Caitlin Moran is funny. No question about that. How To Be A Woman is worth reading for the laughs. But unfortunately, despite all her shouting about being a feminist, she is male-identified
She states chategorically that Greer is “crackers” on the trans issue. How on earth a woman can still believe trans women are female after writing a book entitled “How To be a Woman” with a first chapter on ” I start bleeding” I don’t know. But it just goes to show how far cognitive dissonance can take you when you want a lot of people to read your writing, with minimum fuss all round.
It consists of quite a long explanation of why porn is good, persistently repeating the words “porn is not the problem” and offering the suggestion that the industry is. She does not put forward the idea that this is because of its rampant misogyny and exploitation of women and girls, but chooses to focus on the way it portrays sex as inauthentic, which in turn affects young girls’ perception of their sexuality. She’s not wrong about that. But the “monoculture” of boring porn is the main jist of her critique, and I am very confused by the shallowness of this analysis! For such an intelligent woman it is obtuse. In her words:
“So no. Pornography isn’t the problem. Strident feminists are fine with pornography. It’s the porn industry that’s the problem. The whole thing is as offensive, sclerotic, depressing, emotionally bankrupt and desultory as you would expect a widely unregulated industry worth, at an extremely conservative estimate, $30 billion to be.”
Actually, this statement is wrong. It’s not as offensive as any other industry. Because it depicts women as sub-human creatures who enjoy pain, because of its unapologetic racism, because of the way it targets and exploits a vulnerable class of people (women) for the benefit and profit of the dominant class (men), because of the way women are groomed into accepting painful intercourse such as double anal, which they previously would have turned down, no, Ms Moran, it is not as offensive as any other industry. To a woman-identified feminist it is more offensive.
One question she did not ask herself, was why porn should be allowed to continue when the industry has already proven itself to be inimical to women’s rights? If Moran is correct in saying that, ultimately, porn is good FOR WOMEN (because lets not forget what being a feminist is all about), then why should it deserve third fourth fifth fifth chances to prove it? Perhaps she means that men should be allowed to get their rocks of in a way that’s not as quite damaging to women as it currently is? Heaven forbid we ever tell men that no, their right to orgasm does not supercede the rights of women to have better economic options in life than sex in exchange for money.
But, why, given this context, should porn be given “another chance”, so to speak? Given all the damage this exploitative misogynistic industry has done to women, why isn’t every woman, including Moran, banging down the doors of the porn-lords demanding justice? HOW MUCH DAMAGE DOES AN INDUSTRY HAVE TO DO TO WOMEN BEFORE YOU CAN GET WOMEN TO SAY, “ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, PERHAPS PORN ISN’T SUCH A GOOD IDEA AFTER ALL”?
Women are much more understanding and aware of their true purpose in life than ever before. That purpose, of course, is to be receptacles of love; in other words, fuck dolls.
What’s in it for women?
Orgasms? But even Moran goes into lengthy detail about how racy novels can be used as sex aides. In fact, most women have probably had the experience of coming on the spot when reading. Doubt many women have come on the spot from watching another woman acting and pretending to have an orgasm though. WRITING and READING hurt fully NOBODY*.
Whereas pornography happens to women, as Dworkin pointed out.
This, is what Moran has missed. She pulls out the same old tatty card that the pornographers do: that porn is ancient, that it was painted on cave walls, that you will find it in the most sophisticated of museums around the world… but somehow manages to forget that a cave painting, or a work of art, is not a flesh and blood woman . They’re just DEPICTIONS of a sex act. Same goes for the Karma Sutra, or a racy novel. It is not happening to women. Over and over again.
According to Moran,
“This is why museums are so wonderful: walking around, observing mankind’s joyride from slime to WiFi, you see incredible ironwork, inspirational pottery, fabulous vellums and exquisite paintings and–across these disciplines–tones of fruity historical humping. Men fucking men, men fucking women, men going down on women, women pleasuring themselves–it’s all there. Every conceivable manifestation of human sexuality in clay, and stone and occhre and gold”
But pornography happens to women.. So if women can confuse the action of painting a picture, or carving on a pottery, with a woman being paid for sex, we’re still not even at first base.
It’s going to take us radfems a long time to help women such as Moran to tease the two apart: a depiction of a sex act, and a REAL WOMAN having porn happening to her are not the same thing. at. all. The porn industry has done a great job of convincing women otherwize.
“There is no such thing as good porn – I don’t care what label it gives itself.
But if you choose to view those inside porn as sub-humans – then you can pretend your porn is fine.” (rmott, exited prostitute and campaigner against prostitution and porn)
At best, if women orgasm from watching porn, it’s an accident, an unintended fluke. Porn is made for and catered to the sexuality of men.
