Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pink and Blue Boxes, parts 1-3


Imagine a world into which a boy is born. We know he's a boy because we can see his perfectly healthy little baby penis and testicles. There is nothing shameful about noticing healthy genitals (or the sex they indicate correctly over 99% of the time.) His healthy little baby penis and testicles are not taken to symbolize anything about his innate personality nor about his future place in the world. The boy is not carefully sorted into a blue box with army toys and footballs. No such box exists. The boy is allowed to grow into his body and personality as naturally as possible. It turns out the boy likes art and reading and cooking. Sometimes he likes to wear jeans, sometimes skirts. He prefers to wear his hair at shoulder length. Nobody assumes anything about the boy's sexuality based on these neutral human interests and preferences.

The boy is taught to sort out his problems with respectful dialogue and rational compromise.

Anyone who tries to bully the boy is disciplined for unacceptable behavior.

Anyone who cannot accept the boy is a boy and not a girl is referred for psychiatric treatment.

If we can't imagine this world, there is nothing left to fight for.

Now, picture this instead: a boy is born. We know he's a boy because we can see his perfectly healthy little baby penis and testicles. His healthy little baby penis and testicles are taken as evidence of an innately dominant personality and thus justify his lifelong assignment to the dominant sex class. The boy is carefully sorted into the blue box with army toys and footballs.

This is all part of what feminists call "gender."

Some boys, of course, will go along with the blue box assignment. Some will rebel. Some will want out of the blue box entirely. Some who want out of the blue box will assume this means they should have been sorted into the pink box.

Meanwhile, some female humans - we know they are female because their healthy female genitalia were easily discernible at birth, and we can state they are female because there is absolutely nothing shameful about being female, TYVM - have been fighting their assignment to the pink box for centuries. We call these female humans "feminists." They've written reams of analyses positing this relationship between the pink and blue boxes:

They do not want into the blue box. Nor do they want to flip the boxes. They want to destroy the boxes.

Unfortunately, these feminists are operating in a world where the privileged few benefit from keeping the masses in reactionary ignorance. Thus critical thought is rare, and misinterpretation of any theory requiring even a jot of intellectual nuance runs rampant.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Is Radical Feminism Totalist?

(Totalist in the sense of ideological totalism.)

No, of course it isn't. Radical feminism is a framework of ideas, and an amazingly incisive and liberatory one at that.

Some radical feminists certainly do practice ideological totalism, however.

When I can spend half my waking hours writing and posting about the harms of gender, defending women's language and spaces - imperiling my own employment in the process - and still be attacked as a lesbophobic dick-licking enemy of women because I grant a handful of pro-feminist transwomen (all of whom actively fight the dominant narrative of transgender identity politics at personal cost to themselves) the pronoun "she" - that's ideological totalism.

I'm not saying this because oh-my-poor-feelings - although I am a human being and I don't deserve to be constantly trashed by my so-called "sisters" - but because women desperately need radical feminism and totalist behavior alienates them from it.
  • When you shame strangers on the internet for not knowing the feminist academic use of the term "gender," it might make you feel superior, but you're not actually educating anyone.
  • When you shame strangers on the internet for having empathy for transwomen, they aren't going to stick around to hear your analysis of the gendered expectations of empathy
  • When you repeatedly attack women who dare to only agree with 95% of your opinions, you can bet women who are curious about those opinions but already nervous about the current political climate are going to head for the hills.
  • When you repeatedly state that gender is a social construct but go on to behave as if you believe all individual males are innately evil, you both undermine your own argument and alienate the great majority of women who have no choice but to live in a world of men - many of whom they love in one way or another.
  • Furthermore, when you behave as if being born into a dominant class erases one's possibility for personal moral development - and you are white - you really do appear to be ignoring white supremacy in a manner usually reserved for ignorant racists.

Radical feminism is not an i-dentity through which one can establish one's superiority to other women. Radical feminism is an invaluable framework of ideas that is vital for women to access, but which is misrepresented and monstered to such a degree that it takes a lot of patient, honest, painful work to connect women with those ideas. Please consider the effect of your behavior on the women who need the analyses you claim to hold.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Empathy: Addendum

I'm in the tiny, grimy bathroom of a tiny, grimy rental apartment in a tiny, frat-infested college town in the middle of nowhere. I'm in my third job post graduate degree, working 80 hours a week for an obtusely sexist, abusive boss, and I still don't make enough to get ahead of the massive debt. Every bill is a panic attack in an envelope sitting like a bomb in my mailbox.

I'm in a "relationship," of sorts, with a(nother) tortured writer. He considers himself a "dominant" in bed, which it seems the majority of men do these days, bless their shitty little boyhearts. I let him abuse me. In those moments, I feel erased, and that erasure is the only relief I feel all week. He is my temporary suicide. I won't do the real thing, not as long as I have a dog who looks at me with all the love I never got as a child bubbling out of his eyes.

I can't afford the dog, who came into my life when I was married, before divorce bankrupted me. But I cannot give him up. I cry into his fur. I cry all the time. I have no idea how to get out of the hole I'm in. Hard work doesn't do it. Nothing helps. I have no hope.

I'm in the tiny, grimy bathroom of a tiny, grimy rental apartment in an empty landscape and a life of brick walls. I'm tired. My head hurts.

The stick I peed on two minutes ago reads positive.

I shut down half my brain. I shut down the panic. I go to a movie with a friend. I don't tell her I'm pregnant. Later, I text the writer. He wants to talk. I say, not now. I'm not going to cry. I can control that much.

I might love to have a baby, but like I said, I can't even afford my dog. Best not to think of what might be. Best not to think what is happening INSIDE ME.

I log on. I spend hours searching, but there is no abortion clinic anywhere near me. (The clinic up the street, the one I walk by every day on my way to work, is run by pro-lifers). I call the Planned Parenthood abortion line. The voice on the other end is calm and kind. This makes it harder to not-cry.

