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105 Responses

  1. Ashley
    Ashley April 5, 2012 at 10:11 am |

    “Nudity when celebrated harms no one, and when made shameful and barbaric harms everyone.”

    Brilliant!

  2. Ariel
    Ariel April 5, 2012 at 11:18 am |

    This. Is. Awesome.
    I’m so hopeful for the future right now. Bodily acceptance would be a great thing if it was world wide. If women and men could be so okay with their own and eachothers bodies that no one felt they had to look a certain way or thought “Am I normal?” Cause they would know. It would be openly discussed and maybe even shown. And womens bodies would no longer be sexualized simply for existing. It could end up that a woman could love herself, in a fat acceptance way and in a ‘it’s my body, no one is allowed to shame me about it.’ way. Wouldn’t that be great?!
    In my mind fat acceptance and normalising all body types through nudity, and many other ways,ho hand in hand.

  3. Tei Tetua
    Tei Tetua April 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm |

    This was written about and extensively commented on, at Iblamethepatriarchy:
    http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/2012/03/08/nude-revolutionaries/

    It does seem perverse, in a world where women are eternally the subject of voyeurism and pornographic images, to say that it accomplishes anything to give the gawkers more of exactly what they want.

    OK, you can go off and be a naturist if you want. It’s a lovely ideal, but in a world where women etc etc, it’s a bit naive.

  4. Surprised at Work
    Surprised at Work April 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

    Can this be put behind a NSFW cut for those of us that access blogs on RSS feed readers such as Google Reader?!?!? Thanks!

    [Done. - C]

  5. EG
    EG April 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm |

    It does seem perverse, in a world where women are eternally the subject of voyeurism and pornographic images, to say that it accomplishes anything to give the gawkers more of exactly what they want.

    Images have different valances in different contexts. If I were living in a culture like that of, say, Victorian England, that deemed showing my ankles immodest, unladylike, and bad, it would absolutely be a feminist act to wear shorter skirts, notwithstanding the prevalence of Victorian porn.

  6. Tei Tetua
    Tei Tetua April 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm |

    Yeah yeah. I remember reading a message on a feminist discussion board (back before everyone went to blogs) about something like this, where someone said “Isn’t it interesting how many social problems get solved by women taking their clothes off.”

  7. piny
    piny April 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm |

    I think it’s a little perverse to assume that this woman’s body is being offered to anyone, let alone to sexist men.

    And you’re not withholding anything from a misogynist patriarch by refusing to show skin, are you? By that logic, there’s nothing a woman can do to exercise any control over her body or challenge patriarchal doctrine. Modest or immodest, she’s owned and delivered. I think there is potential in this project and in others, and I respect the judgment of these women on how best to communicate their own resistance.

  8. piny
    piny April 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm |

    Images have different valances in different contexts. If I were living in a culture like that of, say, Victorian England, that deemed showing my ankles immodest, unladylike, and bad, it would absolutely be a feminist act to wear shorter skirts, notwithstanding the prevalence of Victorian porn.

    Exactly. A feminist in a baggy tshirt is not a Gothardist; a lesbian with a shaved head is not a nun.

  9. Donna L
    Donna L April 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm |

    Of course, according to the linked blog, in a patriarchy all images of women, nude or otherwise, are “inherently pornographic.” So Piny is right, there’s nothing a woman can do, involving images of any kind, that can be properly characterized as a feminist act or does anything other than reinforcing the patriarchy.

    Obviously, I don’t buy it. There have been some wonderful projects involving nude photographs of trans women’s, and trans men’s, bodies, which I see as very much non-pornographic, and an extremely positive step, and as nothing whatsoever like the “tran** porn” (or the other term I won’t mention even with asterisks) that you can find all over the Internet.

  10. Natalia
    Natalia April 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm |

    OK, you can go off and be a naturist if you want. It’s a lovely ideal, but in a world where women etc etc, it’s a bit naive.

    Oh hai.

    Adult women so need to be patted on the head and called naive.

  11. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 5, 2012 at 3:15 pm |

    Yeah yeah. I remember reading a message on a feminist discussion board (back before everyone went to blogs) about something like this, where someone said “Isn’t it interesting how many social problems get solved by women taking their clothes off.”

    Right back at you. Isn’t it interesting how many social problems get solved by telling women who are owning our bodies and expressing ourselves that we are being “perverse” or “naive”? Your discourse exists within the context of patriarchy too, you know. Maybe you could consider the ways in which your shaming tactics reinforce this patriarchal oppression–the kind the forces women to wear the veil, the kind that stones women to death who have “perverse” sex outside of marriage, the kind that tells women who walk around the city late at night wearing a short skirt that they are being “naive” and “giving the gawkers more of exactly what they want” and probably also sending out an invitation to be raped? Anyway, I’d appreciate it if you support women who are exercising self-determination over their own bodies and lives.

  12. Dominique
    Dominique April 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

    Can’t speak for all. Can speak for me:

    1) I have practiced naturism (though I don’t do it all the time); but
    2) I have never posed in a calendar (although somewhere, there are pics of my bodypainted naked self which I do not intend to use for public consumption)

    And to me, the difference between servicing the male gaze and being defiant, as a feminist revolutionary, is to pose without the intention of being seductive — without the wish, or the acceptance of the need, to pull in the male gaze for some type of exchange or transaction, whether or not it supposedly serves your cause (à la PETA well-it-works-doesn’t-it).

    One example of this is Nancy Upton lampooning American Apparel’s plus size model contest. Her poses were priceless, and definitely transgressive.

  13. benvolio
    benvolio April 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm |

    Yeah, I loved the Upton project so so much. Good example!

  14. EG
    EG April 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm |

    I remember reading a message on a feminist discussion board (back before everyone went to blogs) about something like this, where someone said “Isn’t it interesting how many social problems get solved by women taking their clothes off.”

    Sure. Now that you’ve gotten that off your chest, perhaps you can actually address the point about cultural context? Because…this doesn’t.

  15. Mxe354
    Mxe354 April 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

    It does seem perverse, in a world where women are eternally the subject of voyeurism and pornographic images, to say that it accomplishes anything to give the gawkers more of exactly what they want.

    It looks like you have no clue why she’s even doing this in the first place. It’s a powerful message against the sexist, patriarchal culture in the Middle East, not an attempt to gain attention.

    OK, you can go off and be a naturist if you want. It’s a lovely ideal, but in a world where women etc etc, it’s a bit naive.

    It looks like you don’t know about the purpose of naturism, either.

  16. Nahida
    Nahida April 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm |

    Is this being sold… in the Middle East?

  17. Nahida
    Nahida April 5, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

    it’s very important to remember that, while many Islamic women are currently at more risk than women in most other cultures, this phenomenon is not confined to Islam.

    Okay, sure, then we’ll just appropriate Elmahdy’s struggle. Shits going down over there but DON’T FORGET ABOUT US!

    It says the calendar includes a diverse group of women but from the pdf all I see are affluent countries in which these women will NOT be receiving death threats for posing nude on a calendar.

    Are you fucking kidding me? If you want to sell a nude calendar in the name of feminism then sell a nude calendar in the name of feminism! Great! Nude calendars are awesome. Don’t pretend Elmahdy has anything to do with it, or that this is even COMPARABLE to her bravery.

  18. Tony
    Tony April 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm |

    I agree with Nahida… the women’s rights situation in Egypt right now is very bad. A bunch of laws enacted in the past 10 years allowing women to share custody of children, make divorce easier, and try to establish a minimum age of marriage are being wrapped with the cloak of Suzanne Mubarak and attacked as having no basis in sharia law; as is Egypt’s (conditional) commitment to the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which the country has at least nominally signed on to since 1981. The goal is now under attack as having no basis in shariah. No women have been elected to the constitutional council. The existence of the National Council for Women is under attack and the head of one of the supposedly non-Islamist parties wants to replace it with a ‘National Council for the Family.’ Leaders in the two largest parties, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Al-Nour party, have stated that the goal is to return to shariah law. It will be very hard to maintain any laws that protect Egyptian womens’ rights without a clear tie to shariah. Worst part of it is, the most regressive candidates on womens’ rights are the only ones speaking out for the rights of Egypt’s millions of economically deprived; the moderates are seen as agents of the economic elite. The notion of progressive populism does not seem to exist today in Egypt. In comparison to all of this the “nude photos” controversy is a red herring.

