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Mar 25 2013

Shirley there’s nothing more to say on the subject of Radfems vs Trans Women?

I love the smell of a transgender politics dust-up in the morning. Mmmm.

I strongly urge those readers for whom transgenderism is problematic to examine the roots of their bigotry, and to consider adopting a more reasoned, tolerant and inclusive platform.

For those who are interested in the Savage Death Island argument supporting the right of all persons to exist on their own terms, today I’m republishing the relevant parts of a post I wrote back in 2011, omitting the superfluous preamble (for connoisseurs of superfluous preambles, the unabridged version can be found here). I’m plagiarizing myself for two reasons. One, the old essay is better than the one I wrote yesterday. Two, because the first essay racked up nearly 800 comments, it seemed judicious to start afresh than merely to link to the crowded 2-year-old page.

* * * * * * * * * *

There are three aspects of this trans “debate” that particularly chap the spinster hide. One is that it is even considered a debate. Is there anything more demeaning than a bunch of people with higher status than you sitting around debating the degree to which they find you human? I don’t think so.

The second hide-chap is the main anti-trans “argument.” It goes:

Unless you were born a woman, how can you really know what women’s oppression means? You benefited from male privilege once; how can we trust you? Your male junk threatens us. You mock us with your affected femininity. You’re not authentic.

This argument is phobic and dumb. It proceeds from, among things like fear and internalized misogyny, the premise that there exists a standard or authentic “woman’s experience” of oppression that derives entirely from childhood indoctrination and imbues the experiencer with some kinda moral authority. The premise is false. An experience of womanhood is not the experience of womanhood. Take, for example, the issue of privilege:

Some women have a little privilege. Some women have a shit-ton of privilege. Some women have a shit-ton of privilege and then lose it. Some women have zippo privilege and then get some later. Some women only ever have zippo, period. Some women are atheists, have short brown hair, drive red Fords, have scars where their sex organs used to be, can’t get health insurance, eat only vegetables and shave their mustaches.

Thus we see that there are infinite manifestations of womanity, both in terms of privilege and otherwise, each topped with its own unique little dollop of oppression. Of the gazillion factors that comprise female awareness, the condition of having been born female is but e pluribus unum.

Not only is there no “standard” women’s experience of oppression, but a primary experience of womanhood is in fact inessential to the understanding of oppression. It is not necessary, in order for the oppressed to unite behind the common cause of liberation, that every oppressed person should share the background experiences of every other oppressed person. It is not only not necessary; it is not possible. The imposition of such jingoistic strictures precludes all possibility of revolution.

Oppression is oppression. Race, ethnicity, religion, pigmentation, sex, gender, health, education, class, caste, age, weight, ableness, mental health, physical health, marital status, employment status, diet, IQ, internet access — any combination of these or a thousand other arbitrary markers may be used by the powerful to justify oppression, but the net result is always the same: discrimination, disenfranchisement, degradation, dehumanization. It’s the Four Ds! The Four Ds make all oppressed persons identical enough.

My third point strikes a somewhat different and theoretical note. It has long been the contention of all expert spinster aunts that the notion of gender is itself a fiction promoted by the usual hegemonic patriarchal forces as an instrument of oppression. A person can only be “trans” if there are rigidly enforced gender roles from which and to which one might transition. Obviously, post-revolutionary society will not be burdened by tiresome gender constructs at all; nobody will have to become anything because everyone will just be whatever they are. Meanwhile, we gotta stop slapping the Four Ds on anyone who fails to conform to the stupid misogynist gender binary.

I would love to delve into this at greater length, but the aforementioned time constraints compel me to put a sock in it. Fortunately, yesterday blamers Nails and AlienNumber were kind enough to link to Daisy Deadhead’s excellent essay on Savage Death Island’s executive director Andrea Dworkin and her remarks on transgender politics. The remarks, excerpted by Daisy from Woman Hating (1974), are sensible and kind and radical and a breath of fresh 70?s air. And they pretty precisely express the Savage Death Island doxa. Essentially, Dworkin’s saying that everyone has a right to exist on her/his own terms. Duh, right?

Transsexuality* is currently considered a gender disorder, that is, a person learns a gender role which contradicts his/her visible sex. It is a “disease” with a cure: a sex-change operation will change the person’s visible sex and make it consonant with the person’s felt identity.