We figure out what I have to do in order to comply with all the new Republican laws: take a half day off work to drive four hours (round trip) to the nearest clinic that can show the required video and provide the required form to begin my waiting period. Take another full day off to drive three hours (one way) to the nearest clinic to perform the actual procedure.

I can't afford both the gas to make those trips and groceries, but that's alright, as I don't have much of an appetite anyway.

My boss wants to know why I'm taking the time off. I tell him "doctor's appointments." He pushes, I snap. He assigns me even more work in retribution.

All day alone in waiting rooms. Interviews, forms. Perfunctory ultrasound performed by uninterested clinician. "Yep, there it is," she says, with an instrument not much smaller than my arm crammed up my vagina. The abortion itself is breathtakingly painful but blessedly brief. A nurse lets me squeeze her hand while it feels like my innards are being sucked out through my cervix. I walk on shaky legs to the recovery room. I joke with the other women. Most of them already have kids. We all wear unclenched faces of relief. We call out our thanks to the grim-faced doctor as he leaves. He spends all day every Friday doing this. He is the only doctor performing abortions in this third of the state.

I've rented a hotel room nearby, as a friend cautioned me against driving home directly after. The writer is paying for it. He's waiting for me. He brought me a heating pad. He wants a blow job. I give him one. I am a good girlfriend. (Except I'm not his girlfriend.)

On the drive home alone I cry. I cry a lot. At home, I continue to cry. Great heaving helpless sobs that morph into dry heaves. I'm not sorry I had an abortion. I'm immensely relieved it's done. I'm crying because my life is a closed box.

A month later, I email the writer to announce my period has arrived. I am overjoyed. The relief comes in huge waves. His response: "I don't really need to hear about that."

"I don't really need to hear about that."

I begin to comprehend how he sees me. Or how he doesn't see me. I'm not a person. I don't continue to exist when I'm not in the same room as his dick. I'm a doll, I'm a cheerleader, I'm an editorial assistant. The parts of me that are useful to him are, while useful, real, but the rest of me is but the echo of a rhetorical tree fallen in a lonely forest.

I think back to my marriage. I was a nanny, a secretary, a maid. A useful accessory with no claim to an inner life.

I begin to love myself out of pure contrariness. I begin to inhabit my body again. I begin to stop loving men.

My reality is a female reality. I will not have it erased.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

On empathy

Because I'm a gender critical feminist on the internet, I'm often told I need to "just have some damn empathy" for trans people. As is my wont, I go to the dictionary:

Of course, this would seem like an impossible demand if I listened to the countless trans activists announcing that non-trans people can never know what it is like to be trans, that we shouldn't even ask for a definition of it (even as we are simultaneously expected to voluntarily define ourselves as not-it), that we should simply listen and accept.

Maybe instead of empathy, they really mean sympathy?

I do feel sincere sorrow for anyone who experiences sex dysmorphia, as I would for anyone with a painful medical condition. However, I don't feel pity toward transsexual people. I don't think pity is a very useful emotion. I think many of the people scolding me to be more "empathetic" *do* feel a kind of horrified, disgusted, abject pity about the transsexual experience, which stops them from thinking very much about it at all. And I think this refusal to *look at what's really happening* is what allows people who experience no sex dysmorphia at all to co-opt the transsexual experience for political cover, while spouting obviously anti-woman rhetoric.

But what about this pity? What is so special about the pity some people feel for male transsexuals that they have no problem telling women to give up our language, our spaces, our analysis, just give transwomen anything they want, no questions asked?

(Why do I concentrate on transwomen rather than transmen? Simple: because transmen, who are female, do not have the institutional power to wreck men's boundaries or take away their language.)


An old college friend recently became very ill and nearly died; circulation to her limbs was compromised to such an extent she lost both hands, one foot, and part of another foot. She has five children. Her friends and family were very lucky in fundraising for advanced prosthetics; still, she will never feel any of her kids' hands in her own again. She must struggle through every mundane task, must endure the stares and pity when she goes out in public. The prosthetics chafe all day and come off every night. When I think of her lying in bed, with so many body parts gone, unable to even fluff her own pillow, adjust the blanket or get up to use the bathroom on her own, I am stricken with sorrow.

Some statistics from the Amputee Coalition

Two million amputees in the United States alone. Yet I am not told I must voluntarily identify as a "non-amputee," stop defining humans as bipeds, object to any language implying the use of healthy hands or feet, or in any other way center amputees in my day to day life, much less my politics. I am not told I must play-pretend that prosthetic limbs are just like natural limbs or else my friend might kill herself. Why is the suffering of amputees so qualitatively different from the suffering of transsexuals? Why can we expect amputees to adjust to their new realities and deal with the hardships they face, but human language, feminism and sex-based boundaries must all bend around the feelings of transsexual people?


The pity some people feel for transsexuals renders them reactionary and thoughtless because it is bound up in their own gender expectations. A man "identifying as" a woman is a member of the dominant (superior, default human) class who identifies with the subjugated (inferior, subhuman other) class - someone to be pitied for sure, if you buy into the gender hierarchy. But - no matter their exhaustive denials - these people still know that male people are male, and female people are female. And they do not merely expect female people to empathize and/or sympathize with male people. They expect us to anticipate, prioritize, and indulge the feelings of male people. To empty our female Selves and fill our hearts and minds and bodies back up with the needs and desires of a male Other. 

This is, of course, merely more of the same vis-à-vis the oppression of women. 


I was raised in a sexist family. This means I was told from Day 1, by the people who were supposed to love me the most, that who I was inside was unacceptable for anyone inhabiting a female body. My accomplishments were derided; my failures were exaggerated, punished, often fabricated out of thin air. I lived in fear of violence in my own home, and when I fought back I was punished. I was a math prodigy, but was held back/obstructed not only by my family, but by teachers and school administrators who felt such talents unsuitable for a girl. I've thrown myself on the sword of marriage and step-motherhood only to be told that none of that sacrifice or work matters because I was born to serve. I'm constantly told my body is wrong, misshapen, unlovable by every corner of the media. I've been sexually harassed at work, severely underpaid, ignored, exploited. I've been treated as sub-human by multiple doctors in multiple specialties.

