Read an Excerpt
By Abigail Bray, Susan Hawthorne, Renate Klein
Spinifex Press Pty LtdCopyright © 2013 Abigail Bray
All rights reserved.
1.0 The Fascism That Has No Name
They made it clear from the start that the slightest deviation from the norm would be punished. They turned everything into prisons, even our own bodies.
Wear pink. Play with dolls. Look in the mirror. Go to school. Learn to smile when they abuse you. Diet, wax, apply make-up, and swallow your medication. Follow fashion. Work. Consume. Be silent. Give him a porn star experience. Get married. Shop, cook, wash, iron, dust, vacuum, scrub and polish. Work a 15-hour shift (but don't call housework 'work'). Get into debt. Have children. Stay married (or they'll destroy you and your children). Watch TV. Wear stilettos. Obey their laws. Save for your old age. Now repeat after me: 'I am free'.
Just to make sure I knew who my masters were they spat on me, groped me, pinched me, grabbed me and shoved me at school, in the street, in homes, on buses, in parks, pubs, clubs, everywhere. They shouted at me from cars, building sites, pub windows and doors, everywhere that I was a slut, an ugly bitch, a fat slag, a stupid cow, a skinny cow, a sexy dog, that they would fuck me, hit me, damage me, and destroy me. They made grunting noises and flapped their tongues. They raped me, beat me, pulled the hair out of my head, and kicked me. They threatened to kill me and told me to kill myself. They always wanted to know my weight, size, age and height as though this information was useful for their plans. They harassed me when I studied or worked, they just wouldn't leave me alone. Then they told me I lacked a sense of humour.
I had nightmares about them and was afraid to walk the streets at night.
"Get over it," they said. (But how can you get over something that never stops?)
When I spoke about it they said I had a 'victim mentality' and I needed to move on and let go of the past. Often the past they spoke about was a few hours ago, yesterday, or the week before.
"You are too sensitive," they said. "You can choose to move on from your disempowering negative attitude. Be compassionate, practise forgiveness." They said, "You are 110% responsible for everything that happens in your life, and you have no one to blame but yourself. (You know you want it.)"
They told me to forget all about the historical oppression of women because they got that sorted in the 1970s. They told me all of this even though I could still remember the day when I was a child and I discovered that the word 'girl' was an insult. Girl. The inferior sex. The more she grows the more her inferiority shows itself in her body.
I carved their hatred into my skin, I overdosed on their hate and starved my body with a hundred diets because I did what they told me to, and I took it personally. They said, "We have pills to help you take responsibility for your life. Do yourself a favour, give yourself a chance, you have a chemical imbalance in your brain." They threatened me with electric shock therapy when I refused their pills.
They said, "A woman is nothing without a man. Never admit to being treated badly by a man or we will punish you. Get married and be cruel to single women. Stay married because we destroy single mothers."
They said I was stupid so I studied for seven years and got a PhD. Afterwards they said, "You think too much, stop thinking, you talk too much, stop talking." When I disagreed with them they asked me if my period was due. They sniggered, sneered, rolled their eyes, laughed, and turned their backs. When I spoke they pretended I didn't exist.
They came up to me in the street and asked me why I wasn't smiling. "Smile!" they shouted at me, "it makes you look pretty!"
They told me I needed to pay a therapist to teach me how to be normal. I asked her if she thought there might be a power imbalance between the sexes and she looked at me silently for five minutes. Then she said, sighing with impatience, "It's not about him it's about you. How do you feel? What have you done to invite this situation into your life?" I said, "Listen I didn't start this, they've been coming after me since I was a kid, I can't seem to shake them off, they're everywhere, they even seem to have control of the media and the government." She said I sounded paranoid, that I might be having a psychotic split from reality and offered to have me committed. I said, "Have you heard of something called the women's liberation movement?"
Year after year I watched the women and girls around me taking it personally, and in desperation telling each other to take it personally. They turned against each other and fought over men, clothes, handbags, shoes, rings, washing machines, haircuts, couches, bras, the shape of each other's bodies, housework, children, jobs. They dieted, did a bit of bulimia on the side, stabbed each other in the back, took up pole dancing, had burlesque parties, did a bit of home-made porn, took antidepressants, and boasted about how loved they were by the men who oppressed them.
They played me heterosexual love songs in supermarkets and boutiques, on radio stations and TV. They said, "Listen ... this is the love that is waiting for you if you obey us." They said, "Play hard to get, and don't talk back or we'll call you a bunny boiler." Then they said, "From now on you must pay astranger to pour boiling wax all over your vulva and rip out your pubic hairs on a regular basis. Don't complain about it. Have your breasts, face, vagina, and ass redesigned with knives and implants. Put it on your credit card. Pretend you enjoy rough anal sex or we will call you frigid and boring. Here," they said, "read The Rules. It's only natural, biological, and an evolutionary truth." I said, "This is getting very weird." They winked at me and in a silky seductive sexy voice they said, "Hey listen babe you just need to have fun." I said, "Your heterofascist entertainment rituals bore me to death."
