Monday, April 21, 2014

I fixed it for ya

Saw this on GenderTrender and since I can't post images there...


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Preliminary Notes on Being and Belonging, Cliques and Cults and Coalitions

From my blog entry on autogynephilia:

...masochism has high rates of co-morbidity with autogynephilia. Which makes sense when you understand that part of femininity is the sexualization of submission - to a dominant male, in return for love and protection. The fetishization of subjugation on the Left ("oppression olympics,") how it mirrors the subjugation of women via gendered socialization, and how this plays directly into ideological totalism (surrender yourself to the ideology and you will be safe) as well as benefiting the powers that be (the only winners of the oppression olympics are the oppressors) - will need to be the topic for another blog. (Phew!)

I'm just starting to focus my mind on this topic, and I have a feeling it will take a long while to produce anything meaningful. Nonetheless, some initial thoughts:

Under patriarchy, women strive for safety by submitting to a husband, thus achieving "good wife" status, and the protection of the husband. (Protection, of course, from other men, rendering this perhaps the world's oldest protection racket, but I digress.)

Under ideological totalism, individuals strive for safety by submitting to the group, thus achieving "good follower" status, and the protection of the group.

In the current world of identity politics, followers likewise aim to ingratiate themselves, parroting highly moralistic buzzphrases like the teacher's pets of political correctness.

In the current world of Girls Gone Wild and gonzo porn, some women strive for safety by claiming their pleasure is in submitting to men's most dehumanizing urges, thus achieving "good fuck" status, and the protection of peer approval - but I'd also argue that this culture takes the drive to surrender to an even more nihilistic place, where women seek not any illusion of safety but merely the relief from (existential, psychic) pain, in the form of pre-emptive self-erasure. No one can hurt what doesn't exist.

I'd also argue that fighting with strangers on the internet over which person tweeting from a $500 phone is the most oppressed is another kind of nihilism - because if that's your "activism," you've clearly given up on making any real change.

It might shock you to hear me say this, but all of this is understandable.

The world is a scary, exhausting place, and women in particular are trained from birth to feel vulnerable and helpless. But as Andrea Dworkin says, "The pleasure of submission does not and cannot change the fact, the cost, the indignity, of inferiority."

Those who provide protection always maintain the terrible power to take it away. Therefore the retreat into infantilism found in unthinking dependence is always precarious. Adults are better served by striving for critical interdependence.

Not hyper-individualism, nor ideological totalism. Not black and white thinking, nor uncommitted fence-sitting. Not identitarianism, nor power-blindness. All of these options provide the relief of intellectual laziness, but all these choices are false.

I need to do more reading and thinking about all this, but for now I would exhort all of you (who have not already given into my Twitter exhortations) to read this article by Bernice Johnson Reagon on Coalition Politics.

We are all special snowflakes, yes, but we are all also members of many groups, some of which we were born to, others we chose; some we might repudiate, and others might repudiate us. I've argued previously for privilege checking as an exercise in contextualizing rather than silencing, and I'll argue further that identity might suggest but does not determine affinity nor enmity. I'd rather "ally" with those who have similar interests and goals, no matter how much or how little they resemble my reflection.

I'd also rather "ally" with those who never seek my personal surrender. In fact, I insist upon it.

Cis Privilege My Womanly Ass

Ostensibly meaning "on the same side as," "cis" is what trans activists label anyone who is "not trans." Supposedly, "cis" people have "cis privilege" over trans people. This definition necessarily hangs on the underlying definition of "trans," of course.

If "cis" means not-transsexual, that's over 99% of people. We do not need a special label for this. 

If "cis" means something more like "comfortable with how others treat you based on their assumptions about your sex" then this showcases a mind-boggling ignorance of women's lives.

First of all, women are people, not men's fantasies.

Male fantasies of womanhood. 

