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Dec 30 2006

Twistolution, Part 36

Well, it has certainly been a revolting couple of days here at Twisty HQ. The righteous indignation emanating from every cranny, including the cranny I at this moment inhabit, is making my boob scars itch.

One thing is clear: I can’t stop people from having stupid ideas.

I can’t even stop myself from having’em. And here are a few on the subject of feminist revolution, the promotion of which, by the way, despite the occasional foray into sport corsets and the hypocrisy of Oprah Winfrey which are the result of my fun but ultimately obfuscatory fascination with the existing false patriarchal “reality,” is ultimately the goal of this blog. A brief explication of a relevant facet of my current working theory of feminist revolution may help clarify why I believe that both those who advocate an exclusionary woman-born-woman view, and the transactivists calling bullshit on what is by any definition bigotry (as well as every other living human being), are all targets of the same deeply entrenched, deeply corrupt paradigm.

In summary:

Patriarchy derives its precious bodily fluids from enforced binary sex roles. The ultimate result of this binarism is an oppressive heteronormative matrix. Within this matrix, binary gender, which functions, with its attendant phallogocentric mythology, as the rationalization for a system of domination and submission, is artificially fixed.

For example, woman, as a concept, relies for its meaning not on invisible chromosomes doled out at conception by Mother Nature, but on a cultural understanding of preexisting conditions of heteronormativity, patriarchy, romantic feelings about aching ovaries, pseudoscientific notions focusing to the exclusion of all else on genitalia, etc. The context of patriarchy is necessary to define woman.

The thing is — and I believe this is the reason feminism is dead in the water — not all humans who identify or are identified as women, regardless of chromosomes or extant genitalia and despite the ubiquity of misogyny in all its colorful guises, share a common, unified experience. For example, the dominant culture identifies me as a woman because I am clearly not a “man.” However, I currently experience this “womanhood” from the decidedly non-universal perspective of a privileged, educated, middle-aged, mostly celibate, skinny, honky American dyke with no sex organs, no estrogen, no nuclear family, a limp, and a faint mustache. A thousand other apt descriptors (I’m funny, I don’t “bleed”, I don’t do housework, I’m not “good with kids”) differentiate me from the universal “woman.” What am I really? Just a mutilated woman? A spinster aunt? Why not a trans man?

Why, indeed, must I be any “thing” at all?

In a post-revolutionary society, the core development that, above all else, must obtain is the dissolution of these oppressive binary sex roles. This must extend to the dissolution of biology as a determining factor of identity.

Without the patriarchal binary sex role paradigm to enforce my status, I would be just what I am. Not woman. Not man. Not “something in between.” I would be merely a realized consciousness delimited by organic matter. So would you.

This is what I mean when I say that gender can not survive the revolution.

151 comments

2 pings

  1. Kim

    FIRST!

    Ooops — though I was at Perez Hilton’s site for a moment.

  2. Jack

    I don’t know if I agree that gender can’t survive the revolution. A patriarchally-enforced, binary system of gender based on biology – sure, that can’t and shouldn’t survive the revolution. But gender in general, gender as an expression of self that is freely chosen and detached from biology and patriarchy – well, I rather like that. I rather love being a butch, having my gender be very self-directed, self-conscious, and central to my identity; I don’t know how much I’d enjoy the revolution without my butch identity. But maybe it’s just a sentimental attachment, who knows.

    Either way, I appreciated reading this.

  3. ramou

    So, would it be too huge a simplification of a desired outcome to say:

    I’m me. This bag of skin and bones around me is temporary, albeit occasionally convenient (and occasionally troublesome… a conversation starter, I guess). When I rent a car, and it has a CD player, I’ll use that. The fact that there’s a CD player doesn’t define me, it’s just a piece on the board of the game of life.

  4. TP

    I’m all for it, and have been without knowing it all my life. And I think that the sexual side of life would still be a functional reality, just not a central reality.

    With gender eliminated, sex can become far less central to our lives. Maybe some of us could drop it altogether. I can see sex being as important to my life as it is to my body; in other words, one small, inconsequential piece of my life that is used more often for eliminating excess fluids than oppressing women, oops, I mean sex.

    I especially would like to see love freed from the prison of gender relations and sex. Because I love you, dear Twisty, and it will never matter to me what gender you are.

  5. Twisty

    Jack, the thing is, gender would have no post-patriarchal meaning. The need for expression — in the sense that it is used to identify an individual within an oppressive hegemony — would itself become obsolete, since we would already be what we mean to express.

    Believe me, I realize this is difficult to conceptualize. When I read Shulamith Firestone the first time, and she told me that art would also disappear as a consequence of feminist revolution, I about had a heart attack.

  6. vera

    I’m more prone these days to knitting than to Deep Thoughts. But I believe that just as the patriarchy vigorously enforces a strict binary model of gender, it prefers a binary model of argument. In other words, the patriarchy says nuance is for sissies.

    In the highjacked lipstick thread, did we not see variations on the theme of “if you don’t understand/don’t agree with me you must be a [bigot, asshole, running dog of the patriarchy]“?

    Now, if I opine that what Twisty has written here is more articulate than most of the 200 comments in the lipstick thread, is someone going to accuse me of being a koolaid-drinking Twisty sycophant?

  7. Jack

    Nah, I get that, Twisty, I see how it makes sense. Yet something in me still rebels against it. I guess I see my gender as an almost cultural thing. Maybe not cultural in the same way that my Puerto Rican identity is, but similar.

    Actually, I think that my gender is more similar to my being a person of color or a queer person than to me being Puerto Rican. Perhaps, in a post-racist and a post-heterocentric world, the terms would be obsolete. Yet there’s something in me that would still want to hold onto them, because of the kinship, solidarity, strength, comfort and joy they’ve brought to my life. Does that make any sense? This is why I say that it might be sentimental, though I feel like there must be arguments out there for why gender etc will and should still be there after the revolution. Maybe I’ll try to dig some up.

    As for art disappearing? Oh HELL no. I don’t care how much sense it might make (I’ve never read such theories), you can’t rob me of art! I refuse! Yet I’m curious. Care to elaborate a bit?

  8. Heart

    I agree with everything you said there, Twisty. Here’s the thing though, with respect to woman-only spaces. Women *are*, in fact, oppressed and subordinated — all gender is is a mechanism of subordination; that’s all it is — on the basis of having been born female. Come the revolution, I agree, gender, as we have known it — i.e., as a subordinating mechanism — will be meaningless. But the revolution won’t be made without women, those of us subordinated on the basis of our sex, making it. We know men aren’t going to give up power without a fight– they never have until today, they fight us tooth and nail today, they have the power today. To make revolution, I think we’ve got to make times and places to gather out from under the noses of those who are vested in our subordination and in maintaining gendered power. It’s not about biology, chormosomes, bleeding, or anything else. It’s about being classed, sorted, as inferior on the basis of being female.

    Heart

  9. Ms Kate

    That’s why it’s called human rights.

    Sometimes, the particulars of the freedom struggles of purple polka-dotted interfeminized left handed carpathians get in the way of that larger issue.

  10. jane awake

    Hi, I’m Jane. This is my first time commenting at IBTP. The enormous thread Twisty referred to as “referendum on transgenderism” has generated a lot of heat here and in the feminist blogosphere in general, and I just wanted to briefly chime in.

    It seems a lot of women feel that Twisty should have shut down the thread or silenced some of those commenting. I, for one, am glad that she didn’t because I read the entire thread, and I thought it was enlightening. As unsexy as it is to be ignorant, or to have been ignorant, until I read the thread I had no idea, for example, that transphobia was an issue for feminists, and I also had no idea “trannie” is basically a slur. I understand that some of you who are more versed in feminist theory or transactivism or in the politics of blogging may not share my (green) perspective.

    Even more enlightening, to me, was the reaction to the thread in the blogosphere, especially over at the Women of Color Blog, where excellent criticism of the language used on the thread at IBTP was published. In fact, the criticism also became a conversation about the relationship between transphobia and racism. (Clearly, exposure to does not equal acceptance of when it comes to feminists, critical thinkers that we are.) For example, a little ways into the thread on her blog, brownfemipower wrote, “The thing is, trans women are not the only ones who’ve ever had their experiences as women contested by a white majority…I’m not counted as a ‘real’ woman, and nobody in my [Chicana] community is. We are the bargaining chips that can be traded in to the nation/state so that white women can keep their precious right to choose and their precious female identities in their safe spaces.”

    To me it seems that the definition(s) of “woman” is central to both threads, including the idea that some individuals are “more woman” or “less woman” as defined by the patriarchy or the white majority or the het majority, etc. Twisty, who favors “the dissolution of these oppressive binary sex roles,” offered: “Why, indeed, must I be any ‘thing’ at all?”

    What I want to know is, why didn’t the word androgyny appear anywhere in the 250 comment thread?

    It seems to me the English language (tool of the patriarchy that is often is) fails often to provide words for experiences that are essential for feminists. When one or two or five English words won’t cut it, I generally think that poetry (which pushes on the language’s boundaries) is necessary. An excellent feminist poet named Stacey Waite recently won the Main Street Rag chapbook (short book of poems) competition for her book Love Poem to Androgyny. Basically, I recommend that anyone interested in the conversation read the whole book, but also, here is the title poem:

    Love Poem to Androgyny
    by Stacey Waite

    I don’t know why I love you.
    I don’t know why you leave me

    whenever I am face with my own body.
    Outside the dumpsters are lifted
    and emptied. I slide the white shirt

    over my head. Last night I had
    the coward dream again, the airport,
    Sante Fe, gunshots echo off
    the women’s bodies. I stand
    in the lines of men who have to watch.

    We all love you to begin with.
    Then something happens. We become
    a mother who races down concrete steps
    to cover our daughter, riding her bike

    topless, with a plaid blanket. All these years
    you have been my skin though I’m afraid
    to say sometimes I don’t love you at all.
    Sometimes, it is a man I love.

    In the beginning was the word and the word
    knows us. We don’t always return the gesture.

  11. Beard

    As Twisty implies, the world itself is an infinitely rich and complicated, both in terms of gender and virtually every other attribute we use to make sense of it.

    We human, however, are limited in our ability to comprehend pretty much anything. So, as a matter of cognitive necessity, we create categories that approximate some aspect of the truth, on average, but can’t possibly capture the real complexity of existence. Categories like “male” and “female” (or for that matter, “Republican” and “Democrat” or pretty much any other artificial dichotomy) are actually pretty useful approximations. But they become oppressive when you think they capture the complexity of reality.

    My interpretation of the wisdom in what Twisty writes is that the oppression of patriarchy comes from believing that the dichotomy is real. Being limited beings, we need to make dichotomies, or we couldn’t think at all. But to avoid oppression, we need to be constantly aware of the fact that any dichotomy is only an approximation, and in many cases a poor one. And that many of the generalizations based on the dichotomy will be flat-out false, and oppressive when applied as policy.

    Twisty has written before that patriarchy will never be eliminated. Whether that is so or not, we will never eliminate thinking with dichotomies, because we can’t live without them. What we can hope for is increased humility about what truth they have.

  12. Heart

    Well… I think gender is very real. But it isn’t true. There’s a difference. Gender is real in terms of its consequences in the real world, in human lives. But it isn’t “true” in the sense that it would exist apart from patriarchy. There’s nothing “essential,” in other words, about gender. It’s a weapon used to apportion power to one class of people (men) by subordinating another class (women).

    Heart

  13. Heart

    And of course, there, in a nutshell, is the issue which some of us take with theories around transgender. Instead of working for the elimination of gender, transgender theories treat gender as though it really *is* true, as though it is something in the head, in the chromosomes, in the genes, in the jeans, as though it is something people are “born with,” or can’t help wanting or having, when in fact, gender has to do with coercion and subordination on the basis of sex. Eliminate gender, the sky’s the limit, we are all free to live, present, act in any way we want to without having to “identify” on the basis of gender.

    heart

  14. jane awake

    Heart, why do you (and others) think the idea of gender wouldn’t exist at all if not for the patriarchy? It seems to me it is possible that it could still exist (altered?). (I mean this question sincerely rather than as bait.)

  15. Heart

    jane awake, the answer to that question would fill many books. One very short answer is, what has been said about women for millennia, and about men for millennia, is not true. Women are not “naturally,” as a class, any of the things women are said, under patriarchy to be. Women are forced to be certain things under threat of punishment. The same is true for men. Men are not “naturally,” as a class, any of the things men are said, under patriarchy, to be. They are forced to be certain things under threat of punishment if they aren’t. Those of us who have spent some time in communities which are as nonpatriarchal as it is possible to get in American culture (still patriarchal, because it is so far inescapable, but much less so) find out that left to ourselves, women do everything men do and everything women do and everything in between. They cook, they build, they are carpenters, engineers, electricians, cooks, nurturers, strong silent types, loud, quiet, everything. They also look every kind of way: short, tall, fat, thin, muscled, flabby, short hair, long hair, bearded, big bellies, small butts, big butts, small bellies, big boobs, no boobs. In contexts in which gender is not coerced or forced on women, its signifiers disappear. It begins to become meaningless.

    Heart

  16. jane awake

    So what you mean is that “gender as defined by the patriarchy” would be eliminated if the patriarchy is eliminated?

