re normcore (already the most embarrassing word of 2k14, maybe more embarrassing than ‘selfie’), k-hole, youth mode, that nymag op-ed, and the proliferation of articles written in response (like this one by cat smith)
In December, we interviewed Silvia Federici, a Marxist-feminist thinker, author and activist. Federici was a member of the International Feminist Collective beginning in the 1970’s, which produced the Campaign for Wages for Housework along with Selma James and Maria Dalla Costa. She is the…
Calvino’s text is thus an accurate representation of the paradoxical status of women in Western discourse: while culture originates form woman and is founded on the dream of her captivity, women are all but absent form history and cultural process. …The following essay, then, is written on the wind, through the silence that discourse prescribes for me, woman writer, and across the chasm of its paradox that would have me at once captive and absent. Teresa de Lauretis
"Authenticity, publicly witnessed authenticity, drives activism, it senses falseness and aims its critique more at mass conformity than capitalist exploitation; there is little moral doubt in activist heads that social change is predicated only on more people becoming just like them. In its passion for cultural alternatives we see the desire of activism to be not just a negation of present conditions but an incarnation of the future, like Jesus turning up before John The Baptist."
"The discourse of autonomy that underlies many of these initiatives views the self-management of production as its ultimate goal. While current attempts at self-management are not that many, they are increasing, again – and importantly – as a symptom of the crisis and efforts to avoid unemployment.iii These projects are, again, more dependent on the vicissitudes of the market than on their members’ decisions. To remain competitive, workers very often voluntarily work longer and harder, unpaid, viewing themselves as both worker and business owner, while, when there is surplus, they reinvest it in new self-managed ventures. The relation between labour and capital is still here, just not personalised as capitalist and worker, but still existing within the same subjects. So, despite the fact that these enterprises are not subjectively driven by the motive of accumulation, they still function as capitalist enterprises and are forced to face the question of self-exploitation.
The viewpoint of such practice, the reason its participants see it as a political project, while often being careful to recognise its ‘imperfections’, is that it looks towards the ideal of a society of autonomous, self-organised worker-producers, where commodities and surpluses are distributed equally and collective planning takes the place of capitalist competition. This view, the view of autonomy, supposes that the definition of the working class is not in relation to capital but is inherent to it, that the society of workers can exist without reproducing capitalist social relations, or that the continued production of value, of accounting, of imposing an abstract quantifying equalisation of activities, has nothing to do with capitalism. It essentially formalises what we are in our present society as a basis for a new society, which is to be constructed as the liberation of what we are – the “liberation” of the worker as a worker. We cannot consider self-management in a historical vacuum. Today, self management is not a triumph but a last resort, seen as a solution to unemployment.”
"Marriage is an oppressive institution for both the married and the unmarried, and provides the major legal support for the current family form. We believe that socialists and feminists should not get married themselves and should not attend or support the marriages of any who can be convinced of our critique of the family… Nobody should have a housewife. Nobody, man, child, invalid, or woman, needs a long-term ‘housewife’ or has the right to have one." — Barret and McIntosh, "The Anti-Social Family," 1982
Hailed as “the most explicit book about sex ever written by a woman” (Edmund White), The Sexual Life of Catherine M. has become the most controversial book on sexuality since The Story of O. Millet, the editor of Art Press, has led an extraordinarily active sexual life — from alfresco encounters in Italy to a gang bang on the edge of the Bois du Boulogne, to a high-class orgy at a Parisian restaurant. Her highly graphic account is a relentlessly honest look at the consequences of sex stripped of sentiment and a fearless unmasking of the fallacies and disturbing truths of female sexuality.
"Our activity should be the immediate expression of a real struggle, not the affirmation of the separateness and distinctness of a particular group. In Marxist groups the possession of ‘theory’ is the all-important thing determining power - it’s different in the activist milieu, but not that different - the possession of the relevant ‘social capital’ - knowledge, experience, contacts, equipment etc. is the primary thing determining power.
Activism reproduces the structure of this society in its operations: “When the rebel begins to believe that he is fighting for a higher good, the authoritarian principle gets a fillip.” This is no trivial matter, but is at the basis of capitalist social relations. Capital is a social relation between people mediated by things - the basic principle of alienation is that we live our lives in the service of some thing that we ourselves have created. If we reproduce this structure in the name of politics that declares itself anti-capitalist, we have lost before we have begun. You cannot fight alienation by alienated means.”
"French sex workers must have the last word. Morgane Merteuil, general secretary of Strass (Syndicat du Travail Sexuel), which campaigns for decriminalisation, told the men claiming to defend them: "We are nobody’s whores, especially not yours … If we fight for our rights it is largely to have more power against you, so we can dictate our terms … "
"The Norwegian police recently ran Operation Homeless, whereby they notified the landlords of suspected sex workers that their tenants needed to be evicted immediately, with the loss of their deposit, or the landlord would face prosecution. That’s the legal model that is being argued for; to give the police who kick down our doors additional powers to harass, detain and deport us, while continuing to criminalise our work friendships, partners and workplaces."
"Well, that’s the stigma at work. I mean, I think it operates on how transacting sex is so deeply immeshed not only in moral but in "hygienic" and "safety" discourses. Family is especially difficult in this respect. It’s also a problem too for actually maintaining safety and, like, space of autonomy outside of the shady side which comes with doing something that’s an underground (even when legal) exchange. Like, it’s interesting. I remember reading once that the most serious issue to be pursued about sex work shouldn’t be about the relative dangers of street v. indoors work but about isolation v. communal work. Because it’s isolation which factors so much into the dangers which come with sex work. But, at the same time, it’s also the underground structure of what support is given which also factors into other problems, like drug addiction.
