Debunking the Myth of the “Good Old Days”: Sexism, Racism and the Working Class in Canada After WWII, Part Two

by Ryan Sparrow

Racialised and gendered work is a common feature of the development of capitalism. The need for a super-exploitable vulnerable group of workers is beneficial to the big business community as it helps bring about a much lower floor of wages and working conditions.

St Catharines auto plant workers, 1944

In the post-war era, the overt racism and overt gender discrimination of workers was still around, although less prevalent.  Institutionalized racism and sexism, however, was still very widely practised.  Racialised and gendered labour therefore represented a super-exploited strata of the working class in the post-war era. This article continues from the historic framework of analysis and presents some examples. Continue reading

Pussy Riot: Whose Freedom, Whose Riot?

Radfem HUB

Please reblog this radical feminist analysis of the Pussy Riot controversy.

Recently there has been lots of noise around the arrest of three members of Pussy Riot, a Russian anarchist female punk band. The media almost unequivocally represented them as the modern heroines of our time, fighting for freedom, democracy, sexual liberation and peace against a dark and ruthless dictatorship (articles are to be found in the NYTLe MondeThe Guardian, etc.) Feminist groups all over the Western world are sending links and petitions to “free pussy riot”, anddemonstrations have even been organised in support of the group by big institutionalised organisations such as “Osez le féminisme” (dare to be a feminist).

Now while I support without ambiguity the liberation of Pussy Riot’s members, it’s worth pausing for a minute to ask ourselves, as radical feminists, what the political dynamics are here. Why would Western media denounce so passionately the repression of feminists in Russia, when it usually only diffuses information that supports male supremacy and patriarchy? Feminism has long disappeared from any malestream media, except when journalists can turn it into male masturbation material, that is pornify either our suffering or our resistance to it. What’s going on here? Continue reading

The Social Basis of the Woman Question

by Alexandra Kollontai

Leaving it to the bourgeois scholars to absorb themselves in discussion of the question of the superiority of one sex over the other, or in the weighing of brains and the comparing of the psychological structure of men and women, the followers of historical materialism fully accept the natural specificities of each sex and demand only that each person, whether man or woman, has a real opportunity for the fullest and freest self-determination, and the widest scope for the development and application of all natural inclinations. The followers of historical materialism reject the existence of a special woman question separate from the general social question of our day. Specific economic factors were behind the subordination of women; natural qualities have been a secondary factor in this process. Only the complete disappearance of these factors, only the evolution of those forces which at some point in the past gave rise to the subjection of women, is able in a fundamental way to influence and change their social position. In other words, women can become truly free and equal only in a world organised along new social and productive lines.

This, however, does not mean that the partial improvement of woman’s life within the framework of the modern system is impossible. The radical solution of the workers’ question is possible only with the complete reconstruction of modem productive relations; but must this prevent us from working for reforms which would serve to satisfy the most urgent interests of the proletariat? On the contrary, each new gain of the working class represents a step leading mankind towards the kingdom of freedom and social equality: each right that woman wins brings her nearer the defined goal of full emancipation. …

Alexandra Kollontai, the great Russian revolutionary

Social democracy was the first to include in its programme the demand for the equalisation of the rights of women with those of men; in speeches and in print the party demands always and everywhere the withdrawal of limitations affecting women; it is the party’s influence alone that has forced other parties and governments to carry out reforms in favour of women. And in Russia this party is not only the defender of women in terms of its theoretical positions but always and everywhere adheres to the principle of women’s equality. Continue reading

Capitalism: A Ghost Story

by Arundhati Roy

Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare…. How long can the cardinals of corporate gospel buy up our protests?

CORBIS (FROM OUTLOOK, MARCH 26, 2012)

Antilla the Hun Mukesh Ambani’s 27-storey home on Altamont Road. Its bright lights, say the neighbours, have stolen the night.

Is it a house or a home? A temple to the new India, or a warehouse for its ghosts? Ever since Antilla arrived on Altamont Road in Mumbai, exuding mystery and quiet menace, things have not been the same. “Here we are,” the friend who took me there said, “Pay your respects to our new Ruler.”

Antilla belongs to India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. I had read about this most expensive dwelling ever built, the twenty-seven floors, three helipads, nine lifts, hanging gardens, ballrooms, weather rooms, gymnasiums, six floors of parking, and the six hundred servants. Nothing had prepared me for the vertical lawn—a soaring, 27-storey-high wall of grass attached to a vast metal grid. The grass was dry in patches; bits had fallen off in neat rectangles. Clearly, Trickledown hadn’t worked. Continue reading

Soviet Power and the Status of Women

by Vladimir Lenin

The second anniversary of the Soviet power is a fitting occasion for us to review what has, in general, been accomplished during this period, and to probe into the significance and aims of the revolution which we accomplished.

