Tag Archives: socialization

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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What’s Worse Than Seeing a Little Girl Dressed Like This? (Originally Published April 2011)

Telling her that she looks like a whore.
Teaching her that dressing that way is an invitation for grown men to invade her body.
Insisting that she would not wear these things if she had “self-esteem,” that perpetually elusive quality which is supposed to elevate rare women above all other women, magically make them feel like they are hot in clothes that cover them neck to ankle, and finally make them worthy of respect.
Teaching her that there are moral and immoral ways to dress – that there is clothing her friends may be wearing that she cannot because it is sinful.
Devaluing her and her body because she wears this.
Imagining that you know something about her or her parents because she is wearing it.
Predicting future eating disorders, underachieving, unwanted pregnancies, and rapes based on her outfit.
Reducing whichever older person she is imitating by wearing these outfits (Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, whoever) to her sex appeal and then shaming her for it.
Giving her the impression that her body is not her own because she has a social responsibility to project an image of chastity and youth or else she is disgusting and offensive.
Teaching her that no matter how smart, fun, or interesting she is, the only thing anyone will care about is what she’s wearing.

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Her Lipstick is Not Your Permission (Originally published August 2011)

I’ve been meaning for a long time to write a followup to my post about little girls being sexualized, I just didn’t really know where to begin. Fortunately, the internet delivers.

Today’s post comes courtesy of Dr. Keith Ablow, a Fox News doctor (seriously do they have their own medical school? It seems that way) and five star asshole of the pink-nailpolish-turns-boys-gay infamy who argues that the girl whose photograph I actually used for my last post has appeared in several other photographs in Vogue and it has turned men into pedophiles. Yes, this is his real argument.

Not only do I believe Vogue is stimulating pedophiles to act on their desires, but I believe Vogue and Abercrombie and Juicy are creating pedophiles by coaxing dark, illegal desires out of men who would never have otherwise consciously felt them, let alone acted upon them.

And we’re back to this again. If you’ll forgive my boasting for a moment, my last post on the subject actually ended up receiving quite a bit of attention and a number of comments and feedback. Of course I got a lot of nonsensical tripe from the opposition who either didn’t read it or didn’t get it, but I also got some interesting insight from concerned women, many of them mothers, who wished me to acknowledge that girls being posed in such ways are not only being exposed to a sort of attention from men that they’re not yet mature enough to understand or comprehend, but also being primed for her lifetime role in the sex class and learning that being dressed up and displayed is normal and good behavior for women. I’ll address both those concerns and Ablow.
So, how exactly, you may ask, does Vogue turn men into pedophiles? Here’s Ablow’s take on it:

She is wearing diamond earrings, lipstick, eye makeup and a red dress. In another, she looks about 20, with her mouth open and her finger gliding along her scarlet lips. The clear message is that it is A-OK to feel sexually stimulated by her (since that is the obvious intention of the photos), that little girls are inherently sexually desirable and that they desire men, in turn. Why else, the unconscious part of a man asks himself, would she dress that way?

Yes, that’s right. She’s wearing lipstick and heels. She’s wearing things that adult women wear and adult women are sexy. What else are those poor, poor men supposed to do? Here’s a thought: nothing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There was never a man in history who dressed his son up like him and was accused of pimping him out. If this girl’s mother dressed this way, she’d be considered classy, fashionable, and beautiful. So what’s the difference? They’re clothes, not sex, so why is it okay for an adult woman to wear these things in public, but not a child? Because clothes like this are considered to be no less than full consent to sexual advances. That’s what the problem is. It’s not the clothes, it’s not that she looks good, it’s not even that she looks sexy, it’s that people consider skirts, lipstick, and earrings consent to sex. Oh, and when I say people, I mean men, because women never ever get dressed this way because they’re ready to be fucked by all who please. If her mother wore those clothes and men catcalled, sexually harassed, or raped her, her defense and credibility would be significantly diminished. Her complaints would be largely ignored, her body’s fate of being invaded considered as inevitable as a car with its doors unlocked in downtown Detroit.
I could simply tell Dr. Ablow and all the men he speaks of, from skeevy perverts jerking off at their desks to otherwise normal guys who are now ashamed of themselves that those clothes do not constitute permission. If they could internalize that – really internalize that – then perhaps the terror of the sexy child would be diminished. Yes, she looks good, yes, you may have some feelings about somebody you would rather you didn’t have feelings for, but guess what? That barrier is still there. She is still a child and she is still absolutely not for you. She has put on adult clothing and that does not make her any more for you. Therefore, you are not actually faced with a larger dilemma than you were before. Nobody has told you it is okay. These are pigments and cloths, nothing more and nothing less. Would they believe me do you think? Or would they still perceive her as having asked for it?
Vogue is a magazine made for women who like fashion. These women likely spent their youths dressing up in their mothers’ clothes and trying on their mothers’ or maybe fathers’ lipsticks and jewelry. For these women, looking at pictures of a pretty little girl dressed up in too-dark lipstick and too-big heels inspires feelings of nostalgia. It makes them want to buy those clothes. That is why those pictures are there. Not everything and certainly not everyone is put there for men.
Have her parents failed to shelter her from society’s judgments of her? Judgments that she’s too young to deal with? Yes! Is she being prepared for a life of having her appearance determined by men’s dicks? Yes! Yes, absolutely she has. I never said these things weren’t problems – I said that there were much, much bigger problems when we hysterically avoid these things. So, at the risk of being redundant: What’s worse than failing to protect her from society’s judgments? Worse even than priming her for a life as a member of the sex class? Teaching her that she absolutely must not dress up until she’s old enough to consent to sex because every time she does, she’s giving adult strangers permission to harass and invade her – that she’s responsible for men’s entitled attitudes toward her body – that things as innocuous as pigments and cloths can make her or her parents responsible for a crime as gruesome and horrid as pedophilia of all fucking things and that the men who invade her body can hardly help but feel that way. What’s worse is setting herself up for a life of self-blame and triple-guessing absolutely everything she wears for fear that when she walks out that door she’ll be mocked, judged, and exposed if she fails to cover enough skin and it was her responsibility to prevent that.
I refuse to accept that. I refuse to say that a little girl shouldn’t be able to play dress-up because somebody might commit a crime. I refuse to say that a little girl’s parents shouldn’t set her up in a photoshoot meant to make her look like she just fell out of her mom’s closet because some nice guy might be transformed into filth. Wear what you want, little girls. Fight the power.

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