Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

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​An Open Letter to Queer Whites From a Queer White Woman

6 October, 2017

I watched Stephen Colbert interviewing Ta-Nehisi Coates and experienced great shame for my race. The arrogance Mr. Colbert had in asking Mr. Coates for hope and then questioning his response that he, Mr. Coates, could not offer that hope and Mr. Colbert would do better to seek hope from his pastor or friends. I felt shame because there was a time I was like Mr. Colbert (and, if I am honest still have moments where I am) asking my siblings of colour for absolution and hope for the future. I was blind to the truth that the person beneath the boot cannot offer hope to the person benefiting from the boot’s weight. It is not hir responsibility to weave tales of a brighter future; it is my responsibility to work toward a more just future for hir. This was a lesson I had to learn as a young, white teacher in a 98 percent black school district. This is a lesson I learned from honest students who with a mixture of patience and impatience educated me. Here is what my students helped me understand:

White guilt does not do anyone any good. Not white people who look for a simple one-and-done absolution and certainly not people of colour who are left beaten and shamed by the systemic racism of a country stacked against them.

We white people need to stop looking for absolution. There is none. There is nothing we can do that will ever atone for the enslaving, conquering, colonising, erasing, and genocides we as a race have committed and we as modern white people benefit from. And I know the reaction that will get from many of you because it is the same reaction my younger self had: I did not do those things, my ancestors were not here when those things were done, I am also a discriminated against class.

What we need to do is feel those feelings, own those feelings, recognise them as the dissociation from responsibility they are, and toss them in the dust bin. Those feelings serve no purpose other than insulating us from the responsibility we have to dismantle an oppressive system that benefits us at the cost of our siblings of colour.

But, what about intersectionality

Intersectionality is not a theory designed to give entrance into oppression. Intersectionality is a black feminist theory introduced by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to lift the voices of the most marginalised into centrality. Yet, white people, such as myself, have used intersectionality to force our way into the centre of every conversation; if I use intersectionality in that way, I further the oppression of my siblings who are black, brown, native and also poor, disabled, transgender. I am a queer, white woman of transgender experience who suffers a stratum of systemic oppression AND in the midst of that oppression I still benefit from white privilege. According to the report “A Matter of Life and Death” (conducted by the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition) trans women make up 85 percent of hate crime homicides in the United States and of that 96 percent are people of colour. As a woman of transgender experience, I am a victim and by the “virtue” of being white I experience less oppression than my sister of transgender experience who is also a woman of colour.  As such, I should not fight for my rights but for the rights of my sister. It is my responsibility to stand up for her because no matter how limited my access to space and resources, hers is even more limited.

And here is the truth, by centring my sister’s voice and making the world a more just place for her, I, by extension, make the world a more just place for myself. Justice is not a limited commodity. By ensuring justice for my sister of colour I am making my part of the world a more just place and that will benefit me, as well. As white people, we need to abandon our sense of guilt, which places the White Self at the centre of conversation, and take up a sense of responsibility toward the Sibling Other, which places the experience and voices of people of colour at the centre of our conversations and actions.

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Trans Women and Socialisation

12 March, 2017

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently stated that trans women are not actually women because they have “male socialisation.” I find this proclamation of hers infuriating because it is a cleaned up and repackaged version of Janice Raymond’s bigotry. She may try to cover over this bigotry by saying trans women have a place in feminism and trans issues are part of feminism, but that does not negate her instance that trans women are not women and her implied relegation of trans women to a second class citizenship in feminism (and third class within society).

Adichie’s attitudes are revealed as the bigotry they are through a thoughtful consideration of trans female experience of socialisation. First, and most important, we must acknowledge there is no singular trans woman experience any more than there is a singular cis woman experience.

Second, not experiencing overt female socialisation does not mean a trans woman experienced overt male socialisation. Rather, she would internalise female socialisation, thought patterns, and mannerisms. Some of these women (for, indeed, trans women ARE women), e.g. Kristen Beck, may adapt and mimic male socialisation patterns as a survival instinct while internally identifying with female socialisation patterns, which she may easily switch to upon social transition. These female socialisation patterns might have a more exaggerated appearance, but would be genuine socialisation patterns. Other trans women may not have adapted to male socialisation mimicking. These women, e.g. Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, may have defied society’s attempt at male socialisation. Expressing their gender identity early on and being punished for their refusal to adapt to male socialisation. This creates a trans female socialisation where they are punished for failure to conform to male standards and punished for adherence to female social standards–including those cis women are rewarded by society for integrating into their identity. Further, we are now seeing trans women who begin social and physical transition at an early age, e.g. Jazz Jennings. She and girls like her, receive more traditional cis female socialisation from those who are accepting and trans female socialisation from a rejecting society.