And I'm one of the lucky ones - I'm white, I was born in a rich country, I've worked my way into the middle class. My suffering as a female person still matters. I feel tore up inside. All the time. Tore up, sore, weary. I suffer from agoraphobia and clinical depression, including suicidal ideation. I am only still alive because I found feminist analysis. I was then able to make sense of the world, to understand why people treated me like shit, to understand that I did not deserve that treatment, that I could therefore fight for a better life.

I'm also lucky because in my 30s my parents came to accept me for who I am. I helped my mom come to feminism. Now my mom is gone, passed away from ovarian cancer. I think of her and I'm immediately transported back to a childhood in which I felt trapped, imperiled, hated, fragile, exhausted. Then I think of her own youth, incredibly intelligent but impregnated at age 15 and all life goals out the window. I think of our shared experiences of chronic diseases dismissed by doctors, and I wonder if the cancer would have been caught earlier if we hadn't all assumed the pain was from Crohn's Disease, itself undiagnosed and untreated until her mid-50s because the excruciating abdominal pain was said to be "all in her head." I wonder if I too will develop ovarian cancer, and if I should have the hysterectomy I fought against for over ten years while seeking treatment for uterine fibroids.

But I'm told female biology is a social construct, unimportant, in no need of naming because transwomen don't experience it. And I'm told this dismissive bullshit is feminism.

This triggers me. This makes me feel physically ill and emotionally embattled. Being told I must erase my own experiences and deny my own needs is just more of the same bullying I've experienced all my life. It's just more male supremacy being forced down my throat, trying to choke off my words, my air.

But of course actual women - adult human females - are not allowed to be triggered by sex-based oppression. We're just supposed to shut up, lie back and take it. Any resistance will be framed as either (innate) weakness or (unnatural) selfishness.

But I know the truth, I see it and speak it, no matter if my voice shakes. If transwomen were female, they would be expected to *give* empathy, rather than demand it all for themselves. And if transwomen weren't male, they wouldn't confuse empathy with capitulation.

Monday, August 11, 2014


This is a post for anyone wondering what the heck is going on with the #TERFweek thing on Twitter.

First of all, what is a TERF?

Ostensibly, this acronym stands for "trans exclusionary radical feminist."

In reality, it is applied to anyone who:

1) Recognizes the difference in potential reproductive role between women and men;
2) Recognizes that men weaponize this difference to oppress women (we call this "sexism"); and
3) Thinks women should be allowed to discuss #1 & #2.

If you don't believe me, simply try tweeting "penis is male" or "women are oppressed based on their female reproductive systems," tag it #TERFweek, and see what happens.

Second, what is the label TERF used to *accomplish*?

Sarah Ditum already wrote an excellent piece about how TERF works to silence and separate women.

"TERF" also works to support the ideological totalism of transgender identity politics by enabling believers in "gender identity" to dismiss non-believers as subhuman, and thus excuse violent rhetoric - again, meant to silence - against anyone who meets the above definition:

Do not use the term TERF. Be wary of anyone who does.

*Analysis here: The New Backlash

Monday, August 4, 2014

Another Objection to "Cis"

There have been some excellent blogs lately about the trouble with “cis.”

Those blogs have concentrated on how defining "cis" as not-trans is deeply problematic because the term "trans" itself is deployed in troubling ways.

In the Twitter/Tumblr gender wars, vocabulary is tricky. Feminists have traditionally used the word “gender” to mean the system of sorting female humans into the “feminine” box and male humans into the “masculine” box, where the feminine is always dependent upon and so must attract, please, placate and serve the masculine.

Transgender identity politickers, on the other hand, use the term “gender identity” to mean brain sex – males who “feel like women inside” --but who are fine with their physical sex-- are women.

Feminists SHOULD have a problem with the idea that there is any way to “feel like a woman” (outside of being born into a female body and socialized from birth into the feminine gender role,) and that males would be the ones to define that feeling. (!!!)

[Not feeling like a man-as-defined-by-patriarchy – and viewing “woman” as not-man or failed-man is a different story, but I digress.]

I am writing this for the people not neck-deep in the gender quagmire, the people who simply use “gender” as a polite replacement word for “sex” as in reproductive class, to differentiate it from “sex” as in coitus, who are thus operating under the vital mis-impression that “transgender” is merely a polite replacement word for transsexual.

If “cis” is used in this way, to mean “not transsexual,” then yes, it is a factual description. I am not transsexual.

However, I am also not: tall, Chinese, allergic to cats, ambidextrous, an amputee. But I am not expected to voluntarily apply a label to myself to clarify any of this.

Furthermore, in practice "cis" is not used merely to describe but to prescribe: one is expected to not only accept the label not-trans but to recognize not-trans as a privileged state and to therefore center and elevate people who are trans in one's politics.

Meanwhile, less than one percent of people are transsexual, and there are many more transsexual males than transsexual females. So why in the world is this condition being pushed to center stage in feminism?

Short answer: to completely undermine feminism.

Let’s take a simple statement:

Cis women are privileged over trans women [and should therefore elevate and center trans women in feminism.]

Now let’s break it down.

Cis women are privileged over trans women = female women are privileged over male women.

Cross out the common denominator “women,” and you get to the heart of the matter: females are privileged over males [and should therefore elevate and center males in feminism.] MRA much?

Even using the most clear-cut, limited definition of “trans,” “cis” as not-trans, when applied to women, still centers and elevates males over females.

[On the flipside, “male men are privileged over female men” is an absurd no-go, since female transsexual people have neither the privilege nor the arrogance to insist non-transsexual males prioritize them. Funny that.]

