Standing up for "Girls" while firing a shot across the bow of Identity Politics

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Alice Walker


The outcry over a recent “Girls” episode startled me. What happened to a woman’s sexual agency? [By Anna March]

I was surprised when several bright writers whose work I admire labeled the scene rape, because to me and to so many other bright writers whose work I admire, it so clearly was not rape. Categorizing it as such is an intellectually unsound discrediting of women’s power. Natalia was not raped and to call the sex she consented to rape is to demean actual victims of sexual assault and devalue the crime. Further, it is paternalistic in its approach to women, as though women are helpless beings incapable of voicing their wants, and, absent violence and/or threats of violence, can’t or won’t say no. If we want to argue that women are so limited by the patriarchy that they can’t say no, how do we counter the arguments that women can’t handle jobs in the military or working as police officers? If they can’t escape the narrow roles that a male-dominated society allows them (which some offer as a reason why a woman can’t say no in bed), how will they be able to embrace their power as a soldier or law enforcement officer?…

…Discussing these issues over the past week, I have been reminded of how fraught with divisiveness they can be. When I shared some of my opinions – in both real-life discussions with friends and Facebook conversations – I was told that I needed to “talk to some actual survivors,” that I didn’t understand what rape was, that I was distracting from the “real” point of convincing men to stop raping, that I had no right to say what was rape and what wasn’t. In fact, I worked at an urban rape crisis center and helped launch the U.S.’s only nationwide sexual assault hotline, RAINN. I am a survivor of childhood sexual assault and have written about that in assorted publications, including here in Salon, but for my various opinions, I was told that I was not a feminist.

As Kevin Carty said in his article Identity Politics Is Counter-Productive

In perennially sensitive debates about topics like race, sex, feminism or sexual assault, one participant, usually of a certain privileged status, brings up an opinion that goes against the grain, qualifies the question or challenges the conventional wisdom. And in response, he is often dismissed with some reference to his white, male or fill-in-the-blank privilege.

As Anna March discovered, if you don’t agree with the common wisdom of the feminists, you’re not a feminist.

And the worst thing a ‘feminist’ writer can do is say out loud that she was not a victim. If you want to be a successful political writer, you must shout ” Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I’m being repressed!” in every single article you write.

About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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