Recommended Reads

Welcome to the Nut House: Personal Experiences with Sexism
My experiences have been similar, as well as significantly more blatant. More on this later if I ever get some free time.

Feministing: Feminism gets men laid
The key is having a good attitude as well. After my one and only experience with a man who refused to lift a finger around the house, never again.

GenderGeek: “Feminists: What have you got?”: a response
Philosophy battles for gender geeks.

Ornicus: Toledo: The other side
A more detailed look at the neo-Nazi rally in Ohio.

Charlotte Croson: Sex, Lies and Feminism
How do issues like S/M and transgender politics jive with feminism? I know several readers who will be interested in this article. [via Flea]

Quodlibets: A Moral Problem
This country is facing a moral problem, but the moral problem isn’t homosexuality.

Changing Places: Finally, a fish with a bicycle!
See for yourself.

Shades of Grey: Sexism Saturday, Parts One and Two
Let me just take a moment to say how much I love Charlie’s writing.

To Be Determined: Going Down to the WalMart
Security culture, corporations, and human rights (deux).

Vague Nihilism: Don’t Blame The Thermometer For The Fever?
After it came up in discussion today, I realized my students have next to no idea about the controversy surrounding the standardized testing battery. Take a government entity, insert fictional crisis, and feign desperation! Political gold, people. Political gold.

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53 Responses

  1. Sarah S
    Sarah S October 26, 2005 at 12:07 am |

    What really bothers me about the Charlotte Croson is that she throws stones at the S/M and trans people for not being gender transformative, but its not like the Michigan Womyns Music Fest is transforming anything. All they do is provide a time and place for lesbians to listen to music and fuck themselves senseless. MWMF doesn’t challenge anything or shape anything or do anything for anyone besides the women who go there and fuck like bunnies. I found it just ridiculous that Croson is representing a group that doesn’t change or challenge shit to attack other groups for not changing or challenging shit.

    MWMF is a fun time and a great place to get laid, but lets not pretend its some kind of relevent feminist statement anymore. Maybe that was true when being a lesbian was automatically being a feminist or when the movement was still spouting drek about how if women ruled the world there would be no war but MWMF is obsolete as a feminist statement and now just a place to get laid.

  2. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost October 26, 2005 at 12:15 am |

    “Feministing: Feminism gets men laid”

    Not that I intend to dispute that, but I have yet to reap the beneits. ;)

  3. Lauren
    Lauren October 26, 2005 at 12:20 am |

    KG, read the comments.

    Sarah, I have yet to make it through the whole article but will do so sometime this week. If I remember I’ll respond at length.

  4. Lauren
    Lauren October 26, 2005 at 12:21 am |

    Also, vacuuming. I hate the vacuum. It is an evil, evil tool of the patriarchy.

  5. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost October 26, 2005 at 12:34 am |

    “Too, they normalize women’s place within it on the bottom of the hierarchy. In doing so, S/M advocates ensure that women can’t escape women’s place of sexual subordination in the patriarchy. They, in effect, guarantee that somebody will always be on the bottom, and that somebody will be a woman.”

    This (from Croson’s article) strikes me as frustratingly myopic. I understand that she’s talking about the S&M movement within the context of (I gather widely Lesbian) women’s music festival, but that statement seemsto deny the basic fact of gay and straight-with-man-on-bottom S&M. And throughout the article she seems to deny the difference between someone who willingly and, I dunno, “with agency” participates as a bottom in S&M and a passive/submissive woman in traditional straight sex. My understanding is that bottoms are in no way passive, except nominally. They’re actively taking the initiative to get what they want sexually, which happens to be in a bottom position. Which is NOT the case with conservative straight man-gets-pleasure-woman-just-lays-there sex.

    I haven’t finished the article, but that’s just my initial impression.

  6. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 12:37 am |

    You know how irritating it is when sexists and anti-feminists lump all women and/or all feminists into an undifferentiated mass that seems to have been constructed out of conjecture, hearsay, the worst media portrayals, and wholecloth lies?

    That’s the picture of transpeople referenced in Sex, Lies, and Feminism.

    >>Certain ways of walking, talking, thinking and being “are” gendered male. Other, diametrically opposed, ways of walking, talking, thinking and being “are” gendered female.>>

    My gender presentation is not like that of other men. I don’t walk right, talk right, fuck right…the list goes on. That’s immaterial; it has nothing to do with whether or not I am a man, or whether or not I am truly a transsexual. It is true that certain behavioral traits are described as masculine and/or feminine among transpeople, but you could hardly describe gendered dichotomies under patriarchy without referencing those markers. That does not not mean that a female-assigned person must display “masculine” traits in order to be considered a transman.

    >>Accordingly, those males not manly enough to be men simply become and are made into women, either in body or in identity or in both. All those who have fallen from patriarchal grace simply “are” women because it is precisely this fall from “real manhood” that marks them as women – as lesser than men. Transgender movement ideology simply participates in making “not men” real in the world as women.>>

    This is the same conflation of gendervariant behavior with transgender identity. Transwomen are not unmanly or feminine men. Transmen are not masculine or unwomanly women.

    >>The transgender movement’s push to deconstruct woman and appropriate the identity woman says something about male power. It says male power and the class men is too powerful, and perhaps too important, to deconstruct. Deconstructing men and masculinity is mostly left to gay men – which aren’t, for the most part interested in deconstructing it, either. >>

    This is an insult to every ftm/ft? out there. I don’t even know where to start.

  7. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost October 26, 2005 at 12:54 am |

    Fuck. Sorry to be the kind of bastard that posts three times in a row, but here goes….

    “However, while men can always become “not men” women can not ever leave behind our status as women and become “real” men. One can not help but think of Brandon Teena – for women, the inter-gender terrorism never stops, regardless of what identity one claims or feels. This is a central issue transgender politics often misses. FTM remain women and, as such, targets of male violence. ”

    Whoooooa whoa whoa…. Is she trying to say that MTFs can, without patriarchal harassment, become women, and are never subject to heterosexist violence?

    Not also that the ability to become “not men” that MTFs supposedly have is not directly parallel to the inability for women to become “real men”. For a parallel analysis, she has to establish that, while men can become “not men”, women can’t become “not women”.

    Also, if you read the article, the preceding paragraph seems to paint the MTF transition as smooth and effortless: men “who have fallen from patriarchal grace simply “are” women because it is precisely this fall from “real manhood” that marks them as women – as lesser than men.” She seems to equate heterosexist slurs against “unmanly” men with a full-on gender transformation. She seems to erase the VAAAAAAST gulf between being picked last for basketball in gym and going through the personal transition from man to woman, including changing how everyone in your daily life perceives you, hormone thereapy and/or surgery, changing your name legally, and YES, the threat of being singled out for violence because you’re MTF.

    I haven’t had a chance to think about this more deeply, but those are my initial reactions…..

  8. Sarah S
    Sarah S October 26, 2005 at 12:56 am |

    piny:

    I agree. I’m not sure what queer movement Croson is looking at, but as a person who is working on a minor in queer theory, I would tell her that there are plenty of trans people and gay men deconstructing masculinity, as well as lesbians and bisexuals and straight people. If she thinks that they aren’t, she isn’t looking very hard. To say that they aren’t pulling their theorhetical weight is not only insulting, but blantantly untrue.

    I personally feel like the MWMF is the relic of a bygone age of feminism which was all about “sisterhood” at the price of ignoring the vast differences among women and pushing away men (they are the other half of the population and many women intereact with them) all together instead of finding ways to work with people no matter how different. She seems so mad that people want to deviate away from her ideas of what it means to be a woman/lesbian/feminist and bitter that people condemn MWMF for being what it is in light of the new directions of feminism: discriminatory..

