Volume III, Number 1, Spring 2007

"'Other' lessons to be learnt from hate speech regulation in the US and the chances of Women Studies in Hungary" by Erzsébet Barát

Erzsébet Barát is Associate Professor at the Deparmtment of English, University of Szeged, Szeged and at the Department of Gender Studies, Central European University, Budapest. Email: zsazsa@lit.u-szeged.hu

Framing the talk

In my paper I would like to rethink the US debate on regulating speech ‘behavior’ in the 1990s from the perspective of the gender/sexuality intersection in order to see the limits of the various positions of the current Hungarian media debate the participants of which systematically refer to the US case for supporting their own, apparently oppositional pro and against positions. That is, I do not wish to propose some speech code of my own but to relocate that debate from the perspective of the gate-keeping strategies of the straight Hungarian print media. I shall argue that the discursive site of the dominant exclusionary politics of naming for the current debate has been prepared by the political media’s definitions of ‘feminism’ in the 1990s. Through establishing the link between the two particular examples I hope to expose the central place homophobia plays in the reinforcement of the hegemonic status quo in print journalism. The core of this homophobia concerns itself with the employment of a double standard of silencing: the unwillingness to regulate hate speech and the willingness of sanctioning coming out in the public. I will argue that the media practices of silencing are not accidental but instances of an institutionalized practice of exclusion that is ultimately played out at the expense of the sexually different female others. Furthermore, the effects of this strategy are inevitably twofold. They are not only to prevent lesbian attempts at coming out, but also to discourage anyone (lesbian or otherwise) to publicly identify with any feminist position for fear of enduring the material effects of such associations of solidarity. I shall suggest that recognizing this double edge of silencing may open up the discursive field to an inclusionary politics of identity, to the building of an allegiance in the current struggle over institutional changes – not only in jurisdiction but also in the fight for the introduction of an MA degree in women studies as a legitimate mode of knowledge production in academia. My conclusion is that unless we are prepared to unsettle the pervasive logic of categorization in dichotomies that dominates the general social and cultural context and start exploring and analyzing the issues at stake from the perspective of the (more) dispossessed we cannot gain any grounds for strategic action for a less majoritarian, more autonomous public space (academic or otherwise).

Hate speech legislation from the perspective of non-normative sexualities

In the past 14 months or so Hungarian readers of the weekly periodical ÉS (Vol. 47 & 48)1 may follow a renewed debate about regulating hate speech in the column called Agora. As the name implies, the editorial board wants the column to function as a public space opened up to contributions by prominent intellectuals in response to current, predominantly, political struggles. Since my focus today is not the analysis of this media debate itself, I shall address only the issues that I find relevant for my purposes of linking hate speech to silencing feminist criticism. Therefore I am not exploring, for example, the ways in which current party political agendas could be seen in relation to the editorial politics of the print media. Instead, I have turned to this debate in order to meet the feminist requirement of doing critical research2. The objective of critical approach means that my research on hate speech must meet two interrelated criteria. First, it must speak to a relevant current social issue. In my case it is the failed attempts at arguing in favor of legislating hate speech linked up with the ongoing struggle over the new MA degrees under the pretext of the Bologna Treaty. Second, such approach must raise questions not merely ‘on behalf of’ the injured but from the perspective of those who suffer from the denial of security and liberty and see what difference this shift may make to the conclusions one can draw.

The debate in ÉS is primarily framed as a legislative matter. The majority of the contributors advocate an absolutist position in defense of ‘freedom of speech’ The advocacy of this freedom against any form of control labeled as the effect of censorship rests on the ideological assumption of the availability of an equal access to an apparently universal liberty for all members of society. Without this assumption the advocates of unconditioned free speech could not maintain their defense of free speech any longer. The irony of their position is that speech is indeed free mostly for them but precisely because they voice the status quo. In fact, their political and cultural privilege consists in the access to the position of being listened to, contributing to the governmental silencing of what less powerful groups of people have to say. In terms of the discursive dimension, this dominant voice consists mostly in the strategic use of the rhetoric that conjures any argument in favor of legislation as ‘threat’ to the alleged liberty of free speech while hiding behind that very state power, defending the current status quo of no legislation.

