Have you heard?
Dr. Brooke Magnanti’s aka “Belle de Jour” had a fall out with feminism.
The first sentence of her press release of her new book, Sexonomics, declares “Belle de Jour, aka Brooke Magnanti stands up to her feminist critics”. It was also written in her previous blog before the archives were deleted. In her press release, she explains;
“Up until November 2009, I would have said I was a feminist. Then I found out the hard way that feminism in this country is like the Ivy League: it’s mostly filled with the sort of people you spent your school years avoiding”
This is disappointing in two ways; A) Feminism is a diverse fields of opinions, and not everyone who carries the flag of feminism is anti-sex work. B) In Magnanti’s new blog, Sexonomics, she uses her scientific education to reveal myths of the economics of sex which has long been debated in feminist discourse.
With the first point, not all feminists are anti-sex work. Feminism is a diverse discourse and many people have different opinions over sex work. While not everyone agrees, there should be room for discussion. As was written in Feministe March 2008,
“..sex workers can be feminists because there are sex workers who are feminists. I’m not big on playing occupational Feminist Police, and as far as I can tell, sex workers have long been on the margins of society. They’ve been shamed and they’ve pushed the sexual envelope, and in some ways they’ve been at the forefront of challenging the patriarchal model of women and family.”
However, since her outing of her sex blog, she has had many critiques of her profession, many of whom are anti-sex work feminists. It`s understandable why Magnanti has been defiant against feminists with the volume of anti-sex work critique she has received. It’s disappointing that despite the open opinions within feminism, Magnanti feels ostracized from the community and would rather renounce the name than contribute to debate as a proud member.
Secondly, sex-work research could use more scientific rigor. While there are many theories about oppression or empowerment of sex-workers, none of that matters if we don`t have hard data to back up the theory. I am one feminist who is imploring for more scientific rigor in sex work research. Everyone needs to be critical of popular scientific research and how the media may twist the message to suit popular messages.
Magnanti`s newest blog does a great job of upholding scientific rigor as a valid way to explore this sensitive feminist topics. For example, she writes a five part series critiquing the Lilith reports’ which link an increase of rape with the number of lap dance clubs in Camden. Part 1, she demonstrates a problem with their mathematics. Part 3, she digs into further research demonstrating over a 10 year trend, Rapes in Camden were actually falling. Part 4, she shows there is no correlation between the number of lapdance clubs and the incidences of rape by comparing different London boroughs. While giving room for the Lilith report’s author’s opinion for not wanting lapdance clubs in Camden, in Part 5, she rightly points a finger to the Lilith report on their missuse of scientific tools.
“Claiming the methods of science, without buying in to the philosophy of how and why they work, is unethical. If you don’t play by the same rules, you can’t use the same tools.”
All of this research and her skills of a science background have proven useful in shedding the real light of rape trends with lapdance clubs in Camden. This is not against feminism, but rather brings scientific rigor to an area where many people have personal biases.
While her critique of feminism may be warranted in relation to the backlash against her previous profession, her newest comments in the recent press release have not been so fair;
“I genuinely do not get the third-wave bluestocking professional feminists in this country. Genuinely. I’ve tried to give a shit about maternity leave and who does the housework, and all I can come up with is, if your job doesn’t give you as much time off as you want, suck it up or get another job. If your partner doesn’t do the washing-up, same”
What Magnanti may be forgetting is that not all women have the opportunity to find another job, or find another partner that may not suit all of her needs According to the UK Office of National Statistics, the unemployment rate for the three months to February 2011 “the number of unemployed women increased by 14,000 to reach 1.03 million.” I`m sure she recognises that while she was able to ask for £300-a-night escort, not all prostitutes are in the same position.
Cheer up Brooke! Hopefully the fire from you being outed will die down soon. But on the plus side, riding the wave will get you some great book sales! And don`t forget, there are some feminists who still love your work.