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As promised, here's the post. Let's do "read at your own pace", starting threads and replying to threads as you read (it's not like there's going to be spoilers, lol) but it seems like most people will be on the pace of a chapter or two a week. I'm looking forward to reading and discussing with you all!

I haven't started yet, but hope to by tonight. But please feel free to start a discussion as you read.

As promised, here's the post. Let's do "read at your own pace", starting threads and replying to threads as you read (it's not like there's going to be spoilers, lol) but it seems like most people will be on the pace of a chapter or two a week. I'm looking forward to reading and discussing with you all! I haven't started yet, but hope to by tonight. But please feel free to start a discussion as you read.

18 comments

I just finished reading the chapter on Abortion, and sisters, I am so righteously angry right now!

In the sexual liberation movement of the sixties, its ideology and practice, neither force nor the subordinate status of women was an issue. It assumed that unrepressed everyone wanted intercourse all the time...and it was assumed that in women an aversion to intercourse, or not climaxing from intercourse, or not wanting intercourse at a particular time or with a particular man, wanting fewer partners than were available, or getting tired, or being cross, were all signs of and proof of sexual repression.

The men took control of the sexual revolution from the very beginning and we're still living in it. Nothing's changed. Except that now, it's not just intercourse, you're repressed if you don't want to do every perverted or degrading thing that a man demands.

In their (right-wing women's) view, pregnancy is the only consequence of sex that makes men accountable to women for what men do to them. Deprived of pregnancy as an inevitability (through abortion and birth control), a woman is deprived of her strongest reason not to have intercourse.

I've been pro-choice my whole life, but I felt this deep.

[–] DoomedSibyl 6 points Edited

True reproductive freedom and rights encompasses a lot more than just the right to terminate a pregnancy. Even with abortion still (barely) legal, religion and social pressure has made it overwhelmingly a ‘moral’ issue rather than a medical issue. We don’t even really know what owning our own bodies and reproductive capabilities would be like. We literally can’t imagine it.

Because avoiding the punishment for a pregnancy that isn’t sanctioned by a male isn’t the only legitimate reason to refuse intercourse. The sexual revolution was bad for women, not because knowing our bodies and our sexuality would be bad but because the patriarchy didn’t go away. The sexual revolutions of the twentieth century gave men freedom and relieved them of traditional responsibilities. It did the opposite for women. Women gained responsibilities in being required to provide sex and lost their traditional protections. It’s even worse these days because women aren’t just expected to be available but to provide, uncomplaining services that in previous times men would have hesitated to ask of a professional.

Right wing women can’t imagine freedom any better than any other woman can do they try for the traditional illusory protections and hope to provide sex and services for one man rather than dozens and hope that being a useful domestic and mother of children will provide them with some measure of safety and respect.

Phyllis Schafly always blew my mind not only with her absolute loyalty to the not like the other girls persona but that she was surprised when other women didn’t want to meet patriarchal standards and wanted the freedoms she was enjoying and when men ultimately reminded her that she was after all just a girl and her hard work wouldn’t be rewarded. She died never examining these glaring contradictions.

In the first chapter, I learned some details regarding the actions and motivations of the more public figures (e.g. Anita Bryant, Phylis Schlafly, etc) of the anti-feminist movement in the 60s/70s. Although I had heard their names in the past, I wasn't well versed in their actual actions and/or arguments.

One of those arguments seems to be coming full circle with trans ideology these days: bathrooms! On page 32, Dworkin writes:

Fool that I was, I had thought that the Equal Rights Amendment was abhorrent [to right wing women] because of toilets. Since toilets figured prominently in the resistance to civil rights legisla­tion that would protect blacks, the argument that centered on toi­lets—while irrational—was as Amerikan as apple pie. No one mentioned toilets [at the 1977 National Women's Conference where Dworkin spoke to right wing women]. I brought them up, but no one cared to discuss them.

