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From Playboy To Scientology: VENUS VALLEY’s Feminist Finale(ish)

Queer Philosophers’ Forum, pt. 17

By Mx. Stevie (or Stephen) ColePublished 6 months ago 9 min read

Happy new year, gentles and lady-men! If you’ve just arrived at this series, you’re a little late, but don’t worry - there’s plenty of rewriting and re-releasing of other chapters coming, and almost as many epilogues as The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King! You my dear queer reader have arrived almost at the end of my chapter-by-chapter release of my LGBTQIA+ centric philosophy chat book, in which queer life experience is the perfect example to introduce you to pretty much any and every facet of philosophy you can think of; in which you, my rainbow flag waving reader, are invited to debate discuss, question, contribute, so your inputs and insights can become my edits, until your views and voices are in its pages right alongside mine. Welcome, for almost the last time, queerly beloveds - in which I finally get around to talking about THE BIG BAD “F” - to VENUS VALLEY: Queer Philosophers’ Forum.

In the film (and play) Kinky Boots, drag queen Lola and factory worker Don challenge each other to be "more of a man". Don challenges Lola to arm wrestle. Lola challenges Don to "Change Your Mind About Someone.” In the spirit of Lola and her Boots, I'm going to follow up my last chapter TREKS & GENDER: Sexual Identity in the Final Frontier (click the title to read) by thinking differently than I used to about the original "Mr." Saavik, the late Kirstie Alley. A SCIENTOLOGIST and a Trump supporter - two groups of whom I'm not fond, as a rule - my research into her, for the sake of writing about Star Trek, actually led me on quite a research journey into feminist politics, religious and scientific beliefs about sex... and a Jewish lesbian wedding.

Kirstie Alley was the only cast member of sitcom Cheers to refuse to appear in spin-off Frasier (whose star Kelsey Grammer also supported Trump, for reasons best known to himself) because Frasier is all about psychiatry - which apparently Scientologists like Alley don't, can't, or won't have anything to do with. As far as I understand it (correct me if I'm wrong), Scientologists replace psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, or anything of the kind, with beliefs about developing psychic potential by setting ancient alien intelligences free from their attachments to our bodies and brains - "Operating Thetans" - based on sci fi writer L. Ron Hubbard's books; and have a reputation for threatening legal action against anyone who leaves and tries to tell what it was like to live inside. If you want to know more, come back here right after you've watched other-celebrity-Scientologist John Travolta's movies Phenomenon and Battlefield Earth; and heard Christian Bale talk about how he based his performance as a smiling killer in American Psycho on a TV interview with also-celebrity-Scientologist Tom Cruise, when Bale was freaked out by how Cruise had a huge grin but at the same time looked dead behind the eyes. Fun fact about Christian Bale coming up later, when you get back.

Ok, you're back? Now let's have a look at what Scientology says about queer people. (We're getting to feminism by the scenic route, I promise!)

Given the aforementioned legal action, I'm not going to voice any opinions whatsoever about what Scientology says about queer people; I'm just going to quote it verbatim straight from the sources. From Hubbard's Dianetics:

"The sexual pervert (and by this term Dianetics, to be brief, includes any and all forms of deviation... such as homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual sadism, etc...) is actually quite ill physically... He is very far from very culpable for his condition, but he is also far from normal and extremely dangerous to society... "

Again from his Science Of Survival:

"Such people should be taken from the society as rapidly as possible and uniformly institutionalized; for here is the level of contagion of immorality, and the destruction of ethics; here is the fodder which secret police organizations use for their filthy operations. One of the most effective measures of security that a nation threatened by war could take would be rounding up and placing in a cantonment, away from society, any 1.1 [on Scientology's mental and emotional scale] who might be connected with government, the military, or essential industry; since here are people who, regardless of any record of their family's loyalty, are potential traitors, the very mode of operation of their insanity being betrayal. In this level is the slime of society, the sex criminals, the political subversives, the people whose apparently rational activities are yet but the devious writhings of secret hate."