Since we know very little about sex identity, and since psychiatrists are committed to the propagation of the cultural structure as it is, it would be premature and not very intelligent to accept the psychiatric judgement that transsexuality is caused by a faulty socialization. More probably, transsexuality is caused by a faulty society. Transsexuality can be defined as one particular formation of our general multisexuality which is unable to achieve its natural development because of extremely adverse social conditions.

There is no doubt that in the culture of male-female discreteness, transsexuality is a disaster for the individual transsexual. Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual. There are 3 crucial points here.

One, every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition.

Two, by changing our premises about men and women, role-playing and polarity, the social situation of transsexuals will be transformed, and transsexuals will be integrated into community, no longer persecuted and despised.

Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disappear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behavior.

I recommend reading Daisy’s essay for a bit more context. Nails has a new post on the topic too.

______________________
* In 1974, “transsexual” was the term for what we now call “transgender.”

46 comments

  1. nails

    I wrote that when I still felt inspired. I hope that happens again soon.

  2. Twisty

    Courage, nails. You’ll get there.

  3. Keri

    I am not a feminism scholar so some of the trans debate makes me a bit dizzy. When it comes down to it though, the 4 D’s sure do rain down heavy on that community of folks. I don’t know where their safe spaces exist.

    The patriarchy loathes “fluid androgyny”. I see it every time my daughter’s partner walks in to meet me for a margarita.

  4. ExMo

    Quit calling me Shirley.

  5. hayduke

    It does smell not unlike napalm!

    I raise a glass to this post (so if I post subsequent comments of exceedingly poor quality, apologies in advance.) I’m so happy you’re addressing this. I’ve been mightily disheartened at the way an awful lot of internetian radical feminists will descend like the wrath of the gods upon any of their number who feel like maybe trans people ought to be treated like people. I didn’t get my radical feminist card from y’all, so I’m pretty sure you can’t actually revoke it.

  6. pheenobarbidoll

    ” I didn’t get my radical feminist card from y’all, so I’m pretty sure you can’t actually revoke it.”

    Right? Ditto that and I’ll add – I’d LOVE to see them fucking try to take mine. That’d be a hoot.

  7. Kristine

    An oldie but a goody. Gender fluidity is necessary for feminist revolution, I think.

  8. Edith

    Thanks for the repost, Twisty. Also, I have learned that there are two Ediths here. Awkward.

  9. M

    *tangent*

    nails, you are splendid and (slightly abridged, because character limits) this gem is now my twitter ‘bio’:

    “Making a club where members are presumed to be more moral than others is a recipe to fill your club with sociopaths who can deny wrongdoing on the basis of membership.”

  10. qvaken

    Once again, this post (repost) reads as contradictory.

    “[The argument that women-born-women have a common experience] proceeds from, among things like fear and internalized misogyny, the premise that there exists a standard or authentic “woman’s experience” of oppression that derives entirely from childhood indoctrination and imbues the experiencer with some kinda moral authority.”

    But then,

    “Oppression is oppression.” And you list many human traits, some which are entirely socially-constructed, some which are inborn traits upon which society imposes oppression. “…the net result is always the same: discrimination, disenfranchisement, degradation, dehumanization. It’s the Four Ds! The Four Ds make all oppressed persons identical enough.”

    So, which is it? Different experiences of oppression are nuanced and we must avoid any talk of a common experience, or all people suffering different kinds of oppression are similar enough for being oppressed to talk of a common experience?

    You haven’t analysed what each type of oppression is and what it means in upholding the overall structural hierarchy in Capitalist Patriarchy. Working class people, uneducated people, Australian Aboriginal people and female people are all oppressed, but in different ways. A white, female, educated working class person and an Australian Aboriginal, female, educated working class person are both oppressed, but they’re oppressed in different ways. The nuances in their oppressions serve different functions in upholding the overall structure, and the oppressions of all different kinds of people work together to uphold it.

    This is why different people’s experiences of privilege or oppression are vastly different. This is where it’s important to recognise these differences in human oppression, and the reasons for these differences, and find ways to work together to challenge a system that oppresses us all – well, except for a tiny, tiny minority of extremely privileged people.

    It’s not about proclaiming that all women have one “common experience”. That’s ridiculous and untrue. What it is about is constructing a class analysis of sex oppression – what is sex oppression; what are the many ways in which it manifests itself under Capitalist Patriarchy; how does it operate to uphold Capitalist Patriarchy – and the ways in which it interacts with other class-based oppressions to oppress the vast majority of people, and to uphold the present societal hierarchy.