I didn't understand this 'toilet' reference, but found a few explanations in these two articles (at least one of which is pro-TQ; the two quotes below are from latter). Apparently in the South, when bathrooms were "separate but equal" (eyeroll), segregationists argued that integration would expose whites to disease:

public welfare was at stake...because venereal diseases were commonplace among blacks, and an integrated ladies’ room would put white women at risk of catching VD from black women.

Schlafly drew upon that racist legacy to stoke fear, especially in the Southern states that had not yet voted on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), about what effect an ERA passage would have on women's restrooms:

Once gender equality had been guaranteed under the Constitution [via the ERA], Schlafly cautioned, no laws could prevent men from entering women’s bathrooms. Public restrooms could become a dangerous trap.

Interestingly, last year I read some of WoLF's articles about why they are against the ERA passage:

The ERA has long been assumed to be an obvious win for women. However, WoLF’s legal analysis has concluded that the amendment may be used against women to end single-sex spaces, services, and accommodations by applying “strict scrutiny” to sex discrimination.

So I found all this herstory interesting, especially that Schlafly's anti-ERA argument has been found to have some validity in these TQ times, and also how frequently toilet arguments have been used to foment passions for/against a cause. (The Vox article linked above also goes into how toilet fears were used to fuel anti-homosexual sentiment as well).

In addition, I really liked the footnote on page 30 regarding Schlafly's debate with Catherine Mackinnon. I watched two of Mackinnon's videos last week (one of which was posted here on Ovarit) and I thought she was fantastic. Based upon all the accolades in that footnote, Schlafly also seems incredibly talented and intelligent, and I would love to hear the audio from that debate. I don't see anything like that on YouTube, but I do see perhaps a few transcripts floating around, but I'm not sure what to do with those links. Am I supposed to reach out via the contact details there? If anyone can enlighten me, I'd sure appreciate it!

Thanks all, and happy reading/conversing!

cw: rape

I still haven't started this, but I'll share some general thoughts about the premise. I went to a liberal college in a liberal city during the height of Jezebel, and "sex positive feminism" and all that. I fully bought into the lie that letting myself get used by men (although that's not what I would have called it at the time) would bring me freedom and liberation. But it sucked, it wasn't even sexually pleasurable, and I experienced various levels of abuse. I couldn't take it anymore, but I genuinely didn't see an exit within my milieu. I hadn't heard of radical feminism or anything like that.

So I ended up converting to a very conservative religion with VERY conservative rules about sexual contact. While the sex stuff wasn't my overt motivation, once I converted the relief I felt for no longer having to focus so much attention on being attractive to men was palpable. I felt free, able to pursue my interests as a real human, not just a sex object. Of course, my religion was very patriarchal, and I experienced sexism-some of it seriously troubling- along the way, including from other women. But it still felt like a lesser evil than what I had experienced.

But the illusion didn't last long. A few years after my conversion, one of the holy men raped me. And not only that, but it was the same old story of a predator repeatedly abusing women and children while all the other holy men turned a blind eye, or actually enabled him. And some women were complicit as well.

So the whole situation makes me so angry... obviously, at the religion, but also to the liberal situation I was fleeing from. It truly feels like there is no safe harbor for women. I pray for a resurgence in REAL feminism, that unabashedly centers women and girls. I pray more women will learn there's another way. They don't need to choose between two options of serving males.

I'm so sorry. It sounds like the promise of rules and safety was a lie, or rather a very unequal agreement that one party can break without consequences because they have all the power. I also hate the fact that young women who know there's something wrong and who search for feminism will be shown the fake distortions of feminism offered by libertines and libertarians and advertisers. I also long for more women and girls to find real feminism.

