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Candid Makeup-Free VaginaLiberalism with Added Rape

It is likely because I hate myself ardently and wish for the final ebb of my sanity that I use The Internet. It may also be because I enjoy pictures of dongs. Whatever the case, recipe I was just “online”—as youthful cant would have it—and I believe I heard the last breath of liberal feminism as it glugged down a well-fucked throat.

Before I tell you about that rattle, visit let me afford you a little market context. I would like to try to put my rage into an economic framework to prove to you it is not misplaced. I am angry about something that is refreshed and funded at astonishing rates:  for one year or thereabouts there has been a move by the nation’s leading publishers to court the dollar wielded by female AB consumers with, of all things, feminism.

Here in Australia as in much of the developed world, it is the crucial work of middle-class women to consume. It then falls to sensible editors to romance ladies with the money to buy things such as scented candles and face cream and fair-trade lube. The thing they most often like to read, it seems, is an iteration of feminism.

Now. If you happen to be the sort of leftist, or even passionate liberal, who believes that our institutions are in urgent need of great reform or detonation, it’s not that sort of feminism. NO SILLY! It is a mutant daughter to whom the idea of socio-economic class is, at best, an afterthought and, at worst, a fiction. There is no class! The economy is not a force that creates social conditions!? Who are you anyway, Karl Marx? HE was not only a MAN but he was also a guy who wrote about penises. Or, was that Freud? Material psychology, what?! I don’t know. Destroy the Joint and STOP SEXIST ADS.

Fucking idiots.

And, no. I can’t be bothered reprising liberal feminism any better than that because it is a logical Swiss cheese fingered daily by clumsy, self-interested harlots who care less for reason and reform than they do for the pay-cheque they receive from the afore-said AB-geared publications. Which are full of shit. And RAPE.

They love to publish about body image and something called “rape culture” which confuses me but seems to be based on the assumptions that (a) the fact of masculine violence is best ameliorated by making up stupid theories and (b) rape only started happening after mass culture was a thing. Because rape culture in the media blahblah blah.

I don’t know. I am reasonably bright and also reasonably conversant with the needs of pop media markets. But I do NOT get the appearance of this “rape culture” stuff other than to suppose that “rape” gives great SEO; the mention of rape affords a sort of Not Without My Daughter thrill to many readers.  But beyond the hunger many have to read about sex crime,  rape has also begun to function for women who feel the late-modern version of the emptiness described by Betty Friedan.

The “problem with no name” , as I believe the transcendent lib fem called it, now finds its discursive counterpart in the feminist “argument with no structure”. Rape immediately gives an argument a default structure.

Feminism has begun to become rape-dependent with that lady, Lindy West—whom I once found quite funny—being one of many persons using the fact of receipt of rape threats to prove that she has a point. If I am wrong, then why am I getting rape threats, she asks. The only possible inference here is that she is right. Everyone who gets a rape threat is right, It is always right to write about rape.

Rape. Rape. Rapey rape. It is the alpha and omega of feminism. It’s like Andrea Dworkin is back from the grave but with even worse grammar and a nice new dress.

Whatever. Shut up. Idiots.

Anyhow.

This sort of feminism loves to talk about rape but it also loves to narrow its focus to the direct experience of the feminist consumer. Probably because she, like the ladies who serve her entertainment needs, is so fucking lazy she can’t be arsed going outside to look for the origins of The Patriarchy.

Pop feminism attributes all the doubt and moments of unhappiness a Modern Lady might feel to a “patriarchy” that is best recognised and remediated with a click. Alan Jones. Sexist Ads. ME FEELING BAD ABOUT MY BODY. These are all

(a) evidence of the patriarchy

(b) tools of the patriarchy

(c) origin of the patriarchy

So, “calling out” and “girl-cotting” somehow murders patriarchy at its birthplace and hides the body. Something something I don’t know. All I know is that suddenly every discomfort was attributed to The Patriarchy in a cultural moment that would be almost sweet in its greedy naivete if these ideas that trashed sense—the good sense, for example, that we are subjects formed over time by large forces rather than in five minutes by something someone saw on telly last night—were not so prevalent.