  19. Tei Tetua
    Tei Tetua April 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm |

    If these nude calendars and protests are being defended as feminist, what is the justification for opposing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)? You know, the group that uses porn-derived images to grab everyone’s attention for their campaign against wearing fur. I’ve never heard a good word said about them by any feminist.

    “Revolution” my buttocks. It’ll be a revolution when nobody expects to gain publicity by putting women on display.

  20. Donna L
    Donna L April 5, 2012 at 5:14 pm |

    Don’t pretend Elmahdy has anything to do with it

    Does anyone know if they got her permission to use her name and photo in their calendar?

  21. the_leanover
    the_leanover April 5, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

    As much as I really don’t agree with a lot of things Twisty Faster writes, or the way she writes them, I think some of you are being a little disingenuous in the reactions to this one; she does specifically focus on the point that female nudity (as a form of protest or otherwise) does not mean the same thing in a Western context as it does in, for instance, Egypt. She’s not discussing the original picture, she’s discussing the calendar project. I wouldn’t be inclined to agree with the premise that in patriarchy all images of women are inherently pornographic (partly because I think that sets us off down a very bleak path of no resistance, where language and every other form of representation is irretrievably tainted and we have to regress into some kind of anti-civilization nature-mother imaginary, which does not to me seem particularly productive… but that’s a digression). The kernel of the point, that images mean different things in different patriarchal contexts, and that sometimes certain forms of protest can be appropriative (as pointed out by Nahida), isn’t really a controversial one, is it?

  22. the_leanover
    the_leanover April 5, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

    To clarify, I’m not necessarily saying I agree with Twisty’s interpretation of the calendar project or that it’s not ‘really feminist’ or whatever the fuck, and I do think Tei Tetua’s original post was terrible and patronising, and there are absolutely criticisms to be made of Twisty’s approach to stuff like this. But the posts responding with the point that the original picture was revolutionary in its original context (which I completely agree with!) seem to be kinda talking past the point made in the article.

  23. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 5, 2012 at 6:43 pm |

    If these nude calendars and protests are being defended as feminist, what is the justification for opposing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)? You know, the group that uses porn-derived images to grab everyone’s attention for their campaign against wearing fur. I’ve never heard a good word said about them by any feminist. “Revolution” my buttocks. It’ll be a revolution when nobody expects to gain publicity by putting women on display.

    OK, Tei Tetua, I’ll try to answer this! First, PETA reinforces oppressive body image standards, ageism, and fatphobia by using only the bodies of young, thin, and conventionally attractive women. This Nude Revolutionary Calendar uses women of a variety of ages, body types, and appearances–so it’s not reinforcing those standards.

    Second, PETA uses images of women’s bodies as a sensationalistic stunt to grab attention (as you pointed out) even though it doesn’t rationally actually have anything to do with their message (you know, there’s plenty of other things to wear besides fur so one would ever have to go naked rather than wear fur, which is an expensive luxury product anyway). The calendar, on the other hand, shows women’s naked bodies to express solidarity with a woman who was actually harrassed by her government for showing her naked body. . .so the message and the way of communicating the message line up perfectly. This is simply the best way to communicate this message, it’s not about “[gaining] publicity by putting women on display” or some such thing.

    And I mean, finally (and I hope obviously), this calendar is created by feminists, with the intent of spreading a feminist message that critiques patriarchy and theocracy, and the proceeds generated from it will go to support feminist activism. None of these things apply to PETA’s nudity campaigns.

    So, in conclusion, this calendar really has nothing in common with PETA’s schtick except the presence of women’s naked bodies. And I’m a little offended that you couldn’t recognize that?

  24. Carpenter
    Carpenter April 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm |

    Props to Elmahdy, but that calender is made by women in very different political environments. I understand the want to express solidarity but one must be careful not to appropriate/trivialize the original act. There seems to be a little bit of l Dances with Wolves syndrome here.

  25. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm |

    Okay, sure, then we’ll just appropriate Elmahdy’s struggle. Shits going down over there but DON’T FORGET ABOUT US! It says the calendar includes a diverse group of women but from the pdf all I see are affluent countries in which these women will NOT be receiving death threats for posing nude on a calendar. If you want to sell a nude calendar in the name of feminism then sell a nude calendar in the name of feminism! Great! Nude calendars are awesome. Don’t pretend Elmahdy has anything to do with it, or that this is even COMPARABLE to her bravery.

    I pretty much disagree with your point here Nahida. Aliaa Magda Elmahdy and Maryam Namazie (the woman who created the calendar) have a lot in common. They are both ex-Muslim atheists. They are both secularists. They are both feminists. While Namazie may live in an affluent, Western country, she grew up in Iran and had to flee her country as theocrats were taking it over when she was 16 years old. So I think Maryam Namazie has a right to feel and express solidarity with another atheist, secularist, feminist woman who is oppressed by theocrats in the somewhat similiar way to the way that she was when she was around Elmahdy’s age. I agree it would’ve been great if there some women currently living in countries like Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Iran, but the fact that they weren’t in it doesn’t invalidate the calendar as an awareness tool or expression of solidarity.

  26. Debbie Notkin
    Debbie Notkin April 5, 2012 at 10:58 pm |

    Tei Tetua, your point is an important one, I think. I don’t agree with Twisty on most issues, but I read her regularly and welcome her (and your) voice in the discussion. When Laurie and I wrote this post, we certainly did it with an awareness of how women’s bodies (nude or otherwise) are consistently co-opted. Our position is that the only way to counter that is individual choice, which is part of why we are so impressed with Elmahdy.

    Nahida, thanks for bringing these things up. We believe with LotusBecca that Namazie’s involvement is what makes this a valuable act rather than a Dances with Wolves travesty, but mileage can vary. I cannot imagine what Elmahdy’s life is like; however, when I try, it seems to me that international support and backup would be at least mostly welcome at least most of the time.

  27. Katie grosso
    Katie grosso April 6, 2012 at 2:46 am |

    I have to admit that I too, like some of the other voices on this post, am weary of the whole ‘nude photos as revolutionary act’ idea. There is the argument that the cultural significance of this is certainly different in Egypt than in the U.S. where perhaps the implications of the act would be more readily usurped by the male gaze….but I also wonder if this would be interpreted in Egypt not as an expression of the Egyptian women’s resistance and agency, but rather an expression of a decidedly western conception of feminism…

    And on a grander scale, this post makes me wonder if we should fight these battles upon our bodies…should we ‘reclaim’ our bodies through various acts of covering and revealing our bodies? Does this just riefy the idea that woman is body, the constantly contested body? How can we put an end to this conflation if we are still engaging in it?

  28. Mxe354
    Mxe354 April 6, 2012 at 5:14 am |

    And on a grander scale, this post makes me wonder if we should fight these battles upon our bodies…should we ‘reclaim’ our bodies through various acts of covering and revealing our bodies? Does this just riefy the idea that woman is body, the constantly contested body? How can we put an end to this conflation if we are still engaging in it?

    The very idea behind those “various acts” is subversive to patriarchy, because they constitute a clear expression of female bodily control and hence freedom. None of it really reifies sexist attitudes, so I really don’t see the issue.

  29. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated April 6, 2012 at 8:08 am |

    Egypt is a country where the majority of women have had FGM forced upon them, where so-called family and female “honor” depend upon individuality-destroying attire, FGM, and segregation.
    In this context, Elmahdy’s behavior is not just revolutionary, but literally death-defying, since she now faces execution by male family or by any vigilante willing to make the effort.
    In the US, public nudity or body display is usually limited to those of near-perfect appearance and even those are shopped. Any others are publicly shamed or slandered, on or off the internet. The calendar will increase awareness; the models, if not self-employed, may have to face a firing squad in HR if word gets out.
    Notice that the only older woman featured has won the fight against middle-age spread. Reality check, please.