  11. basil

    Women and girls have two common experiences – our female bodies, and our universal oppression at the hands of men through violent attacks on those female bodies.

    Obscuring this reality, through claims of difference, fluidity, spectrum of gender etc is postmodernism – straight out of Butler – and has nothing to do with radical feminist material analysis of women’s condition and oppression at the hands of men.

  12. Edith Pilkington

    I remember that post @ Daisy’s Dead Air, a very good one at that! Sorry about the awkwardness, Edith. I added my last name in order to avoid confusion.

  13. Katherine

    Loud rounds of internetian applause from this radical (but not transphobic) feminist.

    It would behove transpobic feminists to consider how their vitriol drives many otherwise-rad feminists away. Personal anecdote alert! I recently moved city and went to work as a volunteer at a feminist charity, mostly populated by awesome 70′s radfems of the awesome variety. I was loving it, until the trans issue reared its head.

    Suddenly I was surrounded by vengeful bigots who tossed around unpleasant names and prejudiced assumptions. At first I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing – where were the awesome women who fought for justice, liberation and an end to oppression? For various reasons I didn’t feel able to challenge them, and I lost a space that I sorely needed. Well done transphobia!

  14. TwissB

    ExMo revised. And don’t call me Shirley. A little slippage in great quotes or allusions is inevitable. Like another that Twisty might have summoned to cover the most recent subject: “You can’t fight in here; this is the war room.” always gets abbreviated to “No fighting in the war room.”

  15. sjaustin

    qvaken, the position seems contradictory because you’re misrepresenting it. In fact, you seem to be misrepresenting both sides of the argument. Where you wrote “[The argument that women-born-women have a common experience] proceeds from, among things like fear and internalized misogyny…” I would write “[The argument that all women-born-women have a common experience that trans women do not have in common with wbw and which is crucial to the experience of womanhood]…” because that seems to be the anti-trans-inclusive argument.

    I don’t think anyone here is saying that women don’t have ANYTHING in common; the point is that while different women may have different experiences of oppression, all women are oppressed because they are women, and that’s the most important commonality when discussing whether or not trans women should be included in the feminist movement. Some women may also suffer additional oppressions for other reasons, some of which are also intertwined with misogyny, and there’s nothing wrong with discussing those oppressions when they’re relevant.

    If you want to say that women-born-women have something in common, that is, having female genitalia, well yeah, it’s generally true. But to say that that is what makes us women or that that is essential to the experience of misogyny is bullshit. And IME that’s generally what people who use the terminology “women-born-women” are saying, whether they’re implying it or saying it outright. Otherwise why make the distinction?

    “Different experiences of oppression are nuanced”

    Yes.

    “and we must avoid any talk of a common experience, ”

    Who said that? The problem is not talking of common experience per se; the problem is when one tries to use the common experience of having had ladyjunk since birth as an argument against trans women being included as women. The only time I find my factory-installed girl parts relevant is when discussing gynecological woes. I do not consider them relevant to my participation or inclusion in feminism and I would prefer that nobody else did.

    “all people suffering different kinds of oppression are similar enough for being oppressed to talk of a common experience?”

    Yes.

  16. KittyWrangler

    @basel –
    When you say “postmodern” do you mean “third wave”? My understanding of postmodernism comes from art history and poststructuralist fancypants philosophers, and in that tradition radical feminism was stauchly postmodernist (as opposed to Modernist, which championed a white male Western POV and called it universal, if one is cynical).

    My knowledge of actual radical feminist theory, on the other hand, is piecemeal; is there another working definition of “postmodern” that applies to the field?

  17. qvaken

    KittyWrangler, I only know a little about postmodernism. It’s about pulling language apart so that it doesn’t mean anything. This turns into a philosophy, and we can use it to pull anything apart so that it doesn’t mean anything.

    sjaustin, so women do have something big in common with one another that would make for an analysis of why women are oppressed, and why, in turn, anyone who doesn’t slot obediently into either a masculine or a feminine role or an acceptable mixture of the two are shunned and discouraged.

    ““all people suffering different kinds of oppression are similar enough for being oppressed to talk of a common experience?”

    “Yes.”

