SOCIETY: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Even Miss Piggy has more manners than our frenzied feminists
, February 4, 2012
Melinda Tankard Reist is under attack for campaigning against the pornification of our culture — which is feeding both violence against women and the abortion industry — and for being a pro-life feminist.
Internet blogger and psychotherapist Dr Jennifer Wilson has used her blog site to attack Tankard Reist for being “deceptive and duplicitous” in not declaring her “fundamentalist” Christian religious beliefs underpinning both her pro-life feminism and her campaign against the “so-called epidemic of ‘sexualisation’ and ‘pornification’” of children and adults.
Melinda Tankard Reist
The attack spread from Wilson’s blog (January 10, 2012) into the mainstream media and Twitter a week later, when Tankard Reist had a legal letter sent to Wilson for saying she was a Baptist (she’s not) and for accusing her of being “deceptive and duplicitous”.
The old feminist sisterhood has come out in force to back Wilson and attack Tankard Reist.
Support on Twitter for Wilson came from Leslie Cannold, a campaigner for legalisation of abortion to birth; comedians Wil Anderson and Catherine Deveny; and Fiona Patten, leader of the Australian Sex Party and CEO of the Eros Foundation, the lobby organisation for the lucrative porn industry.
Columnist Jill Singer attacked Tankard Reist’s “perceived dangers of abortion, pornography and the sexualised images of females”, and for “running roughshod over the interests of most women with her views on abortion” (Herald Sun, Melbourne, January 18, 2012).
Feminist Anne Summers argued that you cannot be a feminist and pro-life. To be a feminist you had to be independent, be able to “support oneself financially and [have] the right to control one’s fertility” through abortion (Herald Sun, January 22, 2012).
Dr Kate Gleeson attacked Tankard Reist’s pro-life feminist record, namely, her working for former independent Tasmanian Senator Brian Harradine (The Age, Melbourne, January 24, 2012).
Why this sustained attack on Tankard Reist?
In part, Jennifer Wilson objects to Tankard Reist’s campaigning against the sexualisation and pornification of the culture.
Wilson vacillates between saying that “women are objectified by some media and by some men, and this can be detrimental to everyone”, while also saying that if you want to be a “sex worker or perform in porn”, it’s your choice.
She says that Tankard Reist has a “motley crew of feminists and middle-class moralists” as supporters.
It seems to have bypassed Wilson and her cabal of feminists that the matriarch of Australian feminists has expressed similarly strong views to Tankard Reist’s on the pornification and sexualisation of the culture.
Guess who wrote the following: “The spread of pornography into the mainstream is not, as liberal voices argue, a victory for freedom of expression but a poison in our culture — and we develop a taste for it at our peril.…
“Pornography has nothing to do with freedom of expression: it is primarily business, a ruthless impersonal industry.…
“It uses and abuses not only the boys and girls who provide the imagery, but also the fantasy-ridden sub-potent public, mostly male, that pays for its product.… As far as male sexual fantasy is concerned, there is no too far.”
No, this wasn’t written by Tankard Reist, but author of The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer (“Gluttons for porn”, The Guardian, UK, September 24, 2000).
One of America’s feminist matriarchs, Gloria Steinem, has similarly attacked pornography, which she distinguishes from erotica: “Erotica is as different from pornography as love is from rape, as dignity is from humiliation, as partnership is from slavery, as pleasure is from pain.”
She says, “Blatant or subtle, pornography involves no equal power or mutuality. In fact, much of the tension and drama comes from the clear idea that one person is dominating the other.”
More so in the United States than in Australia, outspoken feminist groups have fought the porn industry.
Women Against Pornography (WAP) was a radical feminist activist group based in New York City and an influential force in the anti-pornography movement of the late 1970s and the 1980s. WAP faded in the 1990s as the internet made pornography universally available, but not before it was instrumental in the founding of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.
Two leading figures in the US anti-porn campaigns were feminist lawyer Catherine MacKinnon (Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women’s Equality, 1988) and lesbian feminist Andrea Dworkin (Pornography: Men Possessing Women, 1991).
They defined pornography as “the graphic, sexually explicit subordination of women” and argued strongly that pornography was the “institutionalisation of violence” against women.
In 1980, both MacKinnon and Dworkin appeared with Linda Boreman, who played Linda Lovelace in the pornographic film Deep Throat, when Boreman publicly stated that her ex-husband Chuck Traynor had beaten and raped her, and violently coerced her into making that and other pornographic films.
Germaine Greer says at the end of her Guardian article that, in July 2000, the UK reclassified the Deep Throat film to make the uncut versions available for sale for the first time since its release in 1972.
Ironically, the biggest issue confronting women’s health centres and shelters in Australia is violence against women.
Women’s Health Victorian (WHV) says that studies, both in Australia and overseas, consistently indicate an emphatic association between partner violence and abortion.
WHV cites the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s health as showing that women aged 22 to 27, reporting abortions either as teenagers or later in their 20s, were more than three times more likely to have been abused by a partner as those who didn’t terminate their pregnancy.
In Canberra, Melinda Tankard Reist set up a centre for pregnant women in crisis. She wrote the book Giving Sorrow Words: Women’s Stories of Grief After Abortion (2000).
Three of her later books against female exploitation were published by the Australian feminist publishing house, Spinifex Press. These books were Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics (2006), Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (2009) and Big Porn Inc: Exposing the Harms of the Global Porn Industry (2011), the last of which she co-wrote and edited with Abigail Bray.
Yet Dr Jennifer Wilson and her allies lambaste Tankard Reist for both her stand against pornification of the culture, which is feeding both violence against women and the abortion industry, and then for being a pro-life feminist helping vulnerable, pregnant women.
Even Germaine Greer has expressed her concerns about abortion: “Too many women are forced to abort by poverty, by their menfolk, by their parents ... A choice is only possible if there are genuine alternatives.”
In defending Tankard Reist, Miranda Devine (Herald Sun, January 22, 2012) says that Tankard Reist has never hidden her religious beliefs but, like most Australians, doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve. Comments Tankard Reist: “I just want my work considered on its merits.”
So why have Wilson and company reserved their vitriol for Melinda Tankard Reist?
Why haven’t they vented their spleen against the likes of Greer, Steinem and many other feminists who have campaigned against the violent nature of porn and the global industry behind it?
The nature of Wilson’s statements demonstrate that she is not interested in debating with reason and civility Tankard Reist’s views on pornification of the culture, or abortion, or Christian sexual morality.
She says that her particular concern with Tankard Reist is her Christian “religious beliefs” and how they “determine her beliefs about human sexuality”.
Wilson’s view of Christian morality borders on the irrational. It’s little more than a sick parody, an exercise in anti-Christian malice.
Writes Wilson: “The followers of the doctrine of the virgin birth believe that sex filthies the human female, and renders her impure.… The boy god needed a pure vessel, unfilthied by sexual experience.
“The Virgin Mary was in fact co-opted as a dehumanised life support system for a foetus.”
Below this statement, Wilson posts a photo on her blog of two women on a street holding a banner: “If Mary [the mother of Christ] had had an abortion, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
This is a concerted attack by radical secular feminists to silence Melinda Tankard Reist in the public square on issues of fundamental importance to women, primarily because of her Christian beliefs.
Even the feisty Miss Piggy has never swung her handbag at Kermit the Frog as aggressively as our antipodean feminists have directed their vitriol at Tankard Reist.
Long live our ageless Miss Piggy. Long may she share the love.
Patrick J. Byrne is vice-president of the National Civic Council. This online article is an extended version of an article that appeared in the printed version of News Weekly.