. A lot of the danger derives out of that structured vulnerability of being seemingly “unmissed”, which relates to why it is sex workers become the targets of violence. It relates to the structural power over them, more than (as you get with people like Meaghan Morris) this literal relation of patriarchy to male libido.
It was that, really, which made me see definitively how bad an idea any form of abolition is. It can’t address the isolation problem. Though at the same time, simple *capitalist* legalisation and regulation isn’t just a straightforward issue of workers’ rights, exactly because of the lopsided gender segregation in the dynamics of who provides the service and who “consumes” it. That can only be addressed through addressing the bases of that gendered divide, not through struggles for better conditions, etc.
The region of truth in contemporary radical feminism and ex-second-wavers like McKinnon.”
[On the Nordic model]:
“Yeah it infuriates me because, again, it isn’t the sort of analysis of the dangers that actually helps the women concretely who might encounter them. it’s all at a philosophically abstract level where the violence of patriarchy is “inevitable”. *structurally*, yes, unless patriarchy is overcome, violence will take place, often obscene violence. but concretely and contingently, the responsibility is to help as many people as possible *arm* themselves - metaphorically but also literally - against that violence in their everyday lives in order to make it *not* take place, while also allowing them to live the lives they decide on and/or need to. so what it ultimately does, the sensationalism about violence, is encourage isolation or paralysis where an option - sex work - that may have been the best thing for a woman to do in a context of not very desirable choices all around becomes impossible.
like, what happens is that their analysis tends to forget that sex work actually *is* the means of class mobility for women. it ought not be that way, but unless one can deal with the class consequences of cutting off that real path of support and movement in monetary terms, then one isn’t dealing with the problem properly. and “welfare” is structurally designed *not* to replace that kind of support.”
[not endorsing this part]
“yep. and also, though I’d want to be careful about this, I suspect it has a strong constituency of women who have suffered abusive partners in relationships. it’s hard to quantify this. I’ve often wonder how to try and offer more than anecdotal evidence. but I have a strong sense of correlation between support for the abolitionist position and an *intimate* history with violent men
which gets projected on to sex work.
and is crucial to denying the whole logic of it as a type of work. the need to inaccurately refer to it (in an economic sense) as slavery etc.
[a blog post that gives a good summary of the radical feminist view on sex work:
"The argument goes something like this. Patriarchy enforces a set of prescriptions concerning female sexuality, which have the purpose of supporting male sexual ownership of women. Women are supposed to be chaste, sexually continent, self-monitoring and self-managing sexual subjects. At the same time, patriarchy also requires that some women be placed on the margins of these prescriptions, stigmatised as “loose” and “immoral”, so that they can be more immediately available for sexual use by men (in particular, by soldiers). This stigma expresses patriarchal fear of and contempt for the sexuality of all women, but focuses it on a selected population of women who then act as social scapegoats and a “buffer” for male sexual violence.
If this view is correct, then prostitution and stigmatisation are inseparable from each other: the way that patriarchy defines the role of the prostitute, and institutionalises that role, is through sexual stigmatisation (and not a little economic and legal violence). The elimination of prostitution as an institution, the abolition of the role of the prostitute in patriarchal sexual economy, goes hand in hand with the elimination of this sexual stigma.”]
[on sex trafficking]
well, when I say rare, I don’t mean like yeti rare. actually what I should have said was something like exceptional or contingent. i think trafficking tends to arise in situations where a specific requirement demands finding a labour force which isn’t otherwise available by the usual mechanisms. and because the whole “market” is so riddled with various inefficiencies and incoherences, that may happen quite a bit. but it also can’t be enormous or else the evidence would emphatically manifest itself in a way which didn’t constantly require all this statistical chicanery and which could be presented qualitatively as well as quantitatively through manipulating illegal migration stats.”
[on why libertarians support the legalization/decriminalization of sex work]:
"because libertarians, despite what they purport about their defiance of the categories of right and left, are conservatives, they’re very interested in this relationship between the affective labour and care for male bodies patriarchal authority in the family and in the service of male libido in the public sphere. I think this is crucial to why they support decriminalization. But also, there’s an economic element not addressed here. Why male libido *needs* to be serviced in this way in the public sphere is, I’d argue, to maintain a gendered class tiering which keeps women’s labour consistently lower in recompensation than men’s labour. The thing about sex work is that even when it’s legalized, it’s very difficult to rationalize into "mass production" (even though that’s exactly what’s taking place) precisely because of the issues of autonomy involved.
I sense that sex work is thus a crucial tool - not the exclusive tool but central - for splitting the general valuation of wages along gender lines, keeping women more directly involved in unformalized “reproductive” labour (in the broad sense of reproductive of social relations totally), and ensuring female proles are left at a *devalued* baseline for their general labouring.”
"I think that the Italians understood that the structure of the “private” family already required a form of labour. so they were radically “pragmatic” and emphasized the extension of protected labour conditions to sex work for the reasons I mention above, as a way of effectively demystifying sex as this sort of obligatory “human” relation which must be granted outside the economy. but yeah there’s more to it than that because I think they also understood that the structure of patriarchy worked to ensure that it was always only *some* women who would be sex workers.
so, like, where the patriarchal “sex-positive” creepoid likes the idea of having access to women’s bodies in this no strings manner, without the more conservative partriach’s emphasis on maintaining criminalization to keep morals and manners in check, I feel like it may perhaps have been more for the Italians that they viewed sex work as being a sort of vanguard of the possibility of de-privatizing the provision of sex in familial structures.”