    No. A white, het, tertiary-educated, working class female like me does not have enough in common with a Filipino, homosexual, secondary-educated, working class male due to the fact that we’re each oppressed to decide that we should talk of ourselves and each other as having a common experience. This isn’t just outright false in terms of the kinds of experiences as well as the overall experience that we’ll have in life, it also makes for a terribly sloppy and non-functioning analysis. We’re each oppressed, but in different ways, for different reasons, and our positions in the hierarchy have different functions in upholding it. Each different type of oppression, and the position of each differently-oppressed person in the societal hierarchy, has a different-but-cohesive function in upholding that hierarchy; this is what we need to understand when constructing analyses of oppression and of the overall societal structure that put us there in the first place, and that requires us to remain there for it to continue functioning.

  18. sjaustin

    “sjaustin, so women do have something big in common with one another that would make for an analysis of why women are oppressed, and why, in turn, anyone who doesn’t slot obediently into either a masculine or a feminine role or an acceptable mixture of the two are shunned and discouraged.”

    I agree. But if you’re saying that the “something big in common” is having a vagina, I disagree.

    “No. A white, het, tertiary-educated, working class female like me does not have enough in common with a Filipino, homosexual, secondary-educated, working class male due to the fact that we’re each oppressed to decide that we should talk of ourselves and each other as having a common experience.”

    Having a common experience doesn’t mean it has to be exactly the same. There are some elements in common as well as some differences. Again, there’s nothing wrong with talking about the differences, but if your analysis comes to the conclusion that trans women should not be included in the group “women,” you’re doing it wrong.

    My experience as a single childless tertiary-educated upper middle class white Jewish non-traditionally-feminine woman is going to be very different from that of a black working class woman or a even that of an upper middle class traditionally feminine woman with a husband and three children, but despite those differences we’re all included in the group “women” and oppressed for that reason in addition to any other oppressions we might be suffering. Again, women are all women and are oppressed as women, whether we’re trans or cis, regardless of race or national origin or socioeconomic status or sexual preference or religion or disability. There may be other oppressions in addition to and often intertwined with our oppression as women, but there is that common ground that unites us.

  19. qvaken

    “If you’re saying that the “something big in common” [that women have with one another] is having a vagina, I disagree.”

    So then, from where does women’s oppression stem? Why are women oppressed?

    “If your analysis comes to the conclusion that trans women should not be included in the group “women,” you’re doing it wrong.”

    This sounds like I should construct a required conclusion, and then base my analysis on achieving it. This would cause my arguments in my analysis to be extremely shoddy, so I’m going to avoid doing that.

    “There may be other oppressions in addition to and often intertwined with our oppression as women, but there is that common ground that unites us.”

    Uniting with one another would take work rather than just all being oppressed at the same time and for similar reasons, so I think that you meant something more along the lines of “…that common ground that causes us all to have a similar experience of oppression, at least in one way”. Once again, in what way does it cause us to be similar? The outcome, women’s lived experience of oppression, is not always the same, and can be vastly different between different women. Many women are forced into roles similar to each other, but not all women globally are forced into exactly the same sex-oppressed role as each other. The function of our oppressed role in upholding the societal hierarchy is usually pretty similar and widespread: the bearer, carer and raiser of children; the thing to be fucked; the thing that’s worth nothing if it looks like it can’t, or actually can’t, do those first two things well enough. Once again, we’re back to whatever it is about women that causes us to be placed into the sex-oppressed role, because that’s the thing we all share, or we at least look enough like we share it with one another to all be placed into the category “woman”. If the thing that we all have in common, and from which sex oppression stems, isn’t a set of female sex organs, then what is it?

  20. Friend of Snakes

    Yikes! I followed the link to Twisty’s suggested reading of Nails’ post, and right up near the top was a detour about Transableism – that condition where some people claim that for most of their lives they FELT disabled and want to have surgery to removed an arm or leg or, well, you get the idea. They claim that their minds will finally be congruent with their bodies if they mutilate themselves this way. Of course, it is tough to find doctors to agree to do this (but, just wait, I suppose), so many of these people use wheelchairs and such-like to appear disabled.

    I’ll admit it: I’m a “do your own thing” kind of person as long as it doesn’t unreasonable restrict the rights of others. But where do you draw the line between normal and seriously mentally disordered? Would the people here advocating Twisty’s position on transgender issues advocate the same for the so-called transabled? What’s the difference?