And as for all those HORRIBLE eulogies you wrote for Gillard and how she was ousted by sexism, here’s one for you. McTernan probably wrote the “misogyny” speech. A BLOKE WROTE IT to feed your appetite for a “gender wars” narrative.

Sure, Gillard might have been a little irritated by sexism but she was probably a fuckload less irritated by sexism that than she was by a wayward crossbench and a zombie-like Foreign Minister who never ONCE paused in his ambition. You know what probably annoyed her? Anne Summers writing that dumb book declaring that lewd cartoons were both evidence and tools of the patriarchy.

Gillard was a left-ish reformist Labor politician. She knew that it is not lewd cartoons that keep ladies from Being Their Best Selves but the great arc of material history, i.e., she knew (some of her appalling decisions for low-income parents notwithstanding) that it is social and economic class that determine a person’s lot more than anything and that it is only when we address this that conditions begin to change.

But. You know. Whatever. FEMONESM 4 LYF. Sexist ads. Sexism in comedy. Rape threats. More women on boards. Why don’t women win literary awards? (Hint. Maybe because they’re all writing shit about RAPE CULTURE.) These are the central questions of an age of “reading” that is funded by face-cream.

I was on the Internet today and I see one story about how we POST PICTURES OF OURSEVLES WITHOUT MAKEUP to “call out” sexism and another about how the newspaper of the nation’s most affluent university has been “censored” from displaying bare vaginae to “shout back” to rape or something. Again. I do not know. All I See once more is a yawning lack of logic where ideas used to live. All I see, in the case of the Body Positive campaign is the desire of silly women to commodify themselves.

Here, we have an attitude that cannot even be called reformist it is so out-of-step with systems of oppression. The logic goes: in order to outrun the assessment of women for their appearance, we women must appear and be assessed; that the assessment will be unstintingly positive is not the fucking point.

The fucking point fucking is that POSTING A SELFIE AND ASKING FOR APPROVAL is every bit as revolutionary and contradictory to the tyranny of scrutiny as me showing my vagina; an act, by the way, which unfolded—or rather didn’t—in the pages of Sydney University’s Honi Soit.

Honi Soit is old French for “privileged little fucker” and the young women of that paper lost no time in asserting their right to be displayed nakedly in contravention of criminal law.

Actually, I am a bit of a free speech nut and don’t think that there is really any problem with genitals being seen all about the place. But the fact is, most people do and if it were not for the fact that it was not the task of face-cream feminism to “call out” sexism and ask for “safe” spaces, I wouldn’t have a problem but fuck me, it is NOT the patriarchy banning your vagina. It is the classification board.

I mean. DUDE. A week ago all these bitches were banging on about “Lad’s mags” and how women need “safe spaces”. And now, we’re all choosing to interpret the circumspect shrouding of a muff as evidence of oppression.

It seems to me that when Page 3 girls take their tops off for consumption by working class men, then that is unacceptable but while middle-class women from the nation’s best-funded school show their clackers, that is revolutionary.

This class distinction is often made by face-cream feminism:

* women wearing hotpants at roller derby is good for feminism but lingerie football is bad for feminism.

* burlesque is good for feminism but stripping is bad.

* Suicide Girls is acceptable. “Porn” is a document of rape. Because Rapey Rape Rape.

Rapey Raperson is a working class guy and, do you know what, he is probably also black. Because I am a face-cream feminist and my understanding of taking an active role in ending racism begins and ends with POOR BLACK LADIES IT MUST BE SUPER HARD FOR THEM THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE THEIR OWN MAGAZINES TO TELL THEM THAT THEY ARE BOOFUL.

Fuck magazines. Fuck the shit that you are writing. Fuck your fucking assumption that most of us are as intellectually sluggish as you and are so fixated by the pain of Not Feeling Pretty that we cannot identify what needs to be done: radical change to our labour conditions.

We do not make change by asking for praise about our twats, mams or makeup-free faces. To pretend that there is ANY benefit—even at the cultural level—in appeasing our own vanity is hypocrisy of the worst order.

This is not feminism,  This is a flicker of a thing seen on the wall of a cave to which one has willingly affixed oneself.  This is a cool memory of a thing that recalls hot desire.  This is the Virginia Slims ad campaign.

This is a product attached to a symbol whose meaning you can no longer explore.