Actual women may be: disabled, lesbian, poor, harried, fat, plain, old, et cetera-
Oh let's just sum up: three dimensional humans, UNSEXXXY
[P.S. even beautiful healthy financially comfortable white women experience sexism]

Secondly, just because it's one of the examples of supposed privilege that steams me the most, here are just two examples of my experiences with medical care as a "cis" female: 

--When I was 16 I had to go to the emergency room with abdominal pains that were so intense I truly feared I was dying. I was a virgin. There was no way I was pregnant. I know now that I was experiencing a horrible flare up of ulcerative colitis. However, because I was a 16 year old girl, none of the medical staff on duty paid any attention when I said it was my gut that was the issue. They wheeled me into an exam room, thrust my feet into some stirrups and slammed a speculum into my tiny, virginal vagina, causing me to sit up and scream in pain. When they finally did accept that I was not pregnant (I had to be held down for the gynecological exam to be completed,) I was wheeled back to a waiting area and left there for about an hour, during which time I endured several painful bowel movements, and started to feel a bit better. I was sent home with a diagnosis of “gastroenteritis” and an aspirin.

I would have to see three more specialists over the next ten years before I found a doctor (a woman, natch) who scheduled me for a colonoscopy and finally gave me a diagnosis and some medication. The two doctors I saw before that (both male) told me the pain was all in my head and that I just needed to stop stressing out so much. Because they couldn’t take me seriously as a patient, I spent years suffering needlessly and also put myself at much greater risk of colon cancer.

--About fifteen years ago I started to feel an unpleasant pressure on my bladder, becoming more painful with time. I went to several specialists who could not diagnose what the problem was. Finally a gynecologist mentioned that I had two rather large fibroids growing on my uterus. 

So much tumor, er, excuse me, privilege.

I again had to go through three doctors before I found one who would 1) confirm that one of these growths was indeed pressing on my bladder and 2) talk to me about removing the fibroids only, for purposes of my physical comfort rather than fertility, because the first two doctors were of the opinion, “Well if you aren’t going to have kids let’s just take everything out.” (Radical hysterectomy.)

That’s right, have a very painful surgery with a long recovery time, which may or may not affect your ability to ever have an orgasm again, which will definitely require you to go on hormone treatment to avoid menopause in your mid 30s, because why not, if you’re not using those body parts to fulfill your role of carrying a man’s child. I think it’s very unlikely that a man seeking treatment for a medical problem related to his reproductive system would be told "Hell, let's just take it all off, if you're not going to fulfill your role of fathering a woman's child."

Anyhoo, it took two more years to find a job that provided the kind of health insurance that would cover removal of those fuckers. Well, aside from a $1500 deductible. 

Just a few of the conditions we get to take to SEXIST DOCTORS

I'm tired of talking at brick walls, so I'm going to to do the rest of this blogpost in jpegs.

Topics will include #cis female childhood privilege, beauty privilege, safety privilege, romance privilege, bodily autonomy privilege, and representation privilege.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Progressive Causes Should Not Require the Abandonment of Critical Thought

A couple of years ago, I needed an abortion. The only "women's clinic" in my town was a stealth-religious organization that advised abortion was a mortal sin. I had to drive four hours round-trip to the nearest Planned Parenthood to watch the state-approved video and sign the state-approved form to start the clock on my 24 hour waiting period, and later that week drive six hours round-trip to the nearest Planned Parenthood with a doctor still brave and caring enough to perform abortions.

I was pregnant, by the way, because the only gynecologist in my tiny middle-of-nowhere town who was taking new patients was a semi-retired 80 year old man who wouldn’t prescribe the pill because he didn’t believe in hormonal birth control, my insurance would not cover an IUD, and the combination of my 37 years, fertility-complicating medical conditions, condom and sponge was no match for my then-boyfriend's freakin’ supersperm.

This was a very trying time for me - not just because of the combination of onerous government requirements and funding cuts that led to clinic closures, or the boss who was working me to death and grilling me about any time off, or the salary that was so low that paying for the gas for those trips meant I had to do without groceries for a week, or because I was in love with the dope who’d impregnated me and the feeling wasn’t mutual - but because I would very much like to have a baby if there was any way I could afford to be a mom. 

All that said, when the lovely lone staffer of the first Planned Parenthood clinic told me I wasn't "required" to look at the fetus photographs included in the state-approved "information packet," my response was "I know the reality of what I'm doing." I looked at the photographs and said, "Yes. That is what I need removed from my uterus."

The abortion was an all-day affair of tense, crowded waiting rooms, repetitive paperwork and social-work-type interviews, and the procedure itself was five minutes of breathtaking pain – it felt like my insides were being vacuumed out through my uterus – but as I walked to the recovery room on shaky legs, the sense of relief was what overwhelmed me.

