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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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88 Responses

  1. EG
    EG March 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    Wow. Her work is part of some very meaningful memories for me. I’m so sorry.

  2. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl March 28, 2012 at 6:07 pm |

    Whatever is unnamed, undepicted in images, whatever is omitted from biography, censored in collections of letters, whatever is misnamed as something else, made difficult-to-come-by, whatever is buried in the memory by the collapse of meaning under an inadequate or lying language—this will become, not merely unspoken, but unspeakable. — Adrienne Rich

    What a loss. :(

  3. Adrienne
    Adrienne March 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm |

    What a loss. Both my Mom and I were taken in by her work–enough so that Mom named me after her back in ’82

  4. shigekuni
    shigekuni March 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm |

    I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
    Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
    you’ve been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
    our friend the poet comes into my room
    where I’ve been writing for days,
    drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
    and I want to show her one poem
    which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
    and wake. You’ve kissed my hair
    to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
    I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .
    and I laugh and fall dreaming again
    of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
    to move openly together
    in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
    which carried the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.

    I’m devastated. :(

  5. Donna L
    Donna L March 28, 2012 at 8:59 pm |

    I like Adrienne Rich’s poetry, what I’ve read of it. I don’t think she was another Mary Daly (at least not quite so publicly), But is there a single prominent feminist of her generation whose history bears examination? Is it enough to say, “she was a woman of her time and everybody back then despised trans women, so what’s the big deal?”

    Because unless Janice Raymond was completely lying — and one would think Adrienne Rich would have said so at some point if that were the case — it isn’t exactly something for Ms. Rich’s admirers to be proud of that Raymond claims that she was involved in the creation of The Transsexual Empire, perhaps the most repulsive work of trans-hatred ever published, easily matching anything Greer or Daly ever wrote. The acknowledgements to that infamous book state:

    Adrienne Rich has been a very special friend and critic.
    She has read the manuscript through all of its stages and
    provided resources, creative criticism, and constant encouragement. Her work, and her recognition of my work,
    have meant a great deal to me in the process of this writing.

    I’m not about to go plumb through Rich’s writings to see if she was prone to expressing transphobia directly. I’ve had to cope with seeing enough of that kind of expression lately to last me quite a while. Part of me doesn’t even want to know. But just because she was a great poet doesn’t necessarily mean she was a great person.

  6. EG
    EG March 28, 2012 at 9:39 pm |

    Shit. I was worried that would have been the case.

    I think there may be reason to believe she changed her tune, as she is also thanked in the acknowledgments to Leslie Feinberg’s Transgender Warriors. She’s also thanked by Minnie Bruce Pratt in S/He. I hope that’s what it means.

  7. number9
    number9 March 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm |

    The stars will come out over and over
    the hyacinths rise like flames
    from the windswept turf down the middle of upper Broadway
    where the desolate take the sun
    the days will run together and stream into years
    as the rivers freeze and burn
    and I ask myself and you, which of our visions will claim us
    which will we claim
    how will we go on living
    how will we touch, what will we know
    what will we say to each other.
    - Nights and Days

    She was a great poet. I also hope that she had changed her tune.

  8. Donna L
    Donna L March 28, 2012 at 10:02 pm |

    I hope that’s what it means

    Me too. People are capable of change.

  9. Jadey
    Jadey March 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm |

    I’m not about to go plumb through Rich’s writings to see if she was prone to expressing transphobia directly. I’ve had to cope with seeing enough of that kind of expression lately to last me quite a while. Part of me doesn’t even want to know. But just because she was a great poet doesn’t necessarily mean she was a great person.

    I’ll admit, the first thing I did after seeing this post was start Google searching “Adrienne Rich transphobia”. There wasn’t reams of specific stuff that came up, but she did seem be implicated in the general attitude trend of her contemporaries. Doesn’t make me joyful about her death or anything, but it sure says something about the poisonous histories we can inherit. It’s true that no one is perfect, but anything tainted by that particular legacy leaves me pretty cold.

  10. EG
    EG March 28, 2012 at 10:26 pm |

    People are capable of change.

    They are. I know Joanna Russ has changed her views and expressed regret over her transphobia. Rich herself was a great proponent of “seeing with new eyes,” as she defined revision; I hope she had the depth of vision to extend that practice to her own thought as well.

  11. Jamie Stacey
    Jamie Stacey March 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm |

    Though I am critical of her involvement in The Transexual Empire, I am grateful for the hard work that Adrienne Rich put into much of her poetry to challenge the norms of relationships, both between women & between women and men; for (cliche as it is) making the personal political; and most of all for her writings on honesty as a process.

    This is one of my favorite quotes

    An honorable human relationship– that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love”– is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

    It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

    It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

    It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

    I kind of think that her whole artistic career was just that, refining the “truths” she could tell her fellow human beings.

    I will resist taking up space with more quotes, but a couple of years ago I thought the 21 Love Poems were so beautiful that I wrote a choral setting to one of them (The Floating Poem, Unnumbered). Sadly, the performance was cancelled because of discomfort with the text, and I never got to send her a recording.

  12. Donna L
    Donna L March 28, 2012 at 10:52 pm |

    And then there’s Emma Goldman (don’t worry, it’s good!)

    http://thedistantpanic.com/2012/03/25/proof-emma-goldman-would-be-a-tranarchist/

    [Sorry for the detour; I couldn't resist.]

  13. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm |

    Seriously, until someone comes up with a quote of Rich regretting her participation in purging trans women from feminist communities and repudiating Raymond and her work (oh, and just because it irks me, retracting the claim that lesbians don’t want sex, they want sisterhood, or whatever the fuck that was) and actively supporting trans women, I do not care who likes her work how much or who else has cited her. She has contributed to the harm and deaths of uncounted trans women by assisting in the creation of a that book. She is not a loss.

  14. Adrienne Rich | Roles
    Adrienne Rich | Roles March 29, 2012 at 3:41 am |

    [...] written by Stella Duffy, on the feminist law professors blog, in the New York Times, and on the feminist.us blog which list her successes and her poems. No doubt, she’ll be the subject in the flurry of [...]

  15. Lauren
    Lauren March 29, 2012 at 7:36 am |

    Love Adrienne Rich. Here’s another one from her earlier works: Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers.

  16. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage March 29, 2012 at 8:03 am |

    @11

    I want to hug Emma after reading that, then dance poorly. I’d like to get a t-shirt with her face on it.

    (done threadjacking. sorry.)

  17. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 8:52 am |

    It is absolutely amazing how Goldman manages to be so absolutely right all the damn time. LotusBecca, make sure to click on that link!

  18. rayuela23
    rayuela23 March 29, 2012 at 9:01 am |

    ‎”… such hands might carry out unavoidable violence
    with such restraint, with such a grasp
    of the range and limits of violence
    that violence ever after would be obsolete.”

