Twisty nails it on “women-only” spaces

I do think there’s something to be said for creating women-only spaces, under certain circumstances and for certain purposes. Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy has decided to make her blog all-woman all the time, and received some immediate push-back in the vein of “But what about trans women?” To which I would reply, “Did you see the part where we said this is a women-only space? By definition that includes trans women.” And yet there still seems to be some debate about this? (I use the term “debate” loosely here, because that term implies some sort of actual good-faith argument from two or more sides, and that’s not really what’s happening here). Twisty takes on said “debate,” and it is a thing of beauty. You should read it. I’m a little iffy on the Dworkin bit at the end (Point 3 in particular), but overall it is an excellent post. Just don’t read the comments — they are extremely bigoted and may be triggering.

Thanks, Lauren, for the link.


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69 comments for “Twisty nails it on “women-only” spaces

  1. February 10, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Yes, trans women are women. Yes, Twisty can make any commenting policy she pleases. But now I’m faced with the issue of if this is woman-only or simply man-free, because I’m neither. I’m nonbinary genderqueer. Things like this don’t necessarily make me angry (or else the entire world would be pissing me off all the time), but they do make me tired, they make me stop trying to participate. Which is a shame, because I strongly support the notion that femininity isn’t inferior to masculinity in people of any gender.

  2. February 10, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I’m definitely on board with “women = trans women by definition”, but I’m still kind of confused because it seems to be “and trans men as well” (although the original post was pretty clear about “no dude privilege!”) without any mention of non-binary people?

    I’m not opposed to “___-only spaces” – I think they can be important and useful, although they are not my personal preference. But the binarism and ciscentrism goes so deep, a simple disclaimer of “women-only” always makes me go hmmm.

  3. February 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I’m seconding the “what about teh genderqueerz” above. I’m female-bodied and -identified at the moment, but I strongly identify as masculine in my gender presentation. I feel like the intent of the rule leaves me out, even as I’m technically included.

    Besides, given the existence of Sarah Palin and Thomas from the Yes Means Yes blog, gender doesn’t necessarily mean being sensible about feminist issues.

  4. Allison
    February 10, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I’ve never gotten over Twisty’s treatment of the bdsm scene

  5. February 10, 2011 at 11:54 am

    ozymandias: Besides, given the existence of Sarah Palin and Thomas from the Yes Means Yes blog, gender doesn’t necessarily mean being sensible about feminist issues.

    Ha! Indeed.

  6. emh
    February 10, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Historically, how many people have declared spaces “women only” and meant to include transwomen? Twisty makes some good points in the second post, which is good to see, but the debate isn’t yet to a point where we can throw it into quotes and ignore it. The “end of transsexuality” bit in the Dworkin quote is evidence enough that we’re still at a point where even trans-allies feel comfortable explaining to transpersons what their experience is and means. Two types of inclusion? That doesn’t seem right.

  7. Florence
    February 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I think Twisty made it very clear in that she specifies that if you are commenting “as a man” you are to stop. I think that leaves it very open to the genderqueer.

  8. Florence
    February 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I’m recalling from memory because I can’t pull up IBTP to verify my quote.

  9. Cere
    February 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    The problem with assuming that “women only” includes trans women by default is that so many times “women only” excludes trans women under the assumption that trans women are REALLY men. Just look at all the cases of support centers for women that excluded trans women without explicitly stating that they do by saying that they’re “women only”. With so much history behind “women only” meaning “No Trans Women Allowed” it’s hard to get defensive when people think it’s just the same thing different day.

    • February 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm

      The problem with assuming that “women only” includes trans women by default is that so many times “women only” excludes trans women under the assumption that trans women are REALLY men. Just look at all the cases of support centers for women that excluded trans women without explicitly stating that they do by saying that they’re “women only”. With so much history behind “women only” meaning “No Trans Women Allowed” it’s hard to get defensive when people think it’s just the same thing different day.

      Oh totally. I didn’t mean to imply that trans people were getting unfairly defensive. I meant to imply that some feminists were being assholes in being all, “But this doesn’t include trans women, RIGHT?”

      Like you said, there is a loooooong history of trans women being excluded from women-only spaces, so yes, of course trans people and allies are going to hear “women-only” and get their hackles up. My problem is with non-trans people who hear “women only” and want to make sure that we’re somehow excluding trans women. Those people are jerks and bigots, is my point.

  10. Azalea
    February 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Trans WOMEN are WOMEN, trans MEN are MEN. Trans women can comment, trans men cannot. I can’t believe there was a debate about this in feminist space…but I am going to go and read it.

  11. Cere
    February 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Jill:
    Oh totally. I didn’t mean to imply that trans people were getting unfairly defensive. I meant to imply that some feminists were being assholes in being all, “But this doesn’t include trans women, RIGHT?”
    Like you said, there is a loooooong history of trans women being excluded from women-only spaces, so yes, of course trans people and allies are going to hear “women-only” and get their hackles up. My problem is with non-trans people who hear “women only” and want to make sure that we’re somehow excluding trans women. Those people are jerks and bigots, is my point.  

    Alright, I was having trouble getting the page to load so I was unsure and misunderstood. It seems like there’s a lot of comments in the post arguing that trans women aren’t really women though because they seem to believe that being raised constantly told that you’re male when you feel otherwise somehow makes you miss out on all the messages meant for little girls and that to transition requires you to wear make up and heels and short skirts. Sounds to me like they’re assuming and telling trans people what their experiences are.

  12. Cate
    February 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Florence: I think Twisty made it very clear in that she specifies that if you are commenting “as a man” you are to stop.I think that leaves it very open to the genderqueer.  

    You know, I think this is an important distinction on an internet that doesn’t know you’re a dog. Is there any way to enforce “You must have the right bits and pieces” or “You must live a particular way” to comment? Of course not.