But you know.  Smoke up. Suck that combustible poison sold to you by a corporation masquerading as a “Sista”. Suck it down into your pretty lungs.

And, while you’re having a dart, get ’em out! Show your gine. Show your tits. Show your muff and call it feminism.

Get ’em out, bitches. They’ll probably give you a dollar a word to write about it.

37 Responses to “Candid Makeup-Free VaginaLiberalism with Added Rape”

  1. Jonathan Messer says:

    Surgical Razer sharp precision. OUCH.

  2. Pauline says:

    Helen taking no prisoners here. Made my day on Twitter today. Spot on.

  3. Emily says:

    This has blown my mind. Helen, it’s like you are in my head and then write shit down that I’m too scared or inarticulate to say. Faaaark!!! Thank you.

  4. McQualky says:

    C’mon Helen. Unblock me from Twitter. You’re invited to poker night my house Friday week if you do. Boom!

  5. Alicia says:

    I think your refusal to take a stance on this issue is problematic. I just can’t figure out what you think.

  6. BADALEX says:

    Excellent article.

    Although I do take note that the internet fight we had….was over you being anti the views you now espouse, while I was pro the views in this article.

    Still, excellent article.

    P.S. Gillard was just shit. Her gender wasn’t the issue.

  7. Jade says:

    I don’t think you understands rape culture… No one ever said that rape was a magical new invention that came along when we all started to live in a community instead of being hunters and gatherers. “Rape culture” refers to the FACT that we live in a culture that promotes and glorifies rape, not that culture “invented” it. And it’s a global problem, though some folks like to overlook that and point at certain countries. Certain countries aren’t the problem. WE’RE the problem. US, as a society, with our super shitty attitude towards women, what they deserve, what they’re worth, what determines their worth, whether or not they actually have bodily autonomy, etc. We put a woman’s whole life on trial when she is the victim, how sick is that? That’s rape culture, and it wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t live the way we do not, in cities and anonymously on the Internet. I think of Stubenville, for example, and what gets me how is many people saw what was happening and didn’t think it needed to be stopped or that there was anything wrong with it. But they did think to take out their camera phones.

    So maybe you think women “whining” about rape culture are just super privileged and willfully blind, but I don’t like getting raped. I’ve been raped, and I’m well aware that it is likely to happen again because I am a woman living on Earth. That’s fucked. I’m sorry if you don’t think imminent bodily (and psychological) harm to women, children and yes, even men, isn’t that big a deal, but if I could pick one thing I could eradicate in my lifetime, it would be rape. Or at the very least the awful, disgusting stigma that comes with being raped. The idea that my worth as a woman is based on my virginity is completely vulgar and has to fucking go. But yes, let’s take on roller derby and lingerie football because clearly, those are much greater threats to women than the near CONSTANT threat of rape, and the reminder that it’s your fault for not protecting yourself from a rabid rapist!

    Don’t get me wrong, feminists of privilege or high class don’t get certain issues, like poverty, for example. But rape, surprise surprise, is a threat to EVERYONE, regardless of your class or skin color or beliefs about feminism. So we should probably stop tearing into the folks who are supposed to be our allies, rally up and do something about all this senseless violence.

    • Helen Razer says:

      Jade. In saying that I believe that “rape culture” is an unhelpful way to understand masculine violence—and I absolutely endorse your point that we should focus on the gender of the assailant rather than the gender of the victim; this is about a male violence and not a female experience—I am not saying I don’t think rape is a problem. I am not denying your rape experience.
      Please. I utterly acknowledge the depth of the horror you have undergone. But my point here is that we cannot end an argument with “because rape”. So, just because I say “I believe that rape culture is an inadequate means of describing masculine violence and, in fact, has developed a circular logic”, you cannot meaningfully answer me with “you are wrong because I was raped”.
      I’m sorry. Informal logic and policy can’t work that way.
      I am really sorry bad shit happened to you.

  8. MrMagoo says:

    It is a great article, and apologies for dragging politics into it; I would like it noted that Gillard was happy to milk the cultural thingo which is the topic here, so I’m not sure she was all that disconnected from it.

  9. Mika says:

    Agree with everything. Sick of the wommyn “jernalists” who back up their supposed feminism with their “BUT I WAS ALSO RAPED!!” claims. Then go home to their middle class abusive husbands and face cream and bullshit.

