A March Against Women’s Oppression
The flyers that Sunsara Taylor handed out at the Athena Film Festival display a photo of a girl holding a sign that said “porn fuels rape” and call for people to join in a “protest and march against sites of women’s oppression.” The fine print describes a march that will take place on March 10; the route includes St. Patrick’s Cathedral, strip clubs, U.S. Military Recruiting Centers, and “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” whose mission is to dissuade women from having abortions. Upon first glance, the flyer was overwhelming to me; proclaiming that pornography and patriarchy were intrinsically bound seemed similar to saying that opposing stem cell research went hand in hand with opposing gay marriage. “What about the non-misogynistic porn that women are trying to reclaim as empowering?” I wondered. What about the scientific studies that found that states with increased access to the Internet—and therefore porn–actually experienced a decrease in sexual violence? I was by no means convinced that “ending” porn, as the flyer called for, would liberate women– but I was intrigued.
My friend and I met up with Taylor and her colleagues at Times Square on Friday night in order to tour the “adult stores” that they are protesting. We were planning on covering many locations but were so disgusted by the first one we walked into that we nixed the rest of the itinerary. The shelves were packed with DVDs arranged into categories: “Lesbians,” “Asians,” “Teens,” etc. There was nothing subliminal or apologetic about the blatant racism and violence depicted on the covers of these videos; DVDs featuring girls, drugged by chloroform, being gang raped lined the walls. Some of them boasted women being knocked out “over and over and over again!” It was clear that reclaiming these particular movies in the name of empowerment would do nothing for women in terms of sexual liberation.
After we left the store, we sat down to discuss what we had seen. Taylor emphasized that her goal is not to lead a crusade against sex; she supports erotica—a distinction she makes from porn. The difference can be found in the etymology of the words: porn is derived from the Greek word “porne” which translates to “prostitute.” Erotica, on the other hand, comes from the Greek “erotikos” and means “caused by passionate love.” As Taylor explained, porn is only one of the numerous ways that our patriarchal society objectifies women. Other components include conservatives working to take away abortion and birth control rights, as well as the sexual violence that women in the military face. Taylor is working towards a revolution that she hopes will change our culture’s mindset in regards to gender and sexuality as a whole. She welcomes everyone interested to join her on March 10 as she begins what she hopes will become a revolution. To learn more about Taylor and her work, visit her blog follow her on Twitter or check out the Stop Patriarchy website.