Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Women as Products: A Country Says NO!!

Signage on the exterior of a strip club in Los...

Image via Wikipedia

Iceland has become known as the country that promotes the value and equality of women through their national policies.  In fact, Iceland passed a law banning businesses from profiting from the nudity of its employees. That means strip clubs, topless bars and so forth are being shut down. Kolbrun Halldorsdottir, the politician behind the law, said in this article in the Guardian, “It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold.”

In the US and the UK there is intense debate in feminist circles about the value of sex work as an empowered choice for women. While one side says that women have the right to profit by selling their bodies if it is their own choice, the other side says that any commodification of a human being is in essence degrading and undermines the personhood of the one who is being “sold.” Jonathan McIntosh, a pop culture hacker and feminist frames it in terms that I think are very important to understand. The culture in the US celebrates individualism and freedom, and thus is often blind to the ways that individual choices, as free as they may seem to that individual,  contribute to a system of oppression.  McIntosh says on his Facebook wall,

“Feminism…is not about personal choices, it’s about a collective fight against a system…and its ideology and its supporting institutions. Strip club clubs reinforce the system of patriarchy because they promote the idea that women’s bodies and sexuality are for sale and that men have a right to them….”

This echoes the idea that I shared in the post on being Caged by Liberation. I disagree with a certain group of feminists that says that each individual woman should be free to sell their bodies by choosing sex work as employment if they see it as a personal benefit. I think that this promotes the idea that women are something to be bought and sold, that they are, in fact, a product.  Individual women may feel that they are acting as a free agent when they choose to work in strip clubs, but they are supporting a system that oppresses women and views them as objects to be bought and sold. This is not freedom. What’s notable about what happened in Iceland is that the movement to close strip clubs was driven by feminists advocating for women’s rights. As long as men view women and their sexuality as products to be bought, there cannot be true equality and liberation.

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