India Uncut

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Let's talk freedom, not feminism

Reader Manu J writes in to tell me about a controversy that's recently broke out in the US. Diane Blaine, who teaches gender studies at USC, put some topless pictures of herself on her personal account at Flickr. (The pics are here: 1, 2 and 3; NSFW; neither obscene nor erotic, as far as I'm concerned.) Some alleged students objected, and this created a bit of an uproar.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, I see nothing to object to. They're her pictures, her Flickr account, and I don't see what goes of anyone's father, as the saying goes, with something like this. But her post in defence of herself befuddles me. She speaks of "the ways that sexism functions as a method of control" and the "ideological voices of patriarchy," and so on. I was equally taken aback by a comment on Bitch PhD's post on the issue (via Hugo Schwyzer) by Dr Igloo that says:
I personally find her [Blaine's] feminist street cred slightly tarnished by the fact that she has apparently taken her husband's last name. Is there really a credible feminist defense of this practice??
Now, all this rhetoric, both by Blaine and against her, seems rather bizarre to me. As I have written before, the guiding principle of my worldview is a belief in individual freedom, that "individuals should be free to do whatever they wish with their person or property, as long as they do not infringe on the same liberty of others." (Quoted from here.) Simply put, if you don't mess with no one, no one should mess with you.

Going by that principle, Blaine had every right to upload her pics, as well as to take her husband's last name. Both were choices she made, and harm no one. They would only be wrong if there was coercion involved.

Beyond that, what defence is required?

PS. The context for the attack on Blaine is an editorial she wrote in the campus newspaper after a USC footballer was accused of rape, in which she said :
[E]very single male on this campus has the responsibility for stopping rape. Every fraternity brother, every science major, every professor, every one of them. Because they all rape? Of course not. But because only men rape and only men can stop other men from raping.
Such logic. Nevertheless, the gentlemen who were peeved by this should have attacked her arguments only. Not her topless pictures.

Update (May 20): Cardinal Martini has a clarification here.
amit varma, 5:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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