Roseanne Barr Gave Anti-porn Slide Shows

by Guest Blogger

Guest Post by Sam from Genderberg

A few days ago I was telling FCM some surprisingly radical feminist factoids about Roseanne Barr I picked up from her latest book, Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm. Since it came up in the context of contributing to Radfem Hub I suggested a book review.  Hours later Ms. Barr scooped me on the story with her New York Magazine article.

I won’t bore you with details you’ve now read a dozen times over on various blogs about her Hollywood dramas or sexist coworkers. The Roseanne that captured my attention in Roseannearchy gave anti-porn slide shows, worked in a feminist bookstore, and considers Mary Daly her favorite author.

In her own words, ladies and women, may I present you Roseanne Barr, Radical Feminist:

“Like most thinking women who have ever lived on this planet, I have been asked repeatedly, “’Why are you so angry?’”

“It was a perverted patriarchal world that I grew up in, and one that I wanted and needed to be free of. How I did that—and keep doing it—is my story.”

“With all the talk about the Sexual Revolution in the 60s and 70s, there was something about it that was a lot less tawdry and disrespectful to women than the times we’ve been living though in the last few years. It’s not so much about freedom nowadays as it is pride in sluttery (I think I just made up that word). It’s like slutwear is America’s burka.”

“Since this menopause shit kicked in, I now hate sex. And I’m so glad. I feel liberated.”

“Geraldine suggested that I come to Woman to Woman Book Center on lower Colfax Avenue in Denver, where she had started to hang out. She thought those women would love my act, since they were all feminists and well-read. They did love my act, as it turned out—they laughed and yelled out, “Right on!” and other supportive things like that—and they also encouraged me to go further with it. I loved it and started to volunteer in the bookstore as a receptionist two days a month.”

“Best of all, volunteering at Woman to Woman allowed me to read books that changed me in so many ways. The books of professor Mary Daly affected me more than any others, with the exception of Matilda Joslyn Gage’s Woman, Church and State, which I almost single-handedly kept in print.”

“When I guest-edited the women’s edition of The New Yorker, I insisted that Professor Mary Daly, my favorite author and expert on Latin and theology, be included.”

“The bookstore’s collective began to faction in opinion as to what should be done to counter all the disappearing resources. It got pretty heavy, and one of us wrote an article in Big Mama rag that called for full-on revolution against government.”

“Later we changed out name to WAP, Women Against Pornography, which used a traveling slide show to raise funds to help smash patriarchy…We were hired to go to Wyoming to present the slide show, but when we got there, we found out there were a bunch of men in the audience. Chi, who had the most seniority of anyone in the collective, said, ‘This slide show is not for men; it titillates them, and that is not what we want to do with it. We want to radicalize women by letting them look at the way women’s bodies are exploited so that they will join our struggle.’”

“The new gay bookstore had a lesbian shelf in the back that was marked Feminism, but had no books at all about feminism or working women, just several copies of Our Bodies Ourselves and lesbian erotica, which I admit I read. By the time they get to the licking it’s page 190, and the preceding pages are all about how to enact a rape fantasy while still ‘Feeling safe.’ Christ, same old shit for us gals.”

“Then the transgendered versus the Butch Dyke wars started—to see two of those folks fighting about being female was quite an eye-opener for me. You haven’t lived until you have seen a huge guy with boobs talking about female hormones and deciding to keep his penis, and how that was a feminist issue.”

“I hope they do something to stop the porning of everything. I don’t like it!”

Samantha Berg is an anti-pornstitution writer, activist, and speaker. She co-founded S.H.A.G. (Sexual Health Activist Group) to organize youths for sexual education, and A.P.A.N. (Antiporn Activist Network).  Current projects are lobbying locally for prostitution abolition, working as National Coordinator for Stop Porn Culture, and maintaining the anti-pornstitution forum community at

27 Comments to “Roseanne Barr Gave Anti-porn Slide Shows”

  1. I knew there was a good reason, for always having loved Roseanne 🙂

  2. Awesome quotes! Roseanne has always been pretty cool to me, but dang : )

    Thanks so much for doing a guest post, Sam!

  3. I’ve never watched much popular media, but remember Roseanne getting slammed for something the patriarchy didn’t like, not sure what. But now I understand why they went after her. She’s a radical feminist : )

    Thanks for the post.

  4. It made me so happy when I found out that Roseanne was a radical feminist and Mary Daly supporter.

    “slutwear is America’s burka”


  5. Roseanne has long been one of my most favorite people in the world. Her *tell it like it is* attitude appeals to be sure. And yes, she speaks highly of Daly, did the anti-pr0n slideshow back in the day and is a woman of no little distinction and power in a male dominated milieu BUT it would be a mistake to label her a Radical Feminist especially when sites like Feministe are doing essentially the same thing based on cherry-picked quotes.

