Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

 A Dialogical Perspective of Feminism and Pornography, by Robert Cavalier

Pornography and Risk

Rorty cautions MacKinnon about wanting both to create new space for conversation while at the same time filling that space with 'essential truths' that prohibit further conversation. It's as if these 're-descriptions' become 'true descriptions' -- allowing not for pragmatic experimentation, but dogmatic assertion. Many feminists, Rorty notes, "intermingle pragmatic and realist rhetoric" (p. 5). And in this mix of future vision and present perception, they run the risk of censoring those who disagree with them.

Pat Califia writes "Of opponents to her bill who called themselves feminists...MacKinnon later said, 'Someone should explain to me how one can be a feminist and be pro- pornography...they're mutually exclusive." (p. 126) In her book, A Woman's Right to Pornography, Wendy McElroy questions those who wish to define away their opponents: "The growing intolerance within feminism is not a sign of intellectual confidence, which invites open discussion. It is a sign of dogmatic hostility toward anyone who disagrees." (p. 116)

At what point does Rortyan 'redescription' turn into Orwellian NewSpeak? The answer lies in its effect on silencing critics. There are other voices in this internal debate and they need to be heard as well. This is not so much a matter of 'political free speech' as a matter of 'philosophical free speech.'

In contrast, a -- dialogical approach may provide a way for all views to be heard.

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