  9. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 1:11 am |

    If she thinks that they aren’t, she isn’t looking very hard. To say that they aren’t pulling their theorhetical weight is not only insulting, but blantantly untrue.

    There is definite segregation between queer women’s and queer men’s communities. It’s difficult for people to see what’s going on on the other side of that fence. Char would have no reason to know that, for example, my transmale friend is fighting for trans-inclusive protocols at the free clinic where he works. Also, lots of queer male spaces are organized around sex, so inclusion can be a wee bit more complicated than it would be otherwise.* But…by insisting that someone like me deserves inclusion in “male,” even if I’m not masculine, male-assigned, post-op, stealth, or terribly committed to being male, I’m not really doing much to support “male” as it is currently constructed.

    *But less complicated than you might think.

  10. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 1:21 am |

    I personally feel like the MWMF is the relic of a bygone age of feminism which was all about “sisterhood” at the price of ignoring the vast differences among women and pushing away men (they are the other half of the population and many women intereact with them) all together instead of finding ways to work with people no matter how different. She seems so mad that people want to deviate away from her ideas of what it means to be a woman/lesbian/feminist and bitter that people condemn MWMF for being what it is in light of the new directions of feminism: discriminatory..

    I respect women’s spaces. I agree with their necessity in patriarchy, for female survivors of misogynist violence and for all women. I’m not sure how I feel about women-born-women space, but I have seen arguments that aren’t what I’d call transphobic.

    My problem is with theories that do not accurately represent transpeople, and with theories that deprive transpeople of any place or history separate from the margins and shadows of non-transgendered lives and communities. I’m sick and tired of being a nothing more than a scrim through which everyone’s worldview is projected. It’s not as if we’re the ancient fucking Etruscans, after all. Transmale deconstructions of manhood and masculinity are on the other end of a google search.

  11. KathyF
    KathyF October 26, 2005 at 4:31 am |

    Vague Nihilism is right, and I think most parents understand this. If a Democrat would propose getting rid of testing in schools he or she would be elected by a landslide.

    My kids were in schools where progress was measured by portfolios, and when they later transferred to other more backward schools, they were leagues ahead of their peers.

    Political gold.

  12. Tarn
    Tarn October 26, 2005 at 6:35 am |

    The shadow-puppet effect is endlessly frustrating- being repeatedly told who I am on the basis of a facet of my identity that my interlocutor manifestly fails to understand, and even fails to demonstrate interest in attempting to understand, is enraging. It’s much the same as the lectures on the “homosexual lifestyle” trotted out by the more homophobic elements of evangelical Christianity, only this time the targets and the agenda behind the ‘chastisement’ are different.
    I’m pretty much with Piny on “Sex, Lies and Feminism”- the article is premised on a view of the trans community that’s deeply ill-informed and in many places offensive. However, I wouldn’t agree that women-born-women is ever a reasonable way to define a space- the term has been used historically purely for the purpose of excluding trans women and I find it very hard to see how it could be repurposed to avoid the discriminatory (and often hateful) associations it carries. That isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be women only spaces that do not include trans women- there are clearly some spaces (survivor groups spring to mind) where it will not be generally appropriate or worthwhile for trans women to attend: however, constituting such groups in a fashion that’s premised on a hostile reading of trans identity is problematic, there is no need to adopt a term or rule that’s discriminatory in intent and practice in order to create a space to discuss issues specific to non-trans women.
    I’d suggest Emi Koyama’s site (http://www.eminism.org/readings/index.html) if anyone’s interested in reading the other side, particularly the transfeminist manifesto http://www.eminism.org/readings/pdf-rdg/tfmanifesto.pdf

  13. Nicolas
    Nicolas October 26, 2005 at 7:30 am |

    “Feminism gets men laid”

    Yep, that’s true and makes sense, all though it shouldn’t be the only motivation to do your part of the boring household stuff. But if parents had the same expectations to boys as to girls and raised them differently, we wouldn’t have this problem with women working their ass off in the house after work – and thereby have no energy left to have sex anyway.

  14. Thomas
    Thomas October 26, 2005 at 9:12 am |

    Lauren, thanks for putting in the link to Sex, Lies and Feminism.

    Piny, my condolences on getting thrown under the bus. I know you’ve heard it all before, but so have I, and it still leaves me hurt and angry every time.

    Croson says this:

    Second, the S/M construction is deeply gendered, maintaining the binary top/down nature of both sexuality and gender. In S/M sex, there are still only two sexual roles, separate and distinct from each other (although one may theoretically switch back and forth). And these roles are limited to top and bottom, dominant and subordinate. It is the same patriarchal template: innate, binary and top down. Having used the same template, it is no surprise that S/M sexuality exactly reproduces the content and norms of both male-dominant sexuality and gender.

    This is wrong, and a common misunderstanding. This is wrong for several reasons:

    (1) It assumes that every hierarchical power differential replicates dichotomous, patriarchal gender and that in a genderless world we’d live in complete, powerless equality. Some radical feminists hold this view (Croson cites MacKinnon, and I don’t have it handy to see if that’s what MacKinnon is really saying or if this is out of context), which relies as its basis on the notion that patriarchal gender is the root of all unequal human relations. I think that argument is wrong (while patriarchal gender constructs are a deeply rooted and powerful force, I don’t think they are the model and root for every inequality), and I think most feminists are with me on that.

    (2) The nature of consent inverts the overt power dynamic. The top is nominally in control of the scene, but the scene is generally oriented around meeting the bottom’s needs (which is why my wife complains that I bottom too much and don’t top enough — topping takes all the energy, often for less payoff). Topping is mentally intense, requiring that the top be closely attuned to how the scene is going for the bottom. I know male tops and switches who cannot maintain an erection while topping, because the concentration required precludes the relaxation needed to fully appreciate the erotic aspects of the scene. The appropiate model, then, in a yin-and-yang — the top is, at the core, the servant of the bottom’s desire, and the bottom is, while overtly bottoming, running the scene. It is not the fact that these roles are chosen (as the author would have it), but that they invert the paradigm of hierarchical power within themselves, that makes the arrangement of roles in BDSM transgressive.

    (3) It is not really true that there are only two roles. This is only true in the sense that a deliberately constructed power imbalance is always polar – for each (1), there is a (-1), and so forth. If there is a dominant, there is a submissive, but dominant is not a concept congruent with top, and submissive is not congruent with bottom. (some folks happily bottom to sensation play and like to be, for example, bound and flogged, but do not show or feel any sort of deference to the top.) “Top” and “Bottom” are often used as umbrella terms, but there is a lot of variation in the way people describe the roles of their scenes, and sometimes of their relationships.

    (4) It is not merely “theoretical[]” that folks in the BDSM community switch. Many folks, IME a majority, are not exclusive tops or bottoms.

    The author also writes:

    First, in the view of S/M advocates, sexuality is simply a matter of individual desire and practice. Where desire springs from is never examined, exactly – it just is, and practice follows from that. In this construction there is no room to question whether sexuality and desire are constructed, or how they are constructed, and by and for whom.

    Says who? The author apparently thinks this is true because the S/Mers she knows do not accept her conclusion about where their desire comes from, which is apparently that they have internalized patriarchy. Plenty of folks who do BDSM examine the construction of desire and why they do the things we do — in fact, because what we do is so frequently attacked, we almost have to do so. And we come to lots of different conclusions. (I’m not shy about describing what I do and why I like it, but I don’t want to take up the kind of space I would use if I started doing that. Suffice it to say that much of what I do revolves around (1) the intimacy of the shared experience of pain; and (2) the shared experience of violating social norms.)