Final note: maybe instead of assuming [feminists who don’t center trans women in their self-definition] lack sympathy for trans women, consider that [feminists who don’t center trans women in their self-definition] simply don’t feel the same loathsome pity for trans women that makes the rare condition of transsexuality such a big fucking deal that the entire English language and all of feminism is supposed to bend around it.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Category "Woman"

There's a lot of talk these days about the social category woman versus the biological category woman.

Historically, in feminist theory, this categorical separation is done in order to demonstrate that femininity (submissiveness to/dependency upon males) is not a natural outcome of femaleness, but is instead a stereotypical role forced upon female humans from conception, in order to facilitate male supremacy ("patriarchy.")

This stereotypical role is built upon a sexist interpretation of our physical reality - we are capable of gestating fetuses, giving birth and breastfeeding, and thus must fulfill this role and only this role of creating and nurturing others; furthermore, not only does the power to create human life supposedly mean we exist only to take care of others, but in the fundamental patriarchal reversal, this power is framed as weakness - to mean we cannot take care of ourselves. Therefore, we must attract and keep a man to protect and provide for us; therefore we must depend upon, and serve, men.

It is at the AND THUS in the above paragraph that feminists say NO. Because the female capability to bring new life into the world is both undeniable (every single human who ever lived came into existence via a woman's body) and un-shameful (creating new life is not all women can do, nor are all women bound to do it, nor does this capability to create others mean we cannot provide for ourselves.)

This separation between female reproductive capacity and feminine social role is done in order to show that how men wish to view women - as their mothers, wives, servants and whores - as human beings wholly defined by our usefulness to them - is not all that women are or can be. To put it more simply, the feminist separation between the biological category woman and the social category woman is done in order to show that the social category woman is bullshit.


Men on the right do not accept the separation of the social category woman and the biological category woman. To them, humans born to the potential baby-making class should become wives and mothers, and spend their lives serving their husbands and children. In return for this lifelong servitude, they will be provided (a kind of condescending, infantalizing) approbation and (supposedly) a modicum of safety. Women who do not find a man to take them in shall serve by default as servants and whores.

Men on the left have taken the separation of the social category woman and the biological category woman to mean they can simply ignore the biological reality of female impregnatability. Females are not born to the potential baby-making class but to the facilitation-of-recreational-male-orgasm class. Our uteruses are no longer fetal incubators belonging to men; but our entire bodies are cum receptacles to be used and discarded by them. We are no longer born to whisper "you're such a good provider" and push football sized infants into the world via our vaginas, but to scream "oh my god you're so big" and be buggered to the point of anal prolapse.

It should not be shocking that some men are willing to let go of the desire to use women to father children to whom they pass on their name and wealth when we are living in a hyper-individualistic a-historical time in which very few of us end up in old age with enough to live on, let alone to pass on to future generations.

It should not be shocking that in a culture determined to focus on the purchase of short-term pleasure that we would see men turn women into disposable sexual commodities rather than long-term domestic help.

It should not be shocking that many men would furthermore expect women to continue being their voluntary emotional caretakers as well as their voluntary sexual service providers and to feel short-changed in their manhood when this expectation is not met. (See: Men's Rights Activists.)

And it should not be shocking that feminists object to all of this, to any definition of women that is dependent upon our use-value to men.

And make no mistake, this is what the social category woman comes down to: use-value to men.


Various use-values women may serve for men:

  • Heir-makers
  • Caretakers
  • Therapists
  • Maids
  • Cooks
  • Secretaries
  • Decorations
  • Orgasm facilitators
  • Objects of derision and violence (building dominant masculine identity in opposition to feminine "weakness")
  • Proxies (enforcing feminine roles on other women)

These days, the separation of the biological category woman and the social category woman in mainstream leftist spaces is not done in order to show that the social category is bullshit. It is done to erase the inconvenient physical reality that recreational sex can have long-term consequences, and to enshrine the social category of women as decorative, sexually available foils and punching bags for men.

This is done ostensibly to protect a small group of males (trans women) from other males, as if pretending they are female will protect them, as if the position of decorative sex object is one of safety, as if dependence upon use-value to one's oppressor is not the very thing feminists fight.

Women are adult human females. We exist outside the male gaze. We are not defined by our usefulness to men. Biological reality exists outside the dictates of male desire, and our social reality should do the same.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I'm tired.

I'm tired of defending women's right to the word "woman" when masculinity is the real fucking problem.

I've written so much, spent so many hours struggling to make myself clear, and women are still losing the battle to absurdist, woman-hating queer politics.

I just don't have much left at this point. So I'm going to send off this one last missive before I take a nice long vacation from social media, and, hopefully, come back refreshed and able to write about GIRLS and WOMEN - human females - with less defensiveness clouding my thoughts.


Patriarchy tells us that human males (boys and men) are naturally/innately masculine (dominant) and human females (girls and women) are naturally/innately feminine (submissive - made for and receptive to domination.)

Not only does patriarchy tell us that women are naturally/innately submissive to men, but that this works in our best interests, as men will protect and provide for us in exchange for our submission.

Feminists say that women are not naturally/innately submissive, that the promise of protection is a deceitful racket anyhow, and that we do not need men to protect and provide for us, merely to stop assaulting and exploiting us.

But of course patriarchy answers that men are naturally/innately dominant, so they can't help assaulting and exploiting!

It is therefore absolutely necessary to the feminist project -- and to anyone who wishes to alleviate the social epidemic of male violence -- to question this idea that men are naturally/innately masculine/dominant, not just the necessary corollary that females are naturally/innately feminine/dominated.

This questioning works both ways.

Man and woman are biological categories based on reproductive potential, and have naught to do with innate human personality traits.

Being a man does not mean that you have to be masculine.
Being masculine does not make you a man.
Being a woman does not mean you have to be feminine.
Being feminine does not make you a woman.

