I found this card one of the most interesting to redesign, as it taps directly into one of the most difficult issues in feminism: sexuality and morality. So much of feminism and resistance to feminism is rooted in conflict over how a woman’s sexuality can and should be expressed, right down to the ultimate conflict of reproductive rights.
The Devil is all about choices and desires, pleasure and power. The card’s imagery often includes a man and woman chained at the feet of the devil, held prisoner by their desires. And it’s easy to see the image and take it as a warning that worldly, physical pleasures lead to such bondage and imprisonment. But the images also often show the chains as easily removable, if the man and woman realized and/or wished it. Further, many depictions show those who have indulged in those choices and profited, shrugging off the bonds once they’ve served their purpose and climbing distant mountains to new goals. The card speaks of pleasure and consequence, but not in the sense that the worldly leads to hell.
Too often, though, this card brings to mind ideas of hell, of punishment meted out for indulgences in pleasure and desire for power. And it is that very idea – that the worldly and physical are dangerous and bad – which is wielded as a weapon against women. We are discouraged from wanting, from indulging, from choosing our own interests and desires as priorities. We are treated as if we cannot be trusted with our own bodies, and those women who choose to seek what brings them pleasure are shamed and doubted and punished.
Is the woman who builds her own career in adult films a victim? A smart businesswoman? A shameless whore? A brainwashed tool of the patriarchy? Can she benefit herself without further oppressing those who are victimized within the industry? Is our assessment of the impact of sex work on sex workers correct? Do we have a right to judge those who choose? Is a woman who makes a choice which can harm her necessarily a victim in need of saving?
Are women only to be trusted to make their own decisions if they make perfect ones?
Who decides what choices are correct?