Friday, May 07, 2010

Philosophy & vampires in the antipornfest (by Suzie)

I was a debater in high school, the kind who stayed up late gluing pieces of evidence on notecards to fill metal files, the kind who would say, “Tom said X. I have 12 responses.”

The comments on last weekend’s posts against pornography stirred the debater in me. But they also reminded me of what I didn’t like about debate: How arguing real-world problems became a game. What mattered was winning, not the actual issues. I'm not saying that the commenters are less sincere than I am, only that we can all fall into the desire to win, even when it becomes apparent that we aren't changing anyone's mind.

I got my master’s degree in women’s studies in 2001, but the first class I wanted to take was in philosophy, a graduate survey course in aesthetics. The chair of women’s studies was a philosopher whose courses were cross-listed. But the departments had such a different tone. In philosophy, the majority of the students and faculty were men who loved to debate, sometimes in an adversarial fashion. Many courses focused on male philosophers of the past. Women’s studies had more collegial discussions, focusing on recent feminist scholars. From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Among others, feminist philosopher Alison Jaggar faults traditional ethics for letting women down in five related ways. First, it shows less concern for women's as opposed to men's issues and interests. Second, traditional ethics views as trivial the moral issues that arise in the so-called private world, the realm in which women do housework and take care of children, the infirm, and the elderly. Third, it implies that, in general, women are not as morally mature or deep as men. Fourth, traditional ethics overrates culturally masculine traits like “independence, autonomy, intellect, will, wariness, hierarchy, domination, culture, transcendence, product, asceticism, war, and death,” while it underrates culturally feminine traits like “interdependence, community, connection, sharing, emotion, body, trust, absence of hierarchy, nature, immanence, process, joy, peace, and life.” Fifth, and finally, it favors “male” ways of moral reasoning that emphasize rules, rights, universality, and impartiality over “female” ways of moral reasoning that emphasize relationships, responsibilities, particularity, and partiality (Jaggar, “Feminist Ethics,” 1992).
I’m more open to women, rather than men, who oppose restrictions on porn because the women are vulnerable to the same abuses I am. (We know that, just because someone is oppressed in one way, doesn’t mean that person will understand all oppressions.)

On another issue from the antipornfest, I want to defend “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” from the commenter who said: “Vampires are blatant rape metaphors.”

Vampires often have served as metaphors for desire, especially for the consequences of lust. Some are portrayed as rapists, some not. The popular video below pits Buffy against Edward, the star vampire from the “Twilight” series. Edward is not a rapist, although he follows a long tradition of “romantic” stalkers. You don’t need to know anything about the series to find this funny.