06 January 2009

A random thought (Happy 2009, btw...)

After flipping through the comments to yet another debate among feminists about porn and sex work*, I realised just why the question, "Is [thing X] feminist?" never resonates with me. It's because I view feminism as a mode of analysis--a lens through which the world can be analysed and criticized, and a means by which we can recognize inequality and problematic dynamics and move on towards fixing them--rather than a lifestyle. To me, a more coherent question would be, "What could I say about [thing X] from a feminist perspective." The difference is not a huge one, I suppose, but the former suggests that things (or, more likely, actions, perspectives and ideas) are either inherently "feminist" or not, while the latter states that everything in our world is subject to a feminist critique, without that critique resulting in the thing in question being placed in one of two neat boxes that may as well be labelled "good" and "bad".

To put it another way (since that was quite abstract), I feel like the idea that something is either "feminist" or "not/anti-feminist" ignores the complexity of human psychology and culture, while simply applying a feminist lens to something allows for it to be discussed from a particular perspective without the end goal of assigning a particular value to the thing being discussed. TO me, it's more valuable to, say, look at what particular power dynamics are at play within BDSM, along with how participants navigate and interrogate those dynamics, and how their desires might be tied to the ways in which gender and pwer are associated within the participants' culture (i.e. look at it through a feminist lens) than to either label it "anti-feminist" (which allows me to dismiss and demonize an entire sexuality) or "feminist" (which frees it from further scrutiny or discussion).

I guess that, at heart, I'm a bit of a wonky academic who would rather observe and poke and prod and study and revel in all of life's grey areas than study, label and disregard or adopt things based on a rigid value judgement.

Oh yeah, and I guess I'm back to blogging.

* Honestly, the positions are getting so damn locked down that these arguments are starting to sound rehearsed, like: "Okay, 'Feminist A', you talk about the importance of recognizing female sexuality in all its forms, and then 'Feminist B' will point out that the personal is political, and then 'Feminist C' will bring up the value of choice, and I'll mention the difficulty of making free choices in a patriarchal society. Everybody got that? Good, let's take it from the top..."