To support their arguments, all the participants, including the minority in favor of legislation, draw on the US debate in the 1990s. What is more, in their re-presentation of the American debate, the diverse lines of disagreement3 in the US context is reduced to an irreconcilable single either/or division between groups of those defending free speech and association under the protection of the First Amendment and those defending equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution. I argue that it is this shared practice of dichotomical categorization, delivering the gain of a containment of the differential positions, whose logic will foreground the effects of limiting the alleged right to free speech and preclude any systematic consideration of the effects of hate speech. What is at stake is the understanding that without considering the injuries of the targeted collectives, no line of argumentation can open up exposing the dominant patterns of interpretation and validation in a given society as an effect of differentiating between targets and non-targets of violent exclusion. The most conspicuous characteristics of the legitimized current practice of the allegedly free speech for members of the assaulted communities is that “it is logical to link together several thousand real-life stories into one tale of caution” (Matsuda 1993, 22), whereas for non-members, whom are not directly hit in the gut by the hate messages, threats, and disparagement, it is logical to see a threat to their freedom of speech in any attempts at using the law as a remedy for injury from hate speech. These patterns of meaning making also inform the participants’ own position on the matter. Nevertheless, without considering these systematic differences between the interpretations, they do not have to be faced with the difference that the location of the targeted victim versus that of the non-member should make. The promising outcome of such a comparison could not hold the promise of an absolute distinction between the ‘minority’ of the vulnerable and the ‘majority’ of the non-vulnerable where almost all participants (claim to) belong. Why is this systematic resistance to the consideration of the victims’ story then?

An insightful answer is provided by Mari J. Matsuda, the critical race theorist, who reformulates the questions at stake from the victim’s perspective. As a result of this move, she can unsettle the vulnerable/non-vulnerable divide by pointing out that there are effects of hate speech on non-target group members as well. What is more, she argues that the losses non-members have to face also have got a constitutional dimension to them: “Associational and other liberty interests of whites are [also] curtailed in an atmosphere rife with racial hatred” (italics added). In other words, she argues for the systematic use of law against hate speech as means of social change by pointing out that violent language behavior is not accidental and as such inconsequential but structural in nature and as such injures those in the non-target groups as well, even if in a much less immediate manner:

The claim that a legal response to racist speech is required [to ease the psychic tax imposed on those least able to pay (18)] stems from a recognition of the structural reality of racism in the United States. Racism […] comprises the ideology of racial supremacy and the mechanisms for keeping selected victim groups in subordinated positions” (emphasis added; 23)

In other words, for any particular form of hate speech we need to attend to the systematic ways of exclusion, to the vested interests of the more powerful in gate-keeping through language behavior. And much more to my current interest, the start from the perspective of the victim may yield a common position for targeted and non-targeted members of society as well to fight against its threat.

This is the point where my previous research4 on the gate-keeping mechanisms of the print media becomes relevant. That research project was concerned with ideological investments that informed the various definitions of ‘feminism’ in the first ten years after the system change. In that research I was not that much interested in the violent media strategies of misogynist exclusions epitomized in the figure of the “terrorist feminist” as in the ways in which the feminist voices of self-definition could make a difference in this process, and if not why not. What I found was that it was a predominantly reformist feminist voice that could have access to the media, though never on her own terms, which could potentially be provided by the genre of a debate, for example, but through the media dominated genre of the interview. However, even that presence could happen if these self-definitions shared a mitigated version of the discourse of homophobia. As a result, I argued, the practices of self-definitions of feminism were made possible at the expense of the hardly present voice of radical feminism.