    Amazing poet and really really wonderful essayist. I absolutely loved Of Lies, Secrets and Silence, and highly recommend it.

  19. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 9:04 am |

    She is not a loss.

    Isn’t that rather like saying that Yeats’s death was no loss because of his classist elitism and sexism and interest in fascism? It’s true that he was immersed in hateful and harmful ideas, but it’s also true that he was probably the greatest poet of the 20th century and a driving force for Irish independence. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t an elitist and sexist who took an interest in fascism, but those don’t mean that his death was no loss, either.

  20. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong March 29, 2012 at 10:08 am |

    She is not a loss.

    You could say the same thing about Ghandi, or Mandela, or Malcolm X, or MLK, or… anyone. There is nobody who is totally immune from contamination by means of constant, unending exposure to oppressive, kyriarchical societies. We can celebrate the people who stood up to improve the world even if they weren’t able to shed every single piece of baggage they were saddled with at birth.

    …couldn’t resist posting here again. Bad ambling.

  21. tj
    tj March 29, 2012 at 10:27 am |

    Also regarding “She is not a loss…”

    If we’re going to dismiss an authors’ works in their entirety because of some of their views or lives do not line up with our ideals, then you can also dismiss Leo Tolstoy (not exactly progressive toward women) Gandhi (ditto) A.A. Milne (distant dad) Laura Ingalls Wilder (racist toward Native Americans, troubled relationship with daughter) Charlotte Perkins Gilman and other early progressives (proponents of eugenics, not exactly great for decades for people with disabilities, esp. children) just to name a few…

    Nobody’s perfect, welcome to the human race. If everyone waited until they thought were to try and share their insights or otherwise make a contribution to society, what all would we have lost, and what would be accomplished?

    RIP Adrienne, and thanks for your words that made other worlds possible for me when I was a teenager.

  22. Donna L
    Donna L March 29, 2012 at 10:49 am |

    As has been discussed her before, one always has to draw one’s own lines in deciding whether one can continue to enjoy and appreciate a work of art once one learns that its creator wasn’t necessarily an admirable person in every way. Unfortunately, the problem comes up all too often, and transphobia is hardly the only subject about which it becomes an issue for me. As a general rule, though, I do think that people (and I very specifically do not mean anyone here) seem all too willing to look past problematic aspects relating to transphobia, and do so much more readily than they would for issues like racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism (not that I like Ezra Pound’s poetry anyway!), or even homophobia.

    weren’t able to shed every single piece of baggage they were saddled with at birth.

    That’s an interesting way of putting it. But that characterization would hardly be appropriate (I’m being charitable here) for someone who — according to the book’s author — actively participated in the creation of one of the most hateful and disgusting “mainstream” books published in a very long time, a book that’s been hugely influential in an extremely negative way.

    So it really all depends on whether one believes what Janice Raymond said in her acknowledgments, and whether, even if it’s true, Ms. Rich changed in a positive way.* If the answer to those questions is yes and no, respectively, I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as MadGastronomer — and really couldn’t even if I were so inclined, since it would just cause me to be labeled as a vicious angry t****y, so that’s what allies are for! — but it would make me a lot less likely to want to read more of her poetry. Even if none of her poems had anything to do with the issue or reflected her feelings about it.

    Donna

    * I think I would need more proof than was provided by the anonymous person who claimed in various forums after Mary Daly’s death that she had privately repudiated her transphobic views late in her life. Even if that were true — and I found the claim about as convincing as I find the contemporary pamphlets touting the purported deathbed conversion of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, or the claims by certain people that Harry Benjamin changed his views late in his extremely long life — such a private repudiation is entirely meaningless in light of the overwhelming weight of Daly’s published writings.

  23. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 29, 2012 at 11:17 am |

    @DonnaL: Being cis, I can definitely get away with saying much nastier things here.

    @Everyone who has a problem with what I said: Seriously, this is the Polanski Defense. I do not care how pretty her poems are. Uncounted people have died because of that damned book. She helped it come into existence. She, personally, helped drive Sandy Stone out of Olivia Records. She’s no loss by me. If that upsets you, too bad. But I think it’s very telling how many people are willing to wave off criticism of her and tell those of us who are angry that we shouldn’t be so mad about this.

    What will you say about Janice Raymond when she dies? Will you laud her, too? She is still actively campaigning for laws that cause the deaths of trans people. Oh, but she did some good things for feminism, so we should talk about that instead! Seriously, people, shit like this is where the perception in the trans community that trans people, especially trans women, are not valued and are not treated as women comes from. If you claim to be an ally to trans people, to trans women, this is one of the moments to act like it. Don’t tell me how she did good things, too. Don’t tell me I shouldn’t say things like that. Actually criticize her. Actually talk about the things she’s done wrong. Don’t fucking defend her. Don’t talk about how you hope she’s changed. Talk about how we can change today’s feminisms to work on behalf of trans women as well as cis women. Take fire from one more of the old transmisogynistic guard passing (however much you liked her poetry), and take the opportunity to clean house.

    Seriously, if you like her poetry, then you do, and whatever. But don’t wring your hands and tell me I shouldn’t say such things, as if I don’t have reason to.

  24. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm |

    And because I just caught something I missed on the first pass:

    If we’re going to dismiss an authors’ works in their entirety because of some of their views or lives do not line up with our ideals, then you can also dismiss … A.A. Milne (distant dad)

    Are you seriously suggesting that bad parenting is equivalent to advocating against the rights of others? Seriously?

    Also, I cannot help but notice that not one person has addressed anything I said other than “She is not a loss.” If you’re going to say I shouldn’t say that, then address my actual arguments.

    Do you understand that this book has been instrumental in denying trans women access to vital services, and even to basic public accommodations? To name just one example, it has been used to justify denying trans women access to women’s shelters. And women have died because of that. Do you seriously not understand that? Or do you just think it’s ok because they’re only trans women? This is what Rich helped midwife. This is what you’re defending.

  25. Donna L
    Donna L March 29, 2012 at 12:04 pm |

    She, personally, helped drive Sandy Stone out of Olivia Records.

    Do you have a source for this that doesn’t depend on Janice Raymond?

  26. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong March 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm |

    That’s an interesting way of putting it. But that characterization would hardly be appropriate (I’m being charitable here) for someone who — according to the book’s author — actively participated in the creation of one of the most hateful and disgusting “mainstream” books published in a very long time, a book that’s been hugely influential in an extremely negative way.

    That’s completely fair, and I think I may have underestimated the degree of her contributions to the transphobic radfem movement. The metaphor I used is more how I try to come to grips with MLK’s homophobia or Ghandis problems with women; we are so indoctrinated with oppressive narratives that it’s OK to celebrate people who challenge one or two of them, even if they can’t escape them all. But active participation is something else entirely, and I apologize for not being more educated on Rich before this thread.

