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I am a 17 year old girl in central Pennsylvania and am having a hard time finding ways to be active in the feminist movement. Either I'm too young or too old to be included in many education movements, and central PA isn't exactly a hotbed of activism. I'd like to be involved, but am not sure how. Can you help me here?

Also...I know this is a controversial issue, and though I believe in a woman's right to do with her body what she will, I also believe that certain aspects of the pornography industry undermine everything that this movement should stand for. Perhaps when there are just as many porn sites and magazines directed at women as there are at men I will feel differently, but for now, the objectification and violence that I see is sickening.

It seems to me that, if women are working for respect, equality, and a strong foothold in the world, there's no way any of those goals can be achieved while women are marketed as objects, solely for the pleasure of men. As long as a man can buy a Hustler in the corner Uni-Mart, other women he sees will be squeezed into that mold...the mold of being bought for his pleasure. Is this the choice that women should be making?

How can I be against pornography, yet not join the ranks of right-wing censorship organizations? This is the only issue on which I disagree with Manifesta, and I was hoping you could provide some advice.

Thank you,




Dear Lauren,

I think the pornography issue is such a complicated one -- not so much emotionally or politically - but just pragmatically -- because what are we talking about -- pedophelia, internet porn, girlie magazines, watching videos in your own. It's hard to have a blanket response to pornography since it means different things to different people. I personally wouldn't say that I have a stand on pornography and I don't believe the only choice is pro-censorship or pro-porn. I think, in fact, that most of us fall somewhere in between. Before having the conversation with anyone I always say -- what do you mean by pornography? And I don't think the effect is only on men -- how they think they can treat women, but how women treat themselves -- and sadly the message they get from porn -- mostly that sexiness and vulnerability are valued -- is the same message that we get from most other forms of popular culture. So there is so much more to change than just the porn industry.

As for activism, I think that best thing to do is the assess your community -- what already exists in terms of women's services and is there something that you can latch onto or is there a void -- if the latter, think about either taking something to one of the existing groups or forging out on your own. Since porn seems to be an issue that concerns you perhaps that's where to start - for instance, insisting on brown bags to cover it -- which is something that feminists fought for in the 70s and won successfully. Or a community forum on porn.

I hope these suggestions get you thinking about other ideas.

Good luck,

-- Amy

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