Meghan Murphy has written a really brilliant essay called Erasure, about how women’s voices are silenced generally, but also about how liberal/sex-posser ‘feminists’ dominate the left/liberal media.
It is based on her talk at the panel Creating Alternative Platforms for Feminist Analysis, hosted by Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter for their annual Montreal Massacre Memorial event.
The things we do in our lives, the experiences we have, our opinions, beliefs, and words are treated as frivolous — erased, marginalized, without value. In turn, our lives, in and of themselves, become unimportant and so our ongoing struggle for humanity — not fuckability, not visibility in front of the male gaze, not glorification of “the feminine” — called the feminist movement, too is devalued, erased, discredited, silenced.
We are allowed to speak for ourselves so long as we don’t politicize that speech, so long as we don’t attempt to connect our experiences as women to the experiences of other women, so long as we are sure to offend no one with our personal experiences. If it’s just personal, after all, our troubles belong only to us — to heal from, to resolve, to overcome. There is no possibility for solidarity among women so long as we are only having personal experiences that, let’s be honest, are probably just all in our heads.
We have never been trustworthy narrators of our own stories, never mind anyone else’s.
When I started blogging, back in 2010, I was, admittedly, naive about the deep divides that exist between liberal and radical feminists. I still struggle with how to name those divides properly. I refer to those who refuse to make obvious connections between various forms of violence against women and who work to decontexualize our collective subordination as “liberal feminists,” “sex-positive feminists,” or “third wave feminists,” never wholly sure of the most accurate label. I realize this is because what I actually believe is that, if you can’t (or won’t) connect the dots between prostitution, pornography, rape culture, sexual harassment, objectification, femicide, colonization, domestic abuse and, more generally, female subordination, you are not a part of this movement — the feminist one. In other words, it’s not that you’re doing it wrong, it’s that you’re not doing it at all.
Feminism is a real thing. It means something. It is a particular analysis. It is not whatever any individual says it is or wants it to be. It is not “inclusive.” It is not everything nor should it be — if feminism is everything then it is nothing. It is not about framing misogyny as empowerment because it makes us feel better. It is a movement. It is political. It is what we call the woman-led fight to end patriarchy and male violence against women.
I hadn’t learned the rules before throwing myself in the deep end. I started to get published at a few places but noticed that none of the bigger liberal American platforms (even the leftist ones) were publishing critiques of the sex industry or even of objectification and the male gaze. Strange. They must not be aware these critiques exist, I thought. Perhaps they hadn’t heard of the Nordic model — perhaps it hadn’t occurred to them that rape porn could be connected to rape culture. I knew it was uncool to call sexy selfies narcissistic and to argue that, while burlesque might make you feel pretty, pasties subverted nothing at all, but didn’t realize I actually was not allowed to say such things.
So I pitched and pitched and pitched and was ignored more often than not. In some cases the rejections were vaguely clear enough to convey that _____.com would not publish articles that criticized the legalization of prostitution or critiqued “Belle Knox feminism” or questioned the popular “sex work is work” mantra. The sites that were dominating the conversation around feminism and the women who worked for these sites were not, in fact, “helping other women” — they were helping their friends, friends who held the same political ideology, who thought prostitution was fun and cool, who didn’t dare question the party line, who could afford to hang about in New York City on their parent’s dime, shmoozing with those who held the reigns to the tightly-knit New York media cabal. They were heavily invested in attacks on the second wave and in promoting a marketable version of “feminism” that supported capitalism, boobs, and boners.
At first I thought it was all in my head, but it wasn’t. I’d been blackballed. My words had broken the unspoken rule all young female journalists and writers were to follow: keep it light, keep it sexy, don’t dare to move beyond the Twitter mantras that passed for “feminism” these days. If you want to write about “whorephobia” and “slut-shaming,” great. Even better if you can write about how radical Slutwalk is and point to all the “agency” of your white, rich “sex worker” friends. But to say anything else was to bite the hands that feed you. Liberal feminists and sex industry advocates had become one in the same and the media reflected that.
While the numerous conferences, listservs, Facebook groups, and networks created for female journalists and writers have been, I’m sure, enormously helpful for some, they also suffer from something that has long kept women out of traditionally male fields: cronyism. The women who’ve managed to “make it” deny this, but if we’re real about who is being supported, lifted up, whose labour is made visible and whose is intentionally erased (even in conversations about that visibility) — it’s not “women,” it’s women who have played the game.
Back in August, there was an incredible brouhaha over a piece by journalist, Melody Kramer, called, “A list of every hidden journalism-related social media group I could find.” Her supposed crime was to have included on her list a secret (but not secret at all — the group was written about by Emily Greenberg in Vogue last year and by Jonathan Chait in January), invite-only Facebook group called “Binders Full of Women Writers.” Now, this is no trivial group — it contains over 31,000 members. It’s professed purpose “is to allow writers to network and exchange tips, and to expand the number of female writers published across the industry.”
Yet Kramer was ripped to shreds by the group’s members simply for acknowledging its existence. She was kicked out of a group whose “ground rules,” as Greenberg outlined, stress “a ‘laid-back’ and ‘no pressure’ environment” with an “About” section that reads, “All women, genderqueer, and nonbinary identifying writers are welcome, as is self-promotion, pal-promotion, open conversation, and other methods and means intended to ‘take down the patriarchy.’”
Take down the patriarchy, eh? So long as you keep those load-bearing walls up, don’t knock down the foundations, maybe just move the furniture around a bit, paint the walls a nice sunny yellow, and rent out one of the rooms to make a quick buck…
Journalists have fought for transparency, accountability, and access for generations. Yet the liberal media and the women who are part of that in-crowd are working against access and accountability rather than for it.
There are millions more who are far less privileged than I and so it amuses me (in a rather ragey way) to see young, middle class, American women blathering on about “privilege” and “marginalized voices” on Twitter within the safety and comfort of their family money, Ivy League educations, fancy internships, and gifted property. It’s no mere coincidence that these women and men are the same ones who write articles for Playboy and Jezebel about how empowering “sex work” is and call anyone who disagrees a variety of names that all amount to anti-feminist cliches about “prudes” and “man-haters.” (We hear you — you love dick. That’s not a politic. That’s something insecure 19-year-olds say because they want to be cool.)
So we have an in-crowd that consists mostly of privileged, American, liberal women, based in New York, who have turned cronyism into “feminism,” rejected women who question the patriarchal and capitalist status quo, and have turned words like “diversity,” “inclusivity,” and “privilege” into media careers.
Moderator and admin of the Binders Full of Women Writers Facebook group, Lux Alptraum, is an Ivy League alum who was the CEO, owner, and editor of porn blog, Fleshbot (until she sold the site to SK Intertainment in 2014). She is an outspoken pro-porn and pro-prostitution advocate who spends an awful lot of time presenting the sex industry as something “cool girls” are into and making derisive comments (or verbally attacking) about feminists who challenge it.
Alptraum has spun this group into BinderCon, a two-day “career-building event” that takes place annually in New York City and LA, sponsored by the online women’s magazine Bustle. It’s fair to say that she plays a notable role in terms of deciding who is allowed to network — and therefore who has access to jobs/work/viable careers in writing and journalism — and who is not.
The new erasure is the same as the old, but this time they’re calling it “feminism.” A kind of “feminism” that is not only detached from the global feminist movement, but that actively works against it. That supports “diversity” but not a diversity of ideas. A kind of feminism that attacks radical women, only to turn around and sell books that regurgitate the arguments we were making all along (but minus the credit). A genius Con if there ever was one.