COLUMN

Pornography as a feminist tool

Barbara Amiel June 11 1984
COLUMN

Pornography as a feminist tool

Barbara Amiel June 11 1984

Pornography as a feminist tool

COLUMN

Barbara Amiel

Thelma McCormack has been a professor of sociology at York University for 21 years and has been publishing in academic journals since 1944. She has had extensive experience in research work, ranging from such positions as associate director, Laboratory for Social Research at Northwestern University in Evanston, I11., to study director, Allan Memorial Institute of psychiatry at McGill.

Thelma McCormack is also a feminist. She is author of a proposal for a women’s TV channel as well as numerous papers on women’s concerns. So it was not surprising that Doris Anderson would ask her to work on the report she was authoring—namely, the March, 1984, report of the Task Force on Public Violence against Women and Children, commissioned by the Metropolitan Toronto Board of Commissioners of Police and chaired by lawyer N. Jane Pepino.

The report was all part of the bandwagon issue of our times, what is said to be an increasing incidence of violence against women and a concern about the link between pornography and violence. McCormack was assigned to the subcommittee on pornography and sex stereotyping. At an early meeting of the committee, views were sought about the relationship between pornography and violence. Prof. McCormack explained that, deplorable though pornography was, as far as she knew research had not established any link between the two.

This wishy-washiness might have occasioned some ill ease among more hard-line feminists, for whom it is a shibboleth that behind every violent assault on females lies a copy of Hustler. Anyway, a few meetings later a chap named David Scott showed up. Scott, who came with a BA in languages from Wabash College, Ind., did not have a list of publications to his name, or anything else to qualify him as an expert on pornography and violence. What he did have was a great deal of community involvement in committees deploring the link between pornography and violence. Anyway, his qualifications didn’t seem to matter because, when questioned, Doris Anderson thought he was a psychologist, as did Jane Pepino.

Meanwhile, McCormack studied the research on pornography and violence and presented the subcommittee with a paper titled “Making Sense of Research

on Pornography.” It concluded that no link had been proved between pornography and violence. The next thing McCormack knew, David Scott had done a bibliography on the subject (focusing heavily on current experiments in behavioral modification theory) which favored his point of view. When McCormack received Doris Anderson’s first draft of the report, she noted Anderson had said that research on the link between porn and violence was “inconclusive.” McCormack felt uneasy but decided to go along with it. Then she received a copy of the final report which included David Scott’s bibliography and stated that the conclusions were inescapable: “Violent and aggressive pornography is a direct contributor to

violent and aggressive behavior____The

weight of the scientific evidence is such that this Task Force recommends active steps to limit and control violent and aggressive pornography.” Following

'All the task force had to do was suppress some evidence and replace it with the evidence of choice9

was a list of amendments to be made to the Criminal Code, including one that was virtually a licence to censor almost anything feminists did not like, whether or not it included violence and sex.

What happened here? According to the feminists, these actions were taken in order to fight violent pornography and kiddie porn. But the answer is misleading since the Criminal Code already outlaws both. The real reason is that pornography is the key that opens up the door to a legislative treasure trove in which the government will be empowered to permeate every branch of the arts and entertainment industry and use them as a tool for feminist propaganda to remake the values of this society. To do such a thing under normal circumstances would be impossible, but to do it in the name of eliminating vile pornography is far simpler.

The game was given away a couple of weeks ago by Communications Minister Francis Fox and Status of Women Minister Judy Eróla in a joint statement. They announced the intention to give the CRTC broader powers to shut down

stations that broadcast pornographic or discriminatory programs. They explained that, under the proposed legislation, broadcasters who showed programs that discriminated on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, color, sex, religion, age or mental or physical disability could lose their licences.

Since radio and television programs have not discriminated against blacks or any other group for several decades, it is apparent that this is a new meaning of the word “discrimination.” Some time ago there were exercises in Canadian schools in which children were required to rewrite such things as fairy tales, making sure that the princess did not marry the prince but a hunchback. Now we are going to give the government the power to make these exercises a mandatory part of our culture. Our feminists will outlaw nasty pornography (fine with me) and any program that shows the happiness of a traditional marriage unless the wife is agitating for a “homemaker’s” pension and the husband washes dishes.

The feminists are like the Moral Majority in that each would cheerfully use the government to make illegal every bit of art or entertainment that insufficiently reflects their views of how people ought to live. Both extremes feel that their ideas reflect “positive values.” In promoting the new legislation, Francis Fox said, “This is not a censorship bill, it’s a positive one to promote positive values.” No doubt, the CBC producer would be told that in his show the “positive” roles should be played by women or the handicapped—to have a white male in the lead will become “discriminatory.”

To make the broadcast of feminist propaganda mandatory is a huge task that could not be done without slipping it in under the guise of fighting pornography and violence. And in order to show that link, all that had to be done was to suppress some scientific evidence and replace it with the evidence of choice—however dubious scientifically.

Feminists should open their eyes. They assume, when they goad the government into action and enable it through new legislative tools to interfere in every form of entertainment, that it is always their message that the government will promote. One day they may be in for a rude awakening. If you live by the censor, you die by the censor. There are better and safer ways to play out the message than the route Doris Anderson et al seem to have taken.