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Mar 13 2011

Only sub-human

UPDATE: As commenters are probably aware, the So-Called Trans Debate (SCTD) is officially over. I may have mentioned it in passing in this essay, but please be advised that henceforth at I Blame the Patriarchy it will be necessary to discuss femininity without holding another painful referendum on transgenderism. On this post, as is my prerogative, I have allowed two or three stray comments on the topic for the purpose of clarifying my own views, but the party is over. If transphobic comments appear while I am away from my desk, they will be deleted when I get back; the commenters will be banned. It is written.

It has been suggested (by this blogger QueerCoup) that recently, when I eschewed femininity in the context of the so-called “trans debate” (yes, I know we’re done with the good old SCTD, but I mention it only in passing and as a springboard to a gripping pontification on a weighty subject, so prithee bear with), I was taking “a dig” at trans women. According to QueerCoup, “[a]t it’s heart, the rejection of femininity is a male-centred way of thinking. The assumption that femininity is for attracting men.” [sic]

Before anyone blows a lobe, allow me to assure the Blametariat that I make no such assumption. Quite the opposite. No spinster aunt who isn’t trippin on acid would ever reject femininity on the grounds that it is “for attracting men.” Spinster aunts know that femininity is not for attracting men. We reject it, of course, because we know it is actually for smushing women.

That’s right. Femininity is not a natural expression of femaleness. It is not an hereditary, hormone-based fascination for fashion, submissiveness, mani-peddies, baby-soft skin, or catfighting. It is not a fun-loving lifestyle choice. Femininity is a rigid system of behaviors imposed on us by the Global Accords Governing the Fair Use of Women as a means to control, subjugate, and marginalize us, entirely at our expense, for the benefit of the male-controlled megatheocorporatocracy.

Thus does the spinster aunt aver that the practice of femininity — whether by cis women, trans women, celebrities, lawyers, pastry chefs, people who work at Kinko’s, internet feminists, or anyone else — impedes the revolution. Here, I’ll say it again.

The practice of femininity impedes the revolution.

This idea often chaps the hide of novice blamers. This is because they don’t fully appreciate the hideous essence of femininity. Some of them believe that the practice of femininity is but one facet of an exciting smorgasbord (if a smorgasbord can be said to have facets, or to be exciting) of lifestyle choices available to today’s busy autonomous gal-on-the-go. They feel that “choosing” feminine conduct is an act of feminist rebellion, on the grounds that the choicing is entirely the chooser’s own personal idea. They aver that femininity can be an expression of a woman’s personal personality, and that it is “fun.” It is irrelevant, apparently, that femininity just happens to align precisely with the pornified desires, yucky fetishes, and vulgar business interests of the entire dudely culture of domination. Sadly, the novice blamer omits to consider this greater whole, and that in “choosing” femininity she is merely making conspicuous her compliance with dudely authori-tay.

New blamers cannot, however, be blamed for these unsophisticated views. The bogus feminine/masculine dichotomy is the ur-cornerstone of patriarchy. We’ve all been living it since the cradle. Rare is the Savage Death Islandist who springs from the womb with a fully-formed grasp of the pernicious nature of this most icky of patriarchal doctrines. We endure years, maybe decades, of brainwashing and oppression before managing to scrape the scales from our eyes.

Because, let’s face it; the truth about femininity is so repellent, so foul, so depraved, that we don’t want to know it. We’d rather believe the funfeminists when they insist that it’s empowerfulizing to be pink and girlie or stilettoey and porny. It’s so much easier to go with the flow and comfy up with the familiar old gender stereotypes than it is to come to grips with the fact that our woman-hating world order enforces femininity with a rigorous system of hollow, joyless rewards and uncompromising, murderous punishments, and that the enforcement of feminine behavior is a global humanitarian crisis.

Have you seen that commercial for Dove chocolates? No, of course you haven’t, because like all blamers you don’t own a television. Well, that commercial is a lulu. It’s got one of those confidential, just between you-and-me tones. We girls sure do some wacky things. We’re girls, we’re just so screwy. Like, we “pretend high heels are comfortable” and we wax our legs, and — silly us — we imagine that we can handle anything. But uh-oh! We can’t handle everything. But it’s OK. If we fuck up, it’s only because some things are just too hard (cut to a sexy leg with, uh-oh, a big hole in the stocking. Looks like someone couldn’t hack it in the cut-throat world of pantyhosiery! Tough break!). We’re just girls after all, but luckily we can offset the psychological damage of pantyhose failure by shoving a Dove chocolate down our craw. Femininity is really hard, so treat yourself to this cheap crap candy as a booby prize; being a screw-up is cute and we’re “only [sub] human.”

Does this icy stare make my butt look big?

Watch the commercial on YouTube, and then do that regendering thing I’m so fond of, where you imagine all the adorable femininity-women replaced by Steve McQueen or Laurence Fishburne or Franklin D Roosevelt or male dudes of similar gravitas. Can you see Fishburne going “whoopsie!” over a run in his pantyhose, and then having an orgasm over a crummy piece of mass-produced candy? I know, right? This tells you how fucking stupid femininity is; any member of the dominant class would look like a fucking idiot if he did it.

In a global humanitarian crisis, there’s nothing tackier than “choosing” to reinforce dangerous and degrading stereotypes for “fun.” There can be no real choice anyway, because nobody — and this means you — can freely opt out without consequences.

Here are some of the consequences likely to be suffered by women who try to opt out, or who perform femininity imperfectly (that is, all women):

sexism
misogyny
marriage
objectification
falling into the clutches of the Beauty Industrial Complex
self-mutilation
eating disorders
pornography
depression
infantilization
domestic violence
suicide
self-hatred
rape
marginalization
prostitution
being murdered

And most sucky of all:

no invitation — such as the ones sent to Laurence Fishburne, Steve McQueen, and Franklin D Roosevelt — to life’s rich pageant.

______________________
Hole-in-pantyhose photo from this stupid TV commercial.

Laurence Fishburne photo from this website.

229 comments

7 pings

  1. Kea

    Rare is the Savage Death Islandist who springs from the womb with a fully-formed grasp of the pernicious nature of this most icky of patriarchal doctrines.

    Me, me! I threw tantrums when aunts tried to give me dolls and insisted on walking around with my case of matchbox cars. Then again, I confess to a lapse during my 20s, when the rich boyfriend expressed a fondness for figure hugging leather minis and lacy underwear. Oh, but now I am much older and wiser!

  2. nails

    What chaps my hide is how many proto-feminists grasp the concept completely when looking at the feminine rituals of different cultures. Foot binding, neck rings, FGM, burkas, etc. The leap isn’t that great, especially when looking at plastic surgery.

  3. Lauren O

    What trips me up a little is the exact way you’re defining femininity. When it comes to, say, mani-pedis or stilettos, I understand what you mean: some arbitrary and unnecessary form of suffering women feel obligated to undergo in order to feel fully female. But what about the color pink, which obviously isn’t inherently gendered? Or what about things that are considered “feminine” but which should really be considered “human,” like taking care of children or not being violent? Surely the practice of those things doesn’t degrade women in and of itself. (The patriarchy does everything it can to make childcare and nonviolence degrading, but those things would still exist in the perfect postrevolutionary society, and would presumably be positive in that context.)

    I get your basic gist, of course, but I’m fuzzy on a few of the details, and I can see how it could be interpreted as some sort of insult.

  4. yttik

    Twisty, you’ve backed yourself into a corner. One can be empathetic and supportive of human rights and dignity for all women, regardless of their birth gender, but one cannot believe that “femininity is not a natural expression of femaleness” and also support the “natural expression of femaleness” through surgery, dress, hair removal, hormones etc.

  5. Tigs

    I’ll be back with something that will (hopefully, and at least intending to) enbiggen the discourse, but for the moment, I only have to say: Nail –>head.

    I might assign this next semester…

  6. Jill

    @ yttik: Nice try, but wat I said was, “the practice of femininity impedes the revolution.” Not “the practice of femaleness impedes the revolution.”

    It turns out that a person can identify as female without boobs, estrogen, reproductive organs, depilation, or frilly duds. I should know. I do it all the fucking time.

  7. Kelly

    Thanks for this post as I am a novice blamer, part of a peer group of “femininity=empowering”, and still get gobsmacked easily by it all. Also, thank you muchly for the phrase, “the cut-throat world of pantyhosiery”. So much.

  8. sweethereafter

    Christ, yttik, how many times must Twisty ask you to cease and desist with the SCTD stuff? You are really twisting and deliberately misunderstanding Twisty to turn the conversation back in that direction, don’t you get it? The first clue that one might actually be speaking from prejudice is when one assumes terms to the debate that are clearly nonsense.

    For example: under radical feminist analysis, at least radical feminist analysis as I have always understood it, no one is “born” with a “gender.” Gender is a social construct, imposed on all of us by patriarchy. It bears zero relation to “birth” anything. This is why “Woman-Born Woman” makes no sense unless someone around here (and by here I mean “earth”) has sprung, fully formed, from the forehead of a stork, or some other such miraculous gestational mechanism.

    Furthermore, what you seem to be confusing for Twisty’s “support” of the “natural expression of femaleness” is in fact I believe Twisty’s “support” for the proposition that even people who do things we don’t like are, in fact, human beings, and that’s not up for discussion. I don’t think you can do an end-run here and say you just don’t like the behaviour and so have concerns about the person’s qualification for “woman” status, which, again, in the radical feminist viewpoint, is no different from qualifying for “human” status.

    But to the actual point at hand. Here, Twisty, is where you lose me a bit. This is maybe where I’m being a bad radical feminist and I need to be set aright. While I’m not in love with high heels or any of the performative aspects of it, I have a hard time figuring out what the philosophical basis here is to really make this the kind of thing that “impedes the revolution.” It seems to me that even under your rubric, provided the person who is utilizing the lipstick or the nipple clamps or the whateverthefuck new thing we are supposed to do now, provided that person understands that they are making a “choice” which is really mediated by the structures of power, well, is it really “impeding the revolution”? I’m behind you insofar as we’re talking about women who believe that they enjoy full independent autonomy – they’re just buying the old liberal capitalist ruse about how we’re all free agents, blah blah blah – those women are holding things back. But what about the person who understands that they aren’t free but finds it necessary, for physical and psychological survival, because they don’t have a Blamer ranch to which they can escape from the general shit of the patriarchal world, to adopt certain modes of “femininity” and even – gasp – allow themselves a moment of enjoyment?

    I think this all may mean I’m becoming a postmodernist, and I’m afraid.

  9. Mortisha

    Splendid.
    Imagine a whole city, nay, a whole world where it is de rigueur for dudes to clip clop about in stilettos & pantyhose.
    Why that would be ridiculous!
    HA!

  10. yttik

    Twisty, many of those seeking out estrogen, boobs, and frilly duds in order to identify as female do not agree with you, as you can see from your QueerCoup blogger and from Julia Serano, who wants to put the feminine back in feminism.

    I agree with you, a lot of other rad-fems agree with you, but you are in direct opposition with those who believe femaleness is really just about doing femininity.

  11. AlienNumber

    You were accused of Cisprivilege/Transphobia by a Queer Pomo BS Theorist Femininity-Loving Femme!

    haha

    Sigh.
    Fortunately, one of your most brilliant essays of all time came out of it.

    p.s. what about we insert a little class-analysis into the femininity crisis, by mentioning the poor women (usually immigrants, of color in this country) who work in the femininity-producing caves: mani-peddie saloons, waxing and laserhair removal precincts etc. Femininity is not just (not) “fun,” it is also consumed/acquired/performed by exploiting brown female bodies for below-standard wages.

  12. minervaK

    May I say — may I PLEASE say — here where I dare to hope that it will be met with sage nods of agreement — that nothing, NOTHING, is more grating a part of the Femininity Virus than that ubiquitous online meme of “squeee!”

    For the love of all that is holy, make it stop.

  13. Notorious Ph.D.

    Thanks for the “Would this be degrading or laughable if a man were doing it?” test. I’m currently mentally applying it to so many things (some of which some men do, of course) that come under the heading of “performing femininity”:

    crotch-shaving
    pole dancing
    lipstick wearing
    not walking anywhere alone
    discussing how little they’ve eaten today

    I could go on, I suppose.

  14. Anonymouse

    Of course, the reward for adhering to femininity is the same as the punishment for violating it.

  15. hero

    minervaK, my only online friends who use “squee” are gay men. I find it endearing of them, though I suppose that says something about me too.

    Agree that this essay shall be required reading, for my daughter at least if not for all my classes.

  16. Aubrey

    As a novice blamer, this is the sane argument I needed to help me make sense of femininity-as-empowerment. While being conditioned from birth in the early 80s that ladies become professionally successful by using their sexuality hasn’t left me using my own sexuality like a weapon, it has influenced the way I dress for work.

    I have been phasing out the more obvious symbols of the feminine pall (skirts, lace, cleavage revealing tops, heels, etc) and interestingly, this has effected the way I’m treated by other women in the office more than the way I’m treated by the men. Perhaps it’s because dudes can pornify even the most sedate uniform of gray slacks and weather-appropriate sweaters? Yet the ladies, in their tiny, figure-flattering suits and throat-crushing heels aren’t interested in inviting someone who will wear tweed to a girls night of martinis and “dancing” (grinding).

    Thanks, Twisty. I’ll keep making dubious choices in the name of eschewing femininity and then learning from my mistakes. Keep fighting the good fight!

  17. JenniferRuth

    I don’t mind women practicing femininity so much as I hate it when it’s claimed to be a feminist act or empowering.

    It can be difficult to get by in the world without capitulating to femininity at times and we all exist within the domination/submission paradigm even if we recognise it for what it is. So I find it hard to get annoyed about women wearing heels or whatever. But when those heels/whatever are claimed to be a subversive or feminist act? It ignores reality. That chaps my hide.

    Brilliant post as always Twisty.

  18. awhirlinlondon

    Wow. Beautifully, powerfully done.

    I don’t live on a ranch in Texas and I can’t eschew the men. I’m married to one, the daughter of another, am surrounded by them at work and at present am living in a construction zone, so at home as well. Also, some of them are my friends. Men everydamnwhere.

    I perform femininity more than I’d care to confess to – or to face up to, for that matter.

    When I get confused about what’s what, however, I still know how to do the “desert island” trick and advise it to other failures/sell-outs like me: with respect to the blog post quoted, for example, would one ever, ever have the desire to wear “makeup, dresses, glitter” – shave one’s legs, Mani-pedi etc were one alone on a desert island? Not a fucking chance. Aquaphor for chapped lips & hide and that’s it.

    And so then I know the extent of my selling-out and conforming.

  19. allhellsloose

    @awhirlwind

    You won’t ever eschew femininity simply because to do so is suicide to a het woman living with a male partner. He won’t like it. Ergo you’re stuck right there or you loose him – and you will. Keep waxing, shaving and donning the pantyhose. That’s a het woman’s lot. Oh and remember you won’t be young for long. Trouble starts regarding femininity when the ole oestrogen declines. But there’s always botox, fillers, surgery, hrt and a huge range of lubes to keep you feminine and in’ working order’. Oh and of course the love of your children…should you be soooo lucky to have them.

  20. Nora

    This is brilliant. As is nails’ and AlienNumber’s commentary. Every time the feminist group I run at my school starts a dialogue on non-western/non-White beauty standards I have a remind them to discuss with as much nuance as they would plastic surgery…or leg shaving. Sometimes that works, and sometimes they go off and get carcinogen treatments from manicurists while proclaiming their right as White Saviors to demand the cessation of FGM. Sigh.

  21. Treefinger

    “Julia Serano, who wants to put the feminine back in feminism.”

    Have you even read Julia Serano’s book? She identifies as a butch, doesn’t dress in frilly duds or makeup, and consistently supports people who do not want anything to do with the practices of femininity as well as those who do. We may disagree with the fact she seems to think femininity is a-ok for those who “choose” it, but suggesting that she wants all feminists to be feminine and screw over those who don’t is a misrepresentation.

    Twisty, great essay. I think where a lot of people are thrown off by the criticism of femininity is that they don’t realize we are advocating the eventual abolition of masculinity as well. It’s true that some among us tend to elevate what has been seen as “masculine” behaviour (which is what Serano points out in her book- the fact that transmasculine people are more accepted than transfeminine in some feminist spaces) when we criticize femininity, and I think that’s what Queercoup thought you were doing. Evidently she was wrong about that. And there is also the time-honoured conflation of femininity and female-ness, and the assumption that by criticizing the former we don’t care about the people who practice it (a group many of us belong to, reluctantly).

    You’re also right that people deny the truth because it’s vile and depressing. I have to say I don’t really blame them. I’ve been trying to recover from depression for the past year, and if I could go back in time and stop myself learning the truth, maybe I would. There is a kernel of truth to the aphorism “ignorance is bliss”. I’d still be oppressed, and most of the rest of the world far more so, but if I went on believing that it was all bad luck and a few bad apples I’d at least be able to move on with my life. The problem is once you know what’s what, “positive thinking” and the attendant therapies can be identified for the distractions they are, so you can’t get into that frame of mind even if you wanted to.

  22. procrastinatrix

    If you were into authori-tay, Jill, I’d say this was an authori-tay-tive post on femininity and how it harms women. Along with awhirlinlondon, I too am compliant in my own oppression in multiple ways regarding femininity.

    Working in a “professional” environment in DC, a center of megatheocorporatocracy, I attempt the minimal feminine appearance to “pass”. Am I successfully “passing”? Probably not, but hopefully under the radar enough to keep my job. Hence I embody Twisty’s assertion that the revolution won’t come from liberal, well-fed, Western feminists like myself.

    I would presumptuously like to add a few consequences to the list above: motherhood (voluntary or un-); unemployment; underemployment; ignorance (voluntary or un-); chronic illness; poverty; starvation (voluntary or un-). Many of these are covered under “marginalization”, but these are scary and familiar ones to me and those I love.

  23. Bushfire

    Treefinger, if you ask me, depression is inevitable for any human who recognizes the truth of our existence. Especially women’s existence.

  24. Darragh Murphy

    That last sentence is a heartbreaker. With three daughters who have big dreams, I find myself alternating between rage and despair while contemplating the truth of your last statement, and the profound consequences for us all as a result of that truth.

