Monthly Archives: August 2012

In a radical feminist world, there is no transphobia – Guest Post on ZinniaJones.com

Radical feminism is a platform for gender equality which includes, among other things, the belief that most gender is performed. As a radical feminist, I believe that gender roles are artificially created, that most dimorphism is affected rather than mandated by nature, and that the divide has been pushed beyond all reason to the express benefit of men. This is what we call the patriarchy.

One unfortunate aspect of this socialization is that society, through various messages including but not limited to role-modeling from peers and media, teaches young men that they are entitled to the hearts and minds of women, including but again not limited to domestic and sexual servitude. Women, no more fond of subjugation and servitude than men, become unfortunately prone to self-loathing and more fortunately prone to rebellion.

In the process of shaking ourselves loose the shackles of gendered expectations, different schools of feminism have emerged. Varying degrees of oppression are recognized, and socialized roles and appearances are sorted differently into categories of oppressive and benign. Radical feminism, as the name suggests, subscribes to the most severe criteria. Radical feminism is also unfortunately best known by queer communities as transphobic.

The rift between radical feminism and trans activism begins with the application of known oppressive phenomena to the analysis of trans presentation and activism. On the surface, it’s easy to see what their problem is. To the casual observer, trans women assert and express their womanhood physically and visually. They often wear feminine clothes, shave feminine areas, and insist on feminine names and pronouns. Trans men resist feminine obligations, much the way radical feminists do, but then also resist the designation of “woman.” In the eyes of transphobic radical feminists, the former too closely resembles role enforcement while the latter too closely resembles self-loathing.

If trans people and trans activists were at all interested in sending women at large back to the kitchen, entrenching them further into the sex class, or in the case of trans men, eliminating women altogether or otherwise gender-leveling up, the transphobic radical feminists might have a point. Inconveniently for them, this couldn’t be further from the case.

The patriarchy has the same persistent negative impact on trans women as it does cis women. Society tells them that they are more acceptable when they present in a feminine manner and worth less as a person when they fail to please the eye. The rigid physical standards applied to women cause trans women inordinate amounts of stress. The sex classing of women and requisite caste system of the class (more commonly known as varying degrees of fuckability, or even more commonly as a scale from 1 to 10) has inhumanely relegated trans women with a certain remaining organ to the undesirables. They are expected to be content with either fetishization or pity fucking, along with cis women of the overweight and differently abled varieties. This particular problem has recently been the birth of a massive online “cotton ceiling” debate. We’ll get back to that.

Let us first work on the premise that trans women are women and trans men are men. Of course without the validity of their genders decided upon, it’s easy enough for transphobes to make their arguments unchallenged. The most common radical feminist position on trans identities is that a post-patriarchal world would not require men to call themselves women to be feminine. They could just be feminine men; reverse that for trans men.

But this doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Society already does not require masculine women to call themselves men or feminine men to call themselves women. Furthermore, a post-patriarchal world – more specifically a post-gender role world – would necessarily have eliminated almost every trait that divides men from women. Things we think of as masculine or feminine would no longer be associated with men or women and would no longer even be recognizable as masculine or feminine. Masculinity and femininity would lose all meaning.

This is not a utopian fantasy. Many things have already lost masculine and feminine categorization. In my mother’s time, trumpet playing was masculine. In my grandmother’s time, making jokes was masculine. Today, neither of these activities are associated with gender. It is not possible to draw a line in this gender-blending at the physical. Perhaps the imaginations of older-generation feminists who grew up in far more oppressive environments than today’s feminists were unable to think as far ahead as, say, the thick-necked, slender-hipped, flat-chested physiques of the very feminine 2012 Olympic women’s gymnastics team, or the soft skin and round, well-developed breasts of a trans woman on HRT. Nonetheless, here we have it. The lines are being erased with the slow liberation of women and medical advancement.