    So you have a male that wants to comment badly enough that they present themselves as female, just for the duration of the comment. I want to suggest this is a good thing. No matter what the content of the comment, even to pick a name they have to start the thought process, “If I were female…”. It’s the start of real empathy.

  13. Cere
    February 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Cate:
    You know, I think this is an important distinction on an internet that doesn’t know you’re a dog. Is there any way to enforce “You must have the right bits and pieces” or “You must live a particular way” to comment? Of course not.So you have a male that wants to comment badly enough that they present themselves as female, just for the duration of the comment. I want to suggest this is a good thing. No matter what the content of the comment, even to pick a name they have to start the thought process, “If I were female…”.It’s the start of real empathy.  

    I worry that it would result in men who think they’re being clever posting “I’m not commenting as a man, I’m commenting as a person. Why can’t you all just be people like me. :smug:” while denying such things as male privilege.

    And to expand on my last comment. i wasn’t saying trans people don’t experience privilege, just that there are further things than just having privilege and not. There’s the hidden oppressions that happen internally, imposed from the outside but enforced by yourself.

  14. February 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    @TheNerd
    I think ‘women only’ is pretty clearly not the same as ‘man-free’. That is, you would not be welcomed there. Whether or not you should be is another debate.

    @Jadey
    I didn’t see Twisty mentioning trans men as welcome.

    @Ozymandias
    “Besides, given the existence of Sarah Palin and Thomas from the Yes Means Yes blog, gender doesn’t necessarily mean being sensible about feminist issues. ”
    No one is arguing that’s the case; that’s not the justification for women-only spaces.

  15. February 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Her post was fine with me until she got to the final paragraph of Dworkin’s essay. No, having a society built on androgyny does not means the end of what we call the transsexual experience. Being a transsexual (and yes, there are multiple experiences as to what that term means) has a lot to do with what I would call mind-body mapping and is NOT just about socialization or even gender expression. There is a biological aspect to it that, no matter how society evolves into being more gender-spectrum, queer accepting, will always be there. And negating that aspect of it is negating who many of us are. So… mostly good, but with a sour taste at the end.

  16. February 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    LoriA– Perhaps I’m misunderstanding, but I always thought that women-only spaces existed because partially women have experience of gender oppression and are more likely to Get It, and partially due to self-censorship of women around men. But given the existence of feminist open-minded not-likely-to-lead-to-self-censorship men and asshole antifeminist women, it seems less helpful. Am I missing something?

    Cate– I think that’s a really interesting point. I wonder if we’d be able to tell apart men-posting-as-women and real women…

  17. February 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I get very, very nervous when I see self-identified cis allies making arguments that include the phrase “men who become women” or talk about trans* futures in postfeminist societies. I understand you’re trying to help, but when you describe us in terms most radical trans women would never use to describe ourselves, I get a sudden urge to ask that, for the love of god, would they please stop trying to help by just colonizing us more…

  18. Esti
    February 10, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Cate, that’s a really interesting idea. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for it working in any internet forum, where you tend to see people behaving at their worst, but I love the idea of a discussion among people who are honestly interested in understanding other perspectives in which you ask them to only speak as if they were the opposite gender of how they usually present. I wonder if that’s the sort of thing that high school and college groups could use — I did a leadership retreat at my high school for which this would have been a fantastic activity.

  19. February 10, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    @Ozymandias I don’t think the purpose of women-only spaces online is to cut down on anti-feminist trolls or create a sort of echo-chamber (Twisty is usually great at keeping out the trolls, and the divergent comments in that post show that it’s very much not an echo-chamber). Rather, making a space women-only allows a blogger to discuss issues that affect women in particular, in a certain way, without consideration for those who are affected as oppressors or those who are affected as another, discrete oppressed group like genderqueer folks. Yes, it’s possible to do that while still allowing men and gender-non-conforming people to comment, but excluding them allows for a unique opportunity for a community of people approaching the issues from largely the same place, something that’s impossible in the broader patriarchal society.

    I’m speaking in general terms because I can’t load Twisty’s original post about making her blog women-only. She may indeed have different reasons.

  20. February 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    @TheNerd
    After reading Twisty’s original post on her decision, it does seem Jill has misrepresented her new policy; it’s not ‘women-only’ but ‘dude-free.’ I would take it, then, that you’re allowed to comment there, which I personally think makes more sense.

    @Ozymandias
    OK, I read her original post, and she doesn’t really explain the decsion. Jill does seem to have misrepresented it as ‘women-only’ when in fact it’s ‘dude-free.’ So amend my comment to include the genderqueer, which makes more sense to me as they have a lot in common with women in terms of patriarchal oppression (and, in fact, usually have it a lot worse).

  21. February 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Well, its her blog I guess. I can’t load up the reasons why she did it presumably because of server overload. I hope it works out for her and doesn’t become an echo-chamber.

  22. Miss S
    February 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Considering that different groups have unique experiences, I’m not uncomfortable with the _____ only spaces.

    For instance, lesbian women of color have different experiences than straight women of color. I don’t see why making separate spaces for people to feel comfortable is a problem. Perhaps one space wants to discuss interracial same sex relationships, and a heterosexual point of view would be unhelpful.

    Different groups have different priorities, and including everyone means that sometimes your issues don’t get addressed.

  23. February 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Lori A– Okay, I see your point, that does make sense. Although it does create issues of intersectionality (a black woman has a very different experience of sexism than a white woman), I can see where it would improve discussion.

    After thinking about my discomfort with the idea, I’m pretty sure a lot of it comes from the fact that men don’t have these spaces. Even though they may be more necessary for women as the more oppressed class, men are also oppressed by gender norms (boys don’t cry, anyone?) and the same benefits would logically apply. Of course, given all the cultural shit that leaves (most) men invested in masculinity, they’re unlikely to start one, and it’s silly to not have women-only spaces out of a bizarre sense of parity. But it still leaves me intuitively uncomfortable.