I've gotten through to the Gynocide chapter. Very intense, lots of recognition/new awareness regarding my mother's and grandmother's lives. Really clarifies how the trans movement is just the continuation of men trying to kill off 2nd wave feminism, because the much derided "white feminism" of 2nd wavers shut off the supply of compliant sexually-available women to sexist more-like-their-dads-than-they're-willing-to-admit antiwar protestors etc of the 60s. I think 3rd wavers are SO STUPIDDDDDD, because they have NOT taken the time to understand WHY 2nd wavers were antiporn, etc. They simply don't give a shit about any women's lives before them, and that's about as antisexist as you can get. I think it should be axiomatic in ANY liberation movement - you can't be fighting the good fight without being willing to study those who were fighting before you. In the US, women have been trying to get the vote since the founding of this country. Some women, a few women - we need to know who they are. I think any women's studies - er, gender studies - intro course should start out with a very basic discussion, regarding why activists TODAY need to read up on activists from the past. One thing that leaps out is how long this battle has been waged - unsuccessfully often - through NO fault of the activists back then. The forces arrayed against them were that powerful.

Some of her discussion/reasoning around the bible and religion and racism and sexism are hard to follow at points. Making sense of the bible passages she quotes. But I certainly recognize some male behavior I've encountered (painfully) before. Really giving me insights into men's utter callousness.

I'm really enjoying the book so far. Dworkin is such a powerful, evocative writer! Here are my thoughts on the first chapter. I'm just thinking things through, but I hope to use these notes to write a proper review later.

It’s tricky to describe the reasons for someone else’s ideology that you think is wrong. They will give reasons that you think are not the real reasons, which they will not admit. You have to hypothesise some kind of false consciousness to make sense of it. So I’m not sure Dworkin's assertions could ever be proven one way or another, but I really value attempts to understand the other side, not just write them off as idiots (I liked Hochschild’s *Strangers in Their Own Land”, which made a similar attempt).

Dworkin’s first chapter is about fear and the compromise that the right wing offers to women. She says women are aware that men are dangerous, violent and controlling, whether or not they allow themselves to admit it. Women fear men, and also feel anger because of the freedom, dignity and meaning they are denied by men. The right wing offers rules, structure, and safety of a kind in exchange for adopting male values and being obedient to male interests. And more than safety, committing fully to male ideology can sort of, almost, but not quite compensate for women not being allowed to develop their own values and meaning. It can at least help women hide from themselves that a male-built society denies them this opportunity. And the natural disappointment and anger women feel at making this compromise is then channeled towards outsiders—jews, lesbians, other races, the poor, anyone different.

 I do think this sounds very plausible but I don’t know many right wing American women, so I have to trust Dworkin’s characterisation.

I thought it might also be useful to use her insights to analyse left wing women who champion male values, something I’m more familiar with. I imagine some people would say that in many western countries, women have equal rights under the law now, and we have equality, and violence is rare and so on. But that’s not quite true. Domestic violence and sexual assault are still very, very common. We read about them in the news, in novels, and see them in film and television from a young age, so we grow up learning it is a possible fate for ourselves. And the same is true of prostitution. And even if we think these forms of violence will only happen to other women, less fortunate women, we must still recognise that we belong to the same category under the eyes of men and it's only good fortune we're treated as human, not commodities. And then film, advertisements, and the jokes and insults of boys and men around us will teach us that reducing a woman to her body, to a sex object, is always an option, an effortless one at that. Dworkin says that even without more specific insults men can always resort to reducing women to “pussy, cunt. Every other part of the body is cut away, severed, and there is left a thing, not human, an it, which is the funniest joke of all, an unending source of raucous humor to those who have done the cutting…the paring down of a whole person to vagina and womb and then to a dismembered obscenity is their best and favorite joke.” p16

If a decent family member, teacher or kind partner treats you like a human being with dignity, that will be nice but it won’t erase your awareness that this status is precarious and any male, even a stranger, could try to take your dignity from you. It cannot erase all the other memories of humiliation and degredation and objectification. And if you do escape violence you cannot escape the awareness that domestic violence and sexual violence happen to people like you, because they are the same kind: female.