They told me to practise positive thinking and cleanse myself of toxic negative emotions. They told me to live in the 'Now' like a toddler, or a goldfish with a five-second memory. They treated me like a child, demanded that I behave like a child and look like a 15-year-old, and then they told me I was immature and childish.
They said, "Consider yourself lucky, this is a democracy and we've given women the freedom to choose their own lives and be what they want to be."
When I mentioned the word 'misogyny' they called me a man-hater. When I spoke up against fascist pornography they told me I needed a good fuck. "The answer to your problems," they said, "is between our legs." When I spoke about the rise of rape culture they told me I definitely needed a good fuck. But by then I had stopped taking it personally.
"Listen," I said, "what we really need is a vigorous, earthshaking, relentless, uninhibited, wild, passionate, intoxicating, angry, unapologetic, long-overdue, exciting, luscious revolution." Because this was never personal, this was always political.
* * *
Wake up, sister.
Patriarchal capitalism has you.
It is the system that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.
I know why you find it hard to sleep at night. You are terrified. Sometimes you speak about it but no one listens to you. You were born into bondage. You are a slave among slaves. Look around you. What do you see? Lawyers, housewives, academics, secretaries, shop assistants, people so reliant on the system that they will defend it. That system is our enemy. It is destroying the planet. The laboratory of advanced patriarchal capitalism has created the monster of austerity fascism and it is stalking us all. The riot police are spreading across the world; beating women, children, and the old. Debt bondage is increasing, unemployment escalating. Rape culture is on the rise, prostitution is mainstreamed. The minds of the children have been poisoned.
There was a time when you were not a slave, remember that ... You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.
— Monique Wittig, Les Guérillères (1972, p. 95)
* * *
Sometime in the 1980s the global pornography industry went viral. By 2000 a new genre became popular called 'gore' or 'snuff'. Photographs and videos of people being murdered and dying, their body parts hacked up and their brains spilling out of their skulls became a form of mass entertainment. They plugged everyone in, even the children. Websites celebrating the destruction of women began to saturate the net. They told us to call it 'pornography'. It became fashionable to masturbate and laugh at the annihilation of women. Destroying women became the slapstick lulz of the new sexual fascism.
We were warned this would happen but we didn't do enough. We were afraid of losing our jobs, of being called 'manhaters', of being cast out. We were unable to create solidarity with one another, we didn't yet know how to trust each other, we called each other 'victim feminists', we lost ourselves in petty squabbles, and now it is almost too late.
* * *
In 2012 I interviewed the scholar and activist Jeffrey Masson about his involvement in the anti-pornography movement in the 1990s. During our conversation he mentioned that anti-pornography feminists in that era were aware of the existence of 'snuff pornography' and went on to speculate, quite reasonably, about the growth of the snuff pornography market. Intellectually, I could accept that this was possible given the aggressive increase in hardcore pornography over the last few decades. I had seen more hardcore pornography than most women, and knew how mainstream it was. But emotionally, I could not imagine or comprehend that human beings were being filmed while they were being raped and slaughtered or that this kind of 'pornography' might have increased. I was so disturbed by Masson's insistence that snuff existed that I put the interview into a drawer, telling myself I would write it up later.
Three months later I would meet a professional man in his late thirties who confessed that he had been watching these websites for many years. He didn't call what he watched 'snuff pornography'; he simply said that he sometimes watched hardcore websites with videos of people being killed. I asked him why he watched this kind of material and his answer chilled me: he said it was funny, that it made him feel alive, and that he watched it when he felt bored.
1.1 Welcome to the Extermination Camps
Most of you know what it means when 100 corpses lie there, or when 500 lie there, or when 1,000 corpses lie there. To have gone through this and — apart from a few exceptions caused by human weakness — to have remained decent, that has made us great. That is a page of glory in our history which has never been written and which will never be written.
— Heinrich Himmler's speech (4 October 1943)
Masson was right. 'Snuff pornography' — photographs and filmed footage of women and girls being tortured, raped and murdered — not only exists, it even has numerous Facebook Inc. fan clubs. It is time we recognised the casual normalisation of lethal misogyny as an act of political terrorism and not, as the mindless purveyors of the free speech doctrine would argue, as simply the democratic right to masturbate to whatever takes his fancy.