  24. sly c
    February 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    We do take note that at the end, she posts approvingly of a comment that puts a sunset clause on all this.

    I mean, kudos for her for taking on her commentariat, a feat i don’t try for with reason, but frankly, I like idea of gender. To be sure, it’s one in desperate need of revision and expansion, but i don’t know that it’s that friendly of her to repeat her premise that transgender experiences are one of “emergency” as the quote puts it. Not sure anyone should be asked to reduce themselves to being the triage patients of the gender revolution.

  25. Drakyn
    February 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Personally, I think anyone saying that trans people will no longer exist in your utopia, no matter how you couche it, is really unfucking cissexist and smells of eugenics/brainwashing. Even if they go on to say that they’ll graciously ~allow~ trans women to consider themselves women for now.

  26. Jim
    February 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    ozymandias: I’m pretty sure a lot of it comes from the fact that men don’t have these spaces.

    But it’s easier for us to create them, at least on line. There are men’s blogs where women tend to participate very seldom. It’s easier because these commenters tend to leave because of mysogyny or simply because they don’t like the style of debate and discussion. Either way it works as a filter keeping most women out.

    It’s quite true that most real-life men’s spaces – hell, boys’ spaces – have been opened to females in ways an to an extent that female spaces have not been opened to males. Girls are on boys baseball teams, boys don’t get – so far – to participate in girlss’ beauty pageants. Maybe that shows that girls have more latitude in gender rles than boys – I can’t think of anyone who is going to be in a position to make a balanced comparison from having experienced both. Then there was the agitation over the Master’s. Whatever.

    I sure don’t have a probelm respecting some blogger’s clear request for me, a man, to stay away, I just don’t. It’s simple respect for that person’s wishes, which harm me not at all. It is a blog, not a publicly funded school, commercial accomodation, government function or whatever. And frankly I don’t see how my opinion on whether that request is bigoted or not is going to be of much interest to that blogger either. And why should it?

  27. February 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Jim– What I meant by “men’s spaces” is specifically spaces where men can discuss how gender impacts their lives, which are distinctly lacking (except for the MRA’s, who have their own problems). Baseball teams and beauty pageants are a different and equally complicated issue.

    Eh. Twisty’s allowed to do what she likes with her blog, and I’m allowed to say I’m a little uncomfortable with it. Fun for everyone.

  28. February 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    LoriA: @Jadey
    I didn’t see Twisty mentioning trans men as welcome.

    No, there wasn’t anything explicit and I may have been misreading something (it was a combination of her making a point of mentioning having a trans man for an assistant, which felt a bit out of the blue, in the post Jill linked, as well as an emphasis on dude = dick in the first post that made me start to question). But that’s why my point was that “women only” (or “dude free”) isn’t sufficiently clear, because there are a lot of different opinions out there on who “counts” as what (and some of her commentariat seems to be seriously hostile and essentialist on this aspect). There are people who, even though they may get that “trans women = women”, don’t necessarily get that “trans men = men”.

    I’m not trying to say Twisty was wrong or bad or totally off the mark, but I think the framework she was operating in to begin with (our cissexist, binarist understanding of sex and gender) made it harder for her to make her point. Emphasizing that “trans women = women” is only part of the issue, albeit one she did handle.

    I do agree that the “dude free” way she framed it was more accurate than calling it a “women-only” space.

  29. Mireille
    February 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    It’s odd… Reading the comments, most of the commenters arguing against trans women inclusion confuse them being women with them acting feminine. So much talk about high heels and lipstick. How many of them went through a period where they experimented with that in adolescence? Trans women in transition are experiencing the adolescence they never knew, and so they will probably try all of those things. But to assume that all trans women are just hyper-feminine caricatures shows either they don’t care, or they judge trans women just as some men judge women. I mean, they’re eager to be part of an online feminist community, do they really think those trans women have not done any research or reading into feminism? That they got all their ideas about women from Playboy of forced-feminization slash fic? And that would somehow lead them to… feminism? Geeeeeeeeezzzz……

    • February 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      It’s odd… Reading the comments, most of the commenters arguing against trans women inclusion confuse them being women with them acting feminine. So much talk about high heels and lipstick. How many of them went through a period where they experimented with that in adolescence? Trans women in transition are experiencing the adolescence they never knew, and so they will probably try all of those things.

      Well, also, I am wearing high heels and lipstick RIGHT NOW. Am I kicked out of the feminist club?

  30. Mireille
    February 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    (I meant the comments on Twisty’s post, not here)

  31. Ostien-Foglet
    February 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I also I identify as non-binary trans/genderqueer. Though it is clear that is it not “Women-only” so much as “dude-free.” However, I think that in it of itself is problematic for the exclusion of transmen (or more transmasculine identified individuals), who historically have been left out of “Women-only” spaces. Let’s not forget that the Mich-fest/Camp Trans divide is as much about the exclusion of transmen then it is about transwomen. Also it’s not like transguys should lose their history because of transition. One again transguys are overlooked, or less generously, looked down on as “dude”-traitors, which is a common experience for transguys/transmasculine folk.

    These types of divides perpetuate the same types of binary models of oppression. If you are going to have a post policy, please don’t reinforce a binary model of oppression. Would it be better to specify “cis-dude-free?” Better, but probably not. I understand the need for spaces where people can feel safe and comfortable, but that does not necessitate exclusion. For example, in a trans/genderqueer group I help facilitate, we have cis people who add a lot of insight to the discussion of gender variance, and we would not have it any other way.

    So why not make it a policy of on-topic posts, specifying that this is not a space for posts from a “dude’s” perspective, rather then assuming post topic-ness based on shitty hierarchies that are better broken down, not upheld. We can make spaces that are inclusive, but specific.