    I would address the transgender aspect of Croson’s work, but Piny is on the thread and I would be foolish indeed to believe I could be as knowledgable or as eloquent on that subject. I will say this, though: it is telling that the lesbian feminists that want to throw BDSM under the bus are also those that want to toss the transgenders. They are trying, essentially, to tar Piny by association with me. They want to use BDSM, which simply freaks a lot of people out, to attack the participation of transgenders, because their actual reasoning for attacking transgenders is so thin.

    I think all of this “reasoning” is disingenuous, anyway. Folks like Croson just think transgenders and BDSM are icky. All the analysis is post-hoc rationalization.

  15. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 11:29 am |

    The author apparently thinks this is true because the S/Mers she knows do not accept her conclusion about where their desire comes from, which is apparently that they have internalized patriarchy.

    Mm-hm. There’s a difference between, “Your theories are wrong,” and “This is not worth theorizing about.”

    I would address the transgender aspect of Croson’s work, but Piny is on the thread and I would be foolish indeed to believe I could be as knowledgable or as eloquent on that subject. I will say this, though: it is telling that the lesbian feminists that want to throw BDSM under the bus are also those that want to toss the transgenders. They are trying, essentially, to tar Piny by association with me. They want to use BDSM, which simply freaks a lot of people out, to attack the participation of transgenders, because their actual reasoning for attacking transgenders is so thin.

    Aw. Thanks so much.

    I think the conflation also exists because the communities overlap, although I don’t think this has much to do with underlying philosophy. Both are relatively new in terms of public activism, so it makes sense that they’d attract younger self-described progressives. There are also geographical/logistical issues–neither bdsm interest nor trans identity is terribly common, so I think both kinds of people tend to gravitate to big cities and internet communities.

  16. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 11:36 am |

    However, I wouldn’t agree that women-born-women is ever a reasonable way to define a space- the term has been used historically purely for the purpose of excluding trans women and I find it very hard to see how it could be repurposed to avoid the discriminatory (and often hateful) associations it carries.

    Good point. To be honest, I avoid this question in part because I can: inclusion in women’s space is not something I have any interest in.

    Are there women-only spaces that can be seen as not oriented around the needs of survivors? I know that Michfest, for example, includes a great many things that have been referred to as triggers. BDSM practice, for example, although it has its own separate space.

  17. Earl
    Earl October 26, 2005 at 12:04 pm |

    Charlette Croson is an idiot knows very little about S/M; of course, she’s bound and determined (heh) not to let that stop her. For example, unlike her assertion, being a switch is not uncommon. Many in the community are well aware of their sexualization/fetishization of power dynamics. The eroticism of S/M comes from the *willing* surrender of control — and stops at any time if the bottom wishes.

    On a completely unrelated note, has anyone ever pondered what search technology will look like in 20 years? I’m going to shut up now.

  18. Earl
    Earl October 26, 2005 at 12:07 pm |

    PS: is off our backs a play on on our backs? That is to say, is she a part of the police your sexuality for you crowd on the left?

  19. Sally
    Sally October 26, 2005 at 12:12 pm |

    PS: is off our backs a play on on our backs?

    I always thought it was the other way around.

  20. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 12:15 pm |

    Whoooooa whoa whoa…. Is she trying to say that MTFs can, without patriarchal harassment, become women, and are never subject to heterosexist violence?

    Not also that the ability to become “not men” that MTFs supposedly have is not directly parallel to the inability for women to become “real men”. For a parallel analysis, she has to establish that, while men can become “not men”, women can’t become “not women”.

    Also, if you read the article, the preceding paragraph seems to paint the MTF transition as smooth and effortless: men “who have fallen from patriarchal grace simply “are” women because it is precisely this fall from “real manhood” that marks them as women – as lesser than men.” She seems to equate heterosexist slurs against “unmanly” men with a full-on gender transformation. She seems to erase the VAAAAAAST gulf between being picked last for basketball in gym and going through the personal transition from man to woman, including changing how everyone in your daily life perceives you, hormone thereapy and/or surgery, changing your name legally, and YES, the threat of being singled out for violence because you’re MTF.

    I haven’t had a chance to think about this more deeply, but those are my initial reactions…..

    The argument is this: loss of status is what makes a woman. A woman is defined by lack: not a man, less than a man. The patriarchy is perfectly happy to make mtfs women, because it allows the patriarchy to deprive them of status and membership in the class men. It’s an extremely convenient way of marginalizing them, and the freaks are begging for it. It is not willing to allow ftms to become men, because that would require giving them status and inclusion in the class men. This is not permissible because, according to Char Croson, ftms can only be women under patriarchy.

    So, under this argument, the amount of violence perpetrated against mtfs is support, not rebuttal: exposure to violence and hatred, particularly violence and hatred that can be read as misogynistic, is a marker of female status.

    I have two problems with this argument. First of all, I have male status. I have the legal right to change my gender and represent myself as male, as well as to demand inclusion in male space. I can be a husband and a father. My stealth or out status has nothing to do with this legal right; the people around me are obligated even if they know I was assigned female at birth. I also am treated as male, with all the respect and security that entails; transmen do receive male privilege. If female-to-male gender changes were not recognized, and if there were no male privilege accorded to out transmen, this argument would hold water. Since our patriarchal society does in fact frequently include transmen in “male,” it doesn’t.

    Second–and this is where it becomes really offensive–there’s a crucial conflation of hatred and violence against transpeople and hatred and violence against women. Women are hated; therefore, being hated means that you’re being seen as female.

    I agree that transpeople are hated because they transgress gender, and I agree that the gender system is set up to protect exactly one class, i.e. men, but it is not true that all hatred of transpeople can be lumped in with misogynistic violence. Most of the violence perpetrated against transpeople is specifically transphobic. Most of that violence is intended as punishment for a transwoman who dares to include herself in female–Gwen Araujo is a great example.

  21. Twisty
    Twisty October 26, 2005 at 12:22 pm |

    I have never understand the big whoop if some feminist dykes want their own party, and, based on their concept of shared experience, don’t want to invite the BDSMs or the trans women. Surely there are fêtes aplenty where such groups are welcomed with showers of rose petals, or whips.

  22. Twisty
    Twisty October 26, 2005 at 12:24 pm |

    I have also never understood the big whoop.

  23. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 12:31 pm |

    I have never understand the big whoop if some feminist dykes want their own party, and, based on their concept of shared experience, don’t want to invite the BDSMs or the trans women. Surely there are fêtes aplenty where such groups are welcomed with showers of rose petals, or whips.

    Well, because people disgree with that concept of shared experience and/or shared desires, given the ways it tends to define both bdsm practitioners and transwomen. And those people have every right to criticize.

    Like Tarn said, it’s also very difficult to find a justification for women-born-women space that doesn’t involve a lot of downright nasty and just plain untrue words about transwomen. It’s not about excluding transwomen from, say, Michfest, but about excluding them from “woman.” Like Thomas said, it’s very difficult to find anti-bdsm theory that doesn’t involve a lot of inaccuracies about what bdsm practice is and how it is discussed by those who practice it.

  24. Thomas
    Thomas October 26, 2005 at 12:58 pm |

    Earl, as between “Off Our Backs” and “On Our Backs,” the latter is by far the senior publication. On Our Backs was started by Susie Bright and some other lesbians as a sex-positive voice for their community in reaction, in part, to Off Our Backs.

    The older publication took its name, I believe, in part to respond to Stokely Carmichael’s nasty, misogynist response to the question, “what is the position of women in the movement?” He said, “prone.” Gremaine Greer, never at a loss for words, retorted, “Does he mean supine, or is he expressing a personal preference.”

  25. Thomas
    Thomas October 26, 2005 at 12:59 pm |

    If my fingers worked properly, I would have typed “Germaine Greer.”

  26. Twisty
    Twisty October 26, 2005 at 1:54 pm |

    Piny, I think what some lesbo feminists take issue with is the idea that trans women want to redefine “woman,” turning it into a kind of catch-all for anything that is “not man.” As for the nastiness, though, I can’t get behind that.