Extract (1): The hetero-patriarchal voice of hate speech

It is obvious that modern feminism is not about the suffragette’s movement at the turn of the century. It is rather yet another ideology, which is just as intolerant, brutal and totalitarian as Marxism […]Like all other “soft ideologies”(…) which are mostly American imports, neo-feminism is also a product of US society, an ungroomed and grotesque one, for that matter. (…) First they do their best to breed a human bull then expect the aroused bull to behave like an innocent calf. Small wonder that there are countless women who harvest millions by suing some male celebrities for alleged sexual harassment (see the case of Mike Tyson, the boxer; Clarence Thomas, the supreme judge; the Kennedy nephew; and so on). (…) The borderline identity, the one that these days is spreading at a frightening speed, is the huge number of lesbian love and child abuse, (…) which is called the “redefinition of the family” by the American scientists, who are always ready to legitimize aberration anyway. (…) The class struggle has been replaced by the struggle of the sexes, but there is no such a thing as equity in class or sex positions. The feminist movements are led by brutal, masculine, amazons, who terrorize their fellow women and force the other sex to turn to pederasty. (Hitel, June 24th 1992, “Instead of class struggle the struggle of the sexes?” Molnár Tamás, emphais added.)

Extract (2): The reformist voice of feminism

A(cademic): (…) Of course, it is not that feminists would reject the major elements of the bourgeois family values, or would be anti-sex or anti-men. But we should dust the ancient perception of woman in order to see what we, women want (…) So that, in accordance with our real needs, we can choose from various options.
J(ournalist): Where are men in all this process?
A: Naturally, without men, feminists would be left all by themselves in it. It would be good to see that men take democracy seriously, beyond party politics as well and start practicing it right in the home. (…) A women who is more balanced, has more time for her appearance and children, could be a nicer partner for men as well, which can, in turn, enhance men’s well -being too. We also should make our own first steps in this direction right now! (Reform, February 6th 1994, “The System Change by Women – Shock Effect and Feminism”, Kruppa Géza, emphasis added.)

Extract (3): The reformist voice of feminism

A: My concern is whether biological difference is turned into social differentiation. That is, whenever just because a woman is nice, feminine, and has got the capacity for sympathy, is suitable for dealing with people, teaching, whenever these splendid female characteristics are acknowledged only in words but in terms of moral and financial appreciation she comes last. (…) But I also think that women (…) must have energy, dynamism, and cleverness. (…)
J: Why is it that you try to make women protest instead of looking for solutions for repairing their relationships?
A: I do not make them rebellious but I can’t accept that a woman always has to choose between her children and career. I’d like if both could be available. (Magyar Nemzet, March 10th 2001, “Business women and family robots: Feminine women and masculine men – Harmony in the family”, Anna Székely, emphasis added.)

If we readdress these findings of my previous research from the current perspective of the hate speech debate in line with Matsuda’s position, I need to point out that calling advocates of feminism “lesbian terrorists” is an instance of hate speech. Furthermore, it is not merely the case of an extreme case of isolated violence by some ‘tasteless’ right wing journalism but the effect of a structural reality of misogyny and homophobia. In other words, the point I would want to focus on this time is that gender and sexuality operate as sites of oppression. What is more, these sites are not in a pre-given hierarchical relationship with sexuality subsumed under gender. That would be the position of the reformist feminist (which in the Anglo-American discourse would be identified as the liberal feminist voice). This is a position that inevitably reproduces the normative ideal of the monogamous (preferably) married reproducing heterosexuals and inevitably locates ‘promiscuous homosexuals’ at the bottom of the scale.

On the other hand, it would not be neither politically nor theoretically any more satisfactory to propose a radical feminist position (in the Anglo-American sense of the term), that would carry on interpreting all sexualities in terms of their relationship to heterosexuality, except from an absolutist position of negation. That stance produces its own normative categorization of sexual acts, ranking the least similar to the hetero-normative ideal the best, the most politically correct (advocating non-penetrative sex between two women at the top) against and over the rest as politically retrograde forms (such as gay orgies or sex for the exchange of money at the bottom of the hierarchy). When I use the term ‘radical voices’ for the few voices challenging mainstream reformist feminism, that radical angle of the position should imply critiques of hetero-patriarchy that advocate the need for a relatively autonomous politics of sexuality. Insofar as this is a position that inevitably criticizes the reformist feminist in the face of an uncontrolled explicit homophobia, it takes a political radicalism to stand up and try to unsettle the given status quo of the dominant patterns of interpretation (feminist or otherwise) that is grounded in a self-perpetuating dichotomous thinking:

Extract (4) The marginal voice of radicalism

A(cademic): In practice, there are two roles for them: self-sacrificing, or rather nurse and the whore. If they assume some roles, especially that of self-confidence, that deserves only mockery, exclusion, sometimes even rape. (…) But feminists are also said to be lesbians. And if they protest, their opponents only become all the more satisfied because they have managed to change the topic, to shift the direction of feminist criticism, or perhaps, because they have succeeded in frightening other women to think the same. So the only good strategy is if a feminist answers: Sure, I am a lesbian. So what? (Magyar Narancs, July 29th 1998, “Women’s Section”, sisso, emphasis added.)