  21. Friend of Snakes

    I suppose I should have put the prior post in context. Should a female Wong be able to receive special scholarships reserved for the disabled when she applied to Smith College?

  22. nails

    friend of snakes- the people who can’t find doctors tend to do DIY amputations or other dangerous things to get limbs/digits/whatever removed. I have never heard of a transabled person using a wheelchair to appear disabled. It was always about their perception of their own body being in opposition to their physical reality. Like I noted in the post, this is the part of the brain that malfunctions when someone has phantom limb syndrome, so the mechanism is somewhat understood.

    It isn’t a matter of simple preference, it is clearly a matter of identity. Living with an imposed inauthentic identity causes immense psychological distress.

  23. Friend of Snakes

    Yes, of course, that is one of my points. The desire to cut off a perfectly healthy part of one’s anatomy – whether a leg or arm, or to be blinded – in order to appear “normally” disabled must, indeed, cause “immense psychological distress.”

    the people who can’t find doctors tend to do DIY amputations or other dangerous things to get limbs/digits/whatever removed.

    Okay, but when a healthy, young, suicidal person wishes to commit suicide, most sane people don’t consider it a “right” that the state must recognize and that a health care provider must facilitate.

    Again, where do you draw the line? If it is a right and a normal thing for a woman to have her healthy breasts removed because she believes she was meant to be a man (even though plenty of men have observable breasts), then is it also right that a woman wishes to have her healthy eyeballs removed because she always felt like a blind person?

  24. Friend of Snakes

    “I have never heard of a transabled person using a wheelchair to appear disabled.”

    There is an entire culture of people devoted to such deception, or fetish, or identity, take your pick.
    http://devguide.org/pret.shtml

  25. pheenobarbidoll

    I don’t draw a line because it’s not my body. If someone wants to remove their eyeballs, that’s their dealio. If they want to staple their toes onto their ears, it’s none of my business.

    Their body, not mine. Pretty simple.

  26. Falkland

    Pheenobarbidoll, your comment in the other thread exposing sex/gender policing as racist – that was bang on. Marvellous intersectional blaming.

    I’d drop links to Radical Transfeminist Lisa, Sylvia Rivera, Lynn Conway et al. but I think their words would be totally lost on the Haterade-swilling bigots. Like Dude Nation doesn’t aggressively and violently enforce sex/gender roles already…for fuck’s sake, people.

    I’d rather be “inconsistent” than oppressive. There was some straight-up hate speech posted in the other thread. Shame, shame, shame.

  27. Nimravid

    People should have authority over what happens to their own bodies. If someone feels that they don’t want any eyes then out they go. If someone wants to die then there you have it. Whether a person other than them thinks it’s a great reason or a stupid reason is irrelevant if people truly have sovereignty over themselves. The only real issue in that case is whether the person is able or unable to make an informed decision.

    “So then, from where does women’s oppression stem? Why are women oppressed?”

    It stems from an agreement by society that a set of people will have a subjugated role and another will be dominant. If you mean how or by what method are women oppressed, it’s by making it mandatory to display clear signals (clothing, behavior, names, an M or F tag on a form, etc.) of a person’s belonging to either the subjugated or dominant class; by assigning one of those classes at birth based on a set of physical markers linked to sex; and by making it nearly impossible to switch classes or to deviate from the roles appropriate for each class.

  28. qvaken

    “[Women's oppression] stems from an agreement by society that a set of people will have a subjugated role and another will be dominant.”

    Why do they make that agreement? What makes them designate that set of people as needing to be subjugated?

    “[The final method by which women are oppressed is] by making it nearly impossible to switch classes or to deviate from the roles appropriate for each class.”

    This implies that overcoming oppression means striving for an alternative pre-constructed role within the same system. If, for instance, we strive to be higher in the hierarchy to overcome our oppression, then that means leaving people behind. If we strive to be lower in the hierarchy so as to become oppressed, then that just means upholding the hierarchy but choosing to undertake an oppressed role within it. Fighting oppression should instead mean overthrowing the current system which is based on oppressive hierarchies, and cultivating a new system based on equality and respect between people.

  29. Nimravid

    “This implies that overcoming oppression means striving for an alternative pre-constructed role within the same system.”

