Feb 06 2011

Spinster aunt too lazy to write essay, posts blamer comment instead

This short essay, written by blamer TwissB in response to yesterday’s anti anti-abortion bill post, is so swell it deserves its own page. TwissB is, as the kids say, (or used to say 5 years ago), teh awesome. Wow, you say, I wish she had a feminist reference website! Well, your wish is my command. Yay!


And even now another ERA silly season is in full swing as legislators in various states (e.g. Florida and Virginia) are being assured by ERA enthusiasts that a constitutional prohibition on sex discrimination against women will “NOT regulate abortion”! While they alternate these assurances on odd days with pro-choice marches on even days, one can only marvel at so much misplaced energy.

So, it’s time to offer a radical alternative.

Balkanizing primary sex discrimination into a swarm of separate issues as current Official Feminism does denies women a coherent way of rebelling against it. Primary sex discrimination is men’s invasive, subordinating attack on women’s reproductive organs through pregnancy regulation, prostitution, and pornography – the perfect target since nothing misogyny can do to hurt that organ unique to women can inflict the slightest pain on men. Consider any of those “but women are different so it would be discrimination if you treated them the same as men” bits of Aristotelian holy writ and sure enough the uterus or its related gotcha parts and functions are cited as the pretext for any acts of restriction or dehumanization men want to be free to inflict on women.

When it comes to anything men regard as “sex,” the right to treat women differently is taken for granted. Primary sex discrimination is protected by a gentlemen’s agreement. It is enough to trot out abstractions like the interest of the state, men’s natural needs, or the First Amendment to turn the cruelest attacks on women into unchallengeable institutions.

Difference arguments are more overtly made in cases of secondary sex discrimination in employment, for example, or military service assignment, or single sex schooling. Legal practitioners know that there is nothing in the Constitution to prohibit sex discrimination against women, but only Justice Scalia dares to say so.

Disparate impact is tertiary sex discrimination which can be ignored by courts and legislators or remedied as men’s advantage is perceived.

If women were to make a concerted attack on primary sex discrimination – pregnancy regulation, prostitution and pornography, I think we’d wreck the men’s game. It would tie the liberal and conservative cats’ tails together and hang them over the clothesline. But it would also challenge women on the left and the right to quit collaborating with men in reducing the most anti-women practices to political entertainment for men.


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  1. Mary Tracy9

    Would anyone on the blametariat be so kind as to post a more “simple” version of this comment? I can’t really understand what she’s saying here, but it looks interesting.
    Perhaps a “101” type definition of “primary sex discrimination”? I cannot believe that I haven’t encountered this concept in years of feminist reading.

  2. Soporificat

    Great resources, TwissB, thank you! I’m going to pass them on to my 16 yr old blamer who has been grappling with the sexism in her school, both from faculty and students. She has been fighting back, but she needs all the ammo she can get.

    What’s been especially frustrating to her is that we live in a “liberal” part of the country, and she goes to a “liberal” private school which is full of very smart kids. So, she thought she could trust her friends there to see her as a full human being, and act accordingly. It has been a horrible shock to her to discover that the male students feel entitled to violate her boundaries, verbally and physically, and that very few of the females are willing to put themselves in the line of fire, even when they see my daughter calling people out and being attacked for it. That has actually been the most difficult thing for her to cope with. She feels very disappointed by humanity right now, and she has had to give up on a lot of her friendships. It’s very tiring for her, and I’m trying to give her as much support as I can.

  3. Soporificat

    @Mary Tracy9

    The primary sexual characteristics are the organs used for reproduction. So, for women they include the uterus, vagina, etc…Primary sexual organs are unique to each gender, thus if you are making laws governing one set of them, those laws will only have an impact on one gender, thus insulating the other gender from those laws.

    So, it is a neat way to discriminate against women, while giving the appearance to you aren’t doing so. After all, the laws are not directed towards women, they are directed towards uteri (for example). Is it the law’s fault if only women happen to have uteri?

    Well, anyway, this is my take on what TwissB means by primary sex discrimination.

  4. J

    I really like the “stop Abortion? Fix Men!” article. It makes so much logical sense to control unfettered male fertility, and yet male birth control remains in its infancy. And vasectomies remain hotly debated, and least in my personal circles. For every one man that has had one, there are dozens who would “never”. Because men expect their bodily integrity to remain sovereign at all times, of course. But their wives and girlfriends are expected to pump their bodies with hormones, get invasive tube-tying procedures, foot the costs and, most annoyingly, to devote constant MENTAL energy toward the preoccupation of birth control. Men underestimate the toll mental energy takes, because they are expected to devote ZERO energy.