Remember here that masculine means dominant, feminine means dominated.

Being beaten up by another man does not make a man a woman.

Being on the receiving end of male violence is a common experience of being a human female in a patriarchal society; it is not an inherent part or defining feature of human femaleness.

Self-objectification also does not make a man a woman. (Hello, autogynephiles.)

Girls are raised to view themselves through men's eyes, as sexual objects for men. This is a common experience of being a human female in a patriarchal society; it is not an inherent part or defining feature of human femaleness.

If men were to ever stop terrorizing and dehumanizing women, we would still be women: members of the impregnatable sex class of humans. And you have to really hate women to hold that simple acceptance of this biological reality of impregnability erases all other facets of our human-ness. I am impregnatable whether I like it or not; I'm also smart, capable, responsible, funny, artistic and kind. Outside of patriarchal socialization, I have no reason to be limited by nor ashamed of my female reproductive system, thank you very much.

Furthermore, you have to really worship/fear men to refuse to question their entitlement to social dominance, whether that dominance is achieved via subtle life-long socialization or brutal violence. When men attack women or other men whom they deem insufficiently masculine, they should be punished until they stop doing so. 

However, this will only ever happen if enough people accept that masculinity is not inherent to manhood and thus can be challenged. 

And that will not happen as long as un-masculine men can simply be considered not-men.




Friday, July 18, 2014

10 Signs You Might Be a TERF

"TERF" ostensibly means "trans exclusionary radical feminist." However, this term is regularly applied to people who are not radical feminists, and is often applied to trans people who defend basic feminism. So what, really, does "TERF" mean? And how can you know if you are one? I've compiled this handy list for you.

1) Do you know how babies are made?

2) Do you know how dictionaries work?

3) Do you know the dictionary definitions of these words: female/woman & male/man?

4) Do you think that having words for reproductive classes of humans is important because human reproduction is important to humanity?

5) Do you think that having words for reproductive classes of humans does NOT mean that A) humans in either class MUST fulfill their potential reproductive role and B) ALL they can do is fulfill their potential reproductive role?

6) Do you think that potential reproductive role, while an important part of our lived reality as embodied mammals, does NOT determine human personality, and thus should NOT determine social role or status?

7) Do you think that human females - girls & women - should be able to look how they want, love who they love, and pursue whatever talents they have that do not harm others?

a league of their own geena davis gif

8) Do you think that human males - boys & men - should be able to look how they want, love who they love, and pursue whatever talents they have that do not harm others?

9) Do you think that male violence against other, gender non-conforming males is A) unacceptable and B) the responsiblity of those violent men and C) not the responsibility of women?

10) Do you think it's OK for women to put women first?


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Purple People

“What does it mean when a man claims to ‘feel like a woman?’”

As detailed here, for many transwomen the answer seems to be "I want to be the male fantasy of a sexually powerful woman."

However, a different response I hear - from my transwomen friends - is “I hated my sexed body to the point it was intolerable, and transitioning enabled me to get on with my life.” These people experience sex dysmorphia and are transsexual.

Another response I hear from my friends is “I never felt like a man as defined by patriarchy, and didn’t feel I could survive as a man among men in the patriarchy. Transitioning enabled me to get on with my life.” These people seem to me to be “gender refugees.”

There can be a lot of overlap between these two answers; sex dysmorphia is a complicated, poorly understood condition, and by all accounts harrowing. But let’s note three things.

First, my friends sought to transition - both medically and socially - and did not simply declare themselves "trans" as a magical passkey. Second, they sought to transition in order to get on with their lives, not in order to spend all their time attacking women for not putting them first. Third, my transwomen friends are not mistakes of God or nature ("women born in men's bodies," a phrase as linguistically/categorically non-sensical as "mammals born in fish bodies.") They are lovely human beings who for one or both of the above reasons felt they could not continue living as men. I think they’d all agree that transitioning is an imperfect solution to an intense, complex problem; however, it enabled them to continue living in this world and I for one am glad to have them here.

So if I accept the basic biological reality that sex is immutable and furthermore agree with the radical feminist line that men “identifying” as women is both ludicrous and harmful to women, how do I reconcile that with the sympathy and support I feel for my transwomen friends?

Let’s get back to the question of boundaries in re. identities.

I often hate being a white person. (White people have major privilege, which I’ve already blogged about.) However, white people, as a class, have also been the assholes of Western history. Furthermore, white people these days will state in one breath that racism is over and in the next breath exhort these stupid violent lazy black people to get over it. I am not exaggerating when I say that I read these things and look down at my skin and want to peel it right off. It disgusts me to share this identifying characteristic with those moronic crackers.

I also strongly believe that black Americans have a much more vibrant and downright clever culture than white Americans do (though this is generalizing a whole lot, to say there is one black and one white culture – but I do think most readers will get what I am saying.)

And I’d even take it a further step, past appreciation, to say that although my white skin makes me stand out in a black crowd – and I hate standing out – in many ways, I feel more myself in a black social setting. Because I come from a working class background and (in my experience, anyway) black people are MUCH less likely to equate personal wealth with personal worth than white people are, and because I like to play with language, use humor as an intellectual weapon, dance, and generally not behave as if I have a 200 year old stick up my butt.

HOWEVER. I’m never going to try to pull a “Soul Man.” Because that would be incredibly, mind-blowingly appropriative and offensive and wrong. Also, if I *could* somehow become black, I’d quickly be reminded that being black is not all about fun and culture, it is also about being on the receiving end of a constant barrage of racism. And since I did not grow up with that racism, I would not know how to deal with it, and would likely end up in prison for some minor offense. “Black” isn't a cultural vacation I can go on – it is a political position that I, as a white person, will never fully understand (though ongoing attempts at increased understanding are, I think, still useful/necessary.)