    Thank you for ruining my day.

  25. Triste

    I think the most of the people on this blog will probably agree with what you’ve said here. It seems to me, however, that there is an element who not only believe that the practice of femininity is degrading garbage, but that those who practice femininity to too great an extent are the enemy. Speaking as a woman who is pretty much as un-feminine as one can get, I really can’t disagree with this more. I don’t believe that women (cis or trans) who practice femininity to any extent are my enemy because they do so. I think that the evil of femininity comes from the enforcement of its practice, not the compliance with that enforcement.

    I will agree that compliance does ultimately impede any possibility of feminist revolution. But at the same time I can’t really accept that it must be the responsibility of every woman to spend every waking moment fighting a force that is huge and pervasive and which can seem pretty fucking unstoppable at times. I can’t accept that any woman who fails to do this is not a victim but an enemy who deserves as much scorn as any patriarch. I especially can’t accept that we put all this responsibility and more on the most vulnerable of women, especially transwomen, who should not, in my mind, be held single-handedly responsible for tearing down or propping up the patriarchy, particularly when the huge majority of them must also deal with poverty, the constant thread of violence, racial discrimination, unemployment and unemployability, and of course severe mental anguish.

    I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by sitting and passing judgement on women, trying to find out whether or not they are doing enough to fight their own oppression. It seems to me that what we should be focusing on is the oppression itself. This is a Patriarchy blaming blog, after all.

  26. niki

    Just a quick note to the het females who don’t like to practice femininity: The bisexual men I’ve run into have less issues with my gender neutrality. Not always, and not everything, but many are looking for less of the giant stereotype in the sky and that’s how they came to their sexual preference.

  27. Ashley

    A definition of “femininity” would be helpful in clarifying your point here. There are too many potential definitions floating around for me to be sure what you mean.

    It’s also problematic to present a black man as a member of the dominant class without noting that his masculinity and a white man’s masculinity are performed in different ways–ways which support kyriarchy differently. The way I see it, the whole system is set up to support an imaginary dude who perfectly fits the kyriarchal ideal (white, cis, rich, able-bodied, young, straight, perfectly masculine, etc.), with that imaginary dude as the reference point for all of humanity. Since no one actually fits the ideal, everyone is punished to the extent that they fail. But also, everyone has a role to play in maintaining the structures that support that imaginary dude, and oppressed identities are used as the necessary contrast to the ideal, without which the ideal would be meaningless, because it wouldn’t have someone to be “better” than.

    Black men in a racist kyriarchy have a totally different role than white men. In the performance of masculinity expected of them, they’re either the good and helpful subservient black man who helps the much more important white man attain his goals (ie Morpheus), or the bad and dangerous outsider black man who can be used as a convenient excuse to control white women and children in the name of “protecting” them, or to steal things from/do violence to black people (ie that dude Fishburne plays in Assault on Precinct 13).

    To go back to my original point, the construction of femininity is similarly affected by race, ethnicity, class, etc., so a really useful definition of femininity would have to recognize that.

  28. Jill

    “I will agree that compliance does ultimately impede any possibility of feminist revolution. But at the same time I can’t really accept that it must be the responsibility of every woman to spend every waking moment fighting a force that is huge and pervasive and which can seem pretty fucking unstoppable at times.”

    Of course every somewhat prosperous woman must weigh her individual comfort against the sacrifices necessary to achieve the incalculable benefit to humanity that would obtain with the annihilation of patriarchy. Everyone’s gotta do what she’s gotta do to survive yadda yadda, and nobody’s blaming anyone for that.

    However. I have always believed that the onus is on privileged Western women to cut it the fuck out first, for two reasons: 1) the rest of the world takes cues from the West, and 2) we can afford to lose some privileges in the fight, compared to women who, say, get beaten up for trying to go to school or drive a car or leave the house without some dude.

    The frustration and despair you describe comes from the sense that you’re doing it all alone and achieving nothing but your own personal suffering. I feel ya. But the truth is, if you don’t walk the walk, you’re just blowin hot air.

    Even as I wish Western women would heed the siren call of liberation from femininity, I know it is unlikely; the real strides towards revolution only ever come from women who have nothing. Alas.

  29. Jill

    “if you ask me, depression is inevitable for any human who recognizes the truth of our existence. Especially women’s existence.”

    Of course it’s different for everybody, but is it really a jolly little picnic to live life as an unenlightened bimbo? Unless one is truly stupid, the effects of patriarchal oppression cannot be denied on every level. Some part of the subconscious has to grasp that you’re getting a raw deal. That’s what I meant to convey when I posted the link to that candy commercial. It depicts women actually admitting that femininity hurts. Of course, they assuage their femininity pain with chocolate instead of liberation, but the point is, mainstream marketing knows what buttons to push. It knows women are in pain.

  30. ew_nc

    Truly one of your very finest essays, Jill. To imagine a world without femininity is exhilarating.

  31. Jill

    “A definition of “femininity” would be helpful in clarifying your point here.”

    Well, I have defined femininity on this blog about a bajillion times, but if you insist: femininity is anything that would make Laurence Fishburne look like an ass if he did it.

    “It’s also problematic to present a black man as a member of the dominant class without noting that his masculinity and a white man’s masculinity are performed in different ways”

    Thanks for the comment, but I disagree. For one thing, this blog doesn’t deal with dude issues because every other blog on the planet already does. For another thing, the issue you raise is only distantly tangential to the issue I raise: within the format of a pithy little feminist blog post on femininity, I cannot be expected to dissertate on every little aspect of the male condition. For another thing, I should think it’s already pretty obvious to any advanced blamer that black dudes and white dudes are constrained to perform dissimilar (to an extent) roles in dude society, thus the circumstance does not warrant an explanation from me. For another thing, in the context of my post Laurence Fishburne, a rich movie star who enjoys a higher social status than anybody reading this blog, is presented only as a symbol of unimpeachable dominant culture masculinity as it relates to women’s experience of femininity, in which quarter he is easily the equal of the two white dudes mentioned.

  32. maria

    @allhellsloose

    I live with a het dude and I don’t perform feminity, it is possible with a partner who views you as equal. Raising the bar is the first step to getting what you want.

    Jill is absolutely right about the need for western women to challenge feminine practices; the possible consequences aren’t that bad from a world wide perspective. Also, the world is a stage, gender is a performance: our interactions with it determine the outcome. Don’t perform to the fuckability mandate and you’ll find yourself being fucked a lot less.

  33. yttik

    “I have always believed that the onus is on privileged Western women to cut it the fuck out first,”

    Like perhaps observing that countries with the most rigid gender roles, such as Iran, which is also the country that performs the most gender reassignment surgeries in the world, indeed, actually mandates them for people who don’t conform, might suggest that changing ones gender may not be an empowerful act, not a choice, but rather a symptom of horrendous patriarchal oppression and rigid enforcement of gender roles?

  34. Amynomene

    Triste, to your comment: “But at the same time I can’t really accept that it must be the responsibility of every woman to spend every waking moment fighting a force that is huge and pervasive and which can seem pretty fucking unstoppable at times.”

    Because it is huge and pervasive and it does seem unstoppable – THAT IS WHY it is indeed the responsibility of as many women as possible to fight as much as possible. But I’m not talking about quitting your job to work for a non-profit, or packing your weekends with protests. The goals of feminism are not met solely by large-scale actions like protests or getting laws passed. Because in this case, the personal is the political, and it is about trench warfare: small changes made on an individual basis, consistently. And it is indeed the responsibility of those who have been enlightened by radical feminism to evangelize and encourage others who intend to make changes.

  35. Sargassosea

    Jill -

    A question I would like to pose to you in absolute good faith:

    How can you advocate for the inclusion of M2T in FAB-only (or FAB-intended) spaces/services when you hold firm to your belief that, “The practice of femininity impedes the revolution.”?

    This makes no sense to me.

    Are you saying that M2T people are NOT practicing femininity, or that they should not be excluded based on the fact that they ARE?

    If it is not conducive to revolution for women to practice femininity why is it okay for MABs to do it?

    Really, Jill I’ve been reading this blog for years and I honestly can’t see how you can reconcile your stance on trans with your stance on the practice/non-practice of femininity.

  36. Comrade PhysioProf

    One can be empathetic and supportive of human rights and dignity for all women, regardless of their birth gender, but one cannot believe that “femininity is not a natural expression of femaleness” and also support the “natural expression of femaleness” through surgery, dress, hair removal, hormones etc.

    Why do you persist–even after the distinction has been pointed out numerous times–in conflating support for femininity compliance itself with support for those people who, for one reason or another and to a greater or lesser extent, comply?

  37. Jill

    yttik, please drop the transgender thing; your questions have been asked and answered, and that’s my final offer.

    Moreover, I would encourage a slightly more proactive personal anti-femininity campaign than “observing” gender reassignments in Iran.

  38. NotThisAgain

    yttik, you’re just never, ever going to get off the Derailing Train, are you?

  39. AlienNumber

    “I especially can’t accept that we put all this responsibility and more on the most vulnerable of women, especially transwomen”

    Do you take great pleasure out of playing a really bad game of Oppression Olympics?

    The most vulnerable women are not and have never been Western transwomen (or Eastern transwomen, now that I’m thinking about it). The most vulnerable women are poor female children of color and their mothers, that’s who. Maybe you’d like to donate some money – which most certainly you have, seeing how you’re a Blamer here – to alleviate some of their suffering, once you finish wallowing in self-pity and whatnot. I can promise you they won’t spend it on either lipstick or stilettos; or any of that crap.

  40. Jill

    “Jill I’ve been reading this blog for years and I honestly can’t see how you can reconcile your stance on trans with your stance on the practice/non-practice of femininity.”

    I’m going to respond briefly to this because I can see I haven’t made myself clear, but henceforth this subject is off limits until further notice.

    If transwomanism is not about the fetishization of girlie affect, but about identity, it follows that it is also not about femininity, but about femaleness. Transwomen who perform femininity are precisely as complicit — no more, no less — than ciswomen who perform femininity. See how easy?

    The end.

  41. wilywoman

    Thank you, Jill. You’ve spoken well of a femininity I often find too pervasive to clarify for others. I’m also reminded that it’s my responsibility to take some discomfort and shed femininity when I can, but I’m never going it alone. There are some awesome people leading and sharing the way.

  42. crickets

    “I think that the evil of femininity comes from the enforcement of its practice, not the compliance with that enforcement.” (Triste)

    But compliance with that enforcement is what allows the enforcement of femininity to go on. There is the “but I gotta do what I gotta do to survive” argument, but I think it’s important to weigh up, when using this argument, exactly what might be lost and what might be gained. Your friends might look at you funny? Your boyfriend might complain? If we all acted as we thought on this issue then there wouldn’t be a fucking thing the patriarchy could do – there would be no figurehead of femininity to point to, we could choose not to be interested in it rather than choosing to comply for a quiet life. I am talking again about well off women in the west here, as I agree that it’s much much easier for us to effect these changes than for women in some other countries – it’s up to us, who have it the easiest, to practice what we preach. However, I think the crushing “me me me” attitude of modern western society really stands in the way of this – we think about our petty little problems and worry about the social repercussions of our actions, rather than taking action and crushing those repercussions. Everything becomes discussion and theory, because it’s safer that way. I believe in discussion and theory, but not to the extent that it paralyses and prevents useful, purposeful action.

  43. phio gistic

    Show us a link to where Twisty Jill ever said “You may not participate in this blog or be included if you practice femininity.” I’ll just wait over here.

  44. Saurs

    “‘The assumption that femininity is for attracting men.‘”

    This is a huge stumbling block for a lot of heterosexual would-be blamers, in my experience. Femininity doesn’t turn men on, it turns on sadists. That most dudes are socialized to be sadistic towards women doesn’t alter that principle.

  45. speedbudget

    maria, you are absolutely right. It took a me a while to understand what the problem was with all my dating interactions with men, but once I figured out that I wanted a pro-woman man and I refused to settle, it took a few years (eight), but I found one, and I don’t have to compromise. I don’t have to put up with whiny man shit. And I get to be my true self. With a man. Whether I shave anything or not.

  46. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    It’s between each gal and her conscience where the line is drawn between compliance and revolution. We each know pretty well what we have to do to survive. But it’s easier for me not to wear eyeliner than it is for my counterpart in Iran to take to the streets sans burka.

  47. Saurs

    Sorry: all dudes are socialized to be sadists; a minority, what I’d deem a Miniscule Regiment o’ Men, resists the training or quells the impulse.

  48. Jill

    What crickets said. The I-gotta-do-what-I-gotta-do-to-survive dealio (henceforth to be abbreviated as the “gottadoo”) can be a convenient cop-out. Small acts of defiance and rebellion do add up. I would particularly urge those women who have achieved some measure of influence or clout in their field to start cutting femininity out of their daily grind. They are less likely to get their chops busted by dudes, and the trend can spread to other women who look to them for cues.

  49. Solveig

    Good one. I quoted your definition of femininity at length in my blog today, http://lefthandofeminism.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/the-media-assault-on-women-and-a-lecture-on-gender/.

    Here’s a snippet from that post:

    “Twisty has it right. The enforcement of feminine behavior–feminine as defined by the media who pander to adolescent porn-addled male fantasies, which the media reinforces and sustains in order to perpetuate itself–is a global humanitarian crisis because women constitute more than 50 per cent of the global population and women across the world have been under siege for thousands of years, since patriarchy was invented (and
    here there is link to another post by me: http://lefthandofeminism.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/cooperation-in-neolithic-culture-and-the-implications-for-feminism/.

    It must be great to have such an active reader- and commenter-ship but frustrating when people repeatedly misunderstand your oft-repeated points.

  50. Jezebella

    In which case, the best thing to do is deny the Vast Majority the benefits of female companionship, eh?

  51. allhellsloose

    @ Maria.

    Who does the contraception? You or he? Has he got himself sorted and banked the sperm? Cos that’s the real deal here. He won’t harm you ever if he’s had that op. The deal should be you should never pee on a stick every month because you’re late.

    I did the non shave look with the absolute backing of what I thought was my feminist fwend. He now ‘envelopes’ himself with a shaven and plucked compliant (younger) woman. And me? I’m a feminazi. Ha!

  52. procrastinatrix

    Gottadoo can be a cop out, but I think the issue is being oversimplified a tad in this thread. I work in a field (for a non-profit) where a significant part of what I do is squeezing pittances of money from the megatheocorporatocracy to invest in programs for the poorest women and children in the world. One can’t really get a foot in the door with the mtco unless one complies minimally with the dress code. Sorry to bore the blametariat with details, but for me that is some make-up and jewelry, and clothing coded as feminine (blouses and trousers or skirts). I draw the line at hose or heels.

    It’s a conundrum. For me it comes down to whether working within an oppressive system can accomplish any good in the long run. In theory, saving a girl’s life while perpetuating the mtco that will crush her as it does all of us. Ugh.

    I wrote a long and whiny email about this to Jill years ago. How depressing not to have figured anything out yet.

  53. EmilyBites

    A sad fucking sight is a heavily pregnant woman in high heels. I want to call the RSPCW, but there isn’t one.

    One of the things that makes it really, really obvious in how much contempt women are held is the practice of dudes compelling other dudes to perform femininity as a ritual of humiliation. See: male sports teams assigning one player to wear a dress after a poor match, stag parties dressing the groom in lingerie, or dudes putting lipstick on a sleeping man. Those same dudes will mock a man wearing stockings and heels, then go home to a woman doing exactly the same and never consider her dignity or humanity harmed by it; after all, being a woman is about as humiliating as it gets.

  54. Gayle

    Acting feminine (giggling, deferring, talking in an artificially high voice, etc) hurts us more than looking feminine. Than again, women have to walk that tightrope between appearing competent and coming off as too aggressive, which is also used against us.

    We’d move ahead a lot faster if we put our energies towards getting feminist women into positions of power. The more women in leadership roles, the more influence we have.

  55. TotallyDorkin

    The problem with telling other people to sacrifice something in order to help others is that there is no line or limit to the discourse. Twisty can tell feminine women to stop wearing eyeliner because they have a responsibility to less privileged women, and eyeliner can’t be that important to them. But I can tell Twisty to sell her horses and give the money to underprivileged people using the same logic. Where do we stop?

  56. AlienNumber

    Who cares where you stop. Just freaking start somewhere! Here’s a novel idea: lead by example.

    geezus, some of you people like to pseudophilosophically scratch yourselves into inactivity/perpetuation of the status quo, and still call it feminism, like it’s your actual day job (if you have one, that is).

    I blame postmodernism.

  57. Undercover Punk

    why you gonna edit my comment, but STILL not approve it? Bah.

  58. maria

    @allhellsloose

    I hear ya on the trading in for a younger, more compliant woman. All I can do is remind myself of the potential and never compromise my ambition so that if that day should come I will be okay financially and emotionally.

    As for the sexual politics, we don’t have PIV intercourse. I said I’d reconsider if he has a vasectomy, which he hasn’t yet so it’s a win win in a way. I dated a guy before this and told him I was celebate, which was no big deal to him. Now I’m with a partner material guy and he never mentions having intercourse. I’m quite shocked how it all worked out. Playing on assumptions is the easiest way to let the patriarchy win.

  59. Killerchick

    I fear that blaming postmodernism (the precise discourse that teaches us to be suspicious of grand narratives and to lay them bare as power-laden ideologies that are susceptible to pass as truths) is a big fat red herring here. And I fear, moreover, that ‘postmodernism’ is being used imprecisely to stand in for neo-liberalism, ‘fun fem’ etc.

    It’s the patriarchy that should be being blamed.

    (Patriarchy = a grand narrative, ripe for deconstruction as an interested ideology shoring up power imbalances while passing as transcendental truth.)

  60. AlienNumber

    Postmodernism is Patriarchy. And a pernicious “intellectual” practice too.

    Notice how TotallyDorkin mistakenly made it seem like owning horses is the same, for purposes of blaming, as wearing eyeliner. Despite the definition of femininity plastered very visibly all over Twisty’s essay and the comments, TD, in typical pomo fashion, completely missed that owning horses is not performing femininity like wearing eyeliner is performing femininity (any dude can own a horse, but he won’t look degraded while at it).

