Chivalry Shouldn’t be Dead

I was reading Cosmo and I came across a short but interesting article written from a male perspective about chivalry (Cosmopolitan August 2013, pg 181.) The author, Sean Powers (@powersoz on Twitter if you’re interested) was told by his female friends that it was sexist to offer to help a woman carry her bag, to open a door for her or to pay for the bill.

I’ve had this discussion with friends before. When I was in Boston a few years ago I was quite shocked when men stood up and offered me their seat on the train. Some of my friends rolled their eyes and accused me of playing the poor damsel in distress, but I didn’t see it that way, he was just being polite. 

It’s the same with opening doors and offering to help me with my bags, I know when someone does things they’re not doing it because they think my femininity makes me incompetent but because it’s polite.

It’s the same concept as when I offer my seat on a train to an elderly person, I’m not being ageist, I’m being polite and respectful. 

However, just because I believe in chivalry does not mean I expect a man to pay for everything or to always carry my things, it’s just nice for them to offer sometimes.

Feminism vs Pornography

(Or why feminists need to stop worrying and learn to accept the adult industry.)

We’ve come a long way since the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s and it was only a matter of time before the evolution of female sexuality led to the creation of pornography made with female viewers in mind. This type of pornography is often referred to as “female friendly” or feminist porn. But can any type of pornography truly be feminist? Many feminists see any form of pornography as the epitome of misogyny due to objectification of women it presents. They assume that the women depicted in the films are failed actresses who are only doing it for the money, but what if they want to do it? (*GASP*) What if they enjoy it or find it empowering? (*Double gasp*) How can feminists hate a life a woman has chose? Especially when it’s in one of the very few industries where women consistently earn more than men?

There are many conflicting ideas about what constitutes feminist pornography, feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino describes her version as pornography made “under fair, ethical working conditions…that does not demean women or men.”[1] To be eligible for a Feminist Porn Award the production must meet at least one of the following three criteria;

  1. Women and/or traditionally marginalized people were involved in the direction, production and/or conception of the work.

  2. The work depicts genuine pleasure, agency and desire for all performers, especially women and traditionally marginalized people.

  3. The work expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film, challenges stereotypes and presents a vision that sets the content apart from most mainstream pornography.  This may include depicting a diversity of desires, types of people, bodies, sexual practices, and/or an anti-racist or anti-oppression framework throughout the production.[2]

For me any pornography that is fully consensual can be feminist.

However many women feel they can’t watch mainstream pornography because it makes them feel “alienated.” [3] Majority of the female stars are what we imagine to be the stereotypical  porn star – young, long blonde hair, thin but with large breasts and mainly white.[4]  They wear make-up that looks like it’s been applied by trowel and teeter around precariously in ridiculously high heels and ridiculously short skirts. They are coy yet overtly sexual at the same time, giving an innocent doe-eyed look through a thick set of false lashes before engaging sexual activity. The slightest touch cause them to writhe and scream out in pleasure. Feminist porn tries to break down these stereotypes by employing women who “look like the average woman walking down the street”[5] and portraying sex that is “authentic.”[6]

Many feminists will argue that any porn, regardless of consent, production and pleasure is misogynist. Anti-porn activist Gail Dines argues that “anyone willing to feed off women’s bodies and use them as raw materials to make a profit has no right to call themselves feminists.”[7] This includes women involved in any part of the production of pornography. But if we were to follow that logic, pornography is basically misanthropic because human beings of both genders are being used as props to make money.

My main issue is how can feminists be so staunchly against the one of the very few industries where women consistently earn more than men? The gender pay gap in Australia across all industries currently stands at 17.5 per cent. For every one dollar a man earns, women are earning 82.3 cents.[8] In the United States it’s even worse with women only earning 77 cents for every dollar a man earns in 2011.[9] Of the top 20 highest earning porn stars an incredible 75 per cent are women.[10] Compare this to the 20 richest bankers, where all are white men.[11] Porn star and one of the only five men in the 20 richest porn stars list, Ron Jeremy estimates that men will earn around $300 per scene and make an average of $40 000 a year in the porn business whereas women will earn $500 to $1500 per scene and can earn anywhere from $100 000 to $250 000 per year.[12]