    Also in relation to Cate’s post (but more cynical), would this not perhaps increase trolls and strain the mods even more? I get the point about empathy, but I’m not sure if forcing it is really empathetic and that this policy is just bait for the MRAs out there.

    Also on a side note, the Dworkin essay is bullshit and reinforces a social pathological model for trans people (“faulty socialization,” “emergency condition” wat) and objectifies trans people and reduces us to a symptom of a social ill that needs to be cured. This argument erases the already complex fluid existence of trans people and instead re-inscribes a gender binary, or creates “androgyny” as a privileged identity. I could say a lot more about this kind of frustrating and disappointing crap, but it would be a bit off topic other then to say: we (people) are not simple or static.

  32. February 10, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    @Ozymandias Re: intersectionality: As I said, the point isn’t to make sure everyone has the same views and is coming from the same place on every issue, just that they all have the common experience of being non-male gendered, and therefore experiencing oppression related to that status. The particulars of the oppression of course manifest themselves differently for every person.
    “After thinking about my discomfort with the idea, I’m pretty sure a lot of it comes from the fact that men don’t have these spaces.”
    (*takes a deep breath and tries really hard not to snark*) Actually, you have the whole planet to be able to discuss your issues without concern for women or the genderqueer. I know this because I see it every day. And if you want a place where we aren’t around at all, yeah, you have those too. There are absolutely groups for feminist-identified men to talk about the constraints of the patriarchy’s definitions of masculinity. There’s even an entire academic field: “Men and Masculinities Studies”

    @Jadey “There are people who, even though they may get that “trans women = women”, don’t necessarily get that “trans men = men”. This is certainly true, and I think Twisty could have been clearer about the latter part.

  33. February 10, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    @Drakyn:
    “Personally, I think anyone saying that trans people will no longer exist in your utopia, no matter how you couche it, is really unfucking cissexist and smells of eugenics/brainwashing”

    Well, I guess it’s badly formulated, but I hope the idea is rather that in a post-feminist utopia there would be no separation as they exist now between “cis” or “trans”, just as they would not be between “man” and “woman”…

    Though, well, it’s a bit strange that the formulation is always “in this utopia, transness would no longer exist” and never “in this utopia, cisness would no longer exist”…

  34. Drakyn
    February 10, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    I rather like gender; they can pry mine out of my cold dead hands, kthx. The idea of abolishing gender entirely is an impossibility as well as cissexist; for many people (cis & trans; binary & nonbinary) there is something internal that makes up our gender even though it maps onto what society provides (or doesn’t provide as the case may be). Moreover, any philosophy that says trans people are not the gender we say we are is transphobic; don’t care what the excuse is.

    “Though, well, it’s a bit strange that the formulation is always “in this utopia, transness would no longer exist” and never “in this utopia, cisness would no longer exist”… ”
    Because they’re just thinly veiled attempts at saying we’re wrong/unnatural/not real/etc.

  35. Drakyn
    February 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Note: While I like gender and gender expression, I don’t like the rigid gender binary, coercive assigned-gender roles, sexism, femmephobia, etc. Just wanted to be clear.

  36. February 10, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    However, I think that in it of itself is problematic for the exclusion of transmen (or more transmasculine identified individuals), who historically have been left out of “Women-only” spaces. Let’s not forget that the Mich-fest/Camp Trans divide is as much about the exclusion of transmen then it is about transwomen.

    No.

  37. Azkyroth
    February 10, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    I’m surprised more people aren’t bothered by this, even the people who are smart enough to realize that “it’s her blog, it’s her right” is not an argument germane to whether something is a good idea. I personally would never try to create a “_-only” space for any of the groups I identify with (except, maybe, “parents”), nor would I join one. Not just because of some abstract commitment to inclusiveness and not being a cover-judging bigot, but because I personally do not feel comfortable in spaces from which others are excluded simply because they’re not like me in some specific way. And I have to wonder what’s wrong with anyone who does.

  38. February 10, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    @Azkyroth
    Agreed on being uncomfortable in “_-only” spaces. A point sort of in relation the the “it’s her blog, does not preclude if it is a good idea of not,” depends on what you mean by a good idea. There would be an element of self-selection outside of the non-inclusion; only people who are included and don’t have a problem with this exclusion would participate. So if you want to create an exclusive space that is rather uncritical, then mission accomplished.

    I’m sorry for the snark, but this cissexist bullshit (esspecially the cissexism in the Dworkin piece others brought up), is so frustrating but as sad as it is unsurprising. I’m sick of people speaking “for” others without knowing anything about their own experience. Sound familiar?

  39. Tony
    February 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I’ll admit I was a little stung by Twisty’s comment that “when a man hangs around the feminists, it’s weird enough.” That was taking it beyond her particular blog to targeting all men, including myself, that participate in feminist blogs, or in any feminist activities period, for that matter. Is it weird to be caught up in the causes of other people? Is it only normal to advocate for one’s own group? I really wonder, because the latter does seem to be the default in the world.

  40. February 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    I saw this blog post mentioned on the Feminist Allies page, and it rather bothered me. Twisty has a problem with trolling douchebags, and instead of banning trolling douchebags, she bans men?

    Whether or not she intends it, she’s implying that men have something inherently wrong with them and/or their arguments- maybe men are just stupid and they don’t get it, or they are all sexist bigots, or etc. Basically, men are all sexist trolling douchebags, she says.

  41. Unree
    February 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    This is the IBTP policy as I understand it: Men may comment, but they have to do so in one of two ways. They can either (1) ‘be grandfathered in,’ even using their male-sounding nyms, if they have been posting long enough in a way that doesn’t arrogate male privilege to themselves, or (2) claim no dudely identity in their posts. Trans men are thus welcome, as are trans women (Jill was very quick to say absolutely! to that), but everyone has to keep his man-ness to himself. Sounds great to me.