    (but if one can make an argument that TD’s mistake/distraction tactic can be attributed to neo-liberalism or fun-feminism, then sure)

  61. Nora

    @crickets “Your friends might look at you funny? Your boyfriend might complain?”

    Um. You could get raped? Your parents/husband could throw you out of the house? Someone could beat the shit out of you? I have no interest in a feminism that conflates westernism with financial independence and enough privilege to live otherwise out of servitude to some patriarchal figure or other.

    And whoever said that the punishment for failing to comply with femininity is the same as the punishment for actually being feminine was right. So I guess it boils down to a calculated risk (one that more privileged women would be in a better position to take, sure). I also agree with Gayle; when I want to subvert the patriarchy, I find it’s usually more effective to be “shrill” and outspoken than anything else.

    Jill, I’m also curious about your opinion on “femme,” especially in the queer community. Can you take a signifier of compliance (like makeup or a skirt) and then rob it of it’s typical meaning by being otherwise non-compliant (like by being fat or queer or a loud-mouthed radical)? I guess it’s different from being “fun fem” in that it’s…intentional? And it would have to come with an understanding that any individual practice of femininity is not incidental to the patriarchy. (Does that make *any* sense?)

  62. XtinaS

    There’s nuance to the whole “gottadoo” argument.  On the one hand, not every single woman in the West can do this; this is an obvious thing.

    It’s a cost/benefit analysis.  I dress up in femme-drag when I go to interviews, because I know that my odds of being hired if I wear a proper suit go way down, and not eating can be detrimental to blaming.  Someone else might do so because she has CFS, and she doesn’t have the damn spoons today to deal with the remarks from her coworkers.  Someone else might be beaten for not being properly feminine.  Again, obvious things.

    But though however, it’s really, really easy to just say “But I have to!”, and not ever look at the have-to more closely.  I have to wear femme-drag to a wedding… why?  I’m wearing this low-cut shirt… for what reason?

    It’s the same as any other kind of lifestyle change — there’s a big chance of don’t-wannas getting in the way, and they’re really good at camouflaging as gottadoos.

    …if I keep this neologising up, I’m going to wind up hosting inspirational getaways.

  63. Treefinger

    “Are you saying that M2T people are NOT practicing femininity, or that they should not be excluded based on the fact that they ARE?”

    I know Twisty has already answered this question. But to go into more detail:

    - Not all trans women practice femininity and the vast majority don’t practice femininity to any greater degree than the average cis woman. Some don’t make any change to their bodies or clothing style, but identify as trans women. Many do physically transition but eschew the outward practices of femininity. Most practice some femininity- about the same as the average FAAB woman. A minority are very feminine. Transness at it’s core is about identity, and usually gender dysphoria is related to anxiety about your physical body, not whether it’s acceptable for you to play with dolls or not (a lot of trans people do like to talk about how they liked to play with dolls instead of trucks and vice versa, but there’s a reason for that: the medical community likes to deny transition to people who don’t seem feminine enough to be a woman or masculine enough to be a man). If all trans women dressed in OTT feminine apparel I could see the concern, but they don’t; those that do are just the most visible.

    - No one should be excluded from a radical feminist space for practicing femininity, even extreme femininity- as long as they don’t go around admonishing people for not conforming to it, or otherwise being a nuisance. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, a lot of people with very radical values still cling to femininity for the reasons discussed above*. We have to put aside that fact if they otherwise have valuable insights to impart. Femininity may be oppressive by nature, but those that practice it can be self-aware of that fact and enlightened about other branches of the P. Secondly, it’s preaching to the choir to only allow women who have little to do with femininity in. A bunch of savage death islanders chatting may be a good time, but will accomplish little in the way of letting uninitiated women know the value of a supportive anti-patriarchal space.

    * For many years I was afraid to leave the house without makeup because I found a negative correlation between wearing it and being bullied at school when I was a teen (plus the bullies wasted no time in outright issuing me a bunch of sexist, classist ultimatums about how I could regain their respect by becoming more feminine and cool. They were all girls Doing Their Bit for patriarchy, alas). I grew out of this compulsion, but these things take time.

    “Unless one is truly stupid, the effects of patriarchal oppression cannot be denied on every level”

    I can only speak for myself but I think I did a pretty good job of this, even while the above was going on, by the simple fact that I didn’t identify as female and thus presumed my distaste with femininity could be chalked up to that. It was all a big mistake in my mind. Because most women are somewhat secretive about their hatred of femininity (or at least act like it’s a trivial joke when they do criticize it) I pretty much presumed it was all dandy for them until life experience and decent books taught me otherwise.

    For those that do identify as female though, I think you’re underestimating the strength of denial.

    An ordinary person might accidentally tune into Alex Jones, listen along wondering if what he’s saying is true, then hear “you’re listening to me, Alex Jones” and immediately dismiss everything they were wondering about a second ago because they know that name equals paranoid bullshit. An average woman might be listening to a speaker on tv, relating to what she says about how life is a drag for women, then hear her say “patriarchy” and back away posthaste. Words and names that are popularly associated with what are thought of as crazy conspiracy theories, rightly or wrongly, are incredibly good at shutting down people’s curiosity. They are warning signs that social ridicule lies that way. And it’s not only “patriarchy” and “feminism” that gets this treatment, but any word that could be used to describe systemic oppression. How many times have you heard phrases like “the system” ridiculed as part of the insincere beliefs of an idiot? It’s for this reason that women who aren’t feminist will acknowledge the pain of their existence by laughing along with that chocolate ad, but refuse to see the true extent of that pain as a global humanitarian crisis. That would be crazy.

    Whereas some of us here in the comments are advanced blamers but reluctant to give up visual indicators of femininity for fear our Nigels will leave, these women are hip to the fact that standing up for your rights is the fastest way to wilt the average dude’s cock. As far as I can tell the immediate fear of that is enough to distract most women from sustained meditation on their oppression.

    As far as sex-positive and femininity-positive feminists go, who are the people I was actually thinking of when I wrote that last paragraph, they’re arguably in the position most conducive to denial. As they think that institutions like porn can be reformed and don’t need to be abolished, their aims seem more achievable (given that the reforms they want will probably be put in place eventually, though of course it won’t be enough). I don’t kid myself that people will actually voluntarily give up their porn, tear down their privileges, and do other such things that are highly desirable to me. Not in my lifetime, and probably not ever. As long as the sex-pos people can continue to believe that reforms are all that’s needed, the future is bright. Their work could actually meet its aims. Admitting that what is actually possible doesn’t scrape the tip of the iceberg of what needs to be done is almost like admitting defeat. They would be robbed of their sense of purpose and their hope that things can change.

    Also, if you get enjoyment out of something like BDSM or porn, acknowledging that what little makes you happy has very dire consequences for both you and other people sure sucks the fun out of it. People like to believe that what gets them through the day is harmless and morally neutral. Alas, this is not true for any of us. Even if your hobbies include playing with kittens and eating chocolate, it’s the patriarchy that allows your ownership of those baby animals and consumption of that chocolate produced by companies who pay their workers peanuts.

  64. Comrade Svilova

    This blamer’s latest resistance to patriarchy is to just go totally all out on facebook, twitter, blogs about being a pro-choice, anti-rape feminist. So many women have come out and “liked” these posts and now I’m starting to build a proto-fem (not rad-fem quite) community IRL. People who I thought weren’t political are political; women who haven’t been political before are asking to join me at Lobby for Choice day in Washington, D.C.; and my conservative friends and family have left me alone about it.

    Obviously, this is a very small step that has worked well for me, and your situation may be very different. But I’m thrilled that being loud and shrill and open about my politics has been so successful. (Would that it could be this way for *all* blamers, of course.)

  65. Lovepug

    Tis true. Every word. Every day I wear makeup, keep my mouth shut when I want to speak, accommodate when I want to set a boundary, and – I am not making this up – spend an hour on my hair just so I can avoid the consequences if I don’t do all these things. Thankfully, I live in a country where I don’t run a high risk of losing my life, but I do risk losing promotions at work, having a partnered relationship (being the hetero I am) and embarrassing my daughter to her peers. I don’t participate in femininity because I love it so. I do it to pass and to survive. But I don’t alleviate the pain by eating chocolate. Instead I read radfem blogs and trash talk men at every available opportunity. And I’m trying to raise as feminist a daughter as possible. That’s about all I can do for now.

  66. Killerchick

    @ AlienNumber: Without wanting to restart the art week/ science week wars, the same truth as outed from that scuffle obtains here. Bad science = patriarchal uses of scientific method for the P’s own ends. (Scientific methodology itself is neutral.) Badly applied postmodern thinking (an “intellectual” practice rather than an intellectual practice, indeed) = patriarchal applications of postmodernism for The Man’s ends. Postmodernism in its original form, in the writings of e.g. Lyotard, is not designed to serve patriarchal purposes. It is a toolkit for isolating the workings of power in what passes as the natural order and for showing the contradictions and fissures in apparently monolithic ideologies. (In this it is eminently useful for feminist thinking.) Some of Baudrillard’s postmodernist writings, on the other hand, are indeed outright misogynistic. ‘Pomo’ as both a description and as an insult has, however, become so broad as to be meaningless. The Wikipedia entry is a case in point.

    TotallyDorkin made an analogy about privilege and what the privileged may reasonably be asked to give up in the interests of the revolution. S/he suggested that asking privileged ‘femme’ women, who could eschew ‘femininity’ with relatively little personal danger, to give up their mascara in order to benefit less privileged women finds a parallel in the proposition that those who are economically well-off might e.g. be asked to sell their horses and give the money to the poor. This may not be a constructive, logically sound pro-blaming argument, as horses are neutral things in patriarchy-blaming terms, as you point out, whereas mascara can be seen as objectively pro-patriarchal and detrimental to feminism. To that extent, the assumption underlying the original comment appeared to share a belief with what is often referred to as ‘fun-feminism’, namely that mascara-wearing is a positive good and that being deprived of it would result in suffering. It was to this (perceived) belief that I thought you alluded when blaming postmodernism.

    The defense mechanism visible in TD’s comment is, by the way, in the context of the patriarchal matrix in which we live and the extensiveness of femininity-conditioning, an understandable emotional response. That women feel as if being asked to give up femininity practices constitutes a material loss is something to which we need to pay attention. In analysing this comment, my intention is not in any way to blame TotallyDorkin. I blame, now and always, the Patriarchy.

  67. Ashley

    the issue you raise is only distantly tangential to the issue I raise

    Because oppressions are interdependent, white supremacy is absolutely integral to the maintenance of patriarchal femininity. Consider how a similar response would sound if it were on the dudely blog I Blame Capitalism. Say the dudely proprieter of IBC used Ivana Trump or somesuch as a symbol of capitalist dominance, and a feminist pointed out that a woman in that position is pretty subservient to her husband, and that her capitalist dominance is therefore complicated by her womanhood. And then say the IBC dude responded by saying that the oppression of women was not relevant to a discussion of capitalist oppression, because there were plenty of places to talk about rich people issues. Well, fair enough. But that conversation is never going to really get to the root of how capitalist oppression is operating, because it ignores a key element of the structure: patriarchy. Same applies here.

    femininity is anything that would make Laurence Fishburne look like an ass if he did it.

    Whether Laurence Fishburne would look “like an ass” wearing lipstick is debatable, and depends on one’s perception of lipstick. But let’s go with the premise that Laurence Fishburne would look like an ass wearing lipstick, because it is true, given a certain set of conditions.

    Since varying degrees of coercion are always being used to enforce women’s tendency to do things that would make Laurence Fishburne look like an ass, it makes more sense, from a strategic standpoint, to do what is possible to transform any structures that provide such coercion. Trying to get women to conform to a non-Fishburne-ass gender presentation is futile and possibly even harmful, given the coercive forces they are responding to. Feminism is more likely to be a successful social movement if it is experienced by women as something that gives them freedom by allowing them to do the things they already want to do without negative consequences. If we weren’t facing negative consequences, most women would be happy to stop doing most things that would make Laurence Fishburne look like an ass. If we keep the coercion in place but ask individual women to reject femininity and accept the resulting punishment, feminism will be experienced as something that pressures women to give up social status, jobs, approval, safety, love, self-esteem, etc. “for the struggle.” It’s just not going to get a lot of converts.

    Basically, judging women for performing femininity is a lot like blaming abused women for not leaving their partners. The abusive partner is the real problem in such a situation, and patriarchy is nothing if not an abusive relationship.

  68. TotallyDorkin

    I guess I wasn’t clear in my original argument.
    Where does one get the authority to tell someone else to give up the trappings of their privilege that make them feel safer, better, more happy without creating a discourse where anyone can be pointed to as “not doing enough”. As long as an imbalance remains between privileged classes of people and oppressed classes, one can always make the argument that a privileged individual is not giving up enough to help the oppressed.

    If we tell a woman that she needs to start giving up the femininity that might make her feel safe or comfortable because it will help the less privileged, should we not also tell the privileged to give up their first-world accessories because they could arguably benefit someone else more?

    I pointed to horses as an something that the owner might feel very strongly that they are necessary for her mental health, but an onlooker might judge to be an unnecessary economic privilege that could instead be used to feed people who cannot afford to eat.

    It seems impossible to make prescriptions for how people should deal with their oppression and not be hypocritical, unless you yourself are devoid of privilege that you retain to other’s detriment.

  69. iGuest

    AlienNumber said: “Notice how TotallyDorkin mistakenly made it seem like owning horses is the same, for purposes of blaming, as wearing eyeliner. Despite the definition of femininity plastered very visibly all over Twisty’s essay and the comments, TD, in typical pomo fashion, completely missed that owning horses is not performing femininity like wearing eyeliner is performing femininity (any dude can own a horse, but he won’t look degraded while at it).”

    How many little boys wouldn’t “look degraded” asking for a pony for his birthday? Girls and ponies (My Little Pony, anyone?), and women and horses are, for some demented reason, a huge part of the feminine myth, at least in America (and apparently Australia where one woman is researching “Why are horses so important in the lives of women?”)

    The whole “practicing femininity” bridle is everywhere. It’s much broader than the rather narrow scope of scorn we use to examine others but not so much ourselves.

    No one woman, not even the mighty Twisty, can fully define Femininity as Patriarchal Performance. That’s a job we are not privileged to hold. And, besides, the game is rigged. We are all working within the confines, and the confines define us, no matter how much we’d like to believe otherwise.

  70. Jill

    What? A feminist exhorting feminists to stage a feminist revolt? What am I, NUTS? I really must apologize; I completely forgot that modern feminism consists entirely of trolling other people’s blogs and calling them out on their privilege all the live-long day.

    You guys get that revolution is unlikely to transpire unless women do something a teeny bit revolutionary once in a while, right?

  71. AlienNumber

    Watch it, Jill, with this Revolution talk.
    Sure sounds like some people want to eat your horse!

  72. Jezebella

    Oh, Alien Number, a tiny part of me wants to tell you that eating animals isn’t feminist. But wait! Before everybody tells me how much they love eating animals, take a deep breath. I know Alien Number is being facetious, and so am I.

  73. Jill

    “Sure sounds like some people want to eat your horse!”

    They’ll have to catch her first. She generally declines to interact with humans, and is remarkably fleet of foot for the world’s second-fattest Arabian.

  74. Satchel

    It’s so much easier to go with the flow and comfy up with the familiar old gender stereotypes than it is to come to grips with the fact that our woman-hating world order enforces femininity with a rigorous system of hollow, joyless rewards and uncompromising, murderous punishments, and that the enforcement of feminine behavior is a global humanitarian crisis.

    One of the best things you’ve written, and that is a very high bar indeed. Bravo, and thank you.

  75. TwissB

    @Comrade Svilova “women who haven’t been political before are asking to join me at Lobby for Choice day in Washington, D.C.; and my conservative friends and family have left me alone about it.”
    I hope that it’s not bad form to suggest that lobbying for “Choice” is about as patriarchy-compliant as can be since it affirms men’s right to target women’s reproductive organs for invasive judgment and denial of women’s bodily integrity as surely as rape, pornography, and prostitution do. It’s political all right, but letting men frame the issue for us is anti-women politics. No wonder your conservative friends and family have left you alone about it.

    Roe v Wade represents limited legalization for men’s convenience while it leaves men free to make their own choices about their reproductive activity and to vilify and harass women whether pregnant or not up to but never crossing the line to prohibit abortion entirely because that would spoil the fun and games of distracting women from other forms of resistance and keeping them running around squeaking and busying themselves with trying to elect “pro-choice” candidates who will cheerily disregard any alleged promises. I don’t want no professed “pro-choice” nice guys in my car.

    See “Stop Abortion? Fix Men” at http://www.equality4women.org. for a serious look at RvW as a constitutional fraud.

  76. Tigs

    Living within the ambiguity and conflict that recognizing our own agency and the limits thereof reveals is uncomfortable.
    That doesn’t mean it is impossible to act in revolutionary ways.
    I propose that when we recognize ourselves as full-fledged human beings and we recognize and engage others as full-fledged human beings (with the definition of human meaning something like an entity with dignity and thus deserving of the possibility of radical self-determination) we are engaging in revolutionary acts.

    Keeping this recognition in a centralized position will probably necessitate a number of radical actions that move beyond the individual act to the collective and probably include such things like economic and political transformation.

    Acknowledging that we all do things that are not useful to the revolution and may indeed by impeding it does not prevent us from finding ways that we can and are willing to act in revolutionary ways. When enough of us do enough of that, we could possibly start getting somewhere.

  77. Jezebella

    TwissB, you cannot be serious. There are about a million things more patriarchy-compliant than demanding reproductive rights. Some of us, born hetero, can’t help ourselves: we want to have sex with men. And despite this terrible failing, we still want to control our reproductive lives. YOU don’t have to lobby for choice, but don’t bloody well tell ME that I’m being patriarchy-compliant when I demand that women have the rights to their own bodies.

