Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance in Prohibitionist Campaigning

I want to prove a point.

I believe that the greater bulk of prohibitionist campaigners actually know that what they are doing is wrong  and spend a lot of time desperately trying to justify their beliefs to themselves and others. Lets consider some key issues....

Groups such as Object have been engaged in what almost amounts to a ten year campaign to close every club in Britain. They know that this will lead to thousands of people losing their jobs as dancers, bar staff, cleaners and doormen. They know this but still they proceed with their campaign. But at some point, some of them started to feel uncomfortable with the idea of women making other women jobless, uncomfortable with the idea of women telling other women what to do. Let's face it,  isn't the key feminist battle with the 'patriachy' one for female freedom of choice? A freedom that Object wish to see removed.

At some point in the past prohibitionist campaigners started to consider that as they were essentially campaigning to reduce female choice and freedom then what was the difference between them as feminist campaigners and the patriarchy that they so despise.

Justifications had be sought, reasons for their actions that brought them back into the prohibitionist comfort zone. So let's introduce the concept of Cognitive Dissonance.

The phrase Cognitive Dissonance was coined by Leon Festinger in his 1957 book, 'When Prophecy Fails', which was about a UFO cult that fervently believed in an impending apocalypse a subsequent rescue of cult believers by space aliens. The apocalypse didn't happen at the predicted time and date and this was justified by the cult members not by admitting the entire premise was horse shit, but that God had decided to spare the Earth and as a result they should go forth and proselytise.

Festinger developed his cognitive dissonance theory on the basis of his observations of the cult members. The theory suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in harmony and avoid disharmony (or dissonance).

Festinger stated that a powerful motivation to maintain cognitive consistency can give rise to irrational and sometimes maladaptive behaviour. According to Festinger, we hold many cognitions about the world and ourselves; when they clash, a discrepancy is evoked, resulting in a state of tension known as cognitive dissonance. As the experience of dissonance is unpleasant, we are motivated to reduce or eliminate it, and achieve consonance (i.e. agreement). We do this by coming up with or accepting sometimes ludicrous justifications for what we believe and how we act.

Is this starting to ring some bells for you, especially in terms of recent prohibitionist campaigns?

As I said at the start of the article, prohibitionist campaigners know that one end result of their activities will be unemployed dancers. They know that they as women are campaigning for female freedom but at the same time, are campaigning for certain freedoms to be removed. This conflict creates a dissonance that must be reconciled. Lets look at some reconciliations that we have seen over the past year...

Dissonant Event: We are taking the right of the dancers to earn money in the manner that they see fit....

Reconciliation: We are in fact rescuing the dancers because they are so abused that they have gone crazy....

It is an increasingly common justification used by feminists that the dancers are so essentially so traumatised by their work that being made jobless is the only way to help them. If you think I am joking, take a look at the frame grab below....

If you read it again, you can almost see the cogs turning in the writers brain as they justify ignoring dancer opinions and any academic study that contradicts the standard feminist viewpoint.

Dissonant Event: We tried to rescue the dancers from their traumatic circumstances, but they protested against us in public.

Reconciliation: They protested because they were forced to. Therefore we must redouble our efforts to rescue them by closing down the club where they work.

The above frame grab taken from the Portsmouth on-line newspaper was a reaction to the protest held by dancers outside the Town Hall. The writer justifies their stance by stating that the dancers were coerced, which in this persons view is an industry norm. This therefore justifies the campaign to make the dancers redundant because the campaigners are actually doing them a favour by removing them from a life of coercion. We also see a half baked attempt to brush over the job loss issue by dismissing it on the grounds that maybe the dancers can get jobs in the other places that will open and better still, they will be paid more as well, so everything is good really.

Dissonant Event: The evidence produced to counter the prohibitionist campaigns is well thought out and contains statistics that we find hard to argue with.

Reconciliation: Its all a load of lies and they would say that anyway..

Wiggle made a detailed submission that contained statistics and analysis that demolished the campaign run by Object and the Solent Feminist Network. This was not appreciated by the campaigners, as we saw the other week...

Wiggles submission can be ignored apparently because 'it is full of lies'. Dr Brooke Magnatis demolition of the Lilith Report was based upon statistical analysis of publicly available figures on the incidences of sex attacks in boroughs in London that do and do not have clubs. It was not about opinion dressed as fact. Lilith is the cornerstone of prohibitionist campaigning and feminists were very upset to see it demolished. Some were so upset about the implications of Magnatis work that they just had to dismiss it...

We can see above how a thorough, rigorous analysis of the shortcomings of Lilith are dismissed by feminist campaigners on the basis that Magnati 'would say that sort of thing so can be ignored'.

Dissonant Event: The Licensing Committee considered the SEV applications of seven clubs and after due process, awarded the licences to all of them.

Reconciliation: We need the views to other experts that maybe agree with us and anyway it was all a conspiracy anyhow.

A previous article on this blog, discusses how Leeds councillor Rebecca Charlwood is leading an SEV Working Group that has Object lined up as an 'expert' on the industry. Read more about it here where you will see some Tweets that try an imply the existence of a councillor who is apparently highly knowledgeable about lap dancing clubs in Leeds.

I could go on, but the entire feminist campaign to close clubs is based upon cognitive reconciliations and is therefore intellectually suspect. In many respects the views and justifications for the prohibitionist campaigns is strongly reminiscent of the UFO cult that Festinger wrote about.....


