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.