  17. josquin

    I felt such a sense of calm, freedom and relief while envisioning the post-gender world Twisty describes here.
    It’s like taking off tight clothes, binding bras, and high heel shoes at the end of the day, and swimming in a warm ocean – no, not a “naked woman” in the water, but just a being, in water, going forth.
    It is very easy to imagine it. Very natural.
    But, no art??
    I don’t get that at all.
    There would still be things to talk about in such a world, I would think. There would still be ideas. There would still be the satisfaction and necessity of “aesthetic distance” to describe our experience here on earth. Those things tend to lead to art.
    Right?

  18. Heart

    I think patriarchy created gender for the specific purpose of subordinating a class of people. Apart from patriarchy, I don’t think there would be any such thing as gender.

    Heart

  19. Pinko Punko

    One issue, which will be impossible for us to decipher, is the role of several million years of patriarchy. Based on the time scale this appears that it really would have biological consequences, and how do these relate to gender? That said, I salute TF here- she can do what she wants, but I think she is usually more subtle than she thinks she is- what is a ton of bricks to her appears opaque to others. I know TF likes to play with ideas and imply them, and I think it is possible to discern their meaning consistent with this post here, it is just that a lot of people, and she bears no responsibility for answering them, were taking her meaning differently. Thus I really appreciate this post.

  20. saltyC

    But there will always be sex, unless the human race is to be extinguished.

    The definition of feminine relies on lipstick, gentleness and high heels.

    The definition of woman relies on having some sort of uterus when born. Bleeding is paradigmatic of womanhood, even if it was only when she was born. Obviously a woman doesn’t bleed for her whole life, but only a woman can be amenorrheac.

  21. saltyC

    You can’t be 10% of a woman, or 50% or 100%, either you are or you aren’t, and whether or not you actually reproduce doesn’t decide it.

    Twisty, sorry, but you’re a woman.

  22. Jack

    saltyC – some people who are non-trans women don’t have uteruses and have never bled.

  23. Jack

    Also, where in the hell do you get off telling someone who they are or are not? Can you get any more disrespectful?

  24. Heart

    Yes, but those are the women who don’t have uteruses and have never bled. They don’t know they don’t have uteruses and won’t bleed until they are nearly adults and have lived all of their formative years in the understanding that they do and will. This is an experience specific to those born female.

    Heart

  25. jane awake

    Beard, I really dig your comment.

    Heart, it just seems to me that gendered/genderless could potentially be as false a dichotomy as masculine/feminine clearly is. It seems to me that even without patriarchy there could be manifestations of gender (and by “gender” I do not mean “lipstick, gentleness and high heels”).

    Perhaps genderlessness is the only way to completely defeat patriarchy, and perhaps that is the reason why patriarchy (as many of you have said) won’t ever be entirely defeated. I don’t profess to know for sure. I keep trying to imagine a world with absolutely no manifestations of gender.

  26. Catherine Martell

    Twisty: I agree with you emphatically, and I’m really glad you’ve said it. I’m also glad you haven’t censored the hate comments. They make horrible, and yet educative, reading.

    Biology doesn’t prescribe binary sex roles, anyway. Biology doesn’t prescribe anything, seeing as it is the study of the natural world, not a religion, and not the media. I didn’t get my oar in when some bigoted fuckards were blethering on about how you couldn’t join their feminist gang unless your chromosomes matched their woefully underresearched, deterministic and speculative ideas of how biology might work. I’ve said this before here, but it needs saying again:

    There is no biological definition of sex.

    Nor, for that matter, is there a biological definition of gender, and incidentally this argument might be a lot clearer if everyone stopped using the word ‘gender’ as a synonym for ‘sex’.

    There are currently considered to be approximately six or seven indicators of sex, and the poor old Olympic Committee are having a hell of a time trying to decide who can compete as men and who as women. They put their chromosome testing kit away in the 1980s, by the way, because it was so hopelessly inadequate. Now, it saddens me that some trans people (note: some) actually reinforce sex and gender stereotypes. But a charitable person might allow that trans people are trying to deal with their complex identities within a rigid and repressive system, and perhaps a few of them are going to get things a bit mixed up occasionally. Hardly a reason to condemn a whole group of people who, like everyone else, are oppressed by the patriarchy. Moreover, there are plenty of trans people who have a subtle, tolerant, sophisticated and inspiring understanding of sex and gender.

    In the meantime, I want nothing to do with any form of ‘feminism’ that involves singling out any group of people, turning them into pariahs, ridiculing them and hating them. As far as I’m concerned, the creation and belittlement of underclasses is the exact opposite of feminism.

  27. maribelle

    Why, indeed, must I be any “thing” at all?

    This sounds like you are saying you are a “thing” by being defined as a woman. Defining something is not the same thing as devaluing it. Definitions can also be the ties that bind people, communities and ideas together.

    The need for expression — in the sense that it is used to identify an individual within an oppressive hegemony — would itself become obsolete, since we would already be what we mean to express.

    The human condition is one of constantly expressing, educating and identifying oneself.

    You can have my sense of expression when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.

  28. j

    Catherine Martell has mentioned the distinction between gender and sex. Sex would survive the destruction of the patriarchy. Gender would not.

  29. antares

    It makes me uncomfortable to read of people’s expectations of Twisty; that she moderate more stringently, that she explain every personal detail of her life to sustantiate her opinions, etc., etc. Just because one opens a restaurant, doesnt mean they are responsible for the stink of a certain patrons farts. i mean, sheesh.

    My understanding of the expression of gender is that it is not two-fold, it is four-fold : solar-feminine, lunar-feminine, solar-masculine, and lunar-masculine.

    I blame the patriarchy that two of those four manifestions are (basically) denied expression. I feel that if we were able to move freely among our solar and lunar expressions, transgenderism would be a rare phenomenon indeed.

  30. jane awake

    Just to clarify, when I used the word “gender” in my posts, I meant gender and not sex. I do know the diffence, after all, and so I hope my questions and statements stand.

  31. B. Dagger Lee

    Dear Twisty:

    J’accuse! You have so totally been hitting the postmodernism sauce! “Phallogocentric mythology” reeks of it. I’m surprised you can stand up.

    So in place of expression of gender or the expression we call “art” we would have various non-gendered, non-art decorations?

    And Jack might decorate as “calm strength” instead of “butch”?

    And Miss Patsy would decorate with “stupid, unfunctional shoes,” instead of “feminine high heels?”

    yrs, B. Dagger Lee

  32. Twisty

    Ha, ‘phallogocentrism’ is a pomo word, c’est vrai, but it’s perfectly crumulent all the same. No reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  33. B. Dagger Lee

    Heart:

    You point out that what women have “naturally” been said to be is an ideology of the patriarchy, and in fact not “natural.” Let’s unpack the phrase “theories around transgender,” from one of your comments. Which theories around transgender? Whose theories? Where? When?

    Then you go on to state, “Instead of working for the elimination of gender, transgender theories treat gender as though it really *is* true, as though it is something in the head, in the chromosomes, in the genes, in the jeans, as though it is something people are “born with,” or can’t help wanting or having, when in fact, gender has to do with coercion and subordination on the basis of sex”.

    You state this as a fact, and it’s not, it’s your opinion.

    Most of the theory I’ve read (Judith “Jack” Halberstam, Judith Butler, Leslie Feinberg, Kate Bornstein), posits that gender is non-essential, not fixed in the genes, chromosomes, and is not in-born. They—and I—posit it as a complex, developed emotional stance and expression developed through time, epiphany, awareness and other factors.

    yrs, B. Dagger Lee

    P.S. jane awake rules!

  34. emma goldman

    Thanks, Twisty. I remember figuring out a basic version of that when I was about 15, and wishing I knew other people who thought the same way. (Small, working-class towns in more or less the middle of nowhere aren’t usually the place to find thinkers of those thoughts.) In all the years since then, I’ve basically looked for people who–as best they can, given the patriarchy–have reached a similar thoughtspace.

  35. Twisty

    Maribelle: “The human condition is one of constantly expressing, educating and identifying oneself.”

    Currently, perhaps (if one has the money). But if the species survives long enough to undertake the revolution, all that expressing, educating, and identifying will have long been accomplished. The goal, according to Firestone’s argument, is total domination of nature through brilliant understanding of science, a society in which a thing, once thought, becomes real, and culture itself becomes obsolete. We’d be like those giant brain-things on Star Trek.

    Scary, I know. Who besides me can imagine a life where nobody spends 40 hours a week running around dominating things, and then on weekends writing sarcastic little competetive (linkage! linkage!) blog posts to express what a horrible life it is?

  36. jane awake

    B. Dagger, thanks for the love. I hope you read that Stacey Waite poem I posted [Stacey teaches queer theory and sexuality and representation at the University of Pittsburgh and introduced me to Kate Bornstein (in person!)] because it seems like no one else did. The whole book (Love Poem to Androgyny) is frikken great.

  37. B. Dagger Lee

    jane awake, I did read that the Waite poem, thank you, I like it. Is there a typo in the second stanza, first line? Should it be “faced” instead of “face”?

    As it happens, I’m reading Dworkin’s “Woman Hating” right now, and in the last two chapters she writes about androgyny. I would quote from it, but I haven’t fully formulated my thoughts on it.

    yrs, BDL

  38. Puffin

    B.Dagger Lee said, “Most of the theory I’ve read (Judith “Jack” Halberstam, Judith Butler, Leslie Feinberg, Kate Bornstein), posits that gender is non-essential, not fixed in the genes, chromosomes, and is not in-born. They—and I—posit it as a complex, developed emotional stance and expression developed through time, epiphany, awareness and other factors.”

    I agree with this generally, but Butler et. al. don’t do enough questioning (in my opinion) about just how much that complex development of emotions and expression is FORCED and how none of an individual’s gender “expression” (or, “performance,” if you like) exists outside of patriarchal, enforced heteronormitivity. I’ve only read Butler and Bornstein, granted, but they and other queer theorists fall far short of examining in any meaningful way how gender functions to maintain a system of oppression that, on the whole, privileges men at the expense of women.

    If we accept that gender is innate and innocuous and bears no socially political meaning, then transsexuals ostensibly seem to be those who are challenging gender norms most, but I ask (completely in earnest, as I have not come to any firm, set understanding of this issue) why then must the body match the gender “identity?” Isn’t a “trans” identity moot if gender is simply expression? And further, isn’t the decision to surgically alter to the body to “match” one’s gender “expression” an absolute confirmation of binary gender norms? That women are THIS and men are THAT and the plumbing must fit?

    Rather, aren’t we ALL transgendered? Isn’t any little girl who would rather play with trucks and grow up to be a mechanic transgendered? Isn’t any guy who wishes he could cry at sappy movies transgendered? At what point do we think it warrants a name change and surgery?

    If gender is more artistic expression and less a tool of systematic oppression, why is it that gender is such a primary signifier of who has power and who does not? Who rapes and who is raped? Who beats and who is beaten? Do those who were lucky enough to be born with penises and an innate desire to express themselves in a masculine way just get together and decide to pull one over on the rest of us?

  39. Puffin

    Ugh, “innate” was not the word I wanted to use but rather “individual” in my previous post, so please excuse the mistake. A necessary distinction, given the topic I was attempting to address.

  40. Tanya

    But Twisty! Without gender how will I know which bathroom to use?

  41. jane awake

    Yes, it should be “faced.” Thanks for catching that, BDL.

    I absolutely can not resist posting just one more poem (seriously, I won’t do it again) from the aforementioned book here:

    Letter to Brandon Teena
    by Stacey Waite

    I become a man by accident at the Pirates game:
    I have an interesting name and Will I buy her a beer?
    I shift in the hard blue seat, #216. This isn’t the first time
    Pittsburgh has made a man out of me. The stadium lights
    are white warnings and this woman’s thick thigh
    pressed over the plastic arm of 216. Charlie Hayes
    has been traded again. Who are you rooting for?
    she asks. The sky has made its mind up and won’t rain.

    I know what it’s like to make love to a woman
    with your clothes on—your hips quivering
    with the fear of she knows what I am.

    I know what kind of men we are,
    parting her finger from the belt buckle
    as if to say this kind of revelation
    isn’t at all necessary.

    For you, there was gunfire and the moon was a white tear.
    And who will believe us that deception is only
    a matter of cutting through the red tape?

    Through the Liberty Tunnel, she changes the radio stations.
    Do I mind?she asks. I keep imagining my car scraping
    the concrete walls of the tunnel. I might be in the O.R.
    when the nurse presses the ice pack over this woman’s lip
    and say, Your friend, she’s going to be alright. For me,
    there’s never any turning back and I’ve got a hunch
    even desire is a kind of murder. What do you think of that?
    Do you think I should have left her there in centerfield
    and counted my other blessings?

  42. Catherine Martell

    jane awake: I apologise. When I said “everyone” was using gender as a synonym for sex, I should have said “some people”. No offence meant.

  43. auguste

    You can’t be 10% of a woman, or 50% or 100%, either you are or you aren’t, and whether or not you actually reproduce doesn’t decide it.

    Twisty, sorry, but you’re a woman.

    We can all go home, argument over. The science has been dropped on us.

  44. Beard

    “Without gender how will I know which bathroom to use?”

    Various places in Europe have only one bathroom, with lots of toilet cubicles with full-privacy doors, and shared sinks for washing your hands afterward. I don’t recall whether they had urinals or not, and where they were, if so.

    It does reduce the utility of the bathroom as a place to discuss your dates with your same-gender friend, but that’s probably a reasonable sacrifice. Eliminate the patriarchy, and save on plumbing and construction costs as a bonus! What’s not to like?