  30. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl April 6, 2012 at 8:41 am |

    The very idea behind those “various acts” is subversive to patriarchy, because they constitute a clear expression of female bodily control and hence freedom. None of it really reifies sexist attitudes, so I really don’t see the issue.

    Elmahdy clearly uses sexist/sex-class markers in her nude shot. She isn’t just showing a simple nude body. She chose iconic markers of prostitution (red shoes) and pornography (stockings, groomed pubic region). Why she chose these is something I don’t know. Do I think it subtracts from the application of “revolutionary” to her work? I don’t know. I don’t live in the context that she does. However, this iconic display doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and it does in my mind reify sexist attitudes and practices. The imprint of patriarchal sex-class beliefs is still overtly apparent in her work.

    1. Debbie Notkin
      Debbie Notkin April 6, 2012 at 9:51 am |

      Angie unduplicated: to me, that’s somewhat the point. In first-world countries, the way privileged women construct “under attack” is “they might take away our right to insurer-paid birth control” (which is, in fact, an attack, and an important one). For Elmahdy, “attack” means something else altogether. So when a woman from a background related to–but by no means identical to–Elmahdy’s conceives of a response that she believes (and I believe) has supportive power, that makes that response important to me. As I said in a comment above, I cannot imagine Elmahdy’s life–Namazie can come much closer, so I choose to trust her on responses.

      Q-Grrrl, absolutely! And to me that’s part of why the photograph is important. It is not a photograph that Body Impolitic would publish or support in most western contexts. But since it is an act of such intense confrontational bravery, we see it differently than we would if the model was a young American woman who was facing expulsion, or might not get a job.

  31. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated April 6, 2012 at 11:54 am |

    The items of clothing point out other aspects of The Forbidden: sex work, the constant slut-shaming if we cross the invisible line. Could be a visual expression of solidarity with SlutWalk, retro “art” photography, or even an attempt to suggest the physical protection of a pimp or brothel-not revolutionary to us, perhaps, but understandable in a violent culture.

  32. Tei Tetua
    Tei Tetua April 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

    LotusBecca, I accept your argument about the difference between PETA’s nudity and nudity in other contexts. That’s about as well reasoned as anything I could imagine on the topic. But still, the point remains, here’s nudity–specifically female nudity–being used to make a point. It would be naive to suggest that we don’t all bring our baggage of expectations to everything we see, and we’re very familiar with female nudity, full or partial, used for men’s fun or to try and sell some commodity or other, or possibly both at once, but always saying “look at me”. And people do look! To me it fits the concept of “poisoned ground”, where past events prevent anything positive from being achieved. Nobody can stop you if you want to try it, but you can be sure that it’s not going to sit well with a lot of people. It’s a bit like that “Slutwalk” stunt a few months ago, which some feminists thought was wonderful, and others thought was demeaning.

    There was a nice little fight in Montreal last year about a nude calendar that a college women’s rugby team wanted to produce, which the school disallowed. Again, there’s something to be said on both sides:
    http://www.universityaffairs.ca/margin-notes/racy-student-photos-a-tricky-issue-for-university-administrators/

    But I want to applaud Debbie Notkin for the book mentioned in the introduction, “Familiar Men”. Maybe it’s not “revolutionary” but at least it gives us a presentation of men, not women, naked. But since it’s men, ho hum, that’s not very noteworthy. We all know it’s naked women who create the buzz!

  33. Sarah
    Sarah April 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm |

    Angie Unduplicated:

    “Egypt is a country where the majority of women have had FGM forced upon them, where so-called family and female “honor” depend upon individuality-destroying attire, FGM, and segregation…In this context, Elmahdy’s behavior is not just revolutionary, but literally death-defying, since she now faces execution by male family or by any vigilante willing to make the effort.”

    What an absolute load of crap.

    I don’t usually comment on threads, but I really can’t stand this kind of deceit.

    I am a Canadian woman with an Egyptian background. When I approached my (a doctor who was trained in Egypt) mother and asked her about how rampant FGM was, she didn’t even know what “female circumcision” was. That’s because it’s rare–in the city. It happens in rural areas where rates of education are lower. The majority of people who practice FGM are illiterate. And hell, it’s even declining in rural Egypt. There are prominent Egyptian women dealing with the issue and don’t require your racist input on the subject. You might also find it odd to learn that FGM is not always “forced upon” women, but is sometimes something they want or something the mother wants (I disagree with this, but that’s not the point.) Arab men aren’t barbaric creatures, and your inability to construct them as human beings but to frame them only as “vigilantes” who can kill their relatives with impunity is b.s.

    I visit Egypt once every two years or so, and my parents visit several times a year (seeing as their immediate family still lives there.) I assure you that I don’t cover my head–I wear t-shirts and capris while I’m there. My Muslim family does not talk about how I don’t uphold the “family honour.” It may occur to you at some point that the Middle East is not some orientalist caricature where women are only oppressed and have no voices. It might occur to you that Middle Eastern countries differ from one another. It might occur to you to actually ask some Egyptian women if they wear “individuality-stifling” clothing. That comes as a surprise to me, because many Egyptian women I know love fashion and flaunt their fashion sense. I have been rebuked by women in Egypt for not being fashionable enough. Maybe you should ask them if they feel like their individuality has been compromised before you inaccurately speak for them. Maybe you should assume, before you write, that Egyptian women might have a number of different viewpoints and don’t always agree with one another. Maybe you should consider that Egypt isn’t an uncultured monolithic entity. If any of this has occurred to you, then you’ve surely not indicated it in your post.

    How dare you assume that my male relatives would go bat-shit insane and kill the women they love because I’ve done something they disagree with. How dare you assume that I’ve probably undergone FGM just by virtue of my ethnic background. NONE of my Egyptian female friends have undergone FGM. None of them. FGM is not just a gender issue, but a class-based issue and geography-based issue (as in, where are you located *within* Egypt.)

    And yet you still talk as though you know. You write in absolutist terms. If you were decent you would apologize for your orientalism. There’s a reason why Western feminism has a bad name in the Middle East, and it’s not because you “value liberty.” It’s because your analysis of foreign situations is myopic. You make the lives of your foreign feminist allies more difficult with statements like the ones you’ve written.

    In regards to the nude photo: The fact that people are linking her image to the revolution is a bit of a stretch. Almahedy has already commented that she’s not a revolutionary (in the Arab Spring definition) of the term, but that she was inspired by its events. Racialicious had a good blog-post on the issue, one that dissects the racial and class-based implications of the photo–something this post lacks. http://www.racialicious.com/2011/12/21/how-egypts-nude-revolutionary-delivered-a-stick-of-dynamite/

    I will not be commenting again. I only ask that people do research before they make overly-generalized statements about foreign populations. And double-check your comments to see if they’re racist–because your comments were.

  34. Natalia
    Natalia April 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm |

    Elmahdy clearly uses sexist/sex-class markers in her nude shot. She isn’t just showing a simple nude body. She chose iconic markers of prostitution (red shoes) and pornography (stockings, groomed pubic region). Why she chose these is something I don’t know. Do I think it subtracts from the application of “revolutionary” to her work? I don’t know. I don’t live in the context that she does. However, this iconic display doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and it does in my mind reify sexist attitudes and practices. The imprint of patriarchal sex-class beliefs is still overtly apparent in her work.

    HAHAHA

    This thread is great. Chiding an Egyptian activist for the length of her pubic hair. I just… I don’t know… I’m going to have to print all of this and frame it.

  35. Hina
    Hina April 6, 2012 at 5:39 pm |

    Angie Unduplicated:

    “Egypt is a country where the majority of women have had FGM forced upon them, where so-called family and female “honor” depend upon individuality-destroying attire, FGM, and segregation…In this context, Elmahdy’s behavior is not just revolutionary, but literally death-defying, since she now faces execution by male family or by any vigilante willing to make the effort.”

    What an absolute load of crap.

