Based on several tweets of mine, beginning here.

So, i've thought some more about why i don't really like the term 'TERF'.

It feels to me that the term 'TERF' implies that being 'Trans-Erasing' is the only problem with radfem politics, behaviours and attitudes. As though, if radfem politics were to stop being trans-erasing, that they would then basically no longer be problematic.

But there's so much more that's problematic (to say the least) about radfem politics, attitudes and behaviours.

There's radfem hostility to sex work and/or sex workers, treating the latter as fifth-columnists for patriarchy. There's radfem hostility to kink, and to kinky women, who are claimed to have "eroticised our own oppression". There's radfem hostility to porn, which they basically seem to define as any sexually explicit material, but which also involves hostility to any women who participate in creating it (cf. their attitudes to sex workers), and women who enjoy watching it. Then there's radfem hostility to polyamory, which i admit i'm not quite clear on the reasons for (but which i can speculate on). Then there's radfem willingness to tell women that their intimate relationships are "politically incorrect", e.g. that a given woman shouldn't be in a relationship with a certain person, because it's politically 'wrong'. (Here in Melbourne, radfem Sheila Jeffreys has been known to tell people point-blank that their intimate relationship is not PC.) There are probably more issues besides, but those are just some that immediately come to mind without effort.

i'm finding it disturbing that there seem to be increasing numbers of women, cis and trans, who seem comfortable with all this, as long as being 'Trans-Erasing' isn't added to the list. This is simply not acceptable to me.

Non-sexworker trans women, knowing what it's like to be attacked by radfems, should be showing solidarity with sexworkers attacked by radfems. Non-kinky trans women, knowing what it's like to be attacked by radfems, should be showing solidarity with kinky women attacked by radfems. Trans women, knowing what it's like to be attacked by radfems, should be showing solidarity with women attacked for having 'non-PC' relationships. And so on.

Radfem politics claims to be attacking the system of patriarchy, but in practice it seems predominantly interested in doing so by attacking individual women deemed to be traitors / fifth-columnists - sex workers, kinky women, trans women, women who shave, women who have sex with men, etc. - and expelling them from feminism and/or womanhood. We trans women are not the only women negatively impacted by radfem politics; let's not use terminology suggesting that hostility to trans women is radfem politics' primary (or perhaps even sole) problem.

ETA, 2014-06-23: i've just realised another issue i have with the term: it lets off the hook feminists who are trans-hostile / trans-unfriendly but who don't self-identify as 'radical feminists'. And i know, from decades of experience with feminism, that there are many such feminists. Just as there's no shortage of feminists who aren't radfems (whether in terms of self-identification or ideology) but who have adopted radical feminism's typical MOs1, there's no shortage of feminists who aren't radfems but who also aren't supportive of trans women, sex workers, kinky women, poly women, women who shave, women who have sex with men, etc.

1. For example, various ideological purity criteria / shibboleths ("No True Feminist would shave her legs / defend the sex industry!"); promoting various versions of the dubious concept that "the [claimed] greater good trumps individual autonomy" ("I don't care if your 'submission' to your male partner is supposedly consensual, such behaviour by you as a woman hurts all women!"); dichotomising issues into simplistic categories ("If you don't actively support me re. issue X, you're actively supporting patriarchy!"; and so on.

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In following discussions around critiques or criticisms of feminisms - e.g. for whorephobia, 'saviourism', transphobia etc. - i've noticed a number of techniques being used to downplay or dismiss these critiques and/or criticisms. Here are some of them:

  • "Anyone criticising feminism is obviously ignorant of what feminism is about."

  • It's pretty arrogant to assume that criticism of feminism can only come from a place of ignorance, rather than through e.g. extensive lived experiences of feminism and feminists.

  • "Anyone who is sexworker-hostile or trans-hostile isn't a real feminist."

  • "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

  • "Critical of feminism? You must be an MRA."

  • This assumes a dichotomy in which one is either (pro-) feminist/feminism or an MRA. Feminism doesn't own all opposition to patriarchy / sexism / misogyny.

  • "You're damaging the cause by promoting such infighting!" (Thanks to @r_x_nn_ for reminding me of this one.)

  • Which cause? One might say "Well, liberating women from patriarchy and oppression." Okay, but does that then translate into, for example, the specific cause of utilising the state to 'save' and 'protect' certain women, regardless of how those women themselves feel? Who gets to decide what constitutes The Cause? And who decides which concerns - dismissed as "mere infighting" - are inherently less important than The Cause?

    2013-04-03, ETA:

  • "You've internalised patriarchy and its hatred of feminists and feminism."

  • Right. You're an Independent Thinker who has managed to struggle free of all patriarchal/kyriarchal influences; I am merely a robot carrying out patriarchal/kyriarchal programming.

i'll probably come back to this and add more examples as i encounter them.

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2012-11-29 22:52
Nb. This is a work of satire.

i'd like to discuss an issue pervading Western society which doesn't get anywhere near the attention it deserves. That issue is the commodification of food, and the scourge that is the food industry.

Food shouldn't be commoditised. It is an essential human need. When people buy and sell food, the act of preparing and eating food becomes mere support for, and reinforcement of, the notion that it's acceptable to transform relations between humans into relations between a human and an unimportant unfeeling object. We must reject all buying and selling of food.

Sadly, most people seem to be blind to the way this is damaging all of us.

  • Most people feel entitled to pay someone to provide them with food. The conditions in the euphemistically-titled "restaurant industry" are horrible - exploitation is rife, with excessively long hours and poor incomes. Overwhelmingly, those exploited have been trafficked into the situation - although the euphemism "migrants" is all too often used, an attempt by the powerful restaurant industry and its lobby to put a pleasant face on what is in fact modern-day slavery.

  • In order to provide the raw materials for the restaurant industry, an entire international network is in place to ensure a steady supply. Again, exploitation is pervasive - long hours, poor incomes, an insistence by high-level people that people must use their bodies as directed, regardless of any consequent physical effects - or face even more dire physical consequences.

  • At the other end of this chain of misery, we have entire swathes of media promoting the idea that there's nothing wrong with purchasing food from others, despite the physical sacrifices often required to produce that food. People like Jamie Oliver, for example, spend most of their time focusing on the qualities of the food they have just purchased, whilst only occasionally paying lip-service to the evil industry that has provided that food. Indeed, Oliver is hardly going to do otherwise, since he himself has actively assisted the "restaurant industry" by establishing, or helping to establish, "restaurants" himself.

Clearly, it is time for the buying and selling of food to end. There is no choice but to criminalise the purchase of food, to attack the problem at its source: the demand for food. We need to send the message to buyers that they are not entitled to purchase food from others; that the "restaurant industry" is not harmless, but indeed merely the peak of a pyramid of suffering; that it is not acceptable to treat fellow human beings as no more than objects to facilitate gustatory satisfaction. Moreover, we need to immediately mobilise governments to rescue all those trapped within this pyramid, as they are themselves completely powerless to change the conditions they have been trafficked into. Nor should we heed the voices of those who argue that it is not the buying and selling of food that is the problem, but the conditions under which that is done: such an attitude ignores the fact that buying and selling food fundamentally robs people of their humanity, and no changes to conditions can remove that stubborn fact. All food must be produced directly for someone else, as an act of love and commitment from one individual to another. For things to be any other way must finally be recognised as morally unacceptable.

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@cuntext asked me if i'd be willing to participate in a Blog-Hop, involving one self-interviewing and then passing the "Blog-Hop baton" to another blogger. i was flattered to have been asked, and agreed!

@cuntext's Blog-Hop post is here; my own tongue-in-cheek self-interview is below. :-)


When did you decide to start calling yourself a 'woman'?

You know you have those days where you wake up and think to yourself something like: "You know, I should learn to skateboard!" or "Hey, maybe I should put some colour in my hair!" It was like that. Exactly like that. i woke up one morning and thought "Hey, being a chick seems like a lark; why not try it on?" And there it was.

So the original motivation wasn't to be a fifth columnist for patriarchy?

Not at all! The original motivation was just a spur-of-the moment thing. But having said that, it's true that i soon realised being a fifth columnist for patriarchy was going to be a major positive side-effect. For years, i'd been thinking to myself: "Oh how i wish i could destroy feminism! How i wish we could live in a Gorean world where women knew their place, naked at the feet of all men! But, damn those radical feminists! They continue to maintain a staunch defense of feminism against all Male Energies! Man, if only there were some way to break through those lines of radical feminists, and erode the foundations of feminism from within!" Pretending to be a woman, and demanding that i be treated as one despite not really being one, was going to be the perfect opportunity to set my pro-Gor plan in motion.