    Roseanne will say something wonderful about/for women in one breath and with the next she will throw them under the bus; follow her blog for a week and you’ll see what I mean. Many of her posts the last few days have been about Maria Shriver and how disgusted Roseanne is that people are feeling sorry for her. Roseanne admits that Maria was groomed from birth to be the Good Wife but goes on to blame her for “enabling“ her husband‘s behavior and “cleaning up“ after him so that he could go on to “fuck the rest of California”.

    Another example: a few days ago I read the account of the premiere of the Roseanne show from the NYM article, how she was righteously pissed that Matt Williams was named as creator of the show, how she chewed out Marcy Carsey for that (even though the Writer‘s Guild makes those calls), went to the writer’s building and threatened at least one woman there with a pair of scissors and the words, “Bitch, do you want me to cut you?!”.

    Roseanne also continues to serially marry/partner with men, some of whom are the world’s biggest misogynist assholes. Maybe many of you don’t remember that the moment she married Tom Arnold HER show became all about him; suddenly HE was co-producer and writer on HER show and it was painfully obvious. As for feeling “liberated” to “hate sex [PIV]” having gone through menopause? Sorry, but that’s just FAIL all around and for a woman who *hates sex* she sure does enjoy talking about dicks (and the men attached to them) and how wonderful they are.

    What I’m trying to say is that after following Roseanne and her career since the very beginning to the present day, I am comfortable in saying that I strenuously disagree with the premise that she is a radical in any way, shape or form. An extremely talented comedian/actress? Yes! Radical feminist? NO.

  6. What I’m trying to say is that after following Roseanne and her career since the very beginning to the present day, I am comfortable in saying that I strenuously disagree with the premise that she is a radical in any way, shape or form. An extremely talented comedian/actress? Yes! Radical feminist? NO.

    s4, i think youve nailed it. we dont have a word for a woman who is all the things that roseanne appears to be, and the anti-porn stuff and pro-mary daly makes it tempting to call her a feminist. it futher confuses the issue that *she* calls herself one, and that she claims that her show was a feminist show. but i dont think it was feminist, and i dont think she is a feminist. and certainly not a radical feminist, for all the reasons you say. yes, her show had a strong female lead….but it was also completely heteronormative (becky going on the pill; roseannes pregnancy scare and then fertility problems later; jackies serial PIV-centric relationships with “every man in town” etc). i also seem to recall that when roseannes character did become pregnant towards the end of the show, they had planned on making the baby a girl because roseanne insisted on it, but then at the eleventh hour, jerry garcia (of the grateful dead) died and roseanne decided to make the baby a BOY and name it JERRY GARCIA CONNER. she really is all about teh menz, and about “fairness” especially when it comes to people being fair to HER. but this isnt radical is it?

    and i have follwed her blog, and it is exactly what you say it is. for years, i have been unable to pin roseanne down actually as to a specific ideology and tried to figure out what shes all about. and to date, i cant figure this woman out, at all. i really cant. it also doesnt help that she cant do a single fucking interview without invoking the skydaddy religious stuff….

    i do think its an excellent issue to discuss however, and i am so glad that sam decided to write about it. what makes a feminist, and what makes a radical feminist seems, in fact, to be one of if not THE #1 most important discussion being had today, as young radical voices strive to make sense of all the shit that has convoluted the movement in the last couple of decades. i hope this discussion continues, on this thread and on this blog, and on every blog, until everyone is clear, even the people who dont comment. just because someone calls herself a feminst, doesnt mean she is one. words mean something.

    again, i want to thank sam for contributing this piece. i am not afraid of controversy, and i trust the readers here to delve deeply into these issues, particularly regarding what feminism is, and also what its not.

  7. Can’t say I disagree with Sargasso Sea’s interpretations. When I first envisioned the piece it was more like an actual book review pulling out the good (antiporn? yay!), the bad (pro Mike Tyson? boo!), and the ugly (fibbing about the National Anthem debacle by saying she started seriously then turned to screaming after the booing began? Pants on fire, Rosie.)

    Religion was never the bugaboo of my life the way it was for Rosanne and 99% of Tori Amos’s most obsessive fans, so that’s not what piqued my interest. Then there was the reflexive grimace to overcome upon realizing I intended to write about a species I almost universally loathe—wealthy celebrities. In the end I decided to go with a feel-good list of quotes instead of an article of investigative journalism, but don’t let me stop y’all from taking it whereever you want to go.

