

White privileged men find so many ways of stating--with whatever needed aggression is called for to get the point across, "There will be no radical (humane) redistribution resources, power, and access to decent living. We cannot have that for the many, when we (greedy bastards) use up so many resources.

The "resource" pimps and pornographers use up is women's energy to fight for freedom from slavery to men's sexual tastes, and touches. The pimps and producers of pornography use up this resource by coercing women to do things that require dissociation, deference, denial, and the sustained degradation of one's being by others who will pay large sums of money for the opportunity to do just that.

This resource is a kind of resistance. It is a form of power that exists to liberate gendered beings from patriarchal tyranny--a destructive dualism hiding its own hierarchical nature from social scrutiny. Without this resistance, limitation and imitation of gender are easily passed off as "freely chosen" and "transgressive".

The systems and institutions which keep gender tyranny tyrannical include pornography--not "the idea of pornography" but the multi-billion dollar a year pornography industry, which is entirely material and concrete, even while also mental and conceptual.

White educated het men fetishise women's body parts. But they appear to take even more delight in argumentation the sole purpose of which is to turn reality into matters of intellectual abstraction and political obfuscation. And so it becomes a bit of a problem for these boys when someone comes along and notices that they aren't making any sense at all. "The emperor, not the empress, is without garb".

The quote which opens this post, by Dworkin, is one of many found in her books that reveals how ridiculously illogical men are--the very men who claim feminists don't know what they are talking about. Feminist intellect has got masculinist "logic" by the scrotal sac, which is, after all, where so many men argue their decision-making skills are stored.

The Latest on Haiti in the U.S. press and blogosphere, oh, and Jon Stewart on the callous fools on TV

With on-going gratitude to Melissa @ The Feminist Texican, from which all that follows was copied and pasted.

Edwidge Danticat via The New Yorker: A Little While
The day that Maxo’s remains were found, the call came with some degree of excitement. At least he would not rest permanently in the rubble. At least he would not go into a mass grave. Somehow, though, I sense that he would not have minded. Everyone is being robbed of rituals, he might have said, why not me?
Judy’s World: How the Haitian tragedy is impacting pregnant women
Haiti already had the Western Hemisphere’s highest infant mortality rate, with 671 out of 100,000 women dying in childbirth, and that was before the earthquake struck. 7,000 Haitian women are expected to give birth in the coming month, and 15 percent of them are likely to suffer from potentially fatal complications.
The Women’s Media Center: Haiti: Absent in Life, Death and On the Evening News
Rather than providing their viewers with an examination of how Haiti came to be what it currently is—a nation of the descendants of slaves who carry with them the generational consequences of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome and all of the political, economic and social insanity that goes along with that—the Western media remains content to share with its viewers only that Haiti is poor, illiterate and incapable of governing itself. Talk about blaming the victim.
Slate: Why Did We Focus on Securing Haiti Rather Than Helping Haitians?
By the weekend, it was clear that something perverse was going on in Haiti, something savage and bestial in its lack of concern for human life. I’m not talking about the earthquake, and certainly not about the so-called “looting,” which I prefer to think of as the autonomously organized distribution of unjustly hoarded goods. I’m talking about the U.S. relief effort.
The Atlantic: Island of Lost Children
When the earthquake struck the impoverished island country last Tuesday afternoon, human traffickers suddenly gained access to a new population of displaced children. With parents dead, government offices demolished, and international aid organizations struggling to meet life-or-death demands, these kidnappers are in a unique position to snatch children with very little interference.
Jezebel: Does Haiti Need America’s Breast Milk? Probably Not.
Fueled by press releases from breastfeeding advocates, parenting blogs and even The Los Angeles Times’s health blog have been encouraging donations to milk banks to be sent to needy babies in Haiti. The trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be any infrastructure available to transport or store it. According to an MSNBC report, donations are actively being discouraged.
More links after the jump

The Voracious Vegan: Operation Help Haiti
New America Media: Haitians Need to Work With Diaspora to Rebuild Haiti
La Frontera Times: Haiti: Race, Colonialism, and Univision
The Pursuit of Harpyness: In memoriam: Haitian women’s rights activists
TransGriot: Frederick Douglass’ 1893 Lecture On Haiti
Echidne of the Snakes: On the fetish-ization of Haitian orphans
The F-Word Blog: Feminist action, Haiti
Racialicious: The Dangerous Desire to Adopt Haitian Babies
ImmigrationProf Blog: Training on Applying for Temporary Protective Status for Haitians
Adoptees of Color Roundtable: Statement on Haiti
Vivir Latino: Responding to the Situation in Haiti : INCITE Women’s Health & Justice Initiative Statement
New America Media: Saving Haiti, Saving Humanity
Jon Stewart takes on Limbaugh, Roberston, and Maddow:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Haiti Earthquake Reactions
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

How Do Poor Nations Survive Against the Brutalities of the Rich Nations?

 [image showing how much greater the negative impact is of the rich on the poor
than the reverse, is from here]

What follows is from *here*.


