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Feminism? For whom, exactly?


This is a very good take-down of what I was talking about at the beginning of October on the rampant and annoying feminist transphobia of Trans women (MtF; including pre- and post-op transsexuality).

Well, I should say annoying and embarrassing for me; for trans women, it can be lethal. If all the women fighting for women's rights are pointing at you and going "oh, but she doesn't count, because she's really a man, so don't include him" (pronoun deliberate), then who the hell can you trust?

To be honest, it disgusts me, this trans bigotry. The hypocrisy of claiming women are not biologically destined to be homemakers and baby factories and then turning around and saying that someone is biologically destined to be a particular gender because of the genitalia they are born with is huge. Feminists focus on Trans women almost exclusively in their anger, but their "disappearing" in dialogue of Trans men - claiming pre-op Trans men as "women", and ignoring the existence of post-op Trans men is part and parcel of their bigotry. As KiriAmaya writes, it seems to focus on the peen to the exclusion of all other parts, but there's a lot of "womb-focus" going on as well (we'll touch on that later). In short, Biology is Destiny when it comes to gender. Isn't that the opposite of one of the cornerstones of feminist thought?

I know some of you are thinking right now "but that's different! Hormones dictate what gender people are!", but that's incorrect. Gender dismorphia is a perfectly normal, if not extremely common, condition. The gender binary as practiced in our society is rigid to the point that it doesn't even admit the existence of people who are completely androgynous, uninterested in identifying as either sex, except to mock them (such as the recurring SNL skits about "Pat"). Gender identification is a continuum, not two diametrically opposed things, like matter and anti-matter.

(And I really, really, really hate the phrase "women born women". It's insulting, and disappears every state except absolute body-gender matching. Someone who knows from birth that they're a girl/woman might still have male genitalia, or both female and male genitalia, or neither. They know who they are, you can't decide for them.)

It is so wrong to demand that other people conform to our idea of how the world should be. We rail against it when people do it to us; how is it any different when we impose our demands on other people? The world is a big, interesting, varied place, and it is not going to match our expectations. People differ; why should we elevate our mild discomfort or fear over the absolute needs of others?

The sad thing is, feminists use the same arguments against Trans rights that men used (er, still use) against women's rights, with the big one being that Trans people aren't "natural", just as women wanting to go to work and choose whether to have children was "unnatural". This is such a deeply ugly, hurtful argument, that I actually hesitated calling it out here, because I don't know who's reading this, and I don't want to add to that hurt. But calling it out for the rancid fearmongering that it is matters - you have to drag the nasty into the light to show it for what it is.

The word natural means existing in or in conformity with nature or the observable world; neither supernatural nor magical; "a perfectly natural explanation"; though it has other definitions, when used in transphobic arguments, it is this definition that people explain - as in it's "natural" to identify with the gender of your genitalia. Clearly, this doesn't hold up - Nature provides for all sorts of variation. It is society that has decided that Trans people aren't "natural" (the exact same argument is used by homophobes, and we know they're wrong, too).

By society's definition, I'm not exactly natural, either; I have no children, and my uterus doesn't work (deliberately). Are people with cancer who have had organs removed "natural"? How about women who have had their reproductive organs and/or breasts removed? How about people with mobility issues? How about people with mental illness? People with Autism? People who have had plastic surgery to correct a feature they felt "wasn't right"? Who the hell, exactly, is "natural"? Perhaps we should redefine their argument to the more correct definition, and say that we, who do not fit their worldview of How Things Should Be[tm], are simply non-conforming.

Nature does not conform; it constantly evolves and changes. Conformism is societally imposed. And I am continually amazed that feminists, who claim to want to resist conformity, try to force conformity on others. You can't demand rights for yourself that you aren't willing to extend to all women, no matter how different they are from you.

(Let's not even get into the issue of the continual attempts to confine feminist activism in this country to only those issues that affect white, middle-class feminists. It's too big for my little blog.)

I don't think any of us who support Trans rights can reach these hard line feminist bigots, but I wish that the people who simply don't undersand much about Trans issues would push through their fear and actually read the blogs and essays of out Trans people, both male and female (I tend to focus on Trans women because of the intersectionality of women's rights, feminism, and the rights of Trans women, but there's great writing on both sides), to experience the part of their lives that they're willing to share with the world. If you do, and you have an ounce of empathy, you should be able to see that they're people - human beings with all the same hopes, fears, desires, dreams, and ambitions that everyone else has. It's the "othering" of Trans people that is really unforgiveable - to deliberately choose to see a group of people as less than human, and to use that "less than human" status to justify denial of human rights, and further, to justify terrorizing, beating, rape, and murder (or, in the case of feminist bigotry, to refuse to see that beating, rape, and murder as a "women's issue", and focus instead on the scary scary freaks demanding to use the ladies' room, the nerve!) (sarcasm, natch).

Marginalized groups throughout history have gone through the same othering process, including feminists; depicted as scary, dangerous, deserving of brutality. How they can justify pushing the same oppression on another marginalized group of people with a clear conscience is utterly beyond me.