  45. Heart

    B.DaggerLee: Then you go on to state, “Instead of working for the elimination of gender, transgender theories treat gender as though it really *is* true, as though it is something in the head, in the chromosomes, in the genes, in the jeans, as though it is something people are “born with,” or can’t help wanting or having, when in fact, gender has to do with coercion and subordination on the basis of sex”.

    You state this as a fact, and it’s not, it’s your opinion.

    Most of the theory I’ve read (Judith “Jack” Halberstam, Judith Butler, Leslie Feinberg, Kate Bornstein), posits that gender is non-essential, not fixed in the genes, chromosomes, and is not in-born. They—and I—posit it as a complex, developed emotional stance and expression developed through time, epiphany, awareness and other factors.

    In other words, most of the theory you’ve read posits, just as I said in what you quoted up there, in less flowery language than your own, that gender is both real and true. That is, in fact, a gender essentialist position. That is the view that there is something “essential” about gender, there is something “natural” about it, it is something all people “have,” to the point that if they “have” the gender that doesn’t match the sex patriarchy has assigned to it, they need surgeries, hormones and massive patriarchally ordained fixes to make sure that the gender they developed through “time, epiphany, awareness and other factors” matches the biology patriarchy has assigned to that gender.

    Which was precisely my point. Transgender theory is about *more* gender, not the elimination of gender. Some of us believe that gender is not going to survive the destruction of patriarchy, because, in fact, it is about subordination and only subordination.

    Heart

  46. jane awake

    No sweat, Catherine.

  47. saltyC

    Well I have read the BrownFemiPower thread and am now re-evaluating my position in light of angles made clear there that I had not considered before.

    I thought Twisty was being too defensive at first, but now I see the reason in the protests.

  48. Pony

    “Well I have read the BrownFemiPower thread and am now re-evaluating my position in light of angles made clear there that I had not considered before.

    I thought Twisty was being too defensive at first, but now I see the reason in the protests.”

    I’d like to hear what you have to say.

  49. Twisty

    “But Twisty! Without gender how will I know which bathroom to use? ”

    Don’t worry, Tanya. In the future, we will all be equipped with intestinal nanobots that totally digest the completely digestible future-food; no waste, no bathrooms!

  50. Jack

    … to the point that if they “have” the gender that doesn’t match the sex patriarchy has assigned to it, they need surgeries, hormones and massive patriarchally ordained fixes to make sure that the gender they developed through “time, epiphany, awareness and other factors” matches the biology patriarchy has assigned to that gender.

    Heart, I think that you and others are making a whole lot of assumptions on transgender theory and politics and are backing those assumptions up with little knowledge or evidence. There are many different variations of each, just as there are many different variations of feminist thought and politics. There is by no means one monolithic transgender line of thinking.

    The trans and genderqueer community to which I belong, on both social and activist levels, certainly does not feel that anyone “needs” to have any sort of body modifications or “fixes” to make their bodies match their identities. Rather, we believe that people must have the right and ability to do so, if that is what makes them feel more comfortable in their bodies. In fact, the organizations and communities to which I belong strongly assert that there is no one way of being trans or genderqueer that includes a set medical trajectory for “fixing” oneself.

    It really pisses me off to hear a bunch of non-trans-identified folks questioning trans people’s choices about identity and transition. It’s so easy to preach all high and mighty about defying gender categorizations when you happen to be in the non-trans majority.

  51. B. Dagger Lee

    No, not in “other words” because the “other words” you go on to write are the opposite of my words, which are again, and in my other words, as follows: most of the theory I’ve read posits, with a more academic vocabulary, that “gender” is not “real” and not “true”.

    The theory I’ve read, and referred to above, is not gender essentialist and posits that it is the patriarchy (or the “phallologocentric mythology”) that claims there is something “essential” about gender, that the patriarchy claims there is something “natural” about gender, and that the patriarchy enforces—with violence and the threat of it—rigid boundaries around these “natural” and “essential” categories. Crossing these boundaries, whether as a dyke or a transwoman or transman is punished—often murderously, or by punishing speech, according to my theorists of gender.

    That said, I have no doub that there are transgendered people who believe that they are becoming “authentic”, “natural” or “real” when they have sex-reassignment surgery; they are individuals and have their own philosophies and ideologies in life. I have no doubt that there are trans people who are gender essentialists. But not the theorists I’ve referred to above, and not the transpeople I know.

    Again, when you write “transgender theory”, who are these theorists? Who are you talking about?

    I refer you also to the last chapters of Andrea Dworkin’s “Woman Hating,” wherein her ideas about androgyny seem to encompass and honor both the ideas and realities of transvestites, transsexuals, transgendered people, intersexed people, homosexual people and some heterosexual people, and to posit these peoples as capable of being androgynes, or gender dissidents.

    yrs, B. Dagger Lee

  52. B. Dagger Lee

    My last comment was directed to Heart and in the interim, Jack has said it more clearly and concisely, thanks.

    yrs, BDL

  53. Pinko Punko

    I have been chewing on this all day. Two cents (which, with inflation is not much, certainly not enough for nanobots):

    If patriarchy is all powerful and the root of gender, such that we all are expressing our “gender” in response to the environment, then a “gender” non-essentialist view of transgender experiences by definition would define it as some sort of personality response to our environment, just different than the those in the “cis.” I think that luckynkl’s view would be an extreme of this, expressed as offensively as possible, while my understanding of Heart’s view is somewhat in between. I don’t want to be in the position of equating sexuality and gender, but for the sake of argument, let’s consider them to be analogous (not homologous, mind). I do hold that sexuality is biological in nature, with some indeterminate room for fuzziness. If transgendered individuals describe their experiences in the identical terms as GLB persons, how can we tell the difference? Obviously, those on the “cis” side of gender will of course have a hard time describing how they feel about their own gender, because if you happen to fall within certain prescribed lines, you just don’t think about it, but do you fall into those lines because they are prescribed? For a ton of behaviors, the answer is of course yes. I don’t know about gender.

    This being said, as long as actions are those of tolerance and acceptance, theory becomes academic (until the nanobots are in place). I don’t write off theory completely, but if and when the pieces of the patriarchy fall away, so will the various dominoes. If the gender one refuses to fall, it will be impossible to know if it is a last strong/stranglehold of the patriarchy or an actual thing, albeit we would presume to be much fuzzier/broader than the tiny box currently allowed.

  54. slade

    For the love of Goddess, can we please discuss the Bonobos now?

    At least the Bonobos don’t come here and tell the women how unkind and uncaring we are….and how we have pissed them off by not being what? Motherly enough? Agreeable enough? Subordinate enough?

    Jack says: “It really pisses me off to hear a bunch of non-trans-identified folks questioning trans people’s choices about identity and transition. It’s so easy to preach all high and mighty about defying gender categorizations when you happen to be in the non-trans majority.”

    You’re pissed? Join the crowd. I was born pissed. But calling a bunch of us ‘all high and mightly’ will get you nowhere…on society’s caste ladder to the stars, you need to skip us and head to the top and direct that anger where it belongs…the rich white hetero boys.

    Or if that doesn’t make you feel better, I guess you could start your own blog and entitle it: I Blame the Feminists.

  55. Pinko Punko

    I thought the spamulator would love my use of the word “nanobot.” Maybe it loves it too much. Maybe my comment spamulator=the first coupling that will bring our nanobots to fruition.

  56. Jill

    “You can’t be 10% of a woman, or 50% or 100%, either you are or you aren’t, and whether or not you actually reproduce doesn’t decide it.

    Twisty, sorry, but you’re a woman.”

    I must have missed the post where Twisty treated us all to an upskirt shot. After all, this is the internets — for all we know, Twisty could be a 15-year-old boy impersonating a radical feminist. Stranger things have happened.

    But more to the heart of your comment, what to say about people who have female sex organs, but XY chromosomes? Or ambiguous genitals? Or a uterus and ovaries, but a penis and male secondary sex characteristics? Or XXY chromosomes? Or both testicular and ovarian tissue?

    If you either are or you aren’t, what about these people? Enlighten us, Salty: Do they count as women, or are they out of the club? Where do they fit in your either/or categories?

  57. Heart

    Jack and B.Dagger Lee, why the term “transGENDER,” if transgender isn’t about gendering, and making sure people can present in ways that are “gendered,” whether they have surgery or not? Bottom line, it is still as I’ve said: some of us want an end to gender because gender has always been about subordination. You both seem to believe there’s a place it’s important for us to make for gender so long as gender is not attached to biology (although you want people to be able to attach their gender to the biology patriarchy has always attached it to if they feel like they need to.) Why is it important, in your minds, for people to present or identify in ways which are gendered? How will this bring us closer to the end of patriarchy? Why is it important for people to have the right to make their bodies match the gender patriarchy has connected that gender with?

    As to Andrea Dworkin, I think what you’re saying there is misleading, B.DaggerLee. What Andrea Dworkin said in Woman Hating is that wanting to have a body other than the one you are born with, believing you are in the “wrong body,” is a medical emergency created by patriarchy and patriarchy ought to immediately make provision for the medical emergency patriarchy has created. She then goes on to say, recalling from memory now, but I’ve read this recently, that feminism must then move forward to *end gender*. A huge focus of Dworkin’s work was ending gender, as opposed to continuing to have to deal with the medical emergencies created because patriarchy enforces and imposes gender on people. When Dworkin talks about androgyny, she is talking about an end to gender. Not the creation of many new genders which are variations on the old binary. Not making peace with some notion that gender is unavoidable. For Dworkin, gender was always about subordination.

    Heart

  58. Pinko Punko

    Grr. Won’t double post, instead I’ll just get angry with self for not using text editor. Goodbye serious comment, hello first drink of the night. If it does show up, it was somewhere up there.

    Goodnight, Bert et al.

  59. la Beylita

    slade, the proposition that a person cannot bring arguement against a person standing in opposition on the claim that their comfort is more important than the first person’s survival based on the fact that other people hold more power than either person involved comes across a tad disingenuous.

  60. Jack

    But calling a bunch of us ‘all high and mightly’ will get you nowhere…on society’s caste ladder to the stars, you need to skip us and head to the top and direct that anger where it belongs…the rich white hetero boys.

    See, slade, that’s the problem right there – it’s not only rich white hetero boys who have power and privilege. They’re also not the only ones who should be challenged and criticized. Most of us have power and privilege that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with, despite whatever oppression or lack of power we might also experience. Non-trans women most definitely have a certain kind of gender privilege over trans people of all genders – the privilege of being non-trans in a society that roundly hates on trans people.

    Also, I already have a blog, and it has a great name, thank you very much. “I Blame the Feminists” would be a pretty stupid blog name, one reason being that I’m a feminist myself.

    Why is it important, in your minds, for people to present or identify in ways which are gendered? How will this bring us closer to the end of patriarchy?

    Heart – I think that if people think it’s important, for themselves, to present or identify in ways that are gendered, then they should be able to do so free of societal constraint. I don’t think it’s important that everyone be gendered, but I also don’t think that gender is inherently a tool or product of patriarchy (though it’s certainly caught up with it and often twisted within it.) I also don’t think that every single thing on earth has to bring us closer to the end of patriarchy. To me, the end of gender oppression includes both the end of patriarchy and the end of transphobia, in equal measures.

    Why is it important for people to have the right to make their bodies match the gender patriarchy has connected that gender with?

    I think it’s important for people to be able to make their bodies feel right to them. Sure, that feeling might be influenced by society, but come on – every single thing we think and feel is influenced by our society, for better or for worse. Your objection to trans people finding their own, comfortable gender identity is just as influenced by a society that believes that people should stick with the gender assigned to them at birth.

  61. Julie Stahlhut

    Catherine wrote: “There is no biological definition of sex.”

    Actually, there’s a reasonable working definition of sex in the biological sense, but it’s quite removed from definitions of gender roles in human cultures.

    In a sexual species, the female makes large gametes, and the male makes small ones.

    Humans being the control freaks that we are, we’ve layered an awful lot of baggage over those gametes and the persons who may carry them.

  62. Pinko Punko

    Julie, if we are talking about simple organisms there are other aspects of sex in addition to making gametes, for example certain mating behaviors in insects are hard wired in specific neurons, and changing the sex of the neurons alone changes the behavior, regardless of the anatomy of the rest of the animal. That is just an FYI, not anything to be expanded.

    Goodnight-

  63. Heart

    Jack, actually, I don’t object to anyone doing anything they need to do to be okay in the world, whatever it might be. I agree with Andrea Dworkin that patriarchy is obligated to address the problems patriarchy has created, including medically. At the same time, I also think that as feminists, we have to talk and think deeply about gender and its role in subordinating women. That’s not the same thing as criticizing anyone’s choices, even though it’s understandable that people hear it that way.

    Heart

  64. beansa

    Hello, new blamer here -

    Puffin wrote:

    “B.Dagger Lee said, “Most of the theory I’ve read (Judith “Jack” Halberstam, Judith Butler, Leslie Feinberg, Kate Bornstein), posits that gender is non-essential, not fixed in the genes, chromosomes, and is not in-born. They—and I—posit it as a complex, developed emotional stance and expression developed through time, epiphany, awareness and other factors.”

    I agree with this generally, but Butler et. al. don’t do enough questioning (in my opinion) about just how much that complex development of emotions and expression is FORCED and how none of an individual’s gender “expression” (or, “performance,” if you like) exists outside of patriarchal, enforced heteronormitivity.”