  27. Donna L
    Donna L March 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm |

    Everyone should keep in mind that I haven’t personally formed an opinion yet on whether Rich really did actively participate in that kind of thing; I’m not going to condemn someone based entirely on the words of someone whose reputation for telling the truth is as terrible as Janice Raymond’s, especially given the fact that Leslie Feinberg and Minnie Bruce Pratt also thanked her in books of theirs. I’d want to see something more definitive, either from Rich herself or someone (other than Raymond) with first-hand knowledge — for example, about the Sandy Stone incident — before I conclude anything.

  28. Wendy
    Wendy March 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm |

    Good! One less transphobic bigot in the world.

  29. C
    C March 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

    If you claim to be an ally to trans people, to trans women, this is one of the moments to act like it. Don’t tell me how she did good things, too. Don’t tell me I shouldn’t say things like that. Actually criticize her. Actually talk about the things she’s done wrong. Don’t fucking defend her. Don’t talk about how you hope she’s changed. Talk about how we can change today’s feminisms to work on behalf of trans women as well as cis women.

    I completely agree and I think other’s should really take this upon themselves. This is one of the (many) reasons why so many trans*women completely reject modern feminism!

  30. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 29, 2012 at 12:38 pm |

    Do you have a source for this that doesn’t depend on Janice Raymond?

    I’ll look for it, but I’m about to have to run my fiancee to work, so I may be a while.

    I’m not going to condemn someone based entirely on the words of someone whose reputation for telling the truth is as terrible as Janice Raymond’s, especially given the fact that Leslie Feinberg and Minnie Bruce Pratt also thanked her in books of theirs.

    Much as I love the work of Feinberg and Pratt — and I do love it — I’ll just mention some things that came up when I discussed this with my partner: Given how many other people missed Rich’s involvement, they may have, too. And the radfems’ transphobia has always focused narrowly on trans women, while Feinberg is transmasculine and both of them come out of the lesbian community, which has supported Rich for a long time. If their personal contact with Rich was limited and they didn’t know her until well after the period of TE and the purges, they may simply have never encountered her transmisogyny.

    Which is, of course, not evidence in either direction. But it could provide an explanation.

    I wonder if Feinberg has commented on Rich’s death yet.

  31. Marja Erwin
    Marja Erwin March 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm |

    *The Transsexual Empire* is badly edited, if at all. I think chapter 2 starts from arguments made in chapter 3, and chapter 4 starts from paranoid nonsense. But it is a deliberate work of hate, down to the choice of words.

    I suppose someone might have contributed to the research without realizing how every observation would be stretched, bent, and twisted to fit the desired conclusion.

    I don’t think someone could have examined the result, though, without seeing the hate, or seeing how Raymond switches from condemning the gender clinic approach, with trans people as victims, to condemning trans people. But given the out-of-order arguments, it possible that no one examined the result before it was published.

    If Adrienne Rich was as involved as Janice Raymond claims, she was responsible, in part, for legitimizing hatred against trans people, and for legitimizing medical discrimination against trans people. And for the dead.

  32. Wendy
    Wendy March 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm |

    “Do we have actual evidence that she was a “transphobic bigot”? Other than the fact that Janice Raymond thanked her one time?”

    Well it would be enough evidence for me but there are also her own words:

    “We have seen three reasons why lesbian-feminists are seduced into accepting transsexuals: liberalism, gratitude, and naivete. There is yet another reason-one that can be perhaps best described as the last remnants of male identification. This is a complex phenomenon, which has various incredients. On the one hand, there is fear of the label “man-hater.” Are women who are so accepting of the transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist trying to prove to themselves that a lesbian-feminist (she who has been called the ultimate man-hater) is really not a man-hater after all? As Adrienne Rich has pointed out, one way of avoiding that feared label, and of allowing one’s self to accept men, is to accept those men who have given up the supposed ultimate possession of manhood in a patriarchal society by self-castration.”

  33. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

    Also, I cannot help but notice that not one person has addressed anything I said other than “She is not a loss.”

    I can speak only for myself, but that’s because that’s the only part of your comments I have a problem with. I too would like to read something apologizing for the transphobia–though not for her take on lesbianism; it’s not mine, but hey, she was a lesbian, if that’s how she experienced it, that’s how she experienced it. Where we differ is that I don’t think the lack of an apology means that she was no loss, so that’s the part I took issue with. I’m not wringing my hands, and I’m not angry at you, or any of the other things you allege. I just think you’re wrong about this.

    Her poetry was not “pretty,” just as Yeats’s was not. It was powerful and moving. Like Yeats, she was involved in an important and often righteous political movement. And like Yeats, she also maintained/supported some pretty nasty political positions as well. But “pretty”? No. Not at all.

    Do you seriously not understand that? Or do you just think it’s ok because they’re only trans women?

    I don’t think it’s OK. It doesn’t mean I’m going to write off her death as no loss, either, though, just as the fact that Yeats’s classism and sexism and fascism supported deadly and hateful ends doesn’t mean that I’m going to write him off, and not because it “only” affects working-class and poor people, women, and Jews.

    As for saying

  34. Ivy
    Ivy March 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm |

    ok…I find this thread disheartning…why can’t we just accnolidge that she wrote great poetry but beleived in very problamatic things….just dismissing her as a bitgot anjd saying you are glad she is dead is in itself very probematic she is a human being with faults and good qualities.

    BTW Why does this sort of thing always seem to happen with women…male historical figures are almost never called out on their bigotries but woman are just as capable of being great and screwed up just as men are!! She wrote great poetry and should be recogized for it…

    Ernist Hemingway was a complete misogynist but was a great writer and that shouldn’t be taken from him
    Susan B Anthony was racist however she did lots for women’s rights
    and yes Roman Polansi is a great director who did lots for cinema even though he is a vile human being

  35. Wendy
    Wendy March 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm |

    No Ivy what is disheartening is that there is never any shortage of cis women lining up to apologize for the transphobes that “wrote great poetry but beleived in very problamatic things”. I don’t care how fundamental these people were in your finding yourself as a lesbian/feminist/woman (feel free to pick and choose the label that applies) because for me they were fundamental in my persecution and I am a lesbian, a feminist, and a woman in spite of them.

  36. Aydan
    Aydan March 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm |

    No Ivy what is disheartening is that there is never any shortage of cis women lining up to apologize for the transphobes that “wrote great poetry but beleived in very problamatic things”.

    There’s a big difference between not apologizing for transphobia, and celebrating someone’s death… which I think Ivy may have been trying to point out.

  37. Wendy
    Wendy March 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

    I will celibrate the death of every single transphobe! I am so sick of cis scum trying to tell me how to feel. Fuck you.

