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Feminist Women Pick-Up-Artists Take On Kickstarter’s New Ban With Seduction Book

A Lesson in Humility


In reaction to the Kickstarter fiasco over a pick-up artist (PUA) seeking to write a book that contained some alarmingly rape-y advice, a few feminist ladies decided to take matters into their own hands.

Female pick-up artist Arden Leigh, queer burlesque star Madame Rosebud, and matchmaker Amy Van Doran proposed a book about seduction aimed towards teaching women about pick-up techniques so as to empower them to be more active participants in their own romantic lives.

Kickstarter, however, stayed true to its new rule banning all guides of the kind, and rejected their proposal.

The official statement (released after the issue with Hoinsky’s book)  looks like this:

We are prohibiting “seduction guides,” or anything similar, effective immediately. This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works. These things do not belong on Kickstarter.

To be fair to Kickstarter, they are an organization of 60-something people that is responsible for thousands and thousands of proposals coming from all sectors of life. Managing that magnitude of content is not an easy job, particularly when something that toes the line between acceptable and unacceptable appears. The first book, from Redditor Ken Hoinsky, was distinctly terrible and rightfully decried. This second book, however, is much more ambiguous and could potentially be positive and empowering despite breaking Kickstarter’s recently reified rule.

The fact of the matter is, they are free to choose what does and does not go on their site.

The wording of Kickstarter’s guidelines, however, is awfully broad:

No self-help material (books, videos, etc). This includes projects that offer (or produce materials that offer) business, emotional, financial, health, medical, sex/seduction, or other self-help advice. (Updated 6/25/2013)

Including all kinds of self-help materials is a wide stroke. Leigh had this to say:

“I wanted to make Kickstarter question their own beliefs about the pick-up community. I’m really tired of seeing pick-up vilified.”

The fact that this book (one that is sex-positive, teaches the importance of consent, and is made to counter misogynistic attitudes about physical romance) gets rejected under a catch-all rule despite having little reason to be objectionable on the grounds of harassment says something about the way in which Kickstarter refuses to see the heart of the issue. The outraged users weren’t primarily angry about the existence of a PUA book proposal because it was sleazy and gross, but rather were focused on the fact that this (very much sleazy and gross anyway) book promoted acts of harassment and rape with advice that was misogynistic to a scary degree. It was not the project itself, but the mentality of the discourse that was truly unacceptable.

This distinction is an important one to make. A genre in and of itself is usually not inherently problematic. There are definitely some exceptions, but generally-speaking blaming a genre of something for offensive and demeaning content is missing the point: what is being said and the mentality behind it is just as central as the medium in which the message is expressed. Just because one is problematic doesn’t mean that the other is, too, and vice versa.

Leigh on the ethics of PUA:

[PUA is] not inherently good or bad. It’s like a hammer. A hammer can be used to drive a nail into a piece of wood and build a beautiful house one day or it can be used to bust someone’s kneecap. It’s all about the ethics of how you use it.

These women are, to a certain degree, reclaiming the PUA culture for positivity and feminism. To quote the article from The Daily Dot:

The book, [Leigh] said, would teach women to achieve their romantic goals, without doing anything that is in conflict with their personal integrity. It will teach them not to just “sit on a barstool and wait for some guy to approach you,” but to go after who they want.

They are not seeking to continue the structural violence of romantic practices. They are seeking to inform women of ways in which they, too, can take agency in a culture that slots them into the passive role.

Regardless of any personal moral disagreements I may have with PUA as a concept, there is something wrong about blanket statements outlawing things without taking a look into what their purpose and message is. The Kickstarter rule is restrictive and arbitrary. I may not be supporting a PUA book any time soon, but it’s important to fight for the freedom to create things. So long as a project is serving to promote respect and not oppression, I don’t see why anything should be barred.

What do you think?

(via The Daily Dot)

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