Volume 20, Number 12
Winter Soldier Campaign
Iraq veterans against the war -- Ivaw
Eighty and Still Protesting
Nut House Econ
Behind Burma's Repression
Nukes Are Back
Eleanor J. Bader
2 Book Reviews
U.S. & Eygpt
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Book Review - Getting Off by Robert Jensen
Pornography and the End of Masculinity
Cambridge, MA, South End Press, 2007, 196 pp.
My husband tells me that when heterosexual men talk about women in the locker room, the conversation reeks of sexism. For example, his largely middle-aged comrades reject their intellectual and social equals—they argue that females over 30 are universally unattractive—and instead fixate on hot 20-somethings. When he tells them that he’s happy with me, his partner of 23 years, he claims they visibly bristle.
It’s certainly possible that this group is an aberration. But it may also be a clue to the magnitude of problems besetting male-female relations. University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen has been studying gender for more than 20 years and has been heavily influenced by Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon. Like them, he’s a feminist activist who situates pornography at the center of America’s penchant for violence and domination. While many of his arguments rehash their work, he also seeks to make the men who consume porn aware of the messages they’re absorbing and asks them to assess why they are turned on by what they see.
Great questions. Sadly, Getting Off spends so much time chronicling the plots, sub-plots, and depictions in individual pornographic films— Jensen has apparently seen them all—that issues of gender competition and woman-hating get short shrift. In addition, Jensen’s solutions for curbing our culture’s anti-woman biases range from the nonsensical to the bizarre. First, he wants men to feel guilt—but not shame—about their porn use. “Shame names the feeling that one is bad, while guilt describes the recognition that one has done a bad thing,” he writes. “We need not reject the positive role of guilt by which one comes to see that an action was morally unacceptable.”
Sounding eerily ministerial, Jensen thunders that men need to pursue the sexual pleasure that derives from deep intimacy between partners. Missing is the acknowledgement that not everyone wants a deep commitment, that some of us are perfectly content to love ’em and leave ’em.
What’s more, Jensen’s world view includes the “abolition of masculinity.” At one point he goes so far as to write that he “chooses to renounce being a man.” It’s absurd. Jensen can be conscious of male privilege and can even attempt to forge non-chauvinistic relations with women. At the same time, he’s still male; while there is a huge continuum of behaviors that fall under the arc of masculinity, renunciation seems pointless, if not wholly impossible. In the same way that Caucasians can refuse to benefit from white skin privilege, a quick look in the mirror will reveal that despite their anti-racist politics, they’re still as white as they’ve always been. Likewise, fighting sexism is about ending male supremacy, not forcing men to morph into another species.
Even if you buy Jensen’s argument about the centrality of pornography to women-bashing, the many other arenas in which sexism is expressed—from the sermons of religious leaders to fashion magazines— are left dangling. Yet for all that, Jensen’s reminder—if we somehow forgot—that men bear the brunt of responsibility for perpetuating brutality and inequality against women, is worth repeating.
Still, I can’t help wondering how Jensen’s theories would resonate in the locker room. Might men agree to stay away from porn? Will guilt feelings surface and benefit them and their female companions? More importantly, will this improve conditions for women? Maybe I’m overly cynical, but I doubt it. At the same time, analyzing why most men are threatened by strong, smart women is essential if we’re ever going to have a healthy body politic.
Yes, porn’s depiction of women— in Jensen’s words as “three holes and two hands”—is often heinous. But the underlying issue of why men accept this portrayal as accurate requires a deep understanding of the psychological and political forces that shape identity. Challenging sexism and misogyny requires men to own up to both their power and their desires. It also requires women to be assertive, pushing the status quo toward inclusion and respect. Porn may play a role, but it’s at best just the tip of a large and unwieldy iceberg.
Eleanor J. Bader is the co-author of Targets of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism (St. Martin’s Press, 2001) and a contributor to In These Times, Library Journal, the NY Law Journal and the Progressive.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; email@example.com; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; email@example.com; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: email@example.com; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.