If you’re like me, you probably assumed that most women in pornography were naive, failed actresses who have hit rock bottom and would do anything to make a living. While this was true back in the 1970’s when Linda Boreman (better known as Linda Lovelace) was forced to perform in Deep Throat at gunpoint by her husband  Chuck Traynor[13], many women today actually choose a career in the adult industry. Current contract star for Digital Playground, Kayden Kross told documentary film maker Deborah Anderson;

“I didn’t get into [porn] because I was desperate. I got into it because I was bored. I had an education, and nothing else appealed to me like this. I’m not going to lie or be ashamed. I like the money. I like perks. I like … sex! I was always a very sexual person, and this offered me an opportunity to make a pretty good living using that. What I wanted to do far outweighed any worries I might have had about what people thought.”[14]

Fellow Digital Playground contract girl Stoya is a regular contributor for Vice where she offers her thoughts on the industry. She says that the adult industry offers you a choice of what roles you want to do and no one can force you to do a scene you’re not comfortable with.[15]

Most of the feminist stances against pornography can be described as anti-feminist themselves. Shouldn’t the basis of feminism be choice? Women have the choice to work in whatever industry appeals to them and they shouldn’t be judged for those choices by other women. We assume these women are unintelligent and victims of society but they’re not and it’s unfair to stereotype them that way. They have more of a choice over their work lives than most of us. It takes a lot of confidence to do what they do, how many of us would be willing to strip down to nothing day in and day out? As Madeline Albright, the first female Secretary of State said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” and it shouldn’t matter if we approve of their profession or not.


[1] Tristan Taormino, “What is Feminist Porn?” http://puckerup.com/feminist-porn/what-is-fp/, accessed 29th June 2013.

[2] Good for Her, “Feminist Porn Awards,” http://goodforher.com/feminist_porn_awards, accessed 29th June 2013.

[3] Dylan Ryan, “How I Became a Feminist Porn Star,” on Jezebel, http://jezebel.com/5984021/how-i-became-a-feminist-porn-star, 23rd February 2013, accessed 29th June 2013.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Maura Kelly, “Can Porn be Feminist?” on The Daily Beast, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/21/can-porn-be-feminist.html, 21st April 2012, accessed 28th June 2013.

[6] Ryan, “How I Became a Feminist Porn Star,” http://jezebel.com/5984021/how-i-became-a-feminist-porn-star

[8] Rosie Squires, “Ditch the Pay Gap,” in Cleo July 2013, pg 55.

[9] Mike Burns and Olivia Willis, “As Equal Pay Act Turns 50 Conservative Media Continue Crusade Against Closing Gender Wage Gap,” on Media Matters, http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/06/10/as-equal-pay-act-turns-50-conservative-media-co/194405, 10th June 2013, accessed 30th June 2013.

[10] Brian Warner, “20 Richest Porn Stars,” on Celebrity Net Worth, http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/20-richest-porn-stars/, 1st February 2013, accessed 28th June 2013

[11] Lisa Du, “The 22 Richest Bankers in the World,” on Business Insider Australia, http://au.businessinsider.com/the-richest-bankers-in-the-world-2012-3?op=1#alfredo-harp-helu-and-family-1, 13th March 2012, accessed 30th June 2013.

[12] Hariharan, “20 Most Richest Porn Stars on Earth,” on World of Female, http://www.worldoffemale.com/20-most-richest-porn-stars-on-earth-sfw/, 8th June 2013, accessed 30th June 2013.

[13] Tom Leonard, “Abused by the porn industry AND her feminist saviours: How Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace’s tragic life was a very modern morality tale,” on The Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2120823/How-Deep-Throat-star-Linda-Lovelaces-tragic-life-modern-morality-tale.html, 26th March 2012, accessed 1st July 2013.

[14] Mike Hammer, “Deborah Anderson’s book and film ‘Aroused’ looks at the people behind the porn industry,” on New York Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/update-nudes-aroused-eyes-porn-stars-article-1.1333286?localLinksEnabled=false, 3rd May 2013, accessed 29th June 2013.

