Sunday, 5 October 2014

Liberal Feminist Trope 2: Mind Your Own Business

I will confess that this post may seem a padded out. I wanted to make it roughly as long as the others on the site and I apologise for any repetition that may have been created as a result. I feel it was important for me to get this post out there since the "Mind Your Own Business" trope is used pretty frequently by liberals and I am curious about other people's experiences with it. If you have heard it used in a particularly obnoxious way, feel free to leave a comment describing the incident.
 “A few large cities have sex clubs and S/M bars for lesbians, while pornographic magazines and videos produced by lesbians for other women have proliferated across the United States. Our sexuality has become as public as our tattoos and our pierced bodies.” Karla Jay, a liberal feminist, in ‘Dyke Life’. Quoted in "How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women's Movement" by Shelia Jeffreys

Type: Argument trope / Rhetoric trope, Clearly Liberal

Definition and Uses

The Mind Your Own Business trope is committed when a person shouts “mind your own business” or some other statement that implicitly accuses their opponent of violating someone’s privacy, when clearly no such violation has occurred or is likely to occur in the near future. It can be used as a rhetorical phrase to express anger or it may be put forward as an argument.

Use of the phrase “mind your own business” is of course legitimate in situations where actual attempts at privacy violation have occurred. To commit the Mind Your Own Business trope is to use the phrase in an illegitimate way, to go after someone who has not committed a privacy violation and is in fact either responding to a public proclamation of some kind (e.g. an individual bragging about their sex life online) or discussing a phenomenon that everybody knows exists (e.g. prostitution) in general terms, without referring to any particular individual.

This trope is most often employed by defenders of pornography, prostitution and BDSM, right after they’ve spent a paragraph bragging about how awesome their work/sex life is, only to find that not everyone is totally in favour of what they are involved in. When the trope is employed by liberal feminists is it usually used in relation to sex, but it can also be used in relation to other controversial behaviours (e.g. smoking.)

Generic Examples

“How dare you criticise porn/sex work/BDSM/beauty practices. You should all just be quite and mind your own business. Stop shoving your noses into other people's bedrooms/homes.”

“What I do in my bedroom is my business, not anyone else's. It is certainly not the business of some nasty feminist/politician/conservative. Those people should just stick to fixing up their own lives instead of getting so worked up about what the couple next door does.”

Exception Examples

Anti-Abortionist: “Why are you so pro-abortion, you’ve had one, haven’t you?”
Abortion Rights Defender: “Whether or not I’ve had an abortion is beside the point. I’m not interested in talking to you about my personal life.”

The above is not an example of the Mind Your Own Business trope, because the anti-abortionist really was seeking to obtain private information that he/she had no right to and that the abortion rights defender had no interest in revealing. Though the anti-abortionist in this situation is not using force to extract private information out of the abortion rights defender, the latter might still feel pressured to give in to the demand for information. Personal questions of this nature should not be used in the context of a political discussion, unless one has a very good reason for asking them.


This trope is dishonest, because it contains an implied accusation that is not true. The right to privacy is of course very important, but when one uses this trope they often express a concern for their own privacy which borders on paranoia. Users of this trope seem to believe that mere criticisms of behaviours, which they or others publicly brag about, are morally equivalent to creating an Orwellian state in which cameras are placed in everyone’s bedrooms and everyone’s sex lives are closely monitored. Radical feminists have no intention of creating such a situation. They typically do not have much interest in learning the details of specific individuals' "empowered" sex lifes, either.

If one decides to speak publicly about their private life (remember, the internet counts as a public forum) they should understand that such a decision has consequences. Criticism is one such consequence. Those who cannot handle criticism should refrain from bragging about their “social boundary transgressing” sex lives in public. Those who think the entire world needs to know about how amazing their sex lives are should learn to deal with the fact that not everybody thinks about sex in the same orgasm-centric way they do.