  5. AlienNumber

    I have this idea: what if all male children, when they turn 12 or so, donate some sperm which is to be kept in a sperm bank until they are ready to become fathers. After the sperm donation they all get nice vasectomies. This will be like a male rite of passage, similar to the onset of menstruation for girls.

    Two things will immediately happen: 1) men will become more invested in parenthood, because baby-making will require thought and planning and 2) abortion will disappear just like that.

    (I understand some of the potential racist and classist implications of this, but, you know, an idea).

  6. J

    @Aliennumber, then men will be foaming at the mouth. “How dare you FORCE us to endure this bodily violation! You’re trying to CONTROL MEN!”

    And they will not see the irony.

  7. HazelStone

    Wow, trotting out the old torturing animals analogy. Great.

  8. AlienNumber

    HazelStone, what is this old analogy of which you speak?

  9. Comrade PhysioProf

    I have read the OP and the comments up to here several times, and I am not seeing anything that looks like it could be interpreted as alluding to “torturing animals”, no matter how obliquely. HazelStone, what are you referring to?

  10. anonymene

    Beautifully stated (although, MaryTracy, I agree with you:))

    Twiss, I’d love to see you elaborate more on the last paragraph (as I am always eager to hear about things that can be DONE rather than DISCUSSED.)

  11. CootieTwoshoes

    I think it’s a reference to “tie the liberal and conservative cats’ tails together and hang them over the clothesline” in the last paragraph.

  12. Comrade PhysioProf

    Oh, I think I gotte itte:

    It would tie the liberal and conservative cats’ tails together and hang them over the clothesline.

  13. AlienNumber

    @J- but men will surely quickly understand that this almost pain-free and minor surgical procedure will save millions of lives.
    (more info on vasectomies, with sketch of male reproductive organs: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/men/reproductive/195.html.)

    Of course, once we institutionalize the policy, the abortion clinic protesters may temporarily find themselves in an existential crisis and we may lose some of them to suicide, but that surely seems like a small price to pay if we think of all the soulful embryos that never have to be be created only to die only weeks later.

    Furthermore, for those who like that kind of stuff, PIV (or vagina-around-penis) sex will become that much more anxiety- and drama-free.

    The more I think about this the more I don’t understand why it’s not a national policy in every single country on earth.

  14. Noanodyne

    Here’s my interpretation (for someone who asked): There are multiple ways that women’s lives are constrained, starting with being the primary, enduring subjects of rape, commercial rape, and rape-representation, to restrictions on what we can do with our own pregnant bodies, and on through how few of us there are in legislative bodies around the world. The first four are primary sex discrimination — they’re based on our sexual & reproductive organs. Everything else follows from there. All the other issues, though of course related, have obfuscated a simple solution: completely do away with primary sex discrimination (rape, prostitution, pornography, and pregnancy regulation) and everything else will fall into line. Girls and women would be sovereign over our bodies, no matter what, under every circumstance, without question or quibble or qualifiers. Rather than the piecemeal attack on each way that men show their hatred for women (I mean, that girls and women are discriminated against), address that one thing and the other forms would have no foundation.

    This solution is specifically addressing all the ways that we get caught up in (and wrung out by) the legislative or legal outrage of the moment and the idea that an ERA doesn’t have to address abortion. By seeing that everything is based on primary sex discrimination, we can see that the ERA will only work if it specifically addresses all forms of primary sex discrimination. By focusing on this one core issue, we can pool our resources for the biggest, most effective fight and deny men the many ways they play games with our lives.

  15. allhellsloose

    primary sex discrimination – pregnancy regulation, prostitution and pornography

  16. Kelly

    Whole-grain Jeebus, thank you for the link to TwissB’s site! I’m going to read deeply. I will have to look things up. I am still not getting the differences between “primary, secondary, & tertiary”.

    Re: vasectomies. My partner recently told me he has had many men ask him the most rudimentary questions on how those “work” and how they are performed. One fellow asked if upon orgasm there was any ejaculate matter. In contrast I have yet to meet a full-grown lady who doesn’t know the basics (even my two young children do).

  17. Mujery Legs

    Confusion: “the right to treat women differently.”

    Doesn’t MacKinnon argue equal treatment doesn’t mean SAME treatment, because there are sex differences?

    And aren’t there sex differences, like (without getting into pregnancy, childcare, and home/work preferences) differential chronic illness and disability rates among women and men?

    What if what women want/need is the right to be treated differently, because they are different?