  38. Donna L
    Donna L March 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

    Well it would be enough evidence for me but there are also her own words:

    God knows I’m not someone prone to defend transphobia, but I’ll point out once again that those are not (necessarily) Rich’s words or anything Rich wrote; the passage you quote is Janice Raymond’s, recounting a conversation with Rich. Do I think Raymond made up the conversation, or the basis for the acknowledgment of Rich’s encouragement and assistance? No, but it would be rather odd if it turned out that Rich never actually wrote anything transphobic herself, and that the only source for saying that she shared Janice Raymond’s views is Janice Raymond.

    Also, to MadGastronomer: She doesn’t need me to defend her, and I’m hardly the Chief Justice of the Trans Supreme Court anyway, but based on everything I know, EG doesn’t just claim to be a good ally, she is one.

  39. Ivy
    Ivy March 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

    But there are men who are great writers and poets but no one gives a shit about the problematic things they beleived in or acted on they are allowed to be messed up….why is it that women are judged in a much harsher light?
    If there is a post on Margeret Sanger there will be a ton of posters who will say she is unworthy because she thought eugenics were a good idea never mind that she was a product of her time WEB Debuis and Helen Keller also beleived in this.
    Susan B Anthony or other sufferegists will be called out on their racism…

    ITs not just transphobia, it seems like women have to be perfect when women aren’t perfect…maybe I am not expressing myself correctly but this is something that has been bothering me for a long time.

    Sorry about my atrocious spelling!

  40. Donna L
    Donna L March 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm |

    Thanks, Wendy, that’s so helpful. Not. Why don’t you save the second part of that epithet for people who deserve it, and, as to the first part, keep in mind that using “cis” like a curse word just plays into the hands of our enemies? And that the reason transphobes are transphobic isn’t *because* they’re cis, anyway?

    Also, as I pointed out in a comment presently in moderation, Rich’s alleged words that you quote above are filtered through Janice Raymond, and weren’t published or disseminated by Rich herself.

  41. Ivy
    Ivy March 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm |

    Yes that is exactly what I was trying to say….celebrating anyones death unless they are a serial killer or something is always incredibly fucked up!

  42. Marja Erwin
    Marja Erwin March 29, 2012 at 1:59 pm |

    I’m still not sure whether she was transphobic, or if so, whether she remained transphobic. So far we have Janice Raymond’s word for it – referencing Adrienne Rich in her acknowledgements and paraphrasing Adrienne Rich in her text. So should we trust her?

  43. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm |

    OK, no, I have not yet turned up anything outside of Raymond that shows she was involved. Still looking.

    But she had more than three decades in which to repudiate the quotes Raymond attributed to her, if they were lies, and she did not. If Raymond lied, Rich still allowed her name to be used to justify the hate and the discrimination. I could understand not wanting to rock the boat at the time, but later, when Rich was far more widely known than Raymond, why not speak out, if she didn’t say it or if she had changed her position? You may count it a lesser sin, but she was still culpable, her silence being complicity.

    For myself, I see no reason to believe she didn’t say those things, given that she didn’t deny it, and absent some evidence to the contrary, I’m going to go on believing that she did. I am not a court of law that must consider her innocent until proven guilty. I can only make my own judgements given the evidence before me.

    I can speak only for myself, but that’s because that’s the only part of your comments I have a problem with.

    Then why not also talk about that, and not just complain about what I said?

    though not for her take on lesbianism; it’s not mine, but hey, she was a lesbian, if that’s how she experienced it, that’s how she experienced it.

    The problem there is that she didn’t say it about her experience — she generalized it, thereby dismissing the experience of others. I’m a queer woman, and you can damn betcha that means I desire women. Fuck political lesbianism that desexualizes me and my partners.

    I don’t think it’s OK. It doesn’t mean I’m going to write off her death as no loss, either, though, just as the fact that Yeats’s classism and sexism and fascism supported deadly and hateful ends doesn’t mean that I’m going to write him off, and not because it “only” affects working-class and poor people, women, and Jews.

    You don’t have to. But I get to. And I get to think you’re passively supporting transphobia by arguing with me while defending a transphobe.

    But there are men who are great writers and poets but no one gives a shit about the problematic things they beleived in or acted on they are allowed to be messed up….why is it that women are judged in a much harsher light?

    If you seriously think that no feminists criticize misogynist and racist and otherwise bigoted male writers, then you have not been paying attention. Yes, male writers get a pass in the general population. This is not the general population, and I will be just as harsh on any feminist I catch defending them.

    And I, by the way, have not said she didn’t write poetry that moved people. I have said that I don’t care that she did. And I don’t. I don’t care at all. I’m sick and fucking tired of people defending anyone because they made great art while ignoring the horrible things they did. I’m not saying anyone else can’t enjoy her work — it doesn’t move me, any more than Hemmingway’s does, but that’s me — I’m saying that if we’re going to talk about her life, we need to discuss this aspect of her life, too. And I’m saying that I don’t think every life is a loss, and I don’t think that someone who supported transphobia on that scale is a loss. And I get to fucking think that.

    She doesn’t need me to defend her, and I’m hardly the Chief Justice of the Trans Supreme Court anyway, but based on everything I know, EG doesn’t just claim to be a good ally, she is one.

    Allyism is something one does, not something one is. And when I see something I think is not ok, I’m going to say something about it. And I think it’s awful to spend one’s time picking at my opinion that Rich isn’t a loss, while ignoring the actual criticisms I made, and not joining in with them if one agrees with them.

    Also, that wasn’t directed only at EG. Justamblingalong and tj are included in that.

  44. Donna L
    Donna L March 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm |

    Of course I don’t trust Raymond, about anything, which is why I expressed a certain amount of skepticism about the “Adrienne Rich was transphobic” assertion in the first place. On the other hand, Rich could have repudiated Raymond’s characterization of her at any time in the last 20+ years, and so far as I know she didn’t.

  45. Donna L
    Donna L March 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm |

    ^
    MadGastronomer, when I wrote my last comment I hadn’t seen yours, already bringing up the non-repudiation. Sorry.

  46. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca March 29, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

    I’m not very familiar with Adrienne Rich’s life or work. So I don’t really want to weigh in on the debate on her overall merit. I will say I’m discouraged to learn about the extent of her likely involvement with Janice Raymond, and more generally the frequent transphobia of Second Wave Feminism is something I often feel sad about, since I admire so much about the Second Wave otherwise. I do want to briefly share the one notable experience I’ve had involving Adrienne Rich. It’s just my own idiosyncratic experience, and I don’t want anyone to feel like it invalidates their own.

    About five years ago, during college, I was getting heavily into leftist politics, although I hadn’t discovered feminism yet. I was reading Voices of a People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, which is a fantastic book all-around that includes excerpts from the writings of various American progressives and radicals throughout history. There was a chapter that excerpted Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born. It made a very strong and very positive impression on me. I’d like to briefly excerpt it:

    We need to imagine a world in which every woman is the presiding genius of her own body. In such a world, women will truly create life, bring forth not only children (if we choose) but the visions, and the thinking necessary to sustain, console, and alter human existence — a new relationship to the universe. Sexuality, politics, intelligence, power, motherhood, work, community, intimacy, will develop new meanings; thinking itself will be transformed. This is where we have to begin.