  27. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 2:56 pm |

    Piny, I think what some lesbo feminists take issue with is the idea that trans women want to redefine “woman,” turning it into a kind of catch-all for anything that is “not man.” As for the nastiness, though, I can’t get behind that.

    Honestly, I prefer nastiness to people who pretend they don’t hate. And I prefer hate to assiduous ignorance.

    This would be a totally valid objection if it had any basis in fact. It’s true that transwomen want to redefine “woman” such that transwomen are included. But transwomen are not insisting that everyone who can’t be neatly slotted into “male” be slotted into “female,”* and it is not the rationale for transwomen’s demands to be included in women-only space.

    *You could argue, in fact, that Char’s attempting to do that with transmen.

  28. Lauren
    Lauren October 26, 2005 at 3:56 pm |

    Piny, I posted this specifically with you and Thomas in mind. I knew the two of you would want to tear it up… and you did. ;)

  29. Tanooki Joe
    Tanooki Joe October 26, 2005 at 4:06 pm |

    You pretty much said everything I was thinking, Thomas. Glad I’m not the only one who saw how much was wrong with that article.

  30. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost October 26, 2005 at 4:29 pm |

    >> I also am treated as male, with all the respect and security that entails; transmen do receive male privilege.>>

    Precisely.

    >>Most of the violence perpetrated against transpeople is specifically transphobic. >>

    And precisely.

    Forgive me if I’m a bit proud of myself for picking up on those arguments when I read the article. As a vanilla cisgendered (I’m learnding!) man, the subtleties of of Trans politics are a bit foreign to me. I’ll tell my sort-of-trans friend — she’ll be proud. ;)

    From Croson:
    >>All those who have fallen from patriarchal grace simply “are” women because it is precisely this fall from “real manhood” that marks them as women – as lesser than men. Transgender movement ideology simply participates in making “not men” real in the world as women. >>

    It strikes me that MTFs don’t want to make “woman” everything “not male”, but to go from “male” to something specifically “woman”. Something more “womanly” than “not male”.

    Again from Croson:
    >>However, while men can always become “not men” women can not ever leave behind our status as women and become “real” men. [...] FTM remain women and, as such, targets of male violence.>>

    Piny, I don’t think much arguement is necessary, that’s a fairly clear use of the “not male = woman” argument.

    (And it’s important to reiterate that the violence FTMs face is often specifically transphobic.)

  31. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 4:37 pm |

    Piny, I think what some lesbo feminists take issue with is the idea that trans women want to redefine “woman,” turning it into a kind of catch-all for anything that is “not man.” As for the nastiness, though, I can’t get behind that.

    After some more thought, I think I disagree with this interpretation. As Croson asserts, “trans politics” does not blur gender lines so much as move them and then reassert them in their new locations. The worry, therefore, is that the definition of “woman” is being changed from “lived experience in the category of ‘woman’ as assigned and mediated by patriarchy,” to, uh, men in dresses. Transwomen are stereotyped as Stepford wives, deeply invested in the most sexist, passive, tweezed, made-up, fetishized picture of womanhood possible. They confuse that stereotype with real womanhood, and insist that they be included because of their willingness to conform to that stereotype. Meanwhile, removing lived experience as a woman from traits necessary to fit the definition makes it difficult if not impossible to discuss the effects of sexism on women as a group.

    The transmale counterpart to this is that butch women, women-loving women, and masculine women are pressured into transitioning because they obviously cannot be real women. Masculine traits are proof of manhood.

    Needless to say, I disagree with this. This is not how transition works, not how transpeople see themselves, and not how transpeople see cisgendered people. Plus, virtually all transpeople have some direct experience with misogyny. Virtually all transpeople have direct experience with the difference between life as a man and life as a woman. It’s not true that transpeople see sexism as some feminist shibboleth.

  32. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 4:42 pm |

    Piny, I posted this specifically with you and Thomas in mind. I knew the two of you would want to tear it up… and you did. ;)

    Always glad to have the opportunity to hear myself talk.

    Seriously, though, I do appreciate this. Working through these questions is useful, especially since my favorite gendergeek friend just moved away.

    It strikes me that MTFs don’t want to make “woman” everything “not male”, but to go from “male” to something specifically “woman”. Something more “womanly” than “not male”.

    Exactly. Women aren’t the only marginalized group defined in negative terms by the mainstream.

  33. tekanji
    tekanji October 26, 2005 at 4:50 pm |

    Ugh, I couldn’t even finish Croson’s article. What ever happened to the idea that if you want to criticize something you should, I don’t know, know what you’re talking about first?

    And, I know Piny already covered this, but transwomen are like any other group who aren’t seen as “normal” in society: all they want is the right to be treated as human beings. And, telling a woman that she’s not a woman because she was born with the “wrong” bits doesn’t seem like an appropriate way to treat another human being.

  34. Emma
    Emma October 26, 2005 at 5:16 pm |

    As a feminist woman, I find the issues presented in Croson’s article really problematic, although in a different way to most of those people who have commented.

    I have hugely benefited from women-only space in the form of volunteering at a Rape Crisis Centre. I’m aware that this has specifically been excluded in the above comments from woman-only space that transwomen “should” be welcomed into, although that obviously isn’t the only opinion on this subject.

    Croson is correct in saying that feminism finds it difficult to respond negatively to a claim to rights. This is as it should be, and feminisms have and do, in some cases, function to exclude black and working class women.

    However, I find it very difficult to reconcile the many frameworks of understanding around gender that are swirling around in writings by transwomen, with women-only space.

    For example, this is a quote from Emi’s Transfeminist Manifesto, as cited above.

    Trans women often find themselves having to “prove” their woman hood by internalizing gender stereotypes in order to be acknowledged as women or to receive hormonal and surgical interventions. This practice is oppressive to trans and non-trans women alike, as it denies uniqueness of each woman.

    My question is this: if womanhood is anything that anybody says it is, and all opinions on what it is are equally valid, then isn’t it essentially meaningless?

    Practically, this is of huge import to women’s organisations. Anyone who has ever worked in or belonged to a woman’s org will know that they are under fairly constant threat and interrogation by men (and non-feminist women) in the community. I am lucky enough to live in a city with a women’s library, which is funded on a shoestring. Despite the fact that men can visit by appointment, there is a constant backdrop of bitching from men (and non-feminist women) about the needlessness of this space.

    MRAs in the UK, although less ferocious than those in the US, have also managed to get their criticism of women-only sports sessions, library hours, and other service provision designed to afford women safe space into the press. Rape crisis services are diluting their feminist analysis of violence against women under pressure from funders to accept male service users (which because of the politicised structure of the orgs means male support workers).

    What does this have to do with trans issues? Quite a lot. Feminism has achieved significant gains for women, but there is (obviously) an enormous amount of work to be done and quite a lot of this centres around policy and service development that takes cognisance of the different needs of men and women. Despite significant strides in gender impact analysis most policy development is done gender-blind, with equalities issues considered as a bolt-on. If the term “woman” becomes so mutable as to cover anyone who cares to claim it, then how can women’s distinct needs be readily identified and addressed? If transwomen are bundled in with all other women, how will their needs be readily identified and addressed?

  35. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 5:44 pm |

    My question is this: if womanhood is anything that anybody says it is, and all opinions on what it is are equally valid, then isn’t it essentially meaningless?

    I don’t think people involved are saying this. Emi’s point is that transwomen are continually cast as gender petitioners, pleading for inclusion from a group of people whose membership is assumed–or, historically, from the medical professionals and government officials who arbitrated gender. This puts transwomen at a disadvantage, forcing them to accept a definition of womanhood that is wrong from any standpoint, egalitarian or textbook feminist: the Stepford wife version. And by basing transwomanhood on these surgeries or this set of behaviors, the gender arbiters insult all women and the depth and variety of their experience.