  10. Ms. Naughty says:

    Hi there
    I’m a self-identified feminist pornographer so I’ve found this whole Honi Soit thing to be very useful for the simple fact that it has drawn attention to the ongoing stupidity that is the Classification Act. I’m always keen to see our moronic censorship system scrutinized in the media because it just doesn’t happen often enough.

    While I realize that me trying to advance the cause of more dongs on the internet is not as high-minded as addressing class and wealth issues, I think it’s a worthy pursuit and it’s always made harder by Australia’s censorship system. So I’m glad Honi Soit did it, for whatever reason.

    • Helen Razer says:

      Ms Naughty, as you know, filth is also of paramount importance to me. More than a critique of Honi Soit (but it is SUCH fun to thumb my nose at my alma mater) this is a critique of the self-serving palaver that gets reheated as “feminism”. It is my project to point out that putatively “brave” acts of revelation such as showing one’s face or vagina are actually just acts of rampant individualism.
      I am keen that dicks stop pretending that they’re banging on about their boring fucking selves for a cause. I mean. Check this shit in the Daily Life today. Some lady banging on about how she is thin but that it shouldn’t matter. Moreover, she BECAME thin—which shouldn’t matter—by being so evolved that she didn’t even notice. Thereby giving us the tiresome narrative that a Great Attitude results in a Great Bod. I mean. Just show us a picture of your lovely new flat tummy, bitch, so we don’t have to read your crap.
      So ANYWAY my point is: we must stop attributing a sort of civic nobility to a whole lot of bitches saying “look at me”. I don’t have any problem with “look at me”. I do have a problem with stupidity in the name of feminism.
      And if the Honi people really wanted to test the margins of classification, they would have put soft wangs on the cover. Legal but GROSS.
      But. Really. In the end, a bunch of rich girls got their clackers out.

  11. ST says:

    Great fury, good article Helen.
    I was raped and there is nothing cultural about it. There is no rape culture. Rape is rape is rape. It is or it isn’t.

  12. Chris says:

    And, don’t forget that solidarity is for white women!

  13. Kath Duncan says:

    HAHAHA sorry I laughed alla way thru this and now feel guilty. I got lost in the middle and forgot what we were talking about and loved it. The style was great like a Beat poem. MORE!

  14. Daniel Rose says:

    “Nothing grabs an editor’s eye like a good rape.” – HST

  15. Emma says:

    ‘It is NOT the patriarchy banning your vagina. It is the classification board.’
    Sure, but why? Having images of lotsa different vulvas around the place shouldn’t be cause for offence, and talking about WHY it’s SO offensive is interesting and opens up a dialogue/legs. Some people have chosen demystifying the ladyqueunte as their calling. That might be all they do in life. Or maybe it’s a one-time frivolous choice. Or, maybe they’re also a social justice warrior. Or an artist. Or a possum. Who cares? I don’t think lumping all evidence of the scourge of feminist slacktivism together and lamenting its vapidity is much of a move toward closing the superannuation gender gap, but I find your writing entertaining so I won’t be blogging about its futility.

    I’ve never heard anyone suggest rape/rape culture exists in a vacuum, or that it’s a new phenomenon. But, what, in your opinion, is a more adequate framework through which to view masculine violence?

  16. Gabe says:

    Damn those pesky critical theorists messing up the purity of Marxism with their stinky critical theory! Culture? Media? Hegemony? Shut up and talk about the economy! Oh well, at least you called out to a few Gillard loathing men who must be just dying day by day for the lack of a comments section into which they can spit their venom.