And again from his Scientology: A New Slant On Life:

A society in which women are taught anything but the management of a family, the care of men, and the creation of a future generation is a society which is on its way out... The historians can peg the point where a society begins its sharpest decline at the instant when women begin to take part, on an equal footing with men, in political and business affairs, since this means that the men are decadent and the women are no longer women."

Finally, from Scientologist Ruth Minshull's How To Choose Your People:

"Homosexuals don't practise love... their relationships consist of: 1) brief, sordid and impersonal meetings or 2) longer arrangements punctuated by dramatic tirades, discords, jealousies and frequent infidelity. It could hardly be otherwise since the tone is made up of suspicion and hate, producing a darling sweetness interspersed with petty peevishness. Their 'love' turns to deep contempt eventually."

Last week, my wife and I were bridesmaids - a pleasure we shared with an asexual couple who are two of our favourite friends - at the first ever lesbian wedding to be held at the South London Liberal Synagogue. As a wedding present we gave one of the brides, our beloved friend, a copy of Kate Bornstein's A Queer And Pleasant Danger, which has one of the best blurbs I’ve ever read: "The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today." Kate Bornstein describes the first moments of gender questioning, and gender nonconforming, as thinking that Scientology's beliefs implied "Thetans have no gender". Thanks to having "the surgery" and getting into polyamorous BDSM relationships, Kate wrote the memoir as a way of getting through to a distant daughter, estranged (according to Kate) by Scientology's rules against Kate's "behaviour".

(First side note: Kate acknowledging that, despite transitioning, the feeling still remains of being just as different from women as from men, and so now identifying as nonbinary, makes me a bit more sympathetic than I was at first, to Kate's view of belonging in a different bathroom to women; despite the fact it feels like agreeing with the TERF ("Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist") fear that predatory violent men are using trans equality laws to force their way into women's safe spaces - a fear for which so far there's zero proof.)

(Second side note: We also gave the lovely other bride at the wedding, whose Indian family traditions were warmly welcomed into the ceremony and celebration, as her gift, a copy of Pink Therapy - a guide for counsellors and therapists working with lesbian, gay and bisexual clients - edited by Dominic Davies and Charles Neal; recommended reading for you from VENUS VALLEY’s sources.)

So back to Kirstie Alley, and on to feminism (well I did promise!). At least, having been taught all those Scientological (or Sciento-illogical) things, it was refreshing to hear Kirstie sticking up for gay talent show contestants in recent years!

The current version (there've been different ones) of what happened to her Star Trek career, is that she was let go after her salary demands got too high. Rumours that she tried to top up her pay packet by offering a photoshoot to Playboy, in full Vulcan make up and prosthetics, so far aren't backed up by any proof!

Where her career did cross paths with Playboy, is when she appeared in A Bunny's Tale: based on feminist activist journalist - and Christian Bale's stepmother - GLORIA STEINEM's story of going undercover as a Playboy Bunny to expose the girls' working conditions in Hugh Hefner's infamous mansion; which apparently (allegedly) got Hef himself to make genuine changes there.

