The feminist movement and the morality of the slaves

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 18 April 2011 in News
Amber Elliott’s run-in with the self-appointed sisterhood has reminded me why I resigned from the feminist movement, says Sadie Smith

It had been a long time coming. In fact, it’s more than ten years since I read Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch and discovered that submitting to sex without desire is not empowering. In fact, feminists should fight for the inalienable right of women to experience sexual freedom the same way men do, free from the straitjacket of a prescriptive male culture that reduces us to things that sex is done to, rather than erotic actors in our own right.

Feminism 101 for you there, kids.

In the intervening years, I witnessed the “Feminist Movement” – which is largely comprised of a collection of academics and affluent commentators – get into bed, literally and figuratively, with every male fantasy posing as a serious news item in the Daily Mail. Pole dancing? It’s hot as hell and a great way to keep fit! Strip clubs? Well, it’s just a financial transaction, innit? Prostitution, obviously, should be legalised. It’s a malaise, suffered particularly on the left, that holds everything even mildly taboo should be legalised in order to achieve logical consistency.

However, the latest craze to hit the sisterhood, and I hold “The Secret Diary of A Call Girl” in part responsible for this, is prostitute porn. This is the phenomenon where so-called sisters pen articles on how they were a high class hooker a few years ago and found it oh-so-liberating, not at all degrading, and anybody of a differing opinion is some sort of weird right wing moraliser.

No, ladies! No! Let’s get one thing clear: selling yourself for sex is already legal. What is being proposed here is that legalisation of soliciting and all the pimping paraphernalia it comes with. Is this what we want? For you, a brief foray into the dark underbelly of high-class whoring in between the planning meeting for the transgender workshop and your nail appointment might have been a bit of a lark. For the fifteen year old who has run away from an abusive home, ended up on the streets and whose pimp-cum-boyfriend has got her on smack as a human resources policy, it’s simply a matter of bleak survival. For you it’s choice. For most, it’s economic determinism, pure and simple. Not that the feminist movement has ever been concerned, from what I can see of their recent “work”, with the experiences of poor women or women from ethnic minorities. I guess it gets in the way of adorning the same old boring slave morality with lip-gloss and nipple tassels in order to titillate a bunch of online knicker-sniffers in the Guardian comment pages.

A couple of months ago, Project Prevention hit the headlines for offering £200 to heroin users in return for undergoing a sterilisation procedure. John, an addict, accepted the money and was duly de-knackered. He “chose” to do this, as much as anybody suffering from a chronically relapsing disease – which is essentially what chaotic heroin addiction is – can choose to do anything. Are people like this really in the same privileged position of the middle-classes who drone on about “choice” as if access to life chances is universal and not determined by factors over which some have little control?

Whilst the feminist movement continues to subscribe to this sort of pathetic behaviour, persists on advocating the submission to sex without desire in order to compete for approval from the sort of men who secretly despise them, disgraced, unsexed John is both their sister and their symbol.

Read Amber Elliott's piece on 'Why I will never be Melanie Phillips' from last week here.

Tags: Feminism

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