A Comparative Analysis of Two Viewpoints Essay
“A First Amendment Junkie” by Susan Jacoby and “Let`s Put Pornography Back in the Closet” by Susan Brownmiller are both illustrative essay that present the subjective views of the stated authors on the issue of feminine depiction in pornography and constitutional rights of free speech and expression. Susan Jacoby observe the issue of freedom of speech from an absolute unconditional perspective whereas Brownmiller is of the view that First Amendment necessitates freedom of expression but it does not signify that one should humiliate and mutilate the feelings of other community members.
I think that Susam Brownmiller’s point of view is more rational as it takes into account the various other aspects of this complex socio-cultural dilemma that goes side by side with constitutional freedom of expression. Susan Jacoby believes in the “absolute interpretation” of First Amendment that says; ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (U. S. Constitution)
She is of the view that feminist writers and other feminist groups try to manipulate this amendment by interpreting in various ways. She further asserts that these feminist groups, who negate absoluteness of First Amendment, use their interpretation to serve their purposes. She does not accept their claim that pornography and its various manifestations are of a different nature than a simple question of freedom of speech.
For example, she says, “Many feminist arguments for control on pornography carry the implicit conviction that porn book, magazines and movies pose a greater threat to women than similarly repulsive exercises of free speech pose to other offended groups. ” (Susan Jacoby) She further illustrates that First Amendment should not allow any intimidating form of speech but pornography is a matter of freedom of expressing ideas and it is not a matter of conduct. But on the question of “Kiddie” porn”, she deviates from her point of view as says that this issue is not encompassed by First Amendment but is related to the phenomenon of abuse of power.
On the question of brutish and fetish pornography, she articulates it “primarily as objects of violence”. She emphasizes that distinction must be made between art and trash. Here she describes the response of some women who labelled one picture of penthouse as “lovely” and “sensuous”. She underlines the idea of individual responsibility to restrain oneself from what they consider obscene as she thinks that it is a relative phenomenon. She says that a collective effort to ban pornography is against the spirit of First Amendment.
Her narrative style is rather sentimental and brings far-fetched emotional arguments to counter the problem. Susan Brownmiller, the celebrated writer of Against our Will; Men Women and Rape, also relies on First Amendment to guard the feminist point of view against pornography and says that “Free speech is one of the great foundations on which our democracy rests. (Susan Brownmiller). But unlike Susan Jacoby, she takes a different stance about first amendment and its relationship with pornography.
She narrates that in 1940s and 1950s, there was surge in the absolute interpretation of First Amendment but in 1960s this phenomenon died down as the “principle of protecting unpopular political speech strengthened. Here she provides the assessment of Justice Warren Burger that says; “To equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitations of obscene material demeans the grand conception of Firs Amendments and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom. It is a misuse of the great guarantees of the free speech and free press. ” (Susan Brownmiller).
She emphasize that nation must have some definitional parameter to define obscenity. She provides certain court decision that has tried to judge obscenity. In Miller case of 1973, court has set a three set of parameters to adjudge obscenity. Court further said that these parameters will be judged according to the “contemporary community standards”. She asserts that feminists have a part o play in redefining these “contemporary community standards”. She says that women are not against sex or lust but pornography does not depict sex or erotic desires but it represents hatred of women.
She further considers certain other aspects of Miller case (1973) to prove her viewpoint. T the end she says that there is no restriction on ideas and their expression in any art form but “permission to publish and permission to display publicly” must come under First Amendment. Both writers have taken different stance on the same issue and conclude their justification that originates from the same source i. e. the first amendments that protects the individual rights of freedom of expression. Both further provide various legal verdicts on the same issue but with different ruling to strengthen their claim.
So both writers have utilized the constitutional perspective to serve their own interest and present an ambivalent interpretation of First Amendments. Both writers are unable to answer certain other questions. Like Susan Jacoby says that “Kiddie porn is not a First Amendments issue”. She labels that as an exploitation of power that adults have over children. Here she intentionally ignores this important issues and negates his own arguments of absolute interpretations of First Amendment.
Whereas Brownmiller describes the Miller vs. California case to support her own arguments whereas ruling of the case hold firmly that free expression of speech. Although it asked States to devise new laws about obscenity but it strengthened the free speech. (Miller vs. California) Another element of comparison is the idea of obscenity. Both writers describe it in different perspective with different thematic expression. Susan Brownmiller has explored the phenomenon in the historical perspective and says that although this phenomenon got changes according to the social-cultural changes but constitutional amendment is unable to deal with it.
Another important thing that Brownmiller points out is that superior courts are unable to define the pornography. Although both writers present the subjective view, for example, Susan Brownmille uses the words; “I didn’t say that, although I wish I had, for I think the words are thrilling. ” But Susan Brownmiller’s view is more valid due to her argumentative power and narration of her ideas with help of facts and figures. She does not draw our sentimental faculties to captivate our attention but rather invite our intellectual capabilities to draw the conclusion.
She simply puts the facts in a captivating order and capacities those with facts and logical arguments. Another distinction between both articles is their reliance on general assumptions and verifiable sources. Brownmiller mostly used the authentic and verifiable sources. For example, when she compares constitutional theorist of opposing views on First amendments and its relations to pornography, she provides the names of Justice Douglas and Justice Earl Warren to support the arguments (Brownmiller, 49) Whereas, Jacoby often used generalized assumptions without providing the source of these assumptions.
For example, when she raised the question that “Are all pictures of Naked Women obscene? The answer is “Clearly not, says a friend. ” We are not aware of that friend and authenticity and validity of this source. The article written by Susan Jacob is based on converse logic where she manipulates every argument and idea to prove her point of invalidity of criticism by the feminist activists and groups. She has tried to patch up different pieces to create motley of ideas.
She has also quoted from Susan Brownmiller’s book Against Our Will: Men Women and Rape that describes pornography as “the undiluted essence of antifemale propaganda”. But here Susan Jacoby only picks the excerpts that suits her interests and also explains it according to her ideological necessities. In the end, she raises some odd questions about the parents’ efforts to take their children to watch movies like Looking for Mr. Goodbar as it hasnothing to do with First amendment.
Susan Jacoby’s too much reliance on first amendments for the freedom of explicit sexual material and women sexual exploitation negates the moral aspects of the problem. Similar views are expressed by Brownmiller that she does not avail the support of religious and moral ideas on the issue and illustrates that her agenda is based on feminist ideology and says that ‘pornography’s intent is to humiliate, degrade and dehumanize the female body for the purpose of erotic stimulation and pleasure’.
Both writer rely on the constitutional and legal aspects of the issue and do not take into account the other facets of the problem i. e. moral and socio-cultural. Although both articles present the issue in a complex and intricate way and bring far-fetched arguments to support their claims, but Brownmiller’s article is more persuasive and is full of argumentative details whereas Susan Jacob’s article is full of sentimentality and only presents one sided view of the problem. Again Brwonmiller article is well arranged whereas Jacoby’s article is an amalgamation of different ideas patched together forcefully.