What is new in my rereading of that previous research here is the move to bring to bear Matsuda’s general point concerning the need to attend to the structural nature of exclusionary language behavior on its particular forms of homophobia and misogyny. To accomplish the above re-readings of my data, first I had to turn to the radical feminist, Christine Delphy’s5 observation for a point of departure. She argues that what makes it possible to stop thinking ‘social’ gender in terms of a naturally given, dichotomically understood ‘bodily’, biological sex is to see gender as “the principle of partition itself“ (33) that re/produces the opposing complementary of the ‘two genders’ in the various activities of our daily existence. It is the workings of this principle of categorization that produces the hierarchical structural locations of feminine/masculine as if ‘inevitably’ founded in the heterosexual/homosexual divide. In this sense then it is more appropriate to talk about practices of gendering, to use the verbal form of gender, in order to avoid the trap of self-contained existence evoked by the nominal form of the word.

Yet Delphy’s position, no matter how radical it may read, is only a reversal of the cause and effect relationship between sex and gender, gender always already producing the need for sex and to no extent vice versa. The tradition that argues for a relative differentiation of the two dimensions of social existence draws on Gayle Rubin’s6 work. She claims that gender and sex are not reducible to one another. But they overlap with one another and mutually cut across the modes of social inequality produced by the other. They have got their own intrinsic dynamics precisely because they are articulated together at the intersection of other vectors of oppression: “A rich, white, male pervert will generally be less affected than a poor, black female pervert. But even the most privileged [in the former group] are not immune to sexual oppression.” (22)

What we should understand about the general logic of interpretation under hetero-patriarchy then is its vested interest in categorizations in terms of exclusionary dichotomies. Coming back to the justifications of the positions on legislative remedy in the ÉS debate, we can expose its working about the concern with the relationship between civil law and criminal law. The question they raise is whether we should have hate speech regulated by criminal law in addition to the existing regulations of civil law concerning individual defamation; and whether the latter should be reinterpreted by the dominant practice in jurisprudence in a way that should allow for litigation even if the litigant is not mentioned by name, or is not unequivocally identifiable in any other way in the disparaging speech yet understands to be addressed by the linguistically mediated behavior as member of the targeted collective. The point about this formulation I would like to make is concerned with the emergence of the public sanction versus private litigation divide. Why do we keep running into dichotomies even in the position of participants in the debate such as the legal expert on constitutional law, Halmai Gábor, who is the most vocal representative of the few in favor of the previous extension of the sanctions? In order to answer this question I need to take up Matsuda’s arguments in favor of public sanctions against hate speech enforced by the state instead of private, personal resistance as guaranteed by civil law.

Mary Matsuda and Katherine McKinnon, the most prominent US feminist legal scholars in favor of legal recognition of the pervasive vulnerability of the nameless collectives of degraded people, when arguing for the introduction of public sanctions, expose the untenability of an absolutist position in defense of freedom of speech under the First Amendment against the equally important right to a measure of personal integrity and personhood. In other words, to resolve the apparently contradictory conflicts of value and doctrine, they point out the difference it makes if we have merely private/personal resources to resist assaultive speech versus the power of public sanctions in criminal law that are enforced by the state against the active dissemination of racist propaganda. They want to propose a way to recognize both the real harm effected by hate speech that consists in the denial of personal security and liberty in the daily life of the injured as well as the need to strengthen “our dangerously fickle collective commitment to freedom of discourse” (Matsuda, 1993:18). In order to do that we need to stop thinking in dichotomies and see that “the tolerance of hate speech is not borne by the community at large […] but by those least able to pay [the tax of silencing imposed on them]“(18). In other words, the perspective of the injured victim allows us to unsettle the apparently self-contained realm of privilege that is protected by the pervasive logic of exclusionary divides. And this is a move that holds the promise of democratic justice, the objective that all participants in the debate make claim to.