  42. Claire N
    February 10, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    “It’s quite true that most real-life men’s spaces – hell, boys’ spaces – have been opened to females in ways an to an extent that female spaces have not been opened to males. Girls are on boys baseball teams, boys don’t get – so far – to participate in girlss’ beauty pageants. Maybe that shows that girls have more latitude in gender rles than boys – I can’t think of anyone who is going to be in a position to make a balanced comparison from having experienced both. Then there was the agitation over the Master’s. Whatever.”

    OH FFS. We’re playing what about the menz now? Are you serious that girls have more latitude in gender roles than boys? Instead of harping on about boy’s exclusion…how about we think about why boys like to disassociate themselves from the feminine and girls — and even when they do not, the association can be largely for the emotional support that girls can provide. It would also be good for you to think about why girls get shit for taking on so-called boy gender roles.

    In relation to the twisty post, I agree with Ceres and Drakyn — however I did like twisty’s post until she posted the Dworkin thing. Voz_Latina in the comments has covered the problems with the Andrea Dworkin bit .

  43. Claire N
    February 10, 2011 at 9:22 pm
  44. February 10, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Unree: claim no dudely identity in their posts. Trans men are thus welcome […] but everyone has to keep his man-ness to himself. Sounds great to me.

    Maybe it’s just the way you’ve described it, but if that’s actually the policy, it sounds pretty gross to me and not terribly welcoming to trans men who’ve had to fight for others to recognize their male ID. I’m not saying all trans men would be opposed to participating while obscuring that part of their identity, but I’m guessing it would be a fairly awful, even triggering, prospect for some and I hope that a policy would be phrased in a way that recognizes that.

    On a personal level, I’m generally ID-ed as female and I go along with that out of apathy and exhaustion, but binary gender really doesn’t make sense to me and I can’t figure out how I would parse out and suppress my man-ness, if that’s even possible.

    All I know is I would take ten of Kristen’s J’s Husbands over one Quiet Riot Girl any day of the week. Nothing about this has made me the slightest bit interested in following IBTP.

  45. February 10, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    LoriA– I understand about the intersectionality, and that totally does make sense.

    I’m female-bodied, so I’m not sure why you’re referring to ‘you’ here. :) But while there may be groups for feminist men (most obviously NOMAS), I’m not aware of any that are men-only. And Men and Masculinities Studies definitely hasn’t penetrated as far into academe as Women’s Studies has. Again, this is not saying anything about the validity of Twisty’s choice, or anything against women-only spaces, although it is saying “Men? Those men-only feminist discussion spaces? GET ON THAT.”

    And “the entire culture”, while man-centered, is centered around a particular archetype of masculinity that very few men actually fit. An improvement on the women’s situation (it’s at least possible to be the ideal man), this still fucking sucks as an area to discuss how sexism impacts men. :)

  46. February 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    @ozymandias:
    “But while there may be groups for feminist men (most obviously NOMAS), I’m not aware of any that are men-only.”

    There was a little one in my town, but it didn’t last. The thing is, I guess it’s not seen as “vital” as some women/dykes-only spaces can be when you are constantly harassed and stigmatised both for being female and feminist and you need some safer space in order to relax a little.

  47. Li
    February 10, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Yeah, so I work with autonomous spaces quite a bit, primarily autonomous queer spaces, and my experience is that those heterosexual people who actually have good enough queer politics that they could participate in such a space without stomping on people with their privilege tend to respond with “sure, if that’s what you need, go for it”, and exempt themselves from the space.

    If you’re a man, and your response to a wom*n-autonomous space is “but what about meeee” instead of respecting the needs of the wom*n setting up and participating in that space, then you’re frankly not the kind of man who deserves an exemption anyway.

    Twisty’s not going to be examining anyone’s Ladycard; asking men to exempt themselves from ONE BLOG on the entire Internets really shouldn’t be a big deal.

  48. PrettyAmiable
    February 10, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Tony: Is it weird to be caught up in the causes of other people? Is it only normal to advocate for one’s own group

    I don’t think this is what Twisty meant to convey — though I am not Twisty (obvi) so I can’t know for sure. The following is entirely my conjecture.

    What I think she meant when she said that it’s “weird” when dudes hang out with feminists is that there’s an implicit assumption that women, trans* and genderqueer people are there because they buy into the movement – whereas men might buy into the movement, or might be predatory. There’s some time where you have to prove yourself because accepting someone who isn’t on board can result in significant amount of pain. If this question runs deeper (i.e. if you’re really asking does Tony belong here), for what it’s worth, I think you contribute.

    Jadey: All I know is I would take ten of Kristen’s J’s Husbands over one Quiet Riot Girl any day of the week.

    LikeLikeLikeLikeLikeLikeLikeLikeLikeLike. It’s a great idea, and I’m excited to see how it’ll work out, but that thread is a vivid reminder that gender identification isn’t a surefire way to avoid the owies.

  49. February 10, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Drakyn: Personally, I think anyone saying that trans people will no longer exist in your utopia, no matter how you couche it, is really unfucking cissexist and smells of eugenics/brainwashing. Even if they go on to say that they’ll graciously ~allow~ trans women to consider themselves women for now.  

    Yup, exactly.

    I’m sorry, Twisty, but the fact is: your space is not safe for trans* folk, and your post, Twisty, is exactly why not. You still pine for the day that we’ll be eliminated. I’m not interested in dialogue with someone who continues to advocate for our cultural genocide.

  50. Alara Rogers
    February 10, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    OH FFS. We’re playing what about the menz now? Are you serious that girls have more latitude in gender roles than boys? Instead of harping on about boy’s exclusion…how about we think about why boys like to disassociate themselves from the feminine and girls — and even when they do not, the association can be largely for the emotional support that girls can provide. It would also be good for you to think about why girls get shit for taking on so-called boy gender roles.