    I would like to add to this that the complex development of emotions and expression and an individual’s gender expression can not be completely separated from the body of said individual. I think arguing essentialist vs. constructivist theories of gender reinforces yet another false dichotomy and limits our ability to understand how gender functions as a system of oppression.

    We may not be born gendered, but our bodies are not closed systems either. Our brains are incredibly plastic, especially early in life, and our experiences do change us on a physical level. Our experience of gender socialization then comes from the outside, but can have a very real and lasting effect on the structure of our brains (and other parts of our bodies as well, like pointy toed shoes fucking up our feet). In this way the construct of gender becomes essential to an extent.

  65. Jack

    At the same time, I also think that as feminists, we have to talk and think deeply about gender and its role in subordinating women. That’s not the same thing as criticizing anyone’s choices, even though it’s understandable that people hear it that way.

    I absolutely agree that gender must be questioned and challenged thoroughly. I think that non-trans and trans people alike should take a look at how we approach gender, both on personal and larger political levels, and really examine what’s going into our choices and opinions about it. I also agree that gender, like sexuality, has been used for time immemorial to subordinate not only women but also anyone who doesn’t fall properly into the male/female dichotomy, like trans and genderqueer people.

    However, I’m not of the camp that thinks that all sex is rape or is inherently patriarchal, nor am I of the camp that thinks that gender can only be oppressive and subordinating to women or anyone else. I truly believe that both sexuality and gender can be reclaimed and reframed in ways that are not coercive and are not about replicating patriarchy and oppression. Yes, given the society we exist in, we need to constantly check ourselves when it comes to playing out those oppressive tendencies. Yet I think it is possible to move gender and sexuality more and more away from domination and oppression, with the goal of eventually detaching them from those things entirely.

  66. Ms Kate

    See, slade, that’s the problem right there – it’s not only rich white hetero boys who have power and privilege. They’re also not the only ones who should be challenged and criticized. Most of us have power and privilege that needs to be acknowledged and dealt with, despite whatever oppression or lack of power we might also experience.

    Teh Patriarchy sez … MMM. DIVIDE AND CONQUER. YUMMY.

    And while we analyze our feminist souls for original (and not so original) sin spots, The Patriarchy is throwing yet another kegger down at the local frat – and laughing at us for being so hairy and angry.

  67. Jack

    Teh Patriarchy sez … MMM. DIVIDE AND CONQUER. YUMMY.

    Funny… this sounds so much like what white women told – hell, tell – women of color who spoke out against racism within feminist communities.

    “Shut up and fight the real enemy, whilst we continue to ignore your issues and your lives and act in complicity with your oppression as women of color, or as trans people, or as genderqueer people. Because we’re all in this together, right, sisters?”

    Arguments like that? SO OLD. SO TIRED. SO PLAYED OUT.

    Face it, Ms Kate – you probably don’t have a monopoly on oppression. Your dismissive tone especially suggests that you’ve probably got a whole bunch of privilege and the prejudice that goes with it. Trying to cover it up by pointing at the “real” enemy doesn’t make it go away. Being a woman or a feminist doesn’t give you a “Get Out Of Examining My Own Privilege Free” card. None of us get that card. Not a one.

  68. octogalore

    I second Jack’s belief that gender doesn’t necessarily have to be oppressive to women or other groups. While I agree with Twisty that patriarchy is bolstered by enforced sex roles, I don’t think those roles have to stem from the existence or continuation of gender. “Woman” doesn’t have to be reliant on any cultural understandings to exist. What Jack is articulating about enjoying the existence of gender for reasons other than a fixed place in a patriarchy is something shared by too many women and men for gender to break down were the patriarchy to break down. Were the latter to happen, probably not in any of our lifetimes, unfortunately, I believe there would be enough non-patriarchically-imposed things about being a woman that would remain, for the concept of “woman” to maintain.

    Twisty seems to be suggesting that being funny, no longer bleeding, being mostly celibate, not doing housework, etc., are tied to some universal definition of “woman.” Certainly such a specific definition would not survive the downfall of the patriarchy. However, what about other more nuanced aspects? The majority of women, post-patriarchy, might continue to have common ways of being entrepreneurial, being empathetic, moving in a certain way, having certain bone structure, being funny in a distinctive way, being creative in a way that draws from different areas. Not to mention, physiques that mostly differ from those of men. Certainly, there will continue to be some overlap. But a combination of traits will probably continue to be viewed as female. The hope would be that this grouping would not derive from patriarchy-centered “roles.”

  69. Holly

    I would add to what Jack and octogalore said… that trans people, and ideologies that try to support and defend trans people’s existence and survival, are not necessarily in favor of enforced sex roles, the continuation of gender, or stereotypical ideas of masculinity and femininity. Of course, there are many trans people who do not bother to challenge these institutions… just as most people in general don’t bother to. Most people, sadly, are not feminist.

    But to say that being pro-gender, believing in an essentialist model of gender, or relying on rigid, enforced gender roles is part and parcel of “transgender” is a stereotype. It’s simply not true of everyone or even most, even if it is true of certain people you’ve seen, read, or talked to. Until we understand that there’s far more to trans people and “trans ideology” (whatever that might be) then I don’t think we have a very good understanding of what “transgender” is at all, and shouldn’t be making definitive-sounding pronouncements about it. And there have been a lot of those around here lately.

  70. lightly

    Well, I have two jobs so I don’t have the time to study theory or contemplate this and that at length. When I was a kid in school my teachers all told me I should be a writer, but the right-wing war against working people and poor women put me in my place. So now as I approach 60 I work two jobs and the death of my youthful dreams of being pointy-headed and dazzling everyone with flights of verbal pyrotechnics are the least of my worries. Besides, now that I’ve had so many decades to begin understanding how far beyond my little self the brutality of our world stretches, who or what would I even be writing for?

    So, as the Roches once sang, “When the sky falls down, we play on the ground.” I keep it simple now. I stick to the small sphere of things I have seen, felt, experienced in concrete ways. This is the reduced sphere from which I figure I can still comment with authority.

    I was in the Ms bulletin board community as it was destroyed by the trans wars. Heart knows that because I assure you she knows me. The real women-born-women never had much use for me except as an audience. In some ways I identify with how women of color see the feminism of privileged white women. Except that there’s a twist on that because I am an impoverished white southern woman. That means I get to watch white liberals recalibrate their biogtry (at least in real life, real time daily ways) into an All People of Color Good, All Poor Southern Whites Bad stereotype that, like all shortcuts to actual observation, is fucked up most of the time.

    I guess it gets down to the fact that I don’t fit in any of these damn categories. I’m woman-born-woman, but I’ve had no children and never been married. Say what the fuck you will, but women-born-women have buckets of bias toward mommyhood and married-hood and them of us that ain’t never done neither of them things are regarded as clueless children. As a het woman, I am prone to idealizing lesbians, thinking that if only I were gay, I would have a category, a place in this world. If I had time to do any of that contemplating some of you have the luxury of doing, I’m sure I would quickly realize the error of that particular little personal illusion.

    In the Ms. bulletin board community I stuck up for the transwomen there, as least one of whom is still a treasured friend, because they were my friends. When the trans wars broke out I stuck up for them because they were my friends. Simple as that. When it comes to actually knowing scoobie squat about trans or gender queer theory, nada. I could understand astrophysics sooner than I could understand that stuff.

    Anyway, this is sure to be disjointed, the ending is precipitate and awkward and (profound apologies and genuflections to Twisty) riddled with errors of syntax, grammar and spelling. But I gotta clean myself up and go to work because it’s Sunday.

  71. Catherine Martell

    Julie Stahlhut: “In a sexual species, the female makes large gametes, and the male makes small ones.”

    Doesn’t work. Twisty, for instance, makes no gametes at all. At some point, she probably did, but the fact that she no longer produces large gametes does not render her unwoman. Many people do not make gametes, not only for reasons of surgery but in many cases because they were born that way.

    All the factors we use to distinguish sex – gamete size, chromosomal profile, hormone production, anatomy, secondary development, behaviour, etc etc – are indicators. None is definitive in all cases.

  72. Lara

    After reading this thread, I can get to a definition of “woman” in my cultural here-and-now is “bleeds, or is pathologised for not bleeding”. It’s not perfect, but it’s close.

    …. and for the pathologisation, you know who I blame.

  73. Mar Iguana

    In solidarity with Luckynkl, I ban myself. Have at fun at the kegger, boys. And, moderate this.

  74. Twisty

    Octogalore: “Twisty seems to be suggesting that being funny, no longer bleeding, being mostly celibate, not doing housework, etc., are tied to some universal definition of “woman.” Certainly such a specific definition would not survive the downfall of the patriarchy. However, what about other more nuanced aspects? The majority of women, post-patriarchy, might continue to have common ways of being entrepreneurial, being empathetic, moving in a certain way, having certain bone structure, being funny in a distinctive way, being creative in a way that draws from different areas. Not to mention, physiques that mostly differ from those of men. Certainly, there will continue to be some overlap. But a combination of traits will probably continue to be viewed as female. The hope would be that this grouping would not derive from patriarchy-centered “roles.””

    No no no! This is exactly what must go! “Difference”! I mean, difference from what? From men! You see how still you can’t imagine not being defined by men? It’s gotta go! It’s what the dominant culture uses to OPPRESS YOU.

  75. Bea

    I also ban myself, in solidarity with Lyckynkl.

  76. octogalore

    Twisty: I guess the distinction I am making is: I don’t think being different from men would be oppressive in a post-patriarchy setting, and I do think there are differences that we can continue to celebrate. Why do you assume that pointing out distinctive aspects of women, which I continue to believe would largely survive the patriarchy, is my benighted way of defining women via a male template? Why not look at this as my pointing out features which are simply noteworthy. Comparing red to green doesn’t mean using a green standard. None of the features I mentioned are examples of characteristics the dominant culture uses to oppress – such as ones having to do with subordination or patronization. I’ve pointed out characteristics I believe give women various advantages: things that will hopefully aid in overthrow of the patriarchy and will continue as features of which to be proud. I do not believe that difference must be oppressive. I do believe that pretending the differences don’t exist robs us of various tools we have to combat the patriarchy.

  77. saltyC

    OK I now support transgender women’s right to inclusion. If Native American Tribes in Louisiana can recognize the Mardi Gras Indians as a First Nations people, then why not?

  78. Ms Kate

    Face it, Ms Kate – you probably don’t have a monopoly on oppression. Your dismissive tone especially suggests that you’ve probably got a whole bunch of privilege and the prejudice that goes with it.

    No, I’ve just seen a number of communities of justice, on line and in real life, get derailed from the prize they had their eyes on before they started attacking each other. This led to abandonment of common ground and central mission. One could solidly argue that the civil rights movement stalled because of this sort of thing. It’s patriarchal poison.

    I do not deny that mainline feminism was founded and largely run for the benefit of urban, white, educated East-coast rich women. I find the “classic” feminists of the 60s to be highly irritating in that regard, and what they were saying had little or nothing to say about my life when I was younger. But the greatest strides of late have not been made on message boards founded as a safe place for ambidextrous multiracial bisexual Irish women living in poverty to air their issues when others just didn’t understand – they have been made because groups like NARAL e-mail women from all walks of life who would not get along with each other in the same chat room to write their congresspeople on a regular basis.

    So go ahead and write your treatise on a critique of theory of feminist ichtyology from a left-handed lesbian perspective. I will be sorry to distract you in the coffeehouse when I yet again corner my state rep and US rep as they get coffee.

  79. Beard

    Twisty: I think we’re getting at an interesting and important distinction, between (a) the categories and dichotomies imposed by the specific patriarchal culture we live in, and (b) the fact that we can’t function without some sorts of categories and dichotomies to make thinking possible.

    As I tried to point out above [12/30 11:37 am], while (a) undoubtedly includes much oppressive baggage that must be overthrown, (b) is an inevitable part of the human condition.

    What we need to learn is the cognitive humility that recognizes that any given set of categories is a finite approximation of the infinite complexity of reality, and therefore cannot be ultimately “true”, however useful it might be on one occasion or another. Oppression comes from regarding those categories as representing “truth” (whatever that means).

    For various purposes, you can plausibly be considered to belong to the categories “female”, and “cancer survivor”, and “superb prose stylist”. But none of them capture what you *are*, because you have infinite complexity. For certain categories, say “Austin tax-payer”, you might plausibly say, “technically correct but so irrelevant as to be misleading”. And, for each of those categories, you could also say, “Here’s why certain default inferences for that category don’t apply to my case, because I am an atypical member of the category.”

    The same, of course, applies to each of us, in our own infinite complexities.

  80. Cass

    “What we need to learn is the cognitive humility that recognizes that any given set of categories is a finite approximation of the infinite complexity of reality, and therefore cannot ultimately be ‘true’, however useful it might be on one occasion or another. Oppression comes from recognizing those categories as ‘truth’.”

    I think there’s generally more to oppression than that, but otherwise, very well put.

  81. JackGoff

    Have at fun at the kegger, boys.

    Have fun at the rally. You might want to a few stretching exercises, as I hear saluting takes a lot out of you.

  82. anna23

    Hey Twisty, I totally did not know you were a lesbian. I must congratulate you on being “out”, as the kids say.

  83. magickitty

    Ms Kate, you’ve said it better than I have been trying to express.

    To me, the “categories” don’t matter. I don’t care if the most-heard voice of the (North American) feminist movement is of white, privileged folk. The fact that it’s being heard is what matters. There needs to be a unified effort, otherwise nothing would get done.