The bourgeoisie and its supporters accuse us of violating democracy. We maintain that the Soviet revolution has given an unprecedented stimulus to the development of democracy both in depth and breadth, of democracy, moreover, distinctly for the toiling masses, who had been oppressed under capitalism; consequently, of democracy for the vast majority of the people, of socialist democracy (for the toilers) as distinguished from bourgeois democracy (for the exploiters, the capitalists, the rich).

Who is right?

To probe deeply into this question and to understand it well will mean studying the experience of these two years and being better prepared to further follow up this experience. Continue reading

The Absurd Myths Porn Teaches Us About Sex

By Noah Brand and Ozy Frantz

Young people who have learned about sex from watching porn have a treasure trove of sadly mistaken beliefs and misconceptions about sexuality.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
When Lynette, a college student, first hooked up with an ex-boyfriend, she came face to face with the unrealistic ideals mainstream porn can create about sexuality.

“I had a boyfriend who didn’t realize that women had pubic hair,” she tells us in an interview. “Because he had only watched porn, he had never seen a naked woman outside of porn, so he just sort of failed to realize they had pubic hair.”

“This came up somewhat before my pants came off,” she added, “so you can realize how awkward this was.” She paused. “His face was memorable. In an ‘oh God, what is wrong with me, I am never taking my pants off in front of anyone ever again’ way.”

Porn has become immensely popular in the last century. With the rise of Internet pornography, no longer do you have to enter a sleazy sex shop in a shady part of town to witness an astonishing panoply of sex acts. A quick Google brings you sex acts from the mundane (happy amateur couples having missionary intercourse) to the bizarre (could looners, who have a sexual fetish for balloons, ever have met each other outside the Internet?). Many teenagers have their first introduction to sex from the glow of a computer screen.

And these days, it can lead to some hilarious misconceptions.

Learning About Sex from Porn

Despite Rick Santorum’s newly declared war on porn, porn is not evil. Alan McKee, an Australian university professor and pornography researcher, tells AlterNet, “Pornography is good at teaching lifelong learning, open communication, that sexual development should not be aggressive, coercive, or joyless, self-acceptance, awareness and acceptance that sex is pleasurable, and competence in mediated sexuality.” In short, he claims that pornography can be the foundation to a healthy sex life—not to mention leading to many solo orgasms.

The problem is, learning about sex from porn is like learning about firearms from action movies. Action movies sacrifice realism for the sake of storyline or a really cool explosion. Action movies don’t teach you gun safety. Action movies don’t talk about alternatives to violence. And action movies use some tropes—such as the infinite ammo supply—that may move the story along but don’t reflect reality. That’s not a problem, as long as everyone treats them as entertaining fantasies.

Unfortunately, for many young people becoming sexually active today, the entertaining fantasies of mainstream porn are the teacher they’ve spent the most time with, and mainstream porn is a terrible teacher.

Talking to various young people about porn and sexuality, we quickly discovered a treasure trove of sadly mistaken beliefs about sex. A teenage boy who believed that all women, no matter how much they protested otherwise, really wanted to be called sluts when they had sex. Guys who think that foreplay is just jamming a few fingers up someone’s vagina before sex. People who didn’t know you need lube to have anal sex.

“I’ve met more than a few guys who were very surprised to discover that women more often masturbate by humping their hands or rubbing their clits than by penetrating themselves,” blogger Holly Pervocracy said.

“I actually had a guy tell me I was wrong,” Lynette said. “If I was rubbing my clit, it wasn’t real masturbation. He didn’t even know about the G spot; he thought I should be getting off on the friction of my fingers with my vagina.”

Women aren’t the only ones who fall victim to glaring anatomical mistakes. The giant, ever-hard, pounding penises of male mainstream porn stars are equally unrealistic. “My first boyfriend told me, in all seriousness, that he was pretty small—just seven and a half inches,” said Pervocracy. “He thought nine was average.”

Lynette agrees. “I talked to a guy who said that he thought he was average, he didn’t know, maybe he was on the small side. Really played it up,” she said. “Finally he admitted that he was eight inches. I burst out laughing. Ashamed, he looked at me and asked ‘is that that small?’”

These myths about sexuality might seem humorous, but they hide a tragic truth. A generation of teenagers grew up under Bush’s record-breaking funding for abstinence-only sex education.

Although Obama has eliminated funding for abstinence-only and funded evidence-based comprehensive sex education, the damage has already been done. And both Santorum and Romney, the frontrunners for the GOP nomination, favor abstinence-only sex education—despite the evidence that it delays loss of virginity only eight months. According to research at the Guttmacher Institute, the rates of pregnancy and STIs among teenagers who received abstinence-only sex education are far greater than the rates among those who didn’t.