    I don’t usually comment on threads, but I really can’t stand this kind of deceit.

    I am a Canadian woman with an Egyptian background. When I approached my (a doctor who was trained in Egypt) mother and asked her about how rampant FGM was, she didn’t even know what “female circumcision” was. That’s because it’s rare–in the city. It happens in rural areas where rates of education are lower. The majority of people who practice FGM are illiterate. And hell, it’s even declining in rural Egypt. There are prominent Egyptian women dealing with the issue and don’t require your racist input on the subject. You might also find it odd to learn that FGM is not always “forced upon” women, but is sometimes something they want or something the mother wants (I disagree with this, but that’s not the point.) Arab men aren’t barbaric creatures, and your inability to construct them as human beings but to frame them only as “vigilantes” who can kill their relatives with impunity is b.s.

    I visit Egypt once every two years or so, and my parents visit several times a year (seeing as their immediate family still lives there.) I assure you that I don’t cover my head–I wear t-shirts and capris while I’m there. My Muslim family does not talk about how I don’t uphold the “family honour.” It may occur to you at some point that the Middle East is not some orientalist caricature where women are only oppressed and have no voices. It might occur to you that Middle Eastern countries differ from one another. It might occur to you to actually ask some Egyptian women if they wear “individuality-stifling” clothing. That comes as a surprise to me, because many Egyptian women I know love fashion and flaunt their fashion sense. I have been rebuked by women in Egypt for not being fashionable enough. Maybe you should ask them if they feel like their individuality has been compromised before you inaccurately speak for them. Maybe you should assume, before you write, that Egyptian women might have a number of different viewpoints and don’t always agree with one another. Maybe you should consider that Egypt isn’t an uncultured monolithic entity. If any of this has occurred to you, then you’ve surely not indicated it in your post.

    How dare you assume that my male relatives would go bat-shit insane and kill the women they love because I’ve done something they disagree with. How dare you assume that I’ve probably undergone FGM just by virtue of my ethnic background. NONE of my Egyptian female friends have undergone FGM. None of them. FGM is not just a gender issue, but a class-based issue and geography-based issue (as in, where are you located *within* Egypt.)

    And yet you still talk as though you know. You write in absolutist terms. If you were decent you would apologize for your orientalism. There’s a reason why Western feminism has a bad name in the Middle East, and it’s not because you “value liberty.” It’s because your analysis of foreign situations is myopic. You make the lives of your foreign feminist allies more difficult with statements like the ones you’ve written.

    In regards to the nude photo: The fact that people are linking her image to the revolution is a bit of a stretch. Almahedy has already commented that she’s not a revolutionary (in the Arab Spring definition) of the term, but that she was inspired by its events. Racialicious had a good blog-post on the issue, one that dissects the racial and class-based implications of the photo–something this post lacks. http://www.racialicious.com/2011/12/21/how-egypts-nude-revolutionary-delivered-a-stick-of-dynamite/

    I will not be commenting again. I only ask that people do research before they make overly-generalized statements about foreign populations. And double-check your comments to see if they’re racist–because your comments were.

    Sarah I hope you know that your experience and family isn’t a good representation of what most women in egypt face and how conservative most families are. Egypt was also on the list of top ten most sexist countries in the world.

  36. piny
    piny April 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

    However, this iconic display doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and it does in my mind reify sexist attitudes and practices. The imprint of patriarchal sex-class beliefs is still overtly apparent in her work.

    So she can be conscious of nuanced interpretations of her nudity, but not of these other things? I don’t think that makes sense. She may well have chosen to costume herself as a prostitute in order to comment on the belief that a woman who poses nude is a prostitute. She may be using these sexualized cues to resist the idea of her body as maternal, virginal, or otherwise less threatening to patriarchal claims. This is a brave, vocal, self-aware, politically active woman–she is probably paying attention to her own performance here.

    To me it fits the concept of “poisoned ground”, where past events prevent anything positive from being achieved. Nobody can stop you if you want to try it, but you can be sure that it’s not going to sit well with a lot of people.

    This is depressing as hell. “Will not sit well with a lot of people.” What are we supposed to do, then, yield up every pose and act that have been sold to us as degradation? I might as well join a fucking nunnery. So I am poisoned ground. What’s the alternative to these materials?

  37. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl April 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm |

    Chiding an Egyptian activist for the length of her pubic hair. I just… I don’t know…

    Good thing that wasn’t what I was doing then! I come down on the “revolutionary” side of this argument. My posting was in direct response to someone who suggested that there were no patriarchal/sexist underpinnings to this project. My point was that yes, actually, there are clear markers of historic ideologies that have held women at the level of the “sex class” embedded within the images used in this project.

    I, personally, don’t feel that this distracts from the project. I also don’t think there is any harm in pointing out the iconography. From my perspective, the images and the ideal of “revolutionary” come together in this project in such a way that we can see, from a first world perspective, what boundaries we have already crossed and what boundaries are well within the “revolutionary” zone for women that don’t share our own backgrounds and privilege.

    Is there room to talk about both things?

  38. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl April 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm |

    @ Piny. Totally. That’s why I said that I was unfamiliar with her intent. I am certainly not saying that she chose these items unconsciously or out of naivete.

    Again, my post was not so much a comment on the project, but on one poster’s claim that this was completely free of patriarchal/sex-class underpinnings. Or, rather, that these underpinnings aren’t reified through this project.

    I think if you look at the calendar, it is clear that none of the images are free from pornographic/sex-class influence. That doesn’t make them more or less revolutionary. It just is, because women, for the most part, are conceived as the sex-class.

    … and part of being revolutionary is recognizing this and striking back with whatever you can against that sex-class status. And sometimes that means throwing the red shoes and the stockings back into the faces of those who criminalize your body and your actions because they can’t conceive of you being anything but the sex-class.

  39. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl April 6, 2012 at 7:05 pm |

    One more post…

    I guess that in my mind there is a continuum between 1st world pornography (that is protected as Free Speech) and non-1st world countries* that outright criminalize women’s bodies. From my perspective, the desire of (predominantly) men to encode both of these categories in their favor is problematic.

    Who benefits?

    *I’m not totally down with calling other countries “2nd world” or “3rd world”, and I don’t know if there are better terms that I could use.”

  40. the_leanover
    the_leanover April 6, 2012 at 7:39 pm |

    Q Grrl: I believe using ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ countries, while not completely unproblematic, avoids the nasty hierarchical implications of the number terminology. (Of course, there are all sorts of otherizing undertones to the common use of ‘non-Western’ as an easy homogenous catch-all category, but that’s perhaps another debate).

  41. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 6, 2012 at 8:01 pm |

    *I’m not totally down with calling other countries “2nd world” or “3rd world”, and I don’t know if there are better terms that I could use.”

    Also, “developed” and “developing,” but of course, there are problems with that as well. Also, second world refers to the communist bloc which more or less is gone, so that particular gradation is challenged for other reasons besides ranking.

  42. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated April 6, 2012 at 8:33 pm |

    Egyptian government’s stats as of 2007 were that 97% of Egyptian women had, shall we say, experienced FGM. I am quite aware that upper-class women in Middle Eastern countries may(or may not) be allowed to wear Western attire, and that some prefer chadors and burqas. Rural women may be willingly or unwillingly traditional, there or here. If these women don’t feel oppressed, more power to them, and I mean that quite literally. We are/were discussing women who are protesting oppression, perceived or real, based on sex and attire. I can’t comprehend why advocating for more liberty for Egyptian women makes me a racist.

  43. BBBShrewHarpy
    BBBShrewHarpy April 6, 2012 at 9:52 pm |

    I’ve been on the fence between the funs and rads for some time now, and unsure that Feministe is the right home for me. I think Twisty won me over with this one. I have nothing profound to say about the post, but the posing of the female body as revolutionary act makes me uncomfortable.

  44. Surprised at Work
    Surprised at Work April 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm |

    Hey, I’m not trying to be nit-picky, but this was actually NOT put behind a cut for RSS feeds. Having one line of text that says “NSFW” does not help if the rest of my screen is already a nude picture.