I don't have to skirt around or gloss over the reality of abortion to demand it as my human right, because the realities of pregnancy - that fetuses require a human host and that growing and birthing one is hard, dangerous work that entails workplace discrimination and incredibly high medical costs - and, after delivery, day care costs - are just as important. My defense of abortion access is 100% clear-eyed and reality-based because it takes in the full context of women's lives.

My support of anti-racism efforts is also 100% clear-eyed and reality-based. I don't feel any need to censor discussions of race because I absolutely believe - from my own life experience - that people of color are in no way inferior to white people and that any theses/data to the contrary can be factually dismantled by looking at historical and socio-economic realities in an honest and in-depth way. The same goes for anti-poverty efforts and any conception of poor people as inherently lazy.

The answer is never to deny demographic realities nor to spend all our time railing at those who use inequality to justify prejudice but to dig in and figure out how to solve problems. Analyze contexts, build coalitions, make individual and structural changes.

As for gay rights, my support is deeply grounded in my feminism. Homosexuality is in no way harmful - it does not require any unwilling participation, after all - but in addition, arguments against gay rights are always steeped in ideas of traditional gender roles. They're not, at base, about homosexuality but about male dominance. Dig deeper. More analysis, not less.

My support for progressive causes is not based on a belief that people born into oppressed classes are innately "better" than those who are born into oppressor classes, or because I feel sorry for anyone, or because to idealize and/or pity others would make me feel morally superior to anyone.

I support progressive causes because, very simply, I think all women and [men who are gay, not-white, economically disadvantaged, et cetera] are just as human as the most privileged of males, and that the rights they (we) demand are perfectly reasonable and justifiable.

Which brings us to the latest fad in Leftist circles: If a person born with a fully functioning male reproductive system, socialized male throughout his childhood and adolescence, educated as a male, and promoted within his chosen profession as a male, declares he now "feels like a woman" then *TADA* SHE IS NOW BIOLOGICALLY FEMALE. IF YOU OBJECT IN ANY WAY YOU ARE A BIGOT WHO MUST BE SILENCED. 

THIS IS ABSURD. It also seems like a perfect parody of reactionary conservatives' view of progressive politics -- but given the traction this sentiment has found, not just with youth on Twitter and Tumblr but with mainstream leftist and feminist publications and in the law - I do believe the Right Wing Nut Jobs have a point regarding how many Lefties have no interest in applying critical analysis to their causes but instead simply vie for most non-judgmental (or in practice, most knee-jerkingly sanctimonious).

Rational judgment is good, people. And to equate the reasonableness of these first four statements with the reasonableness of the fifth one is offensive:

Women do not exist to serve men.

People of color are in no way inferior to white people.
Poor people do not deserve to be poor.
Homosexuality is not morally wrong.
Biological sex is all in your head.

This inanity calls into question both the intelligence and the sincerity of self-declared "transgender allies." 

The tiny percentage of the population that is either intersex or transsexual does not change the fact that human beings are a sexually dimorphic species. "Transwomen are women" is a thought-terminating cliche that empties the word woman of its meaning - adult human female. On the other hand, "transwomen are males who suffer from sex dysmorphia, pursue medical and social transition, and are then addressed as transwomen -prefix included- as a respectful concession that assigns them a new category" might not fit into a tweet but also doesn't require anyone to deny reality.

And you know what? I find it extremely condescending to transsexual people when I'm exhorted to deny biological reality so as not to harm them. I know several transwomen who have made lovely lives for themselves. Careers, hobbies, homes, pets, friends, significant others. They are not only capable of accepting biological reality but of sincerely engaging with feminist analysis. They are grown people fully capable of human happiness and awesomeness and no one needs to treat them like they are made of glass. For heaven's sake. 

We can offer the concession of "transwoman" without giving up either our knowledge of how babies are made (my ex-boyfriend did not impregnate me with his manly gaze!) or our analyses of how female humans are subjugated (e.g. restricting abortion access!) We can befriend and support transwomen who embrace both reality & feminist analysis and still avoid the hell out of autogynephilic asshats. For crying out loud, they aren't hard to spot. WHAT WITH THE PENISES AND RAGING MISOGYNY AND ALL.

Progressive causes should not require us to relinquish our critical thinking skills or tell polite lies or walk on eggshells. Empathy and honest analysis can and should co-exist on the Left. Let's get it together.