Third, trans women who transition later in life and who mimic male social patterns do not possess typical male privilege. Instead they possess male presenting or male passing privilege. In this instance because they appear to be a cis male and mimic cis male behaviours they do receive some male privilege benifits, but these benefits create a type of cognitive dissonance for the not socially transitioned trans woman because she does not identify as male and feels like a fraud stealing what does not belong to her and living in fear of being exposed. She is either self-aware that those privileges were received due to an unfair perception of gender identity or she quickly learns this after social transition.

Regardless, each of these trans women have 

1) received, absorbed, and integrated or rejected traditional female socialisation;

2) they are more aware of male socialisation patterns than cis women because it was forced on them (which is NOT the same as adapting and internalising male socialisation);

3) they possess a unique trans female socialisation, which gives them a valuable voice when discussing female identity and intersectionality.

All of this is to say, trans women are not men; trans women are not a third gender; trans women are women.

It is, also, important to note that trans men receive the mirror opposite type of socialisation that affects them in their own unique ways. Further, male privilege that they develop post transition will always be influenced by attempts at female socialisation foisted on them and further influenced by how accepted or not their gender non-conforming behaviours were as a child.

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Elliot Rodger’s Actions Expose Cultural Misogyny

27 May, 2014

 

TW: ELLIOT RODGER, VIOLENCE, MISOGYNY, RAPE, ABUSE

 

There are a lot of conversations centring on Elliot Rodger (background on the mass murders, trigger warnings apply). The most disturbing trend, within these discussions, is the self-preserving attitude of the misogynistic, white, male media. If a black man committed this crime, there would be outcry for his immediate arrest and trial. If a Muslim committed this crime, there would accusations of terrorism. If woman committed this crime against men, there would be discussions of militant feminism. But a cis, white, man committed it and, as a result, there has been a clamouring by the media to find some excuse that shifts the blame off misogynistic white, male culture.

The two most readily used excuses for his behaviour are: untreated mental illness and lax gun control laws. Note how both shift the problem off of who he is and on to a failure by others to prevent it. He cannot be allowed to have personal culpability in public discussion because it would implicate the very people who shape and control the majority of mass media. He must be distanced from men lest he call the attitudes and behaviours of misogynist male culture into question. Further, the use of Aspergers syndrome as an excuse stigmatises those on the Autism spectrum and paints them as violent and dangerous. In fact, non-nuerotypical individuals are more often victims of violent crimes and not the perpetrators. The shifting of blame onto gun regulations ties the issue up in discussions that have been argued and re-argued for decades without movement toward solution; it removes the issues of culpability and motive, both of which would point back to trends in male, particularly white, cis male, culture. These men want to shift our attention from the culture they perpetuate because, through its toxicity to others, it creates benefits for them, specifically a culture of fear where women cannot say no. Men’s Rights Activists and male entitlement has created a violent, abusive, and self-destructive culture, which Rodger serves as a prime example of.

Rodger’s motives were clearly outlined in his online activities, behaviours, targeted victims, and manifesto. He was a contributing member to the online forum PAUhate, a site dedicated to misogynistic views and promotion of violence against women for perceived slights on the participants’ masculine pride (such as a woman not wanting to engage in sex with a man). Rodgers subscribed to YouTube channels that promoted MRA thinking and advocated violence against women (such as The Player Supreme Show, RSDfreetour, McHenry Cruiser, and Squatting Casanova). He spoke about and engaged in violent rhetoric against women and asserted his rights as a male to have sexual access to women of his choosing and the violent consequences for denying those rights. He posted videos online threatening women and had the police sent to visit him. He saw multiple therapists, claimed none helped him, refused to take the medication prescribed for him (Resperidal), and claimed his true support was the “manosphere.” (More here) The victims he targeted were all women who fit the physical type he most desired and of them Rodger said, “… I will enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB, and I will slaughter every single spoiled stuck up blonde slut I see inside there.” Finally, Rodger wrote a 137 page manifesto (trigger warnings apply); in it he detailed his entitlement to sex, blamed women for not providing him with sex, promised retribution on those women, and engaged in violent rhetoric against women in general.