Insofar as hate speech is to be addressed only within the differentiation drawn between criminal vs. civil law, the distinction will always reproduce a further public/private divide embedded within the public domain of legislation where both codes belong as different forms of jurisprudence. To the extent sanctions under criminal law imply a case of public jurisdiction in the sense of formal and administrative sanctions aimed at redressing justice, the civil code comes to mean the domain of private prosecution on the level of a particular individual only. I contend therefore that the infinite systematic reproduction of the differentiation between criminal and civil law is easy to explain as a discursive effect of practices of fractal distinction as developed by Susan Gal and Gail Kligman7. They propose that dichotomies are

recursively applicable – like self-similar fractal patterns in geometry – and therefore can be nested. […] The result is that within any public [domain] one can always create a private; within any private [domain] one can cerate a public. Which level of contrast and context is invoked in any instance of use is a matter of positioning and of the perspective of social actors and institutions.”(41)

The representation of the arguments about whether and how hate speech should be regulated also revolve around the issues of whether and in what ways hate speech can be seen as violent conduct or simply a linguistically contained opinion about something given. In other words, the absolutist position on First Amendment is in defense of free speech regardless its ‘content’ draws on the dichotomy of words versus deeds, style (linguistic form) versus content, presuming that it is possible to delineate between the two and, more to the point, that the two are in a linear, one-way cause and effect relationship. In other words, hate speech cannot be addressed in any sense as a form of conduct but a derivative linguistic representation of the “state of the world”, and as such expression of “a bad taste” (sic.). The other aspect of this position concerns the concept of identity itself that implicates a further dichotomy resting on the presupposition that being black, Jewish, Woman, lesbian, etc. is a matter of some inescapable pre-given ontological condition. A condition one cannot help but “be.” (Even if several participants would denounce explicitly their membership in the Jewish collective, this ‘merely’ linguistic act cannot make them reconsider the irony of their position.)

As a corollary to the speech/conduct, language/reality epistemological divide, there is a parallel debate going on within feminist scholarship framed in the ‘identity politics’ versus ‘politics of difference’ divide. The distinction purports to locate the actors of political struggle into defenders of distributive material justice versus defenders of cultural justice. In the eyes of the ‘equity’ oriented feminists, those fighting for the criminalization of hate speech and for some constraints on the systematic freedom to (further) abuse and assault people in places “where the law does not go to redress harm” (Matsuda, 1993:18) are seen to promote exclusively the agenda of getting their ‘cultural’ difference recognized. According to their hierarchical logic of the exclusion, such cultural injustice of misrecognition will inevitably come to be secondary in comparison with the injustice caused by the unequal distribution of ‘material’ resources and possibilities, the just redistribution of which is on the agenda of those advocating social equity under the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In opposition with this absolutist position, I ground my alignments and support for hate speech legislation as part of the Hungarian criminal code in Nancy Fraser’s8 understanding of politics of recognition. I see her critical theory of recognition that goes beyond the identity politics of equity versus cultural politics of difference by seeing the political objective of social justice that is not a matter of “either-or” disposition but one that is concerned with both recognition and redistribution. In her attempt at unsettling the dichotomous logic feminist politics is caught within she suggests that we treat recognition as a matter of status:

To be misrecognized, accordingly, is not simply to be thought ill of, looked down upon or devalued in others’ attitudes, beliefs or representations. It is rather to be denied the status of a full partner in social interaction, as a consequence of institutionalized patterns of cultural value that constitute one as comparatively unworthy of respect or esteem.(12)

Arguing to see misrecognition as status subordination, Fraser in fact points out that what is at stake, for example, in legislating against hate speech, is to point out that hate speech is not a fully contingent, merely cultural harm but the expression of institutionalized patterns of cultural values, expressions of coherent social logics, that prevent members of certain social groups from taking part as equals in social life. At this point our argumentation has run a full circle and we have arrived back to Matsuda’s observation about the structural nature of hate speech.

