Here’s what Dr Denis MacShane (PhD in Economics from Birkbeck!) said:
Mr MacShane: My hon. Friend mentioned the London School of Economics. Is she aware of its feminist political theory course, taught by Professor Anne Phillips? In week 8 of the course, students study prostitution. The briefing says:
“If we consider it legitimate for women to hire themselves out as low-paid and often badly treated cleaners, why is it not also legitimate for them to hire themselves out as prostitutes?”
If a professor at the London School of Economics cannot make the distinction between a cleaning woman and a prostituted woman, we are filling the minds of our young students with the most poisonous drivel.
Of course, it’ll come as no surprise to readers of this blog that Phillips was not by any means lacking ability to draw this distinction, but instead asking her students to reflect critically on similarities and differences. The full context:
One might expect feminists to unite in opposition to prostitution, seeing it as the ultimate symbol of male domination. In fact, there has been a more complex debate, part of which takes us back to the discussion of contract. Does a contract make something OK? Or are there certain relationships that remain exploitative, even if the parties voluntarily enter them? On the other side, if we consider it legitimate for women to hire themselves out as low paid and often badly treated cleaners, why is it not also legitimate for them to hire themselves out as prostitutes? If we treat these two occupations differently, does that involve an illegitimate paternalism or moralism? Again, does it mean endorsing some view of the body as sacrosanct, or of women as having a ‘special’ relationship to their body?
Students should divide themselves into two groups, one charged with making the case that prostitution is not significantly different from other forms of labour (ie, that it may be poorly paid and highly dangerous, but isn’t especially exploitative just because it involves sex/ the body); the other charged with opposing this. You should meet together before the session to work out your arguments and how you wish to present them… Each group will have 20 minutes in which to present its case. You may choose to elect two or three people from the group as spokespersons or may prefer a more collective presentation. For this week, we all meet together as a single group for a combined two-hour session.
Sigh. And, no shock, The Daily Mail has used this as an occasion to ask how we dare to offer Gender Studies courses in a time of budget cuts.
[Expletives deleted.] Thanks, S!
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