    Actually, this is absolutely serious. Men have *much* less latitude in gender role expression than women do, in the United States, England and Australia (I know a lot less about gender role expression in places where the primary language isn’t English). I’m not even sure why you’re trying to argue against it; teen girls who wear pants are rarely at risk of being beaten for it. People at the extremes of “opposite-sex” expression suffer horrific oppression no matter what gender they are, but women who exhibit some “masculine” traits are respected for it as often as they’re denigrated for it, whereas men who exhibit some “feminine” traits are almost universally treated like crap by the majority of people.

    That being said, men are much more heavily involved in policing gender roles for both sexes, and much more likely to do so in violent ways, and much more likely to use legal power to codify gender role expression into law, than women are. I believe it is fair to say that the primary oppressors of men are men, that the machinery of patriarchy (which Hurts Men Too, remember) is kept running by men, and that if every man who has ever tried to police male identity by shaming their male friends for Not Being Real Men, expressing transphobia or homophobia, or physically assaulting trans people (from anywhere on the binary continuum), gay men, or “effeminate” men, vanished from the planet, the Serena Joys and “I want a real man, that’s why I date sexist assholes” bimbos that remained behind could not keep gender role policing alive.

    The reason “what about the menz!” isn’t a particularly appropriate response is not that men are not oppressed, or heavily policed and shamed into fitting a narrow band of gender role expression. They are. But their oppressors are also men. Few men who experience shaming for mild “feminine” behaviors can say they have never shamed another man for mild “feminine” behaviors. Men, as a category, have a *lot* of consciousness-raising to do on their own before they can start seriously grappling with the ways in which gender role policing hurts men.

    Unfortunately, this is going to be very hard for them. Women are oppressed by men, so it was relatively easy for women to identify that they were being oppressed, because the category the oppressors belong to is seen as a binary opposite. So women were the first to identify gender oppression and did the vast majority of the work in fighting it. Men cannot simply step in and use the paradigm that worked for women; women are not the oppressors of men, which is why the MRA movement, that I originally thought could be a good counterpart to feminism, is a pathetic waste. MRAs do not spend any time identifying the *actual* source of oppression of men, which is primarily other men; they make up fantasies about how women secretly rule the world. And, because thinking about gender role oppression has been classified as a female thing to do, due to the fact that women have done most of it, the *same* toxic subtractive masculinity, the policing by men of male gender roles such that men are not allowed to do anything coded as feminine, prevents the men who need to be freed from gender role policing from doing the kind of work that would help them because internalized gender role policing prevents them from being willing to think about gender roles.

    If men wanted to create a male-only space to talk about internalized gender role policing and how they can combat their own and other men’s terror of violating the parameters of “manhood”, I wouldn’t object to it. But most of the men who attempt to work at solving gender role oppression of men are either staunchly feminist-identified and would probably be uncomfortable excluding women from their space, or have misidentified the problem and think what they need is more oppression of women rather than less oppression of men. Also, a male-only space for men to talk about how men oppress other men and what they as men can do about it would be rife with male trolls coming along to prove the scope of the problem by attempting to sissy-shame men working on gender for working on gender on the grounds that working on gender is a girly thing. The only problem a male-only space would solve is the phenomenon of feminist women completely dismissing the problems men face because women have worse problems… which is a real phenomenon, and a problem, as demonstrated by the post I’m responding to, but I think it would be a problem very easily solved by simply designating the space as one to talk about the gender role oppression of men, where talking about how the gender role oppression of men does not exist because the gender role oppression of women is worse is off-topic. Feminist women aren’t likely to go trolling men’s spaces for the lulz, and male trolls would present a far greater issue.

    So while I agree with ozymandias that the lack of spaces for men to talk about how gender roles affect them and to work out how to solve this is a problem, and I disagree with Claire in that I do actually think that men are punished more for transgressing gender boundaries than women are (at least now, at least in countries where the dominant culture is a descendant largely of England), I don’t think it’s a problem that would ever be helped by the creation of male-only spaces. Men are the oppressors of women (as categories, not necessarily as individuals), so it may be helpful to exclude men from a space where women talk about their oppression. (Though personally I wouldn’t find value in it.) But men are also the oppressors of men, so a male-only space doesn’t actually help there.

  51. February 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Claire N: Voz_Latina in the comments has covered the problems with the Andrea Dworkin bit . Claire N

    I didn’t see any comments from voz? Maybe Twisty deleted them because how DARE a trans woman be angry on her blog, after all whatsamatterwithus, why can’t we be bowing and scraping in gratitude for being let in?

  52. February 10, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    GallingGalla:
    I didn’t see any comments from voz?Maybe Twisty deleted them because how DARE a trans woman be angry on her blog, after all whatsamatterwithus, why can’t we be bowing and scraping in gratitude for being let in?  

    Crap. It’d pay me to read a bit further.

  53. Cate
    February 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Esti: Cate, that’s a really interesting idea.I don’t hold out a lot of hope for it working in any internet forum, where you tend to see people behaving at their worst, but I love the idea of a discussion among people who are honestly interested in understanding other perspectives in which you ask them to only speak as if they were the opposite gender of how they usually present.I wonder if that’s the sort of thing that high school and college groups could use — I did a leadership retreat at my high school for which this would have been a fantastic activity.  

    Sorry about the response delay. I know I’m a bit naive, but realistically, I know there are always going to be trolls. Still, Twisty seems to have that well under control, so we’ll see what happens.

  54. February 11, 2011 at 1:36 am

    GallingGalla:
    I’m sorry, Twisty, but the fact is: your space is not safe for trans* folk, and your post, Twisty, is exactly why not.You still pine for the day that we’ll be eliminated.I’m not interested in dialogue with someone who continues to advocate for our cultural genocide.  

    Hopefully coercive gender assignments will be ended in favor of personal discovery. I shudder to imagine the bland mono-color world we’d live in without gender diversity. Instead of eliminating gender, let us celebrate it for the colorful spectrum it is.