    I look at it as a kind of government. There are all sorts of local councils, municipal boards, provincial bodies, etc. etc., but they are all under the umbrella of a federal entity, one that has the resources to communicate with all the groups, and that can lead a concerted attack against issues that concern us all.

    I think over time, the patriarchy has come to expect that the feminist movement speaks for the rights of all the
    disempowered groups. That rich white women do include the poor, the non-white, the unfeminists, the transfolk, the knitters, and the crocheters in their fight. I think that’s why they cling so hard to male privilege – they know that white feminists
    are just the leading edge of the tidal wave, and that men are going to have to give up everything.

    And a personal rant, as spoken by a Canadian woman of colour to American Radical Women of Colour:

    Well excuuuuuse me, but you can’t speak for all women of colour. You can’t speak for Canadian women, the majority of whom are Caribbean in origin, who have different experiences of racism from yourselves. You can’t speak for Latin American women, who have always had their own voice, albeit unheard. You can’t even speak for African-born women, whose experiences are so long divorced from your own. And yet that is what I see in your blogs (I have been visiting,
    observing, and learning). I see the same exercise of American-educated privilege that you accuse American white women of
    using over the feminist movement. You’re being (!) inclusive. INCLUSIVE! The very thing that rankles you about the white feminist movement.

    (And, just to be a bit more divisive and offensive…) As a Canadian women speaking to American women:

    You are the most privileged women in the world. All of y’all have to take a step back, chill out, and, I dunno, listen to the United Nations sometimes.

    (Yes, as Canadian, I am privileged-by-association. Even more so, because I have teh godless universal healthcare. But it still chaps my hide when I am “included” with the American feminist movement.)

    Anyway, my final point:

    Women need to fight for one’s individual rights, and for the rights of the group they most identify with. However, I would beg you not to do it at the expense of the larger goals of the feminist movement, such as access to birth control, equal pay, equal rights, the end of violence against women, etc. etc. – the sort of “umbrella” issues that affect us all, despite the unique facets of our own needs.

    This is not to say “put up, or shut up.” It’s to say, fight like hell for your own particular stuff, but don’t dismiss the dinosaur of feminism out of hand just because it doesn’t whisper directly into your ear.

  84. thelmyc

    Gender is like race and money — an agreed-upon illusion that we use to make the machine go and nothing more. Whether the machine should go, should be brought to a grinding halt, or should be replaced with a much nicer-running one is another matter.

    (Hint: Should.)

  85. Ms Kate

    My state rep likes me because I have backed him up on environmental issues with public health info. This has, in part, resulted in forcing a couple of inappropriate projects into repermitting with the state.

    Unfortunately, he’s pretty backward on LGBT issues.

    Now, should I have gone and examined the priveges of education and age and married heterosexuality? Or was it totally inappropriate of me to respond to his return phone call when I weighed in as a constituent, and explain exactly why I thought it would be a good idea if he voted to table a constitutional referendum on gay marriage in the state legislature? (he did vote to table).

    Removing heteronormative conceptions of marriage from our legal structure is, after all, feminist.

    Instead of assessing and atoning for privelege, we should be assessing and using the priveleges we have – not against each other, but for larger goals. We don’t give them to ourselves and we don’t ask for them, but they are there.

    Women would never have had the vote if men had not voted for them to have it. We may not like that, but it is true.

  86. thelmyc

    You know, I’m also seeing parallels here with the ritual thing. Gender as ritual. Where the problem is not that you do X but that for some reason, you feel the perverse need to make OTHER people do X or judge them as fucked up if they don’t.

    I still feel that the tendency for people to be a little OCD and need ritual isn’t a problem, and I still compare that to my own little tic when I get out of my car: I knock it on the headlamp or front fender with my knuckle as I go by and say, “Thanks, baby.” I like mechanical devices since the process of understanding them is pleasurable to my mind, and I feel the need to thank my car for getting me to where I need to go.

    That’s a ritual, I suppose. But the one thing I don’t do is see it for more than it is — a weird little tic of my vewy own. I don’t tell other people about how wonderful it is, try to convince them to do the same thing, and nitpick with people who knock the rear fender of their cars instead. It doesn’t go beyond my own goddamned skin.

    I think gender is the same way — and to that, I ask the same question. Why the FUCK do Rhetorical You feel the goddamned need to force this crap on others?! Why the FUCK does it matter so goddamned much that other people do exactly the same thing you do?! What, are you gonna shrivel up and blow away if someone else isn’t you?! Get the fuck over yourself.

    That’s what it goddamned boils down to — people fear that if they see anything other than themselves in the universe that they don’t exist. It’s a fucking wonder some of them can stand to look away from the mirror. Push comes to shove, at its root, the problem is a problem with the majority of human brains that can’t see others people as being as real as they are. It’s fucking sociopathic.

  87. thelmyc

    Women would never have had the vote if men had not voted for them to have it. We may not like that, but it is true.

    MsKate, I agree with this, but I think the reason why it makes me unhappy is not that I don’t want to think well of men on the whole (although, for the most part, I will admit freely that I don’t). The thing that bothers me about this is that they didn’t exactly vote to enfranchise us out of the goodness of their hearts, because they saw and understood the incalculable damage that it did to us and themselves and the world at large for us to have no voice.

    They did it because they were forced. They did it because we had enough votes in enough states already to throw the election if they didn’t enfranchise us. I can’t count that one senator who voted because his mother urged him to; if the other million men had not been blackmailed into it effectively, his yes vote wouldn’t have been enough to tip the scales. I appreciate his support and its value, but overwhelmingly, the truth is that men voted to enfranchise women because they were blackmailed into it by us. That one man’s reasoned awareness does not spread out to the rest of his sex. I’m not thanking the other turds for HIS cluefulness. I’ll thank him and him alone.

    Now, I’m not above blackmail to get something that we need desperately and that will improve my life and the lives of millions of others. But … it’s galling to me that that’s what it took. This was not a sea change in the minds of men (or women). This was as the result of an absolutely exhausting out-and-out fight against these men. And now we’re supposed to be grateful to them for having lost, for having forced this issue and made us work our asses off to the point of nervous breakdown for well over a hundred years of almost nonstop pressure.

    Not only that, buit if we let up that pressure for even one second, we’ll be back there so fast it’ll make our heads spin.

    I want so badly to thank men for having had a major enlightenment, but I can’t. And I’m angry at them for that. And I will not lie and say I’m not. This is far too important for me to put a coast of Happy Paint over any of it, even my own bigotry and almost unquenchable anger against men as a whole. I will not lie about the bigotry of others, nor will I put a false coat of perfume over my own fury and disgust. I will not lie, even about myself and my own motivations. I do not like this anger in me. It’s tiring. But it’s also truthful and reasonable, and this whole issue is far too important and too central for me to engage in any comfortable denial about ANYTHING. I’ll admit that I am blanket-furious at men, that I do not want them in my social circle, that I am made profoundly uncomfortable by them, and I’ll take the shit that comes my way for that because, looking at the history of the human species, I see no way to avoid that conclusion. At all.

    I’m also not entirely sure why I ended up talking about this here. I’m also well aware that ending this post with an expression of doubt of uncertainty will enable others to shred me to pieces. I don’t care. This is the truth as I see it, and I’m not going to bullshit on that. I am ANGRY AS HELL AT MEN AS A WHOLE for forcing us to exhaust ourselves against them at every fucking goddamned turn and expecting us to say, “Oh, I don’t mind, it’s no trouble really!” and “love” them in the bargain, and I’m angrier at them — and at some women — for not understanding why this is an entirely reasonable reaction.

    I’ve met a few who men do — TWO. In four decades on this Earth. And I treasure them — and I hate myself for being so pathetically grateful that I will treat a mere clued-in male as a fucking diamond, and I hate men for being so overwhelmingly irredeemable that the clued-in ones might as well be rare as diamonds.

    Now let the pity party start.

  88. Ms Kate

    This was as the result of an absolutely exhausting out-and-out fight against these men. And now we’re supposed to be grateful to them for having lost, for having forced this issue and made us work our asses off to the point of nervous breakdown for well over a hundred years of almost nonstop pressure.

    I didn’t want to imply that we need to be grateful to men for “giving” us the vote – and I fully agree it was because of the political reality of the time. I just wanted to (wincingly) point out that advances are often a result of use of privelege that we personally do not directly control. The end of Jim Crow came about as the result of judges and presidents exercising their privileges because they understood both the moral wrong and the political reality.

    I’ve gone to training workshops where getting the person with the power/privilege you don’t have to do what you want is called “power analysis”. Of course, you have to start with a focussed thing you want to make it work. You also need enough of an activist base focused on that thing you want, which does not happen when there is constant splintering into smaller and smaller subgroupings with divergent spins.

  89. jane awake

    Thelmyc, maybe I am misreading your intent, but this statement: “Gender is like race and money — an agreed-upon illusion that we use to make the machine go and nothing more” seems flippant to me.

  90. B. Dagger Lee

    Dear Heart,

    No, Dworkin’s term in _Woman Hating_ was “primary emergency,” NOT “medical emergency.” (Dworkin, p. 186, Penguin, 1974) She wrote “Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual.” She went on to say there are three crucial points: “One, every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means that every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. Two, by changing our premises about men and women, role-playing, and polarity, the social situation of transsexuals will be transformed, and transsexuals will be integrated into community no longer persecuted and despised.”

    After these stages, post-revolution, in the far off future (and by what means?), then possibly comes your and Dworkin and Twist’s magical melting away of gender and oppression, when, as Andrea wrote, “…community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disappear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behavior.”

    She posits also that then homosexuality as an orientation will also melt away, along with heterosexuality. And, I would add, that children and animals will be involved in the erotic life of communities—after the great disappearance of male dominance.

    And Dworkin brings me to my next point. Dworkin wrote about Phyllis Schafly with more empathy and generosity than I’ve seen some radical feminists write lately about fellow “sex-positive” feminists, “feminine” women, and transgendered people. She examined the colonized mind of a right wing woman without othering and denigrating her.

    From the time I was a tiny B. Dagger, growing up in a feminist household, I heard and saw the hateful rhetoric and images of women and lesbians, the poor and the colored, that patriarchal culture provides. Let’s take some of our discussion off the backs of the transgendered, and talk about lesbians, in the hopes that it might illustrate how insulting, dehumanizing, and othering some of our conversation is.

    Say I were to begin spouting the theory that only women who identified as lesbians as children were “real” lesbians, and that women who came to lesbianism as adults, after heterosexual relationships, were not real lesbians, but in fact heterosexual women who had been driven to lesbianism by disappointing or abusive relationships with men. And that “political lesbians” were not real lesbians. That Andrea Dworkin, in a long-time relationship with a (gay) man, was not a lesbian, an identity she always claimed, as far as I know.

    I think this theory would be quickly identified as an insulting, hateful, patriarchally-driven attempt to purge and purify the category of “lesbian,” and be recognized as a theory (opinion) which does not accept the manifold complex emotional and erotic wants/needs/desires of women who came to self-identify as lesbians, whether “political” or formerly heterosexual, but now plain old woman-loving lesbians.

    I ask you to think about this, in relationship to any project attempting to purge and purify the words “woman’ or “feminist,” and in terms of any project attempting to position the transgendered as patriarchal tools upholding patriarchal binaries. We live in the here and now, not the genderless pansexual future. Trying to impose a future ideal (and it’s not everyone’s ideal) on the here and now—No Gender! No Feminine! No Masculine!–can be procrustean, reactionary and frankly, can retard progress towards that ideal.

    yrs, B. Dagger Lee

    P.S. Beard, YES, “cognitive humility,” beautifully put.
    P.P.S. And saltyC, I kiss your feet! Cognitive humility invites in enlightenment. I would be interested to hear an elaboration of your process.

  91. thelmyc

    Thelmyc, maybe I am misreading your intent, but this statement: “Gender is like race and money — an agreed-upon illusion that we use to make the machine go and nothing more” seems flippant to me.

    It’s not flippant, just me trying to be extremely concise. Money, for example, is useless and valueless in and of itself. It’s paper with ink on it that has pictures of dead guys on it. You can’t eat it, you can’t make anything out of it unless you know some origami tricks, it doesn’t even have any other backing behind it since the country went off a metal standard.

    The only thing that holds it together and gives it value is the mutual agreement between everyone on Earth that it has value. It’s nothing more than a collective illusion, and with this the most potent power behind it that the planet has ever known — human belief, it rules our lives. People live and die from it, and from a lack of it. People kill for it, people compromise every ideal they ever had for it, people sell their bodies, minds, hearts, and souls.

    For something that is, at bottom, nothing.

    Similarly, race and gender are nothing. They have value because every living being on the planet believes they do. And because of that, because human illusion is the most potent force their is, race and gender rule our fucking lives, and occasionally end them.

  92. thelmyc

    I didn’t want to imply that we need to be grateful to men for “giving” us the vote – and I fully agree it was because of the political reality of the time. I just wanted to (wincingly) point out that advances are often a result of use of privelege that we personally do not directly control. The end of Jim Crow came about as the result of judges and presidents exercising their privileges because they understood both the moral wrong and the political reality.

    That’s very true. It’s how we use our power, as we all have it and lack it.

  93. evil fizz

    I don’t care if the most-heard voice of the (North American) feminist movement is of white, privileged folk. The fact that it’s being heard is what matters. There needs to be a unified effort, otherwise nothing would get done.

    Well, there’s privilege in action. Would it be possible to be more dismissive to women whose interests are outside those of wealthy whites?