The trope also ignores the way in which many of the behaviours defended by the trope are actually quite public (as illustrated by the above quote). Pornography is probably the clearest example of the “private” behaviour that actually has very public consequences. Then you have politically active groups, such as the BDSM community, who wish to transform mainstream culture in such a way so as to ensure that their sexual practices are promoted just as frequently as more conventional sexual behaviours. If political activists within the BDSM community had their way, depictions of (and imagery related to) their sexual practices would be almost unavoidable. I suspect that when the Fifty Shades of Grey film comes out next year we will have a hard time avoiding discussions of it and of BDSM. Opponents of BDSM and other supposedly "transgressive" sex acts cannot be expected to mind their own business, when other people's "business" is all over the place.

Proponents of such behaviours may contend that those who practice them are not responsible for what corporations decide to promote. Indeed it is true that not all people who practice a particular sex act want that sex to be promoted among the general public. Some BDSM practicers have even criticised Fifty Shades of Grey, but not on the grounds that it promotes violent, male-dominated sex (instead they take issue with the way in which BDSM is portrayed.) However, this does not change the fact that sex acts which are promoted in such a manner can no longer be considered "private" and thus the supposed privateness of a particular sex act cannot be used to defend it, regardless of whether those who practice it are responsible for making it public or not.

This is not to imply that violating the privacy of those who participate in BDSM is justified, though women who feel that their BDSM relationships have become abusive should be allowed to step forward and share their stories. In general, however, people have a right to keep their sexual behaviours to themselves. Opponents of BDSM focus on the practices themselves and not on trying to undercover the identities of those who practice them, because, frankly, the sex lifes of random strangers are not all that fascinating.


Use of this trope, by someone who claims to be a feminist, is a good indication that the person is a liberal (or fun) feminist and a paranoid one at that. Those who wish to challenge liberalism should uphold the right to privacy, while not falling into this trope by unfairly accusing people of commiting privacy violations. Before shouting, “mind your own business” or a similar phrase, one should ask themself whether their opponent is actually attempting to violate their privacy. If nobody's privacy is being violated then the phrase "mind your own business" is pointless, since the person in question is minding their own business, in the sense of not actively interfering with other people's private lives. Most of the time, the person simply has an opinion about a particular behaviour that they would like to express.

Since the trope does nothing to invalidate whatever criticism is being made, it should simply be regarded as a distraction or (as those familiar with logical fallacies might put it) a red herring. Even if a person was committing a genuine privacy violation that would not prove that their viewpoint was wrong, since the truthfulness of a viewpoint is not dependent on whether its proponents behave in an ethical manner. This trope is yet another attempt by liberals to silence dissent by making false appeals to genuine ethical principles.

Coming Soon: You Think Too Much (in which political analysis of “private” sex acts is seen as a bad thing)
Please remember that I do not allow defences of liberal feminism on trope pages. Constructive criticism is fine. So far I have only had a few commenters (a big thank you to those who have commented) and none of them have been from political opponents, so for the moment I do not think it is necessary to establish more commenting rules, this may change in the future.

Note that a link to a particular piece of writing, even if it is referenced in a positive manner, does not indicate complete agreement with it or its author 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Why Mainstream Feminism is Corporate Feminism

I have deleted the link to the liberals’ hate list (originally located on my last post) after a woman featured on the list stated that the link should not be shared. My blog is not very popular at the moment so I doubt I was generating much views for the hateful (how ironic) liberals, but I wish to respect the wishes of women targeted by the site. Feel free to share links to my blog on friendly sites.

This post will add to the economics-related arguments I made in the last post. The term “mainstream feminism” in the title is merely another way of saying “liberal feminism”, since the tenants of liberal feminism are more in line with the status quo than those of radical feminism. The use of the word “corporate” in place of “bourgeois” was also a way of avoiding repetition.

Thus this article can be thought of as the conclusion to a three part discussion of how race and class are related to feminism, which began with this article. The current article will mostly focus on how liberal feminism favours those with more wealth and excludes women who have not managed to pull themselves up by their bra straps.

1. It is Opposed to “Classism” rather than Class Divisions

While radical leftists argue for the abolition of all class divisions and all power inequalities, liberal feminists advocate for an end to “classism”. In a previous post I stated that the term does not adequately describe why capitalism is harmful or oppressive. I also said that I would include a critique of the term “classism” in a future post. Well, here it is.

