Columns: Buttons, Bags & Banknotes

Temperance crusaders, c. 1918 (photo is in the public domain)

Temperance crusaders, c. 1918 (photo is in the public domain)

Second-wave feminism in the UK has, like the first wave of the 19th century before it, devolved into a solution in search of a problem.  In many English-speaking countries there are plenty of women’s rights battles to be fought, such as the brutal campaigns against abortion access in the US and a wide variety of vital issues in India.  Even in Britain, there are a number of major problems it would be appropriate for feminists to address, but there’s a catch: they largely involve marginalized groups like sex workers and transwomen whom the remaining second-wavers consider to be enemies, or else nonwhite women they just don’t care about.

So just as the first wavers devolved from successfully crusading against the horrid Contagious Disease Acts to campaigning against things which made middle-class white women uncomfortable (including alcohol, sex work and masturbation), so second-wavers have followed up the monumental victories of the twentieth century with screaming about trivia.  While transwomen are hounded to death, they obsess about the number of women’s pictures on banknotes.  While sex workers are stripped of rights and repeatedly victimized by police, they aid the oppression by trying to criminalize our clients and destroy our means to work legally.  And when we dare to challenge their war on us, they demand social media give them a means by which to censor us.

Yes, I realize that the excuse which was used to demand the Twitter “report abuse button” was the horrible rape- and death-threats hurled against Caroline Perez, leader of the bank note campaign.  I also realize that A) it’s already illegal to credibly threaten someone, and the proof of that is the arrest of Perez’s worst abuser despite the lack of a button; B) Twitter already has a means of reporting serious abuse, but it requires effort and is therefore difficult to exploit for coordinated mass reporting campaigns against targeted individuals; and C) Any quick and easy means of reporting abuse can also be misused by the many for silencing the few, such as the aforementioned exclusionary feminists silencing sex worker and transgender rights activists.  When those with a history of attack, oppression and exclusion say they need a certain weapon for defense, you can be as certain as the sun rising in the east that it will also be used for offense; in fact, you can be sure that the offensive use is the intended one, and defense is simply the socially-palatable rationalization.

The truth of this bait-and-switch tactic is revealed by the reaction of the “Lose the Lads’ Mags” campaigners to the news that a group representing the country’s largest retailers have now demanded that publishers encase the magazines in “modesty bags” to hide their covers.  The crusaders’ original pretense was that “magazines and newspapers with naked women on their covers…[discriminate against]…employees uncomfortable with images of naked and near-naked women…”; if that were the real issue, the bags are an obvious solution because they remove the supposed offending stimulus (namely the pictures) from the workers’ environment.  But this is not and never was the actual, narcissistic, censorious reason for their demand:  those urging the stores to “Lose the Lads’ Mags” do not want these magazines to exist at all, anywhere in the world, whether within their line of sight or not; they believe that their privileged bourgeois feelings take precedence over everyone else’s rights, just as the temperance crusaders of a century ago did.

Third-wave feminism is generally inclusive, diverse and respectful of women’s individual choices, with the result that many if not most third-wavers find second-wavers embarrassing at best; many other women prefer to avoid the term “feminism” altogether, largely because of the sort of behavior described above.  Second-wave feminism is therefore aging and shrinking; many more of its devotees die off every year than new ones join, and within a generation it will vanish entirely as a social influence.  And given second-wavers’ fixation on their own petty concerns to the exclusion of those affecting women in general or humanity as a whole, that’s definitely for the best.

Posted in News and Comment and tagged as , , , , , , ,
2 comments Submit a comment
  • Pinky from Rajasthan commented on August 21, 2013 at 00:13

    “So just as the first wavers devolved from successfully crusading against the horrid Contagious Disease Acts to campaigning against things which made middle-class white women uncomfortable (including alcohol, sex work and masturbation),”

    I know that the crusade against alcohol was a result of these women getting beaten by their husbands who would turn violent after a number of drinks. The situation is the same today in parts of India where husbands are taking the hard earned money of their wives and blowing it on gambling and alcohol and beating their wives and kids while everyone goes hungry because the money was squandered.

    This is why in some villages in India you see women campaigning for making their village “dry”.

    Similarly in India it is not uncommon for men to pee in public and then masterbate in front of women, or just pull out their penises and masturbate in front of women without even the excuse of “well i just pissed anyway so i might as well make good use of an exposed penis while i’m at it”.

    Similarly I also read that at the time public masturbation was an issue here in the UK and US as well, so that is the reason for the campaign against masturbation.

    As for masturbation in private, in general, I know that Christians have historically had issues with it, calling it a “sin” or some such thing, and that was opposed by not just “feminists” at you cite above, but non-feminist women and men as well.

    The Brits were so opposed to that they created an entire capitalist industry around it, the “hysteria doctors”.

    Basically a woman was not supposed to feel any pleasure in her vagina, either from herself or her husband. Feeling sexually frustrated she would be diagnosed with a fake illness “hysteria” that had to of course be “cured” by “doctors” for a “price”. See how that works?

    But beyond that silliness, when it comes to the alcoholic beatings and public masturbation, we must realize that these women were doing what was within their means at the time to protect themselves from violence and sexual harrassement.

    Its easy for us to look back on all that now and scoff at it.

    I’m more understanding of it because I’m from India and I see the very real need to make some villages dry in order to save women and children from misery at the hands of their husbands and fathers.

    I also would like to see any random Indian man who pulls out his lund in front of me, castrated.

    Please read here;
    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1023053

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *