Cruella and Me

Posted: July 9, 2010 in Blogging, Feminism, Freedom of Speech

This is an email exchange between me and Kate Smurthwaite, a darling of the ‘feminist movement, http://cruellablog.blogspot.com/ who refused to publish a comment I wrote on her blogpost about sebastian horsley’s funeral, where she led a one woman protest saying ‘what about the victims of prostitution’? at a man’s FUNERAL. (My comments in italics)

Elly – your comments are full of logical fallacies and stuff that is just creepy and untrue and which I am unwilling to publish without responding to.  But I am too busy to have the debate right now.  That’s why I moderate my blog – so I can have the debate when I have time, and not when I don’t.  My blog is there for my opinions.  If you want to have the “open” debate – start your own blog or go to some place where they have an “open” debate policy.  I have clearly stated my moderating policy on my blog several times.  Just go ahead and read it and you’ll see why I don’t publish every comment.  Frankly feminism has had the debate on prostitution and it’s really clear what line of attack is best for women worldwide.  We don’t need to re-open that debate any more than we should re-open the “should women be allowed to vote?” debate.  The right answer is obvious, most mainstream feminist groups (LFN, UK Feminista, Fawcett, FiL, Object, etc) recognise this and have plenty of reading materials on the subject available.  Education is not my job.

Hi Kate

thanks for your email. I do have a blog and I will publish your comment on it,
I believe in free speech and the only reason I think people should disallow comments is if they are personal attacks or hate-filled attacks on a particular individual or group.
I don’t think either of us are going to educate the other as we already have our views and perspectives.
But thanks for the patronising suggestion that I need educating in your way of thinking!

Elly

But if it’s my blog then surely publishing the comments I want to and not those I don’t have time to address IS me exercising my free speech.  And based on your comments I can only assume that you have a poor understanding of what the sex industry really does to women and how it’s promotion and normalisation is destroying women’s lives.  If you don’t understand this, you should certainly consider looking at materials published by the organisations I mention.  For instance this speech from FiL last year: http://www.fil.btik.com/p_rebecca.ikml

Mate, I have already set up wwww.objectwatch.wordpress.com where I keep a close eye on those organisations.

This is not a crusade. It is a difference of perspective.

ok so you’re an anti-feminist.  well i might have guessed as much.  now go away.  my blog is a feminist blog.  of course you don’t like it – this is because you’re not a feminist.  i guess racists don’t like nelson mandela’s blog.  this is life.  move on.

Thanks for your illuminating emails. I am moving on very fast. Bye.

Comments
  1. writerJames says:

    See? Feminism’s already had the debate on prostitution. Yes, the debate. There is only one debate to be had, and it’s already happened. You missed it. That’s why everyone’s in complete agreement on the subject by now and absolutely nobody disagrees with the decision. Obviously.

    Argh.

  2. Papi50 says:

    Dear QRG,

    I’ve been reading your blog with pleasure and real interest for a while. I’m trying hard to imagine the fallacies and creepy stuff in your original post to this person’s blog, which I can’t find. But what strikes me here is the quickness with which your interlocuter drops into personal attack and the rather familiar (patriarchal and masculinist) proprietary claim (my blog, my rules! or, worse, MY feminism!).

    It’s hard to imagine that the verdict is in on all the big questions faced by feminism and queer theory; that there is nothing more to be said about the sex industry and that those who still want to talk about it are some how in need of reeducation, if not just exclusion and marginalization. I admire the things you’re writing here, for their clarity, cogency and for the originality of what you’re trying to think.

    Thanks for this post,

    P50

  3. Thanks p50 and writerjames. My original comment I didn’t think to save because i thought it would get published on her blog rather than censored! I won’t try and paraphrase it by memory but I hope it was in keeping with my usual approach to feminism and sex work. I did suggest that Horsley’s writing on prostitution is ‘allegorical’ to a degree, as Shakespeare can be. as any good writer is!

  4. Dave Weeden says:

    James above put my thoughts on this very well. There’s only been a debate in the sense that personal views have been ventilated. There’s no format for a vote, for instance. (There’s been a ‘debate’ on reforming Christianity, but that doesn’t mean that those who didn’t agree with Martin Luther can’t call themselves Christians.) I read the Cruella post when she wrote it — and found it weird. As you say, it was someone’s funeral, so protesting is pretty tasteless. It was sort of admirable, as a act of will and in defiance of convention, and sort of not, as kind of crazy.

    I believe that there are victims of prostitution (or rather, specific cases of prostitution, as I don’t believe that abstract nouns hurt anyone), but I certainly don’t believe that the whole ‘sex industry’ is harmful or wrong.

  5. Sina says:

    “I can only assume that you have a poor understanding of what the sex industry really does to women and how it’s promotion and normalisation is destroying women’s lives.”

    What a patronising..whatever. It’s she who has a poor unterstanding of how the stigmatization of sex workers destroys women’s lives. Sebastian Horsley has written terribly misogynistic things, but as i’ve read from sex workers who know him, he was always very polite and a model customer.

  6. Thanks sina,
    I never read Horsley’s words as misogynistic. Thats what I tried to say in my comments that got censored by cruella.

    I think he was being allegorical to a degree, e.g. when he said his first sexual encounter was with a prostitute, and he ‘presumed she was alive at the time’. I think it was a comment on the disconnect men are supposed to feel when they pay for sex. I don’t know for sure and nobody can ask him what he meant now. But as you say, if sex workers speak well of him as a client, he probably wasn’t hateful towards them as individuals or in general.

  7. Sina says:

    Take a look at his blog, then you see why I think he’s misogynistic. I also don’t think that he was hateful towards individuals, but if one takes his words seriously he certainly was towards women in general.

  8. I have. I love his blog and his articles. Not read his book yet. I just don’t agree with you. I think his writing is very subtle and probably the biggest target of his words is himself.

  9. Sina says:

    I’ve just ordered it:-) I also like his writing style. Yes, he’s very self-ironic.

  10. I like that about you sina. You find someones views potentially objectionable but you still order his book because he is a good writer!

  11. “Frankly feminism has had the debate on prostitution and it’s really clear what line of attack is best for women worldwide. We don’t need to re-open that debate any more than we should re-open the “should women be allowed to vote?” debate. The right answer is obvious, most mainstream feminist groups (LFN, UK Feminista, Fawcett, FiL, Object, etc) recognise this and have plenty of reading materials on the subject available.”

    Talk about Soviet-style feminism!

  12. Mike Killingworth says:

    If I were you I wouldn’t worry too much about the opinion of someone who was most upset by the fact that he had a horse-drawn hearse.

    World-views like KS’s used to be dealt with by a Care in the Community programme called the Communist Party of Great Britain. You could tell it was a right-wing deviationist sect because it had “Great” in the title.

  13. thanks Mike and iamcuriousblue.
    Looks like you both have the same interpretation of the heritage of this person’s ideology.

    I am not concerned with her as in individual but that her views are those held by the dominant feminism in the UK. All the organisations she refers to are the feminist establishment and that is what I find so frustrating.

  14. “But if it’s my blog then surely publishing the comments I want to and not those I don’t have time to address IS me exercising my free speech.”

    Now this I find a bit ironic. My first awareness of her blog came in 2007, after she basically linkspammed the comments section on a bunch of feminist blogs (including at least one “pro-porn” ones) to a post she’d just written on Larry Flynt. Quite often in the comments on posts about unrelated topics:

    http://vb.ly/cruespam1
    http://vb.ly/cruespam2
    http://vb.ly/cruespam3

    There were a number of other blog comments sections spammed the same way. Those are simply three I could find readily.

  15. Anji says:

    I don’t think that not allowing your comment on her blog could really be construed as ‘censorship’ or an infraction of your right to ‘free speech’… you have your own space on this wide internet to speak your thoughts, and it’s her right to choose what gets published in her ‘space’ as it were. She’s not trying to stop you having a voice at all, she just doesn’t want it on her own personal blog.:/

  16. Paul Duane says:

    Cruella’s blog and her views seem to me pretty representative of old-style puritanism and filled with a horror about sex. It’s pretty clear that some people work in prostitution because they need the money, the same way that some people work in Tesco because they need the money. I don’t think there’s any more shame attached to one than the other. Sebastian Horsley wrote some fantastically bleak and awful things about men and women, but in life practiced courtesy and consideration. It’s an argument I find myself having again and again (like, for instance, when talking about how much I enjoyed watching Roman Polanski’s The Tenant the other evening) – the art and the artist are separate. They have to be. That’s how it works. Otherwise we’d only be allowed to listen to Billy Bragg and read the collected works of Alan Bennett. Fuck that. I like life messy.

  17. Paul Duane says:

    Also, should somebody point out to her that her Twitter biog is a supposedly funny reference to a well-known, rapey and markedly unpleasant cult movie?

    • You can point it out if you want. I am hiding under the table! I was always terrified of Cruella Deville even from the cartoon of 101 Dalmations. My childhood nightmares have come back to haunt me!

  18. Anji- I could censor all the comments you take the effort to make on my blog. But I don’t want to. I like to show that not everyone agrees with me! and I like to keep the internet as open commons wherever possible. If we all censored on our blogs there would be no more debate!

    Hi Paul nice to see you. I like life messy too. I can’t stand it when people dismiss an artist’s whole oeuvre because of their behaviour or views. I don’t think Horsley was misogynist in his writings. He expressed a ‘bleakness’ as you say which does exist in the sex industry. But he wrote so well I would forgive him a lot even if he did mean to be cruel at times.

  19. Anji says:

    QRG – I think this is only my third or fourth comment on your blog, and I don’t recall ever disagreeing with you. If I read a post I disagree with, I just don’t comment because I know this is a ‘sex positive’ space and I respect that. Oh, and I usually can’t be arsed to argue, that’s another big reason.😉

    I wasn’t disagreeing with you per se – I’d love it if everyone published dissenting comments as well as those who agree, and I tend to try to do exactly that (though I edit comments for sexist/ableist/ageist etc words and sentiments).

    What I’m disagreeing with you on is your use of the term ‘censorship’ to describe what Cruella does. It’s only ‘censorship’ if she’s trying to silence you altogether.

    She’s not trying to do that, she’s trying to keep her blog as a ‘safe space’ for those women who are anti-porn/prostitution and/or have exited the sex industry.

  20. how could she silence me altogether except by kidnapping me or killing me? It is censorship. and you have disagreed with me on my blog, eg on my transgender definitions. censorship is always in context.

  21. Karen says:

    Oh I see, feminism has ‘had the debate’ has it? Hmm don’t think anyone invited me, but then I must not be a ‘real’ feminist if I don’t buy into the ‘obvious’ ‘right answer.’

    Thanks for sticking up for us QRG.

  22. Hi Karen.
    I am just glad that there are plenty of people out there who do want to engage in serious debate on important issues that affect all of us! Welcome.

  23. Anji writes

    “I don’t think that not allowing your comment on her blog could really be construed as ‘censorship’ or an infraction of your right to ‘free speech’… you have your own space on this wide internet to speak your thoughts, and it’s her right to choose what gets published in her ‘space’ as it were.”

    Of course its not censorship. Nobody owes anyone else a platform.

    But whether it constitutes honest debate is another story. Yes there’s often a need to block comments that are abusive or tendentious. But policies like her’s that block all dissenting opinions are simply cowardly and perhaps a sign that her beliefs are built on a foundation of straw.

    And her opinion that this is a settled matter within feminism, and no further discussion should take place? I repeat, Soviet-style democratic centralism at its finest.

  24. For me it is to do with principles of the internet and blogosphere. If we dont start with the assumption that people will encourage open debate then I don’t see the point of political /discussion based blogs.

    We may as well just have adverts!

  25. Ok I think I have gone a bit OTT with the whole censorship thing but my last point stands about the internet and the principles of open discussion

  26. KimBooSan says:

    I’m in agreement with iamcuriousblue on this, re: censorship or not. It’s Kate’s blog, and she can shut down the debate as she sees fit in her space – but it cannot be considered a space for open discussion, not by a long shot. But then I don’t think she wants it to be, by the comments she sent to you. *shrug*

    I’m mostly floored that her whole concept of feminism is so institutionalized and centralized. Whut? You disagree with her so you aren’t a feminist? FFS. She’s moron. She’s especially a clueless moron if she really thinks the debate has been resolved.

    Her high-handed comments about your OBVIOUS lack of understanding of the issues *cough* were insulting and designed to shut you down, and that’s bad form. Which, clearly, is the most we can expect from her.

  27. Yes I have changed my mind about ‘censorship’!
    I am able to admit to changing my mind and listening to other peoples arguments!

  28. Mark says:

    Really, QRG, you should show much more respect when talking to Nelson Cruella.

    Not only is she a handsome, much-loved Nobel Peace Prize winner and international anti-racist hero, she’s a feminist. Which means that she has access to higher truths than non-feminists (sorry, ‘anti-feminists’).

  29. Well I will just have to take ‘anti-feminist’ and turn it into something meaningful, as you did with ‘anti-gay’ Mark. I’d rather be an anti-feminist than a self-appointed leader of the righteous world.

  30. Mark says:

    It is usually best to wear your brickbats like bouquets.

    And bonnets off to you for being big enough to change your mind about the moderation/censorship thing. I change my mind several times a day about everything, but am far too small to let anyone know.

  31. I am even big enough to admit I had to google ‘brickbats’ as I never really knew what they were!

  32. Rachael says:

    She did what at his funeral?! How utterly disrespectful towards his friends and family. Feminism arguments aside, she showed absolutely no respect to people who are mourning the loss of someone they loved.
    I agree with the people who have stated that they believe it’s her right to allow whatever comments she so wishes on her blog- it’s her blog after all. (However, I very much use the same theory as you when moderating my own blog- any opinions are allowed through unless they are filled with hate or are personal attacks.) I do think she handled the situation very badly in her emails to you though.It sounds like she’s not willing to listen to an opinion which might disgaree with her so I’m not exactly sure what qualifies her for having a debate as such… oh silly me, the debate’s over.
    Comparing you a racist as well, jeeeez. I know very little about this woman but I’m willing to bet she’s middle-class and white and never experienced racism in her life.

  33. yep. white, middle-class, and also a comedian! I think she brings new meaning to the term.

  34. I went back and read her original post on the whole funeral deal….This passage in particular struck me: “The ones trafficked into the country, promised legitimate jobs that never appeared. The ones trapped on drugs and in a situation of poverty that leaves them with no choice but to endure night after night of gang-rape in every possible orifice (Sebastian bragged of being an “expert” on anal sex). The ones who try to escape or fight back and end up dead and rotting in some unmarked ditch. The children. The CHILDREN. The average age of entry into prostitution in the UK is 14. Based on the statistics he himself gave and the studied indifference he, by his own admission, practiced towards the sex workers he used and abused it is nothing short of fair to conclude in all likelihood Sebastian Horsley at some point paid to have sex with a woman who was in fact a child.”

    I just love (not) how she make an implied link between “gang rape in every possible orifice” and Sebastian bragging about being an anal sex expert. Am I to infer he’s participated in multiple orifice gang rapes? That’s what she seems to be saying or is it just me…Don’t even get me started on her oh-so-very-logical assumption that he has paid to have sex with a child. This woman’s logic is so impaired it’s a little frightening.

    Also, I would just like to add to the whole “was she censoring you debate” that a blog in it’s very nature is created to open and foster debate. Of course I moderate comments on my blog, but it’s so I can weed through spam and potentially aggressive/disrespectful behavior.
    To not publish a comment simply because you don’t agree with it is a little cowardly in my opinion and goes against what I believe to be “blogging etiquette” which is to say fostering a dialogue between writer and reader.

  35. Also, Argh, I really don’t think a funeral is the place to make a political statement. The only statement a person should make in regards to a funeral is in their choice to attend or stay home.

  36. Hi Olga
    Thanks for taking the time to comment here. I will do the same on your blog which is fantastic.

    I agree her logic is completely screwed here. I also find it amusing she seems to have an interest in Sebastian, beyond just criticising his approach to the sex industry. She suggests she has read his work and knew him as an acquaintance. often people who abhor pornography or sex work, have a kind of ‘morbid’ fascination with it. And from all accounts Mr Horsley was quite a character!

    I like the phrase ‘blogging etiquette’. I think the whole thing would fall apart if we took Ms Cruella’s approach to blog moderation.

  37. It’s true, she does seem somewhat fascinated by Mr Horsley. A strange fascination anyhow. Makes me wonder what her deep dark thoughts are all about.

    And thanks for the compliment.

    (I should write an article about blogging etiquette.)

  38. Tony O'Neill says:

    Hi…

    I just found your blog because I was reading about this idiots protest at Sebastian’s funeral. Sebastian was a friend of mine, and I found it pretty low and disgusting that she would do this. I was going to post something at her blog, but then decided against it as she seems pretty dogmatic and not likely to have her mind changed, and at the end of the day… who cares what this person thinks? Bit I wanted to thank you for at least attempting to get the opposite viewpoint across.

    God that Cruella seems like a boring, dogmatic pillock.

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