If I understand liberish correctly, the term “classism” refers to prejudices which are based on economic class. The first problem with this term is that, when defined in such a way, it implies that the oppressed masses are not allowed to have negative feelings towards the wealthy capitalists who rule over them, but I am going to be charitable and assume that “classism” refers mostly to the snobbish attitudes of rich people towards poor people. Even so, the term is a weak critique of capitalism, because it assumes that social disapproval is the worst problem faced by poor people. The term fails to condemn poverty itself. In fact liberals often assume that labelling a particular group as “exploited” or “victims” is itself a form of prejudice (they apply this reasoning to prostituted women, women who conform to femininity and people with disabilities.) Thus ideologies which advocate for the abolition of classes (e.g. socialism, communism and anarchism) would have to be deemed “classist” by liberals.

The term “classism” implies that poverty is yet another “empowering choice” that people make and that we should stop disapproving of those who make it. In reality, poverty is rarely a choice and even if it were it is still generally harmful to people’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Furthermore, the division of society into classes creates a sitution in which workers and poor people have to subordinate themselves to governments and corporations and have  little control over what is produced within their society and how it is distributed. Thus they are unable to make decisions about how energy is produced, what kind of food is available to them, what conditions people should labour under and whether or not children should be taught that boys ought to be violent and dominating, while girls ought to be submissive and obsess over their physical appearances.

Those who truly value liberty, equality and democracy and want the problems discussed above to be solved should favour an end to class divisions, not just an end to “classism”. This is not to say that poor and working class people do not experience prejudice, nor do I wish to imply that hateful feelings towards such people are not a problem. What I oppose is the notion that prejudice is the only problem that lower class people face and the assumption that class divisions are just a natural part of how the world is and yet another neutral identity that people should embrace and feel pride in, rather than a brutal hierarchy which needs to be abolished.

2. It Promotes Expensive Means of “Empowerment” 

Liberal feminists believe that “empowerment” (as they call it) mostly comes, not from banding together to form a political movement which takes to the street and demands change, but from consuming products that radical feminists have been criticising since the 1960s, including make-up, high heels and even breast implants, along with other forms of plastic surgery. This liberal path to empowerment is not one which poorer women can follow, unless they go into debt or forego spending money on more important things (like food, rent and healthcare.)

Breast implants alone cost between 10,000 – 15,000 Australian dollars and that’s not even including the costs of regular checkups or any corrective surgeries which may be needed if the original surgery goes wrong. One could buy a new car with that amount of money or pay for half of a university degree (at least until Tony Abbot’s policies raise the price of tertiary education to multiple times its current cost) or buy between 200 and 300 copies of the latest radical feminist literature. Any of those options would be a better use of one’s money, yes, even the last one.

The economic cost of make-up and fancy clothes may seem trivial by comparison. However, since fashions are constantly changing and make-up is used regularly, the total cost of such prettification accumulates over time. Throughout their lives, most women will spend thousands of dollars on such methods of prettification. The only women that are actually empowered by such practices, and the viewpoints that justify their use, are those few who are part of the capitalist class and profit from the sale of these products. Most women do not gain more social or political power by consuming such products and thus are not truly empowered by them.

The type of “sexual liberation” and “sexual subversion” advocated by liberals can also be expensive. In my view, a genuinely subversive sexuality would be one which challenges the belief that sexiness consists of one person dominating another. Instead the liberal version of “sexual subversion” reinforces this belief through the use of whips, chains and nipple torture devices. Obviously, these objects are not naturally part of either male or female bodies. They must be manufactured and are thus a source of profit for businesses. If there ever was a time when BDSM was a threat to capitalism, it is long over. Now companies that sell BDSM equipment are generating additional profit due to the success of Fifty Shades of Grey and the growing popularity of BDSM practices.
Within walking distance of my home, sits a BDSM sex shop named after an aristocrat (that tells me more than I need to know about which class the BDSM community admires.) I will not reveal the actual name of the shop or the website I used to learn about its products lest I generate more publicity and hence income for it. I will tell you that a whip from that place will cost you 80 dollars (in US money.) A complete set of restraints costs 160 dollars. The “deluxe” set costs 245 dollars. Dressing up like a sexualised Hitler costs 450 dollar. Showing complete disrespect for survivors of the Holocaust and their families is probably priceless in the owners’ minds. 