    I mean, this quote does seem to include some implicit gender essentialism or female supremacism, which I find rather problematic now. But still, the sense of new possibilities, of an possible radical and healing transformation of the entire world, and of empowering individual women and freeing them from cultural expectations–this is still something I find very exciting and inspiring. This was the first time I remember reading something explicitly feminist and being excited. Looking back, I can see that as a young transsexual woman who was still in denial and had gotten most of her messages on gender from sexist male friends or the Catholic Church, it was personally liberating to read something that prodded me to question what I had thought were the cut-and-dried truths about gender. Within a year I had taken a women’s studies class and gotten involved in my campus Men Against Rape group, which included a FTM-spectrum individual who was the first out genderqueer person I ever met and preferred the pronoun “ze.” (I was like: “what?”) And things just kept going on and on from there.

    So yeah. I’m not trying to defend Ms. Rich’s legacy since I’m not really very informed about it and some of it is sounding pretty horrible. But whether she was transphobic or not and whether she would have been happy about it or not, she really helped this one trans woman along in her political and personal development. So that’s something I appreciate.

  47. suspect class
    suspect class March 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm |

    It may be that calling someone “cis scum” directly or by implication is jerky, but trans commenters are not under any obligation to behave ourselves to avoid playing into the hands of our enemies. Since merely trying to exist authentically in a transphobic world seems to give transphobes plenty of fodder, I really doubt one angry (and not unjustifiably so) comment on a thread is going to do much more damage than those transphobes do anyway. Donna, you’ve developed a not undeserved rep for patience around here, including with people who have done nothing to deserve that patience. I think that’s a totally fine approach, but it’s not one everyone’s going to take, and not everyone is obligated to. I say this as someone who generally does not have the patience any more to have conversations on trans issues on feministe, and as someone who generally really respects and enjoys your comments. But I think calling out trans commenters for rageful comments does more to play into transphobes’ hands than does the rage itself, because it gives cover to folks who don’t want to acknowledge the basis of that rage as legit.

  48. number9
    number9 March 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

    Yeah, I googled the quote as well and noticed it wasn’t something Rich actually wrote. Not so sure I personally can trust Janice Raymond on anything. So, yes, for now I will be filing Adrienne Rich under “great poet, potentially not a great person.”

    I do think, however, that Donna brings up something really important with her mention of Emma Goldman. I often see the transphobia of some second wave feminists excused with “well, she was a product of her time.” But look at Emma’s background – Orthodox Jewish, born in 1869 in a small town in Lithuania (then Russia) – not exactly the culture and geography that are hotbeds of progressivism on gender matters. She died before WWII started, way before any meaningful changes in our understanding of gender roles. She would have every reason to be the “product of her time,” but she wasn’t. So I think it’s more than reasonable to expect that a feminist woman who is otherwise progressive would also not be a homophobe, or a racist, or transphobic. These things go together in the feminist package for me.

    But I struggle with thinking about what to do with those feminist “icons.” I have no use for Mary Daly, but I can’t argue with the fact that she was formative for many feminists. So do we acknowledge the horrors of second wave’s transphobia, keep what’s useful, and move on to building a better movement? Or do we just strike Mary Daly and others like her from our “required reading” lists and just leave a footnote, “text removed due to incompatibility with feminism?” I’m sort of in the latter camp as far as feminist theory goes, but I mainly know Rich as a poet and without having read anything transphobic from her, I do mourn her passing. But I wouldn’t presume to tell a transgendered person what to think about Rich at her passing.

  49. Wendy
    Wendy March 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm |

    Donna L I am not even going to bother responding to your tone argument.

    “Also, as I pointed out in a comment presently in moderation, Rich’s alleged words that you quote above are filtered through Janice Raymond, and weren’t published or disseminated by Rich herself.”

    And as you also pointed out she never refuted that quote either and she had no shortage of time in which to do so. Thats proof enough for me.

  50. Donna L
    Donna L March 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm |

    I think that’s a totally fine approach, but it’s not one everyone’s going to take, and not everyone is obligated to. I

    Understood, completely. It’s not like I don’t get consumed with rage sometimes myself, here and elsewhere, and I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m any kind of apologist for transphobia myself. I think I’ve proved I’m not.

    But setting aside entirely the “how does it make us look” issue (which I’m well aware of as a reflexive concern of mine that I do consciously try to avoid, just as I always try to stay away from worrying “what will the Gentiles think” in parallel circumstances), my objection to using “cis” as an epithet is one of substance, *not* of tone. I think it’s wrong, period. Obviously most cis people can’t even begin to understand transness (and have no interest in trying to do so), but I don’t think that justifies using the term as a curse word, regardless of tone, After all, some of my best friends are cis! There are plenty of other epithets to use, and I have no problem with most of them, or with the anger that precipitates them.

    Just as I don’t think I’d ever call someone, say, “goyishe scum.” Because I think it’s wrong to use “goyishe” as an epithet. There are plenty of

    But that’s the last I’ll say about it, since I know opinions differ.

  51. Marja Erwin
    Marja Erwin March 29, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

    I can’t find her making any direct staments about trans people, except for that paraphrase. I can’t find many of her relevant theoretical works either. But others quotes from and summaries of her theoretical works emphasize that, at least up through her ‘politics of location,’ she tried to ground her politics in Müllerian female biology, especially fertility, and male attempts to control female biology and eliminate other directions for female creativity.

    I think that tends to devalue Wolffian female biology, including most trans womyn’s biology. I don’t think it requires devaluing trans womyn’s identities, but it certainly encourages doing so, and it encourages interpreting our existence as yet another male attempt to control female biology. So it wouldn’t surprise me if she was transphobic all along.

    This post claims she was still transphobic as recently as five years ago, but without the comments we don’t have the evidence.

    http://socialjusticefeminist.blogspot.com/2007/10/adrienne-richwe-love-you.html

  52. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm |

    Then why not also talk about that, and not just complain about what I said?

    Honestly? Because I tend to go with “silence equals consent.” If I see no reason to object, then I don’t.

    You don’t have to. But I get to. And I get to think you’re passively supporting transphobia by arguing with me while defending a transphobe.

    Of course. And that is precisely the way in which, as I mentioned, disagree. I’m not sure where you see me defending anybody, though. Disagreeing with you is not actually the same thing as defending transphobes or supporting transphobia.

    She doesn’t need me to defend her, and I’m hardly the Chief Justice of the Trans Supreme Court anyway, but based on everything I know, EG doesn’t just claim to be a good ally, she is one.

    That’s really, really kind of you, Donna, and I thank you. I will also say this: whatever I am now, I think it is better than it was six months ago thanks to scrupulously reading your comments, and that was better than I was ten years ago, thanks to another friend. So thank you.