In the face of these facts the men giving commentary have changed their argument to this being an extreme case and not representative of the whole. But there have been a horrifying number of such cases in recent history. Maren Sanchez was stabbed multiple times about the face, neck, and chest by Christopher Plaskon after she said no to his invitation to prom. Of course, saying yes to these men is not any safer for women. Burnadine Kinsey was stabbed to death by Benjiman Esquivel after having sex with him; Esquivel then wrapped her body in a sheet and dumped her in the bottom of his closet like a sack of dirty laundry. There are multiple accounts of women being abused and raped by men, most often by men they know. Even when things do not end with violence, women are subjected to harassment and ridiculous attacks. For example, Marie Lacombe from Melbourne, Australia was sent an invoice for $185,000 by Bruce Dusting, after she rejected his marriage proposal and despite the fact they were not in a romantic relationship with each other; Dusting’s actions show a premeditation to punish her should he be refused.  Even those men who do not actively engage in these extreme misogynistic behaviours benefit passively from the culture perpetuated by these acts. Men benefit because women wanting to preserve their safety and lives are too afraid to say no. Men benefit from the culture of victim blaming that mourns the end of a Steubenville, high school football player’s athletic career, but not the victim of multiple, violent rapes. And men further benefit from a culture that allows them to proliferate their misogyny online without consequences.

There is an overwhelming and undeniable amount of misogyny punishing and subjugating women to the desires of men. It is a prevalent issue, but few are discussing it except women. We are now using social media to speak out against the rampant misogyny perpetuated by male dominated culture. With writers, activists, and even twitter hashtags (such as, #shoutingback and #yesallwomen) women are making their voice count. It’s time for the men to listen.

 

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Men take to social media to defend Elliot Rodgers.

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Humour and Transmisogyny (a Caitlin on post)

23 May, 2012

Getting out of bed this morning and stretching my kinked back [the joys of sofa beds] sent a run of cracks and pops up my spine and into my brain where they dislodged an old joke the boys told in high school:

Why do women yawn in the morning?

They don’t have any balls to scratch!

I grimaced remembering this joke and not because after hearing it for the first time I made sure to yawn in the mornings. Rather, I recoiled from realising how problematic jokes like this are and how representative they are of American culture. This joke is both cissexist and transmisogynistic and it disturbs me how early on our culture indoctrinates children.

Cissexism

The joke promotes trans erasure by assuming all women have vaginas and all men have penises. By validating this limited understanding of gender it disregards the existence and experiences of thousands of trans* people. It is true that some trans* individuals undergo sex reassignment surgery (SRS) but this is not the majority of us. Most trans* individuals either cannot afford or do not want SRS (non-op trans*). These identities are often erased (read: invalidated and ignored) by the cis public because they are not binary normative. The “official” trans* life story is recognise who they are by age five, live in fear and isolation until their mid-forties, have a mid-life crisis, and “mutilate” genitals. Cis people like this version because it affirms the binary, makes for delicious gossip, and can be used to invalidate trans* identity (“You aren’t a real woman/man. Just look at everything you had to do to become one.”) The cost of these surgeries, however, is enormous; a trans* person is looking at $17,000 dollars or more depending on whether you are just looking for the plumbing or if you want the electricity to work too. If the price tag alone is not prohibitive, and for most it is, add these facts in: there are only a handful of surgeons qualified and willing to perform these surgeries and almost no insurance provider will cover them.

The trans* individual is left to pay for this surgery on their own. A hard enough task for anyone, but made all the more difficult by the additional road blocks society puts in front of trans* people, with psychological and employment discrimination being the worst. Trans* psychology is considered deviant and trans* people are required to go through years of expensive psychotherapy before they can even be considered a candidate for HRT and SRS. Also, trans* people (particularly trans women and of them most particularly trans women of colour) face legal employment discrimination in all but seven states. Not only is it okay to not hire someone because of their trans* status, but employers can also fire them if they come out as trans* while in the company’s employ. Many educated trans* people have menial jobs or are forced into sex work because no other industry will hire them (again particularly true for trans women of colour). Of the trans women who are not outright fired, the majority of them take a pay cut which drops their salaries to below what the average woman of colour makes, on the grounds the employer is just honouring the person’s gender “choice.” So, how do you save up for the surgery if you do not have enough to pay rent without roommates?

In this regard trans men have it a bit easier than trans women. Note I said a bit this is not a dismissal of the prejudice and difficulties trans men experience, but it is easier for trans men to be read as their gender than trans women. Because of this and because of the more dramatic secondary sex characteristics trans men gain from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) they do not spend as much on transitioning as trans women do and can save money for surgery faster. [It is important to add at this juncture that not all trans* individuals chose to go on HRT. It is a personal decision and some do not feel it is a necessary step in their journey.] Many, if not most, trans* women require a number of additional procedures to be consistently read as female and to increase their safety while in public. These procedures are not cheap. The primary one is electrolysis. Electrolysis averages at $100 an hour and by the time I have completed this treatment I will have logged three hundred (300) hours under the electrified tweezers. In total, it will cost me $30,000 to have the hair burned off my face. Other procedures that a trans woman might need are facial feminisation surgery (FFS), trachea shave, breast implants (for those whose breast growth is not significantly affected by the HRT), and wigs/hair plugs/forehead reduction. It is possible for her to have to spend over $100,000 on procedures all before considering saving for SRS. Further, the more of these procedures she needs the easier it is to out her and for employers to discriminate against her.