    And no, I don’t think that’s so; even if we acknowledge that there are lots of different people in “woman”–and many people with experience living as women who aren’t in “woman”–we can still talk about patriarchal definitions of proper behavior and position for people gendered as women. These kinds of discussions go on all the time in communities where gender is seen along trans-politics lines, and they aren’t equivocal. Respecting my friend’s right to self-identify as male doesn’t make it any more difficult for me to see the ways in which, for example, his survivor status is gendered.

    If the term “woman” becomes so mutable as to cover anyone who cares to claim it, then how can women’s distinct needs be readily identified and addressed? If transwomen are bundled in with all other women, how will their needs be readily identified and addressed?

    Saying that we respect someone’s right to self-identify does not mean that criterion will destroy the specificity of “woman” as we know it, or result in “woman” being tossed around like a hat. Trans identity is subjective, but the people making those subjective judgments about themselves seem to be a pretty small group of people with some important things in common. It’s not taken lightly–I doubt that it will be so long as sexism and transphobia exist.

    Nor does inclusion mean that transwomen and non-trans women cannot be seen as having different lives. It mostly means that transwomen must be seen as having different lives from men. But even if this does require a more complex understanding of sexism and attributed membership in “woman” as it impacts different groups of people, I don’t know that this is a worthwhile objection. It is, after all, simply untrue that transwomen are either men or merely not-men.

  36. tekanji
    tekanji October 26, 2005 at 6:26 pm |

    If the term “woman” becomes so mutable as to cover anyone who cares to claim it, then how can women’s distinct needs be readily identified and addressed?

    Outside of a discussion on gender caste (people being assigned “male” and “female” traits according to their apparent biological sex), I’m not so sure the binary concept of sex and gender is a useful one. Frankly, I would like to see ideas like “woman” and “man” become more mutable, because I see it as a progression that would necessitate acceptance of not just the transgendered and intersexed, but those of us who identify with our birth sex but who don’t accept traditional gender roles. And, as piny said, as long as sexism and transphobia exist – the two main reasons for keeping a distinct gender binary – then it’s not like gender is going to be taken lightly.

    For me, part of being a feminist is to make the idea of gender less restrictive, not more. How can I do that if I deny the valid experiences of the transgendered and intersexed?

  37. Emma
    Emma October 26, 2005 at 7:21 pm |

    Trans identity is subjective, but the people making those subjective judgments about themselves seem to be a pretty small group of people with some important things in common. It’s not taken lightly–I doubt that it will be so long as sexism and transphobia exist.

    For sure.

    Outside of a discussion on gender caste (people being assigned “male” and “female” traits according to their apparent biological sex), I’m not so sure the binary concept of sex and gender is a useful one.

    I don’t entirely disagree. However, at the moment decisions about health services, public transport, the organisation of working life, childcare provision are made as if humanity were one homogenous mass without even the sophistication of a binary understanding of gender. We’re not one mass. Regardless of whether the attitudes or assumptions that our differences are predicated upon are reasonable in light of interrogation from feminism(s), they do exist.

    The demands of the women’s liberation movement explicitly recognised and challenged the lack of interventions aimed at women. Equal pay for work of equal value, community controlled childcare, reproductive rights, rights for lesbian women, freedom from male violence against women. We’re still fighting for all of them, on many fronts.

    Third wave feminism’s defining characteristic is individualism. I think that has taken our movement away from concepts of sisterhood, from collective action and towards a rarified middle-class ideology that many women struggle to find relevance in. (I am 28, though, so I may be talking out of my arse with the nostalgia for the second wave.)

    Emi’s transfeminist manifesto seemed to be saying (and I beg pardon if I use inappropriate terms here) that a man who identifies as a woman doesn’t have to either adopt stereotypical feminine behaviours, or subject himself to hormonal treatments or surgeries to claim the identity of woman.

    I’ve read quite a few articles on gender, its deconstruction, and the relationship this deconstruction has with trans identities. While fairly interesting, I don’t get how claiming a multiplicity of meanings for ‘woman’ gets any of us anywhere. It seems to be promoting a very sophisticated gender-blindness that denies the realities of women’s experience.

  38. piny
    piny October 26, 2005 at 7:33 pm |

    Emi’s transfeminist manifesto seemed to be saying (and I beg pardon if I use inappropriate terms here) that a man who identifies as a woman doesn’t have to either adopt stereotypical feminine behaviours, or subject himself to hormonal treatments or surgeries to claim the identity of woman.

    I happen to agree with her. Do you think that men who identify as women should have to adopt stereotypical feminine behaviors, or undergo hormone therapy or surgery? Or vice versa?

    I’ve read quite a few articles on gender, its deconstruction, and the relationship this deconstruction has with trans identities. While fairly interesting, I don’t get how claiming a multiplicity of meanings for ‘woman’ gets any of us anywhere. It seems to be promoting a very sophisticated gender-blindness that denies the realities of women’s experience.

    Again, I don’t think that honoring trans identities denies that there are particular injuries done to those who live as women under patriarchy, or that it’s different to be assigned female at birth than to transition into a female identity later on. Indeed, most of the denial of misogyny as it impacts women’s lives is from anti-trans-inclusion feminists against transwomen; most seem incapable of understanding that transwomen do in fact move through the world as women. Transwomen are never women, only “trans.”

    I see what you’re saying with regard to getting people to understand that (a) women under patriarchy face sexism as a universal force in their lives and (b) being assigned female at birth exposes women to an upbringing inundated with misogyny. However, most trans-inclusion on the anti-sexism level tries to point out that transwomen face the former and should not be rendered invisible because they didn’t experience the latter. Gender deconstruction seems to me to be a slightly different animal.

  39. a nut
    a nut October 26, 2005 at 9:00 pm |

    Thank you for posting the link Lauren. There is lots I left out but I really didn’t want to get too bummed out, ja know?

  40. tekanji
    tekanji October 26, 2005 at 11:07 pm |

    However, at the moment decisions about health services, public transport, the organisation of working life, childcare provision are made as if humanity were one homogenous mass without even the sophistication of a binary understanding of gender. We’re not one mass. Regardless of whether the attitudes or assumptions that our differences are predicated upon are reasonable in light of interrogation from feminism(s), they do exist.

    I was actually including problems like those in my discussion of gender caste; I think that our constructions of “male” and “female” are one of the significant roots of such disparity. I would go farther to say that we’re not only treated as “one mass” but we treat “men” as the norm and “women” as the lesser. This is a problem, but I see it as being solved by a more inclusive view of gender, not made worse. The trick is getting away from a male-normative mindset and into one that is inclusive of all expressions of sex and gender. In that way it’s not trying to fit everything into one pretty little box, but rather recognizing the plurality of the individual’s experiences and trying to work our society around the idea that we’re all different for different reasons. Does that make sense?

    While fairly interesting, I don’t get how claiming a multiplicity of meanings for ‘woman’ gets any of us anywhere.

    That is a very privileged statement. You and I don’t have to think about a broader definition of “woman”; we are seen as such by virtue of our birth. We have never had to struggle with the things that those who identify as transgender do, so who are we to say that moving away from a strict gender binary won’t do any good? It may not change the way we live our lives (although I personally believe that the oppression of women-born-women and the oppression of transwomen are closely linked), but it will change the way that those who are women but were not born women live their lives.

    Feminism isn’t just about women-born-women. It’s not just about the straight, the rich and middle class, the white, the [fill in the majority position here]. Feminism is about equality for everyone and I fail to see how shunting one group out because they aren’t deemed “female” enough helps us achieve that.