    No, you might overcome aspects of your own personal oppression that way but you don’t overcome the oppression built into the system. When people are born they are assigned to a place in the hierarchy, but more than that, the assignment slices the allowed behavior for humanity into portions based on those classes. Overcoming the hierarchy of the classes wouldn’t fix the entire problem because theoretically a division of roles could still exist even if roles were considered equal.

    I don’t know what other answer you are looking for to “Why do they make that agreement? What makes them designate that set of people as needing to be subjugated?” It’s a desire for domination and hierarchy, enforced violently, eventually built into society and agreed to with varying degrees of enthusiasm or coercion or resisted with varying degrees of success.

  30. sjaustin

    “This sounds like I should construct a required conclusion, and then base my analysis on achieving it.”

    No, it sounds like if your conclusion is utter nonsense, you should go back and check your work.

    “If the thing that we all have in common, and from which sex oppression stems, isn’t a set of female sex organs, then what is it?”

    Very cute, phrasing it as “sex oppression.” I think you did construct your conclusion first and then work backwards.

  31. Tigs

    While we are all fully aware that the origins of patriarchy are fuzzy, I am (following Martha Nussbaum, amongst others) willing to confidently conjecture that the origins of hierarchical power relations emerged from differentiated physical characteristics: women’s comparative diminutive stature, the vulnerabilities related to pregnancy and infant care, and men’s relatively minor role in reproduction.

    However, the forms of power that were connected to these average physical realities became, over some stretch of (pre-?)human development, reified and the power differential itself became the marker of the category of woman. Thus, even women who were not physically vulnerable became inseparable from the class identified as weak.

    The category of woman is pathologized, the category of man normalized. As history progresses, this power binarism is inscribed in every space and every institution, becoming the dominating ideology (particularly travelling along with certain cultural forms).

    Even though some of us are child-free and physically strong, when we are identified with the category of woman, we are then subject to the pathologies of the patriarchal power structure.

    Now, the tricky part of this is that ideology does not move only in one direction. Instead, the ideology of patriarchy moves both from bodies and to bodies. This means that those members of society who are deemed by those with power to either be part of or even associated with the category of woman become subject to the pathologization that is the core of gender oppression. This is why gay men experience gendered violence; they are, like women, f*ckable.* They are then also subject to some of the pathologization of the category woman.

    Further, there is no ‘right’ way to be a woman—as it is a pathologized, ‘problematic’ category. Dominant masculinity is the norm (which, by the way, also holds up impossible standards for men), and the extent to which one fails to live up to that standard is the extent to which one is punished. FAAB women have ‘failed’ at the moment of birth; trans women have also failed from the moment they have a conception of their own non-conformation with ideal masculinity (even if they are unable to articulate it as such). Even if that failure is not immediately seen, the trans woman knows that her position is tenuous, ‘wrong.’ This double consciousness, of knowing the discrepancy between self- and other-identification, is in itself a form of oppression. Another form of patriarchal oppression that anyone who is doing any genderf*cking is subject to is the threat that they will be perceived as messing with the binary–for trans women this is particularly fraught as some people who are invested in the binary (mostly cis men) experience the very existence of trans women as a threat to their dominance, and are ready and willing to retaliate.

    No two women have identical experiences of oppression. But all women are subject the patriarchal oppression that permeates ideology, institutions, spaces, etc. It no longer matters what the genitival foundation (see what I did there?) was. Power forms did not emerge thousands of years ago and remain static; they are instead being recreated all the time.

    tl:dr: Trans woman are oppressed because of their sexual identity, just like cis women.

    *Note: Obviously the oppression of gay men is much more complex than this. I am attempting to illustrate something with a relative amount of clarity, which requires certain over-simplifications.

  32. qvaken

    Tigs, you write too much and are excessively verbose. However, for the most part, I agree with you. My saying that sex oppression – ie. women’s oppression – has its origins in women’s biological capability to reproduce does not mean that I don’t think that gay men and trans people aren’t oppressed. They are, absolutely. And I want to clarify that in that statement, I’m referring to women as a class and women’s sex class oppression, I’m not saying that each and every individual woman must be fertile to be oppressed. Because some women can’t reproduce, and that comes with its own form of women’s oppression, for instance, when older women say that they feel as though they’re completely invisible to other people.