  8. thanks sam! a list of “the bad” would be really telling wouldnt it? pro-mike tyson? WTF? and as far as “ugly” goes…well lying never makes you look good. seriously, i cannot figure this woman out. and i have actually tried, and have actually checked in on her blog from time to time for many years. its a trainwreck, for lack of better imagery. its literally painful to read, and in the end i usually end up wondering if its all satire, because noone could possibly be as contradictory as roseanne appears to be (could they?) her blog actually appears to be written by many people, and it may very well be (as many celeb- and faux-celeb blogs often are) which doesnt help. actually i am not sure what an “investigative” piece on roseanne would look like, except to highlight the inconsistencies, which she does very well on her own every time she speaks (the new york magazine example you link to is the perfect example of her style, and s4 explains one of the most glaring).

    thanks for writing and for responding to comments! you were our first guest poster…. 🙂

  9. note to self: best to let the author respond first, in the event of controversy. check!

  10. Hi Sam!

    Glad no *offense* was taken as none was implied 🙂

    It’s also good to know that I’m not the only one who has been rather perplexed by Ms. Barr. And frankly I’d be very interested in a deeper analysis of Roseanne seeing as how she and her PR folks are in high gear these days.

  11. Seeing any female character on television or in movies that I’ve identified with, even remotely, was very rare. Roseanne turned her smart, sarcastic, strong daughter into just another boy-crazy twit (and not for a boy who was smart, or funny, or interesting either). A mirror of Roseanne herself. I disliked her ever after. What a paradox she is, though. I can’t imagine reading and revering Mary Daly and simultaneously wanting to be the person Roseanne has been. Maybe there’s a lesson in there, but it’s a particularly stomach-turning one.

  12. i dont know what the lesson is either noan. roseanne confuses and disturbs me, and she always has. but i did like her show very much…until the last season of course, where she apparently took “full creative control” and turned it into a ridiculous farce…just more confusing bullshit from her! and like you say, how could she read mary daly (and they apparently hung out and stuff?!) and still be so determined to live a life so seemingly anti-feminist and psychotically inconsistent? i dont make that observation lightly, i really dont, and if its inappropriate i apologize. i just dont get it. i really dont. it actually really bothers me, and it has bothered me for a long time. i have serious issues with roseanne barr!

  13. Enlightening discussion all. I remember watching episodes of Roseanne as a teenager, didn’t really think anything noteworthy at the time, just another sitcom, but I ‘m not much of a tv watcher. Thanks for highlighting her anti-pr0n pro radical stance, something I hadn’t seen elsewhere in the feminist blogosphere (no surprises there).

    To continue the discussion of what makes a feminist, a radical feminist even, should there be a distinction made between those in the public eye and your ordinary private citizen? Is it more important for well known activists to live in a way that’s consistent with their ideals? For those of us who do fail to live up to our own ideals, should we call ourselves pro-feminist or pro- radical feminist instead? Does calling yourself a feminist, or ant-racist, or environmentalist for that matter mean you have to be doing some sort of activism in real life, or is just thinking like one enough? Is that like being a vegetarian at heart and tucking into half a kilo of steak for dinner? I’ve been struggling with these questions quite a bit lately.

    My feminism is pretty much a mental exercise at the moment. I’m married with two young kids. On the surface, I’m pretty close to a stereotypical stay at home Mum. I care for three Nigels; my father, my husband and my 3yr old son. Not very radical at all, but I love reading rad- fem blogs and agree totally with most rad- fem theory. I’m happy to call myself a pro- radical feminist or rad-fem supporter.

    I’m guilty of feeling visceral disgust toward the arguments of pro-pr0nstitution feminists and I’ve been asking myself, well here you are propping up the patriarchy every day, what do you think makes you any better than them? And (probably just because it makes me feel better) my answer has been that the distinction is that I’d never argue FOR marriage and will cop to any criticism of my choice to remain married. So to part- way answer my own question, I think ideas are important as well as behavior. I still don’t know if I should call myself a feminist though, I feel as though I haven’t earnt that right, even though feminism informs most of my life, I can’t get past that glaring inconsistency. Hmm. What to do, what to do…. 😉

  14. What an interesting selection of quotes. Roseanne at heart is a liberated woman- or rather, a woman struggling for liberation, as so many of us are. How can a woman who’s had more work done than Cher express such sharp feminist critique on occasion?
    She’s a mess of contradictions, between her worship of that shitty actor she was married to and her later recanted false memory syndrome to her surreal re-invention as a kiddy-song musician, to her various meltdowns and controversial (and contradictory) statements on various topics.