  78. TwissB

    @Jezebella “don’t bloody well tell ME that I’m being patriarchy-compliant when I demand that women have the rights to their own bodies.”
    Look again. I’m saying that begging for men to stop using RvW exactly as they designed it to be used is missing the point that RvW does not acknowledge women’s right to their own bodies. In fact things are really going backwards when women are reduced to pinning their hopes on the Hyde Amendment which was the first big demonstration that RvW could be, as advocates love to say, chipped away at. Sadly advocates for women did not demand that federal funding for medicaid abortions for poor women be maintained, which helped to drive a wedge between women of color and leading white feminists. Aren’t women citizens? Well, not exactly, it seems.

    If proponents of “choice” (who don’t seem to want to admit that men’s control of women’s bodies through physical and social coercion is evidence that women are left, at best, only to be able to choose abortion, not to choose not to be pregnant in the first place) would stand up and truthfully identify this situation as a primary form of sex discrimination against women for which there is no solid constitutional remedy, and DEMAND a real constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the law that prohibits all discrimination against women, then we could really move forward instead of making the patriarchy happy by running around in the same predictable circles, begging for crumbs.

    You might consider why the civil authorities allow women to be harrassed at clinics providing supposedly legal services. Instead of organizing clinic defense actions, shouldn’t women be picketing the offices of the mayor, the attorney general, and other protectors of the peace for letting peace-abiding citizens be threatened and harrassed?
    Try mounting a hate-mongering, threatening protest at abortion-opposing churches and see how long it would be before the police arrived to start making arrests.

    By the way, it’s not the best idea to assume that a reader of this blog has not experienced childbirth.

  79. TwissB

    Consider the extra “r” in harassment transferred to embarrassment.

  80. EmilyBites

    For more privileged women, this appears to be the crux of the whole not eschewing femininity thing: I’ll suffer in certain ways if I do it.

    Yeah, you will! You’ll lose friends, the average het man will run a mile, you’ll damage your career prospects (if you are fortunate enough to have one), your parents will be horrified, you won’t be able to shop in Topshop, and so on and so sad. But you won’t feel like a performing fucking monkey any more, and it’s pretty sweet to think of yourself as people.

  81. allhellsloose

    @ Ashley”Basically, judging women for performing femininity is a lot like blaming abused women for not leaving their partners. The abusive partner is the real problem in such a situation, and patriarchy is nothing if not an abusive relationship.”

    Ahhh soooo wrong. We women are not rabbits caught in the headlights, whilst trying to put on our mascara, and performing sexual and social gymnastics simultaneously.We may have succumbed to these gymnastics and absorbed them to take part in the daily performance. BUT it is up to us to do something about it.

    A better analogy I believe is addiction. Addicts may at first love their addiction, but eventually some addicts will come to despise the state, succumb to it totally and die as a result. However many addicts do see the damage the addiction is doing and decide that enough is enough!

    @Maria – you rock!

  82. Ashley

    @allhellsloose

    My point is simply that a lot of women will be totally gung ho about, for example, passing a law that would make it mandatory for advertisers to represent a range of body types in their advertising. Many of those same women will not be willing to lose their job by refusing to shave their pits, particularly if not shaving their pits doesn’t make them feel all that great. If their socialization makes them feel dirty when they don’t shave, they won’t experience not shaving as liberation. They’ll experience it as annoying. You have to liberate their mind first. Their mind is just responding to a number of systemic, institutional pressures that women pretty much universally hate and can band together to change. Like you do in a revolution. Instead of policing each other’s shoe choices. Like you do in patriarchy.

  83. piny

    This is a good post.

    One nitpick: for the same reason it’s inappropriate to say gaywoman, it’s “trans woman.” It’s an adjective, not a different gender.

  84. procrastinatrix

    Lots of interesting points. How nice to read and participate in a discussion that doesn’t involve (or at least not much) angry ad-person attacks.

    I think there are a couple implications floating around in here that are false. One is that there are no middle positions between not performing femininity at all and total pornification. The other is that if one chooses to perform femininity at all one by definition must not be doing any other revolutionary acts.

    Here are some revolutionary acts a woman can do at work, even if she’s wearing make-up or, God forbid, heels:

    1. As Gayle already mentioned, don’t perform those acts that signal submission like the cocked head, the giggle, the deference, the artificially high or soft voice.
    2. Don’t participate, ever, in publically shaming, cutting down, or marginalizing a female colleague, even if you personally don’t like or agree with her.
    3. Support other women to get ahead, encourage and foster their work when you can. Enlist their help and support for your work.
    4. Be competent, smart, have opinions, fight for what you think is correct in terms of the greater good.

    Following the argument that only complete non-compliance with the patriarchy counts as revolutionary to its conclusion leaves women with two options as far as I can see: take up arms and militantly attempt to wrest power from men, or withdraw from society and try to live off the grid as much as possible. A third possibility would be mass civil disobedience along the lines of Gandhi’s movement, but apparently the idea that girls and women are human is not powerful enough to animate such a movement.

    I’ll be happy for the assertions in the paragraph above to be proven wrong by a superior thinker, because they depress the hell out of me.

  85. TwissB

    @procrastinatrix
    Well said.

  86. allhellsloose

    Being competent and smart shouldn’t even come into it. It should always be a given. Women are competent and smart. Period.

    So a woman believes that if she doesn’t wear makeup in the work place then she won’t be taken seriously? This is not feminism. This is subservience.

  87. redpeachmoon

    Wow. Some brilliant posts. Very stimulating,thought provoking and also depressing. My conciousness is being raised in powerful ways, and I’m grateful. Thank you
    Tigs especially. Beautiful post.

  88. Marja

    Gayle and Procrastinatrix,

    “As Gayle already mentioned, don’t perform those acts that signal submission like the cocked head, the giggle, the deference, the artificially high or soft voice.”

    It can take effort not to do those things, especially in stressful situations such as being around other people. By the time I was twelve, I’d been bullied for years, and I’d internalized every one of these. Since then, I’ve been beaten down, with fists, and clubs, and boots, and worse, too many of the times I’ve tried to speak out or stick up for what’s right.

  89. procrastinatrix

    Hi, Marja,

    I am really not trying to be prescriptive. I was trying to suggest concrete examples to illustrate that complying in some areas doesn’t preclude acting in revolutionary ways in others.

    I second or third the appreciation for the position Tigs outlines above.

    I’m sorry that you’ve been so beaten down, Marja. Hope reading Jill/Twisty helps. It certainly does me.

  90. nails

    How many final warnings can be given to not discuss the topic? You made yourself clear over and over. You are being a doormat, that is why they keep bringing it up- they know you won’t do anything.

  91. Darragh Murphy

    “Try mounting a hate-mongering, threatening protest at abortion-opposing churches and see how long it would be before the police arrived to start making arrests.”

    I would love to try that. Seriously. Do you think the police really would make arrests? It reminds me of that time the AIDS Action protestors pelted the graduating seminarians with packs of condoms on the steps of the cathedral. That was beautiful.

  92. Darragh Murphy

    those suggestions are excellent Procrastinatrix, thank you.

    the image of a bunch of women ruining the Sunday mornings of a bunch of church goers with loud chants and digusting images is making me smile.

    Can’t think of any plausible reason the police could come up with for making arrests. Or if they did, I dont think the charges, whatever they may be, would stand up Constitutionally.

  93. Liz

    I love this and especially love procrastinatrix’s suggestions for action!

    Blame on!

  94. phio gistic

    Why does the US government allow a domestic terrorism group to stalk, harass, bomb, and murder? Why are they not sending out the National Guard to protect doctors and patients in Kansas and elsewhere?

  95. iGuest

    Jill said: “What? A feminist exhorting feminists to stage a feminist revolt? What am I, NUTS? I really must apologize; I completely forgot that modern feminism consists entirely of trolling other people’s blogs and calling them out on their privilege all the live-long day.”

    I’m not sure if this was directed at me but, as it was right under my comment, I’ll reply.

    Jill, I was responding to AlienNumber who, in her enthusiastic (and careless) dismissal of TD, overlooked one of the more ridiculous patriarchal myths.

    After pointing this out, I reiterated (or thought I did) the point of your post, that no woman can perform femininity properly ["Here are some of the consequences likely to be suffered by women who try to opt out, or who perform femininity imperfectly (that is, all women)"].

    It’s a rigged game. No woman, not cis, not trans, not straight, not lesbian, not bisexual, not intersex, not celibate, not promiscuous, not grandmother, not mother, not even children (see Cleveland, TX), NONE of us will get it right. To the best of my knowledge the only women to sometimes “get it right” are cartoon women and I’m betting the ones that “get it right” were drawn by men.

  96. Darragh Murphy

    The US govmt does not allow groups to stalk, bomb, or murder. Or to put it more generally, the US Constitution and its laws don’t allow groups, or people, to do any of those things. There are laws against those actions.

    There is the issue of free speech, and the attendant conundrum of the SC explicitly outlawing laws against hate crime speech, which has to be taken into account, at least in the USA. Or not.

    Rather than limiting the free speech rights of the pro-forced pregnancy maniacs who protest at abortion clinics, I’d rather participate in some free speech of our own.

  97. allhellsloose

    JESUS (got your attention Americay), don’t you people get it? Procastrinatrix’s comments were NOT okay. There is no middle way in a revolution.

    You cannot join the revolution if you wear makeup and ‘god forbid’ heels at work. Ergo everything else she says is null and void.

    It is simple. Once your male colleague JOINS you in the make up department and ‘god forbid’ wears heals. Then and only then will YOU woman be equal. GEDDIT?

    Good.

    ps he won’t join you i absolutely guarantee it. unless it’s for comedy relief or fund raising but he won’t joint you everyday. how you can’t get this is beyond belief.

  98. allhellsloose

    but you will so giggle and shake your head and talk in little girl voice and join in when HE does ‘join in’ for comic relief or some other worthy ‘charity’.

    oh he’s so handsome…

  99. AlienNumber

    okay, iGuest, so besides going around in circles, what are you- and we- going to do about it? (it being the Patriarchy). Twisty and others were offering some really great ideas, but somebody was too busy threatening to eat the Blog Owner’s horse in the – god forbid – case that s/he was going to be forced to give up her lifeline (which was eyeliner in that unfortunate case)! “If I give up my eyeliner, you give up your horse” was the idea.

    How was that helpful in any way?

    I was dismissing TD’s comment because it was excruciatingly status-quo defending.
    “Where will we stop?”
    when what we need to ask is “where do we start?”

    Geezus.

    p.s. piny, re: your tiny comment, maybe gaywoman doesn’t work as a term, but we sure do have the word lesbian.

  100. Darragh Murphy

    Allhells, assuming your comments aren’t a joke (but hoping that they are), what utter nonsense.

    Cannot join the revolution? Says who? And WHAT revolution? As far as I can see, there IS no feminist revolution from which any/all women who are now or who may at some future point in time wear high heels or makeup (no matter how little makeup and no matter how low those high heels may be) can be barred from enlisting.

    The Spinster Aunt “avers that the practice of femininity impedes the revolution.” The Spinster Aunt makes a perfectly logical and, much more importantly, intellectually defensible statement with which most, if not all, radical feminists agree. I know I certainly do.

    Extrapolating from that statement to the ridiculous generalizations that: “You cannot join the revolution if you wear makeup and ‘god forbid’ heels at work” and “There is no middle way in a revolution.” is absurd.

    Even if there were a Feminist Revolutionary Police who could block participation in that revolution to women who wear heels or makeup, or who may perhaps on some future day wear those impediments for whatever reason, why on Earth would a pro-feminist-revolution woman ever want the FRP to keep those impediment wearing women away?

    How does explicitly excluding the vast majority of women, i.e. those who comply with Femininity Performance to at least some degree, from a potential revolution advance the likelihood of that revolution ever even getting off the ground? Your rules for entry seem like a pretty effing huge impediment right there.

    There is no middle way in a revolution. Really? What is your evidence for that? Revolutions are successful when participants come from most of the walks of life of a given society. Like Gandhi’s revolution in India, or the Civil Rights movement in the USA, or the Suffragist Movement in USA and Europe. The revolutions in which the leaders attempted to enforce strict adherence to a rigid set of beliefs and behaviors, and to not allow middle grounds, nuance, or flexibility tend to be the ones we recoil from in horror, like Cambodia, Rwanda, Stalinist Terror, The Terror of the French Revolution, Nazi Germany, Maoist China, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, etc etc.

    I’m a not very compliant or conforming participant in Patriarchal oppression myself and would probably pass your test for admittance to the Revolution, but if those are the ground rules, a big No Thanks.

    Not that your rules could ever actually be enforced. Simply stating and theoretically defending those rules is, literally, guaranteeing the impossibility of the Feminist Revolution. You’ve offered a perfect Ouroboros of Perpetual Feminist Impotence. Congratulations.

  101. Gayle

    You cannot join the revolution if you wear makeup and ‘god forbid’ heels at work. Ergo everything else she says is null and void.

    Yes, you can. In fact, you can do a whole hell of a lot for the revolution in makeup and heels, if need be. Why are you being so absolutist?

  102. Darragh Murphy

    Or, to put it more succinctly:

    As Jill says, “the practice of femininity impedes the revolution.” Very true. Which means that while marching in the Feminist Revolution, those women who are doing so in high heels will fall behind and find their marching impeded by their silly shoes. At which point they will look down at their silly, stupid shoes and TAKE THEM OFF.

  103. IrishUp

    “You cannot join the revolution if you wear makeup and ‘god forbid’ heels at work.”

    Well, then there is at least one revolution that I cannot join. I’ve got a (woman) supervisor who polices my appearance, and is just itching to put enough pink slips in my personnel file to fire me.

    I accept my responsibility; my choice to retain my current privileges of an unforclosed-on home and very generous (by USian standards) health insurance by remaining employed is an impediment to the revolution. I hate the fuck outta it, but I have to accept it. Because one of my gottadoos is keep my super-generous health insurance. It’s a gottadoo because my daughter is critically chronically ill, with over 20 hospitalizations and ER visits, plus multiple long term residential treatment stays, within the last 3yrs.

    I eschew what I can, but if it’s going to endanger my job, and maybe kill my kid, it’s a nocandoo. My immediate responsibility to try to save her life puts a tension on any urges I have to play fast and loose with my privileges that maybe can save her life. The megatheocorporatocracy sure as shit doesn’t care if she dies; in fact, given the many ways it makes treating her harder, it’s as if her dying is a feature, not a bug. The revolution aint gonna come in time to save her life. I might not be able to anyway, but I GOTTATRY.

    Am I colluding with our oppressors? Yes youbetcha. Condemn me as a subservient if you will. You can condemn me for worse even; I am fully aware that every admission, every bed, every insurance dollar, every state case-worker we’ve eked out for my kid has meant someone else less privileged has seen their kid go without. I can barely stand myself, knowing that I don’t really regret a single thing I’ve been able to get that has kept her alive.

    I regret that the MTCC has set up a zero sum game. That the branch of it that employs me has patriarchy-compliant dress codes. That I’ve got a fully compliant supervisor with fascist tendencies. That the patriarchy has coded my kid’s diagnoses as feminine, and therefore unworthy of appropriate treatment, despite the truly horrific morbidity and mortality attached. That in order to save MY kid, I’ve necessarily got to shit on someone else’s – and impede the revolution.

    But who or what is really to blame for my current state of choice-amongst-lack-of-alternatives?

  104. procrastinatrix

    Hi, allhellsloose. Projection much? I’m assuming you won’t read this because everything I say is null and void. It seems you didn’t read my comments very closely, if at all. I’ve already stated that I don’t wear heels. I was speaking of women in general who might wear heals but do other revolutionary acts at work, not me specifically, in the second comment.

    I have stated that I perform a minimal amount of femininity at work, not because of male colleagues, but because the rich and powerful people from whom I wheedle pittances to invest in programs run by and for poor women and girls will not let me into the room or conversation if I didn’t.

    I have already agreed that performing femininity impedes the revolution. I have already agreed that wearing lipstick is submission, not feminism.

    The question I posed is whether helping (as in, saving the lives of, or helping them attain livelihoods where they get to eat a bit more and not get beaten and raped on a regular basis, or decide whether and when to have children or not) individual women and girls–as my work and that of other femininity performing women I know does–via means that comply with and thus uphold the patriarchy, is valid or not, feminist or not, ultimately doing more harm to more women and girls than not.

    Tigs comments come the closest to answering that question for me.

    Still hoping for someone to enlighten me on whether the “there is no road but absolute revolution today” path leads anywhere but armed resistance or living off the grid.

  105. AlienNumber

    Serious question: do we still need to reproduce Xy’s after the Revolution?

  106. tinfoil hattie

    One wonders if writing, maintaining, and clearing the comments from a free radfem blog so that commenters may suggest acidly that the blogowner kill her horse might not be considered a feminist act.

    One also wonders if having successfully changed the patriarchy-compliant behaviors of even one feminist who has read the free feminist blog and re-thought her life mightn’t be considered a feminist act.

    One also wonders if trusting other women to struggle their way to the revolution, while helping them along with thoughtful comments and support, might not be considered a feminist act.

  107. Darragh Murphy

    Procrast (I’m procrastinating typing all the letters in your name), I think the absolute and inflexible revolution NOW path is more likely to lead absolutely Nowhere rather than to armed attack/resistance simply because not enough women will be motivated to take up enough arms or be resisting enough for it to constitute a revolution if the bar for entry is so high.

    Those of us who yearn to follow a flexible and nuanced Revolution Now path, however, do find ourselves marching straight to Savage Death Island, however.

    Which, as I’m sure you know, SDI doesnt exist in the real world. None of this exists in the real world. Savage Death Island is a metaphorical recharge station for the beleaguered rad fem soul.

    Seems to me the only way to live life truly freely, with absolutely zero compliance or conformity to the P, is to commit suicide. Which, obviously, is hardly a way to live.

  108. Miriam

    But isn’t the performance of femininity just a symptom of the oppression of women, not its cause? Thus, I don’t really see how eschewing femininity is a revolutionary solution. (I realize the suggestion was not quite this strong, and was instead that the practice of it impedes such revolution–but the logic is similar). It seems to me that femininity is for the most part an arbitrary requirement made because men have material and psychological power over women. But if women all stopped performing femininity, this would not necessarily dislodge the men’s power: as is made obvious by the fact that they still rape, murder, and abuse women who do not perform femininity, just as they do to those who do. I imagine they would just adjust to the “new” woman. Maybe establish new rules of compliance (i.e. new things you have to do to get them to take you seriously). After all, the reason heterosexual men prefer feminine women is not really sexual (it seems men can be sexually attracted to anything whatsoever), but has to do with societal standards and how the men will be seen by peers, depending on who they associate with. If the expectation was different, that doesn’t carry any inherent liberation for women as far as I can tell. Perhaps this is because to stop performing femininity makes no inherent change in MEN, who are actually the ones who need to be changed?