  41. Emma
    Emma October 27, 2005 at 2:27 am |

    Do you think that men who identify as women should have to adopt stereotypical feminine behaviors, or undergo hormone therapy or surgery? Or vice versa?

    Neither, particularly. I’m just really, really confused about the difference between a man and a man who identifies a woman and doesn’t undergo hormone therapy or surgery.

    I think I’m making a (possibly rather arbitrary) distinction between transwomen who “move through the world as women” and people who the world reacts to as if they were men. Socialisation as women is the half of what feminists express solidarity around. (The other being the physical properties of being a woman-born-woman).

    However, most trans-inclusion on the anti-sexism level tries to point out that transwomen face the former

    But surely only if they “move through the world as women”? I mean, people who appear to all intents and purposes to be men surely can’t be said to experience misogyny. Transphobia, yes.

    In that way it’s not trying to fit everything into one pretty little box, but rather recognizing the plurality of the individual’s experiences and trying to work our society around the idea that we’re all different for different reasons. Does that make sense?

    It makes some sense ideologically, but there is a tension between that and the solidarity that women have expressed around a common experience of misogyny and a common experience of pregnancy/childbirth/menstruation/breastfeeding that has been the impetus for demands for gender-aware policy making.

    That is a very privileged statement.

    This is a very privileged conversation. Constructing a postmodern analysis of gender in which signifiers of gender become fluid and malleable will not address any of the very real and very concrete difficulties that face women under patriarchy. It won’t further our claims for reproductive rights, for equal pay for work of equal value, for freedom from male violence.

    The ultimate goal of feminism is equality, but its method is challenging, undermining, and dismantling patriarchy. One of the defining characteristics of patriarchy has been its willingness to mandate what “woman” means, and to slap back in line (quite literally, sometimes) any woman-born woman who does not conform to this mandate.

    I am not for a second suggesting that transwomen are part of a vast conspiracy to undermine womanhood in order to further patriarchy. However, I don’t accept that my privilege as a woman-born woman should exclude me from any conversation about what the definition of ‘woman’ is and how feminism relates to that.

  42. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost October 27, 2005 at 11:24 am |

    >>It won’t further our claims for reproductive rights, for equal pay for work of equal value, for freedom from male violence.>>

    Will it lessen those claims?

    I mean that as a purely innocent question.

  43. piny
    piny October 27, 2005 at 11:38 am |

    Neither, particularly. I’m just really, really confused about the difference between a man and a man who identifies a woman and doesn’t undergo hormone therapy or surgery.

    It’s the bolded part.

    First of all, transpeople are rejecting genital or “bottom” surgery in increasing numbers; they may actually constitute a majority. It’s expensive, the results leave much to be desired, it carries the risk of many complications such as chronic UTIs and severe loss of sensation, most of the time no one can tell what’s in your pants anyway, and you lose the ability to conceive children by any means or use your genitalia as they were originally configured. The available procedures for transmen are nowhere near as advanced as those for transwomen, in part because of sexism and in part because it’s very difficult to work with tissue you don’t have. I would venture to say that most transmen do not obtain bottom surgery, and that many if not most transmen have little interest in it. I’m not going to undergo bottom surgery, and would not even if the procedure were painless, momentary, and perfect. I like what I have.

    Aside from the prohibitive cost–anywhere from ten to thirty thousand dollars, depending on a lot of factors–there are many other disqualifiers. For example, HIV+ people usually cannot obtain elective surgery. Other health complications can of course make surgery impossible. Surgery requires referral letters, which require finding and paying for a knowledgeable psychiatrist. Finally, it’s major surgery, and it’s traumatic. There are similar problems with taking hormones, which are expensive and which do carry health risks–particularly for people who cannot afford regular checkups.

    Also, many transpeople don’t require surgery to move through the world in their post-transition gender. This is very fortunate, since lots of us can’t afford surgery until several years after legal/social transition and hormones. A smaller number don’t require hormones or surgery. A smaller number of transpeople will never consistently escape notice even with the benefit of hormones and surgery, so it seems unfair to make those procedures the arbiter of gender.

    The problem with making feminine behavior a requirement is that, aside from giving Janice Raymond ammunition, it forces transwomen to behave like Stepford wives. There is only one kind of stereotypical femininity, and it sucks the bag. There are also transwomen who identify with groups of women who generally have specific presentations that are gendervariant and arguably masculine but not male: butch lesbians, for example.

    I think I’m making a (possibly rather arbitrary) distinction between transwomen who “move through the world as women” and people who the world reacts to as if they were men. Socialisation as women is the half of what feminists express solidarity around. (The other being the physical properties of being a woman-born-woman).

    Not necessarily. I do think that you’re making an arbitrary distinction between “those who physically transition” and “those the world reads as men.” And it’s true: generally speaking, if the world does not read you as female, you don’t have to deal with misogyny.

    But surely only if they “move through the world as women”? I mean, people who appear to all intents and purposes to be men surely can’t be said to experience misogyny. Transphobia, yes.

    This is a good point. What if they publically identify as women?

    It makes some sense ideologically, but there is a tension between that and the solidarity that women have expressed around a common experience of misogyny and a common experience of pregnancy/childbirth/menstruation/breastfeeding that has been the impetus for demands for gender-aware policy making.

    Where would transmen fit into this picture? Robert Eads died of ovarian cancer, but I don’t get catcalled when I walk to work anymore.

    This is a very privileged conversation. Constructing a postmodern analysis of gender in which signifiers of gender become fluid and malleable will not address any of the very real and very concrete difficulties that face women under patriarchy. It won’t further our claims for reproductive rights, for equal pay for work of equal value, for freedom from male violence.

    I think that tekanji’s point is that constructing womanhood in the terms that Char Croson uses will not address any of the very real difficulties that transwomen face under patriarchy. As she said, gender-fluidity and gender apart from gender assigned at birth are not abstract issues for us; they relate to all of the issues you mention above.

  44. piny
    piny October 27, 2005 at 11:46 am |

    >>It won’t further our claims for reproductive rights, for equal pay for work of equal value, for freedom from male violence.>>

    Will it lessen those claims?

    I mean that as a purely innocent question.

    Heh. I initially read this as “nag, nag, nag….”

    On a second read:

    Dunno. I have as little patience with postmodernism in the key of “everything is different things to different people” as I believe feminists like Emma do. There is a very good, totally non-hypothetical example of what happens when people forget that misogyny is primarily something that happens to women, and that women have a great many issues that are extremely common if not universal and extremely likely if not exclusive. It’s a pernicious distraction that manages to elbow into so many discussions of feminism and women’s issues that it has its own acronym: PHMT.

  45. tekanji
    tekanji October 27, 2005 at 12:29 pm |

    Addressing the last point first: I don’t think anyone is trying to exclude you from a conversation about what a “woman” is. I am, rather, espousing my opinion that leaving “woman” for the women-born-women, or the post-surgery transwomen, or the hormone-therapy transwomen, or the “passing” transwomen is not something that we have the full right to decide. The reason: because, when it comes down to it, a broader definition of “woman” doesn’t affect us, it affects the transwomen, the intersexed, and the genderqueer women we are trying to include/exclude. I subscribe pretty closely to the idea of “your right to swing your fist ends with my face” – and it’s the transwomen’s face we’re punching if by excluding them (or certain transwomen) from what a “woman” is.

    It makes some sense ideologically, but there is a tension between that and the solidarity that women have expressed around… a common experience of pregnancy/childbirth/menstruation/breastfeeding that has been the impetus for demands for gender-aware policy making.

    And now you have just excluded me from this solidarity. I have my tubes tied. I am childfree by choice because I never have, and never will, want children. Especially not the biological kind. I hate, hate, hate it when other people conflate womanhood with motherhood. Please, don’t buy into the same misogynistic essentialism that I have to put up with from the rest of society. I shouldn’t have to come and hear that same bullshit espoused by my feminist sisters.

