holy shit friends! i know i'm late in the game to be commenting on all this...and indeed my "commentary" may add anything to my collection of links on the topic. however. as a regular (if entirely abstract) object of the scorn (or is it pity?) of some smart and entertaining feminist bloggers, i feel it only right to weigh in on this one. these ones, rather.
why the plurality, you ask? because, while everybody else is ranting about the blowjob blowup instigated recently by the inimitable twisty faster (and then commented upon, to good effect, at pandagon and feministe), i'm less ranting and more nostalgiafying. (there's gotta be a better verb form than that, but...what?) to me this little imbroglio reads quite a lot like twisty's posts on religion in general and christianity in particular. or...lots of radical feminists' posts on godbaggy stuff.
by way of example, a couple of favorite twisty posts are here (actual sentence: "You know, even if you’re moron enough to "believe" that God exists, it’s gotta be clear by now that the guy’s a fucking psychopathic menace and needs to be taken out.") and here (actual sentence fragment: "a chick priest is like a Log Cabin Republican.")
were i to take pretty much any of these posts, be they fellatio posts or opiate-of-the-masses posts, seriously, i would be one unhappy feminist. but to take these posts seriously, i think, would be a serious mistake. twisty seems too smart, in most of her writing, to endorse the Inquisition-y orthodoxy she brings out in some of her commenters. the real question, which is discussed at some length in the feministe post i've linked to above, is whether a subset of radicals, in launching this brand of hyperbole at the sex lives and faith lives of other self-identifying feminists, can produce forward motion of some sort. other than the forward motion of my forehead smacking the keyboard in frustration, that is.
there are points in their favor. after all, i've just spent nearly an hour reading the collected wisdom of something like 600 commenters on the issue, all of them compelled to respond directly or indirectly to twisty's not-actually-comical assertion that blow jobs are Bad, hence a Good Feminist would not engage in such an act. i think most folks disagree with the assertion, and possibly even more disagree with the language used to make the assertion. nobody's running for the hills except for a couple of people who were just looking for the escape hatch anyway. ("you're telling me that i'm a bad feminist for doing this act? well, then i guess i can't be a feminist any more. ann coulter, soothe my troubled brow!") but have we hashed anything out? come up with new ways of speaking about these problems? realized that the creative solution to the Patriarchy's stranglehold on sex and faith might be mitigated with x, y, z?
i'm not so sure about that. the discussion reminded me, uncomfortably, of the way that yale union folk reflexively accuse university administrators of malfeasance and mock the utility of the 'sanctioned' student government body. it reminds me, uncomfortably, of the way that 'sanctioned' student government folk assume that they are the only agents of change, and that absence of imminent crisis means that everything is fine in our corner of the ivory tower. people get all sanctimonious and pissy -- and hurt -- and everything goes to hell. nothing gets accomplished, because neither "side" (note: SAME FUCKING GOALS.) is willing to admit the necessity, or even the acceptability, of the other. the strongest critique of twisty's rhetoric, both in her original post and in her followup, is that it serves as an invitation for women to insult other women. there's nothing like internecine warfare to really fuck up a cool movement.
which brings me to The Whole Point: while it's all well and good (probably) for the feminist blogosphere to engage in a big, passionate project about What It Means to be a Feminist, we should probably retain some connection to the fact that the Patriarchy does not live in the internets and therefore cannot be eradicated in the internets. connection to that fact implies connection to lots of things that are outside our own personal interests and predilections. that is to say, connection to that fact implies that feminism still needs to be a movement, as opposed to some sort of catch-as-catch-can personal betterment scheme. i've bitched before about the fact that one of the most insidious problems facing the feminist movement is free-riding: maureen dowd and her kitten-heeled ilk getting all the advantages that less conventionally palatable women dreamed up and sacrificed for. thus an appropriate critique is not "that icky act you purport to like is inherently bad for women." likewise it is not "that stupid bullshit you believe can never be feminist." more useful: "have you fully considered why you like performing that act/believing those things? do you understand their implications for other women?"
a good decision rule about acts we perform as part of a feminist movement should probably not come down to our feelings about jesus (or even paul). it should not come down to our affective responses to penises. instead it should place your preferences alongside the preferences of others: does the fact that you like or believe (or "like" or "believe") some patriarchy-sanctioned thing make it more difficult for other women to live full and equal lives (i.e., to live as they prefer even if they prefer non-patriarchy-sanctioned ways of living)? if yes, well, quit it already. if no, well, at very the least you cannot be deemed a traitor to the cause. thus: sex of type x, y, z between people who respect each other and aren't kidding themselves about where the pleasure comes from? fine. closely held religious belief in an inclusive, activist, non-prosyletizing, feminist theology kind of way? fine. calling other people stupid, thereby winnowing the mass movement down to an exclusive cadre of party faithful? NOT FINE.