    I didn’t really appreciate the “Duh” sarcasm of the NSFW tag, btw, b/c I wasn’t asking to be TOLD that there was a nude picture in a post entitled “Nude Photos as a Revolutionary Act,” I just didn’t think the picture should open automatically.

  45. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 6, 2012 at 10:20 pm |

    Pro-tip: we don’t call ourselves “fun” feminists. That’s an intentionally derogatory radical fem term, which suggests you’re not really on the fence. Also, I have trouble believing you’re here in good faith when you haven’t expanded on why you disagree with the entire premise of the post. Many of us don’t visit sites that are openly hostile to trans women, so I have no clue what has been written on Twisty.

  46. BBBShrewHarpy
    BBBShrewHarpy April 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm |

    Pretty Amiable, I think you’re probably right. Off the fence it is then, but with love and welcoming to trans women. Like Dominique, I spend a lot of time naked in the privacy of my home and with my people, and am not very self-conscious about it. It makes it difficult to see being naked as a revolutionary act that furthers the cause of women. I think I understand the subversive aspect of a woman in Egypt posing naked for her boyfriend to take a picture of her that is publicly distributed. I’m just not sure this is a feminist act. I’m also thinking this picture is good wank fodder for a great deal of guys.

  47. Cleakstar
    Cleakstar April 6, 2012 at 11:48 pm |

    Nudity is not insane, but exposing it to the public as a revolutionary act is insane. What kind of message is she trying to pass?

  48. Natalia
    Natalia April 7, 2012 at 3:41 am |

    Q Grrl, I think the hilarity comes with appointing ourselves the primary audience. This picture strikes me as a light-hearted, funny comment on the not-so-funny aspects of Egyptian society, the role of self-expression, et al. For us to hang back and ask “but is it revolutionary” is ridiculous in context.

    I’m also thinking this picture is good wank fodder for a great deal of guys.

    So? Is she supposed to care? I don’t think so. To paraphrase the movie Osama, “Why do you have your wife out and about, on the back of your bicycle?! Men might get aroused!”

    As I once pointed out to Twisty, being a presence on the Internet means that someone, somewhere was probably wanking off to her manure-themed header image. Some guy (woman? They didn’t identify themselves) wrote in to tell me that the pregnancy photos I had posted on my blog last year made them hot. Was I also supposed to care?

    Every time a woman makes herself a public presence in any way, someone decides it’s OK to harrass her. Whether or not she’s showing her pubic area while donning some red shoes is beside the point.

  49. BBBShrewHarpy
    BBBShrewHarpy April 7, 2012 at 8:32 am |

    Really, is this all we have, after all this time? A pastiche of a dirty picture as self-expression?

    If we, the Internet, are not the intended audience for this subversive act, who is? The women in Egypt who are striving to achieve professional stature, recognition, respect in ways other than “well, if all else fails I can always get my tits out”? I don’t really give a toss about this woman posting a naked picture of herself; it’s subversive in the same way as a teenager painting her room black or piercing her eyebrow. I think I was more taken aback by the commentariat reaction than the picture itself: that this act could be taken as part of the movement to accept women and bodies as they are. Because naked women pictures are radically new and will cause us to finally be viewed as people!

  50. Tei Tetua
    Tei Tetua April 7, 2012 at 9:33 am |

    Just coming back quickly to say re BBBShrewHarpy’s post above, yes that’s it exactly. This stuff doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, ya know?

  51. Natalia
    Natalia April 7, 2012 at 10:36 am |

    Really, is this all we have, after all this time? A pastiche of a dirty picture as self-expression?

    You haven’t answered my question: is she supposed to care that someone, somewhere might wank to this? And if so, then why?

    The women in Egypt who are striving to achieve professional stature, recognition, respect in ways other than “well, if all else fails I can always get my tits out”?

    “Get my tits out”? Are you for real? Do you have any clue about what it’s like to inhabit a female body while in Egypt? I’m not even talking about FGM here, like they did upthread, I’m just saying – do you have any clue as to what it’s like for most women to walk down the street while female on a given day there? Do you know what frequently happens to a woman if someone, somewhere decides he’s interested in her tits? I don’t even mean “getting them out” – forget that! – I mean, what it’s like if someone realizes, “Hey! Look! A woman! I bet she has tits!”? Any clue at all? ‘Cause I’ve always thought I had it rough while living in Amman, but you know what they say in Amman – “Just be glad you’re not in Cairo.”

  52. BBBShrewHarpy
    BBBShrewHarpy April 7, 2012 at 11:17 am |

    Yes, I’ve mentored women from Middle Eastern countries who cover their bodies and wear head scarves, and are working to obtain professional qualifications in a male-dominated field.

    No, I have absolutely no idea what it is like to be them, or whether they view their clothing or the male gaze on their body as the limiting factor in their lives.

    Yes, I am for real, and too blind to be able to distinguish what this woman is doing from getting her tits out.

    I am unable to defend my position regarding the wankfest and wanketariat that her photo might encourage: of course it is of no consequence to her, and the fact that I find this upsetting is my problem and not hers. I am sorry for the experiences you have had, and I am sorry for provoking this reaction in you. I personally draw my feminist inspiration elsewhere, but I am glad you find the post empowering.

  53. Natalia
    Natalia April 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm |

    You misunderstand me – it’s not about what I find empowering or inspiring, it’s not about someone else’s hijab, even. It’s about the context of the photo.

  54. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 7, 2012 at 2:21 pm |

    Sarah @ comment 35

    I really want to thank you for your comment. I also thought that a lot of what Angie said was orientalist, and I appreciate you putting yourself out there and calling her on it. Angie, I understand you want to stand in solidarity with Egyptian women, but I do think you are oversimplifying the situation in a way that’s not entirely helpful. For example, do you have a citation for your assertion that 97% of Egyptian women have gotten FGM because based off what I know about FGM and Egypt I’m highly skepical that the number would be this high.

    Pro-tip: we don’t call ourselves “fun” feminists. That’s an intentionally derogatory radical fem term, which suggests you’re not really on the fence.

    Yes, “fun fem” is an intentionally derogatory radical feminist term, but I’ll own it! I like having fun, and I support all women who want to have more fun in their lives, as well as have complete self-determination over every aspect of their lives more generally. But yeah, it’s pretty absurd how many radical feminists clump everyone who disagrees with them under the label “fun fem”–whether that person disagreeing with them is a mainstream liberal feminist who voted for Hillary Clinton or a anarchist socialist feminist who yearns to completely smash patriarchy, capitalism, and the state (like me!) But sure, we’re all “fun fems,” I guess because. . .why? We support individual self-expression and rights for sex workers? Whatever.

    Now, in response to your last post to me Tei Tetua, as well as what other people have been saying along similar lines. It’s revolutionary for me (or Elmadhy or Namazie or anyone) to not care about how other people perceive me, especially when those people are always trying to pressure us to conform to their expectations. Whenever women are doing what they truly want to do: that’s liberation. The solution is to fight back against those who would prevent us from doing what we want, not to preemptively modify our behavior because we are afraid of their reaction or how we might be perceived. That’s my two cents anyway. If men are masturbating to an image of me or something I’m doing in a way that offends me, I would tell them to go jump off a bridge, I would confront them, I would fight back, but I wouldn’t modify my intial behavior because if I do then they win.

  55. Sonia
    Sonia April 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm |

    *I’m not totally down with calling other countries “2nd world” or “3rd world”, and I don’t know if there are better terms that I could use.”

    You could call them developed and underdeveloped or any other similar terms. Originally though, these terms had nothing to do with the level of development. In the beginning of the cold war, the first world was all of the countries that were aligned with the US and the second world was all of the countries aligned with USSR. The countries which chose to do neither were the third world. Coincidentally, most of the 3rd world countries had recently thrown off their colonial masters and were still poor and underdeveloped, so third word country as term for a really poor country stuck.

