About tonight’s event [a screening of Lovelace followed by a talk by Catharine MacKinnon]
I’m still kind of in awe of everything that happened and really need to decompress from the movie (it was really harrowing), but I’ll put some initial thoughts about the movie and then some of the stuff from Catharine’s talk in this post and then another.
- I thought (and Catharine talked about this as a deliberate choice) that the structuring of the movie was really clever, in that the first third shows the Linda/Deep Throat story in a really glamorous, generally positive way. There are hints of what’s going on in the background if you know the story, and a lot of Chuck’s grooming techniques are definitely apparent if you know what to look for, but generally you get the “public” version of the Lovelace/Deep Throat story. Then, the narrative switches by showing Linda undergoing a polygraph six years later at the request of her publisher as she tells the truth about what happened to her, and we rewind backwards to see what was really happening in the background and Chuck’s abuse (though as Catharine noted, you really only see a fraction of a fraction of what happened to her, and some things are restructured/reordered to create a narrative arc). I thought this was a good choice because it makes the audience re-think the glamorous image of pornography that we’ve accepted as the truth, and it also makes the audience feel complicit in the abuse for buying into the initial story.
- Catharine talked about how much of the abuse Linda suffered was cut out of the movie (she repeated the quip that if they showed it all, the movie would be completely unwatchable) and she took issue with how they turned the story of Linda and Chuck into a “woman is drawn to a man by love who then turns out to be abusive” trope instead of the truth of the matter, which is that Linda was only with Chuck initially to escape her parents and the abuse started when she tried to leave, and from then one was constant rather than an arc of good times mixed with progressively worse abuse.
- She also took issue with how the film fabricated that Linda was “saved” from Chuck by one of the pornographers (she referred to all of the men involved in the production of Deep Throat as pimps) and the more sympathetic/comic relief portrayal of the pornographers and Linda’s costar.
- One of the audience members pointed out how when the revelation of the abuse started in the narrative, the pornographers were almost completely removed from the narrative, as if they were not complicit in and perpetuating the abuse themselves. She pointed out that Linda recounted many times that they knew what Chuck was doing to her and told her they wished the could help but did nothing.
More thoughts on Catharine’s talk and anti-porn stuff in the next post.
More stuff about the discussion/thoughts from Catharine MacKinnon on pornography and Lovelace
More scattered thoughts. My phone was dying so I didn’t get as many notes as I wanted, but I got all the best points.
- Someone asked Catharine if “feminist porn” was possible and I resisted the urge to scream DO YOU EVEN GO HERE? Catharine talked about the definition of pornography she’d developed with Dworkin and how it requires the subordination of women depicted in a sexually explicit manner, and how within that definition, pornography can not be feminist because subordination and liberation are antithetical.
- As part of that, she talked about common fallacies in pro-porn logic:
- The narrative that “abuse isn’t required to make pornography, it’s just an unfortunate part of some of the industry” does not explain why, if this is so, abuse is so prevalent in the industry. If the main goal of pornographers is to make profit and they are rational actors, they will act in ways that maximize profit. If abusing and exploiting women harmed their profits, they would not do it, so it is therefore a tautology that abuse drives profit in the pornography industry.
- She noted how often people will in one breath talk about the liberating nature of pornography and then turn around and talk about it as a dirty but necessary job, comparing it to cleaning toilets, serving food, or even disposing of nuclear waste. She talked about how hollow “liberation” arguments sound when paired with these comparisons, and how they ignore the context in which the people who typically perform these tasks end up doing them — i.e. the class, race, sex factors that often limit people options, making these jobs a matter of necessity rather than free choice.
- “Nobody held a gun to my head to make me become a law professor. Someone did hold a gun to Linda’s head to make her do porn.” — talked about the struggle and years of fighting she had to go through to get where she is, whereas Linda and women like her have to be forced to participate in supposedly “liberating” and “empowering” things like porn. Asked why we don’t talk about the things that are empowering/liberating for women are the things we have to fight for.
- Was asked by someone from the Netherlands about legalized prostitution, and she talked about how the Netherlands model has always driven up trafficking, abuse, violence, and disease while only lowering rates of arrest for prostituted people. Stated that the only system proven to help sex workers on the other factors is the Swedish model.
THEN THE MOST INTERESTING STUFF OF THE NIGHT!
- Someone asked her about the dangers of anti-pornography feminists and “family values” conservatives getting in bed together to pass anti-pornography laws. She stated that she and Dworkin working with “family values”/right wing types was a complete fabrication, the result of a smear campaign by the pornography industry aimed at discrediting their work.
- She said half a million dollars was spent in the first year along to hire a PR firm to push this narrative, which was blindly repeated by the press. While she said they DID work with Republicans on the Indianapolis measure, they were not “family values” conservatives or Republicans as we think of them today, and noted that if the ordinance WAS a right wing law it would certainly have been passed under Reagan’s administration.
- Finally, she noted that the politics of the liberation of women can not be viewed as part of and transcends the liberal/conservative dichotomy because it is a completely different kind of politics/political movement. She noted that the fight is only talked about in these terms as a tactic to drive away liberals who should support the measure as a matter of human rights by pushing the false “empowerment” narrative.
- She still believes the Indianapolis ordinance is the best way to combat abuse in pornography and get compensation for victims, and noted that because of the way the supreme court upheld the ruling by summary judgment, it was not actually ruled unconstitutional and could still be proposed/used.