    Since the trend is to appeal to personal examples, I will. When I have appeared completely non-feminine (as far as possible since I have a body that looks “feminine” no matter what I do), my male superiors did not take me seriously and my students did not listen to me, as they seemed to view me as a kind of cute “pretend” man (one with boobs, no less). When I have appeared more feminine (mainly as a result of longer hair, makeup etc.) it’s not altogether different. My male superiors still do not take me seriously, though they pretend to listen to me for longer periods of time, so they can look. My female students listen to me more because they imagine that we can relate. My male students argue with me less about their grades. But either way, it seems to me, a woman is not viewed as a human. And both when I appeared more masculine or androgynous and when I appeared more feminine, I fell in love with men and was abused by them.

    Could someone clarify to me, then, in the context of these concerns, the argument about femininity? Because it seems to me that the real feminist issues have nothing whatsoever to do with one’s personal identity or appearance, and instead have to do with the systemic structure of relations between men and women, and in particular have to do with men not believing women are people. Is the assumption that being a “person” means being a man (the example of evaluating our clothing based on whether a man would look ridiculous in it suggests this), and thus that appearing less feminine would make us closer to being people? Because I cannot accept that.

  109. Selah

    I always thought that being trans was about feeling an incongruence between sex and gender. This post leaves me genuinely confused… what does “female” mean if not a body containing ova-producing reproductive organs? If a person whose reproductive organs produces spermatozoon gametes can be said to be female merely by feeling like one, then how can these words be said to have any meaning?

  110. Tigs

    Because we don’t necessarily get to define what is feminine, there is always going to be some sort of action/posture/practice that someone is going to define as counter-revolutionary. As an example, wearing form-fitting clothes, through which *gasp* breasts are discernable might be judged as too feminine, but there are times when these clothes are best-suited to the work that one is doing–ie, you shouldn’t weld in baggy garb, you might light yourself on fire. Remember, the crime is of being a woman, femininity is merely the means by which compliance to this subservient position is communicated, the sign posts are not set by us, and the measures are arbitrary and plastic.

    So it makes no sense to ban anyone for doing any one particular thing that is counter-revolutionary (though I don’t think it’s unreasonable to set some extreme boundaries for who can’t be trusted, I just don’t think high heels are that line). Instead, we need to constantly be on guard for whether our actions are helping the cause or hurting the cause–and when we do things that hurt the cause, we need to suck it up and accept our own position (as well as we need to be able to be specific to others when we call them out on engaging in counter-revolutionary acts). Being able to name what we are doing (helping/hurting the revolution) is key to making effective (and I might add potentially liberating) judgments.

    If we can be generally (and consistently) building up the ratio of revolutionary v. counter-revolutionary acts, we might start getting somewhere.
    I think so long as you’ve got a willingness to work hard, recognize that you’re going to fuck up, and when you do, you fix it as best you can and don’t do it again, you are welcome to my revolution.

  111. Tigs

    @Mirium

    My take on the eschewing of femininity as having revolutionary content is that it has the potential to disrupt the narrative that has been ordained by patriarchy. We are lesser and therefore must be marked out as lesser.* By resisting this particular kind of demarcation, we are stating with our whole selves that we do not accept the narratives that we are not human beings, and in fact demand re-consideration.

    *Kant, for example, thought that women were incapable of the kind of rationality that made it possible for them to reach the “Sublime”–a sort of ideal realm of aesthetic judgment wherein Truth, Beauty, and Life’s Rich Pageant intersect, instead women’s deficient rationality made them (us) suitable to attempt to reach Beauty as our highest aesthetic goal– in which state we could inspire men to the Sublime. Rejecting this role of inspirational beauty (i.e. feminine compliance) claims the alternative position that we are indeed capable and deserving of participating in the production and enjoyment of T, B, & LRP.

  112. Darragh Murphy

    Miriam, Your comment is very thought provoking along several different lines. I would argue that the practice of femininity is more than just a symptom of women’s oppression by P. It is also, crucially, the non-violent cultural replication process whereby new women, ie Girls, are brainwashed into the system of compliance. Those of us who are already socialized into the system are simultaneously exhibiing symptoms of P and being exhausted, degraded, slowed down, and in various other ways being psychologically and emotionally damaged by the compliance that we do.

    Cutting down or even nearly eliminating the Gender Performance we do may not, probably will not, change men. But it will change women, at least those future women who are now girls. A personal story of my own: last night my 10 year old said she rejects the word Tomboy. She said it is “gender performance” for people to call her a tomboy. Why cant i be an athlete and like the things i like without being called a Tomboy she said. Why not indeed?

    *The violent cultural replication process for P is of course violence to women, which is performed for all intents and purposes by men.

  113. procrastinatrix

    Darragh-that made me laugh, thanks. I’d do a smiley but they are frowned on at IBTP I believe. Hah.

    Here’s to tipping the balance towards revolution, each girl and woman as she can.

    If anyone cares, I think that my line of work does more harm than good in the long run, but it’s hard to give up–1. helping those individuals, and 2. making a living (lest anyone think I’m setting myself up as anything other than a working Jane).

    Also enjoying the idea of non-stop, tireless protests outside wealthy anti-woman churches, as the nut-bag forced birthers have been doing for years outside reproductive health clinics. As well as the throwing condoms at seminarians. Good ideas.

  114. Marja

    Selah,

    I prepared a response, but it is in moderation and may take some time to appear.

  115. TotallyDorkin

    Wow. Y’all are just determined to vilify me. I obviously don’t want to kill Twisty’s horse. I just used it as an example because she frequently showcases it. If she showcased a fancy car, I would’ve used that as an example too.

    In my world, riding horses is a luxury, and horse’s are luxury items. This is because I would really like to ride horses, but can’t afford it.

  116. Miriam

    Darragh Murphy,
    Your comment is very helpful and makes this argument make much more sense to me–specifically in terms of the idea that “femininity” names a series of expectations/behaviors that emotionally and physically may be exhausting, time-consuming, degrading, or otherwise demoralizing. If that is indeed what “femininity” names, then I agree that challenging it is part of a feminist effort to offer other options to/for/by women.

    However I have to note that it seems to me your point is quite different from the one raised by Tigs (and possibly others). In response to the more theoretical way that Tigs explained the concern, I still have the worry that by abandoning “femininity” as a mode of protest, we are still just allowing men to decide what counts as “human” (i.e. in terms of the Kantian example, if “human”= rationality and both women and “beauty” are excluded from this as merely aesthetic [to oversimplify the point without, I think, changing its gist], then to claim that women are human by way of rejecting “beauty” [which, perhaps is not necessarily the same as "femininity] is simply to capitulate to the standard already defined by “rational” men. The alternative to this would be re-incorporating “beauty” into the definition of human, and thus changing the definition of human, instead of aspiring to the one already in place.

    Perhaps this speaks to the need to clarify what we mean by “femininity,” even though we think we have already clarified it?

    Thanks to both for your responses.

  117. AlienNumber

    Does anybody here actually think that men are human and therefore the standard we compare ourselves with? (Because I don’t).
    And that if men were actually more like women (in content, not in, er, form) and not viceversa, we wouldn’t be better off?

    What makes me most amazed about this whole conversation is that we failed to point out that femininity is actually invented and owned by males (see who controls women’s fashion and also, see who does the best female drag out there). And yet even here at IBTP we pretend that femininity has to do with women and that maybe we should protect it somehow because then the Revolution would be on our terms.

    Addendum to Twisty’s definition of femininity: if it makes a regular dude look like an ass and some drag queen more beautiful (“beautiful”) than any woman.

  118. Hedgepig

    Refusing to perform femininity is more a reformist act than a revolutionary one. It’s chipping away at the surface of a concrete structure in the hope that it will eventually fall down. The only revolutionary act is refusal to enter into intimate heterosexual relations. No having male lovers, husbands, fathers of your children. The only way to destroy patriarchy is to blow up its foundations.

  119. Darragh Murphy

    Well, men are certainly human, and though they may not be the standard I personally compare myself to or the standard any number of individual women compare themselves to, they are the standard form of human that society and culture compares us to; and, not coincidentally, finds us deficient in most if not all of the ways that are deemed valuable and meaningful in man-centered civilization.

    When Miriam said that “femininity is for the most part an arbitrary requirement made because men have material and psychological power over women.” she was making exactly your point AlienNumber, namely that “femininity is actually owned and invented by men.” What is most intriguing about her claim is that the signifiers of femininity are actually arbitrary and would be adjusted if women en masse decided to stop performing the current feminine signifying compliances.

  120. AlienNumber

    hey, TD, guess who you remind me of in this joke?

    “A CEO, a Tea Party and a Union Worker sit down at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with 12 chocolate chip cookies on it.

    The CEO grabs 11 cookies and turns to the Tea Party and says, ‘You’d better be careful,” nodding to the Union Worker, ‘that guy’s trying to take your cookie.’”

    From the Department of Redundancy Department: it’s not Twisty’s owning of a horse (or hot red car) that’s impeding the Revolution. Not that economic inequality is not a huge feminist issue (maybe even bigger than Femininity), but I am sure that in your vast readings of feminist literature you have come upon the information that, globally, women own about 10% of all property. It wouldn’t take us very far at all to spend the time we should be spending on Revolution focusing instead on redistributing that 10%. Cause even when you’re done redistributing that 10%, MEN would still be owning 90% of everything.

    Not to mention that going after the women’s stuff first looks a hell lot like woman-hating.

    Perspective. It’s good for you.

  121. Darragh Murphy

    When women own stuff free and clear on their own, whether it’s horses or sports cars or businesses or farms or townhouses or whatever, I can’t help thinking of it as a sort of bird flipped to the P.

    This doesn’t preclude the reality that capitalism is a globally fucked up sitch for women.

    I just like it when women have Choc chip cookies of their own.

  122. Darragh Murphy

    “On their own” being defined as not owned jointly with a dude nor in any way encumbered entailed or otherwise compromised by male privilege and P.

  123. agasaya

    Hedgepig and others,

    It would seem sensible to differentiate between ‘femaleness’ and ‘femininity’. The first is the expression of our birthrights in all their glorious diversity. Whatever women ‘do’ is ‘female’. This includes heterosexual relations assuming you find a male you feel is worth knowing intimately. Heterosexual women don’t need to ignore that important part of ourselves except for the little fact that there aren’t many men out there worth the work :-) Seriously though, denial of one’s sexuality is never a sound course of action although it will be incomplete on many levels for lack of suitable male partners.

    Femininity is an invention of the patriarchy to ensure that every waking thought of women is directed to pleasing males. A secure male doesn’t need that in women although some degree of ‘knee-jerking’ expectation is inevitable via conditioning just as some of us are conditioned to engage in certain rituals devoted to the mating dance. An artificial construct, it may dictate altering one’s stride, body shape and size based upon the demand of the week for particular body types. Femininity takes work because it is assumed by women.

    Female is easy. It’s ‘you’.

    Barb Rubin

  124. Hedgepig

    agasaya, while it probably wouldn’t be as widespread as it is under patriarchy (due to all that conditioning from birth), I agree with you that feeling physically attracted to males can be a legitimate part of being female.

    However, heteronormativity is the very foundation of patriarchy. What I’m saying is that in order to destroy those foundations, a revolutionary act is required involving the rejection of heteronormative relations. This would be painful, distressing and self-fulfilment-denying for many women. But that sacrifice is essential for revolution.

    The biggest sacrifice would have to be made by those few women who do manage to find a male partner they can negotiate a relationship that does not in any way resemble the domination/submission model. I’m skeptical that any such relationship does exist, but even if it occasionally does happen, the wider context in which it exists tarnishes it absolutely. As long as men can see women doing heteronormativity, the system will be perpetuated.

  125. TwissB

    I must admit to being rather disappointed that my casual scenario of selective protection of clinic protesters’ freedom of speech by civil authorities has evoked more interest than my real suggestion that clinic vigilantes stop mud-wrestling with and thus empowering pigs and transfer their activism to seriously picketing the offices of civic authorities and police top brass for failing to provide equal protection of the law to women seeking health services related to abortion, a lawful activity.

    Treating terrorism against women as meriting free speech protection goes on on college campuses as well where, for example, a film festival featuring violent pornography may be welcomed as providing financial support for the student activity fund. Since when does enforcing men’s subordination of women rate as having “redeeming social value”?

  126. TotallyDorkin

    That’s not how statistics works AlienNumber. Any one woman’s wealth is not a win because women in general own 10% of world property. Economic privilege is a real thing, as you point out, but then somehow you manage to wave that point away.

    Instead of responding to my point (which i made clear twice) you respond selectively to my example, regardless of the fact that I have already made it clear that any specific example is only to illustrate my point, not embody it. Your focus on my specific examples is intellectually dishonest.

  127. Kea

    I am far from convinced that the successful elimination of Gender Performance in a mature and experienced feminist does anything to convince younger women to follow suit. Since we cannot hide that we are childless outcasts, younger women just see outcasts, not role models. Hedgepig has a good point about revolution, but it may be that extinction of homo sapiens comes first. We’re heading into a very cut throat competitive age, with an enormous gulf between the patriarchal rich and the poor masses. It is not a time of growth for women’s choices. How many women will give up their lives for the revolution, knowing that in the end it will probably all have been in vain?

  128. Eleutheria

    Watch the commercial on YouTube, and then do that regendering thing I’m so fond of, where you imagine all the adorable femininity-women replaced by Steve McQueen or Laurence Fishburne or Franklin D Roosevelt or male dudes of similar gravitas. Can you see Fishburne going “whoopsie!” over a run in his pantyhose, and then having an orgasm over a crummy piece of mass-produced candy? I know, right? This tells you how fucking stupid femininity is; any member of the dominant class would look like a fucking idiot if he did it.

    That’s a task for slash/yaoi fangirls. Ask any of those, they can transform the butchest of ultra-masculine characters constructed by the Patriarchy into air-headed bimbos, put them in pink tutus, corsets and high heels, make them air kiss and go shopping and get a mani-pedie: they won’t think it looks fucking stupid, they will just make fanart and fap to it.

  129. Zoe

    After many years of thought, I have come to the conclusion that what is required is the literal abolition of gender, not just “gender roles.” I’m talking about transhumanism. So long as there are two classes of people, one of which is physically more able to dish out violence than the other, and entirely unburdened with the design constraint of reproduction, there will be no equality. Transhumanism is the royal road out of gender inequality.

  130. Hermionemone

    Sorry if this looks like a digression, but the question comes up: what kind of revolution are we talking about high heels and pantyhose impeding, anyway? Hedgepig says we have to “blow up the patriarchy at its foundations” while Tigs suggests”gradually ramping up the ratio of revolutionary to counter-revolutionary acts”.

    Another model of revolution besides personal nonviolent noncompliance and coordinated armed insurrection, would be ‘phased replacement by a better paradigm’.

    An example is the original agricultural revolution.
    Imagine some far-off ancient time when all the world’s people live in small nomadic hunter-gatherer bands. Somewhere, where conditions are right, the gatherers (women) say to the hunters (men), “Dudes, we’re tired of wandering all over the place dragging these whiny kids and all the blankets and pots and stuff following your stupid antelope herds, of which you’ve killed off so many there’s hardly enough meat to feed the dogs these days anyway; lets just hang around here where the rice/barley/oats/wheat/corn is growing, we’ll help it to grow by spreading some of the seeds around and we can eat some of the extra, save some for the dry season, and put up preserves of the fruit trees that we’ll also plant and take care of, live in comfortable permanent houses and villages etc.”. What we call the ‘agricultural revolution’ would have got started by a small group or clan or bunch of people deciding to live a settled way of life. Since it was more efficient in a lot of ways, the idea persisted and spread, the area of the land devoted to pastoralism and farming grew, and hunting-gathering was gradually replaced across entire continents. One of the obstacles would have been the regions with farms and villages still being surrounded by nomadic hunter clans equipped with pointy sticks for spearing game animals, which they discover work just as well for spearing humans, the centralized food supplies would be targets for pillaging, and the whole depressing patriarchal scheme with warfare, assumption of protective ownership of property, goods, livestock, women, children could have got started or amplified then too.

    I am fairly enthusiastic about the possibility of a few (or many) scattered clusters of people opting out of the prevailing model of megatheoecocidalcorporatism, establishing a way of life with dignity, equality, justice and free margaritas for all, being so appealing to people still in the P-dominated regions, that they will defect from the P and flock to the new non-P model when they find out about it. The revolutionary idea need only get itself started in a small way at first, and then spread to include the rest of the world in what one hopes is not a huge bloody conflagration and civil war, just people peaceably exercising choice.

    Of course, the danger is the same as in the Neolithic revolution: there are plenty of P-supporters who have huge stockpiles of pointy sticks, and minions to wield them, who would view the existence of anti-P enclaves as an affront to their economic interests. In which case, the anti-P side would be wise to have some pointy sticks of their own. Hope for the best (peaceful transition) but expect the worst (violent clash of opposing worldviews). Perhaps that’s when the matriarchy’s gene research labs release the Y-sperm-sterilizing plague virus. No live existing XY people need be harmed, but future ones are prevented (a stockpile might be kept so controlled numbers of XY’s could be constructed as needed in future) — just kidding, or am I? wink wink

    I don’t know how to arrange it, but it seems to me that starting a number of small seeds of a new way of life in quiet parts of the world ‘under the radar’, then expanding, is a better model than trying to incite the whole world to revolt, and coordinating the timing of one great grand strike at the power elite worldwide.

    When we say ‘feminist revolution’ do we mean one kind or the other?

  131. Claire K.

    Many of the comments on this thread seem to be about how difficult it is to stop performing femininity and how not everyone will be able to do it, as if the commentators are worried some radical feminists have it easy and need to be reminded of how hard it is for other people. I think, though, that everyone is already too aware that revolution is hard, and that we will get farther if we encourage each other instead of holding each other back by responding to every incitement to even the slightest revolutionary act with criticism of the inciter for not thinking of how hard it is, how some women won’t be able to do this, and so on.