    She’s a provocateur, throwin’ shit at the wall not to see what sticks but because the act of throwing it, and the artfulness with which it is thrown is entertaining. And I find her very entertaining. Then again I’m comfortable with contradictions in entertainers, it’s the tension that makes them interesting. She really has something for everyone- everyone who loves a “loud-mouthed broad” that is. That’s the one thing that Roseanne haters don’t like about her (I’m not talking about critics, but haters): She’s a loud-mouthed broad. Like sandpaper to the genteel class. I like her for that. And she can be funny as hell. (Not on that TV show though, that was some boring shit- Sitcom? Whut?- I never watched). I see her as similar to Phillis Diller (whom I also love). Both Barr and Diller overtly comply with and simultaneously attack male supremacy. As so many women do. As all of us must do, to some extent if we want to survive in the (male) world. That they do so for our amusement is what makes them marketable.

    Let’s face it, there’s nothing funny about female subjugation. That’s why women hating emema bags like John Belushi and Christopher Hitchens say women aren’t funny. But they’re wrong, as men so often are. And women like Roseanne and Diller have done remarkably well working within the (male) system. Degeneres and Fey have succeeded because they soft-shoe their way through their stuff lest they offend the powers that be. Wanda Sykes and Sarah Silverman are outrageous but avoid sex-class humor entirely. We’re still waiting for that female comedian who can step onstage and make that shit funny. Someday we’ll have our comedian, who pulls no punches. And it won’t be some lame -ass John Belushi shit either. She may leave her audiences shell-shocked and stunned, scandalized and struggling to frame their outrage, more so than slapping their knee. Except for the some of us howling with laughter until we wipe away tears. Our granddaughters will love her. I’ll have front row fucking seats.

  15. i have been wondering since this convo started (and milly brought it up too) if the reason rb seems so contradictory is because she is a public figure and we get to see how she actually acts IRL as well as knowing whats going on inside her head — because people ask her, because shes famous, and she tells them. are many of us this contradictory? perhaps this is the stomach-turning lesson noan mentioned…if she was an anonymous radfem blogger on the side, and did really good work, would all of this make more sense? LOL

    i dont know. i think there are a few areas that are going to be particularly problematic for anyone with a radical consciousness, and PIV (including serial PIV with blatant misogynists as s4 menrioned) is a biggie. religion is probably another. and rb has enough money now that she doesnt HAVE to do alot of the contradictory things she does, to survive. she probably lives just at her means though and feels she needs to work, and as a public person cannot just sink into a tiny apartment and save her money have that be her relatively-secure life like it would for many of us if we had the kind of money she has. shes also a writer, and yet hasnt seen fit as yet (as far as anyone knows) to turn out any radical feminist work. the most she appears to be is a loudmouthed woman, who is an automatic target for misoynists and MRAs who get quite worked up about it, which admittedly *is* funny as hell. but are many of us this contradictory, or something like it, just like she is? and as i said above, even psychotically so? it does turn the stomach to think about.

  16. Methinx we are sometimes mixing up personal-with-political, she doesn’t present much in the way of ‘political’ feminist positions that I can see – and there are far worse anti-feminist women with similar high public profiles. Its just her *personal* take on life, universe and everything. As for “psychotic”, I don’t care how much she publicly recanted – I believe she is a classic textbook trauma case. I don’t see contradictions so much – as most women have to make compromises with patriarchy in the here-and-now for daily getting-by.

    Plus its an age-old thing, to judge other women by much harsher yardsticks, than we judge men. Very judgemental, “policing” each other. No woman in public profile, will ever be “good enough”, as we are all trained from birth to tear-them-down. Or, ‘Tweaking each others corsets’ ( quote from Zeph 🙂

    The thing about radical feminism, is its attempt to not be *personal*, to not set up “role models” negative or positive, or ‘Thou Shalts’. We are supposedly struggling for the freedom of all women-as-a-class, including all the ones that piss us off – including all the anti-feminists and handmaidens. One step, is seeing women as “human” – that is, to see them as complex personalities, flawed, to have faults, as well as virtues – ie to be human, make mistakes, fuck up… but too often it becomes “good” radfem vs “bad” radfem, and we are right back with Madonna/Whore. ( or definitions of “good” radfem, versus “bad” radfem)

    I draw the line, at when they start actively attacking feminism, publicly and politically – if they don’t do that, I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt, or just plain ignore them.

  17. That helps rain. I think that’s a useful guideline: if they attack feminists and feminism, its bad, because its politically bad. Otherwise its just personal, faults, flaws etc.