    But look at Emma’s background – Orthodox Jewish, born in 1869 in a small town in Lithuania (then Russia) – not exactly the culture and geography that are hotbeds of progressivism on gender matters. She died before WWII started, way before any meaningful changes in our understanding of gender roles.

    I would like to address this, because I think it is entirely incorrect. The Ashkenazi Jews, particularly those who emigrated, were indeed a hotbed, not of progressivism, but of left-wing radicalism. Goldman was of the cultural background that produced Bundists, left-wing Zionists, Unionists, Anarchicsts, and Marxists. These were the people who powered the radical and union movements in major East coast cities in Goldman’s time. And some of their radicalism was indeed directed toward gender matters (not even radicalism was necessary to address gender matters; to move to a different milieu, Freud, for instance, held far more progressive views on homosexuality than his disciples). Goldman was very much a product of her time and place, and that doesn’t take anything away from her radicalism, iconoclasm and unbending morality.

    As for the assertion that prior to WW2, there had been no significant changes in our understanding of gender roles, that is so ahistorical that I can’t even wrap my mind around it. The New Woman controversies of the early 20th century never happened, I guess?

  53. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm |

    In fact, I strongly suspect that the Jewish communities of the Pale at the end of the 20th century have given us far more radicals than, say, 1930s and ’40s Baltimore.

  54. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm |

    MadGastronomer, when I wrote my last comment I hadn’t seen yours, already bringing up the non-repudiation. Sorry.

    Yeah, I saw them pop up at the same time. I almost said “jinx,” actually.

    Honestly? Because I tend to go with “silence equals consent.” If I see no reason to object, then I don’t.

    Honestly, so do I. But you were pretty silent on the subject of Rich’s transphobia, too, which is sort of my problem.

  55. LotusBecca
    LotusBecca March 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

    It is absolutely amazing how Goldman manages to be so absolutely right all the damn time. LotusBecca, make sure to click on that link!

    I did click the link, and Emma Goldman has long been a big inspiration to me just for reasons like this. She is the perfect counterexample any time people try to excuse a historical figure with references to them being “just a product of their time.” Of course, as you point out, she was very much a product of her environment, but she also approached that environment with more sensitivity, insight, and courage than most did. And there have always been people like that. Which is why I hate it when people excuse Thomas Jefferson for being a racist, slave-holding rapist, or excuse Mary Daly for being a transphobe who arrogantly brushed off Audre Lorde’s legitimate critiques, or excuse anyone else who did shitty, shitty things with a wave of the hand and a “everyone was like that then.” No, actually, not everyone was.

  56. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm |

    But you were pretty silent on the subject of Rich’s transphobia, too, which is sort of my problem.

    Really? Because I believe I said something along the lines of “Shit. I was worried about something like that,” and then did a whole lot of googling to get more details, turning up only the two dedications referenced (it’s not like I knew those off the top of my head), and then agreeing with Donna that I hope she had changed. I didn’t realize that anything short of an all-caps “trans hatred is bad and I hate that Rich engaged in it and I condemn her for it” was “pretty silent.” I thought “shit” pretty much covered it, and I must say, I’ve never been accused of subtlety.

  57. Adrienne Rich and transmisogyny: We can begin by acknowledging that it matters « you're welcome.

    [...] reaching impacts which resound today – MadGastronomer described this well in a conversation on Feministe: Do you understand that this book has been instrumental in denying trans women access to vital [...]

  58. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm |

    Of course, as you point out, she was very much a product of her environment, but she also approached that environment with more sensitivity, insight, and courage than most did.

    Absolutely. She took the environment so hospitable to radical ideas that surrounded her and made the most of it in a way that very, very few people could. Or can.

  59. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm |

    Really, EG? Because the way it came across to me was mildly distressed, followed by some posts that tried to find reasons why it wasn’t so. Sorry I couldn’t read your mind, but that’s what I found in your words.

  60. Aydan
    Aydan March 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm |

    I am so sick of cis scum trying to tell me how to feel. Fuck you.

    I’m glad someone around here is sure of my gender identity, even if it’s not me. /snark

    The citation Raymond gives for that paraphrase is “Conversation with Adrienne Rich, Montague, MA, May 1977.” It doesn’t specify whose conversation, either. I initially assumed it was Raymond’s but above she has “Author’s conversation with Mary Daly…” etc, emphasis mine. So… on the one hand it’s basically an unverifiable source, on the other hand, as others have pointed out, Rich apparently never came forward to say she’d been cited incorrectly or to say that the association Raymond stated in the acknowledgements wasn’t true.

    And wow, that book is disgusting and vicious. I’m startled and saddened that its author has an academic career in spite– because?– of it.

  61. flightless
    flightless March 29, 2012 at 7:21 pm |

    What I’m getting from this thread is that if a vile transphobic author whose book is full of lies puts you in the credits, you are tarred eternally with that brush, but if the awesome Leslie Feinberg puts you in the credits, they might just not have known about the other book, but your lack of publicly repudiating the first (whether true or not) coattail-rider means you are better off dead. Huh. Oh and that being cited by a hate-writer in the acknowledgments is equivalent to being Roman Child-Raping Polanski? I’m going to go ahead and love & mourn Adrienne Rich until someone comes up with something other than THAT.

  62. number9
    number9 March 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm |

    Yeah, EG, I totally misspoke on that one. Gender identity, not gender roles. And yes, I’m well aware that obviously trans people existed and had a voice even in Emma’s time in the US, but as far as meaningful progress in acceptance of gender identity expression, we’re still not there even now, or we wouldn’t be even having this discussion.

    But I can’t really agree with your take on Jewish progressivism. I know my own history and I know that Jews, particularly Jews of Russian and Eastern European extraction, had a huge role in shaping early socialist and other radical movements. That doesn’t mean that the majority of Ashkenazim were radical leftists or that Ashkenazim held more progressive gender views than the rest of society. Ultra-conservative Jews came to the same New York from the same shtetls that the radicals came from, after all. And the tzarist Russia of Goldman’s childhood or the capitalist US she immigrated to were certainly not progressive countries. Her parents were not progressive at all. Just like every radical, she had to make a choice to become one, and go against the grain in the process. So, yes, in some ways she was a product of her time, but in many other ways she was ahead of it.

  63. Wendy
    Wendy March 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm |

    “I’m glad someone around here is sure of my gender identity, even if it’s not me. /snark”

    Cis scum was meant for the thread in general but if you want to take it personally and you identify as trans* then go ahead and read it as cissexist scum instead and see how that fits.

  64. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm |

    I’m going to go ahead and love & mourn Adrienne Rich until someone comes up with something other than THAT.

    You go right ahead. And I’m going to go ahead and assume you care more about preserving your image of your hero than about the rights of trans people.

  65. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm |

    Because the way it came across to me was mildly distressed, followed by some posts that tried to find reasons why it wasn’t so. Sorry I couldn’t read your mind, but that’s what I found in your words.