[15] Stoya, “So You Want to Perform in Porn,” on Vice, http://www.vice.com/read/so-you-want-to-perform-in-porn, 8th June 2013, accessed 28th June 2013.

On the Menu – Sexism

The Prime Minister of Australia is an unmarried, Atheist woman so you would think that this would be a pretty progressive country. This week our opposition party (called the Liberal party despite the fact they are conservative) proved we still have a long way to go.

A menu from a fundraiser for a Liberal candidate in Queensland, Mal Brough has surfaced revealing the sexist undertones that still exist in Australian politics.

Image

The offending “dish” is the “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box.”

As you can see, other Labor members are made fun of on here (Rudd’s A Goose Foie Gras is a reference to former PM Kevin Rudd) but it’s the way Gillard has been described literally as a piece of meat. It is disgusting to speak about any woman this way but when it’s the Prime Minister it’s a new low.

You would never see a male politician described this way. I understand they don’t have breasts but there are other parts of the male anatomy that can be the butt of jokes.

Our opposition members sit there and accuse Gillard of playing the gender card, but when this is what she’s up against, what choice does she have?

 

 

 

Feminism is not a dirty word

Be honest, when you hear the word “feminism,” what images spring to mind? Let me guess, “butch” lesbian women with hairy legs and an outspoken hatred of men? Germaine Greer?

When you think of feminism you might see the now infamous “You can do it” poster  (despite the fact that this poster was designed to boost the morale of factory workers during the second world war) but what you should be confronted with is not an image but an idea.

The infamous "we can do it!" poster

The infamous “we can do it!” poster

Feminism by definition is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and when I refer to myself as a feminist, this is what I mean.

I don’t hate men, I believe that men and women should be equal.

I believe in equal pay for equal work.

I believe I should be afforded the same opportunities as men in work and education.

I also believe that feminism is about the freedom of choice, so if a woman chooses to be a housewife, that’s fine, as long as it’s her choice. If another woman chooses not to have children, that’s fine too.

A lot of people feel that there is no longer a need for feminism, we can vote, we have female leaders, paid maternity leave, what more could we possibly want?

Working in IT, a field generally dominated by men, has proved to me that there is still a need for feminism. When I call up certain manufacturers for support for their products they will often assume that I am a secretary or speak to me as if I am stupid. I have called up to try and organise a repair only to be asked “have you plugged the computer in?”

It’s not just in the professional sector I come across these problems. As a consumer, when I am buying something from an electronics store I find I usually need to take my Dad or another adult male with me just so I can get service. We will then be served by a man who will speak only to the man with me. If I ask a question, the response will be directed to my male counterpart. I don’t know if this is because they think he will have all the money or if it’s because they just don’t want to overload me with technical details and confuse my pretty little head. Generally, I think it’s the latter based on when I bought a laptop the one time the guy did talk to me was to tell me that “this one comes in pink.” (If you are wondering, no, I did not buy my laptop from there.)

With Julia Gillard as Prime Minister of Australia there is the feeling that, “this is it.” We made it. We broke the glass ceiling. Just one look at the shit Julia Gillard has to put up with proves this is not the case. I am not a supporter of Gillard’s but I do believe that she gets more abuse than she deserves purely because she is a woman. Not just a woman, but an unmarried, atheist woman. She has been called “barren” by members of the opposition because she doesn’t have children. These things have nothing to do with how she leads the country, yet they keep being bought up.  (I am aware of the irony of me bringing it up to prove my point so no need to point that out to me.)

Then you have Beyonce, arguably one of the most powerful women in the world, who calls herself a feminist. That’s great. I just wish she had done it while wearing clothes and not on a men’s magazine. I stand by Beyonce’s choice and right to pose in underwear if she wants to, I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is saying you’re a feminist whilst posing in a sexually suggestive manner for a men’s magazine which you know will objectify you. It kind of defeats the purpose.

Beyonce on the cover of GQ whilst speaking about feminism

Beyonce on the cover of GQ whilst speaking about feminism

I don’t believe we need an entirely new feminist movement but we do need to keep working. It’s something that needs to stay in public discussion. Germaine Greer and Beyonce do not speak for me. I speak for myself and I think all women should.