    While pregnancy/childbirth/breastfeeding are a part of some women’s experiences, and therefore an important part of feminism, it is in no way a common experience for all women. And it’s offensive to those of us who are not, and will not be, mothers to say that it is some basic part of female solidarity.

    This is a very privileged conversation. Constructing a postmodern analysis of gender in which signifiers of gender become fluid and malleable will not address any of the very real and very concrete difficulties that face women under patriarchy. It won’t further our claims for reproductive rights, for equal pay for work of equal value, for freedom from male violence.

    I feel like you’re trying to worm your way out of acknowledging your non-trans privilege. This isn’t just an abstract conversation; this is about understanding those who aren’t the same as us and acknowledging their struggle as valid. It won’t further our claims for repro rights, equal pay, or freedom from male violence in a large way. Is it all about us – the women-born-women? Or maybe the white women? Or let’s exclude me and make it the mothers. Or better yet, the straight and only.

    Let me put it another way: government supported childcare, parental leave, etc. won’t benefit me in a tangible way, either, does that mean that I should ignore all the struggles that mothers go through because it doesn’t fall under my narrow worldview? Should I decide if they should breastfeed in public, or try to take away my tax dollars from programs that help them, or tell them how many kids they should have, how they should raise them, etc?

    One of the defining characteristics of patriarchy has been its willingness to mandate what “woman” means, and to slap back in line (quite literally, sometimes) any woman-born woman who does not conform to this mandate.

    And what, exactly, do you think a woman-born-woman deciding which transwomen can be included in the word “woman” is?

    The point is that “woman” should be more inclusive. Inclusive of the “feminine”, but also of the “masculine”, inclusive of the intersexed, the transgendered, the genderqueer, those who identify as it should have the right to live their lives without fear of ridicule, shaming, or being told that they are not women. And, frankly, I have had more than enough of being told I’m not “feminine” enough, or that I’ll want babies because I have tits and a vagina, or I’m wierd because I rarely wear makeup. Doing that to transwomen is just being a tool of the repressive patriarchy and trying to enforce a strict gender binary that smacks of gender caste, rather than gender democracy (people have the right to self-identify, to express whatever kinds of “masculine” or “feminine” characteristics that they feel is right for them, dress how they want, etc).

    I guess, when it comes down to it, I believe in a person’s right to happiness. I believe that a basic tenet of feminism is to ensure that happiness, that equality, for all people. I don’t, however, believe that we have the right to exclude any woman from the definition of “woman” just because it is something that we aren’t. Think about it, if this were a discussion on butch lesbians, no one would be arguing about whether or not they were “women” or if letting them into the woman club would dilute the meaning of the word “woman” or even destroy it. No one would say that fat women are any less women. Or black women.

    So, okay, a transwoman’s experiences aren’t the same as a woman-born-woman. But my experiences aren’t the same as a poor woman. Or as a black woman. Does that give me the right to say that their experience with the patriarchy is any less valid?

  46. Emma
    Emma October 27, 2005 at 2:34 pm |

    The reason: because, when it comes down to it, a broader definition of “woman” doesn’t affect us, it affects the transwomen, the intersexed, and the genderqueer women we are trying to include/exclude. I subscribe pretty closely to the idea of “your right to swing your fist ends with my face” – and it’s the transwomen’s face we’re punching if by excluding them (or certain transwomen) from what a “woman” is.

    I am not sure that creating a broader definition of “woman” doesn’t affect woman-born women, or feminism, and that’s what I’m trying to interrogate. I don’t have fixed ideas on this, and I don’t believe that it’s wrong per se to explore it. I am entirely with you on the fist/face/swing thing and although I’m probably coming across as an asshat my intention is not to create some post-hoc excuse for being a transphobic bastard.

    Please, don’t buy into the same misogynistic essentialism that I have to put up with from the rest of society. I shouldn’t have to come and hear that same bullshit espoused by my feminist sisters.

    I don’t think you are hearing the same bullshit from your feminist sister. My point was that gender-aware policy making had its conception, if you will, in the field of health. Because men can’t have children and women can, it was obvious even to the most gender-blind health mandarins that women required provision that was differentiated from men’s.

    To pretend that motherhood is not a choice made by a huge proportion of women, who then need maternity leave, and will doubtless have primary responsibility for childcare is not to meet the needs of women where they are.

    >>It won’t further our claims for reproductive rights, for equal pay for work of equal value, for freedom from male violence.>>

    Will it lessen those claims?

    I mean that as a purely innocent question.

    I don’t have an answer to your question. My point, I guess (badly made due to the fact I really don’t have time for this!), was that Tekanji and my’s conversation is privileged in that we are two women sitting at our computers in the west, arguing about semiotics. Given that a bunch of women died today because of misogyny, it’s kind of luxurious for us to spend our time in this way. Of course, that argument is also bullshit-ish because words and names are important: the amount of times I’ve bitched out male friends for saying “girl” instead of “woman” is testament to that.

    However, I am concerned that if we say that gender has any meaning an individual cares to ascribe it, then it must become problematic to argue collectively for women’s rights. It’s really hard, with a so-called transphobic definition of “woman”, to get policy makers working outwith gender to recognise the institutional and systematic discriminations against women as a group. Making the ‘definition’ of woman less clear is not going to aid our cause. Of course, this may be balanced out by the concurrent benefit to transwomen.

    Let me put it another way: government supported childcare, parental leave, etc. won’t benefit me in a tangible way, either, does that mean that I should ignore all the struggles that mothers go through because it doesn’t fall under my narrow worldview?

    Actually, that isn’t true. Europe is already experiencing the terror of the demographic timebomb in which there won’t be enough little worker bees to pay into pension pots to sustain pensioners. Government supported parental leave increases productivity within both commercial enterprises and public sector services (which you assuredly benefit from).

    I don’t, however, believe that we have the right to exclude any woman from the definition of “woman” just because it is something that we aren’t.

    I don’t disagree with this. Where I think we disagree is that I don’t think that a postmodern view of pluralities of gender, under which every individual selects their own meanings for sex and gender is helpful. My concerns are the same as the ones I initially posted: If the term “woman” becomes so mutable as to cover anyone who cares to claim it, then how can women’s distinct needs be readily identified and addressed? If transwomen are bundled in with all other women, how will their needs be readily identified and addressed?

    Piny, thank you for all your gracious comments, and for not being discernibly offended and horrified by all my blundering around this subject.

  47. piny
    piny October 27, 2005 at 2:51 pm |

    Piny, thank you for all your gracious comments, and for not being discernibly offended and horrified by all my blundering around this subject.

    It doesn’t seem to me that you’re blundering. Most of the answers to questions about transpeople’s lives and needs are, sometimes, sorta, not really, and it depends.

    If it seemed like you were actually trying to use policy problems as an excuse to make the icky transpeople go away, I’d probably be really pissed off. But these are valid questions; I’m just not sure that a more inclusive definition would necessarily make it difficult to talk about women as constructed under patriarchy, to say things like, “reproductive choice is a vital issue for women,” and to formulate policy with the overwhelming majority of women in mind. It’s true, after all, that non-trans women are not all alike even when it comes to very basic needs, and those differences don’t seem to have diluted feminist arguments in the least.

    Going back to what I said first: one of the biggest problems with this, it would seem from the discussion here, is that transpeople as a community cannot be handily described in terms of their assigned or mediated gender. According to some of the problems you’ve listed, I should be in “woman;” according to some others, I should not. My place on that sliding table is as different from that of many other transmen as it is from many transwomen. Admitting our existence on either side of the fence becomes equally problematic: I can neither be a man with a female history or a woman everyone privileges as male. This, then, is where strict class theory can become transphobic in practice: for purposes of its arguments, we cease to exist at all.