    So here is my anecdote on the feminine appearance topic (anecdote haters can skip please –be warned, this really is an unbelievably long anecdote about my own personal body hair. Really. Don’t say I didn’t warn you): this past summer I decided to waste less time making myself look girly, mostly because of the influence of this blog. It was a strange experience for me because I “identified” as a femme lesbian and I had always assumed that the women online who talked about having hairy legs or whatever just didn’t “identify” as feminine –that they hadn’t struggled or sacrificed in the process of becoming less feminine. Finally I realized that maybe both conformity and resistance were things that one actively did, rather than easy, natural states of existence. I decided to stop shaving and wearing bras and make-up. At first I was disgusted by the sight of hair on my legs. As someone up-thread said, I felt dirty and I also felt as if I didn’t recognize my own body. I’d only seen two women with hairy legs before, so it was difficult to even get my mind around the idea of a hairy human female body. After a couple weeks I started to feel proud of my hairy legs. When I looked down at them I saw their potential for movement and strength instead of evaluating whether they were pretty. My feeling of not recognizing my body was replaced by a feeling of belonging in and owning my body for the first time, a feeling I hadn’t even known was missing before: ‘These legs are here to carry me, not for other people to look at.’ (I’m sure there would be other benefits for people who do not have able-bodied legs.) Then, after a while, my whole emotional investment in whether or not my body had hair, both the shame and the joy, started to seem silly. I realized it didn’t matter much either way, and that hardly anyone even noticed the difference. These days not shaving my legs seems the default setting to me, not a choice I have to constantly reaffirm. I don’t shave simply because shaving is a big waste of time and shower water, and at least a little waste of money (and cutting out make-up saves money too). It’s much easier and more convenient than I thought it would be, and I highly recommend that other femininity-compliant women at least give it a try.

  132. Ashley

    It’s a rigged game. No woman, not cis, not trans, not straight, not lesbian, not bisexual, not intersex, not celibate, not promiscuous, not grandmother, not mother, not even children (see Cleveland, TX), NONE of us will get it right.

    This reminded me that it is also impossible to get it completely “wrong.” That is, the fantastically (craptastically) stable thing about femininity’s ever-shifting goals and the masculine/feminine dichotomy is that there is literally no way to completely rebel.

    Short of wearing a clown suit and speaking through a mechanized voicebox, I can’t think of how one could avoid being perceived as performing either masculinity or femininity. The meaning of your performance is imposed by the audience.

    Not to say that all performances are equally feminist, or that personal performance doesn’t matter at all. Just, doesn’t it make more sense to focus activism on institutional change and resource reallocation?

  133. procrastinatrix

    Totally Dorkin, I took your initial comment re: horses pretty close to how you meant it, at least according to your further exposition in the second horse comment.

    I think it was AlienNumber who took it to “eating Jill’s horse”. Not a terribly productive contribution to the thread, but it’s pretty clear that people comment on here from different motivations, and those don’t always include embiggening the discourse.

    Just wanted to say.

    Kea, I also subscribe to a vision of a near future in which the rich patriarchal institutions–the megatheocorporatocracy–will be increasingly violent in pursuit of energy, water, and immunity from the consequences of climate change which they have wrought. These will be ugly times.

    Small communities of like minded people can help buffer the ugliness, and may even find better solutions.

  134. Tigs

    “Not to say that all performances are equally feminist, or that personal performance doesn’t matter at all. Just, doesn’t it make more sense to focus activism on institutional change and resource reallocation?”

    I think this is super important, but finding ways to challenge gender roles (and yes, even gender itself) I think is also important. I also don’t think eschewing feminine performance is the only way to challenge gender roles, but it is really present in most of our lives, is easily recognizable as a certain kind of act, and is definitively an area in which we can actually do something and see a change–which is an important element of activist practice/development.

  135. tinfoil hattie

    Since we cannot hide that we are childless outcasts,

    “We” are mothers.

    I’m skeptical that any such relationship does exist,

    “We” are in hetero relationships that do not follow a dom/sub model.

    Dudes, we’re tired of wandering all over the place dragging these whiny kids

    “We” do not view children as whiny things to we drag with us.

    “We” are resigned that feminism perpetuates the patriarchy by adapting the “Women can’t do anything right” model to include, “and neither can feminists.”

  136. Satchel

    @IrishUp

    I am sorry about your daughter’s illness, and the compromises you must make to ensure her care.

    I wish I could find a post Twisty made some time ago, recognizing the fact that ALL of us have to make compromises to one extent or another, simply to exist in the P. Valuing the courage to keep on fighting and making even incremental change seems like the right thing to me.

  137. Mary Tracy9

    Here we go again. Because Feminism doesn’t have a clear revolutionary course of action like, say, the traditional Left does, it always descends into “personal lifestlye changes” in order to smash patriarchy. We believe that “if enough women give up femininity, then patriarchy will collapse”, in the same way that some environmentalists believe that “if enough people buy organic and recycled goods, the planet will be saved”. Both beliefs are wrong.

    We need a plan of action. Something akin to “gaining ownership over the means of production”. Something that puts the onus on ending oppression, as opposed to “changing ourselves” and hope for the best. We shouldn’t be the ones changing: the oppressors should.

  138. Hermionemone

    Tinfoil Hattie objected to:
    “Dudes, we’re tired of wandering all over the place dragging these whiny kids”

    with:
    “We” do not view children as whiny things to we drag with us.”

    I was imagining the dudely nomadic hunters setting too fast a pace for the migration, causing difficulties for mothers schlepping the househod gear and the young children lagging behind, and the hypothesized speech was of the neolithic blameteriat putting their collective foot down. Of course mothers (and a good proportion of fathers) have loved thir children across the millennia.

  139. AlienNumber

    procrastinatrix, if you’d be so kind to translate TotallyDorkin’s point, because I obviously didn’t get it (or the way I got it was wrong). All I got from that post was an icky feeling of envy transpiring outwards. It’s also useless, when talking about a Revolution, to ask “where do we stop” when obviously the issue at hand is “where do we start.”

    My radical Revolutionary goal is to stop reproducing Xy’s, at least for a couple hundred years so we can have some time to breathe and think. I already hear the voices “but I can’t help wanting to engage in heterosexual romping – with my Nigel – and what about him” and I really don’t care.

    Reproduction is the means of production and we need to seize it (beyond abortion, which really is a patch solution). There is something really wrong with the Xy’s and until we figure out how to fix it/make them human/stop them from colonizing us and making our lives hell, we really need to stop reproducing them. There is enough sperm in the sperm banks to allow us to reproduce only females for the next 200 years or so and hopefully we will have figured out how to make Xy’s human by then. (There is also the possibility that we won’t miss them at the end of the 200 years and that’s okay too.)

  140. AlienNumber

    Clarification: the Nigel will stay until he expires, but there won’t be a mini-Nigel to replace him once he expires.

  141. tinfoil hattie

    @Hermionenome, I object to the use of such adjectives as “whiny” used to describe children who are, after all, an oppressed class.

  142. tinfoil hattie

    Sorry for the double double use use of “use.”

  143. Gayle

    We need a plan of action. Something akin to “gaining ownership over the means of production”. Something that puts the onus on ending oppression, as opposed to “changing ourselves” and hope for the best. We shouldn’t be the ones changing: the oppressors should.

    Now you’re talking!

  144. Hermionemone

    You’re right, TH, my apologies to children of all ages.

  145. Marja

    AlienNumber,

    I have nothing against sex-selective implantation, prenatal hormone treatment, etc. to maximize the chances of female-identification and female-orientation. Or voluntary adolescent/adult hormone treatment to correct a deficiency of certain hormones and an excess of others, but many of the people who support the former seem to oppose the latter.

    In addition, some people do feel better with male hormone levels than with female ones. I don’t understand that – I felt miserable and I felt like I was torn from my emotions – but I don’t think anybody has the right to keep people who are wired for male hormones levels from having those hormone levels.

    But it is just as important to end economic oppression and authoritarianism. I think that working to end those institutions will also work to undermine patriarchy. Even without changing the sex ratio.

  146. IrishUp

    @Satchel; thank you, I appreciate the compassion & the offer of comfort. Radical Acceptance is how I come to terms with P and gottadoo shit.

    From the OP
    “… There can be no real choice anyway, because nobody — and this means you — can freely opt out without consequences.”

    … is what I was speaking to. One of the consequences of being the gender assigned “caregiver” is that while one may be perfectly ready to accept consequences aimed at oneself, those they’re caring for easily become hostages that keep them compliant. Sure, some will not want to give up their nice fluffy Nigel or their funfem Pradas. But I’m betting most have far more serious shizzle at stake. More power to anyone who has the privilege & inclination to avoid such responsibilities. Yet “solutions” to P that might work for such as they, will not be particularly relevant for others.

    Also, let’s not elide genocide using ‘changing the sex ratio’. Especially since it’s a practice currently in use against potential women blastulae and foetuses? Especially since prescriptive reproduction is aimed disproportionately at marginalized women (and not men).

    Sign me up for revolutions that do not seek to replicate the worst things P has come up with.

  147. AlienNumber

    It’s not genocide if you select the sex before inception, by selecting the sperm with the XX, not Xy (unless you think “killing” sperm is genocide). Actually, it’s simply called sperm-sorting. Sex-selective abortion, now that’s a different issue and I am not advocating that under any circumstances.

  148. Marja

    IrishMe,

    I object when people call for the elimination of healthy variations such as shortness, lesbianism, aspergers,’ or introversion, but just can’t muster the same objection when people call for the abolition of the hormone imbalance that caused me so much misery. It would be cruel to put anybody else through that.

  149. tinfoil hattie

    Thanks, Hermionenome. Particularly sensitive here, as one of my own was recently “oppressed” in one of the most egregious ways one can harm a child. I am grieving constantly, and I don’t know what to do with all this sorrow.

  150. AlienNumber

    Yes, my point exactly, Marja: the poor menz, oh how they suffer due to their hormonal imbalances.

    Oh wait.
    That was not my point at all.

    I’m peace-ing out, it is getting too self-hating and cookoo crazy around here. (I blame the menz, and their veryclose cousins, the M2Ts.)

  151. Hermionemone

    TH, it makes me cry that you are going through sorrow and pain. Really, internet empathy and I don’t even know you! I hope you make it through whatever’s happening w.r.t. your loved ones, to eventually achieve more love, peace, joy. Buddhists try to counter sorrow with detachment; I’ve never been able to get that to work particularly well. Best wishes, sympathy & hugs. We now return to regularly scheduled blaming.

  152. Miriam

    MaryTracy9: Right on!

    AlienNumber: why would you think that “we” can “make” Xy’s human? Is the way to change a group of people by establishing power and control over them? Andrea Dworkin says this in her address to The Society for Changing Men (1983):

    “I came here today because I don’t believe that rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we are not just in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.
    We do not want to do the work of helping you to believe in your humanity. We cannot do it anymore … You are going to have to do this yourselves from now on and you know it.”

    And I agree with her.

  153. Summerspeaker

    Members of the dominant class tend to look like fucking idiots without help from femininity, so that thought experiment confuses as much as it clarifies.

  154. Comrade Svilova

    The US govmt does not allow groups to stalk, bomb, or murder.

    Actually, the state governments in a few localities are coming close to making the murder of abortion providers justified homicide.

    And that’s why the pro-choice movement is important. Because women need abortions *now* and as much as I agree that the mainstream pro-choice movement has focused too much on “privacy” and too little on equal rights, we’re not going to help the women who need access to abortion right now by demanding that all men get vasectomies.

    There’s also problematic questions of bodily autonomy in advocating mass, forced sterilization, even of xys. This biological binary talk, which proposes that biological differences are intrinsically connected to cultural and social differences really chaps this blamer’s hide. It’s not the xy why chromosome but the culture that makes the xy chromosome privileged and King that is the problem.

  155. AlienNumber

    The Culture, the little chromosome, who can really tell at this point?

    But. I am very ashamed to have suggested that the men and their unborn sons are anything but completely innocent.

  156. Marja

    Twisty,

    I wrote a response to Selah on why trans*ness is not simply a matter of gender. But I can no longer see it in the moderation queue. I don’t know exactly how the site works, but that was one of my more reasonable posts, so it is a shame to lose it.

    Thanks.

  157. Comrade Svilova

    Bio essentialism and sex/gender binaries. Enforce them firmly enough, and the P is sure to crumble! Except that they are a tool of the P in the first place.

  158. procrastinatrix

    Hi, AlienNumber. I don’t presume to be translating for anyone, as I think TD speaks eloquently for herself. My take on her comment is that there are different reasons women practice femininity, and positing that all women should stop without acknowledging the different reasons, and different agencies that women have, is a tad of an oversimplification. Suggesting to someone who wears eyeliner because it gives them comfort or keeps them sane or safe in the P should stop, in her example, would be like someone asking Jill to give up her horses, which presumably help her get by, because there could be a better use for those resources in terms of helping women. TD’s argument is not the same as the one I was making, which is–is it ever ok to practice femininity for a greater good (if it is a greater good). But that is her argument as I understood it. TD please to jump in here if I’ve got it wrong.

    Regarding your point about reproduction being the means of production, and proposing that we stop producing “xy’s” (back to essentialism), what on earth makes you think women control reproduction? A small subset of girls and women on planet earth are able to make choices about sex and reproduction. And there are millions of people, men and women, who just hate that and spend lots of time and money trying to take the choice away from that small subset and make sure no girls and women who don’t have it now don’t get it in the future.

    If we’re going to talk about science fiction, I’m down with that. Shirley Tepper’s Gate to Women’s country and Gibbon’s Decline and Fall have some interesting propositions about control of reproduction. Sadly, Shirley also has dominance biases of her own, suggesting that homosexuality is just a hormone imbalance that can/should be fixed in utero.

  159. procrastinatrix

    edit: Sheri Tepper, not Shirley.

  160. AlienNumber

    Comrade, so women (can) give birth, men don’t, but that’s not a fact/Reality, but an essentializing tool of the P. Oh, and in light of this nonfact, we should focus more on providing abortion because pushing vasectomies would be against men’s human rights.

    Do you also attempt to walk out through walls? Try it sometime, you’ll really show Reality who’s the boss!

  161. tinfoil hattie

    I heart Hermionenome, though I know Twisty frowns on fraternization among blamers – it is against company policy, I believe (kidding)

    Thank you for your kindness. I already feel better.

  162. LisaB

    We often say that this crap starts at birth, and The Washington Post kindly printed a stunning example today: In The Reliable Source they quoted from a birth announcement by CNN-ers John Roberts and Kyra Phillips, who just had twins (one girl, one boy): “Sage came out with her arms open wide ready for a hug. Kellan came out feisty — ready to conquer the world!” Gag me.

  163. LisaB

    Oh, sorry, Roberts has moved to Fox.

  164. LisaB

    @Maria: “Raising the bar is the first step to getting what you want.” Nicely said.

  165. tinfoil hattie

    LisaB, I read that – GAG. It was absolutely to PUKE.

  166. crickets

    Hello Nora, late reply from me but what the heck!

    “And whoever said that the punishment for failing to comply with femininity is the same as the punishment for actually being feminine was right.”

    I feel that by quoting this from someone else’s comment, you’ve halfway replied to what you said to me already. We are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Being feminine can get you raped as much as not looking feminine when you “should” – but by acting decisively, I really believe that the feminist movement could smash this state of affairs, and cooperation on dropping femininity would a real step towards this.

    I am advocating that women who are in a position to give up femininity certainly should – I think in my comment I said we who “have it easy” should do so – I certainly wouldn’t call someone who is under threat of violence, abuse, homelessness or death as a result of not performing femininity, as you have described, as having it easy. My comment was very much aimed at people who are in a position to lead the way on this issue without fear of bodily harm. Unfortunately, in my experience, it’s often the people who are in a position to act who excuse themselves on the grounds of small discomforts. Perhaps my comment was too general in tone, as it did turn into a bit of a rant about the western culture of self-obsession too (this is similar to femininity I think, in the way it causes people to obsess over themselves in minute detail and turn everything inward instead of practicing an outward awareness of the world) – however, as Twisty said, it’s often sadly the people who have everything to risk and everything to lose who really make the sacrifices and take the radical steps on issues like this.

    Femininity is a terror tactic that works in the same way as the tactics of abusers in abusive relationships – the penalities for small transgressions are so severe that we become afraid – so afraid, we are unable to consider the big questions like “how do I get out of here?”

  167. crickets

    @Zoe:

    “After many years of thought, I have come to the conclusion that what is required is the literal abolition of gender, not just “gender roles.” I’m talking about transhumanism. So long as there are two classes of people, one of which is physically more able to dish out violence than the other, and entirely unburdened with the design constraint of reproduction, there will be no equality. Transhumanism is the royal road out of gender inequality.”

    Just wanted to say I agree wholeheartedly with you – what you have said in this comment is something I have been thinking for a while. I feel like the first step towards this is freedom from reproduction for women (if only we had the technology!). I read Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time a few years ago and her vision of a birthless society has always stayed with me – as has the main character Connie’s fearful reaction to discovering that all birth and conception had become artificial – maybe it’s something we’ll never be able to give up, (and not being a mother myself I am speaking from a position of complete ignorance of what it means to give birth to a child, and so it’s very easy for me to say “we should abolish this, bring on the technology!”) but it would be a huge step in the right direction.

  168. Comrade Svilova

    AN, I’m all for contraception, especially vasectomies, which is what my personal Nigel has chosen. And I agree that the fact that women bear the burden of reproduction and men can escape scot-free is a central element of what has created our current social disorder. However, I believe the answer lies not in sterilizing (and also eliminating, as you advocate) all xys, but in freeing women from being the childbearers, and transforming culture so xys will no longer dominate and xxs will no longer submit.

    I don’t believe there’s anything biologically inherent in chromosomes that makes D/S inevitable — if we can find a way to transform the culture through revolution and technology.