Even so-called comprehensive sex education is deeply limited. Often, it focuses on STIs and condoms to the exclusion of any other topic. Even basic ideas like queerness or consent are usually neglected. In my comprehensive sex education, we labeled a diagram of the vulva that didn’t have the clitoris on it—no wonder some people think that women are supposed to get off on friction with their vagina! In such a limited sex education, you can forget about having someone’s misapprehensions about penis size or the prevalence of the female orgasm corrected.

Admittedly, even in the absence of good sex education, only a small percentage of people who use porn use it to figure out how sex “really works.” Most of the teens who use porn use it for the same reason anyone else does—arousal, masturbation and orgasms. Nevertheless, the lessons that mainstream porn teaches when no one knows that they’re learning from it may be just as disheartening.

Susie Bright, in The Pride of Miss Kitty MacKinnon, famously compared many people who criticize the problematic aspects of mainstream porn to people who taste several glasses of salt water and insist only one of them is salty. However, that glass of saltwater is still salty, and porn still has many racist, sexist and queerphobic elements. Even worse, in the absence of truly comprehensive sex education, many people may believe that real sex is somehow supposed to reflect those elements.

“Porn gives us the wonderful ‘she-male’ and ‘chicks with dicks’ names… I’d consider it a misconception because people think those are legitimate things to call us,” trans activist Ami Angelwings says. “Asian trans women porn gave a former boyfriend of mine the idea that trans women were prettier and passed better than white ones which led him to remark ‘Asian guys make the best women’ (and yes that’s when I broke up with him).”

“The majority of guys who fetishize Japanese women are clearly getting it from anime porn,” Pervocracy said, “and will be very disappointed if their Japanese woman turns out not to be childlike, whimperingly submissive, or cartoonishly cutesy.”

“I think the porn that plays into the submissive Asian girls thing is more the Asian porn produced in the US… these often exotify Asian women,” Angelwings said.

She added, “I know more than a few people who have intuited through the differences in expression in women in Japanese porn (vs. US porn) that Japanese men get off on rape.”

Some people object to the idea that a private fantasy in the boundaries of one’s own mind is something other people ought to be concerned with. However, a person’s private sex life is much different than treating trans women as “chicks with dicks” or Japanese women as childish and submissive in media distributed around the globe. A fantasy is one thing; perpetrating degrading and inaccurate stereotypes is quite another. Whatever their flaws, most schools at least try to convey the idea that you shouldn’t stereotype people based on their race or gender identity, a distinct plus over porn.

Equally troublesome is the clean, packaged image of sex sold within mainstream pornography. Within the world of mainstream porn, erections appear upon request and continue until their owner wishes for the sex to end, at which point the orgasm is prompt. Sex positions and acts are chosen for how they look on camera, not how they feel to the participants. Everyone is constantly up for sex, with no negotiation between fluctuating libidos required. No one ever experiences vaginal farting or can’t get the penis in no matter what they do or falls off the bed.

Porn is a fantasy. Fantasies are supposed to be unrealistic. To depict the fluffers or the multiple retakes or the porn star getting the hair waxed off her ass would ruin the movie. Genuine sex education could teach people that erections and orgasms are often unpredictable, that acrobatic sex positions aren’t always necessary for good sex, that libidos differ, and that sometimes mistakes happen in sex. But in its absence, the fantasy of porn—and the fantasy that porn is not a fantasy—can lead to unrealistic beliefs about how sex works.

That’s the advantage of truly comprehensive sex education. Of course, it can reveal that women are often not multiorgasmic and how to have safer sex, and that’s valuable. But, more importantly, truly comprehensive sex education can point out the diversity of sex: people have different bodies, different desires and different abilities; it’s not that the sex presented in mainstream porn is the best and other people’s sex is less good, but that there are thousands of possible and enjoyable sex lives. Sex is human and weird and often quite funny, and that’s a side of it that porn rarely shows.

“Porn also hid from me the existence of sexual moods beyond ‘passionate’ or ‘dominating,’” Holly Pervocracy said. “It wasn’t until I got out into the sexual real world that I understood the idea you could have sleepy sex, that you could have silly giggling sex, that you could have quick morning sex or slow evening sex, that you could have romping goofy sex with your shirts or socks still on, that you could have cuddly sex, that you could have comfort-sex when one of you is sad, that you could have ‘hm, let’s see if this works’ experimental sex, that you could have sweetly awkward nerd-sex, that you could have gleefully competitive athletic sex.”

And she adds, “It wasn’t until I got out in the sexual real world that I knew you could smile during sex.”

 AlterNet / March 26, 2012  |