  94. jane awake

    Similarly, race and gender are nothing. They have value because every living being on the planet believes they do. And because of that, because human illusion is the most potent force their is, race and gender rule our fucking lives, and occasionally end them.

    It seems to me by your logic words, signs, ethics, power structures, etc. are nothing just because “they [only] have value because every living being on the planet believes they do.” Precisely because “race and gender rule our fucking lives, and occasionally end them” they are very much something rather than nothing.

  95. jane awake

    I appreciate that you are pointing out the social constructs, but social contructs are our reality (even if we are perceptive enough to identify them).

  96. saltyC

    B Dagger Lee: ” I would be interested to hear an elaboration of your process.”

    It happened sometime after reading BrownFemiPower and during watching Sesame Street with my baby girl. Can’t elaborate more too busy right now but something to do with what will I teach her.

  97. Beard

    Thelmyc: you’re dead-on right about money. A neat example of this is that “gold coins” (as well as other products and services) in various simulated worlds (Second Life?) have a market value in dollars on eBay. Talk about trading one thing that doesn’t exist for another thing that doesn’t exist!

    Race has a somewhat different structure, but biologists have reached a pretty good consensus that it doesn’t exist either, as matter of genetics. So you’re totally right here, too.

    [If you really want to get weird, dive into quantum mechanics, and watch the nature of physical reality dissolve into smoke and mirrors. Lord only knows what's really going on there!]

    And I agree with you that gender is a similar construct. Let’s imagine that 80% of the population is pretty comfortable thinking about the world in terms of two genders (“innies” and “outies”, say). Another 10% are uncomfortable but willing to go along, and the last 10% are actively oppressed by it. (The numbers are arbitrary.)

    If we say there are four genders (some previous poster talked about (lunar,solar)x(male,female)) then suppose half of the uncomfortable 20% are comforted, 20% out of the 80% are pissed off because the world has gotten too complicated, and 5% remain serious oppressed.

    To take into account the various subgroups involved in these discussions, we’d need a minimum of 8 or 16 genders. (And sticking with powers of 2 is clearly dichotomy-centric, which is surely a distortion.) At which point even more people get pissed off because the whole thing is just getting too complicated to think about.

    Let me restate a version of Twisty’s “I’m just me” proposal. On entering into a discussion (or a relationship), disclose as much or as little as desired. Wear clothing that discloses, or not, some aspect of your gender. When sufficiently comfortable with another person, reveal more and see if they stay comfortable, or get more or less comfortable.

    This is a conservative position, almost Victorian. It says that access to information about me, or you, goes with the degree of interpersonal intimacy. If your intimate personal life involves the sacrifice of small animals, I would really rather you didn’t share that with me. If you do, it is likely to be a barrier between us, and I don’t apologize for that. Other people probably draw their lines somewhere else.

    The above is an imperfect attempt at visualizing one way that a functioning non-utopian “patriarchy-free” society might turn out. Please forgive its flaws, but feel free to point them out.

    A core principle, though, is that society will be diverse. People’s natures, and their values, will differ wildly, but there should be ways to get along. However much one would wish all of one’s complexities to be understood and appreciated by everyone else in the world, it just isn’t going to happen. There have to be circles of intimacy. And in the center, there’s just you.

  98. scratchy888

    Why the FUCK does it matter so goddamned much that other people do exactly the same thing you do?!

    Actually, nitpicking at, and censuring others does seem to be the major part and parcel that is traditional femininity. This was highlighted to me recently at a hen’s afternoon tea. (I think that you call these bachelorette parties.) At this tea, if any of the women did one of several actions which were arbitrarily designated as a fault, they had to give up one of their clothes pins to the henpecking women who had identified them as having demonstrated the petty error. During this game all the women were encouraged to be censurious by the exciting prospect of gathering the most clothes pegs by the game’s end.

    This seems to be a game played out, on larger scale, by those traditionally feminine, everywhere.

  99. thelmyc

    I appreciate that you are pointing out the social constructs, but social contructs are our reality (even if we are perceptive enough to identify them).

    Jane, this is precisely what I’m saying. Things that have no physical reality or even logic or sense behind them can be as real as the rock you stub your toe against, and are often more real since common sense or the physical universe have little to do with their adoption and hence can’t be used to destroy them.

  100. thebewilderness

    Scratchy,
    I think they call that game parenting.

  101. jane awake

    Thelmyc, excellent. Common ground. So my question then becomes: What do you mean when you say that gender has “no physical reality or even logic or sense behind [it]“? At least the performance of gender seems very tangible and physical to me. Also, many people, if you ask them, can come up with logical, sensical explanation as to why they are performing whatever they perceive their gender to be, in a certain way within a certain social context.

    The poet I mentioned earlier in this thread, Stacey Waite, thinks of her gender as androgynous (among other things) and, in a recent interview, had this to say about the performance of gender (sorry about the poetry-related stuff mixed in, I can’t find a chunk of it that makes sense to skip):

    Because my identity and my aesthetic are very focused in the idea of blurring, on the idea that our most beautiful, most tragic, most complex, most charming moments exist in that temporal flux [androgyny], I am first interested in the part of your question that distinguishes the “performance” poem from other types of poetry. So, yes, just as all my identities I perform with the most wakeful sense of consciousness that I can, I indeed consider all of my poems performances which also seek to be conscious. Whether a poem arrives in me as a lyric, as a narrative or as a kind of spoken word explosion, the poem (at least I hope) never exists as only one of these. In the same way that queerness is sometimes “othered” (seen as different, less serious, etc.), the performance poem is also treated as such. Every word, every gesture, every outfit, every voice is always performance. This does not mean that I do not believe we can achieve moments of genuine expression or essence (for me, performance is not the opposite of these), but rather that performance can often become that essence.

    What do you think about the idea of a performance becoming an essence?

    Is the goal to use “physical reality or even logic or sense” to destroy gender (if such a thing could be done)? Can gender be destroyed? Does it need to be destroyed? If we are going to conjure a feminist utopia in our imaginations, why not conjure one where performances of gender are simply forms of expression rather than oppression? Why does it seem like so many feminists here have the same utopian dream of an overthrow of the patriarchy rendering the society genderless? What does a genderless society look like? Would such a society outlaw expressions of gender?

  102. Heart

    Hey, B.Dagger Lee:

    The thing is, when Dworkin makes reference in Woman Hating to the erotic life of communities and includes animals and children, she isn’t talking about genital sex or sex as we’ve understood it under male heterosupremacy (i.e., incest/pedophilia/bestiality).
    She’s talking about the erotic in different terms, more as a creative force, creative power, for example, which informs our work and our relationships.

    So far as political lesbians, well, we’re not exactly a popular category at all. I’ve never so far, though, seen any of us denounce those who challenge or target us as hateful or patriarchal. We understand where they’re coming from. It’s not popular at all right now to suggest that politics can change human desires, although my experience, and others’ experience, is that politics can.

    I don’t think transgendered people are TOTP’s (Tools Of The Patriarchy) or that there is any virtue in self-sacrifice qua self sacrifice or martyrdom for the feminist cause. I think the pursuits of pleasure and happiness are valid pursuits for all people. I think patriarchy rigorously polices gender to maintain the binary and that it uses certain tools for that: namely law, medicine, psychology, media. Those are the TOTP’s.

    As to the elimination of the category “woman,” no way, but not for essentialist reasons. The category woman has to remain fixed until women count as fully human under male heterosupremacy. If there are no woman because the category has been successfully deconstructed, then how, as a class, do women challenge our subordinators and oppressors. (Which is the problem with postmodern feminism/queer theory/everybody who wants to deconstruct the term “woman,” but not the patriarchal default, “man.”)

    Anyway, that’s what I think. I’ve done a lot of writing about conservative Christian women. I don’t think their minds are colonized (and I don’t think Dworkin does either, based on her Right Wing Women.) I think fundie women have surveyed their lousy options and chosen what to them appears to be the lesser of all available evils. We’re all trying to survive, cut the best deals we can, I think.

    Heart

  103. thelmyc

    What do you mean when you say that gender has “no physical reality or even logic or sense behind [it]”?

    Just that it’s similar to race — when you look closely at it, it vanishes. “Women are people who can get pregnant.” “Women are people who menstruate.” “Women are peopel who are capable of menstruating.”

    “Men are bigger and stronger.” “Men have penises.” “Men have Y chromosomes.”

    It’s all got wiggle room in it, and a lot of it is just collective agreement on which measuring standards matter.

  104. AoT

    It’s quite suprising that all this gender and social constructs talk came up right after I wrote a final paper on this stuff.

    Sally Haslanger is my new favorite philosopher. She wrote a great paper on Social Construction.

    I just put up a post in response to all this as well. It’s nice to see people get into the nuts and bolts here.

  105. Holly

    B.Dagger Lee,

    Thanks for that awesome post and that Andrea Dworkin quote. I think it has some of the keys to a some of the ideological knots and differences here.

  106. magickitty

    evil fizz: I’m not being dismissive. As the rest of my post explains, individual interests can be part of the whole.

  107. thelmyc

    I think fundie women have surveyed their lousy options and chosen what to them appears to be the lesser of all available evils. We’re all trying to survive, cut the best deals we can, I think.

    We are … but a lot of times, those deals don’t look so much like poor defenseless women backed into a corner and tryingt the best they can as much as they look like someone who is shoving others off the fire escape so they can save their own asses. I can understand how fear and a deep sense thatg you can’t escape can make people panic and do stupid things, but I’m still gonna judge someone poorly for tipping their mate out of a lifeboat so they can have more food.

    Fundie women have chosen what appears to be the lesser of two evils, true — but in a lot of cases, they seem to have decided that coldly flushing other women down the toilet so they can have a little temporary safety, and viciously proclaiming that God has classified those others as deserving it — is the lesser of two evils. Ben Franklin, stale old white guy fart that he was, said it the most clearly: that people who sacrifice important things to get temporary safety deserve neither.

    Which is the lesser of two evils — confronting reality or screwing over other people? I don’t have too much sympathy for those assholes at Enron who believed in the dog-eat-dog world and decided that if they and their buddy were running from the bear, the best thing they could do was to trip their buddy because that’s the way it is, and the older I get, the less patience I have when women claim the same thing.

    I just take exception to a belief system that seems to think that “the lesser of two evils” is to coldly choose one’s own safety and a warm bed over helping fuck over millions of people and considering them as deserving it in the bargain.

  108. Ms Kate

    Reading to the bottom I see “that’s so thirty years ago”.

    Interesting. Thirty years ago, women had just gotten universal abortion rights, antidiscrimination legislation at the state level, affirmative action policies, and even comperable worth assessments in some places, etc.

    Now we are just trying to prevent rolling back the clock.

    Happy New Year, folks!

  109. Heart

    thelmyc, I think all of the deals women cut to survive, all of the options available to women, result in other women being thrown under the patriarchal truck. Prostitution does, “sex work” so-called does, marriage does, working for The Man does, being het does, participating in capitalism does, being a fundie does. I don’t think any woman makes a cold, hard decision to throw women under the truck. I think women throwing women under the truck to survive is something that is built into the patriarchal machine, which is why the sucker has to come down.

    Leaving that aside for one moment, Happy New Year to all!

    Heart

  110. slade

    JackOff says: “Have fun at the rally. You might want to a few stretching exercises, as I hear saluting takes a lot out of you.”

    I thought the college republican promised not to post here anymore. Typical, ain’t he? The entitled little boy who wants all the attention…it’s all about the JackOff…right? Gotta go bother the women…why? Because you can?

    Are the boys ever accused of hate speech? Or do the women just have to ignore the annoying the little gnat buzzing about?

    You gonna call me an asshole again?

  111. JackGoff

    Gotta go bother the women…why? Because you can?

    Women aren’t immune from being bigots. I admit I do have a problem with bigots, whomever they may be. If someone is in solidarity on luckynkl specifically in reference to her views on transgender people, then there isn’t any difference between them and her for me. I think people know my views on luckynkl’s opinions in this area.

    You can hate me because I’m a typical entitled boy, since I am. Trying to fight that bullshit, but I’m still completely imperfect and, yeah, entitled.

    You gonna call me an asshole again?

    Nope. Gonna call me “JackOff” again? Not that it matters, as I’m used to it from much lesser people than you.

    Anyway, specifically to Twisty, as I am unsure you got my email, and regardless I need to specifically say this, I’m very sorry for being so vitriolic at the previous thread. The way I presented myself there was as an asshole, and I’m completely sorry. That’s really all I want to say.

  112. lila

    Twisty, I believe the best part of your blog, besides your wicked wit and writing, is the comment section. I appreciate the time you and the commentariat spend in making your arguments.

    Although I don’t have the educational background (though the 47 years spent walking around as a woman does give me some slight experience) to be an advanced blamer, and I don’t always agree with everything you posit, I do agree with your thoughts about gender, and the need for its elimination. I think being able to know and be known beyond one’s gender is the greatest and most difficult task.

    Happy new year to you and everyone you love.

  113. thelmyc

    thelmyc, I think all of the deals women cut to survive, all of the options available to women, result in other women being thrown under the patriarchal truck.

    And you either understand that and try to minimize it, or figure that you might as well not give a crap and look out for number one. It’s the difference between trying to at least drive in a way that will improve your gas mileage because it matters to you to try, or just throw your hands up, figure screw it, and get a Hummer.