    Gee, in the future I’ll make sure to perform any emotion I have in a way that meets with your approval. Anything else is apparently the equivalent of silence (You don’t seem distressed enough! Where are the tears and the rending of garments? I want tears!). God forbid you should acknowledge that maybe, you know, you misread, which you definitely did, since there was only one post which both expressed unhappiness (though not to such an extent as to meet with your exacting standards) and contained the google info, followed by a conversational one with Donna. “Some” is entirely a creation of your mind.

  66. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm |

    Or maybe you were just unclear, EG.

  67. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm |

    That doesn’t mean that the majority of Ashkenazim were radical leftists or that Ashkenazim held more progressive gender views than the rest of society…. Her parents were not progressive at all. Just like every radical, she had to make a choice to become one, and go against the grain in the process.

    It doesn’t really matter what the majority of Ashkenazim were; what matters is that she was part of a movement and zeitgeist that took hold upon significantly more Ashkenazim than had before been radical or contemporary gentiles. It’s not a question of her parents; it’s a question of her peers. Similarly, the majority of young people in the 1960s weren’t radicals, either, and neither were their parents. But it would be a mistake to say that those who were weren’t part of a general zeitgeist and culture that was indeed a hotbed of radicalism.

    As for “all” radicals having to go against the grain…that’s just not true. Radicals have kids and form communities, just like everybody else.

  68. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm |

    I’ll start to consider that possibility, Mad Gastronomer, at precisely the moment you start to consider the possibility that you misread. You let me know when that is.

  69. DonnaL
    DonnaL March 29, 2012 at 11:43 pm |

    Gee, Wendy, where were you a few days ago in that “cotton ceiling” thread, when a whole bunch of genuine card-carrying transphobic radical feminists descended upon us and for what felt like 150 comments it seemed that I was the only trans woman trying to debate with them? Maybe your brave rhetoric would have been helpful then.

    Look, if Adrienne Rich really did help Janice Raymond with that monstrous book, and shared its sentiments to even a small degree, I might not agree with you that she deserved to die, and might not want to dance on her grave like I gladly would to the truly awful Ms. Raymond — who not only wrote that book but was, I believe, primarily responsible for ending the Medicaid coverage for trans people that had existed in the early 1980′s — I won’t spend any time mourning her. As far as I’m concerned, the most tragic recent death among LGBT people was the death of Alexis Rivera in Los Angeles, a friend of somone I know:

    http://learningtrans.org/2012/03/29/memorial-tribute-to-alexis-rivera/

    And if anyone thinks that internalized shame like Alexis’s has nothing to do with the effects of societal transphobia, and has nothing to do with the efforts of people like Janice Raymond, and the influence of her book, they’re wrong.

  70. DonnaL
    DonnaL March 29, 2012 at 11:56 pm |

    On the other hand, if Rich really was a virulent transphobe who adored every word of “The Transsexual Empire,” then why can’t anyone find any transphobic statements actually made by her? I can’t think of too many other feminists of that era, notoriously transphobic or otherwise, for whom you couldn’t find multiple quotations in about 5 minutes flat, vilifying and/or ridiculing trans women. Doesn’t the absence of such textual evidence for Rich have probative value in and of itself?

    And even leaving aside the Feinberg and Pratt acknowledgments, it’s a little hard to imagine how a Janice Raymond type could have been partnered for the last 35 years, until her death, with Michelle Cliff, one of whose best-known novels, No Telephone to Heaven, published in 1987 (when she and Rich were together), has a major character who’s trans — and was assigned male at birth — but was sympathetically and positively portrayed?

    So I’ll reserve judgment for a little while longer.

  71. EG
    EG March 29, 2012 at 11:58 pm |

    Indisputably tragic, Donna. Rich lived a long and full life, receiving a great many accolades. No sadness felt for her loss–regardless of her righteousness or not–can compare to what it means for a good person, activist, leader to be unnecessarily cut off in her prime due to an illness whose effects were accelerated and compounded by shame. I am so sorry.

  72. DonnaL
    DonnaL March 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm |

    I have a post in moderation questioning whether a Janice Raymond-type transphobe would be likely to have been partnered for the last 35 years with Michelle Cliff, as Rich was..

  73. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 30, 2012 at 2:24 am |

    EG, actually, I did consider it. And I went back and read all of your comments to see if I had. And it still read the same way to me, even after you explained yourself. I even read off your first four comments to someone else, and she agreed with me. Your turn!

    You could consider the idea that words do not perfectly convey meaning, and that there are multiple reasonable readings to take away from any text, and that that’s normal.

  74. MadGastronomer
    MadGastronomer March 30, 2012 at 3:06 am |

    I haven’t read No Telephone to Heaven, so I couldn’t say just how sympathetic the trans character in it is, but a little googling does give some informative links:

    “A Man Who Wants to Be a Woman” by Nada Elia opens with:

    Michelle Cliff describes Harry/Harriet, one of the two protagonists of Not Telephone to Heaven, as her lesbian model: “Harry/Harriet is the novel’s lesbian in a sense: he’s a man who wants to be a woman and he loves women.”

    Here’s a 2002 interview with Cliff, in which she says:

    Yeah, today, because of memoir and all that. Obviously I use my life, but its not autobiographical at all. Harry Harriet, who’s a transsexual in the novel No Telephone to Heaven  – he’s not really a transsexual in the sense of having two sexes — is much closer to who I am. Not in a sexual sense, but in his work on himself to be a complete human being, taking in everything of who he is, reflects much more my own struggle than Clare’s who is a fragmented person, or Christopher who is also fragmented.

    Is Harry/Harriet a sympathetic character? Very possibly. As I said, I wouldn’t know. But Cliff uses male pronouns for “him,” appears to consider H/H male and not “really” transsexual, and from what I can tell, it seems very much like she wrote H/H as a stereotype and used the character’s gender as a convenient symbol. None of this sounds particularly incompatible with being partnered with a woman who is a second wave transmisogynist.

    Is there a quote anywhere of her repudiating the Raymond quotes? Is there a quote anywhere of her speaking directly about trans women anywhere but Raymond, that might be more positive? Is there a quote anywhere from a trans woman who knew her, at the time or more recently, about her views on trans women? Is there anything other than very circumstantial evidence that Rich did not hold the views Raymond attributes to her? For that matter, is there a single quote from a cis woman who knew her personally that she held views opposed to Raymond’s? Because so far the only thing we have that even claims to be a direct quote is in Raymond, and while Raymond has lied about many, many things, we haven’t seen any evidence anywhere that she lied about this. If there was a verifiable quote from Rich denying the bits from Raymond, I’d be happy to accept that, actually. But without any evidence to the contrary, I just can’t conclude that.