    I would disagree with you that trans women are oppressed “just like” women are, and I’m sure that trans-inclusive Feminists would disagree with that, too, for different reasons. The reason that I disagree with it is that women were hated and forced into a role to be used by men to benefit men first, and that led to the ever-hated construct of femninity for females and the construct of masculinity to place men on a hierarchy above women, and that then led to everybody else being attacked for failing to fit into the constructed sex roles of the hierarchy.

  33. ptittle

    I echo qvaken’s posts for the most part, I think, and have one question for sjaustin et al: when you say “all women are oppressed because they are women” what definition of ‘women’ are you using, precisely?

  34. Tigs

    Here’s the thing: patriarchy is being recreated all the time. We’re not fighting/oppressed by some Paleolithic concept. We are oppressed by contemporary power that is being reproduced in this very moment. In many ways, what was doesn’t matter, what matters is what is–and what is is a complex system of gender based oppression that dominates women, no matter their physicality at a particular time/space.

    To be stuck in the forms of an imagined authentic moment of ‘real’ gender-based oppression is to be essentialist in exactly the ways you* are so dedicated to resisting that you’re willing to roll right over materialist realities of women’s lives.

    *Broad ‘you’ directed at those who are so staunchly invested in the utter constructionism of gender that there’s no room for an actually complex understanding of construction.

  35. shopstewardess

    I understand that there are historical and anthropological arguments about the time and nature of the start of patriarchy. For myself, I tend to date it to 1522, the year in which the first circumnavigation of the world was completed by a white man – that seems to me to be a decent point for the starting point for considering patriarchy in the modern world. It is clear to me that since that date the dominant culture of the world as a whole has been that of the white, heterosexual, economically active male, and that there has been no escape from that culture for the rest of us.

    Because that dominant culture has been embedded so long, our social, political and economic structures are designed for its benefit and continuation. The very recent ability of women to overcome the disadvantages of being the reproducing sex with through economic activity, contraception and technology (which negates the advantages of inbuilt size and strength for most constructive activity) has not led, and will not lead, to equality, because of this inbuilt bias in the system within which we live.

    The patriarchy is everywhere. We radical feminists are encircled in our tiny encampments. We have a tendency to turn on each other, which comes from us having too small a space to live in. But one advantage of radical feminism is that, by recognising the system of patriarchy, we also recognise that it has many victims. Including trans people.

  36. Nepenthe

    How are trans women not oppressed in the same way cis women are? Dudes don’t ask for a karyotype before catcalling or groping or raping. Trans women don’t get pay raises if they have testicles. Elderly, fat, butch, or otherwise non-beauty regime compliant trans women are at least as disposable as cis women with the same characteristics. Ideas coming from a “Sandra” are dismissed or stolen regardless of the genital configuration of the Sandra in question. Trans women are prostituted and fetishized in porn.

    In short, as far as I can tell, trans women are treated like all the women in our society, like members of the sex class. If someone is treated like a woman by patriarchy, I figure they are one for the purposes of my feminism.

  37. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    I said it before and I’ll say it again (paraphrasing the Most Excellent B. Dagger Lee): The trans gals and fellas are my sisters and brothers.

  38. goblinbee

    Tigs, I was cruising along in your post of March 29, absolutely digging it, then got to this response from qvaken: “Tigs, you write too much and are excessively verbose.”

    Please know, Tigs, that at least one blamer begs to differ! I thought you sublimely articulate. Thanks for your thoughtful commentary.

  39. Rebekah's Daughter

    Twisty, I just want to say, Thank you. As a radical feminist trans woman, it’s good to feel welcomed in the fold.

    Regarding transableism, someone mentioned that “Whatever you do is fine, so long as it doesn’t infringe on my rights.” I agree. But I would argue that transableism is different from transsexuality in a few significant ways:
    1. Intent –the intent of Gender Confirmation Surgery is to have functioning female junk manufactured to take the place of male junk and fulfill its role in my life. Yes, I am mutilating normally functional organs, and what takes its place may not function normally, but the intent of both myself and my surgeon is to create a normally functioning organ. The intent of removing functional eyes or cutting off functional limbs is to destroy functionality.
    2. Social impact – when my male junk is whacked off, it will not give me a tax advantage; it will not grant me disability payments; it will not grant me any legal advantage whatsoever. If anything, the opposite. Regardless of the functional cost to one’s life and new oppressions suffered, whacking off one’s eyes or limbs will grant tax and legal advantages (which I don’t begrudge to those who need it), as well as requiring additional social services, and so will impact, however slightly, others’ tax structures or social services.
    3. Additionally, when I toss that male junk in the trash can, it strikes a blow at the heart of the fucking Patriarchy. “Hear ye, hear ye! You are not defined by your sexual organs! A penis has no more value than you assign to your own, or to the one you play with!”