  56. Glass
    Glass April 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm |

    @ LotusBecca-

    Official Egyptian statistics say 97 percent of women aged 15 to 49, Christians and Muslims alike, have undergone what the UN prefers to call female genital mutilation, or FGM.

    From this article: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jUPmjsbBS7ci0dIjRL33BR3vvc8A

    Unicef also agrees with that number: http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/FGM-C_final_10_October.pdf

  57. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 7, 2012 at 5:48 pm |

    Holy shit. Twice circumcized? Erf. Privilege smash.

  58. Glass
    Glass April 7, 2012 at 5:53 pm |

    RE: Honor Killings-

    CEWLA started by reviewing news and articles written on honour crimes in Egyptian press (newspapers and magazines) published during the period 1998 and 2001.The number of these press clippings were 125.

    From: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/egm/vaw-gp-2005/docs/experts/khafagy.honorcrimes.pdf

  59. Mxe354
    Mxe354 April 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    @LotusBecca

    …or a anarchist socialist feminist who yearns to completely smash patriarchy, capitalism, and the state (like me!)

    Wait, you’re an anarcha-feminist as well? I’m elated! *e-hug*

  60. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 8, 2012 at 8:08 am |

    being a presence on the Internet means that someone, somewhere was probably wanking off to her manure-themed header image.

    Good lord, I hope there aren’t too many people out there with that particular fetish.

  61. Weekly Feminist Reader
    Weekly Feminist Reader April 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm |

    [...] Love this quote: “When a tool of oppression can be turned in to an assertion of power, it is a beautiful thing. Nudity when celebrated harms no one, and when made shameful and barbaric harms everyone.” [...]

  62. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

    @Glass

    Thanks for the links. I stand corrected about FGM in Egypt. It’s always good when I get a chance to correct erroneous preconceptions, so thank you. And Jesus. Made me sick to my stomach reading those articles.

    @Mxe354

    Wait, you’re an anarcha-feminist as well? I’m elated! *e-hug*

    YAY!! I sure am an anarcha-feminist. You should post here more; you sound awesome.

  63. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm |

    @Natalia

    You haven’t answered my question: is she supposed to care that someone, somewhere might wank to this? And if so, then why?

    Surely if she doesn’t care about how the picture viewed then it wouldn’t be worth discussing. I do see a difference in the top photo and the ones in the video below. But, like people keep saying, it’s all about context. As someone in the media, I would describe the undressed images in the video as ‘nudes’, and the one above as a ‘glamour’ photo, more akin to something you would find in Playboy magazine or something similar. I feel the ones in the video do portray a more powerful message because they don’t objectify the women, causing the focus to be on the message.

    Don’t mistake me, I don’t think ‘wrong’ or ‘pornographic’ to portray a woman’s (or man’s) sexuality, I just understand why people say it distracts from the message. And yes, her neatly trimmed pubic hair initially distracted me, because i happen to be instinctually attracted to nice looking vaginas. Again, it doesn’t make it wrong or bad, it just takes away from the message.

  64. DonnaL
    DonnaL April 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm |

    i happen to be instinctually attracted to nice looking vaginas.

    I can’t be the only person who’s annoyed by that kind of synecdoche.

    Never mind the other implication(s) in there.

  65. Jadey
    Jadey April 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm |

    Thanks for pointing that line out, Donna. I missed it the first time. Yeah, the logical flaws of that statement are pretty stark. What a load of crap. Even the most distorted form of evo psych would be hard-pressed to explain how someone could ever develop an instinct to prefer trimmed pubic hair. (Not that I’m challenging anyone to try – all full up on bullshit here.)

    Actually, Fat Steve, didn’t you finally flounce a while ago, after one too many poorly-received inappropriate “jokes”?

  66. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm |

    Fat Steve, didn’t you finally flounce a while ago, after one too many poorly-received inappropriate “jokes”?

    Jadey, that’s quite unfair. I didn’t ‘flounce’, in fact, I took the criticism by you and another person on board and agreed to not post ‘for a while.’

    This post was not a ‘joke’ or a ‘quip’ like others I have made. I was merely giving the point of view of the male gaze, which had been speculated upon. I was referring solely to myself and my reactions.

    I took your comments about boundaries seriously, and I don’t think I even approached overstepping them in this post.

  67. the_leanover
    the_leanover April 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |

    I can’t be the only person who’s annoyed by that kind of synecdoche.

    Not even synecdoche so much as metonymy; there’s no ‘vagina’ visible to be attracted to! But yes, exceptionally annoying.

    Jadey: I’ve heard evopsych people claiming that lack of body hair on women is ‘naturally’ attractive because it signifies youth, and therefore fertility. Which is one of my favourite examples of terribly thought out evopsych stories, because y’know, puberty is a thing.

  68. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm |

    Not even synecdoche so much as metonymy; there’s no ‘vagina’ visible to be attracted to! But yes, exceptionally annoying.

    I don’t want to argue about this point, but it seems like I’m being deliberately misinterpreted. I never said that I preferred trimmed pubic areas or that they look nicer than untrimmed ones. I merely said that trimmed pubic areas are more likely to get my attention because they allow more of the vagina to be seen. It is precisely because the vagina is more visible that it is distracting, so I don’t understand the comment about it not being visible.

  69. EG
    EG April 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm |

    Jadey: I’ve heard evopsych people claiming that lack of body hair on women is ‘naturally’ attractive because it signifies youth, and therefore fertility. Which is one of my favourite examples of terribly thought out evopsych stories, because y’know, puberty is a thing.

    And not even true for many groups of people! I’m pretty sure that I’m no hairier now than I was at sixteen.

  70. QLH
    QLH April 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm |

    there’s no ‘vagina’ visible to be attracted to

    Thank you! I was just about to say that.

  71. DonnaL
    DonnaL April 8, 2012 at 4:36 pm |

    Not even synecdoche so much as metonymy; there’s no ‘vagina’ visible to be attracted to!

    I can never remember which is which, I’m afraid. But I was thinking the same thing, of course. I know that people use “vagina” carelessly all the time, and it usually doesn’t bother me, but using it to refer to something purely visual seemed particularly strange to me. I was tempted to ask him how he knows what it looks like.

  72. BBBShrewHarpy
    BBBShrewHarpy April 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

    i happen to be instinctually attracted to nice looking vaginas.

    I can’t be the only person who’s annoyed by that kind of synecdoche.

    Quite, Donna. I’m close to vomiting. And so, Natalia, this is probably why I’m troubled by the wank value of the photo, even independently of my reluctance to view nude pictures as a step forward for feminism in 2012. I think I appreciate the context of the photo, much as you expressed. The critique from the wanketariat represented here by Fat Steve bothers me beyond belief. I’m not sure whether it should, but this is my experience.

  73. EG
    EG April 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm |

    You know, when I think about it, it’s not the metonymy that bothers me; it’s the tautology. Of course, if you’re attracted to vulvas, you’re going to be attracted to the nice-looking ones, because “nice-looking” is going to be defined as “what attracts me.” Who’s going to be like “I’m attracted to vulvas, but only the ugly ones”?

  74. BBBShrewHarpy
    BBBShrewHarpy April 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm |

    I’m not sure that synecdoche is the wrong word. If a mistake is made by someone trying to say vulva, then metonymy it is. I took more umbrage, as I read Donna’s complaint as being that vagina is being used as a part that represents the whole woman, in which case synecdoche is most definitely appropriate. Probably, the qualifier “nice-looking” led me in that direction.

  75. Jadey
    Jadey April 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm |

    You know, when I think about it, it’s not the metonymy that bothers me; it’s the tautology. Of course, if you’re attracted to vulvas, you’re going to be attracted to the nice-looking ones, because “nice-looking” is going to be defined as “what attracts me.” Who’s going to be like “I’m attracted to vulvas, but only the ugly ones”?

    What?? Are you trying to suggest that preferences are subjective? I’m pretty sure I’m biologically hard-wired to like Dr. Pepper, HBO, Crystal Gayle, and genital piercings because those things are just innately awesome and somehow my DNA knows it! There’s just no other explanation.