The lessons to be learnt from the case of the Hungarian print media

The only contribution in the major US works on hate speech in the 1990s that addresses the debate on legislation from a non-normative sexual position is written by William B. Rubinstein9. He tries to unsettle the binary of free speech under First Amendment versus equity of Fourteenth Amendment, though with the focus on a warning against unconditioned valorization of criminalizing hate speech – a position one could easily expect to hear from potential targets of homophobic slurs and defamation, like the author who was director of the ACLU’s lesbian and Gay Rights project at the time of the publication of this article. His point of departure is that, if we look at the success of litigation procedures within the scope of the two amendments where the target members of the various forms of violation were gay/lesbian, we will find that “lesbian and gay equality has almost exclusively been safeguarded by the First Amendment [if at all], while gay/lesbian Fourteenth Amendment claims [to equality] have been defeated by the very speech-act of ‘coming out’” (285). His most revealing example in this regard is the US policy in the military of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. Drawing on Nan Hunter’s work, he exposes the hetero-patriarchal logic of the official argumentation and quotes her point that “The military does not seek to justify its policy on the grounds that private sexual acts render gay and lesbian service members inept, but on the grounds that public opprobrium toward homosexuals would imperil morale, discipline and recruitment if homosexuals were openly part of the armed forces.”(emphasis added, 285). By adding the emphasis in the quote I would like to develop his point further and spell out that the success of the official persuasion regarding the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service hinges on a construction of the policy as one that ‘naturally’ draws on a public/private binary, and makes us accept that it is possible to see homosexuality in terms of privacy and heterosexuality in terms of a public – provided we identify with the moralizing position of the opprobrium, the only possible response evocable by the threat of an imagined homosexual public act.

The corollary to this majoritarian stance, goes on Rubinstein, is that what we have at the core of homophobia is ‘silencing’. What is often used in court ruling to defeat the claims of equity for homosexuals, such as their equal right to employment in the US army, is the argument that they are not discriminated against “because of who they are, but rather because of the very act of self-identification” (291). The burden of protection of gay equal rights is located then within the First Amendment by drawing on the binary of language and reality. The dichotomy that systematically renders gay equity to be unheard is the assumption that the coming-out story is about the ‘real essence of the self’. The core of hate speech then can be seen, I should say, as a form of violence that consists in silencing the identity of non-normative sexualities in the public in order to pre-empt any moment of coming-out. At the same time, such homophobic speech regulations undermine not only the civil rights and liberties of target-group members. It also performs silencing of certain speech by non-target members in order to pre-empt any possibility of strategic allegiance to fight the hegemonic norms. This is exactly the price heterosexual feminists should pay in my media example as long as they are prepared to silently go along with the threat evoked by the label of ‘lesbian terrorist” and would never contest it publicly for fear of ‘becoming contaminated by a relation to them’. Instead, they pre-empt any ‘allegations’ by going on the defensive and depict the domesticated feminist who would love to have a male partner and a family and look attractive and have a career by sharing the responsibility of the hetero-normative family with an understanding because intelligent male other. In other words, they end up formulating neo-conservative tales that can only reify the existing structural division of labor.

In order to point out the importance of seeing the damage enacted by this homophobic hate speech, I would like to expose the untenability of the military claim about the alleged privacy of homosexuality. For this final point of my paper I draw on Lauren Berlant’s10 work who sets out to produce the sexual history of citizenship in the US from the perspective of the victim, this time that of black women’s sexual testimonies that includes Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), Frances E. W. Harper’s Iola Leroy (1892), and the Senate testimony of Anita Hill (1991). She sees these apparently diverse texts to belong together as representative of “subaltern survival in a nation where coerced sexualization is both banal and a terrorizing strategy of control in the interstices of democracy” (221). Her major point is that the pervasive technologies of patience keep the disposed at bay by the pattern of interpretation that produces social relations (of sexuality and gender) as personal and private rather than public, in the sense of political and class-based. As a result, it becomes possible to perpetuate a further divide, and make claims for justice against patriarchal privileges compete with claims for justice against heterosexism: “this competition among harmed collectives remains of the major spectator sports of the American public sphere” (243, emphasis added).