  55. Kristen J.
    February 11, 2011 at 3:28 am

    Re: Women only spaces generally

    I think women only spaces in the social justice arena make sense if their purpose is to provide women a space to discuss the oppression they experience free of the perspective and needs of the privileged. Privilege has a tendency to center itself in any conversation. Its not even necessarily intentional…its just that privilege makes privileged person think that things are about them even when they’re aren’t. I mean, how many important conversations on feministe have been derailed because someone who is white, or cis, or TAB (etc) wanted to (1) be educated or (2) discuss how your perspective effected them? Unfortunately its hard to have a comment policy that says: No one who hasn’t checked their privilege at the door. (Particularly since nearly everyone drags it out from time to time, myself included.) So some people target what they consider to be the locus of privilege and exclude those privileged people.

    Does a woman only space have its downside? Sure, IME it can create an echo chamber especially with respect to gender conformity policing where sometimes I think the movement deconstructs femininity in a way that reinforces masculinity. But there’s a balance that must be struck until we can create a privilegometer to prevent people from gumming up the works. All that said, its not my personal cup of tea.

  56. Treefinger
    February 11, 2011 at 3:35 am

    @Jadey: “I’m not saying all trans men would be opposed to participating while obscuring that part of their identity, but I’m guessing it would be a fairly awful, even triggering, prospect for some and I hope that a policy would be phrased in a way that recognizes that.”

    Well, it didn’t bother me (a trans man who has pointed this out in recent comments on IBTP without being thrown out or anything) because as far as I read it her blog policy is “gender-oppressed people (inc. cis women and all trans/gender variant people) can comment until they say something fucked up, cis males can comment but will be held in suspiscion until it’s clear they aren’t douchebags (i.e.: no “as a man, ___” bullshit, or if a dude on the facebook page says something off, zero tolerance)”. The presence of non-idiot cis men like Norbizness and Comrade Physioprof remains because they’re well-loved characters who don’t make posts all about them and the fact they are men. As a trans man I’m happy to be in a similar role to them- I can contribute to the conversation, still have people aware of my identity, and not make it all about masculinity at the same time.

    By “dude” (or hanging Chad, etc.) Twisty usually means obnoxious men, men that don’t get it. Which, true, to IBTP means the majority of men, but still. I don’t take it personally. Many of her commenters don’t get it, but I’ll still visit the site because I’m pleased that a radical feminist (as opposed to liberal feminist) space exists with a curator that has a more thoughtful perspective on trans people.

    As for Dworkin/Twisty saying dysphoria/trans identities wouldn’t exist after a revolution- they mean it wouldn’t need a separate label of being “trans”, and most of the suffering associated with it would be eliminated. A person changing their body would become simply No Big Deal and wouldn’t carry with it the connotations it now has. I know people were instructed not to read the comments (many are very triggering so I don’t recommend it either), but someone did bring up “many trans people’s problems are with the sexed nature of their physical bodies”, and Twisty agreed, but simply said that wouldn’t pose a “problem” in an androgynous society the way it does now.

  57. Megan
    February 11, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Jill:
    Well, also, I am wearing high heels and lipstick RIGHT NOW. Am I kicked out of the feminist club?  

    According to a lot of what I have read on Twisty’s blog, mostly in the comments: Yes. Wearing high heels, makeup or anything “sexy” automatically means that you’ve been “brainwashed” by the patriarchy and thus it negates all feminist thought, activism, or blogging you’ve done. Which is where some of the bigots are coming from when it comes to excluding transwomen–some (not all) trans women express their femaleness through traditional symbols of femininity, like makeup and skirts; some folks latch onto that as reducing being a woman to wearing skirts (skirts! the horror!) and come to the conclusion that trans women are anti-feminist.

    Which is why I don’t read her blog anymore. It induced too much rage. After too many comment threads that basically policed women’s sexuality and told them not to wear/say/do anything that a straight man might find attractive (gosh, that doesn’t sound like a tactic of the patriarchy at all), I decided to take my pageviews elsewhere.

  58. Jeremy Sanders
    February 11, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Drakyn: Personally, I think anyone saying that trans people will no longer exist in your utopia, no matter how you couche it, is really unfucking cissexist and smells of eugenics/brainwashing. Even if they go on to say that they’ll graciously ~allow~ trans women to consider themselves women for now.  

    Is Dworkin saying that transpeople as a class will no longer exist, or that people who would in the current system be identified as transgender would no longer exist? Admittedly, saying “transpeople will no longer exist” implies the latter, in the same way that saying “black people will no longer exist” implies genocide more strongly than it implies the creation of a society in which race is no longer a meaningful category. However, a closer reading of Dworkin’s argument suggests that she means the former.

    Dworkin’s politics is based on the abolition of gender and sex class all-together. The focus on classes in her work can be traced back to the Marxist-style of radical feminism espoused by Shulamith Firestone, whose Dialectic of Sex is the major influence of Woman Hating. In the same way that a socialist utopian might envision a society in which the poor will no longer exist, Dworkin is promoting revolution to a society in which women, both cis and trans, no longer exist.

    This is not to say that such class elimination cannot be done wrong. To return again to the example of race, a model of a raceless society premised on the integration of everyone into an essentially white culture is obviously different than one that principly includes the elimination of the white supremacist structures that dictate “white” culture as the norm. Dworkin’s fluid androgyny, however, seems a far cry from making everyone cis-gendered.

  59. February 11, 2011 at 9:45 am

    On the “make-up/heels/lipstick/femininity” thing, and particularly the comments on Twisty’s thread that suggested that trans women doing these things “proved” they were a problem.

    Here’s the one that I picked out as an example:

    how can the radical feminist, in good faith, ever support the purchase of lipstick, make-up, high heels and other uncomfortable and unnecessary female-attire (but apparently essential to transitioning), even if it is for the purposes of helping out in an emergency?