But sometimes I have a more imaginative fantasy. It’s inspired by trans people, actually. I have a fantasy that white people could choose to be another color. For me, and it’s OK by me if you want to laugh at this because it IS absurd -- but sometimes playful imagination is my way forward. I’d like to be purple. It’s my favorite color. [Insert Purple People Eater joke here]

So say white people could make our skin purple, and in this way publicly disavow our allegiance with white privilege--without claiming that said privilege never existed/affected us--and without trying to claim the identity of black people (or any other race/ethnicity.)

We would stand out. We would be targets. We would have to fight to find ways to live peacefully in a world that doesn’t want to recognize the purple. And that fight would be our own, not the fight of anyone born "of color." We would never insist on purple being the center of focus for "people of color." 

I think I might choose that road. I won’t say for sure because I don’t want to downplay how hard that decision and process and life would be. But I think it would also, maybe, be kind of beautiful.

So here is where I say: when I call my friends “transwomen,” descriptor included, it is not an insult, it is a concession. The descriptor “trans” takes into account both their male biology and their sincere and sustained rejection of masculinity (and male privilege) and it is meant in good faith, to say I recognize them as something new.

However, the only reason I can make that concession is that they have also put forth the good faith to recognize that transwomen are NOT “women, period.” Their bodies and experiences are different from mine, and part of their transition is listening to women (no “cis” needed) and taking our side.

I will still keep saying that “very feminine” boys and “very masculine” girls should be brought up knowing there is absolutely nothing wrong with them, that the words “feminine” and “masculine” should dissolve anyhow, that their bodies are their own, that they belong in those bodies and can play with whatever toys they want and wear whatever clothes they want and should never be bullied for it and should always know pleasure in their own skin. You can’t stop me saying it, either.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Feminism and Trans Women: A Bullet Point Overview

*An updated version of this post is available at Gender Apostates.

*Further explication, screen shots, and links at The New Backlash.

Preface: a note on the word "gender"

People outside of academia commonly use the word "gender" to mean "sex class of male or female" (in contrast with the act of sexual intercourse.) Feminist theorists, however, use the word "gender" to refer to the social expectations thrust upon men and women, otherwise referred to as sex stereotypes or sex roles. Transgender identity politickers, further clouding the language, use "gender identity" to mean an innate inner feeling that overrides and in fact determines biological sex.

Always stay alert to the context in which you see the word “gender,” and ask for clarification when needed.

Reproductive Difference

1.       As the continuance of any species is important to that species, sexual reproduction is important to humanity.

2.       Human beings reproduce via the fertilization of females' eggs by males' sperm, and the work done by females to gestate fetuses and birth infants. (That work is arduous and dangerous and should always be freely chosen.) Every single human being on Earth was created in this way, as were their parents, and their parents’ parents, et cetera.

3.       Human communication via language depends upon words having shared meanings. Humans codify our shared meanings via dictionaries. Dictionaries are your friend.

4.       Dictionary definitions:
Woman: An adult human female.
Female: Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes.
Man: An adult human male.
Male: Of or denoting the sex that produces gametes, especially spermatozoa, with which a female may be fertilized or inseminated to produce offspring.

5.       The existence of infertile people does not render these definitions unusable any more than the existence of bilateral amputees means we can no longer refer to humans as bipeds. If you actually care about infertile people, good - support them rather than using them as a weapon against women's language.

6.       The existence of intersex people does not mean men can “identify as” women any more than the existence of mixed race people means white people can “identify as” black. If you actually care about intersex people, good – support them rather than using them as a weapon against women's language.

7.       The simple act of classifying human beings by sex does not assign to either sex any innate dispositions nor pre-determined behaviors and is therefore not essentialist nor determinist. (Again, dictionaries are your friend.) Knowing that women are female does not mean all we can do is have babies any more than knowing men are male means all they can do is produce sperm.

8.       Merely having words for classes of people is not only not-essentialist and not-determinist, but very obviously necessary for describing the material conditions, lived reality, oppression, and possible liberation of those people.

9.       Rendering female biology unspeakable for any reason is an act of misogyny.

Feminist Gender Analysis

1.       Female humans are expected and raised from birth to be submissive (“feminine”). Male humans are expected and raised from birth to be dominant (“masculine”). Feminists call this gender, and feminist gender analysis deconstructs the notion that there is anything “natural” about it. Gender in this context is seen instead as a social tool to naturalize women's dependence on men, and thereby ensure male access to female bodies.

2.       We are expected to signal our maleness or femaleness in various visual ways specific to our time and place, but gender is not about fabric color or hair length. Those are merely signals for others to know where we fall in the social hierarchy of male over female.

3.       Femaleness does not naturally equate to the human personality traits labeled feminine, nor does maleness naturally equate to the human personality traits labeled masculine. Human personality development should not be limited based on sex, nor, as in the case of male violence, excused because of it.

4.       In a post-gender world, all the stuff of human life would still be there, but access to it would no longer be limited by perceived reproductive potential. Boys and girls could all play with and wear whatever they like. Men and women could all explore their human personalities to the fullest. Men would not be pressured into violence nor excused for it. Men and women could share responsibility for the care of children. Feminism is by, for and about women, but would benefit anyone who longs for a more just world.

5.       Intersectionality does not threaten feminist gender analysis but expands upon it. Sex is one axis of oppression/privilege. Women are always oppressed based on sex but may have privilege based on race, class, or any other axis. Men are always privileged based on sex but may be oppressed based on race, class or any other axis.

6.   Gender non-conformity may be an axis of oppression which men wish to analyze. Women, on the other hand, are punished whether we do conform to gender expectations (as the feminine gender is about subjugation) or whether we don't. Thus men need to do their own work on this subject, although they are welcome to use feminist work as a guide!

7.      Women’s sex-based oppression matters, independent of any other oppression that can be shared by men.

8.       Feminist gender analysis is central to women's liberation and the act of deliberately suppressing, mischaracterizing or erasing it is a misogynist act.