  169. AlienNumber

    Since the Xy-free world is proving to be rather unpopular, even as a thought-experiment, despite all of human history as proof that the Xy’s and their rapist, lazy, life-destroying ways, are beyond redemption, here’s a new proposal:

    Let’s create a new human culture that emulates bonobo culture. It will require the institutionalizing of female-female bonds as the primary cultural units and also loving females a little more and males a little less though, so maybe this will be an unpopular idea too.

  170. E.

    I know I’m late to this party, and I must just cop to the fact that I haven’t read all 168 comments (though I did read the first 20 or so), so it’s possible that this has been covered above, but:

    Though I agree with you on stiletto heels and mani-pedi’s and “whoopsie!”, I do wonder how we’re all supposed to figure out what’s “natural” in a culture where most things are gendered either masculine or feminine. So, basically, if something’s in the “feminine” category but it’s not physically restraining or painful and not infantilizing, then it’s a valid choice? Because we all do have to make choices. I’ve got to decide whether I’m going to shop in the women’s section or the men’s – there’s no “non-gendered human” section.

    It’s great to proudly proclaim, for example, that they tried to push dolls on you but you always went for the trucks and tinker toys instead. And I guess that makes you inherently cooler than those of us who fell for (and had fun playing with) the dolls. But if you then grow up and sport short hair and baggy trousers and Doc Martens wing-tips, you’re not just not picking femininity, you’re picking masculinity. And those of us who choose to sport long hair and skinny jeans (or flares or a skirt or whatever women’s butt-covering you prefer to imagine) and wear Doc Martens Mary Janes, what about us? Can we get some respect as long as we don’t wear hobble skirts and stilettos and big hair?

    I’m not trying to sound testy, b/c I love Twisty. But it’s not like masculinity is “natural human” and femininity is artificial. It’s all culture, but you’ve got to either do one or the other or mix ‘em. I think the extremes are horrifying in both cases, but maybe you should come up with a distinction between “humanity-degrading femininity” and “I buy from the first 40 pages of the J. Crew catalogue rather than the last 33 pages.”

  171. maria

    @E
    I think of it in a more practical way: amount of effort, comfort, cost. Short hair isn’t masculine, it’s about 30 min to an hour less a day that you have to think about your hair. Heels aren’t feminine because they’re sexxay but because they hobble the women wearing them.

    Men typically choose their clothing, hair, non-makeup etc. on the easiest route possible. The jeans + T-shirt ‘look’ is born from minimal effort, not because it’s super masculine. The more time you spend on your appearance the more likely you’re doing exactly what the patriarchy wants.

    *yttik’s comment about femininity being fluid shouldn’t be skipped over; it helps to understand that we’re being loose with the fem/masc terms.

  172. N/A

    Having read all the comments on this post, and being a junior blamer, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time but I’m having trouble with this “femaleness” concept.

    Female refers to a biological state in reference to babymaking right? There is “male” and there is “female” (on the whole, in general, and recognized socio-politically).

    So I have “femaleness” insofar that I am female, biologically, yes?

    What is “femaleness” though? How are we defining it in this post/thread? How does someone who is NOT biologically female have “femaleness”? Can I also have “maleness”? How would I know if I have “maleness”?

  173. N/A

    P.S. AlienNumber – your idea of female-female bonds OVER and ABOVE male-female bonds is fanfuckingtastic. Ever since I began practicing it irl I’ve found it to be so much MORE rewarding, emotionally and spiritually, and there is so much more carefree laughter! Female homosocial’ness’ ftw.

  174. Hermionemone

    N/A, those are good questions, but because of varying interpretations of the origin, relation and immutability of sex and gender, answering those questions will certainly devolve into the great SCTD, on which we are experiencing a welcome cease-fire. Many subscribe to the belief that everyone has some of each sex: femaleness, maleness, and it’s the context against which one interprets our actions that imply gender: masculinity or femininity. Sincerity counts too!

  175. iGuest

    maria said “Short hair isn’t masculine, it’s about 30 min to an hour less a day that you have to think about your hair.”

    This is the problem with a one size fits all remedy. It’s unlikely that I spend longer time dealing with my waist length hair than a woman with shorter hair. It takes me maybe a minute or two to brush it back into a pony tail. And I only wash it once a week (sometimes less) and cut it about every two years. It’s not about the length of one’s hair. It’s whether or not one spends a lot of time trying to get it to do something it doesn’t want to do (curling straight hair, straightening curly hair, etc.). Short hair for me is high maintenance. It’s the longer length that is (much) less effort.

  176. procrastinatrix

    I can get behind the bonobo model. I think that the “bonobo-ization” of the US, with lots of small communities of women (some of which have come about by choice and some necessitated by circumstances) mutually supporting each other and helping to raise each others’ children terrifies the patriarchy. I think that terror is part of the driving force behind this “focus on the family” bs and demonization of single mother-hood.

    Even with these small communities, there continues to be the problem of continual raiding or terrorizing by roaming males though. How do the bonobos deal with that, if a similar problem exists for them?

  177. Hermionemone

    According to a popular online source, “Although male Bonobos are individually stronger, they cannot stand alone against a united group of females.” Also, it seems that male bonobos stay close to their mothers, in the group they were born into, and it’s female bonobos that roam and join neighbouring groups. Seems a little bit limiting for the men, were humans to try to adopt this model. Awwww.

  178. AlienNumber

    Bonobos don’t seem to have the same problems with males and male aggression that we have, because of the way they set up their culture. In the rare case in which some male even tries to assault a female, she lets out a special cry and within minutes a few other females appear and beat the dude with sticks and then ban him from the group for a while until he gets some sense into his head.
    (And this is what I mean by female-female alliances, among other things).

    In different news, my love for bonobos increased ten-fold (didn’t know it was even possible) and my mind is officially blown after watching this video (can start from the beginning, but around 5:05 if you want to go straight to the action): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8nDJaH-fVE&feature=player_embedded

  179. procrastinatrix

    Ooh, I feel a weekend of bonobo learning coming on. What a nice way to pass the time! Thanks for the info,H and AN.

  180. Selah

    N/A, those are good questions, but because of varying interpretations of the origin, relation and immutability of sex and gender, answering those questions will certainly devolve into the great SCTD, on which we are experiencing a welcome cease-fire.

    This seems to point out to me the premature “cease-fire” that has been drawn. These are important questions (and they have nothing to do with whether trans individuals exist or are human beings, questions which no one is debating).

    Many subscribe to the belief that everyone has some of each sex: femaleness, maleness, and it’s the context against which one interprets our actions that imply gender: masculinity or femininity. Sincerity counts too!

    Who are these “many” and what exactly do they mean by everyone having femaleness and maleness? How are they even defining “femaleness” and “maleness” (since they are obviously not using it the way anyone else is, or as it applies to any other species in the animal kingdom)?

  181. E.

    Maria, you make a good distinction. And I like iGuest’s addition to it, because it’s true that short hair isn’t inherently less time consuming. Some people with short hair can and do spend lots of time on their hair, and long hair isn’t necessarily time-consuming (for example, I doubt it gives Willie Nelson much trouble – just braid it and you have plenty of time left over to roll a perfect doobie). And I know plenty of women who would be considered “feminine” but still spend almost no time on personal appearance b/c they’re too practical and too busy.

  182. N/A

    Oh Selah, thank you for that. I agree. It’s just a matter of language and being precise to some meaningful degree.

    I don’t want to open up The Debate again but I am curious too!

    For instance, and keeping aside all questions of trans for now:

    If

    Man = adult male human
    Woman = adult female human

    And

    Male = on the “sperm” side of reproduction
    Female = on the “pregnancy” side of reproduction

    Then

    Maleness = ?
    Femaleness = ?

    Just simple phrases like the ones given above would do. No debate, no drama, just definitions. If anyone has them.

  183. Hermionemone

    Selah asks:
    “Who are these “many” and what exactly do they mean by everyone having femaleness and maleness? How are they even defining “femaleness” and “maleness” (since they are obviously not using it the way anyone else is, or as it applies to any other species in the animal kingdom)?”

    Philosophically, there’s always a bit of the yang in the yin, dark in the light, male in the female. Lots of people like that idea, not that that proves anything.

    Psychologically, who can say without getting into the dangerous territory of innate vs acquired traits and behaviours? Are there female and male ways of thinking, more and less highly developed capabilities related to “brain sex”? Some say so, some contest it on principle. But if there are, be sure that some female people have the male-associated abilities and structures, and some males have the female-associated abilities and structures.

    Anatomically, the male is the body pattern with a pole (and all that goes with it), the female is the body pattern with a hole (and all that goes with that).

    Genetically, almost every bit of the genome that makes our bodies work and grow to fit a pattern, is on the 22 common chromosomes and the X chromosome, of which both sexes have at least one. The ‘Y’ does nothing much except (usually) trigger development along the male pattern, using the common potentiality of the rest of the genome. Every zygote has the complete potential to develop in a male or a female pattern. There’s a lot of overlap in the instructions for building male and female bodies. A liver is pretty much the same no matter what body it is part of. You could just call the overlapping qualities ‘human’ and reserve ‘female quality’ and ‘male quality’ for the ones related to observable sex differences.

    But the thing is, there is overlap even among those qualities: males are generally hairy(er) and females less hairy, but there are a lot of only-lightly-fuzzed men and occasional rather furry women. That’s diversity and variation for you, it comes in handy, evolutionarily, from time to time.

    Developmental hormonal environment, passed along from the mother’s encounter with estrogen-mimicking chemical pollution, drugs the mother takes, the food she eats — and there’s evidence that the drugs and pollution absorbed by the father during spermatogenesis can do so too — can result in alteration of the development path to be wholly or partially contrary to the theoretical chromosomal sex. The whole reason cross-sex hormone therapy does what it does is that all sex-sensitive organs in the human body have potential to properly operate under androgen or estrogen hormonal influence, even at later stages of life. And naturally, each individual’s own body has a historical developmental uniqueness that puts every sex-determined characteristic on a continuum between fully-male pattern and fully-female pattern. Men have nipples, women grow whiskers, a pen*s is an overgrown cl*tor*s with (usually but not always) a urethra down the middle. The most significant differences are testes vs ovaries and uterus, there are intersex intergradations of every degree. Mostly it’s external cues people use to infer sex: innie or outie, and the secondary sex characteristics of body shape, size, mass.

    You can enumerate canonical differences between male and female bodies _generally_. But examining any specific body there will always be some features at least somewhat characteristic of the other sex, a bit of yin in the yang. That’s the ‘what’ of what I meant.

    The ‘who’ is me and the countless people who believe as I do (who, sadly, are countless because no one has actually counted them -!) The ‘infinite intergradations’ idea is something I’ve encountered in mainstream scientific discussions of heredity and development, which of course some are disinclined to accept.

    I dunno Selah, we’re drifting close to the edge of the abyss with this topic. I guess we’ll know we went too far when the boss-lady shuts us down.

  184. Selah

    N/A I did ask this further up and Marja said she had a response that never got through moderation. Which just leaves me even more confused.

    It would be nice if Twisty (and everyone else using femaleness/maleness in this way) would define their terms. Just because we live in a postmodern world doesn’t mean words can now literally mean whatever we want them to mean without any need for definition and a convincing argument for why that word should mean something new now.

  185. Marja

    Selah,

    I don’t have a copy of what I wrote. But we are stuck with two different definitions of gender. In effect:

    If someone is borrowing from the psych view: “gender is between the ears.”

    If someone is borrowing from the social science view: “gender is between the neighbors.”

    If gender is an oppressive system which divides the world in two, and imposes different roles on each half, and which subjugates one half to the other half, or to part of the other half, then transsexualism is something else. If gender is femininity and masculinity, sans oppression, then transsexualism is still something else. Counting it as part of gender seems to create more confusion than it avoids.

  186. Selah

    Marja,

    I’m a psychotherapist and my experience has not been that gender is “between the ears.” Perhaps from a psychiatric viewpoint, because I haven’t had a lot of experience with that branch, but my colleagues by and large view gender as being a social construct and sex as being biological. (Whether and how much biological sex affects behavior, etc. is often debated).

    My question has nothing whatsoever to do with gender. I’m purely talking about sex. The word “femaleness” does not signify gender but sex, insofar as female is a scientific term describing the ova-producing individuals of a species (or sometimes more specifically the ova-producing organs of such individuals). My question is that I don’t understand how a biologically male person can be said to have “femaleness.” I do not understand what definition of female and male allows for that.

  187. AlienNumber

    “Everybody has femaleness and maleness.”
    So, for example, I have both an ovary and a testicle.

    Sitting in a jar, on my desk.

    (gosh I just love cracking hilarious jokes; this hilarious joke above is a variation of Stephen King’s: “People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy.
    And I keep it in a jar on my desk.”)

  188. Selah

    Hermionemone, it is clear that culturally we are very unclear as to what is sex and what is gender. The lines between the two are very blurry in your comment.

    for example:

    who can say without getting into the dangerous territory of innate vs acquired traits and behaviours? Are there female and male ways of thinking, more and less highly developed capabilities related to “brain sex”? Some say so, some contest it on principle. But if there are, be sure that some female people have the male-associated abilities and structures, and some males have the female-associated abilities and structures.

    Sure, there are people who ask these questions, but they are not usually the ones (feminists) who make a distinction between sex and gender. Making a distinction between sex and gender lends itself pretty nicely to saying in no uncertain terms that there are no such thing as “male-associated abilities.” Culturally, there are boy/man (i.e. gender)-associated abilities.

    Scientifically, female/male sex is about reproduction, and specifically which body produces which gametes. Female bodies produce ova gametes, male bodies produce spermatazoon gametes. (Not “pole and hole” as you describe it because not every species with male and female reproductive categories have poles and holes).

    To say that it’s any more than that is to conflate gender with sex, which is inherently anti-feminist. Not to mention unscientific, because human species are the only living things that can be said to have gender, because it is socially-constructed (despite what some anti-feminist evolutionary biologists might have us think).

    If that is in fact what is going on, that saying “everyone has maleness and femaleness” is throwing out the scientific definition of those terms and instead blurring the boundary between sex and gender, then I can at least understand that. But Twisty’s post posits something different between “femaleness” and “femininity” and therefore that is NOT what she is doing. Or at least she says it’s not what she’s doing. So again, she needs to define her terms.

  189. Selah

    also, I find it pretty offensive, this idea that my entire reproductive organs can be summed up as “a hole.” Vaginas—and all the other female reproductive organs–are not just fuck-holes, as much as men might try to convince us they are.

  190. Marja

    “Perhaps from a psychiatric viewpoint, because I haven’t had a lot of experience with that branch, but my colleagues by and large view gender as being a social construct and sex as being biological.”

    I thought the “between the ears” definition was a summary of one from psychiatry, and maybe psychology too.

    “My question is that I don’t understand how a biologically male person can be said to have “femaleness.” I do not understand what definition of female and male allows for that.”

    Okay, I think that’s just because of the inadequacies of the language; womonhood doesn’t fit either, unless someone is living day-to-day as a womon; femaleness already gets defined in a half-dozen different ways, although most of the exceptions involve intersex conditions. And hormonal femaleness just feels right for me, and hormonal maleness always felt like something was seriously wrong.

  191. Selah

    Marja, I guess I’m just not willing to accept the argument that “language falls short” because the framework that feminists have identified for sex and gender makes complete sense. If people want to say that’s false, they need to explain why.

  192. N/A

    marja hormonal imbalances are one thing. i’ve been through my fair share and took medication for a while which helped. things have settled down now fortunately.

    but it doesn’t seem that anyone else here is talking about a “medical condition” so to speak.

    the main question, as selah said above, is what is the difference between “femaleness” and “femininity” as twisty is using the terms? it’s a small detail to be sure, but apparently an entire reality revolves around understanding the difference which is why i’m so curious about it.

    anyway a clear, concise answer is probably not forthcoming anytime soon so i’ll be checking in somewhat sporadically from now on.

  193. Hermionemone

    * sigh *
    * eye-roll *
    * face-palm *
    (language falls short)

  194. Tigs

    You could (at least close enough) count me into the countless to which Hermionemone (whose name reminds me of a Jeopardy Before & After) refers.

    The easy answer has always been that gender is social/environmental and sex is biological/essential, and in many cases, that is a useful shorthand. But the reality is that the world is a lot more complicated than that.
    Just because most people tend to fall along a bi-modal pattern on the graph (a camel hump) doesn’t mean that the data that falls elsewhere in the grid isn’t important.

    Judith Butler suggests something like that the important or at least political question is what are the power dynamics in the construction of these particular categories. That we are obsessed with the construction of this particular iteration of Subject and Object is revealing in and of itself, and that disrupting that relationship (perhaps, in reference to this thread, to disrupting femininity v. masculinity) and finding ways to disrupt it becomes ever more important (though, indeed, it may be impossible).

    The truth of the matter is that within the social structure we have, it is utterly impossible to know the absolute determining influence of sex on social reality. Maybe there is a certain kind of female-ish thinking, for example, but we can’t know whether or not this is so because of the inescapable influence of what can be discerned to be irrational power relations.
    So, what we do know for sure is that women are oppressed, that gender itself is oppressive, and that finding ways to resist that oppression is imperative if we want to live in the most radical state of self-determination possible.
    Much of the rest of our knowledge about these questions is contingent–so what is the political motivation that stands behind your contingent perspective?

  195. Selah

    Hermionemone, it seems you have managed to use language very effectively to communicate your disdain for N/A and myself, and your refusal to continue to engage us respectfully in good faith. Then claim that language fails? Have I fallen down a postmodernist rabbit hole where any words can mean whatever I want them to mean?

    Tigs, so what does “femaleness” mean in this context? That’s all I’m trying to get at. I am genuinely trying to understand. As long as people keep talking to me, I’ll keep asking that. Also, if I am reading you right, you are saying “we” (meaning me and N/A?) are “obsessed with” this definition. I take exception to that. Twisty says this is a Very Important Distinction (the distinction between “femininity” and “femaleness”) but does not define what “femaleness” is, even in the most rudimentary terms. N/A and I asked that question, and while people keep skirting around the answer, we have consistently come back to it. “But what is the answer to my question? How are you defining femaleness?” That’s not obsession, that’s an unwillingness to be distracted from the original question.