I should write a good concluding sentence here to wrap up the essay, so here goes:

To hell with you, Julie Bindel.

Comments

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raving_liberal
Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
Trans people are at risk for a lot of preventable or easily illnesses of the reproductive organs due to inadequate and biased health services. Trans men who have ovaries and uteri die from ovarian and cervical cancers at a significantly higher rate than women do, because they can't (or can't comfortably) receive preventive care or early screening at gynecologist. Bigotry doesn't just hurt and inconvenience.
attack_laurel
Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC)
It is so true - many Trans people report deplorably sub-standard care or outright refusal of care from doctors who say they "don't know how to treat" them. A good doctor will take the time to learn, and welcome the challenge.

It's really horrible, too, how insurance companies and dr's offices will out an individual - sending letters to their workplace or home addressed to their old name, and such. It's callous disregard, and a blatant trangression of patient-doctor privilege (not to mention the Hippocratic oath).
(no subject) - raving_liberal - Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
hugh_mannity
Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
Where would you like your gift-wrapped internets delivered?

Thank you so very much for speaking eo calmly, eloquently and with lots of delicious logic on this topic.

I wish that the people who simply don't understand much about Trans issues would push through their fears and actually read the blogs and essays of out Trans people, both male and female
Hmmmm... Now you're making me feel guilty. Perhaps I should be more out, so people can see what boring lives some of us Transfolk lead. :D
attack_laurel
Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:14 pm (UTC)
Hee! I'm glad you like my writing. I'm sure I have lots of readers going "I wish she'd get off this bummer serious kick and go back to the silly".

I will - I do - but sometimes, I feel the need to bridge the two internet worlds I live in and bring some of these issues across.

The dirty little secret is that we all lead boring lives. :)
(no subject) - sskipstress - Nov. 3rd, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 3rd, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
tattooofhername
Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It has always been so difficult to talk about my own gender issues, simply because people don't understand and in what seems to be the vast majority of cases don't even want to try.
attack_laurel
Nov. 3rd, 2009 04:18 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked the piece. One can argue that people are products of their culture, but that does not in the least excuse the unwillingness to learn different ways of seeing the world.

One of the reasons I have started to want to write about this is because the oppressive culture has a system of automatically discounting anything a member of the oppressed group says, using silencing tactics like "too angry", "too close to the problem", "not objective enough".

As a member of the oppressive class (though of the lesser half *eye*roll*), I have a slightly better chance of being listened to as "objective".

The system makes me want to puke, but I'll take advantage of what I can, dammit.
ornerie
Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)
people forget that "normal" is a bell shaped curve. that means that sure, most people sort out in the middle but the folks on either end of that curve are still within the realm of "normal" too. thats why its called a "normal distribution curve"!

I really do think its part of our basic animal nature to abhor That Which Is Different. Like sorts to like, and our first instinct is to shun that which does not sort to our tribe.

fortunately there are some that step out of the animal brain and manage to rise above the baser instincts (the same baser instincts that tell us to take what we want and strongest survive at all costs, etc) and take advantage of the aspects of a more evolved brain. Empathy, sympathy, a moral compass. the needs of the community over personal gain.

I say some. its not as universal as we'd like, alas....

Edited at 2009-11-03 03:36 pm (UTC)
wulfsdottir
Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
And another bookmark for the "I can't even talk to you right now, just go read this and maybe you'll learn something" file is born.
raventhourne
Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
Well, said and and wow, stuff I hadn't ever thought about.

Oh, not that it is completely on par with todays topic of information but it is on the feminist front...today's Bunny Comic is very apropos. Sorry, can't link properly cause he doesn't allow it.
attack_laurel
Nov. 3rd, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)
Really? I link all the time. It was a funny one. :)
(no subject) - raventhourne - Nov. 3rd, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 3rd, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
fallconsmate
Nov. 3rd, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
i'm glad you wrote this. not because i am in those groups (i'm female, a mama, and glad to be so) but because i have this silly notion that ALL of the grand and glorious differences and samenesses are normal and should be accepted.

ive known a few male-to-female trans people, and i called them by their appropriate gender. i slipped a few times because the eyes tell me something NOT in line with their reality but i always apologised. what is so difficult in realizing that sometimes the soul of a person sometimes got stuck in the wrong packaging? you fix the packaging! and respect the soul, the person inside that packaging.
ayeshadream
Nov. 3rd, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
I guess I'm a peopleist
I've self identified as a feminist for a long time, but I just realized that what I really am is a peopleist (or would that be peoplist?). I'm not sure if that's even really a word but it much better captures the idea that we should all be seen as people, as equals regardless of gender. I think that's what feminism started as, just a way to equalize things and fight for the idea that women are people too. Somehow we seem to have lost sight of that, and that's sad to me.

I strongly believe that who we are has much more to do with what's between our ears than what's between our legs.
attack_laurel
Nov. 3rd, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
Re: I guess I'm a peopleist
Humanist? :)

It's really important as a humanist, though, to recognize that the playing field is not leveled yet, and there are going to be some scary, scary conversations as we introduce people to concepts that challenge their views of how the world should work (this is what people are talking about in part when they talk about "privilege; the ability to shut one's mind to problems because they don't affect one). All the various isms (rightly) focus on the needs of their group, and sometimes people get focused to the detriment of others. The new understanding of oppression is intersectionality - how one predjudice informs all the others, and one cannot honestly be against one form of oppression without being against all forms of oppression.