  75. jos
    jos March 30, 2012 at 5:05 am |

    A great Lesbian poet just died. Allow people to mourn her death. Saying you’re happy she died – how horrible! What did she do, that was so bad?
    Are we only allowed to like a female writer if she wrote 100 books specifically about pro-trans issues so we are SURE she wasn’t an evil transphobe? I guess Austen, the sisters Brontë et al are out then too.

  76. Wendy
    Wendy March 30, 2012 at 7:11 am |

    “Gee, Wendy, where were you a few days ago in that “cotton ceiling” thread, when a whole bunch of genuine card-carrying transphobic radical feminists descended upon us and for what felt like 150 comments it seemed that I was the only trans woman trying to debate with them? Maybe your brave rhetoric would have been helpful then.”

    I read that thread Donna but I was a little busy helping to organize our own local conference on the cotton ceiling which was under attack from the exact same pack of Radfem twits and I didn’t have the spoons to jump into it here too. Shove your shaming tactic Donna.

    “if Rich really was a virulent transphobe who adored every word of “The Transsexual Empire,” then why can’t anyone find any transphobic statements actually made by her?”

    As I have already said, the fact that she didn’t refute that in twenty odd years is proof enough for me. It’s not like it appeared in some obscure text that she might not have been familiar with. Did she ever say anything positive about trans women? No she did not. Put that together and that speaks volumes. I really don’t care whether you think she was a transphobe or not or whether you are glad she’s gone. I was asked why I feel that way and I gave my reason. My reasons aren’t good enough for you? Not my problem.

    “And even leaving aside the Feinberg and Pratt acknowledgments, it’s a little hard to imagine how a Janice Raymond type could have been partnered for the last 35 years, until her death, with Michelle Cliff, one of whose best-known novels, No Telephone to Heaven, published in 1987 (when she and Rich were together), has a major character who’s trans — and was assigned male at birth — but was sympathetically and positively portrayed?”

    Leslie Feinberg is one of my heroes but that doesn’t make everybody Leslie liked my hero by association. The fact that Adrienne Rich was partnered with someone who portrayed a trans woman character positively in a novel also isn’t proof of anything for me.

  77. flightless
    flightless March 30, 2012 at 8:02 am |

    And I’m going to go ahead and assume you care more about preserving your image of your hero than about the rights of trans people.

    OK. I don’t actually get the part where lengthy internet speculations about a dead poet’s beliefs or prejudices does anything to advance the rights of trans people.

  78. flightless
    flightless March 30, 2012 at 8:06 am |

    There’s no way to edit or delete a comment here, is there? That last one I made really did not need to be made. Sorry all.

  79. Lauren
    Lauren March 30, 2012 at 9:10 am |

    This hand-wringing over whether or not to celebrate or mourn a public figures’ death is alternately confusing and amusing. It’s safe to assume that most (hell, all) leftist icons of the past are going to fail our litmus tests. So, fine. What do we take from her accomplishments? What do we take from her failures of imagination?

    Her transphobia (let’s assume she was a public transphobe) exists alongside what was important activism for lesbian women and women of color. She was also a celebrated poet. She was this, she was also this. She died.

  80. EG
    EG March 30, 2012 at 9:39 am |

    You could consider the idea that words do not perfectly convey meaning, and that there are multiple reasonable readings to take away from any text, and that that’s normal.

    Right back atcha. Considering that, I await your acknowledgment that I was not “pretty silent” and thus there was no reason to accuse me of supporting transphobia or defending transphobes.

    I am not worried about whether or not you feel my distress was too mild for you. The point is that you said I was “pretty silent” over the issue of Rich’s potential trans hatred. I was not, in fact, near silent. I commented damn near immediately, specifically in order not to be silent in the face of new-to-me information. You may find what I said to be too mild, or object to the fact that I express sadness rather than anger, or whatever. But jumping from “you don’t express what I want you to express at the intensity at which I want you to express it” to “you were pretty silent, so how was I to know you weren’t supporting transphobia” is a massive overestimation of the exclusivity of your own righteousness. The world isn’t you; our emotional reactions are not all going to be calibrated to your specs. That doesn’t mean that expressing them is near silence.

    I went back and re-read my comments too, and nowhere did I see silence on the issue of Rich’s potential transphobia. The fact that a friend of yours agrees with you is no shock. Ten bucks says my friends will agree with me. That’s…why they’re our friends. We share perspectives and approaches with them.

  81. Donna L
    Donna L March 30, 2012 at 10:45 am |

    Shove your shaming tactic Donna.

    It’s called being sarcastic; shaming has nothing to do with it. So shove it yourself.

  82. Donna L
    Donna L March 30, 2012 at 11:09 am |

    MadGastronomer, everything you say makes a whole lot of sense, and I suspect that your conclusions are probably correct. It may well turn out to be the case that she shared the transphobic views of just about all of her contemporaries, but simply wasn’t as obsessed with trans people as most of them, and that explains why she seems never to have written about trans issues. If no further information comes out, that’s probably what I’ll go with.

    But there are sufficient questions in my mind, and I’m sufficiently curious, to want to wait a little while to see if anyone who actually knew Adrienne Rich comments on this particular issue.

    And speaking of shaming tactics, I think it’s ridiculous to go after the cis people who’ve commented on this thread — many of whom have repeatedly proven themselves to be trans-positive and trans-affirming, and allies to trans people, and none of whom is even in the same galaxy as Smash or Lily or any of the other repulsive people who showed up on the cotton ceiling issue, or have shown up here in so many other threads over the last four or five months — and repeatedly lambaste them and/or insult them for purportedly being insufficiently outraged by the evidence (entirely circumstantial, thus far) of Rich’s alleged transphobia. What a fucking waste of time.

  83. Anabelle
    Anabelle March 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

    So do we acknowledge the horrors of second wave’s transphobia, keep what’s useful, and move on to building a better movement? Or do we just strike Mary Daly and others like her from our “required reading” lists and just leave a footnote, “text removed due to incompatibility with feminism?” I’m sort of in the latter camp as far as feminist theory goes…

    Transphobia is part of our history. So are racism, sexism, classism, ablism, and countless other forms of bigotry. I don’t see what is gained from trying to edit and censor the past to fit modern notions of decency. As many others have commented, we could find something to be outraged about with virtually anyone who has contributed meaningfully to art, science, progressivism, or been otherwise historically relevant. However, outrage doesn’t invalidate their contributions, or make them any less important or worthy of discussion. That is not to say that we should let bigotry pass without comment. That absolutely needs to be part of the conversation. But I do not think we can or should try to edit people out of history.

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    [...] Donna L at Feminste: [U]nless Janice Raymond was completely lying — and one would think Adrienne Rich [...]

  85. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong March 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm |

    Well said, Annabelle. History is nuanced, people are nuanced, and our response to them can be nuanced too. The choice between uncritical acceptance and complete condemnation is a false one.

  86. A.M.
    A.M. March 31, 2012 at 4:47 am |

    RIP sister. xo

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