Archive for the 'Internet' Category
Over the last few days, feminist-and-popular-culture website Jezebel has found itself in a lot in hot water after publishing a piece titled ‘American Guy In Paris Freed From The Idea Of “Consent”’. In this travesty of an article, American writer ‘Edward Pasteck’ (not his real name) talks at great length about how ‘liberated’ French women are from the restrictive, puritanical concept of ‘consent’, and how French women don’t feel the need to consent “if a decision will suffice.”
Not surprisingly, the piece was met by a torrent of comments from people questioning the difference is between ‘consent’ and ‘a decision’, and plenty more people angrily pointing out that the topic of consent shouldn’t be up for debate.
While I was reading the article, I did find myself wondering why a website like Jezebel (that has traditionally been a safe space for women and feminists to discuss the intersection of feminism and pop culture) would decide to publish a piece by an male American writer that not only exotifies and sexualises French women, but that also read suspiciously like rape apology.
Since then, Jezebel have published a response by an anonymous French woman discussing the realities of living in a city like Paris, and also an editorial by Editor-in-Chief Jessica Coen in which she talks a little bit about why the article was published without sufficient warning of it’s content. However, as many of Jezebel’s readers have quite rightly pointed out, none of this does much to address the question of why a feminist website appears to believe that the subject of consent is up for discussion.
Reading these articles, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a similar incident that occurred a few months ago, when Feministe chose to publish an article called ‘Fat and Health’.
The problem with this piece is that it reinforces a system of body-shaming where women (and men) are told that they should be ashamed of their own bodies, and supports a society in which the Focus on Fat is placed way, way ahead of a focus on health. Or, for that matter, a focus on people’s rights to do what they please with their own bodies, regardless of whether they’re taking risks with their physical health or not (a privilege that’s happily awarded to, as an example, young men who drive dangerously or practice extreme sports that are likely to place them in hospital, draining public services).
Monica’s article caused a similar amount of outrage on Feministe as Edward Pasteck’s piece is currently stoking up over at Jezebel, and in fact caused Feministe to publish a very similar sort of response/counterpoint article by Zuzu.
The problem here is that, once again, we are left clueless as to why a feminist website would choose to publish something that is so obviously a part of the system that continues to oppress and shame women all around the world. In short: websites like Jezebel and Feministe really should know better. However, the more that I think about it, the more I realise that the issue is more complicated than that. Because, while articles like Monica’s ‘Fat and Health’ and Pasteck’s ‘American Guy in Paris’ have compromised these previously safe spaces, and upset and enraged a good proportion of the websites’ readership, they have also provided heated and articulate responses in the comments section that have exponentially increased my understanding of issues like fat acceptance and street harassment.
And I doubt that I’m the only one.
I found myself in a similar sort of situation in the wake of RaceFail 09 which pretty much served as my introduction to issues of equality activism generally, and did an awful lot to educate me about anti-racism. Just like with the debacle over at Jezebel/Feministe, we’re left in a situation where a lot of harm and damage has been done, and yet as a result of that harm, there has been an increase in people’s awareness of these issues.
The only way forwards, then, must be to accept that these things have happened—and both the good and bad that occurs as a result—without getting bogged down in an argument about whether the trade-off is ‘worth it’ or not. As with all things, the worth of any consciousness-raising vs. damage done is something that is going to be different for every individual, and we must be sure not to fall into a trap where harm needs to be caused to the minority in order for the dominant majority to be educated.
I guess that no one ever said that the path to total equality would be paved with gold. However I, for one, am grateful to all the readers and commenters over at Feministe and Jezebel for the lengths that they’ve gone to in order call these websites out on their bullshit, and for the amount that I have learned as a result—even though my level of respect for the websites concerned may take some time to recover.