The west owes Haiti a bailout. And it would be a hand-back, not a handout
The Caribbean nation should be reimbursed for centuries of punitive treatment and brutality by the outside world
Gary Younge

Sunday 31 January 2010
Last week started with a conference in Montreal, called by a group of governments and international agencies calling themselves Friends of Haiti, to discuss the long and short term needs of the recently devastated Caribbean nation. Even as corpses remained under the earthquake's rubble and the government operated out of a police station, the assembled "friends" would not commit to cancelling Haiti's $1bn debt. Instead they agreed to a 10-year plan with no details, and a commitment to meet again – when the bodies have been buried along with coverage of the country – sometime in the future.

A few days later in Washington, Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, came before the house oversight committee to explain why he paid top dollar for $85bn worth of toxic assets when he bailed out the insurance company AIG. Geithner said he was faced with a "tragic choice". "The moral, fair and just choice is to protect the innocent," he said.

There is no connection between these two events. But in the public imagination maybe there should be. The world cannot yet find $1bn in debt relief for Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, a country that spent more in 2008 servicing its debt than it did on health, education and the environment combined and that has now been flattened. But, over a weekend, a single country could rustle up $85bn to keep a single company in business. It is an obscene reminder that, in the world of global capital, distressed assets are still more valued than distressed people.

The scale, urgency and determination with which western governments moved to salvage a broken system stands in stark contrast to their laggardly, inadequate and negligent approach when it comes to rescuing a broken society. I refer here not to the emergency aid operations in Haiti, which, given the logistical obstacles of operating in a crushed nation, have been impressive. Nor to the charitable donations from all over the world that prove that people are far more generous than the governments they elect. But to the resources and long-term systemic solutions that Haiti needs and the west could summon – if it so desired.

The recent earthquake was an act of nature. But the magnitude of the devastation, the consequent human toll and the inability of the country to recover unaided are the product of its political and economic marginalisation. Haiti was not so much a disaster waiting to happen as a disaster that kept happening, but that too few cared about. Haiti needs a bailout. And if it does not get one the disasters will never end.

A recent UN study on the impact of 21 natural disasters on heavily indebted poor countries concluded that rebuilding costs leave long-term financial burdens. The UN's trade and development body found that a natural disaster leads to a 24 percentage-point increase in a country's debt-to-GDP ratio.

"Shocks on such a scale can lead to a vicious cycle of economic distress, more external borrowing, burdensome debt servicing and insufficient investment to mitigate future shocks," it said.
Like a moviegoer walking into a thriller halfway through, those unfamiliar with Haitian history could be forgiven for mistaking the villains for the victims and benefactors for malefactors. For it was not simply a mixture of bad governance and even worse luck that got Haiti to this place (though they have played their part). Haiti is not a failed state; it's a state that has been failed since its birth, and precisely because of the nature of its birth.

Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804 through a slave rebellion – the first postcolonial, independent black-led nation in the world. For this audacity they would pay for generations. Napoleon told one of his ministers at the time: "The freedom of the negroes, if recognised in St Domingue [as Haiti was then known] and legalised by France would at all times be a rallying point for freedom-seekers of the New World." The US president Thomas Jefferson was similarly concerned that Haiti would set a bad example.
The US refused to recognise the new country for more than half a century, and would then go on to occupy it for 20 years between the wars. The French burdened it with a punitive debt the country shouldered for over a century.

Both the US and France backed the Duvaliers' brutal dictatorships and when democratic government did arrive it was hogtied by terms imposed by the IMF and the World Bank. Among other things, rigged trade agreements transformed Haiti from a self-sufficient rice producer to importing the bulk of its rice from subsidised growers in the US. When Haiti fined American rice merchants $1.4m in 2000 for allegedly evading customs duties, the US responded by freezing $30m in aid. With friends like these, Haiti does not need enemies.

So Haiti's bailout would not be an act of charity, but reimbursement and reparation. This is not a hand out but a hand back. In terms of Haiti's needs, it would be the beginning not the end. The country needs investment in its social and civic infrastructure so that it can shape its own future. It needs the kind of long-term interest from honest brokers that does not arrive for a coup or disaster and then leave when the cameras are gone.

A few months after President Betrand Aristide was ousted in a coup in 2004, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, told the UN forces: "The stakes are high. This time let us get it right." A month later I visited the town of St Marc to find the Red Cross centre had only one (broken) ambulance; the chief inspector of police had no walkie-talkies and one car; the town hall had no phones, and few tables or chairs; and its unelected deputy mayor had not been paid for four months. The stakes were high. But they did not even come close to getting it right.

The west owes Haiti. And yet still it keeps trying to extort more from the misery. The living had not yet been pulled from the debris when the vultures started circling. A day after the earthquake The Street, an investment website, published "An opportunity to heal Haiti", claiming: "Here are some companies that could potentially benefit: General Electric, Caterpillar, Deere, Fluor, Jacobs Engineering."

James Dobbins, a special envoy to Haiti under President Clinton and director of the International Security and Defence Policy Centre at the Rand Corporation, saw other possibilities. "This disaster is an opportunity to accelerate oft-delayed reforms," he argued. The reforms included "breaking up or at least reorganising the government-controlled telephone monopoly", and restructuring the ports. In other words, privatising what little is left of the country's state enterprises.

It is difficult to see what more the west could extract from a country where half the population struggle to eat once a day and people pay to have their ­children sold to families in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. Tragic choices indeed.

When they believe something to be a priority, western governments can forgive bad loans, pump out money and ease restrictions on credit. They have done it to save the wealthy from themselves; now they must do it to save the poor from the wealthy.