If the contention of radical feminism is that neither behavior, nor presentation, nor physical appearance should make or break the difference between men and women, why draw the line at the word “man” or “woman?” The very words will become nonsensical and impossible to define. Sure, there will still be some natural hormonal division, but when people can safely, permanently, and completely alter these differences at will, why deny it? When women and men are socialized equally, what will anyone have lost? What will anyone have gained but the right to define themselves, the right for which radical feminists so arduously fight?

Back to the cotton ceiling debate, or really, any debate online between radical feminists and trans activists: Is a childhood of boy-designated socialization sometimes evident in arguments from trans women? Absolutely. To start with, they don’t question themselves, apologize for themselves, or wait for their turn to speak quite as often as cis women are taught to do from birth. Likewise, a childhood of girl-designated socialization is sometimes evident when trans men make arguments. It will be nice when girl-designated socialization and boy-designated socialization include a childhood where respect and assertiveness are taught equally, but though there has been progress, we’re not there yet.

However, there is no reason to make the leap from a sense of the way somebody was socialized as a child to their “true” gender. Like the wage gap, sex classing, and glass ceiling, all of which very much apply to trans people’s identities rather than their designated birth sex, these are simply the costs and benefits of the patriarchy. Like skirts, heels, trucks, and sports, they are no more reflective of the true identity of a trans person than they are a cis person.

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GirlWritesWhat

Often when I make contributions to Zinnia’s channel, I’m inundated with pleas to check out whatever GirlWritesWhat says on the subject of whatever.  Frankly, I’ve seen maybe one of GirlWritesWhat’s videos and I was disgusted enough never to go there again.  As far as I could tell, her arguments amounted to “feminists suck because they never really consider how hard it is to be a man and have to do man things.”  I felt it wasn’t worth really going any farther into the dungeon.  It’s exhausting already to explain modern social inequality to the middle of the road or gender politic unaffiliated crowd without having first to explain that feminists want to get to do “man things” and that’s the whole fucking point.  But I digress.

I’m not the kind of feminist that spends a lot of time looking into the Mens Rights “side” of things.  I don’t really think their opinions matter.  I am also not the kind of lesbian that likes to hear the American Family Association’s “side” of things.  They aren’t legitimate sides.  They’re hate groups.  One of the things about politics and social struggles that vexes me the most frequently is this idea that there must be a legitimate opposing side to every argument, from which naturally follows the idea that any resulting conclusion is not a conclusion but instead just, like, your opinion, man.  We can chant and chant about how the AFA and whatever other psycho homophobe Republican is currently running on the platform of no birth control and drug testing the unemployed is on the “wrong side of history” in hopes that future liberals will maintain their admirable track record and move things forward but why can’t they be on the wrong side of the present?

However cringe-inducing the idea may be, I don’t have to read GirlWritesWhat or anyone else who speaks of Mens “Rights” and consider it intellectually any more than I have to consider the idea that the world was created in 7 days 5,000 years ago before I agree that evolution happened.  I no longer have to consider the idea that women may not be intellectually equipped to vote because the question is temporally irrelevant.  The radical women’s movements 90 years ago, on the other hand, were forced to answer such nonsense.  How much time are we wasting by lending credence to such ignorance?  Today, I may be considered arrogant for refusing to acknowledge another side.  My opinions may be considered radical.  I’m simply exhausted of losing valuable minutes of my short life to intellectually hollow discourse.  In essence: No, GirlWritesWhat, there is no feminist conspiracy.  Now let the adults speak.

Manboobz, on the other hand, has an incredible tolerance for it.  I follow him on Twitter and every now and then, if I’m feeling chipper and could laugh at anything, I’ll click a link.  Here’s today’s find:


That’s right, folks.  Abusive relationships result in hot sex and therefore we should stop telling men not to hit women.  Telling men not to hit women makes men maim and kill women.

Stop linking me to her shit.  