The Young News Channel (YNC) is merely one of countless 'gore' social media websites that distribute many thousands of pornographic photographs and videos of dying and dead women. The majority of these websites also promote violent rape, bestiality and incest. They have names such as 'deadskirts', 'femme fatalities', 'femme gore', 'dead nude women', '2kill4', and advertise with words such as "girls butchered, executed or viscously brutalized in every conceivable way." One popular gore or snuff website advertises itself with an image of an "Asian woman roasted on a spit over a fire like a pig" and features sections on "sexual disasters" and carries advertisements for hardcore pornography websites. The image of the impaled woman is possibly a reference to the 1980 Italian snuff film Cannibal Holocaust in which a girl is gang-raped and impaled. The website has around 15 million views a month and is operated by Mark Marek, a Holocaust denier who was arrested for distributing a video made by former prostitute Luka Magnotta which features dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism. Luka Magnotta and his snuff porn video have cult status.
Is it naïve to argue that this is as fictional as a splatter film? Or, to cite the 1976 film Snuff that appeared to feature a girl being savagely raped, murdered and dismembered but which the producers claimed was fake? Snuff was pre-Internet and before smart phones made it possible to film anything and anyone and distribute it anonymously online or through peer-to-peer networks. There is police evidence that child sexual abuse material, in which children are killed, exists. And if we know this, why do we think snuff pornography involving women does not exist? There are countless places in the world where women have no substantive rights, are sold as sex slaves, and killed with impunity. Snuff videos are common, as a discussion on Sherdog.com (UFC, Mixed Martial Arts) about the 'deep web' puts it: "[T]here are snuff videos you can access — especially now that Mexican drug cartels are finding out you can record shit." It is highly possible that snuff pornography exists in this context.
That pseudo-snuff pornography exists is clear. It would be naïve to trust that the men who distribute it are to be believed when they say it is merely staged 'play acting', as it were. Just as it would be foolish to believe that the models in pseudo-child pornography are all 18 or older. Porn consumers who watch one video of a woman being tortured and raped followed by another of a girl lying butchered in a pool of blood are effectively watching snuff pornography. Can they, in fact, tell the difference?
The mocking of women in the process of being butchered, the overt celebration of not merely sexual violence against women but the kind of violence that results in the slaughtering of women, indicates that we have entered a new era of misogynistic hate. Consider, for example, if there were thousands of websites on the net promoting the death of Jewish people. We would have no hesitation in recognising a political alignment with a pervasive history of anti-Semitism that resulted in the atrocities of the Holocaust. And yet, while racism is recognised as a form of hate speech, misogyny continues to be normalised and acceptable.
The snuff porn Facebook Inc. page and YouTube channel The Young News Channel is not only legal: it is a source of humour, a form of entertainment. The YNC advertises itself with the following words: "daily media, humour, shocking videos, rape videos, slaughter, disturbing videos." On the lefthand side of the homepage there is a list of categories. They are as follows: Sick daddy porn 18+, suicide 18+ only, hard core porn, murder video 18+, dead girls, female suicides, banned media, sick videos, rape. There are many hardcore porn images of girls being penetrated by horses and dogs, double anal penetration, images of a man's hands pulling open a woman's gaping ass, of disembowelled naked women in morgues with their legs spread, of disfigured naked women lying in pools of blood. The website is like a slaughterhouse, only there are women instead of animals.
On the homepage there is an advert for snuff pornography: "Image: HORROR. Beautiful Swedish model raped and murdered ..." And there is also "SHOCKING lunatic butchers mother and her baby with a meat cleaver in the street in public." Another section advertises "Underground video. Boyfriend convinces girlfriend to blow her brains out." Yet another offers viewers the chance to see "girl's brains fall out of her helmet as she is moved off the road." A video is promoted with the following words: "skirt in suicide ... teen female in nice skirt hanged herself from the HIGHEST tree." There is a photograph of a young girl hanging from a tree by her neck wearing a short skirt.
How do I bear witness to this atrocity, to women who have been destroyed, and after death have their destruction circulated as entertainment? And it is not merely entertainment; it is more akin to the way the KKK circulated photographs of lynched human beings as trophies (Hawthorne, 2011). It is hard to understand this — language reaches a limit, my mind feels stunned, silent; sociological and psychological explanations fall away.
The singularity of each death is obliterated, sinking into the larger mass of dead bodies. It's as though the websites were a death camp full of torture, rape, murder and suicide. What is this digital conveyor belt of dead women's bodies, this entertainment factory of mass death? Are these websites, to use Hannah Arendt's words about the Nazi death camps, "laboratories in the experiment of total domination" (1994, p. 240) of women?
Excerpted from Misogyny Re-Loaded by Abigail Bray, Susan Hawthorne, Renate Klein. Copyright © 2013 Abigail Bray. Excerpted by permission of Spinifex Press Pty Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.