  17. kathryn says:

    “In saying that I believe that “rape culture” is an unhelpful way to understand masculine violence”
    I think the point is that rape culture is a way of describing how society normalises and accepts rape in a variety of ways, and against many people (rape culture affects women, children and men). “masculine violence” however is not a useful way of theorising the violence of patriarchy. men and women can both contribute to rape culture by accepting the cultural norms which punish victims more than perpetrators. it is not so simplistic as ‘men’ against ‘women’. it is a whole system of hierarchies and gendered norms which is deeply embedded in capitalist and colonial/white supremacist society. i agree with you about liberal feminists. but i dont think that either showing images of vulvas or vaginas or theorising rape culture are actually part of liberal feminism. sure, the way that liberal feminism likes to talk about making yourself look nice or success as being empowering is icky. we shouldn’t have to feel like we can never escape the male gaze. but the solution to that is ending the social acceptance of the male gaze – not criticising individual women for how they choose to respond to it. women can cover up, strip down, and both of these acts can feel empowering, as long as they don’t stand in for actual analysis of society. i think its a little unfair to accuse the womens collective at sydney uni of being liberal feminists. i understand the point of saying usyd is really privileged, but as a student and a tutor there, i really think these are the wrong people to be attacking. i agree wholeheartedly to go for the liberal feminists, but lets go for mia freedmen and etc.

  18. narelle says:

    Helen, I have loved your work for years, but if you feel that a no make-up campaign is worthless and unnecessary, why do you wear makeup in your photos, including the ones on this site?

    • Helen Razer says:

      Because I LOVE to suck the prong of phallocracy.
      Also, rape culture.

      Seriously. I can see where you are going but this question actually poses no threat to my argument. Yes. Of course all actors in a visual economy receive some sort of benefit for their proximity to a particular ideal. And of course my tastes in style are furnished by years of visual culture. But, this does NOT MEAN that the “tyranny” of beauty needs to be a central issue in feminism. Because, it doesn’t. And it is this prevalence against which I am arguing.

  19. Treenz says:

    I will never understand why some women believe that displaying their cunts, tits, muffin tops etc. for the world to judge is supposed to make other women feel *better.* Do you really think that works? The majority of the time, you’ll just make ’em more neurotic! Look at all the bitching and moaning that went down when Jennifer Hawkins went nude sans photoshop on the cover of Women’s Weekly. Her aim was noble (“instilling body confidence,” “promoting realness”, blah blah fucking-blah) but she wound up getting hate anyway. Look, bare flesh and makeup-free faces are all well and good, but this relentless body narcissism (which leads to such ‘right-on’ feminist discourse as blokes going, “hey ladies, don’t be ashamed of your bods–I love fat chicks, rakes suck!”) does fuck-all for feminism, imho. Body insecurity is the vanilla issue of feminism, uncontroversial and always acceptable to talk about, which is probably why so many women mistake ‘boldly’ revealing their cavernous pores/twats on a university newspaper cover for ‘fighting The Patriarchy.’ Okay, fine, it might make some women feel good about themselves. But why has “feeling good” become the ultimate feminist goal? Why don’t some of those frivolous choicers, putative social justice warriors, artists or possums realise that a world exists outside their vaginas? Angsting and moping over your chubby bits isn’t going to change the gender gap either.

  20. Cathy Stephens says:

    Helen, thanks for cutting through the bullshit and saying more efficiently what I can’t quite articulate on cue. You are my hero.

  21. Deb says:

    Ditto Cathy. Rape’s about power, economic/political and how having/not having power affects women and men’s behavior, towards each other, towards themselves.

  22. missminute says:

    Jade, the “constant threat of rape” is a hysteria state created by the very women discussed in the article above, not a reality. I’m also sorry bad shit happened to you. Bad shit has happened to me too. But for pop-feminists, getting upset about rape has become a fad. There, I said it.

  23. KD says:

    I don’t think a woman who uses the terms “bitches” and “harlots” to describe other women can tell others that they know the true definition of feminism.

    I don’t think a woman who writes for magazines such as FHM and GQ can convincingly look down upon campaigns such as Body Positive as an opportunity to fulfill the “desire of silly women to commodify themselves”.

    I don’t think a woman that uses statements such as “I heard the last breath of liberal feminism as it glugged down a well-fucked throat” and “logical Swiss cheese fingered daily” can adequately explore the nuances surrounding the problematic portrayal of rape in the media.

    I don’t think a woman who belittles the works of others (“Why don’t women win literary awards? Hint. Maybe because they’re all writing shit about RAPE CULTURE”) and expects their own to be the be-all and end-all of opinion on the matter (I assume that is the effect you are trying to achieve with the RANDOM INTERJECTIONS OF CAPITALISATION FOR EMPHASIS), particularly when they are simply adding to the issue that they are criticizing but with 1/10th of the understanding on the issue, should be taken seriously.