This is a hard and new thing for me - that's why I blog about it so much. Sure, I've always been fuzzily progressive, but it took really reading what different people have to say to really open my eyes to how much I was closing my eyes and ears to. It's mind-blowing, it's uncomfortable, but it's wonderful at the same time. :)
Re: I guess I'm a peopleist - pinkleader - Nov. 3rd, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
tudorlady
Nov. 3rd, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
The boyfriend of a much-beloved friend of mine came out to me... I believe it was because I was *really* after my friend to *please* be vigilant about BC (they were both inexperienced and very shy), etc., etc. Fortunately, they trusted me enough to let me know why I didn't have to worry about contaception.

I was a little surprised, but my reaction was immediate. I didn't care who my friend loved as long as it made her happy and he was a decent person. I'd say he's one of the most decent people I know.

People are what they believe themselves to be. I can't imagine why people have a problem with that.
attack_laurel
Nov. 3rd, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
Me either, but it happens. And the reaction from people who find difference threatening can be terrifying -

[Trigger Warning]

The man who beat Angela Zapata to death was quoted as saying "I killed it".

Fucking horrible. And this is why a lot of Trans people never come out, and fight very hard to keep their former identity unknown.
(Deleted comment)
eve_the_just
Nov. 3rd, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
Little things like not being take seriously because I don't have children of my own, how could I know how to raise them?

I think it has to do with how old the person was when they became a parent and also how good of a parent they are if what you are delivering is criticism. If they became parents later in life, then they too experienced the "you don't have kids, how would you know?" attitude and would be more sympathetic. Also, if they are responsible parents who want their children to be welcomed by all, they accept criticism as constructive and realize that they may need to work on something. If they're bad parents they'll get defensive at the implication that they need to expend some extra effort.

Honestly, the people who treat you with a patronizing attitude aren't just bigots, they're idiots.
(no subject) - quatrefoil - Nov. 3rd, 2009 10:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eve_the_just - Nov. 3rd, 2009 11:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - quatrefoil - Nov. 3rd, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - eve_the_just - Nov. 4th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC) - Expand
soucyn
Nov. 3rd, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC)
"for trans women, it can be lethal"

Here's an... interesting/topical/scary... stat for you to back this up. Guenievre's old friend from High School now works for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as a policy annalist. She found that 3% of all transgendered people have been assaulted at one point in their lives, while in the Emergency Room.

But good post!
attack_laurel
Nov. 3rd, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)
Great link, thanks!
(no subject) - pinkleader - Nov. 3rd, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - soucyn - Nov. 3rd, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Nov. 4th, 2009 10:57 am (UTC) - Expand
sskipstress
Nov. 3rd, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
I've re-written this comment about 10 times now and still can't get what I mean into sentences, so I'll stick to thanking you for the reminder that I can believe people are equal all I want and treat them accordingly, and that's a good start, but all it is is a start.
attack_laurel
Nov. 3rd, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC)
The first step is the biggest. :)

It is hard to know what to do, and how to do it - it frequently becomes so overwhelming that I actually want to go back to being mildly oblivious and living in my bubble, because it was easier to conform to patriarchal* standards. You don't get hassled when you don't stick your neck out, they say.

...Except that if you're a member of a marginalized group, you can keep your head as low as humanly possible, and still get daily shit. I'm a big believer in having and being allies, since change comes from converting those on the inside.

Plus, I don't want to be one of those people that helps to perpetuate a societal system that hurts so many people.

*"Patriarchy" is not shorthand for "Men"; it's a name for a male-centric cultural system that keeps us all, men and women, in rigidly controlled roles, while a small privileged group holds the reins. You can benefit from patriarchal culture if you're a white man or woman who plays by the rules, and men benefit more financially and sexually, but it hurts everyone who cannot or will not fit into those roles. There's a better system out there, but it's very scary for people to give up a system when they're unaware of how much it benefits them. You can be privileged in the Patriarchy while still being badly damaged by it.
pinkleader
Nov. 3rd, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
I really appreciated Tami's article on Racialicious today on "Civil rights, but just for me": http://www.racialicious.com/2009/11/03/civil-rights-but-just-for-me/

Especially this final thought: It matters that we come to understand that “divided we fall” in the battle for human rights. It matters that we learn that if you are not about justice for all, you are not about justice and that a civil rights organization that does not advocate for across the board human rights is not a civil rights organization.
christianet
Nov. 3rd, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this, seriously.
quatrefoil
Nov. 3rd, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC)
And of course, using the 'definition by genitalia' rule, if you have a hysterectomy, you cease to be a woman.

I have had a number of trans friends and acquaintances over the years - I find it so much simpler to go with the rule that it's polite to call people what they want to be called and treat everyone with respect. What I don't understand is why some people find that so difficult - it's an approach that circumvents an awful lot of problems.
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