How Social Movements Prostitute Women
Feminspire | On 28, Aug 2013
Nude protest has a long history in the backlogs of social activism, but it is certainly gaining a lot of momentum in today’s world of mainstream pornography, third-wave patriarchy-approved “feminism,” and revolutionized sexuality. Media attention is a social movement’s best asset. It gets your organization more recognition, attracts more volunteers, and more importantly, it brings in more donations. These days, to get media attention in a media landscape that is bombarded with competing images, social movement organizations are trying to stay ahead of the curve and basically throw out free soft-core porn. Lots of pornographers use this technique. They give the consumer a little taste of the product, and once they get hot and bothered enough, they will come looking for more, and willing to pay this time.
Honestly, I had hoped to write this piece on social movements as a whole, but sadly, once again, the Nonhuman Animal rights movement steals the show in its atrocious treatment of women. Really, the only other large social movement (that isn’t the nudity movement itself, where people advocate for the freedom to be naked without penalization) is the peace and anti-war movement. Breasts Not Bombs, for instance, has female volunteers march in public spaces holding political signs.
Then there’s Femen, a feminist group of mostly white, thin young women who claim to speak on behalf of all women (oftentimes brown women specifically) with a free nudie show in public spaces. A politically active, angry young lady is sexy stuff for male onlookers.
Really though, getting naked for a cause is the Nonhuman Animal rights movement’s M.O. Should it be no surprise that most activists for other animals are women? The largest volunteer pool has some very important assets for “the cause,” and it’s not intelligence, job skills, creativity, dedication, or leadership ability. It’s tits and ass.
Organizations like PETA (and sadly, they may be the most infamous, but certainly not the only pimps on the block in animal rights) take female volunteers, put them on street corners, posters, and film, and basically have them prostituted. This prostitution is defended in the exact same way we write off regular prostitution–the woman chose to do it; she’s getting something out of it. Of course, we know free choice is an illusion. Women do not have the same choices available to them that men do. Women in Nonhuman Animal rights are being funneled into the “choice” of stripping down for the male gaze in public spaces.
Female activists are selling their bodies, but none of the profit goes to these sex workers. The money goes to their pimps–the organizations that they represent. If a John buys a prostituted woman for sex acts, he pays her, the money goes to her pimp. If a John buys a PETA membership because of his interest in PETA’s prostituted women, the money goes to her pimp. PETA’s anti-fishing demonstration that has young women hold signs that read, “Don’t let your kids become hookers,” is really just too ironic. Someone should hold a sign up to PETA, “Don’t let your activists become hookers.”
Incidentally, there is a vegan strip club in Portland, Oregon where women are even more literally being prostituted for “the cause.” The male club owner insists that “throwing boobs out there” is the only way to get people to visit his restaurant and try his vegan menu. He claims he wants to end the suffering of all creatures. I guess he forgot women are creatures, too. By the way, stripping, like prostitution, is sex work that often preys on vulnerable populations of women. It is sex work with extremely high rates of sexual assault, rape, and other forms of violence. It is sex work that is extremely difficult for most women to make a living doing. Strip clubs have a strict set of rules that ensure most money stays in the hands of the male owners, not in the hard-working women. Like prostitution, it’s “glamorized” or “romanticized” as something freely chosen by independent women who have full control over their work and lives.
Social activism today has been swept into the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, where organizations must compete for vital fundraising in order to survive. Their extreme dependence on funding means that tactics are compromised, and advocacy becomes a means of making money, not changing the world. Even if people were to begin supporting Nonhuman Animal rights organizations because of the sex work female advocates engage (and there is no evidence to support such a notion), that money raised is not going to help animals, it’s going to headquarters to keep the lights on, pay staff members, and fund more ways to raise money.
We’re squandering an important resource when we let our social movements degrade women’s participation to stripping and legal prostitution. Think of how much we could achieve if we nurtured women’s brains instead of ogling their bodies. Beyond the negative impact these movements are having on their constituency, imagine the impact this type of “activism” has on women as a whole. The socially-accepted degradation of women and their sexual objectification is directly linked with discrimination and violence against women. Can we get our women off the streets, please?
The featured image is courtesy of Ted Szukalski.
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