So I still think that even more fortunate women in more progressive countries and left wing circles have good reason to fear men, to fear that they could be reduced in status at any time, and to feel that their dignity, self worth and social worth is not on very firm footing. For left wing women, as for right wing women, committing to male interests and ideology can temporarily stave off the humiliation and insults. Instead of being ridiculed as a basic bitch, karen, humourless, sex negative, terf, you can be “cool”—gain social currency—by joining in the sexual objectification of yourself and other women (but pretending it’s empowering and for yourself), and by accepting and joining in misogynistic insults and jokes (as long as they have the correct left wing flavour). I think that could be why left wing women support male libertinism (“sex positivity”), trafficking and prostitution (“sex work”), male fetishes and role playing (“identity”/“tolerance”) and so on: defending male interests is a fairly reliable way to net social credit, while real feminism is invariably unpopular (and not in a cool alternative way!) I think it’s possible that men also worry about their self worth and social worth and seek other ways to bolster it. That could be an interesting book. But right now I’m totally convinced that the constant sexual objectification of women in advertisements and media erodes our self esteem so powerfully that we’re perfectly primed to seek approval and worth in whatever ways are suggested to us.

Dworkin’s first chapter is about fear and the compromise that the right wing offers to women. She says women are aware that men are dangerous, violent and controlling, whether or not they allow themselves to admit it. Women fear men, and also feel anger because of the freedom, dignity and meaning they are denied by men. The right wing offers rules, structure, and safety of a kind in exchange for adopting male values and being obedient to male interests. And more than safety, committing fully to male ideology can sort of, almost, but not quite compensate for women not being allowed to develop their own values and meaning. It can at least help women hide from themselves that a male-built society denies them this opportunity. And the natural disappointment and anger women feel at making this compromise is then channeled towards outsiders—jews, lesbians, other races, the poor, anyone different.

 I do think this sounds very plausible but I don’t know many right wing American women, so I have to trust Dworkin’s characterisation.

Tbh it reminds me of my mother-who is very right-wing, and has CONTEMPT for women who haven't fallen in line like she has. Fat women, women who dress "slutty", lesbians or "masculine-seeming" (by her standards) women, etc. Definitely feels like some kind of projection.

Interesting! And it reminds me of something I read when I was getting into body positivity readings. I can't remember who it was but they said people sometimes get angry at fat people who love and respect themselves because it devalues the currency that the other people are working with--namely their attempts to gain worth through being thin. So it's a really interesting possibility that if you commit yourself to an ideology--especially one that harms you or requires significant sacrifices--as a way of gaining some good (meaning, worth, respect, happiness, etc) and you see someone getting what they want without making the same ideological commitment, without making the same sacrifices, that could call into question the meaning of all your efforts and suffering.

This is also a form of policing behavior and bringing others into line socially. It also calms the cognitive dissonance with the idea that the more people believe something the truer it must be just based on numbers. It’s why so many religions seek converts.

Hey all, I'm sorry that this fizzled out. I guess maybe a schedule would have better a better way to go about doing it. My life got really busy shortly after proposing this idea and I was hoping momentum would keep it forward. I hope some people read it anyway.

I finally finished reading it last week. Incredibly thought-provoking, but I was feeling overwhelmed and don’t find time to write my thoughts down.

In the future it might be nice to make a post for each chapter or each couple of chapters, so we could stop by and discuss each one according to our own schedule. I wish it were possible to sticky this circle or follow it somehow. In my feed everything else gets swamped by Radfemmery and Women.

I only read the acknowledgement so far😅.

This book owes its existence to Gloria Steinem, whose idea it was that I expand an earlier essay, “Safety, Shelter, Rules, Form, Love: The Promise of the Ultra-Right” (Ms. y June 1979), into a book. I thank Gloria not only for the idea but also for her insistence on its importance.

I searched for the article but couldn't find anything.

Didn't Gloria Steinem signed a letter that states "transwomen" are women and "transgirls" are girls?

Is there no digital archive for Ms. magazine? I feel that would be an important historical resource to have.

Gloria Steinem is fallen to the dark side but she was also tied the CIA so no big loss.