Transsexual People

1.       Transsexual people experience a psychiatric condition, referred to as gender dysphoria, perhaps better labeled sex dysmorphia, which makes it very difficult to live in their sexed bodies. This is a painful and poorly understood condition occurring in less than one percent of the population.

2.       Sex is chromosome-deep and expressed in physical morphology beyond that of the genitals and breasts. It is not possible to change one's sex, any more than it is possible to change one's genetic ancestry. However, one can undergo hormone treatments and surgery in order to more closely resemble a member of the opposite sex, and this can help relieve sex dysmorphia.

3.      Social transition is just as important as physical transition, particularly for males who must work through their male privilege and learn what it is like to live in a sexist world while being perceived by others as women.

4.       The term “trans women” is a concession, made out of sympathy and respect, for males with sex dysmorphia who undergo physical and social transition.

5.       Transsexual people are capable of building healthy, happy lives for themselves, and do not need to be treated like they are made of glass or like their physical reality must be papered over with magical thinking.

6.       Women and trans women will have some important things in common (e.g. fear of male violence) and some important things not in common (e.g. socialization as a girl from birth, female reproductive biology). Accordingly, we will share some goals and spaces and not share others.

7.       Transsexual people deserve legal protection of their human rights to safety, education, employment, and housing.

8.       Gender non-conforming males experience violence at the hands of other males. That violence should be addressed at the source. Women are not responsible for putting male victims of male violence ahead of female victims of male violence. That expectation is grounded in the gender hierarchy. Many of us will, however, partner with anyone who wishes to help name and confront the social pandemic of male violence.

9.       As for women’s spaces, feminists have proposed compromises such as simple documentation of medical treatment for sex dysmorphia before accessing opposite-sex nude and semi-nude spaces. I refer you to Elizabeth Hungerford’s work at

10.   Transsexual people furthermore deserve caring and effective medical treatment.

11.   It is, however, absurd to expect any woman who wants to talk about feminism to have an opinion on the proper treatment for a rare, complex and poorly understood medical condition.

12.   It is furthermore absurd to expect feminists to center males who experience a rare, complex and poorly understood medical condition; pretend reproductive difference does not exist or matter; or call themselves "cis women" in order to differentiate the 52% of the human population that is female from the less than 1% of males who experience sex dysmorphia.

13.   Most trans women are just trying to live their lives without receiving nor giving harm, and are not demanding that women jump through these absurd hoops for them.

Transgender Identity Politics

1.       It is an act of aggression to take away oppressed people's language.

2.       This applies to women, and also to transsexual people.

3.       Transsexual people experience sex dysmorphia and therefore undergo physical and social transition. Transgender identity politickers, however, dismiss the necessity of any experience of sex dysmorphia OR transition to claim the label "transgender" or "trans."

4.       According to transgender identity politickers, any male who simply states he “feels like a woman” is 1) “trans” and 2) a woman and also 3) female and also 4) has always been female, 5) because he says so. Such is the power of their special snowflake feelings, or "gender identity."

5.       To be clear, someone claiming the label “transgender” or “trans” could be transsexual, or they could be a part-time cross-dresser. You can’t know and you are not allowed to ask.

6.       According to transgender identity politickers, if a male person says he “feels like a woman” then his penis is female. If a male person says he “feels like a woman” than all blatant displays of male privilege and aggression no longer count as such.

7.       Transsexual people who object to this colonization of their language and experience are labeled "truscum" and dismissed. Women who object to this colonization of their language and experience are labeled “TERFs” and dismissed. Both "truscum" and "TERFs" are deemed fair game for violent threats and organized silencing campaigns.

8.       Transgender identity politics are thus not about protecting transsexual people, but about pushing the idea of brain sex (there is a way women innately "feel," and feeling that way makes you a woman) - dressed up in social justice language.

9.       A group cannot have boundaries against their oppressors if they are not allowed to define the basis of their oppression. By erasing the material reality of female bodies, transgender identity politics enable men to destroy women's boundaries, under cover of political correctness. 

10.    Furthermore, "gender identity” cannot be defined without reliance on sex stereotypes. This is because, once de-coupled from sexual reproductive capacity, human personality is just human personality.

11.    Transgender identity politickers cling to sexed labels for their personality because they fetishize women’s oppression. Autogynephilia is a whole big thing that will not fit into this overview, but:

12.   When you look at behavior rather than doublespeak, it becomes clear that transgender identity politickers equate “feeling like a woman” with the MRA myth of the sexually powerful woman.

13.   Feminists know that relying on one’s attractiveness to the objectifying male gaze in order to access power - in a misogynistic rape culture, rather than a fairy tale - is not a means of attaining safety or happiness, but a dangerous, no-win game. Therefore we have every right to object when that game is enshrined, by transgender identity politickers, as the essence of womanhood.

How did we get here?

1.       The use of transsexual people as cat's paws by misogynists on the Left, in order to push the regressive idea of ladybrain, is both cruel and ingenious.

2.       Leftists will naturally feel empathy for anyone with a painful psychiatric condition, yet conversely feel an equally natural aversion to major surgery on healthy genitals, leading to an aversion to considering this condition too closely. Combined with their pride in a high "disgust tolerance" (central to Leftist identity) this will lead them to the knee-jerk projection that anyone questioning trans politics is operating out of a low disgust tolerance (labeled "transphobia"), and prompt the Leftist to publicly scold that questioner as a means to prove their (imperfect) righteousness.

3.       If you can push a Leftist past this point, they will still have to confront the idea of larger systems of power outside of individual "identity," especially systems of power based on sex (what feminist theorists call "gender.")

4.       This point of existential crisis -between individualistic identity politics and radical class analysis- renders the Leftist vulnerable to ideological totalism, at which transgender identity politickers excel: Nevermind that difficult thinking stuff, our magical "truth" is all there is. Brain sex transcends mere science, all questioners can be renounced and declared sub-human, thought-terminating cliches ("trans women are women") are all the effort required. Just relax and submit.