  76. DonnaL
    DonnaL April 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm |

    “I’m attracted to vulvas, but only the ugly ones”?

    Right. The ones with that wild, untamed look.

  77. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 8, 2012 at 7:02 pm |

    You know, when I think about it, it’s not the metonymy that bothers me; it’s the tautology. Of course, if you’re attracted to vulvas, you’re going to be attracted to the nice-looking ones, because “nice-looking” is going to be defined as “what attracts me.” Who’s going to be like “I’m attracted to vulvas, but only the ugly ones”?

    OK, I worded this totally stupidly. It is a tautology, and it stemmed from me not having a proper phrase to describe that ‘thing’ which causes me to immediately look at someone’s private parts. I’m not proud of it, I’m not saying it’s right, I was just revealing a part of myself that, while personally embarrassing to admit to anyone let alone feminists, I thought might have bearing on the situation as the ‘male gaze’ was in question.

    Don’t let my stupidity and bad wording annoy you, I’m sure my content will actually annoy you soon enough.

  78. kungfulola
    kungfulola April 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm |

    Jadey: I’ve heard evopsych people claiming that lack of body hair on women is ‘naturally’ attractive because it signifies youth, and therefore fertility. Which is one of my favourite examples of terribly thought out evopsych stories, because y’know, puberty is a thing.

    PCOS can cause hirsuitism and also infertility. So having relatively less body hair than other women (if those women have PCOS or a similar hormone problem), might possibly signal that one is more fertile than them. Not that I love evo psych b.s., just pointing out that “excessive” body hair can indeed be a visual indicator of sex hormone imbalance.

    Back on topic, I wanted to say that although I would never fully engage with radical feminism because I loathe the transmisogyny in the movement, I don’t find the view that society is a well poisoned by patriarchy/the male gaze to be “hopeless”, as some have said here. I think it’s the opposite; not a call to lie down and give up, but one to get moving and disengage and refuse to participate in the existing structures. Why should we settle for trying to work with what we’ve inherited from our ancestors? The internet has already created whole new economies, and the digital revolution is spreading from developed nations to developing ones (see: cellphone innovation in Africa). We can dig new wells.

  79. the_leanover
    the_leanover April 8, 2012 at 8:18 pm |

    PCOS can cause hirsuitism and also infertility. So having relatively less body hair than other women (if those women have PCOS or a similar hormone problem), might possibly signal that one is more fertile than them. Not that I love evo psych b.s., just pointing out that “excessive” body hair can indeed be a visual indicator of sex hormone imbalance.

    In this context, we weren’t talking about ‘excessive’ body hair but specifically about the ubiquity of shaved armpit/leg/pubic hair, which my friend claimed was probably a ‘naturally’ attractive aesthetic because we’re wired to associate it with youth and therefore fertility (man, evopsych people love them some fertility). But a natural lack of body hair generally correlates not just with youth but specifically with prepubescence. So if our savannah ancestors were ‘wired’ to associate hairlessness with something, it would logically have been childhood, not fertility, which is why the story makes little sense in evolutionary terms; if anything, a normal amount of pubic hair should be ‘naturally’ more attractive since it would indicate a woman has reached childbearing age. Not that I think there’s any value in ranking the supposed naturalness or otherwise of desires; it’s just a funny little example of the self-contradictory mental gymnastics some people will do to explain cultural phenomena in terms of simplistic appeals to evolution.

  80. DonnaL
    DonnaL April 8, 2012 at 8:20 pm |

    Don’t let my stupidity and bad wording annoy you, I’m sure my content will actually annoy you soon enough.

    Just out of curiosity, what inspired you to start commenting here again? As someone already pointed out, you said some time ago that your words were engendering such hostility that you were no longer going to comment. It doesn’t sound like you expect the result to change, so why begin all over again and put everyone (including yourself) through it a second time?

  81. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm |

    Just out of curiosity, what inspired you to start commenting here again? As someone already pointed out, you said some time ago that your words were engendering such hostility that you were no longer going to comment. It doesn’t sound like you expect the result to change, so why begin all over again and put everyone (including yourself) through it a second time?

    I thought that if I stuck to discussing the article and limited the critiques to criticizing myself the result might be different. I still do, though I understand why, for example, Jadey is inclined to interpret things I say in their most negative way. If I really felt I was being bullied or discriminated against, I would head for the hills, but I realize the distrust of me is down to my past tendency to ignore people’s feelings when making a point, so I can only try to do better, rather than just give up and decide that it’s all the fault of the others on the thread. I have never at any point been directly rude or insulting in the slightest way to anyone on here, so I don’t take the insults to heart.

  82. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie April 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm |

    Many of us don’t visit sites that are openly hostile to trans women, so I have no clue what has been written on Twisty.

    Too bad your righteous condemnation is based in falsehood. Twisty is openly accepting of trans* people, and does not/will not tolerate anti-trans* comments.

    Sure, when she was in the throes of horrible chemo for deadly breast cancer 4+ years ago, she didn’t catch every nasty comment that went through, so I guess that’s enough to condemn her as “hostile” to trans* people.

  83. Mxe354
    Mxe354 April 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm |

    @LotusBecca

    YAY!! I sure am an anarcha-feminist. You should post here more; you sound awesome.

    I’m glad to hear it. You’re pretty much the only anarcha-feminist I know, incidentally! Anarcha-feminists are woefully obscure these days – and so are anarchists in general, unfortunately.

    I’ve been trying to post here more, since this is a lovely blog. Also, judging by your posts here, I think you’re pretty cool as well.

  84. DonnaL
    DonnaL April 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm |

    Regarding Twisty, haven’t we had this exact discussion before? I’ll say what I have to say about it one more time, and, I hope, never again.

    Tinfoil Hattie is absolutely correct that Twisty banned transphobic comments some time ago, including the deliberate use of wrong pronouns and so on. Not that I believe that at least some of the commenters there are any less hateful than they used to be; the facebook group some of them formed, called “We Blame The Patriarchy” — in which Twisty herself, I believe, has no involvement at all — is, from what I’ve seen, pretty much as disgustingly transphobic as anyplace else you could find on the Internet if you were so inclined. (Note the semi-cryptic references to the nature of the facebook group, and warnings to “tread carefully” on that subject, in the March 15 comment thread on Twisty’s blog itself.)

    But for you to say that when Twisty was ill she “didn’t catch every nasty comment” is way understating things. The place was like a cesspool on the subject of trans women for some time; it was hardly a case of a few comments here and there.

    And I’m sure Twisty does consider herself to be trans-friendly. She hardly qualifies as an ally, though, because, from everything I’ve read that she’s written on the subject, she doesn’t accept trans women on their own terms. She’s an ally to trans people in essentially the same way that Andrea Dworkin was, and if that’s being an ally, then fundamentalist Christians who “love the Jewish people” are allies to Jews. The eschatological fantasies are similar: just as there supposedly won’t be any more Jews after the Second Coming, so there supposedly won’t be any more trans people once the radical feminist utopia arrives, given the misguided assumption that if and when “gender” ceases to exist, so will the need for anyone to transition — medically and surgically, as much as socially.

    However, all of that is largely academic, since the Second Coming and the radical feminist utopia are equally unlikely to occur, and neither Jews nor trans people are about to go away. In the world we actually live in, Twisty’s brand of trans acceptance is about as much as one can realistically expect, and is certainly far better than the alternative.

    It would be nice, though (not that I ever expect it to happen) if the same respect could be given to trans women’s identities and their own understanding of those identities — without constructing elaborate and inherently disrespectful scenarios as to why trans women supposedly exist now (e.g., that they are who they are because of the societal oppression of gender, rather than the converse) and why they supposedly won’t exist in an idealized future — that Adrienne Rich, in her famous “compulsory heterosexuality” essay, asked to be given to lesbian identities when she criticized:

    the frequently heard assertion that in a world of genuine equality, where men were nonoppressive and nurturing, everyone would be bisexual. Such a notion blurs and sentimentalizes the actualities within which women have experienced sexuality; it is the old liberal leap across the tasks and struggles of here and now, the continuing process of sexual definition that will generate its own possibilities and choices. (It also assumes that women who have chosen women have done so simply because men are oppressive and emotionally unavailable . . . .