    Even Buddhist monks agree that it’s not possible to refrain from killing things while living, but damn it, they do their best to minimize their impact. Figuring that fuck it, you can’t get your impact down to zero so you might as well not care is hardly acceptable or admirable.

  114. JackGoff

    You gonna call me an asshole again?

    Not sure if my moderated comment is going to go through, or if it has been deleted, but I’m sorry for calling you an asshole slade. That was very uncalled for.

  115. Twisty

    JackGoff: “Anyway, specifically to Twisty, as I am unsure you got my email, and regardless I need to specifically say this, I’m very sorry for being so vitriolic at the previous thread. The way I presented myself there was as an asshole, and I’m completely sorry. That’s really all I want to say.”

    I accept your apology.

    You might want to take a little break from IBTP, though; you seem to be irritating to the natives. No doubt there are plenty of other feminist bloggers out there crying out for punitive delinking. Go get’em, Tiger!

  116. Mary Sunshine

    Hey,

    Mar Iguana, I’m with you and Lucky wherever we meet again.

    The patriarchy will go away whenever we learn to love men enuff, eh?

    Mary

  117. B. Dagger Lee

    Holly, no, thank you, I have been reading your words along with others with great interest and they have enlightened me.

    yrs, BDL

  118. B. Dagger Lee

    SaltyC:

    “BrownFemiPower” “Sesame Street” “baby girl” “what will I teach her”

    =

    A perfect elaboration. No need for more.

    yrs, BDL

  119. Heart

    thelymc, to me it sounds as though you might be getting perilously close to blaming other than the patriarchy. I’ve know zero women who made cold, hard decisions to betray other women because they were looking out for number one. They might be out there, but here I think we’re blaming the patriarchy, no?

    Heart

  120. B. Dagger Lee

    Heart,

    While I find some to agree with in your last comment to me, I also find our stated truths are still quite slant to each other.

    Perhaps a relentless but compassionate narrowing down of the terms over which we argue will begin to force our arguments together to a place of good faith, accountability and agreement.

    Yes, I agree, when Dworkin talks about the erotic life of the community in the future she is talking about an erotic and sensuous life that we can, right now, only imagine. What she writes about children and animals could easily be taken out of context and twisted as so much of what she wrote has been.

    As far as political lesbians, I honor them, but no more or less than heterosexual women who are attempting to force their relationships towards equality, and no more or less than the dykes down the block, and no more or less than transgendered people trying to live their lives honorably.

    I like what Dworkin says, in Woman Hating, “Unambiguous conventional heterosexual behavior is the worst betrayal of our common humanity.” She goes on to write “That is not to say that ‘men’ and ‘women’ should not fuck. Any sexual coming together which is genuinely pansexual and role-free, even if between men and women as we generally think of them (i.e., the biological images we have of them), is authentic and androgynous.” (p. 184, 1974 Penguin edition). I think it’s a crucial moment in her thinking; please note that she puts “men” and “women” in quotations. She goes on to say “…androgynous fucking requires the destruction of all conventional role-playing, of genital sexuality as the primary focus and value, of couple formations, and of the personality structures dominant-active (‘male”) and subordinate-passive (“female”).” In that sentence there is room for everyone, women, dykes of any stripe, transgendered people, heteros, homos, bisexuals and men. I might try to pack even more people in there, but that’s a project/argument for another day.

    Postmodern/feminist/queer theory is, in fact, deconstructing and examining the categories of maleness–and whiteness too. One of the many ways “women challenge our subordinators and oppressors” is through this strategy of deconstruction–a tool of analysis which in feminist hands reveals the prevarications, projections, assumptions, evasions, and lies stated as truths written into our governing documents, religious institutions, media and culture as a whole.

    Throughout Woman Hating Dworkin unpacks the word and category of women; she pulls out the hateful projections and assumptions the patriarchy has stuffed into the word. I would argue that both radical feminism and postmodern feminist queer theory offer visionary ideas of the future and strategies for getting there.

    I agree entirely with you when you say that “It’s not popular at all right now to suggest that politics can change human desires, although my experience, and others’ experience, is that politics can.” That’s my experience too.

    And I agree with you, the category of “woman” cannot now be eliminated—who is arguing for that?–but I disagree that it has to remain fixed. One of Dworkin’s projects was to unfix the category because the patriarchy had fixed it, and fixed/fucked it good by defining it as negative and enforcing its boundaries with violence. The last 30 years of feminism have been in part about redefining the categories of “women” and “female” and “feminine”. Postmodernism is a label for a set of strategies, but it’s also a label for this time period, in which there has been an explosion of thinking about definitions and contesting those definitions.

    yrs, B. Dagger Lee

  121. jane awake

    thelmyc, You answered this question: What do you mean when you say that gender has “no physical reality or even logic or sense behind [it]”? with similar information to that which you suggested earlier in the thread, but I feel like you are not addressing the spirit of my comment.

    After I asked that question, I said, “At least the performance of gender seems very tangible and physical to me. Also, many people, if you ask them, can come up with logical, sensical explanation as to why they are performing whatever they perceive their gender to be, in a certain way within a certain social context.”

    Could you or anyone address that?

    Also the following questions are rather important to me, if anyone would like to give them a whirl:

    In reference to the quote I included above (in my previous comment), I asked, “What do you think about the idea of a performance becoming an essence?”

    Can gender be destroyed? Why not redefined instead?

    If we are going to conjure a feminist utopia in our imaginations, why not conjure one where performances of gender are simply forms of expression rather than oppression?

    Why does it seem like so many feminists here have the same utopian dream of an overthrow of the patriarchy rendering the society genderless?

    What does a genderless society look like? Would such a society outlaw expressions of gender?

  122. Heart

    B.Dagger Lee, actually, I agree with most of what you posted in your last post, with a couple of quibbles, though, in my mind, important ones.

    Before I quibble, I should have qualified what I said about Dworkin’s position on children’s and animals’ inclusion in the erotic in the post-patriarchal future she is envisioning by saying something like, “I know you know this, B.Dagger Lee, I’m saying it for those who may not.” I didn’t mean to be pedantic. It’s just that we both know how gleeful people can be over anything which can be used to villify Andrea Dworkin (as you also seem to suggest in your last comment).

    My quibbles are:

    (1) Woman Hating was Andrea Dworkin’s first book, written when she was in her 20s. Her views and focus changed over the years. In later books, she didn’t use quotation marks around the words “men” and “women,” and she made distinctions in her writing and activism between men and women and transgendered persons, indicating she viewed these groups as distinct from one another. I’m making this point mostly for those who are not familiar with Dworkin and who might take what you’ve posted and run in some wrong directions with it, not realizing (or wanting to consider) that Woman Hating was not Dworkin’s final word politically or ideologically on any issue; actually, it was her entry into the political arena, and she departed substantially from some of what she said in that book in her later work.

    (2) My quibble with the postmodern/queer projects of deconstruction of “female,” “male,” “man,” “woman,” and of race and ethnicity have to do with removing these categories are so often removed from the context of power relations under white male heterosupremacy. If gender and race are shut up to, for example, “performance,” “drag,” ideas, forms of appearance, and are removed, again, from the context of power relations in a racist, sexist society, then sexual and racial oppressions begin to become invisible, with the political meanings of “man” and “woman,” “white,” and “black” or “of color,” leached out (and a good person to read on this is Denise Thompson.) I don’t think white men, in particular, can vault themselves out of their positions of comparative societal privilege and power “methodologically,” i.e., by the way they think about gender in their heads, or by the way they present or perform, although I agree with you that conscientious objection to gender, refusing to conform to gender in the interests of deconstruction do have value as you’ve described.

    Postmodern/queer theorists’ suggestions that the category “woman” can be reduced to a multiplicity of identities (something evident in the arguments around transgender, where statements are always made about the way there is no unifying “narrative” or experience of “being a woman”), again, where the discussion is removed from the context of power relations, results in the invisibling of the political category “woman,” and particularly where there is no attention paid to the way there is not a unifying “narrative” or experience of being a man. How often do we hear this latter? Not very often, I don’t think. If there is no political category “woman,” because it is just this non-unified multiplicity, then we cannot, as a class, challenge politics and practices which subordinate us as a class to men, who are not similarly being viewed as nonunitary and a multiplicity and so on. Some theorists do openly urge the deconstruction of the category “woman” while leaving the category “man,” untouched, and off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Judith Butler, Linda Alcoff, and Donna Haraway, but there are others (and I could be wrong about Haraway). I haven’t thought about this or talked about this for a while (and more’s the pity, because I enjoy the discussion.)

    Heart

  123. beansa

    jane awake –

    Have you read Sexing the Body by Anne Fausto-Sterling?

    She posits that gender-as-construct vs. gender-as-essential is a false dichotomy. Our bodies are not closed systems, our experiences change the physical structure/biology of our bodies and our bodies also influence the ways in which we experience gender.

    This kind of both/and thinking allows for the idea that some human characteristics that have been deemed “gendered” are inborn, or have a basis in biology, or a biological reinforcement and that some gendered charachteristics are imposed by culture but have a subsequent effect on the body.

    Viewing gender constructs and the body as a continuous feedback loop makes space for both ideologies. Yes, gender is used as a system of oppression and gender is also something that takes place within and impacts our bodies. I don’t know how we can expect to dismantle gender stereotypes if there is no acknowledgement or understanding of the role biology plays in creating and maintaining those stereotypes.

  124. Heart

    Typo, sorry, should be:

    “My quibble with the postmodern/queer projects of deconstruction of “female,” “male,” “man,” “woman,” and of race and ethnicity have to with the way these are often removed from the context of power relations under white male heterosupremacy.”

  125. scratchy888

    What does a genderless society look like? Would such a society outlaw expressions of gender?

    A genderless society would look like a spectrum of various gender attributes from the past. Only, people would treat each other with respect, whether dresses were worn or suits. There would be no felt necessity for speakers to punctuate their communication with little gestures of contempt, for fear of losing out in society’s symbolic stakes of superiority versus inferiority. There would be no need for subtle gestures of submission, made in order to avoid the consequences of the generally ever-growing animosity that a crowd feels towards anybody who seems too free. The little ways we police ourselves and others would be totally gone.

  126. Tanya

    “But Twisty! Without gender how will I know which bathroom to use? ”

    Don’t worry, Tanya. In the future, we will all be equipped with intestinal nanobots that totally digest the completely digestible future-food; no waste, no bathrooms!

    OK you have a much more finely tuned imagination than I do. How about we start with something simple such as a gender-neutral pronoun? Just the other day while having a conversation about a person named Kelly I realized that I had to know the gender of the individual in question in order to talk about them. There is always “their” but there is no respectful equivalent to he or she. I do not want to refer to a person as an “it”. That just seems wrong.

    In my occupation I work with children and this requires me to be either Ms. or Miss or Mrs. This annoys the crap out of me. Miss Derbowka ends up as Mr. Bowka. The fact that people ask about which title to use is annoying. Even Ms. denotes that I am too uppity to advertise my marital status. Why not dispense with this nonsense and come up with a completely gender and marital-status-neutral title? I know that in reality no male would agree to use a gender neutral title but it would be nice to know that a gender neutral title existed.

  127. Holly

    “There is always “their” but there is no respectful equivalent to he or she.”

    They?

    “Even Ms. denotes that I am too uppity to advertise my marital status.”

    Don’t worry, you’re not any more uppity than all those guys who refuse to advertise their marital status — oh wait, guys aren’t property to potentially exchange hands, so they don’t have to advertise. Maybe we should invent one, can we call unmarried men “Boy”? Boy Jones, Boy Smith, Boy Hanson. Sounds fine to me!

  128. KTal

    What does a genderless society look like? Would such a society outlaw expressions of gender?

    Is asked of a commenter as if without socially proscribed gender role-playing all art and life loses meaning. I disagree. In fact, I would posit that a renaissance of art and of creativity could bloom when in fact, the human condition is freed of the constraints of wrangling over resources.

    Once it is indeed found that resources for survival can be cared for, nurtured, cultivated and allowed to flourish and that there exists enough for all then I would think we’d have the time for our creative minds to take the forefront.

    Already, in our heirarchy, we have those who have the time and convenience to allow their creativity to flourish. Unfortunately, people like myself have to work like slaves to support their access to the creative leisure life and I have to just hope upon hope that they’ll remember to give me a crumb here and there. Not acceptable.

    Creativity for all flourish as the energy presently usurped due to oppression could be channeled to other pursuits. This I might add will probably also include ditching our lineal view of life and adopting a more passive, circuitous acceptance of the balance of the universe and our precious, yet only partial role in it.

    And as we are organisms interested in continuing our existence, we would find a way to reproduce and care for our young that would not require subjugation of one person over another (division of labor based on attributes of body). Patriachy goes absolutely against a communal existence. Laughing at the Archie Bunker prototype of the commie-hating good ole boy, keeps us all comfortable with the notion that the ‘other side’ opposite Archie is far too scary a place to go and if men’s control ends, we all end.

    Well, sure if patriarchy ends, then we do all end, if the only ‘we’ we know is that borne of a gender construct rigidly fixed in scripted roles.

  129. jane awake

    beansa,

    Thanks a lot for your comment. I agree that gender-as-construct vs. gender-as-essential is a false dichotomy. I will definitely check out Anne Fausto-Sterling.

  130. jane awake

    scratchy888, the “genderless society” you described does not sound very genderless to me. It just sounds respectful, as though worth was not based on gender.

