Trying to Build Bridges of Understanding

 

Why I am unhappy about the Rape Crisis association with Burlesque shows.

It has been so difficult writing this blog, I have begun it and deleted it a number of times. As Kath Dey stated in her blog there are different forms of feminism, I want to expand on that.

I care about the women who work in Rape Crisis and I admire the achievements of the organisation. As old as I am I’m a very current, relevant type of feminist, my politics are radical feminist and this aspect of the feminist political spectrum has made a significant impact over the years on exposing the horrors of the global patriarchal culture of rape and femicide. Even in this time of backlash against feminist politics radical feminists all over the world are fighting back.

This particular analysis lead to the anger and energy that formed rape crisis organisations, battered women’s refuges, exit programs and safe houses for prostituted women attempting to escape pimps, brothels and traffickers throughout the world. Radical feminist research informs and assists with the creation of special police units, created to stop sex trafficking and rescue and rehabilitate women and girls. These liaise with each other and Interpol across continents.

Radical feminists challenge the patriarchal belief that women’s bodies are there for men to posses and use however they choose and to fundamentally challenge the patriarchal murderous sense of entitlement. The radical feminists’ political agenda is primarily to identify and stop violence against women, girls and children in the many forms it takes, and obviously to stop violence against men and boys. It’s clear from the Rape Crisis training modules that this organisation understands these challenges very well.

The socialist feminists’ political agenda is to expose the exploitation of particularly women and girls in the area of labour and to create economic equality. This is on the radical feminist agenda too but the socialist feminists focus more on the exploitation of labour.

The liberal feminist agenda appears to be more individualistic and focused on the promotion of personal empowerment, personal pleasure and exploring and getting in touch with individual sexuality. Of course it’s accepted that there must be equality in the work place and that violence against women must be stopped but the belief is that women have the individual right to do things like sell their bodies in prostitution and pornography, euphemistically called “sex work”, and the right to indulge to the hilt in the fashion and cosmetic industry. This is not understood to be oppressive but a right to personal choice and personal freedom; the patriarchal commercial manipulation behind it is not recognised. There is denial that these industries are run by males attempting to mould women into servicing their male sexual fantasies, predominantly fantasies of the type that get heightened by the sexual domination of pubescent girls who show no resistance and are compliant with the job of servicing of patriarchal narcissism.

This kind of thinking appears not to show solidarity with the vast majority of women who cannot indulge the illusion of personal choice and who have to comply with the full weight of patriarchal oppression and simply try to survive.

Anti-violence feminists oppose the sexual exploitation of women and demand the total transformation of the dominant/submissive sexuality of male supremacy and the recognition of the rights of women everywhere to fulfill their potential and not waste their precious lives in the service of men.

So as a radical feminist abolitionist, who sees the enormous international sex trafficking industry, controlled by criminal syndicates, as a modern day slave trade and as some one who has attended:

  • The United Nations International Women Year Conference in Mexico City,
  • the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women in Brussels,
  • worked for 12 years setting up Rape Crisis in Cape Town,
  • worked in England in a London NGO which exposed the violent face of the sex industry,
  • attended the National Conference on the Harms of Pornography in Chicago US, (this was addressed by Andria Dorkin and Catherine McKinnon),
  • attended an The International Feminist Conference in Brighton, England   returned to South Africa
  • participated in the First National Consultative Conference Against the Sexual Exploitation of Children, (and put the conference report together)
  • Worked for the Institute for Child and Family Development at the University of the Western Cape, part of a team who worked on the streets of Cape Town researching what was happening to prostituted women and girls, focusing on girls below the age of 18. (see Child Victims of Prostitution in the Western Cape 1999).

I should know a thing or two about patriarchal violence.

When I look at the three intelligent faces of the women on the cover of the Rape Crisis Annual Report 2016 and I think of the possibility of them gyrating on the stage with tassels on their nipples, glittering G-strings and feather boas, “getting in touch with their sexuality” I feel that it’s an insult to their intelligence and sexual integrity. Yes! Dance, sing, have fun, send yourself up but don’t parcel yourself up as an infantile “Miss Fluffy Kitty” to fit into a male sexual fantasy of a submissive woman.  Don’t believe that burlesque is healthy, liberating fun. We need to look for other ways to have fun, like the hilarious line dance at the Rape Crisis birthday celebration and things like that!

The human sex drive is powerful, personal and anarchistic. To attempt to commercialise it is to oppress it and distort it. It can never be destroyed; it’s a fundamentally strong life force!

 

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Anne Mayne

Founder of Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. We invite anyone reading this to share your opinion and submit your piece to our Director, Kathleen Dey, at kath@rapecrisis.org.za for publication on this site. We hope to spark our own debate to see what feminists of today, and any other day, think and feel.

 

 

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About rapecrisisblog

We have a vision of a South Africa in which rape survivors suffer no secondary trauma, and are supported throughout their interaction with the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Our mission is to promote an end to violence against women, specifically rape, and to assist women to achieve their right to live free from violence. Rape Crisis Cape Town seeks to achieve its mission through counselling and training of women, thereby reducing the trauma experienced by rape survivors, and encouraging reporting of rape and the conviction of rapists.

3 thoughts on “Trying to Build Bridges of Understanding

  1. It is a shame when respected feminists like Anne Mayne create false dichotomies, separating radical feminism (serious life saving stuff this! All victims and misery and saviours) from the “liberal feminist agenda”. It suggests that the body Positivity movement is not paradigm shifting even though it is a strong unifying force that gives space to Queer people, disabled people, fat people and so many others. It feeds into calls for racial justice, supports women’s rights to choose abortions/divorce/sex-work/whatever coping strategies they prefer, critiques the Male Gaze and unpacks issues of consent and sexual pleasure etc. Burlesque is playful but it can be radical too. This is a form of expression that is chosen freely and it is not associated with social ills. It is a shame for RapeCrisis to reject funding from a Burlesque group, as though they are better feminists for it.

  2. This is a very disturbing position to take, especially with your attempts to justify it with unrelated associations with (possibly) exploited women and sex.

    Its simple really.

    Did the burlesque dancers consent?
    Where the burlesque dancers coerced into consenting?

    If yes there was consent, and no there was no coercion then you are simply policing women’s bodies and expression- and that is neither radical nor femininst. In fact you are reproducing the exact dynamics of diempowerment and ownership of women’s bodies that you claim to dislike.

    You have in fact reproduced patriarchal thinking by judging these women from your own assumptions and prejudices and assumptions- with no exposure at all to the reality of who they are and how and why they perform burlesque. You have tried to silence these women, you have tried to shame them for taking up space in public on their own terms, you have reduced them to bodies that are unthinking, and unfeeling and uneducated- with no actual knowledge of who they are and what they think. There is nothing feminist or radical in how you have examined this issue, or attempted to problematise what you have seen. You have had a reaction to something and have forgotten to start with your own positionality and filter on the matter.

    I cannot fathom how you cannot see how you have attempted to invisibilse, shame and diminish these women publically without ctitically examining your own beliefs first.

    Are you trying to drive traffic to the rape crisis website by artifically creating an “issue” where there is none?

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