When examined from a trans* perspective it is easy to see why any suggestion that all women have vaginas and all men have penises comes across as offensive and invalidating.

Transmisogyny

On another level, this joke is damning toward trans women. It is an example of transmisogyny. Misogyny is, basic Psych 101, a hatred or extreme prejudice against women; transmisogyny is the intersection of transphobia and misogyny experienced by trans women and is often linked with effemimania [cf. Julia Serano, Whipping Girl] Examples of transmisogyny are constantly in the news and it is the driving force behind the beatings and murders of trans women. CoCo Williams, Paige Clay, and Brandi Williams were all murdered in a three-week period of April 2012. CeCe McDonald is being held for trial after she defend herself against a savage beating that lacerated her face, for which she was denied appropriate and timely medical services by the Hennipen County Police, all because she is a trans woman of colour.

This joke is transmisogynistic because of its use of oppositional sexism, traditional sexism, and the implication that women with male bodied characteristics are not women. Oppositional sexism is defined by Serano as, “the belief that female and male are rigid, mutually exclusive categories.” If one is male there can be no feminine qualities associated with him and if one is female there can be no masculine qualities associated with her. Serano defines traditional sexism as, “the belief that maleness and masculinity are superior to femaleness and femininity.” In other words, men are naturally superior to women by the very nature of being male. The punchline of the joke is rooted in oppositional sexism: men have penises and women do not. [As explained in the section above this is not always the case.] The traditional sexism is inherent in the telling of the joke, men are superior to women in that they have a penises.

The punchline is mired in the oppositional idea that to be male is to possess and to be female is to lack; in other words, men are complete human beings and women are incomplete or inferior human beings. Genitals are often what this type of thinking comes down to. This type of logic is also used to define superior men over and against lesser men. The larger the dangly bit between his legs are the more masculine he is, the smaller the less masculine and less deserving of respect. Now, consider how the smaller male is not considered feminine but as lacking appropriate levels of masculinity, which means to possess a penis of any size is an immediate invalidation of all other feminine characteristics and is an erasure of trans feminine identity. The reverse, however, is not held true. The absence of a penis does not negate masculine qualities in women and trans men. Instead they are said to have a honourary set.” This bestowed on them due to emotional or secondary sex characteristics that are perceived as masculine and they trump the perceived female characteristic of a vagina. The sexism in this is loaded into our use of language. To “have balls” is a positive thing, a sign of courage and strength, whereas to be a “pussy” is a character flaw indicating weakness and over emotionality. Feminists have made combating this attitude, that male characteristics are superior and invalidate inferior female identity, a priority in the feminist movement.

The attitude is so ingrained in our culture that women will often use it against other women. If a woman shows an aptitude in sports, interest in sex, or enjoyment of gaming and comic books she is expressing stereotypically male behaviour and other women will use it as a justification to erase her identity as a “real” woman. This attitude has been taken to the extreme by radical feminists as a means of invalidating trans women’s identities. “Women born women living as women” is used to deny trans women access to appropriate medical care and female only spaces. If you allow a trans woman into a women’s shelter the theoretical presence of a penis is enough to potentially trigger a “real” woman’s fear of men. Despite the fact trans women are more likely to be beaten simply for being women and their cases are often ignored by the police is not enough to overcome the stigma of having male bodied genitalia. Trans women are often denied access to female restrooms and changing rooms because the theoretical presence of a penis means they will rape the first “real” woman they see. And the theoretical presence of a penis is used as an argument for the barring of trans women from events such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and RadFem 2012. By denying trans women access to these conferences they invalidate trans* identity and create an echo chamber in which only their biased thinking is expressed, amplifying itself in the absence of opposing viewpoints.

These attitudes, cissexism, transmisogyny, trans* erasure, and oppositional and traditional sexism, are so accepted in our culture that young men can tell jokes rooted in them and no one thinks a thing wrong with it. Until we begin a process of re-educating our youth to identify these thought patterns and disrupt them we will never see a culture where all women, trans* and cis, are accord equal status with men.