Don’t tell me to “fuck the patriarchy”—I already am

Plan Author

  • Mary Gilmore, 2016

Fields of Concentration

  • Gender Studies
  • Politics

Sample Courses

Project Description

A critique of radical feminism and liberal feminism.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Meg Mott
  • John Sheehy

Outside Evaluator

  • Lise Sanders, Hampshire College


This Plan is an examination of the tensions between feminist movements and the stigmatization of vulnerable populations. The first paper explores the conflict between Amnesty International and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women over the legalization of prostitution and issues of stigmatization, gendered violence, and human rights. The second piece is a short story portraying the lives of exotic dancers, called “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Strippers.” This is followed by a portfolio of essays from the Speech Matters semester intensive, exploring drug and alcohol addiction and what sex workers rights advocates can learn from drug policy reform.


My main criticism of radical feminism is not one based in biological-determinism or on the pitfalls of identity politics, though those are both valid. It is much more pragmatic than that. It is the fact that their efforts have not done much to stem or stop the flow of the sex industry, which they have asserted is their goal. It simply does not work. Their efforts have done little to bring about change, and what change they have brought about reinforces the stigma and dangers that sex workers are trying to run away from or stop.

The recovery movement is contentious in the drug policy reform movement. Some people, such as those who support a harm reduction model, are upset that the recovery movement and its goal of abstinence seems to be running the agenda when it comes to drug use in America. The dissatisfied people would like to see an agenda that recognizes that drug use, most notably from people of color, is okay, that not everyone needs to be sober. And in fact, until we recognize that drug use can be fine and even healthy for some, we can’t truly support those who struggle with unhealthy use. There will always be a line where support ends. A similar divide can be seen in the discourse around sex work. The sex workers’ rights movement is concerned with dismantling criminalization around sex work because they believe that sex work is and should be treated like other forms of work. The opposite side of this is what Laura Maria Agustin has deemed the “Rescue Industry.” This side believes that sex workers should not be demonized themselves, but that they are victims of outside forces and need to be saved. This side views sex work as inherently bad. Some rescue industry proponents favor decriminalization because they don’t believe people engaged in sex work should receive prison time, but they don’t believe that sex work is a healthy end-goal.