    And the question remains: if gender roles were dismantled, and all gender expressions were valued equally, and “community [were] built on androgynous identity,” would physical transition be necessary? I honestly don’t know. I have a hard time imagining it, which is perhaps a function of the power of Patriarchal Mother Culture. But I do know that such a society would be far more friendly and functional than this one.

  40. Kali

    From the perspective of oppression, what you are viewed as matters more than what you view yourself as. To the extent you are viewed as a woman/girl, you will be oppressed as a woman/girl. If a trans woman is viewed as female since birth, she will be oppressed as female since birth. If there are periods in her life when she is not viewed as fully female, then there are periods in her life when she is not oppressed as female. She is oppressed during that time, but not as female.

  41. awhirlinlondon

    Tigs – beautifully done, thank you.

    Qvaken – the word “verbose” needs no modifier.

    Hey! What happened to the other 3000 comments on this post? Not that I’m not happy not to see them. (Yes; joke.)

  42. awhirlinlondon

    I’m awfully sorry. Thought that the many comments were on this one rather than the prior. Thought there’d been some strange bowdlerizing on this one. Overtired!

  43. Jessica

    I’m sure many transgenderists have very rough lives, but all kinds of people have rough lives for any number of reasons. And that’s truly unfortunate. . .but the purpose of feminism is simple: to liberate females. That’s it. I don’t see why we have to take on the burdens of transgenderists anymore than we have to take on the burdens of all people who might get made fun of or discriminated against for dying their hair green. Sure, in the utopia we are all going for, people will be able to dye their hair any wacky color they want and not get a bunch of crap for it–after all, it’s just hair! But in the present, the sufferings of green-haired people has little to do with feminism. I honestly don’t see what the suffering of transgenderists who were born male has to do with feminism, either.

  44. Rhus

    She is oppressed during that time, but not as female.

    As you yourself said, that is the perspective of oppression, which I’m not sure is totally relevant in this very conversation; anyway, from the same perspective, a gay person is not oppressed unless she/he lives as such. (I think somebody made a similar remark in the previous thread.)

    From ourperspective, though, patriarchy oppresses us both when we comply and when we don’t.

    Lovely essay by nails, excellent texts by our auntie hostess, and great arguments from Cyberwulf, pheenobarbidoll and others. (Thus I’ve stated my position, of course. I’ve read you all with care, though, however strong my disagreement or my surprise, honestly.) Thanks.

    To add a little something to the above, apart from my thanks, and reconsidering what I first felt as trite: from the oppressor’s point of view, we are all just non-men. I don’t have the tools or the capacity right now to analyze the old tota mulier in utero and its variations formulated by the oppressors, or the optimism to look for a less negative definition (negative in a logical sense). But apart from the arguments I’ve read and that I share or believe in, the visceral knowledge of that non-manness should be enough for me to feel kinship with us all deviants.

  45. J

    So I kept noticing people in the last thread accusing several women of being racist against American Indian groups due to their views on gender.

    I would like to note that this view is INCREDIBLY FUCKING APPROPRIATIVE of actual American Indian cultures, and that those cultures are also very revealing when it comes to gender issues: http://culturallyboundgender.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/toward-an-end-to-appropriation-of-indigenous-two-spirit-people-in-trans-politics-the-relationship-between-third-gender-roles-and-patriarchy/

  46. Oliver

    As a transsexual man, I disagree that gender is a social construct, and that if we lived in a “post-gender” society that transsexuals wouldn’t exist. I believe that many of the ideas of how men and women are different, or how they should act/what they should like/what they DO like are very constructed and arbitrary. If i grew up in a society that had no concept of gender, I would still need to change my body. My brain is wired in a way that it expects my body to look like a typical male body, and when I wake up in the morning and see a stranger looking back at me in the mirror, with breasts and wide hips, have to speak to other people in a high-pitched, distinctly female voice, it’s an exercise in dissociation just being able to walk out of my front door. I would still need to transition even if i loved on a deserted island. I don’t know why, and I’ll probably never know why, but it helps knowing that most of my trans siblings feel the same.

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