  18. TwissB

    You bet. I’ve nurtured the same thought, wishing that some brave and witty women legislators would blithely counter those junk abortion bills by proposing legislation along exactly those semen-extracting and storing lines. Think of the delicious regulations governing legal permission to to make withdrawals from one’s sperm bank account and get authorization to use it. Any suggestions for bill titles?

  19. Orange

    Amen to what J says about the toll those mental energy expenditures take. Add to contraception-related mental energy these other energy sinks for so many women: (1) Locking the car door as soon as you get in. (2) Thinking twice about walking alone after dark. (3) Makeup. (4) Hair products. (5) Are my boobs big and/or perky enough? (6) Aging. (7) Body size. (8) Control-top pantyhose/Spanx. (9) High heels. (10) Avoiding situations in which someone would blame her if she got raped. (11) Childcare. (12) Housework. Compare the mental energy men devote to such things. IBTP.

  20. TwissB

    @Mujery Legs. Men love the “sameness v. difference” arguments because they get to define men as setting the sameness standard and women as exceptions to the standard. Suppose that instead of viewing men and women as conflicting opposites, we were to point out that human is a combination of male and female and that equality should be held up to a human standard.

    It should strike us as bitterly hilarious that health insurers choose to view pregnancy as a “voluntary condition” for which all costs must be assessed to women. “Suppose,” asked former NOW president Judy Goldsmith, “women quit volunteering?”

    Insurance is rife with sameness difference ploys, selected for their emotional appeal to men. Men loved to use sex-divided insurance pricing against the ERA because it was statistically objective, dammit, and equality would be bad for women because they would lose the wonderful breaks they get on auto and life insurance because they are “safer” drivers and live longer than men, and they shouldn’t mind having to pay twice as much as men for health and disability income insurance because women are so sick and get lower payouts on pensions because you just can’t kill’em and so fair is fair, right? Turns out that men’s cars are driven more than women’s on average and therefore average proportionately more accidents. So comparing men and women as classes (not individuals), as insurance does, the actuarially shaky practice of charging by the year instead of by the mile means that all cars driven less than the average for their classification are subsidizing those driven more – which just happens to be a big break for men.

    Oh, and that “women’s discount”? When insurers decided to raise rates for young drivers who do indeed as a class have more accidents than adults (so do old drivers but charging them more is politically unfeasible), they looked for a discount to offer sought-after customers and came up with a dad-pleasing, stereotype-affirming “discount” for daughters (“I’ll bet she’s safe-I’ll bet you don’t let her run around at night, Dad”)and a higher price for those sons just bursting with hormones (“Heck, I used to raise hell when I was a kid too” nudge, nudge.) It had nothing to do with biology and everything to do with getting dad in a good mood to sign up for homeowner’s, business, etc. insurance. And at the age when a boy turned into a potential customer, the youth prices quietly turned into unisex prices, disguised as “adult rates,” although the men continued to have more accidents than women for the same reasons as boys do. The remedy, resisted to this day, was not “better” sex discrimination, but charging per-cents rates for insured miles bought in advance and topped up as needed to stay insured.

    Insurers moaned to legislators and op-ed pages that “unisex rates would hurt women” and when we gave the facts to the press, they got mad at us for taking their favorite score-evener away and said we were making it all up. The life insurance discount for women also concealed less value for women, but I won’t tax your patience with details.

    Some feminists, including Catharine MacKinnon, are inclined to argue for single sex schools as a benign acknowledgment of “real” differences. This is one of those issues that must be hashed out among feminists before attempting to move forward toward a strong ERA. See more on sameness-difference ploys – pregnancy, single sex schools, insurance, and employment – at http://www.equality4women.org, http://www.centspermilenow.org, http://www.iwpr.org

  21. Lady K

    The semen-extraction thing would be a fantastic thing to be introduced and covered on one’s health insurance, but not forced. Forcing the issue would create an immediate rebellion (you just can’t reason with The P), but a slow yet steady introduction I feel like might actually… work. I mean, shit, if circumcision can catch on for seemingly no reason, I don’t see how that couldn’t.


  22. AlienNumber

    The “Every Sperm is Sacred” Bill (for ironic, double-speak effect).

  23. m Andrea

    That analysis was absolutely brilliant, Twiss B, thank you. Bookmarking this one!

  24. Joolzie

    It’s a real shame to have used the animal cruelty analogy in this otherwise insightful essay. It’ very off-putting and no different for me than reading an insensitive male reference to whores and girlies.

    Tie the kittie’s tails together and throw them over the clothesline? Really?