  18. Also, when I was thinking more about the contradictions, and often glaring contradictions, between what any of us might believe and what we do, either to survive or just because we don’t know any better or can’t defuse old patterns or whatever, I was thinking about all of us, and how we are all “psychotic” that way. The second time I used that word, I was using it that way, and not as a diagnosis of anyone or as an indictment against roseanne. The first time I used it, it was out of frustration and I apologized. LOL. I probably shouldn’t use that word at all, but it seemed to fit, both times.

  19. Thank you for the excellence, depth, and subtlety of this dialogue. Wow!

    There are ways that this dialogue appears different at the Hub than at individual blogs. It is amazing to go back and forth between the blogs and the Hub.

  20. Different how katie? I am enjoying these convos too. I think things are going swimmingly.

  21. Well, when I read each blog, it is my mindset that I am hearing the viewpoint of an individual woman–a good thing! There are other voices, in the dialogues on the blog, so varied views, but on the individual’s since she has framed the initial topic–again, comments, a good thing!. This part is radical in itself, women expressing, and something coming back of substance, deleting the trolls who have always been there before, taking up space, etc.

    With the Hub, it is the next step. It is like I might be invited to a woman’s house for tea and conversation as the blogs, but the hub is like having a public square where women come and go but the radfem background remains. (If I correctly understand what is meant by background.) I am excited to have this kind of public space as it helps me imagine it in my non-virtual life as well. And of course, it becomes a part of my non-virtual life in a particular way.

    There are other reasons it is different as well, like having a particular viewpoint on the news in once place, but this one is what I was thinking when I made the comment.

  22. I am excited to have this kind of public space as it helps me imagine it in my non-virtual life as well. And of course, it becomes a part of my non-virtual life in a particular way.

    now thats interesting. thanks for clarifying!

  23. Rain, some of what you are framing as criticism or judging, I see as questioning. Part of analysis is asking why something is happening and digging into possible answers. Some people just say “we’re soaking in the patriarchy” and leave it at that, but that doesn’t encourage getting beyond the surface or the obvious. Asking a question like, “why would a powerful woman like Roseanne make the choices she has?” and exploring the possible answers can lead us to seeing the deeper framework of our oppression. We don’t have to get into whether her personal choices are “wrong” or “right” per se, but we can, through analysis, shine the light on examples of what women do and speculate on the reasons and the effects. The point isn’t to pillory specific women, but to figure out how to break down the system or to make one anew without the elements that enslave women.

  24. Noanodyne, yes it is always helpful to question it – but with individuals, and particularly high-profile women, I would also question their ‘power’. Its a common assumption, that they have the power to make choices the rest of us don’t. I’m not so convinced, that they do. For example, with serial marriages — loneliness, isolation and low-self esteem can lead the most independent women into being sucked in by romantic flattery & myths – with romance being the flip-side of the coin to porn.

    With breaking down the system, I tend to believe women just can’t do that in small numbers, let alone as individuals. Some of us may find personal solutions which work for us, as individuals, but at best all they can ever do is mitigate the worst effects of patriarchy for those individual women – they do little for ‘breaking down the system’. Personal solutions to a political problem, can only ever be a personal solution.

  25. I thought the part about roseanne being a “trauma case” was pretty astute. I think we all need to remember who and what we are dealing with at all times, and that women as a sexual class have suffered greatly, and “unspeakably” and that these women are us, and they are all around us. This is the whole point.

    It doesn’t mean we have to like each other, or that any of us are going to get along though. And in forums like blogs where communication skills are absolutely crucial, some women will not be able to participate, because they are so traumatized. It’s screwed up, but it is what it is. As a rule, I think its good to remember the trauma, and the effects of traumatic experiences on human beings, including on ourselves (as if some of us could ever forget). Women, of course, are human, and we are affected.

  26. That said, I am very interested in hearing noans thoughts, and what you were referring to specifically (if anything) in this case, that will help us understand our oppression more clearly? Cause that’s what we are here for too.

  27. I wouldn’t presume to know what specific kinds of things any other woman experiences and to speculate is very risky. But I do know that there are objective realities in working life and Roseanne has had objectively discernible sources of power. That is always tenuous for women, of course, but it’s not hard to find examples of women who have used the tools they have to do consistent work with them. Again, it’s not about good and bad, right and wrong. And it’s not about looking at only individuals, but about the systems they are part of (by choice or consequence). For me, it’s about looking at what one can do with the tools they do get a hold of and how they operate in the system(s) (work, family, etc.) they’re in. Women’s trauma, loneliness, and other miseries are a given; we’re women, we’re feminists, we get that. But that’s just where we start from. Where we end up is what I’m interested in.

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