    This is important. Because we can’t use words without at least the most basic, rudimentary of definitions for what they mean. I had never heard the term “femaleness” before coming to this thread. I am genuinely, in complete good faith, trying to understand what is being said here, but no one is willing (or able?) to just give me a basic definition of “femaleness.”

    Asking someone to “define their terms” is a completely valid and important conversational tool. Without it, how can there be any mutually beneficial/informative conversation at all?

  196. Hermionemone

    Selah, By no means did I intend to denigrate vulvas/vaginas and the people they inhere to, by my usage of the ‘hole-pole’ figure of speech. It was concise, rhymingly playful, and both emphasized and mocked the simplistic arbitration into strict binary topological categories.

    Personally, I am speechlessly entranced by the wonderful complexity, and nuanced multidimensional functionalities of vulvas and vaginas, uteri, ovaries and frondular secretory tubules connecting all to each, and the personal human bodies hosting them. And, I am concerned about how having or not having working versions of all those wonderful, beautiful organs ought to constrain or empower their owner-operators’ lives. Basically, I am for less constraint, and more empowerment, as I believe most of us here, are.

  197. Hermionemone

    We may be a little out of phase in the responses to each other’s comments. I venture to define:

    femaleness: the degree to which a given individual human, animal or plant embodies the ideal phenotype of a female of its species.

    maleness: the degree to which a given individual human, animal or plant embodies the ideal phenotype of a male of its species.

    And since humans are a species of animal we hardly need to mention humans as a special case, but it’s culturally usual to say humans AND animals.

    If there are other (genetically) sex-linked characteristics beyond physical phenotype (for example, behaviour), then the definitions of femaleness and maleness could be extended to those contexts as well (carefully).

  198. Tigs

    Shockingly, “we” means a large collective that may or may not include you, Selah. I meant most of “us,” which often even, gasp, includes—wait for it—myself!
    Society in general, and (by evidence of the years of reading the comments here) the blametariat in particular is by and large obsessed with the man-woman divide. This is, of course, reasonable, because that divide is where the dominant v. the oppressed class that is generally the focus of feminism also tends to divide.
    I am suggesting that centralizing this divide is useful only to the extent that framing our political questions within it gets us somewhere (preferably somewhere a little more liberated).

    Also, again, I’m basically with Hermionemone on ‘maleness’ / ‘femaleness,’ though I would also suggest that those definitions are also colored by who gets to do the defining–which is generally the powerful. Does femaleness mean the ability to reproduce? No. Does it mean having an XX chromosome? No. Does it mean being a woman? No. But, it’s related, at least in terms of category (in reference to my earlier comment, at the top of one of the humps) to all of those things. But that relating is a political choice–which was my earlier point.
    I’m not a postmodernist, but I am a structuralist. Words have meaning, but only because people (generally powerful people) have given them that meaning.

  199. Selah

    Okay, thank you Hermionemone, for answering my question. Of course I must ask immediately, what is the “ideal phenotype” of female/male and who decides? I think it’s pretty clear that patriarchy decides, which lends itself to the question: How is this definition of “femaleness” a feminist definition?

    Tigs, my actual lived experience (not some political/philosophical thought experiment) of being a female adolescent and now adult human is that there is very real female-specific risk in hetero sex (mostly, but not only, PIV). Pregnancy, of course, is the main one, but there are other realities like women are more likely than men to contract STI’s through PIV, and some of those STI’s (chlamydia, HPV) are much more dangerous to women than to men. This is part of being in the oppressed sex class—that my biology includes female-specific risk in sexual encounters. The male sex class has exploited these risks as one of its primary ways to keep the female sex class oppressed.

    The fact that this is the real lived experience of female humans, to me, HAS to have some role when we’re talking about femaleness. But I don’t see that in Hermionenome’s definition (well, unless the “ideal phenotype” of female includes impregnability, increased susceptibility to STI’s, and all the other attendant physical and psychological risks associated with sex in a patriarchal culture).

  200. N/A

    annnnnd bingo!

    we have two different definitions of femaleness from two different commenters already. femaleness means whatever it means specifically to hermionemone and tigs, and the rest of us can just define it any way we like.

    if we go with hermionemone’s definition:

    how do you measure this “degree” to which someone is female or male? am i a hundred percent female because i menstruate and have real breasts? or do i also have ten percent maleness because i don’t wear makeup and like my hair cut rilly rilly short?

    if we go with tigs’ definition:

    so femaleness is related in some vague way to being female. we’ve got that already. an elaboration of that “relation” would be appreciated, if you can manage it.

  201. Tigs

    Selah, how are you defining femaleness? At this point, I’m not convinced you’re engaging in this discussion in anything resembling good faith.

  202. Selah

    Tigs, I have no definition of femaleness, that’s why I’m asking. I am not convinced it exists or is a useful concept. I’m trying to understand why others find it useful.

    As I have stated here already, I hadn’t even heard that term until this thread. In a cursory Google search of the term it appears that the patriarchy defines it as being synonymous with femininity. And yet Twisty is saying that this is an incredibly important distinction. I’m trying to understand what that distinction is, according to her (or you or Hermionenome or anyone else).

    Yes, I do have opinions about biological sex and gender, but I am not deliberately trying to lead anyone anywhere. I form my opinions over time as a result of extensive study, discussions, and my own personal experiences. I am always open to new information and insights to enhance and clarify—and sometimes turn upside-down—my understandings. That is my attempt here, to understand this concept of femaleness as it is being used here. If you don’t believe that and are convinced I am behaving in bad faith, well there’s really nothing I can do about that.

  203. Comrade Svilova

    Femininity is the performance of a socially constructed role that female humans are supposed to fill.

    Femaleness is the quality of being female — being a biological woman. That’s all. Thus one’s femaleness does not require one to perform femininity, but society requires those who are female to conform and perform femininity. What we choose to do is, of course, dictated by our situation, ideology, etc.

    Hence from the OP: Femininity is not a natural expression of femaleness.

    Femininity is in no way inherent in being biologically female. Femininity practices are not an essential part of being female. Being female is just biology, like having brown hair, or being tall or short, and has enormous affect on one’s life, of course, because we are members of an oppressed class, but being female doesn’t naturally cause us to love shoes or put on Spanx. The latter are unnatural, unfemale, femininity practices.

  204. AlienNumber

    “everybody has femaleness and maleness” is about as true as “countless means it hasn’t yet been counted.” But you already know that, Selah.

  205. Hermionemone

    The value for feminism is in subdividing the concepts, so that we can discuss them them independently. Male(ness) and female(ness) are terms for talking about sex categories and possibly other attributes grounded in physicality, and femininity and masculinity are terms for talking about behavioral/presentational aspects of gender, grounded in culture.

    I don’t think there can be an objective absolute scale of femaleness and maleness, it’s a way to acknowledge and discuss the ways in which body traits can be an inhomogeneous hodge-podge, change over time, and what IS wrong with dating a girl with ‘man hands’ anyway?

    An issue for some species (humans included) is that there can be multiple ‘ideal’ body types or ‘morphs’ for one sex or the other, for example the hourglass, apple, pear and rectangular (?) body shapes the fashion mags are always telling us about (while still sending the message that ‘hourglass’ is the MOST preferable/desirable one to have), or the multiple coloration, size or behavioural ‘morphs’ of various species of fish, insects, lizards, birds, etc.

  206. Hermionemone

    The things that come out of my keyboard! ‘Dating a girl with man-hands’, you know, that most famous Seinfeld eposode where Jerry experiences extreme discomfort that a new female acquaintance of his has male-proportioned hands. One should still probably not say ‘girl’ so in-contextually.

  207. Comrade Svilova

    Hmm, Hermionemone, I really didn’t read Twisty’s statement as referring to bodytype, and all of those other variants of hand-size, etc., but rather to chromosomes and genes. Obvious not everyone is biologically male or female, and some people with xx chromosomes have higher levels of testosterone and so on.

    However, all I read in Twisty’s OP is that our biology is not inherently or naturally tied to gender presentation, and specifically that having xx chromosomes doesn’t mean one “naturally” performs femininity. So not that we all have different body types, some coded more masculine and some coded more feminine; rather, that biology does not inherently manifest itself in culturally informed gender presentations.

  208. Selah

    I get that definition of femaleness, as the quality of having female anatomy and all the attendant physical associations. I get that I, as a woman, an adult human female, with female reproductive parts, have “femaleness.”

    What I don’t get is femaleness as independent from female anatomy.

    Twisty said in a comment: If transwomanism is not about the fetishization of girlie affect, but about identity, it follows that it is also not about femininity, but about femaleness.

    If femaleness is the quality of having female anatomy (a definition I can get behind) then how is it also “an identity” that can be independent of said female anatomy? I don’t understand how it can be said to be be both ways.

  209. Marja

    Well, there is endocrinology if one starts hormone replacement.

    And while there are lots of unknowns, there is more room for unknowns tied to sex than unknowns tied to gender alone. Body mapping is unproven but possible. Unfortunately, body-mapping gets politicized because some people ungender anyone without an overriding desire for reassignment surgery, and it can be harder for people to access other treatments if they do not have that desire.

    There are at least two *individual* questions involved in the use of padded bras, concealer, electrolysis, reconstructive surgery, etc. – what someone needs to be comfortable in her own body, and what someone needs to deal with social stigma – setting aside the beauty standards. That involves both sex and gender, it is isn’t always possible to pry them apart in practice.

  210. Hermionemone

    Selah wrote:

    Twisty said in a comment: If transwomanism is not about the fetishization of girlie affect, but about identity, it follows that it is also not about femininity, but about femaleness.

    If femaleness is the quality of having female anatomy (a definition I can get behind) then how is it also “an identity” that can be independent of said female anatomy? I don’t understand how it can be said to be be both ways.

    What I interpret Jill as saying is that people experiencing or manifesting ‘transwomanism’ – at least the ones who are not doing it as a kinky fetish – are identifying, recognizing, or perhaps creating, legitimate femaleness in, with and of their own bodies. Being female-actualiz ed-at-transition, they may, regrettably, practice femininity just as so many female-assigned-at-birth women do, for similar reasons, or the F.A.A.T.-women may resist and reject that practice, just as F.A.A.B.-women are also free (and here, encouraged) to do.

    Not so sure I really like my own acronym there. FAAT is a pejorative under patriarchal beauty standards. FAAB is laudatory under the same standards (as in, you look faabulous dahling). We reject those standards. “FAAB and FAAT, unite against the P!” Would that work as a slogan?

    *sigh* *eye-roll* *face-palm* (self-deprecating gestures) Here we are talking about that topic, when we promised and were even given orders to desist. Perhaps it is because it is one of the most difficult and revealing tests of our understanding of the meaning of sex and gender. We are as moths fluttering around a flickering porch light, when if only we could get in the clear, we could use the moon as our illuminating guide, and actually go somewhere.

  211. N/A

    what is legitimate femaleness?

  212. Hermionemone

    N/A asks what is legitimate femaleness?

    Perhaps better wording would have been “legitimately or authentically expressing, discovering, creating, etc., femaleness.” Twisty’s original statement was simply that “transwomanism is about femaleness not femininity”.

  213. AlienNumber

    How does one do this: “legitimately or authentically expressing, discovering, creating, etc., femaleness”?

    One is especially intrigued by the concept that femaleness can be “created.” (Something outta nothing? True miracle!)

  214. Comrade Svilova

    One suspects that a rigid definition of femaleness would actually be a tool of the oppressor to classify and then control us. Just as femininity is used to mark females so that they may be better controlled by power.

    Me, I’m happy to take people at their word about their femaleness and focus on dismantling femininity practices. Up this week: telling my boss I can’t continue to politely engage in discussions that take up valuable work time as he relates his special snowflake view that Charlie Sheen should not have been fired despite his rampant misogyny and anti-Semitism. This Jewish woman has sh*t to get done, yo, and work isn’t improved by examining the Unique Male Perspective on Charlie Sheen.

  215. Selah

    One suspects that a rigid definition of femaleness would actually be a tool of the oppressor to classify and then control us.

    Except when the experience of biological femaleness carries some specific realities (e.g. the risk I talked about further up) that are not about patriarchal definition but about actual lived experience of actual human beings.

    The fact that patriarchy exploits those risks, and using any logic tricks available to deny that they exist—tool of the patriarchy. Naming them as being real—feminist.

  216. Comrade Svilova

    Selah, naming them is definitely feminist. Creating a rigid definition whereby one cannot be a feminist if X, Y, Z experience is not one’s own — that is problematic. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

  217. Comrade Svilova

    Selah, naming female experiences of patriarchal oppression is definitely feminist. Creating a rigid definition whereby one cannot be a female if X, Y, Z experience is not one’s own — that is problematic. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

  218. N/A

    hermionemone, i was using your phrase re “legitimate femaleness”. (or were you correcting your own phrase without making that obvious?)

    again – it seems both selah and myself can behind a definition of “femaleness” based on the biological anatomy and reality of women’s lived experiences as females.

    you seem to agree partway when you say it’s the degree to which someone “embodies the ideal phenotype” of female. however, you have not stated what that ideal is, who decides that ideal, or how the degree of embodiment is measured.

    and we really, really need a working definition of “femaleness” before we can create, discover or express it (however you do any of that), “legitimately” or otherwise.

  219. Selah

    Creating a rigid definition whereby one cannot be a female if X, Y, Z experience is not one’s own

    Well, two things. First, that’s not really what anyone is doing. All I am trying to do is get down to the definition of what femaleness is to people who think it exists independent of female anatomy.

    But, second, if you really want to get down to brass tacks, I do not think it is unreasonable to say that being female (or having femaleness) is dependent upon having female anatomy. That hast nothing to do with “experience” but rather biological reality. I’m open to being convinced otherwise, but I have yet to read a convincing argument as to what would constitute “femaleness” independent from female anatomy.

  220. Hermionemone

    AlienNumber writes:

    How does one do this: “legitimately or authentically expressing, discovering, creating, etc., femaleness”?

    One is especially intrigued by the concept that femaleness can be “created.” (Something outta nothing? True miracle!)

    Because, since maleness/femaleness are not mutually exclusive, it was there all along to be discovered. Remember the omnipotentiality of the human genome? Externally supplied hormones unlock the same developmental pathways that result in FAAB-women’s bodies becoming female. And body tissues that are already established in a non-female pattern can be ‘assisted’ to reform into a female pattern, if not by cell replication, migration and apoptosis, then by laser beams and scalpels. Phenotype = physical form of a living body; femaleness is an acquired characteristic for everybody.

    I thought you might ask who does the legitimizing and authenticating. That starts with the truth of the transsexed person’s experience, and proceeds outward among people she interacts with. Even to you. Fortunately, one’s personal authenticity does not depend on complete unanimity among observers, but it is an admirable courtesy to acknowedge others’ right to self-determination and identification. They might do the same for you.

  221. Comrade Svilova

    Personally, I’m happy with the definition of female being “having female chromosomes.” (As I stated above.) But then I’m also happy with “woman” describing those who self-identify as women, whether or not they possess female chromosomes and/or practice femininity.

    And that’s all I’m going to say, since this seems to be straying towards the debate that we had last week.

  222. Hermionemone

    I’m happy if you’re happy, Comrade. Straying? Fluttering!

  223. Comrade Svilova

    Fluttering like butterflies? I hope so.

  224. Hermionemone

    A few pages ago, I floridly wrote:

    We are as moths fluttering around a flickering porch light, when if only we could get in the clear, we could use the moon as our illuminating guide, and actually go somewhere.

  225. AlienNumber

    Hermionemone writes:
    “femaleness is an acquired characteristic for everybody”

    I’m sorry, I don’t speak Gibberish. Only English (and a few Romance languages).
    Care to translate from Gibberish to English, pretty please?

  226. N/A

    hmm. seems she’s busy fluttering around a porch light somewhere, embodying the ideal phenotype of either a butterfly or a moth. or both. oh the joy of discovery!

  227. Hermionemone

    Oh, AlienNumber and A/N. Of all the contributors to this SCTB you two are among the least receptive to arguments that transwomen are women, or even persons with a viewpoint worth considering. You also don’t seem to put much stock in science. So between the two, it doesn’t leave much of a communication channel open. But for what it’s worth:

    ‘Acquired characteristic’ is developmental biology terminology for observable features that weren’t there at the start, and which come about by transformation of some kind, growth, shape change or the action of external physical factors.

    When I wrote ‘femaleness is an acquired characteristic for everybody’ I meant ‘for everybody who has femaleness’. Which, as I asserted from a biology standpoint earlier, is everybody.

    Thank you for your interest, and know that you are the moths in the metaphor too (or didn’t you get that?)

  228. N/A

    wow. that’s a stunning double-loop-flip-flop hermionemone.

    all i’ve done is repeatedly question you on your definition of “femaleness” which, as has been repeatedly pointed out, is a little bit lacking.

    i have not posited a single position or opinion on trans issues.

    i have only questioned your definition of “femaleness” (which btw, is yours alone as tigs and twisty apparently have their own private definitions which we are not privy to).

    and now, having not answered any of those questions posed to you, you’re accusing me (it’s N/A btw, not A/N) and AlienNumber of, well, trans-non-receptivity. (is that similar to transphobia? i don’t know. i don’t hate trans people, or fear them, or wish them ill in any way.)

    and where on earth did you get that i don’t put “stock in science”? what the flippity-flop?

    here’s the thing dearest hermionemone, your “definition” of femaleness can only make any kind of sense if the terms and concepts used in the definition do not require three more lines of defining each. unfortunately, they do. (refer to questions posed above, in at least TWO comments, by myself, and other comments by selah.)

    further, this:

    “When I wrote ‘femaleness is an acquired characteristic for everybody’ I meant ‘for everybody who has femaleness’. Which, as I asserted from a biology standpoint earlier, is everybody.”

    allow me to quote the little brat from the incredibles: “if everyone is special than no one is.”

    there is a point at which the similarities between my brother and myself end. there is apparently no room for this difference in your above comment. it is recommend you do something about this pomo crow manure in order to make it make sense.

    cheers lovie.

  229. Jill

    Nails: “You are being a doormat, that is why they keep bringing it up- they know you won’t do anything.”

    Bite me, Nails. I’m just one woman, and I have a life outside the computer. I’m doing my best. If it isn’t good enough, tough shit.

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