About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An extra note on boobquake for people who don't "get" it

Following from my comment at Jerry Coyne's boobquake post. We're talking about women voluntarily wearing clothes which seem to them to be fun and sexy. Note that it was a woman who had the idea and that many other women are getting into it enthusiastically. I think there's a reason for that. We're not talking about pornographic images that are meant to do dirt on female beauty for the benefit of men who fear it. 

I'm not a fan of pornography because I think that this is what much (I'm not saying all) pornography is all about. In that sense it's deeply misogynist. But we need to make the distinction between rational critique of this kind of pornography and getting upset at the sort of sexual display by women that the women themselves feel good about. Women are entitled to dress in ways that strike them as wild, and fun, and sexy, and we are all entitled to enjoy it if they do. Contrary to the rantings of an Iranian cleric, women get to be flirty or frivolous or to exult in their beauty. The difference between enjoying this and resorting to misogynist pornography is as radical as the difference between laughing with someone and laughing at someone.

Much 1980s radical feminism was too unnuanced to make these sorts of distinctions. Sure, some of its targets - the kind of pornography I mentioned - were legitimate ones. But much of the critique was so scattergun as to give the impression of rationalising anxieties about sex and the body. The people concerned would have been in good company with Saint Augustine or a brace of mullahs from Iran.


Chris Lawson said...

Russell, I agree completely with your critique of the extremist versions of feminism going around in the 80s and early 90s. I could never get past Andrea Dworkin saying that all penetrative sex was degrading to women. It was nothing more than her projection of her own traumatised sexuality onto a moral code she wanted to impose on the rest of the world, which paradoxically made her a lot closer to the Catholic Church than Emily Pankhurst.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I never had to get with the program, as I was brought up with the whole idea of women and their total freedoms - Mum and Dad were clear on that.

Did you know the idea of sexual morality was never a concern of early religious establishment - all the crap came later to support the desire of Bishops and Kings - that's another story.

A woman needs to know if she wants to walk down the street naked then it is her right to do so, and to do so without drawing physical or mental harm from anyone. The same goes for men.

Socially we do have nudity laws so you do have to answer to those, but even so, you can do this.

This is a case of no means no and you don't have to be religious to understand and accept that. A woman can celebrate herself in anyway she chooses, the same way men celebrate their own bodies.

And Chris, you are quite right - the Catholic Church was and in many ways still is a barrier to female freedom


skepticlawyer said...

Thank you for your sanity on this, Russell.