In case you think the Nazi costumes and the rib crushing corsets (which cost even more than the Hitler costume) are optional, BDSM events usually have dress codes which mandate that attendants turn up in BDSM-related outfits. One is not required to dress like a fascist, but turn up wearing ordinary clothes with two digit price tags and they will kick you out for being too “vanilla-looking.” They might as well stick a “no Jews or poor people allowed” sign above the doors to their events.

3. It Celebrates the Rich and Successful

When trying to determine whether a piece of media is “feminist” or not, liberals look for “strong female characters” or strong real-life individuals who overcome social barriers to become successful. They believe that individual success stories, whether real or fictional, will inspire other individuals who watch them to live out their own American Dreams. This notion of female empowerment is clearly very capitalistic and in line with the dominant narratives about how the goal of the individual should be to advance their own status in a hierarchical world. The individual empowerment narrative is used to defend hierarchial orders by asserting that they pose no real harm and that anyone can overcome them, unless of course they are “weak” or “not inspired enough”.  

Among the women who are celebrated by liberal feminists for being “inspiring” are celebrities who have the superficial appearance of being empowered, such as Pink, Lilly Allen, Katy Perry and most of all BeyoncĂ©. To my knowledge none of these women have sung about the need for women to form a movement to fight oppression and Katy Perry has explicitly distanced herself from feminism in her interviews (which does not really bother me because women who know nothing about feminism have no right to claim they represent it) and continues to have little understanding of what it means.

These “empowered” female celebrities sing about their personal success and not about the need for women as a group to fight against oppressive social structures. Songs such as “Stupid Girls” by Pink and “Hard out Here” by Lilly Allen attack less empowered women for supposedly being stupid, the former even goes so far as to mock women suffering from eating disorders. Then you have the song “Independent Women” by BeyoncĂ©, which does not explicitly attack anyone, but which implies that women who are strong, independent and, most of all, rich, belong to some superior breed of women and that women who are not making their own money (and lots of it) do not. In fact the importance of an individual becoming rich or powerful or both, is a common theme in these supposedly “feminist” songs and liberals who claim they are “anti-capitalist” eat it right up.

The celebration of rich, successful individuals is taken to extremes in the case of “empowered sex workers”. Like the celebrities discussed above, these “sex workers” (as they call themselves) brag about how wealthy they are and how much expensive and totally unnecessary junk they can afford to buy. They assume, without question, that wealth, consumerism and prettiness should be the centre of a woman’s existence. Thus they reinforce all kinds of nasty stereotypes about prostituted women and women in general. 

Unlike strong female celebrities, self-proclaimed "sex workers" do not even try to argue that they earned their money through their own efforts. They blatantly claim that they are being paid excessive amounts of money to have orgasms and be physically attractive. These women do not represent the majority of women in prostitution and I doubt they are even representing their own experiences in their entirety. They use their own success to justify the exploitation of other prostituted women throughout both the first and third world and perpetuate an industry that harms these "weak" women. Self-proclaimed "sex workers" speak as if such women barely exist and are mostly an invention of "oppressive" sex negatives. Their contempt for the "non-empowered" is clear.


The reason I am complaining about the way in which liberal feminism excludes poor people and celebrates the rich is not because I want in. Rather, the fact that they came up with their brand of “empowerment” without taking into account the fact that not everybody can afford to follow it constitutes further evidence that the liberal feminist ideology does not truly represent the interests of the oppressed of the world, regardless of the intentions of its proponents.

If liberals really want to stand up for the oppressed of the world they need to recognise that not everyone chooses to be in the situation that they are in economically or in terms of work and not everybody “likes it”. They also need to recognise the difference between an inner sense of “identity” and a social role imposed onto people as part of a hierarchical system. So long as they continue to push the paradoxical view that being dominated economically, socially or sexually can somehow be a form of freedom and individuality, they cannot claim to be fighting for a better, more egalitarian world. 
That concludes my critique of liberal feminism’s approach to race and class issues. Such themes will be discussed again in the future, but for now I would like to address other issues, such as how to distinguish liberal feminists from true radicals.