5.       Another benefit reaped by proponents of brain sex who use transsexual people as their human shields: when people *do* get enough of the absurdity of transgender identity politics, the backlash is pointed towards transsexual people. And while some transsexual people have gone along with the ladybrain narrative, others have not; some have even bravely fought against it. Regardless, the enemy is not transsexual people, it is male supremacists of any stripe (including but not limited to men who think they get to re-define what "woman" and "female" mean.)

Why does it matter?

1.       Transgender identity politics (“anyone who feels like a woman is a woman”) are finding unprecedentedly rapid acceptance in the form of gender identity laws, which override sex-based protections for women.

2.       The language women need to describe their biological and social reality is under attack.

3.       Female-only spaces are under attack.

4.       Lesbians are labeled bigots for not accepting penis as female.

5.       Gender non-conforming children are being referred for life-altering medical treatment, when most of them will simply grow up to be homosexual.

6.       The valid concerns transsexual people have about medical treatment, safety, and institutional discrimination are drowned out by fetishistic transvestites performing histrionic hair-tearing about pronouns.

7.       And anyone who objects to any of this is labeled a hateful bigot.

In Conclusion

1.       Do not submit to the ideological totalism of transgender identity politics. I plead with you to use your brain, which is an organ of cognition, not sexual reproduction.

2.       Progressive causes should not require the abandonment of critical thought, the emptying of language, or the knee-jerk monstering of dissenters.

3.       Misogynists on the left should stop using transsexual people as a weapon against women and feminism.

4.       Feminists who see this happening should remember that transgender identity politics are about male supremacy, not transsexual people. Male supremacy is the problem, not transsexual people.

5.       Personality is not innately tied to sex, no matter which way the arrow goes. The notion that reproductive potential determines personality is sexist. The notion that personality determines sex is simply ludicrous.

6.       Women are female people, and both words matter there. Female, and people. We are not combination mommy-maid-whores created at the plastic doll factory, neither objects for sale nor costumes to wear. We are not the mere absence or malfunction of maleness, as we have all our own parts and all our own experiences. We are human beings born with female reproductive systems, in a world that assigns lifelong subjugation to that fact. We do not have to choose for our sex to mean everything or nothing, any more than men do. Our bodies are our own; not alienable property nor marks of shame, but integral parts of our human experience.

7.       We'd all be much better served if, instead of this constant, absurd, power-blind deconstruction of "What is a woman?" we asked "What are we willing to tolerate from men?"

8.       It is vital that "man" comes to mean *only* adult human male, with thousands of ways to inhabit a healthy, happy male body, none dependent on the exploitation or bullying of others.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Selves and Others and Language and More Love and Thanks

We are all both Selves and Others.

I am entitled to revel in love of this Self that is Mine, to care for it and defend it and to tell its truths.

All of the Others I encounter (or don't encounter) in this world are also Selves, entitled to the same.

Furthermore, because human beings are innately intensely social, we need Others to know our Selves; we define ourselves in relation.

How do we relate? In many ways. Some of those ways are shared by other animal species: touch and body language and pheromones and sharing of resources...

Uniquely human: the use of complex language.

I was recently struck by this line from Indre Viskontas and Chris Mooney's review of Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee: "Diamond's hypothesis is that it was the development and perfection of spoken language that catapulted us forward, making possible teamwork, collaboration, planning, long-distance trade, and much more." 

This is true: words can be used as tools, to help us understand the world around us and to then communicate that understanding to Others, who can question and present new information and agree or disagree and even possibly compromise, iteratively over the course of lifetimes. 

But words can also be used as weapons, to establish dominance over rather than understanding with Others. 

As we see constantly on social media, when women aren't even allowed to define "woman," much less talk about their lives without constant misrepresentation and outright attacks meant to silence.

We are all both Selves and Others, but women are constantly viewed - by others and by themselves, via lifelong training, as Other only. This Othering, this refusal to see and respect an Other's Self, can also be seen with white people and people of color, rich people and poor people, healthy people and disabled people. But it is only the Otherness of the mother that is reproduced in just about every family in the world.

Adrienne Rich speaks comprehensively and convincingly of this phenomenon in her book, Of Woman Born, a thorough review of which I plan to write sometime this summer. For now I will ask, what better way to establish widespread, deeply held misogyny than to create this myth of motherhood - we are all born of women, after all, no matter how offensive Tumblr and Twitter find that fact, and so now we will expect that woman to live for us and only us, and when she inevitably fails, for she IS A SELF OF HER OWN, we will call her selfish and hate her for it, and when she succeeds we will also hate her for it, because you cannot respect the Self of someone who voluntarily surrenders it.

And so we are all set up in our formative years to hate women as part and parcel of needing them.

And so a brave feminist posts her essay, her essay which she spent hours composing, laboring over the words to express her meaning, laboring under her knowledge of exactly how Others will twist and/or dismiss those words so as to ignore that meaning. She has no delusions that what she is offering is a timeless, universal truth, but it is her truth, and a truth that will be useful to other women figuring out their own Selves in contexts both similar and disparate. Out of respect and love for her own Self and theirs, she hits publish.

And so it begins, the dismissals without reading, the misrepresentations, the attacks, the silencing. Because so many willfully, gleefully ignore her Self. Because it is a woman's Self, and should therefore only exist in glorified subjugation and abnegation.

Please pardon the unladylike language: FUCK. THAT. NOISE.

Perhaps our biggest mistake, women, is to give one single fuck about the morons who can't even start off from a point of recognizing our Selves. 

I love your Selves, women. In all their imperfect glory. Whether we agree on everything or not. And when I see you fiercely analyzing the world around you, defending your Selves, building connections with and nurturing other Selves without losing your own, I am inspired. I am strengthened. And my bruised and battered Self can walk another day in this woman-hating world, knowing that your presence in it makes it that much less hateful.

Thank you.