I would say, this spectator sports is very much part of the Hungarian academic scene at the moment when the few feminist academics we have at all, are threatened by the injury of the homophobic label of the ‘lesbian terrorist’ to come-out and fight for the possibility of introducing an MA program in Women Studies. In the face of the masculinist exclusionary claims by our male colleagues in the positions to make decisions and/or to be members of the consultative bodies for the new higher education policy justifies their resistance to a feminist turn in the curriculum by referring us to feminism as ‘failed attempts’, ‘alien concerns’ or ‘missing traditions’. In the disguise of polite gestures of patronizing sympathy they conceal the vested interest in safeguarding the cultural hegemony of the masters. With the all too familiar experience of feeling shame and (physical) pain from living with public humiliation for speaking up, feminist academics seem to choose a strategy of defense. All they need to do is remember the failure of the so-called quality media as the public domain of political accountability to protect their sexual dignity from patriarchal upper-class and middle-class official and sexual privilege on the few occasions when they agreed to give an interview.

However, I would like to argue that the lesson we should learn from reading from the perspective of the victim of homophobia is that we cannot escape the injury by participating in the silencing of lesbian feminists. Whereas by identifying with the effects of hate speech we could wield the power of “going public” and forge an alliance with those lesbians. That way we all could refuse our injurious reduction to hetero/sexual meaning as well as the reduction of that sexual meaning to male pleasure in controlling our access to academic agency.

In the name of self-reflexivity, the central methodological claim in feminist scholarship, what feminist researchers should ask of themselves is: How far does our own theoretical discourse participate in the reification of a hetero-gendered sexual identity? How to try to unhinge our own definitions of ‘woman’ and ‘feminism’ from her exploitative relationship to ‘man’? In short, any academic or media participation in changing the hegemonic status-quo must make visible the exclusionary interests of (hetero)sexuality in dividing us. The more distinctly the better…


1 See the readership of the periodical: http://www.es.hu/pd/ accessed at 22/11/04.

2 See Nancy Fraser’s formulation of such an approach in Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989)

3 See the major works by Mari J. Matsuda et al. (eds.) Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment. (Colorado and Oxford: Westview Press, 1993); Henry L. Gates Jr. et al. (eds.) Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. (New York and London: New York University Press, 1994); Samuel Walker, Hate Speech: The History of an American Controversy. (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994)

4 See Erzsébet Barát et al. 2004a “Gyűlölködni szabad?” in Mediakutató, Tavasz, pp. 41-60; 2004b “Zneužívanie slobody slova: neokonzervatíni doyor v madj’arskej tlači” in Hanna Hacker et al. (eds.) Lesby-by-by. Bratislava: Aspekt, pp. 177-192; 2005, “The ‘Terrorist Feminist’: Strategies of Gate-Keeping in the Hungarian Printed Media” in Michelle M. Lazar ed. Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis, Houndmills: Palgrave.

5 Chritine Delphy 1996 “Rethinking Sex and Gender” in D. Leonard & L. Adkins (eds.) Sex in Question: French MaterialistFfeminism. London: Taylor & Francis, pp. 30-41.

6 Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex”, in Carole Vance ed. Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. (London and Boston: Routledge, 1984), 267-319.

7 Susan Gal & Gail Kligman 2000 The Politics of Gender After Socialism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

8 Nancy Fraser, Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the “Postsocialist” Condition. ( New York: Routledge, 1997).

9 Rubinstein, B. William “Since When Is the Fourteenth Amendment Our Route to Equality? Some Reflections on the Construction of the “Hate-Speech” Debate from a Lesbian/Gay Perspective” In Henry L. Gates Jr., Anthony P. Griffin et al. (eds.) Speaking of race, Speaking of Sex. Hate Speech, Human Rights, and Civil Liberties. (New York University Press, 1994: 280-299.)

10 Lauren Berlant, “The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Notes on Diva Citizenship” In The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: essays on Sex and Citizenship (Duke university Press, Durham and London, 1997). 221-246.