    You sound like an angry arts student who studied a unit of feminism as an elective and hated the readings so you lashed out. I’ll give it a P-.

    Better luck next time.

  24. Jacqueline says:

    Oh Helen. I so used to enjoy your Grumpy Shit diatribes but for me this is where the plot gets lost. ‘Face cream feminism’ is alovely turn of phrase but it turns out to just be a disingenuous way of lumping together a bunch of disparate current ideas and themes into some sort of cohesive lib feminist monolith for you to rail against. I’m not sure how the concept of rape culture made it into the pick’n’mix of your Things to Loathe as it seems to me to contribute a lot more to current feminist discourse than all that Dove real beauty selfie blah. In fact, what is the relevance of one to the other, apart from both being discussed simultaneously onJezebel?

  25. Jen says:

    I made the mistake of reading this early in the morning and now my head hurts. Thank you for your amazing insights, it is too easy to float along with the crowd, and your article has knocked me off my lilo. How do we fix a problem like the socio economic chasm that is becoming Grand Canyonish?

  26. Tara says:

    The real question that Razor should have been asking, which I think she was attempting to ask, is why certain feminist issues are given so much weight while others are not. However, the manner in which she framed her argument was done in a way that served to undermine really important issues like body image and rape. The social institutions of oppression are just as harmful as the socioeconomic ones. There is no need to undermine social institutions in order to further a socioeconomic agenda. In fact, she has only managed to oppress women further through the nature of her argument.

  27. umlolidunno says:

    I’m interested to know whether you consider the fact of masculine violence to be an emergent property of material inequality between the sexes, or a founding part of those material conditions?

    I’m relatively new to your work and curious to know how you conceive of male violence with respect to its role in upholding patriarchal power. If you’ve already written about this, I’d be grateful if you could point me to it.

  28. Helen Razer says:

    Dude. No. Historical materialism fails—for mine—to explain the reproduction of violence and it is this shortfall that has so long alienated those interested in questions of violence (or of gendered violence) from socialism.
    I mean. No. I might be prepared to think about all acts of violence having a systemic basis in capitalism but I am NOT prepared to say, as some crude socialists have, that financial pressure “makes” men beta women.
    Look. Feminism is not really my area of expertise. Nor is Marxism, for that matter. I pretend to have no great erudition on these matters; just a grasp of informal logic sufficient to recognise that all of this fucking whining about Sexist Ads on My TV serves no one.
    This piece from Zizek is fun http://www.egs.edu/faculty/slavoj-zizek/articles/the-spectre-is-still-roaming-around/
    I would say that to have your question answered about violence and materiality that you need to read Material Psychiatry. Propnents include Lyotard, Libidinal economies. Deleuze and Guttari, Anti-Oedipus. I am also told Marcuse is pretty good (as is Zizek) on the Freud meets Marx tip.
    I would also say Kristeva, the Kristeva Reader is all I have ever read. And a bit of the one about abjection.
    This is an immense question: what produces violence. And one, obviously, I am under-equipped to answer. Your question may have been a challenge but I take it and answer in good faith: there are some really smart people writing about this.
    All I ever write about, really, as a media worker my entire adult life, is other people’s writing. This “feminism” thing has become immense and a lot of it is very stupid and deserves critique.

  29. umlolidunno says:

    Thanks; my question wasn’t intended as a challenge at all, though I realise it’s a huge question. I was just curious about where you may or may not situate the crux of feminism (male violence) in a wider materialist framework. Like you say, one socialist line is to attribute male violence to poverty or some ‘competitive’ or psychopathic mental setting acquired in a capitalist society. I agree with you that this is so reductive as to be ridiculous. Thanks for the recommended reading!

    And thanks for explaining more about your MO; feminist media is an absolute joke for the most part, and I find many of your contributions to be a much-needed reality check.

  30. Rachel says:

    Thought you might be interested in this article/critique of Julia Gillard & feminism.. Wasn’t sure where else to post it so I figured in the comments for your femen post seemed most sensible :) http://mutinyzine.blog.com/2013/07/15/women-‘gender-wars’-and-refusal-what-century-is-this-again/

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