  1. Prohibitionists engaged in Soviet-style doublethink: nothing new to us, but would probably be shocking to anyone who'd never examined the relevant facts.

  2. Great article and so true. Yeah i think a cult sums them up very nicely.

    See there's another club application on the cards in Bedfordshire

    Another mumsnet feminist type on a moral crusade with the usual argument. To quote her “It’s inappropriate and the main reason I’m against this is that such places objectify women and I won’t live in a town where my boys grow up to think that’s ok"
    I'd say to her fine don't live in the town then.

    1. The mum in question is certainly familiar to one or two of us...

  3. Slightly off topic but talking of mumsnet, I found this an interesting thread from a couple of weeks ago.

    I didn't comment myself, but some of the comments were pretty outrageous. Especially the three comments saying they would prefer their other halves had an affair than visit a lap dancing club(Really?) and couldn't believe this comment either:
    'Years ago I left my husband and got divorced because he had been to a lap dancing club. He knew that would be my reaction and how much I detested them and went anyway. I left as soon as he got back with the dc. Gone was my lovely husband, all I could see was a letchy perv on front of me. He knew my boundaries and he crossed the line. Lots of people would say that I over reacted but he (and partners since) have always known its a deal breaker for me.'

    wowzers! rational behavior i think not.

    1. It's an extreme reaction. Surely a better way forward would have been to questioned exactly why he visited the club. I loved the comment that compared lap dancing clubs and hen night events though....

    2. Luckily my other half is pretty cool about these things, well just as long as i don't spend too much money and go too often that is. I think in a long term relationship, it's perfectly healthy to have a bit of your own space and for me lap dancing clubs are more or less a live version of softcore erotica. I Wonder what the mumsnet women would think of their blokes looking at porn? wonder if they would take the same stance? maybe i should ask them! (but then can i be bothered with the barrage of insults that will no doubt be heading my way, hehe!)

    3. There have been several pieces about husbands who read/use porn from the mumsnet crowd. Stock answer is leave the bugger it seems. It is the same crowd that repeat the same arguments over and over. From the writing and style of comment they are either really good friends with the feminist section or more like name changes. Sometimes you feel that the support of some stupid statements (porn will turn the person into a rapist type thing) have been ingrained into their brains.

    4. This was very true Tony about Mumsnet, following my input on another Lap Dancing thread, regarding the positive Guardian article, i was called both a wanker and an abuser of young women, for no other reason than supporting lap dancing clubs. However there have also been a lot of other pro posters on there who have made some great points. I was under the name DadDancer

    5. I have been following the thread with interest, seems the logic side is winning the debate so the antis are just make stupid claims. Nothing new and some of those posters are looking complete idiots.

    6. ...Thus proving Chasmal's very point about cognitive dissonance! ;-)

    7. The mumsnet debate is interesting I have had 2 requests for my report on crime in the last 24 hours one of whom seems in favour of the clubs and swapped a couple of mails and the other who has said nothing so not sure if anti or pro club.

  4. Having tried to debate openly with Dacke and people like MrsClown I have seen a raft of excuses either not to debate or not to answer questions. I have seen Holsopple and Lilith rolled out again and again with no fear of being challenged. I am use to the personal insults that come from these people when they find the fabric of their stories has fallen apart. Certainly Dacke like using Holsopple and if challenged Nelson comes in with an oh yeah but what about Lilith.

    Just once I would like these intellectuals to stand up and debate rather than finding excuses to make claims with no basis in reality and run away.

  5. I think Object et all need to send a huge thanks to strippers and all others in the Erotic industries. They have made their entire parasitic career out of us. If it wasn't for us; gone would be the book deals, the publicity, the funding, the invitations to speak etc. I am expecting a big thank you from them! Lol!

    They also need to thank us for pushing boundaries and making sexuality more acceptable in society at large. As we all know the more conservative and repressive a society, the worse it is for women. However the brave, pioneering strippers and sex workers have opened peoples eyes and minds and allowed them to learn about their own sexuality in a guilt free way. The more progressive, open and less uptight a society, the better it is for women. The repressive and backwards stance of these prohibitionists groups needs to be balanced by free thinking and fun people.

    I find it hilarious and ironic that they have actually made my job as a stripper more necessary than ever, and every time I get on stage, it feels like a powerful feminist statement. I find this contradiction delightful and very very funny!

    1. There's an article in the Guardian which might amuse you, entitled 'Feminism – a spent force or fit for the 21st century?':

    2. totally agree, this is what feminism should be about, pro-choice and not repression.

    3. My reply was with regards to your comment Edie rather than the Guardian article.
      However i have checked out the guardian piece and loving your comments Brute

  6. I was re-reading the article and certain aspects struck me really hard and this is something I have been talking about with a friend. The seven aspects of Objectification which feminists spout in their arguments every time. Well the second form of objectification of the list from Stanford is denial of autonomy: the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination.

    So we know that prohibitionists deny that the dancers can reason for themselves doing the very thing they attack men for in Objectifying women in this case the dancers. This is a particular vicious form of Objectification as it silences the dancers adding a second layer of objectification. Now for me sexual objectification is nature, it is part of how mother nature programmed us to procreate. An to deny that or make it evil seems folly to me so long as we remain within the guidelines that society/clubs/local government set out. It is about time those screaming loudest about objectification look at how they are running their campaign.