  131. jane awake

    Tanya, I think a gender neutral singular pronoun is an excellent idea. (Did you know the word “neutral” comes from “neuter,” which means not designated as male or female?) It is interesting that the one we have, “it,” has been deemed appropriate only for nonhuman things. I wonder what that says about our language.

    Still, in English, it does sound dehumanizing to call a person “it.” Does anyone have a suggestion for a better pronoun? Does anyone know of a gender neutral singular pronoun existing in another language?

  132. jane awake

    Ktal, you said my questions: “What does a genderless society look like? Would such a society outlaw expressions of gender?” were “asked of a commenter as if without socially proscribed gender role-playing all art and life loses meaning.”

    It think you may have missed my meaning a bit. Although I agree with you that “if patriarchy ends, then we do all end, if the only ‘we’ we know is that borne of a gender construct rigidly fixed in scripted roles,” I was not trying to imply that gender is the source of meaning or art.

    I think that language is the source of meaning, and I think that, in our language, gender roles (especially dichotomous ones) are used by the patriarchy to oppress. I think that language is fluid enough to simultaneously allow for both gender and respect, both expression and equality–in a utopia, at least, and it seems we are discussing utopia. However, from our language (and its literature) we have learned that utopia can not exist.

    I do think gender (however changed) would exist even if the patriarchy no longer did. And when I say gender, I don’t mean only stereotypical expressions of masculinity or femininity. Actually, every day I see examples of gender expression and gender performance NOT fitting into those scripted roles (even though we are currently within the patriarchy).

    Do you think that the world would be utopian if the patriarchy was overthrown?

  133. scratchy888

    Ah, Janeawake, maybe the point of negative differentiation between the genders hinges on categories deserving or not quite deserving our respect.

  134. Twisty

    Jane Awake, I have been trying to post a comment on your blog post about the recent unpleasantness, but it keeps vanishing into the aether. What I have been trying to tell you is that the claim you attribute to me, that the overthrow of patriarchy will result in the disappearance of art, is not mine, but Shulamith Firestone’s. Her awe-inspiring 1970 The Dialectic of Sex convincingly illuminates the details of this rather esoteric but altogether kickass argument. I recommend it to all poets; it postulates a society in which people no longer feel compelled to “do” poetry because they in essence already are poetry.

  135. JJE

    “I recommend it to all poets; it postulates a society in which people no longer feel compelled to “do” poetry because they in essence already are poetry.”
    And I’ll no longer have to tell jokes!~)

  136. finnsmotel

    “Without the patriarchal binary sex role paradigm to enforce my status, I would be just what I am. Not woman. Not man. Not “something in between.” I would be merely a realized consciousness delimited by organic matter. So would you.’

    I got a koolaid mustache on that one. Excellent stuff.

    It really is such a simple and beautiful idea.

    Happy New Year!

    -finn

  137. KTal

    Jane Awake, although the quote may have been yours, I was actually responding more or less to a variety of people who have asked about the concept of genderlessness in a utopia, specifically Jack.

    I think sexual expression and activity would exist, but that gender assignment would not. And yes, language most certainly expresses and represses and the language I imagine would evolve to reflect the changes and newer needs of expression for that time. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how that would be, looking as I am from my very limited perspective.

    But I think the more important point is that in order to survive as a species, humans will have to develop a way to live that replaces exploitive consumption (grounded in religious concepts of an other worldly end) with some kind of reciprocal harmonious earth based existence.

    I don’t know if that makes any sense; the patriarchy and its heirarchy of class and economics has limited my exposure to Deep Thinking Expression Skills, so please pardon my crudeness.

    I would think that gender expression would not be such a forefront of existence as reproduction would not longer be the end-game of existence that it is now.

    Also, with community taking a forefront (as essential to have a reciprocal non exploitive existence) over individualization, possession and ownership of people would be none existent, competition would be considered an anomaly. So, gender expression would be celebrated as a signifier of readiness for pleasure and not as an expression of status or position.

    Whether or not ‘utopia’ is attainable I think is a mute issue to argue. I think that as an ideal is envisioned, the goals of the change makers becomes clearer.

  138. KTal

    “So, gender expression would be celebrated as a signifier of readiness for pleasure and not as an expression of status or position.”

    Well see there, I contradicted myself. Sucks when I don’t have hours and hours to think and rethink.

    Sexual expression is more what I meant rather than gender expression which relies on a construct of delimiting behaviors and traits from which individuals cannot escape without some kind of punishment from the dominant culture.

  139. JJE

    “I think the more important point is that in order to survive as a species, humans will have to develop a way to live that replaces exploitive consumption (grounded in religious concepts of an other worldly end) with some kind of reciprocal harmonious earth based existence.”

    Is it just me (thinking this) or does speciation goeth before the fall? …and down before the rise? …and with ties to this rock, upon which…?

    I’m sitting here and thinking that the notion is to go where no XXYN has gone before…not to hang around and try and be more cool. It doesn’t seem as if that can work until we lose the skin we’re in.

    I’m wishing, about now, that I could BE the poetry but I’m still: feeling like a follower, doubting the revolution will return my depostit, expecting nothing.

  140. B. Dagger Lee

    Dear Heart:

    And yet I suggest we are still very far apart in our arguments and meanings.

    People do indeed vilify Dworkin and people also misread and misuse her. I certainly agree that her thought evolved throughout her life and her evolving thoughts and concerns are elaborated in her books. I’d really like people to read her words themselves and find out where and when they are in agreement with her and where and when not, and not to simply choose my knowing tone over your knowing tone, or yours over mine. When you say “those who are not familiar with Dworkin and who might take what you’ve posted and run in some wrong directions with it,” my reply is—They will! They will! People will take what I’ve written, what you’ve written and the quotations I’ve posted and they will abscond with it in all directions including what you call the wrong one. Then they will use it as they will. I would, however, like to know which books and chapters you are talking about when you say she departed substantially from that book in her later work.

    Regarding your second quibble, I am sorry, I don’t really understand what you are saying in that paragraph; however I do have two points regarding it. One point is that deconstruction is no way a synonym for erase, or dismantle, or ignore or make invisible. It is a strategy, and a tool to analyze, illuminate, make visible, and often to contest. It is a multiplier of meaning, not a reducer. As my friend ‘K’ said, while I was discussing this with her, “All feminism is a deconstruction of patriarchal society because it points out what has been eliminated, repressed, or posited as wholly negative within male-dominated culture, i.e. the feminine or woman.” Ideally, the analysis is always coupled with political activism; always coupled with the necessity to represent and advocate for women as a political class, to represent and advocate for the poor as a political class, for self-representation and advocacy by people of color as a political class, etc.

    I also don’t really understand your third paragraph. I’ve never read Linda Alcoff, but she’s on my “to read” list. Haraway I read long ago and far away and don’t remember at all. But what I remember of Butler, is that she spends a great deal of time—and in a specialized language particular to philosophy—analyzing the category and idea of “man.” What I took away from her is that any male being is always copying, performing and pretending to be an imaginary, abstract, non-real, patriarchally-constructed ideal portrait of a man. And fearful that he is not doing it correctly.

    I also think that beginning to discuss these theorists is taking us far afield and away from the heat of the original argument. Honestly, I’d rather continue with Dworkin, who I brought up as a response to some of the comments on thethread we all know about, and as a counter-concept to Sheila Jeffries ideas on transgendered people, and a counter-text to Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire.

    It’s interesting that I want to talk about Dworkin and you want to talk about pomo feminist queer theorists. My interpretation of this situation suggests we find ourselves in this dilemma because as I argue that you misread Dworkin, you are forced to correct and defend against what you see as my misreading; you counter by misreading postmodern feminist queer theorists and forcing me to correct what I see as your misreading.

    Yrs, B. Dagger Lee

    P.S. Twisty, I’ll follow your suggestion to the fabulous jane awake and read your Firestone. But it better be damn good!

  141. finnsmotel

    “I’m all for it, and have been without knowing it all my life. And I think that the sexual side of life would still be a functional reality, just not a central reality.”

    I agree.

    What I would add is that, so long as humans exist in a closed system with limited resources (Earth) we will inevitably organize ourselves into groups to compete for those resources.

    If a group of people decided to put their heads together and start a new country up, without patriarchy, they would have to have the resources to do so. Inevitably, one person in that group would have access to more resources than the others, which would give them an advantage over the others. Instant heirarchy.

    I can imagine a world where gender is neutralized. But, I cannot imagine that a world of limited resources could ever result in absolute equity and sovereignty for all individual humans.

    Not that I want to stop trying.

    -finn

  142. jane awake

    God damn it, Twisty, I’m sorry you were unable to comment on my blog. What happened when you tried to post?

    I will happily post the comment for you. The poets who read my blog (including myself) will be intrigued by the discussion.

    I’m sorry also that I did not know the idea belonged to Shulamith Firestone. However, you subscribe to it, right?

    You said, “it postulates a society in which people no longer feel compelled to ‘do’ poetry because they in essence already are poetry.”

    Twisty, I’m not sure if you write poetry, but many of us who are poets feel that we already both are poetry (in a way) and do poetry (compose it), patriarchy and all. Poetry need not be a record of utopia, it can illuminate oppression just as well as it can illuminate beauty or joy.

    For me, imagining a society in which I have to be poetry but cannot do it is imagining a kind of hell. For serious.

    In order to prevent thread drift, I will expand on these ideas over on my blog (after I get back from eating dinner in Miami, Florida).

    Thanks for weighing in.

  143. jane awake

    Ktal,

    You said, “I think sexual expression and activity would exist, but that gender assignment would not.” For you, what is the difference between sexual expression and gender? Are they a dichotomy? When you think of gender, do you generally think of “assignment,” as in traditional masculinity and femininity?

    This: “I would think that gender expression would not be such a forefront of existence” sounds great to me, but I don’t understand this part: “as reproduction would not longer be the end-game of existence that it is now.”

    Also, for anyone, are you imagining that the overthrow of the patriarchy would result in utopia? Couldn’t there still be classism, racism, murder, theft, power structures and struggles, religions (ugh), etc. etc. Couldn’t there still be oppression? Do you think the patriarchy is the source of all judgment? Are you imagining a matriarchy instead?

    (By the way, thanks to all of you who have engaged in this discussion with me, patiently answering my questions. I appreciate it.)

  144. jane awake

    Twisty, I put your comment in on the Diving into the Wreck thread (named after the Adrienne Rich poem, of course) over on my blog. The conversation about poetry post patriarchy can now commence there.

    If you have any trouble, feel free to email me at jane dot awake at yahoo dot com.

  145. Heart

    Well, B.Dagger Lee, what I think is, you want to disagree with me for whatever reason. Eh. It’s all good. One of these days, we’ll talk some more.

    heart

  146. B. Dagger Lee

    Heart: Yes, it was fruitful.

    I do disagree with you about some things, but what I really want is for us to come to a place of agreement, since I think we probably agree on a great many issues. But I’m sure we’ll talk again.

    You are a committed feminist, an elder, and I honor you for it.

    yrs, B.Dagger Lee

  147. CLD

    To just be seen as a human being. No labels. No preconceived notions about who or what I am. Just me.

    But, I do wish to keep art around after the revolution. :)

  148. JJE

    There’ll likely never be a definition of art that everyone will, or will choose to, understand; therefore, there will always be “art”.

    Will ther ever be a place where minds are so directed and energetic that they never stoop to seeking what they cannot understand by scribbling and cobbling? I doubt it…but I’m stooped!~)

  149. caramac

    I really hope that the revolution will come in my lifetime, and that gender will not survive.

    Why? Because I haven’t found any gender that could possibly define me.

    I hope you’re not angry at me for reading your blog and even commenting on this entry, since I am the owner of a penis and a set of XY chromosomes.

    I am not a “man”. I don’t understand this whole “man” thing at all. I find it silly and useless.

    I am not a trans woman, either, even if I often get mistaken for a girl on a regular basis, since I’m always clean shaven, have longer hair than most owners of vaginas and XX chromosomes, and like to wear make-up.

    I don’t understand this entire male-female nonsense, and I just want it to stop. I just don’t want to be told to behave like a man, or that I am weird because I am what I am.

    I need a gender of my own.

  150. Twilight

    I think the “transgender” movement has instantly gone awry in it’s self understanding simply in naming itself.

    What if it has nothing to do with gender at all?

  151. Mandos

    I find statements implying that sex and identity can be separated (so much so that we can establish a future hypothetical society based on that principle) to be rather curious. Sex is related to who can and/or does have children—or are at minimum expected to have the ability—and what role they play in that. That has lots of material consequences I never see addressed in most of the arguments in favour the possibilty of separating sex and identity.

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    [...] I have spent far too much time in the comments section of this post on I Blame the Patriarchy. It needs to stop, and soon. But first, check out this doozy. [...]

  2. the oh zone » Blog Archive » 2007, toe gingerly dipped in blogosphere: oprah, mental patient’s makeup, which feminism to choose, briton’s beer

    [...]   AngryBrownButch tries to explain transphobia to the masses. Twisty talks about some stuff or other. Shannon hasn’t gotten past the stage of transmen- men with different body parts, transwomen- women with different body parts, so you can’t look to me to help you be enlightened. Maybe we should read books. Books solve everything. Sheezlebub(sp?) is angry about the too little too late response on twisty’s part. Blackamazon went away! and so did brownfemi! Waaa~ Also, JackGoff offended people. That’s why I don’t drink. I can offend everyone while sober.    Today I woke up and felt guilty. I think it’s because I woke up at 11 o clock, but feel free to blame me for whatever. [...]

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