Knowing that Gloria herself is a co-founder of Ms. Magazine; the National Women’s Political Caucus; the Women’s Action Alliance; the Women’s Media Center; was the granddaughter of a SUFFRAGETTE and HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR; credited with coining the phrase REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM; attended the first women-only PASSOVER SEDER in New York in 1976; and said out loud what a lot of us were thinking: that if abortion and menstruation were men’s issues, they’d be treated like they’re sacred; makes me a bit embarrassed to admit the only book of hers that I - a book loving philosophy blogger - have on my bookshelf is her Marilyn: Norma Jean, written with photographer George Barris, who famously took the last living photo of Marilyn Monroe, whose tragically-short life was sometimes The Barbie Movie made real. Gloria also takes credit for successfully campaigning DC Comics creators, after they took away their iconic Wonder Woman's powers and costume in their books, to give them back to her. Wonder Woman, who was created by feminist advocate psychologist Prof. William Moulton Marston, based on his wife Elizabeth and her girlfriend Olive Byrne, with both of whom he lived polyamorously, two dommes who shared him as their submissive in the bedroom. Whose costume Christine Jorgensen (whose transition inspired cross-dressing writer-director Ed Wood’s movie Glen Or Glenda), wore on stage until she was hit with a copyright claim. Iconically played on TV by tireless LGBTQIA+ ally and advocate Lynda Carter (And whose costume my sexy bisexual wife Sandra wore as a semi-finalist in a Calendar Girls charity fundraiser modelling contest).

Which, with Kirstie Alley's short lived Trek career, and her beliefs taken from a sci fi writer, brings us neatly back to Queer Culture in Fantasy Fiction (click to read the chapter I started this part with).

To bring us back around to feminism: Gloria Steinem, like queer culture itself, made her way into my writing as a prime example because she takes it above and beyond boundaries and binaries. Feminism can suffer from what philosophers call the NO TRUE SCOTSMAN fallacy - trying to discredit someone who defines your movement differently from you, by crying, "Well they're not a real feminist/Scientologist/Christian/Star Trek fan!" My favourite story from Persian prayer-poet Rumi (to read my chapter on him, click HERE) is how an enemy made his way into a Christian country to betray it: he simply told every church they were the one true church, then sat back and watched them all destroy each other.

Our Gloria instead said separate categories of feminism were “non-constructive to specific problems”, adding, “I’ve turned up in every category. So it makes it harder for me to take the divisions with great seriousness”. Sometimes disagreeing with Liberal Feminist JUDITH BUTLER, who's anti-TERF; other times contradicting “Radical” Feminist GERMAINE GREER, who's pro-TERF (and allegedly - but worryingly if true - pro middle aged women fancying teenage boys!). On the one hand, Gloria said she felt sorry and worried for those who felt they had to have hormones and surgery to be women; on the other hand, she spoke out strongly against anti-transgender prejudice in Trump's administration.

And to bring us back around to where we started with Kinky Boots, it's a great example of what I've always thought about feminism: that if only men would admit it, feminism could help them almost as much as it helps women, as a man learns to value himself for being feminine just as highly as he does for being masculine; not superior for being "macho"; nor inferior for being "effeminate" or "emasculated".

Last word goes deservedly to Gloria Steinem, on how feminism is a facet of humanism:

“This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible differences have been the primary ways of organising human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.”

And one last thank you to my favourite Jewish lesbian newlyweds, for showing me how humanism can be a facet of Liberal Judaism; their way of interpreting the Hebrew TIKKUN OLAM - remaking the world in a new and better shape.


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About the Creator

Mx. Stevie (or Stephen) Cole




Tarot reader

Attracted to magic both practical & impractical

Writer of short stories and philosophical musings

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Comments (1)

  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock6 months ago

    That L. Ron Hubbard was one wacky guy. I read the first 2/3 of "Dianetics" before deciding that was enough. A friend in seminary who was a science fiction fanatic told me that Hubbard had gone to a convention one year where he derided organized religion making the bold assertion that he could write a book that would become the foundation for a new religion. The following year he published his book. I've never tried to verify whether that was true or not, but as science fiction it's a well-crafted read. One simple premise: that every trauma we experience from conception to death causes us briefly to lose consciousness & creates a block in our minds. Those blocks are the cause of every future pathology we develop. The path to health requires clearing those blocks. Accept that simple premise & you're well on your way to sporting that perpetual smile & vacant eyes Christian Bale saw in Tom Cruise. It's tough to go back when you've already drunk the Kool-Aid.

Mx. Stevie (or Stephen) ColeWritten by Mx. Stevie (or Stephen) Cole

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