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Halfway to victory: The diminishing returns of activism (guess post on Zinnia Jones)

The other day as she was reading something online, Zinnia asked me my opinion on the question of why people seem to be more supportive of LGBT activism than feminism. At first I gave the simplest answer I could think of: A cis, straight person can support the rights of LGBT people and then never, or very rarely, be personally affected by that support. They may never knowingly encounter a trans person or be invited to a same-sex wedding ceremony. If they work for a smaller company, they may never encounter an LGBT person at work. They may have none in their family.

It’s not so simple to avoid women. To support equal treatment of women is to admit that you’re a part of a system that disadvantages your mothers, sisters, daughters, and possibly significant others. If you’re a woman, it’s to admit that your fathers, brothers, sons, and possibly significant others are benefiting from a system that gives to them at your expense, and that most of them are either willfully ignoring this fact or actively maintaining the status quo. Feminism means acknowledging harsh realities about people you love. LGBT activism may or may not do the same.

Naturally, Zinnia thought this would be an excellent topic for me to discuss on my monthly contribution to her channel as her videos about LGBT activism, however abrasive, are significantly more liked than anything either she or I can say about feminism, so I spent a lot more time thinking about it. I realized my original thoughts were correct, but incomplete. While the current incarnations of feminism are regarded as either angry fringe movements, or overplayed songs of the past, it certainly had its day in the sun.

The Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1919 guaranteeing women the right to vote, was the beginning of a century of notable advancement for women. In 1969, president Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11375 banning discrimination based on sex in federal workforce hiring decisions. 1972 brought us Title IX which entitled women to equal educational opportunities and finally ended the tyranny of enforced sex discrimination in education, and 1973 brought us the infamous Roe v. Wade, which entitled women to medical and reproductive privacy. These things did not happen with the support of only a few. These things happened with the support of a majority. Yes, at one point, the majority of the United States was identifying and voting feminist.

Currently, LGBT activism is in its heyday. Friends, we just eliminated Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Countries all over the world are legalizing gay marriage. States all over the union are… they’re… trying. President Obama is the first president of the United States to endorse gay marriage. For the first time in history, polls are showing overwhelming support for LGBT rights. The standard of care for trans people is improving with many countries in the world providing full and free access to medical transition, and even in the United States it is getting easier. Progress is being made, but we’re nowhere near done.

Employment nondiscrimination for all gender and sexual minorities needs to be enforced on the federal level. DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act which makes it so that same-sex marriages, even in states where they are legal, are considered invalid outside of the state and are ineligible for federal benefits – is probably next on the chopping block, but it’s still there. Access to medical transition needs to be as guaranteed as access to any other valid and necessary treatment guaranteed by American health insurance companies. Laws governing the ability to change one’s legal gender status are being liberalized in many states but have fallen backwards in others. Our battle for legal equality is in full force and we’re on the winning team. Of course it’s easy to support it.

Since the civil rights movements in the 1960s, it would seem that, at least for the United States, legal equality is nearly a solved problem. Precedence has been set in the Supreme Court time and again. All we need are the right lawyers, and time. For Americans, this is a point of pride, and the majority, however slim, is happy to join us.

But what happens to equal rights movements when their battles are won? When the privileged majority declares the problem sorted and moves on to another cause du jour? When, instead of cookies and claps on the back, cis straight white men still have to hear about how people of color are overwhelmingly impoverished and imprisoned, women still can’t make a buck in spite of eager and overwhelming academic achievement, are getting raped left and right, and are slowly losing their reproductive rights, or that gender and sexual minorities are still forced into conversion therapy or homelessness?

It’s an inevitable aspect of the human condition that we cheer for the winning teams, donate to the popular charities, save the cuter animals. Legal equality is a popular fight and a solved problem, but social equality is what Americans do worst. In time, like feminism, black power, and any number of fights for real equality, LGBT activism will peter out. The work will be left to those of us affected the most, and ignored by those affected the least. We’ll scowl over statistics that show our disadvantages while the majority ignores us and wonder when it ever got to be so uncool to be LGBT.

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