Y’know how it is with stereotypes? You hear someone’s a boomer-generation anti-prostitution crusader and a women’s-studies professor at a New England college and you just assume she’s part of a tradition of radical, 70’s-era feminism that was hardened by constant battle with a culture that wanted women, and men, right where they’d been for up to 6,000 years: subservience for women, domination by men, men providing goods and services in the domestic sphere, women providing obedience, clean socks, children, and sex whether they want it or not. You also tend to assume a couple of other things. That they’re going to be race, age, class, and orientation tolerant. That while they’re going to be impatient with and sometimes exasperatedly hostile to the clueless sense of entitlement expressed by “librul doods” they’re nevertheless generally supportive of progressive political policies. And you generally expect them to be somewhere between suspicious of and viscerally opposed to traditional, privileged, patriarchal institutions.
Superficially Professor Donna M. Hughes appears to fit that bill. But as I’ve said often enough on this blog, while stereotyping is probably unavoidable, falling unconsciously for stereotypes makes one an assholes. I fell for the stereotype. This makes me an asshole.
But I am not the only asshole in this story.
Having fallen for the stereotype I made what I believe, passionately, to be the right case to attempt to unify that brand of “old school” activism with more contemporary activism in hopes of reducing a destructive schism in gender activism that’s moving into its second century in America.
And having fallen for the stereotype I made an assumption that if Hughes was making common cause with regressive, patriarchal institutions it was in error… an error driven by a perhaps understandable but nevertheless unnecessary blind sense of urgency, anxiety, and powerlessness.
What I didn’t consider until I started digging even deeper than I had previously, was that rather than being a dupe of social conservatives, the religious-right, and neoconservative political activists she might herself actually be a right-wing neoconservative activist! Rather than being a “useful idiot” of neoconservative and religious-right activists who made the conscious decision to use trafficking as a partisan Republican “wedge issue” against progressives, Hughes might instead have been right up there on the front row cheering them on.
Y’know how she’s lately been calling Maymay a pedophile, a sexual predator, and a sex trafficker?
Turns out that put him in extremely rarified company.
Back in 2002 Hughes wrote a post in that renowned bastion of human rights, the neoconservative National Review Online denouncing participants of an anti-human-trafficking conference organized by political opponents of the Bush administration.
There are some wolves in sheep’s clothing among those who claim they are fighting the trafficking of women and children. In their disguise they speak loudly against trafficking as one of worst human-rights violations in the world — which it is — to conceal their goal of normalizing and legalizing prostitution and the transnational flow of women into sex industries.
The upcoming conference in Honolulu “The Human Rights Challenge of Globalization in Asia-Pacific-US: The Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children,” scheduled for November 13-15, offers an example of this phenomenon. ...
If the listed keynote speakers, which includes Hillary Clinton, remain true to past form, they will passionately denounce the trafficking of women as a modern form of slavery, but steadfastly avoid mentioning prostitution as the demand that drives the trafficking.
These presenters and their colleagues couch their arguments in terms of human rights and women’s rights. But that is a smokescreen for their true agenda. They do not represent the interests of women and children. Normalizing prostitution and the transnational movement of women for prostitution does not advance women’s status or rights in the world. Instead, it turns women and children into sexual commodities that are raped, beaten, and exploited for the profit of a few.
Yup. Maymay and Hillary Clinton, they all look the same from NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez’s office.
By the way, Kathryn, I should mention that National Review Online played an important role in shifting the focus of the trafficking and prostitution debates. In October 2002, NRO published my article entitled “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” which exposed the agenda of some of the liberal feminist, leftist anti-trafficking activists. They were using the anti-trafficking debate to advance their efforts to legalize prostitution.
Yup. Us liberal feminist, leftist anti-traffickers just looove us some pimps, and brothels, and madams, and traffickers. Like Hillary Clinton and Maymay.
Anyway, without getting too personal about anyone else I’ll just reiterate that I’m not the only asshole referenced in this post.
Nor, I ought to add, am I the only person to fall for stereotyped assumptions about what it means to be a women’s studies professor at a New England college. Without naming names I’ll just say that more than one person has pointed to Hughes as an emblem of what’s “wrong” with feminism. And, especially, what’s wrong with “radfem” radical feminists.
I’ll just point out that Hughes’s fellow neoconservative, fellow Iraq-war apologist, and fellow Bush/Cheney apparatchik Richard Perle used to repeatedly claim he was “a registered Democrat.” Well fine if he says so. And to the same extent it’s fine if Hughes chooses to think of herself as a “registered” feminist.
But while nearly everyone recognizes that pointing to Perle and saying “that’s proof that Democrats are all evil, nuke-hungry, human-rights-scorning war-mongers like Richard Perle,” it’s actually fairly common to see people like Hughes pointed at as “proof” that the only thing that matters to feminists are other narrow-minded, mean-spirited, privileged, upper and upper-middle-class white women like themselves.
That? That would be another mistake. That? That she might either deliberately or even inadvertently encourage that mistake in others would be a bigger transgression in my mind than all the slander, lible, and neoconservative sucking up in all of Eastern Standard Time.
I’m not the only asshole mentioned in this post.
Update: And speaking of the accusations of lies and slander Hughes has launched at Maymay (and Hillary Clinton and the whole rest of the panoply of “liberal feminist, leftist” individuals who’s policies for addressing the problem are different from her right-wing and neoconservative cohort?) From George Bush and Dick Cheney all the way down to convicted felon Charles Colson, party strategist Michael Horowitz, and the cast and crew of National Review’s online operation the bread and butter of neoconservative rhetoric is, has been, and because its ingrained in their character probably always will be lies, innuendo, slander, and false accusation, not to mention disproportionate aggression and “preemptive” attacks. These are the people she aligns herself with, and NRO is the media organ she chooses to editorialize for. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.
And one last thing: I’m not calling Hughes’ feminism into question any more than I’m calling Perle’s Democratic affiliation or, for that matter, Dick Cheney’s profession of tolerance of homosexuals or George Bush’s religious faith. The just don’t mean very much in the face of the compromises and subordination the political philosophy that unites them demands of its adherents.
When I first heard about this I felt sorry for Hughes for getting tangled up with the Salvation Army. I now feel sorry for the Salvation Army!