    Anyone who can’t see the parallel simply isn’t willing to see it.

  85. DonnaL
    DonnaL April 8, 2012 at 10:08 pm |

    Tinfoil Hattie, my own comment about Twisty (not that we haven’t done this before) is in moderation. Suffice it to say that I entirely agree with you on a practical level about Twisty, and the fact that she banned anti-trans comments some time ago. My disagreements with her are on a theoretical level. In the here and now, her position is a whole lot better than the alternative.

  86. Tei Tetua
    Tei Tetua April 8, 2012 at 10:31 pm |

    I was the one who first mentioned Twisty Faster’s blog, and what I really wanted to point out was the large number of comments, which are all over the map as far as responses to this nudity business are concerned. Just the way it’s developed here, in fact.

    If a woman with body hair catches hell for being unfeminine, why is it that these days, men are being pressured to shave also? I think it’s a rejection of the natural body, and we all have a part to play. Anyone see the old versus new editions of “The Joy of Sex”? Hair is so 1970s my dear, we can’t tolerate it now.

  87. Link Share Goodness! « umsu.wom*n's
    Link Share Goodness! « umsu.wom*n's April 8, 2012 at 11:41 pm |

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  88. Nude Revolutionary Calander « The Sex Reports

    [...] blogger and activist Maryam Namazie got wind of this, she decided to take on the project of the Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar — and stand in solidarity with [...]

  89. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |

    I’m glad to hear it. You’re pretty much the only anarcha-feminist I know, incidentally! Anarcha-feminists are woefully obscure these days – and so are anarchists in general, unfortunately. I’ve been trying to post here more, since this is a lovely blog. Also, judging by your posts here, I think you’re pretty cool as well.

    Awww, well thank you very much! And yes, this is a lovely blog, and it attracts many lovely people.

    It’s really true that there aren’t that a lot of anarcha-feminists out there. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a decent few over the years though. From what I’ve experienced, at least, it’s not easy to find anarchists in feminist spaces, but it’s considerably more possible to find feminists in anarchist spaces. Not to say that most anarchist spaces don’t still have a lot of problems with sexism, unfortunately.

  90. Donna L
    Donna L April 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm |

    Just try to stay away from the “Anarcha Feminism” group on Facebook, Becca.

    It’s transphobic:

    See http://www.transadvocate.com/feminist-jokes-about-bombing-planned-parenthood.htm

    Isn’t that wonderful? But why should they be any different from anyone else, right?

  91. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

    Just try to stay away from the “Anarcha Feminism” group on Facebook, Becca. It’s transphobic.

    Wow. Well that’s completely and horribly fucked up if not overly surprising. And while I don’t have a Facebook account currently, I might sign up in a few months so I appreciate your warning, Donna. If I were part of that group and saw something like that just out of the blue it would probably be really triggering. And I don’t need any additional things to be talking about to my therapist right now; I’m having no trouble filling my 50 minutes sessions.

  92. Mxe354
    Mxe354 April 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm |

    @LotusBecca

    It’s really true that there aren’t that a lot of anarcha-feminists out there. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a decent few over the years though. From what I’ve experienced, at least, it’s not easy to find anarchists in feminist spaces, but it’s considerably more possible to find feminists in anarchist spaces. Not to say that most anarchist spaces don’t still have a lot of problems with sexism, unfortunately.

    Yeah, I think one reason for the low number of anarchists in feminist spaces arises is that many anarchists hold falsely presume that sexism and patriarchy are mere side-issues that should not be of salient focus in regards to an anarchist revolution. Many of them agree with feminism in theory, but they don’t really give it much importance in practice – and that’s a major issue (which, incidentally, was one of the reasons behind the creation of the anarcha-feminist organization Mujeres Libres during the Spanish Civil War).

  93. Emily
    Emily April 9, 2012 at 8:19 pm |

    I’m always skeptical about the utilization of depictions of women’s bodies in the nude–especially with the pornification of music videos and in other forms of media. For me, a lot of the times it crosses the border of exploitation. However allowing women to celebrate their bodies through art in this way is a very tool powerful.

    “What with Islamism and the religious right being obsessed with women’s bodies and demanding that we be veiled, bound, and gagged, nudity breaks taboos and is an important form of resistance.”

    Not only does this allow women to take control of their bodies into their own hands, but it also shows the world that they (well, at least some) are taking a stand against the discrimination facing them. Bless you Aliaa Magda Elmahdy!

  94. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm |

    I’m having no trouble filling my 50 minutes sessions.

    Do you ever wonder what they do in that extra ten minutes? I’m sure they’re writing notes, or looking up the next patient’s file, but I like to think that it’s minesweeper.

    [/derail]

  95. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 10, 2012 at 1:01 am |

    Do you ever wonder what they do in that extra ten minutes? I’m sure they’re writing notes, or looking up the next patient’s file, but I like to think that it’s minesweeper.

    Well, some day I plan to find out. I hope to start graduate school to become a therapist in the fall of 2013. I’m definitely thinking I’ll use some of my ten minutes to satiate my Free Cell cravings; minesweeper would be more of a weekend thing.

  96. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 10, 2012 at 1:30 am |

    According to my best friend, she spends it filling out evals for insurance companies or medicaid. Sad but true facts…a quarter of her day is spent on paper work.

  97. Li
    Li April 10, 2012 at 3:31 am |

    Yeah, I think one reason for the low number of anarchists in feminist spaces arises is that many anarchists hold falsely presume that sexism and patriarchy are mere side-issues that should not be of salient focus in regards to an anarchist revolution. Many of them agree with feminism in theory, but they don’t really give it much importance in practice – and that’s a major issue (which, incidentally, was one of the reasons behind the creation of the anarcha-feminist organization Mujeres Libres during the Spanish Civil War).

    In my neck of the woods we generally call these guys manarchists. The number of times I’ve had to explain that conflict resolution and safer spaces policies have actually come out of anarchist praxis…

  98. Luna
    Luna April 10, 2012 at 8:18 am |

    Hi Mxe354 and LotusBecca, anarchist/feminist here too! :)

  99. matlun
    matlun April 10, 2012 at 9:18 am |

    Yeah, I think one reason for the low number of anarchists in feminist spaces…

    Isn’t this just because anarchism is a fairly small minority position in public opinion?

    That would match LotusBecca’s observation

    From what I’ve experienced, at least, it’s not easy to find anarchists in feminist spaces, but it’s considerably more possible to find feminists in anarchist spaces.

  100. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca April 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm |

    Hi Mxe354 and LotusBecca, anarchist/feminist here too! :)

    YAY! We just keep coming out of the woodwork!

    Isn’t this just because anarchism is a fairly small minority position in public opinion?

    I would say that this is the main reason why there aren’t very many anarchists in feminist spaces, although I also agree with Mxe354 that many anarchists view sexism as a secondary side issue and not something that requires that much explicit activism.

  101. Your Mom Uses Birth Control
    Your Mom Uses Birth Control April 12, 2012 at 2:57 am |

    I find this rather similar to the Slut Walks that have been appearing recently. I’m not entirely sure whether such a course of action will be successful or not, though I’m entirely supportive of the right do engage in this sort of behavior. On the other hand, I think that the Sex Strike method is a good way of getting things done, and has even stopped a war before. Not that this particular situation is related, but when discussing tactical decisions, I think it deserves mention.

  102. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig April 13, 2012 at 10:30 pm |

    103: Lysistrata was fictional. I’m still on the fence about the slut walks: I think violent, direct action works better. I don’t see the point of marches at all.

  103. Debbie Notkin
    Debbie Notkin April 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

    @politicalguineapig

    I think the question of marches is debatable, but Erica Chenoweth’s new book Why Civil Resistance Works is a compelling argument against violent direct action, simply on the basis of what’s effective.

    Check it out: http://echenoweth.faculty.wesleyan.edu/wcrw/

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