    The reason these things are “apparently essential” is because doctors make them so, not because of anything inherent in the attitudes of trans women. I don’t know how it is in the USA, but here in the UK you need to get two psych doctors to sign off on the idea that you are “really” a woman before you can get GRS. This generally takes the form of having to conform heavily to the patriarchal notions of femininity for long enough to convince the patriarchal powers-that-be that you mean it. Just to have one’s appropriate gender recognised in law, one needs to spend 2 years living in the “target” or “acquired” gender, and guess what that means if you have patriarchal powers-that-be checking up on your “progress”?

    But I thought that the reasons that (radical) feminists were against lipstick and all the rest were based around the fact that they didn’t like women being forced to perform femininity for patriarchy’s benefit. If trans women are forced even more so, it suggests the solution is not “blame the victim (i.e. trans person)”!

  60. Mireille
    February 11, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Jill:
    Well, also, I am wearing high heels and lipstick RIGHT NOW. Am I kicked out of the feminist club?  

    I was going to reply but Megan said it really well.

    I didn’t mean to express any disregard of what any woman wears but I didn’t express myself very well and I understand why it looked that way. I was really just trying to make a point about how trans women in particular are always seen as what they wear rather than who they are.

    Also, no matter what trans women do, per some anti-trans feminists, it will always be performance of femininity rather than being a woman no matter what they do. So the problem, at its base, isn’t what trans women do (it will either be too male or just feminine performance), it’s that anti-trans feminists discard trans experiences as inauthentic and non-woman no matter what.

  61. Jeremy Sanders
    February 11, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Some of the objections to the Dworkin quote seem to be based on a misunderstanding of a bit of her jargon. Earlier in Woman Hating, Dworkin establishes a definition for the term “primary emergency”, referring to the system of oppression under which a person experiences the most immediate distress, using as example black people in parts of America and Jews in Nazi Germany. It is part of a discussion that is a fore-runner to discussions of intersectionality in later feminist works, not an attempt to medicalize or objectify transpeople.

    This blog post from LonerGrrrl includes the passage that establishes this definition (as well as being a worthwhile read in its own right).

  62. February 11, 2011 at 9:58 am

    As a trans/intergender person, I fully support Twisty’s right, and, if she sees it this way, her political obligation, to set up her own blog space as a place that is only for people raised as girls who have grown up and are living their adult lives as women. And as a space that is only for people who, from day one, had their bodies marked as “a member of a class of people who exist for men’s rape”. And, as a space only for people who have never, ever had male privileges, who have never been socialised to be males, boys, or men. Ever. (Regardless of whether they, like me, EVER felt like a boy or a man: I have not.) I would word it that way, if I were going to put such a boundary out on my blog. All the people here who adamantly declare things like “trans women ARE women, and trans men ARE men” are not doing us trans people any favors, and if you’re not trans I am asking you to stop doing so. You are buying into a dangerous binary that makes people one or the other only. Many of us are not: we are trans, we are intergender, we are intersex and some of us choose NOT to identify as women or as men. That goes for many genderqueers too. Stop policing us, please. And, especially STOP speaking for us. We can speak for ourselves!

    Many of us are neither, and many of us are TRANS identifed. Would you deny us that identity by forcing us into the “it’s one of the other” camps? Dean Spade is an excellent example of non-misogynistic non-male supremacist responsible identification. He is identified as TRANS, and that’s that. So trans-only spaces are for him, and people raised as girls who are now woman-identified would not be a space open to him. And he was born identified as female and raised as a girl. His viewpoint and his politics AS A TRANS PERSON, makes political and social sense to me. The views above are so damned conservative when it comes to gender; they’re not even liberal. And the idea that some people who grew up with male privileges now get to tell women raised as girls who they can and cannot socialise with is called one thing: same ol’ male domination, all over again.

  63. February 11, 2011 at 10:00 am

    The commentariat is the reason why I hardly read IBTP. I’m always tempted to start reading the comments – and then I shortly get tempted to punch my computer screen. When people in all seriousness decide they want to have themselves a little “trans debate” – while acting as if no actual trans person could possibly be reading the post and comments – it strikes me as incredibly dehumanizing. And that’s hardly the worst of it.

  64. February 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Hi Jill,

    Here’s my new post on this subject. I welcome respectful engagement by people who, if not trans, don’t pretend to speak for trans people. And from anyone who is deeply respectful of women raised as girls.

    Who Gets To Define “Women-Only Space”? People WITH male privilege, or people WITHOUT male privilege?

  65. Allison
    February 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

    “All the people here who adamantly declare things like “trans women ARE women, and trans men ARE men” are not doing us trans people any favors, and if you’re not trans I am asking you to stop doing so.”

    Would you prefer ‘all the people here’ to deny that trans women who do identify with a binary gender are women?

  66. February 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Julian Real: And from anyone who is deeply respectful of women raised as girls.

    Jesus fucking Christ. Here we go again with “women raised as girls” as a means of telling trans women that we’re not women.

    Julian Real: And as a space that is only for people who, from day one, had their bodies marked as “a member of a class of people who exist for men’s rape”. And, as a space only for people who have never, ever had male privileges, who have never been socialised to be males, boys, or men. Ever.

    Typical transphobic radfem talk. This is exactly the language that radfems use to deny the experiences and oppression of trans women and CAMAB trans people. This is exactly the language that radfems use to equate us simplistically to men. This is exactly the language used to turn away abused trans women from DV shelters. I am so sick of this that I just want to fucking smash this fucking keyboard of mine.

    Looks like it’s time for me to take Feministe off my feed reader once again for another 6-month hiatus.

    Goodbye, people.

    • February 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm

      Ugh, GG, I didn’t see that comment until now. I’m shutting down this thread because this is ridiculous. I apologize.

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