  48. tekanji
    tekanji October 27, 2005 at 3:18 pm |

    I am not sure that creating a broader definition of “woman” doesn’t affect woman-born women, or feminism, and that’s what I’m trying to interrogate.

    Ah, yes, you’re right. I actually meant to say that, no matter what kind of definition we use for “woman”, we’d never have to worry about being excluded.

    I am entirely with you on the fist/face/swing thing and although I’m probably coming across as an asshat my intention is not to create some post-hoc excuse for being a transphobic bastard.

    I don’t think you’re coming across as an asshat, or a transphobic bastard. If you were either the former or the latter, I don’t think you’d be even engaging in this kind of debate. I know I use strong language, but it’s not with the intent of making you feel bad. I’m sorry if I came across that way, and for whatever attacking language I used. I’m just very passionate on the subject of rights, and I try to take a point from every angle I can think of instead of just trying to make one side clear.

    My point was that gender-aware policy making had its conception, if you will, in the field of health.

    Then I apologize for the misunderstanding. Given the subject and the previous “common experience” listed, I read it as saying that all women have the common experience of motherhood et, al.

    Making the ‘definition’ of woman less clear is not going to aid our cause. Of course, this may be balanced out by the concurrent benefit to transwomen.

    I guess part of the difference in where we’re coming from on this is that you feel that to make a more inclusive definition of “woman” would be to eradicate, or at least de-emphasize, the current meaning. And, I agree, on some levels it would.

    But, part of what I see as a gender democracy is that it focuses on adding to existing definitions, not taking away. Just because I choose to work outside of the home and not have children does not make some other woman’s choice to become a stay-at-home mom any less valid, right? In that same regard, the ability for a transwoman to call herself, and be seen as, a woman should not invalidate the womanhood of women-born-women.

    Also, on the “helping our cause” area, I disagree. I think that in order to get society* to a place where the transgendered (et, al) are accepted – be they woman-identifying, man-identifying, neither or both – is to get to a place where a person’s choice is not seen as genderdized. In that way, I see the struggle of women-born-women and the transgendered (et, al) to be one and the same: we all want the same opportunities, rights, and freedoms as men-born-men have traditionally have, as well as the ability for the traditonally “feminine” to be seen as something of equal value so that men-born-men can aspire to it, too. If “masculine” and “feminine” were seen as equal, then I am quite sure that the gender binary wouldn’t be nearly as important as it is now.

    * Used in the general sense, though focusing on the West because the way many traditional Eastern cultures deal with transgenderism is much different.

    Actually, that isn’t true… Government supported parental leave increases productivity within both commercial enterprises and public sector services (which you assuredly benefit from).

    Which is, I guess, another one of my points. I should have said “visible” or “direct” rather than “tangible”. I know that many non-parents (childfree or not) feel resentment towards the system when it pays for parental benefits because they don’t feel that it benefits them. I happen to agree with you about hidden benefits such as those you describe, which is one reason I support increased government support of parents (besides me feeling it’s the right thing to do).

    I also feel that there will be hidden benefits for non-trans people if we move away from a restrictive gender binary, since it will necessitate a moving away from the strict gender roles that have kept women oppressed in the West. Although I also feel that the direct benefits to the transgendered population for a more inclusive view of gender would be worth it on its own, as well.

    And, after me writing yet another novel on this subject, it’s back to your original question…

    If the term “woman” becomes so mutable as to cover anyone who cares to claim it, then how can women’s distinct needs be readily identified and addressed? If transwomen are bundled in with all other women, how will their needs be readily identified and addressed?

    This goes back to something I said above, but I’ll reiterate it for clarity. I don’t belive having a less strict (more mutable, more inclusive, etc) definition of “woman” necessitates the eradication of the subtleties of the current defintion. We already have a diverse set of people who fit under the word “woman”, we already need specific subsets to deal with their distinct needs, so what’s adding yet another subset onto that in order to help alleviate the oppression of some of our sisters?

  49. Emma
    Emma October 27, 2005 at 4:01 pm |

    We already have a diverse set of people who fit under the word “woman”, we already need specific subsets to deal with their distinct needs, so what’s adding yet another subset onto that in order to help alleviate the oppression of some of our sisters?

    And that, I think, is the clincher! Colour me convinced. :-)

  50. piny
    piny October 27, 2005 at 5:02 pm |

    We already have a diverse set of people who fit under the word “woman”, we already need specific subsets to deal with their distinct needs, so what’s adding yet another subset onto that in order to help alleviate the oppression of some of our sisters?

    And that, I think, is the clincher! Colour me convinced. :-)

    Muah ha ha ha.

    I think the issue wrt some feminist theorists is that transwomen seek to remove from “necessary” and slide into “sufficient” the qualifiers they see as non-negotiable, i.e. being assigned female at birth and living as a woman one’s whole life. People who don’t have that experience are not women, full stop.

    There is also the issue of gender identity, which contradicts theorists who insist that gender isn’t determined by anything other than the category into which patriarchy sticks you.

  51. Karen
    Karen October 27, 2005 at 11:26 pm |

    I attend MWMF, and have spoken with Charlotte Croson during workshops there. I think it’s safe to say that she and I fundamentally disagree about nearly everything. I was frustrated to see Feministe link to her article, until I saw the comments beneath (which I’m still trying to synthesize, some of them… there’s a lot here to take in). Y’all took the thoughts out of my head, and then put them far more eloquently than I have been able to, and I’m going to have to come back and reread this when I’m not about to go to bed. I’m going to try not to duplicate them — please forgive me if I do.

    I think there’s definitely relevance for women-only space within a patriarchal society, as Piny said. But as those spaces have had to change as the feminist movement fought its own racism, so too do they have to change when we address transphobia and the transgender movement. The feminist movement cannot be static; MWMF cannot be static. I also believe that MWMF is more than a big party (though it certainly is that, as well). And if it would like to remain more than a big party in the woods, then the issue of transwomen has to be better addressed than the current, women-born women policy. It frustrates me that Charlotte Croson speaks for the MWMF community, when there is an enormous diversity of opinion surrounding this issue, surrounding many issues (though as far as the S/M issue goes, I haven’t heard anyone espousing Croson’s misinformation during this decade). On the other hand, I imagine Char wouldn’t be all that thrilled about me speaking for the community, either.

  52. Official Shrub.com Blog  » Blog Archive   » Transphobia to the left of me, Anti-feminism to the right…

    [...] ot understand transgendered issues (Emma, piny, and I had a long conversation on that in a feministe thread), and quite another to espouse the kind of exclus [...]

  53. funnie
    funnie November 1, 2005 at 8:44 pm |

    Twisty, your comments confuse me: are you saying Croson’s article is nasty? How so? And to what degree do you believe women owe politeness to those who ignore the boundaries they set?

    As for the rest of you, I couldn’t disagree with your comments more than I do. I posted a version of this on the shrub.com trackback article, but I think it’s pertinent here as well:

    Feminism is NOT about achieving equality for all. Feminism is a women’s liberation movement. In the course of achieving freedom for women, sexual violence, homophobia, racism, classism and other problems must and should be addressed. So for men, however that group is categorized (persons born male, persons raised male, and/or persons who live as men), there is a nice collateral benefit to feminism. But feminism is not about freeing men, however they’re defined; if it were, it could not exist: women being in charge of whether men are enslaved or set free would put women in an oppressive, not oppressed, position as compared to men. And that’s simply false.

    Calling radical feminist theory and work on gender “transphobia” really misses the mark, and it erases feminism entirely by turning women into the oppressor class.

    I realize that’s not a perspective floating out there much these days, but the truth about power dynamics has never been an edgy, sexy topic. Faux radicalism, yes. Real discussions of power and class, no.

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