I read in the Summer 1986 LILITH the interview with Pauline Bart on rape with great interest. Her comments were pertinent and perceptive and it was a most informative interview.
However, toward the end she, like many other well-meaning feminists, confused fantasy and reality in discussing pornography. She seems to assume that there is a direct link between pornography and rape.
There is no proof that reading or viewing pornographic materials leads to violent sexual behavior on the part of men or women. But Bart shows proof that women who have low self-esteem, who defer to men, and who lack “street smarts” are more likely to be raped. That is the reality that Jewish women must face.
A magazine has never raped a woman. A sexually explicit movie has never attacked a woman in her own home. A book of photographs of nudity never jumped on woman as she walked home. Media are protected by the American concept of freedom of expression. We may dislike them. We may choose not to look at them. But we cannot allow hysteria to begin the suppression and censorship of the rights of others to such material.
Trying to suppress what’s loosely defined as pornography is a red herring, distracting women from facing the real issues of the world, which include coping with rape, dealing with violence and changing society’s laws to protect women from these realities. It’s important to differentiate between positive actions to make the world safer and healthier for Jewish women, and negative actions which only lead to a dead end.
by Evelyn Kaye, Leonia NJ
Pauline Bart Responds:
You speak of the “suppression of what’s loosely defined as pornography.” The MacKinnon Dworkin anti-pornography ordinance in Minneapolis has an extraordinarily precise definition of pornography, much more precise, for example, than obscenity is in obscenity law or in fact rape is in rape laws. It gives women INJURED by pornography a cause of action (a legal claim). The material not only must be graphic and sexually explicit but it must also SUBORDINATE WOMEN (or men, transsexuals, or children treated as women) and have at least one of a number of additional characteristics such as women enjoying being raped.
No one has been more critical of current obscenity law than Catherine MacKinnon. The ordinance is sex discrimination law—civil, not criminal law—similar to MacKinnon’s brilliant analysis of sexual harassment as sex discrimination, an analysis which has been unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court.
You refer to our work as “a red herring, distracting women from … coping with rape, dealing with violence and changing society’s laws to protect women from these realities.” It is because of our work in the real world with real women, that we are antipornography.
You state that a magazine never raped a woman. The evidence is clear that viewing eroticized violence such as that in slasher films desensitizes men to the harm of rape.
You are defending a 9-billion dollar a year industry that preys upon defenseless runaways among others.
Both National Council of Jewish Women of Canada and International Council of Jewish Women as well as Hadassah-WIZO of Canada have all campaigned vigorously for several years for the release of Ida Nudel. Please do not assume yours is the first woman’s appeal for Ida Nudel.
Molly Ross, Vancouver BC, CANADA
[The LILITH Women’s Appeal, while certainly not the first effort by women on Nudel’s behalf, is unique in that it is also directed to a woman—Raissa Gorbachev, wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. We hope with this appeal to enlist her help in Ida Nudel ‘s cause. Ed]
I was surprised and disappointed in the editors of LILITH and the author of the article, “Comedy and Consciousness” (LILITH #16, page 18), for allowing the use of the word “gypped” in describing the difficulty Joan Rivers had when starting out in comedy.
The verb “gypped,” meaning to swindle, cheat or defraud, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is probably derived from the word “gypsy.” Similarly, the verb “to jew,” an equally offensive expression, meaning “to best in bargaining by haggling or shrewd practices” derives from the obvious word “Jew.”
As Jews and as women who have felt the sting of discrimination, I believe we should be especially sensitive to the use of such derogatory words and therefore should not perpetuate their use, no matter what group of people they are aimed at.
Sherrill Kushner, Santa Monica CA
[Ms. Kushner is absolutely correct. Gypsies, like Jews, have a long history of suffering oppression, at the hands of the Nazis, among others, and we apologize for the inadvertent slur.]