  25. allhellsloose

    AlienNumber – an excellent idea but I would charge that any number of ‘scientific’ studies would suddenly appear from the never regions about the negative affects of vascectomy. Cause every time there’s an article in a mainstream newspaper about FGM (which to my mind should also include unecessary episiotomies, hysterectomies and oopherectomies but I digress) on come the menz in the comments section to rail against THEIR big problem of circumcism and the HUGE upset it causes them…

    Nevertheless, The ‘Every Sperm is Sacred’ Bill. excellent.

    TwissB. I’ve enjoyed reading the articles on your link, especially John Adams reply to Abigail. Too right those doods aren’t giving up their power lightly.

  26. m Andrea

    How about if the pro-slavery crowd start making male birth control a priority, and then requires every male to use it? Seems more feasible than freezing sperm, and it would still force them to reverse their constant blame-the-woman attacks. Anything which would have that effect would be a mile stone for women.

    Please think positive, please stop imagining a thousand excuses why feminists “shouldn’t even bother” with this one. Getting the forced birthers to stop holding only women responsible for conception seems like it’s our ticket out of the sex class.

  27. joy

    AlienNumber, your ideas are excellent.

    Vasectomies would cut down on the drama and anxiety surrounding PIV, but until the entire act itself (and male-female relations in and of themselves) stops being about the eroticization/fetishizing of power differences, it’s still going to be a problem.

    Although, if men didn’t know (or suspect, or metaphorically feel) they were potentially impregnating women every time they stuck their dicks on, would that make a small step towards leveling the power differential? Would they still even wish to prong women at all?

  28. TwissB

    @joolzie and others found inappropriate my use of an animal-referenced figure of speech to communicate the need to disable the cozy mock battle between men who claim that nominally supporting women’s right to abortion entitles them to consume pornography and prostitute women and men who claim that their nominal opposition to pornography and prostitution of women entitles them to deny women’s reproductive autonomy. As a “person who cares about cats” [per G.Keillor], I would welcome an equally succinct way of saying that identifying all these issues as primary sex discrimination that attacks women’s reproductive organs would force these political enemies to fight each other instead of us.

    @noanodyne. I agree that rape as a hate crime, a form of terrorism that limits women’s freedom by targeting women’s reproductive organs for attack, is primary sex discrimination.

    Feminist R.F. Blader’s excellent commentary on Eliot Spitzer (http://www.counterpunch.org/blader03122008.html) speaks to the importance of primary sex discrimination in determining the ststus of women in the U.S.

  29. Nobodyinparticular

    How about, “tie their scrotums together and toss them over the clothesline” where the scrotums, are , of course, human.

  30. Mary Tracy9

    Still not quite clear on what “primary sex discrimination” really is. I’m beginning to get the picture, though.

    The commentary on Eliot Spitzer was excellent.

  31. m Andrea

    The academia-speak is confusing even feminists who are quite bright, the only reason I could sorta understand it is that I’m familiar with the way Jennifer Armstrong writes. And I always have to take whatever she says and shove it through two interpretations before it aproximates normal conversational english.

    You’re hobbling yourself here, TwissB. Because nobody can understand what the fuck you are saying. And it’s a shame, because it’s freaking bloody brilliant. So rephrase the entire thing, TwissB, and then rephrase the result again.

  32. nails

    Cats are not capable of getting upset at the analogy. Jeez, even peter singer argues that animal rights are about giving animals consideration that is appropriate for their capacity to suffer and experience a good life. They don’t have the capacity to be hurt by what was said.

  33. phio gistic

    I’ve been thinking about the “Every Sperm is Sacred” bill and have an idea for a related bill. If a woman wants an abortion, all she has to do is give the name of the man who impregnated her. The government fertility control squad will show up at his house, extract some sperm, and give him a vasectomy. Then if he wants to become a father down the road, he can take parenthood training classes and when he passes, he can check out some of his sperm from the repository.

  34. The Fabulous T

    Wow, TwissB!

    This: “men who claim that nominally supporting women’s right to abortion entitles them to consume pornography and prostitute women and men who claim that their nominal opposition to pornography and prostitution of women entitles them to deny women’s reproductive autonomy.”

    That statement so perfectly sums up what is wrong with the political situation in America today (and most likely the entire planet). It truly is all about keeping women where the P wants them. And it’s why identifying as either republican or democrat is not feasible. Neither side cares.

  35. Alex

    Sigh. I’ve only ever met one pro-choice woman who thinks pornography is wrong. Aside from myself and the people here.

    There is no way on this green earth those two sides will ever connect, more’s the pity.

  1. Biological determinism on the march « Queering the Singularity

    […] the biologically inclined, consider TwissB’s thesis on primary sex discrimination. Ey presents pregnancy regulation, prostitution, and pornography as ideal feminist targets because […]

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