Moran even manages to drag out a charicature of an anti-porn feminist, at which point anything else she had to say lost its credibility:
“‘NO! NO!’ a very angry woman shouted.
I regret to say that she looked like everyone’s cliched idea of a post-Dworkin feminist. She was wearing one of those little velvet smoking caps, covered in embroidery and mirrors”
Does Moran even like women? Because that sentence is laced with misogyny.
Finally, how retrograde can you get? How utterly Victorian to defend the concept of women having sex for any other reason than sexual pleasure? “Lie back and think of the money” is what women have been told by society for at least two thousand years. Isn’t it time we feminists at least, began arguing for a world where not a single woman has to have sex in exchange for money. After all, if they liked it that much they wouldn’t need to GET PAID, would they?
Ultimately, the concept of pornography buys into the belief that women are the “gatekeepers” of sex, that they do not have a vast, expansive sexuality of their own; that it is normal to chop down women’s sexuality into shapes that cater to male sexuality (seen in porn). I believe the dominant idea that is created in the mind of the public by the existence of porn is that women are acting in their private lives, and so why not get them to act in porn too, so they can at least get paid for the effort.
I’ve no doubt that for many women , this is most certainly the case, which is a testament as to how damaged authentic female sexuality is in a patriarchy. But we have to ask ourselves the questions: Is this right? and Don’t women, by now, deserve better?
When Caitlin Moran gets it right, she gets it SO right. And I would still recommend this book. But only for the writing, not the politics!
* Actually writing, just like porn images, can be used as propaganda to dehumanize women, which influences society. But at least writing is not actually being done to women, the way pornography is.
A poem by Robin Morgan–perfect for women who make money on novels that defend porn. [the last three lines are metaphor. It is a poem, after all!]
The One That GOt Away
The Woman Who Made It
We all know who I mean, even me.
She is the one who slid like an eel
from knowing any truth larger than herself.
She wheezed orgasms through all her rapes,
married well and joined clubs
and married average and glowed in the perfect home and kids,
and didn’t marry but “kept her freedom,”
fucked around in a Virginia Slims imitation of men,
never felt oppressed, of course,
made it into the Senate or,
the Weather Underground,
impressed even corporation execs and cookiepattern Che’s.
And she took up Zen,
went back to the earth, wore ankle-length dresses
and madonna mystical smiles,
baked natural bread, did astrology
and good works,
got elected to the Board of United Fruit
and the National Welfare Rights Organization Committee,
became a famous artist/engineer/pilot/architect/doctor–
“anyone can, I did; pull yourself up by your own G-string.”
She played: matriarch with a sense of humour,
tough broad, fragile flower, spiritual seeker
Jewish princess, a real pal, earth mother goddess,
tripper, capable unhysterical real woman friend,
juicy cunt, boyish gamin, lyrical lover, chic swinger and
–and anything else the boys dug in a female
at any given moment.
She even “expanded” her straight consciousness into being gay,
then bloomed into a macho copy of what is easier
to confront in men than in a sister
of what women in love never meant, not at all.
And yes, we know why.
We can pity the terror and comprehend the threat
to her of a women’s revolution.
We can understand that, until yesterday,
there were no other options.
We can even envy the heart-deadening rewards she seems to reap
for placing women last, after everything, anything else.
How she hates us in herself!
How we detest her in our mirror!
And she got herself killed, of course,
trying to shout Black Liberation Now
while her black brother’s foot was planted on her throat,
and then too one too many middleclass pills, committing suicide,
and after that had a heart attack at the
Fashion Industry Convention Annual Awards,
subsequently breaking her neck in a ditch, while stoned,
at the free farm in Vermont,
only to get her head blown off in a townhouse explosion,
two days later hemorrhaging out from a safe, expensive abortion,
afterward drinking herself to death or overdosing on smack,
and gave up the ghost forty years later, children all married,
while the other old ladies at the home,
or the entire congregation, or commune, or college, or congress, or movement, or family, or firm
Felt Her Loss Sincerely.
She refused to understand she was doomed from the start,
and she still doesn’t like being reminded.
Too bad, sister.
And there’s less and less time for her
to find her own way at her own speed.
She will hide behind our sisterhood, not hers.
She will say this is an anti-woman poem.
She will be the ultimate weapon in the hands of the boys,
And I’ve just begun to realize
that I must not only destroy what she is,
but if I have to, kill her.
And then cradle her skull in my arms
and kiss its triumphant grin
and not even cry for us both.