But hasn't retaining your penis, rather than undergoing genital reconstruction surgery, made your efforts in that regard more difficult?

Oh sure. It's certainly required me to come up with some, er, "creative misinformation" about gender and sex and biology! Like: "One's gender isn't simply about whether or not one has a 'Y' chromosome." [laughs] But, you know, i'm a man, so i'm better at creating things than any female. And anyway, like i'm going to give up the symbol of my natural superiority over all women! [laughs] Sure, i'm happy to make some sacrifices for the patriarchal Thermidor, but, yeah, there are limits.

The big challenge has been being able to flaunt my penis in front of real women in changing rooms. That's a critical bottleneck on the path to Gor: forcing all females to accept the sight of a penis, to psychologically traumatise them with it, so they'll be too damaged to do anything but submit to the superiority of men. And radical feminists know that, so they put in an extra effort to fight against it.

You mentioned "sacrifices" - do you mean, things like getting your gender changed on various pieces of bureaucratic documentation, like for government agencies, private businesses, and so on?

Yeah. There's been a fair bit of effort involved in doing all that. One example: i've had to work with my collaborators in the medical parts of the transsexual empire to get documentation 'proving' [does air quotes] that i should be treated as a woman. You know what bureaucracies are like: things have to be "just so", and even when they are, sometimes common sense gets in the way, and bureaucrats think things like, "Surely it's not possible for a man to suddenly be a woman? Maybe I need to be wary here." And they block you, and you end up having to call in senior officers in the patriarchy, and getting them to order those bureaucrats to do what needs to be done. i mean, those officers understand the bigger picture, that this apparent increase in the number of 'women' [does air quotes] in the world is a temporary, tactical, manoeveur on the path to final victory. But the front-line staff don't.

So it's a been a hassle. But i've got there in the end!

Do you have any advice for any men themselves wanting to become fifth-columnists for patriarchy?

Do it! It can be hard work, but it can be really rewarding. Like, distracting radical feminists from talking about under-representation of women in STEM fields, or in the pool of 'experts' the mainstream media draws on when discussing various issues .... that feels really good! And though you might be asked to commit suicide for the cause, that's not a certainty; what is a certainty is that you'll have helped your fellow men to roll back all the encroachments women have made on men's dominion over the last few decades. That's something to be proud of.


It's amazing how cathartic i can find sarcasm .... :-)

@polyvanilla has a blog about being a kinky polyamorous woman happily married to a monogamous vanilla man. One recent post of hers i particular enjoyed was this one on breast orgasms.

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Thanks to Dee for her review of, and feedback on, this post!

i often see 'gender' defined by various people as being about sociocultural expectations regarding presentation and roles/behaviours. Which is to say: rather than being about whether or not one is, for example, a 'woman', it's about presenting as 'a woman', behaving as 'a woman', and so on. Furthermore, this definition is then contrasted with 'sex', which the same people then define as being purely about biology.

i've previously written a critique of the notion of sex-as-purely-biological; here, i'd like to critique the conflating of 'gender' itself with "socioculturally expected gender roles/behaviours and presentation". Unsurprisingly, given the definition of 'gender' outlined above, many people go on to argue that we need to work towards a "gender-free society". With 'gender' defined as necessarily involving (relatively) rigid notions about presentation and roles, that desire seems to me to be a reasonable conclusion. The problem is, this definition is fundamentally hostile to trans people1.

One of the accusations often levelled by radfems2 against trans women such as myself is that we are reinforcing gender stereotypes, via:

  • "changing genders" (an oft-used phrase which i feel is usually inappropriate – we are not changing genders per se, we are changing which gender we publicly assert ourselves to be); and

  • adopting certain socioculturally expected physical presentations (regardless of the reasons for doing so).

As part of the process of transitioning, many trans women adopt an 'ultrafeminine' look, where what's considered 'feminine' is based on sociocultural ideas – in Western society, for example, predominantly wearing dresses and not pants, removing body hair, wearing jewellery, using facial makeup etc. There are at least two pressures for trans women to adopt this presentation, however:

  • 'Gatekeepers' - people such as psychiatrists and doctors – often require 'demonstrations' from trans women, to 'prove' we are serious about our sense of gender, before giving us the go-ahead to use hormones, have surgery, etc. That said, many gatekeepers often have *cough* 'traditional' ideas about what such demonstrations will look like. They don't find it sufficient for trans women to merely be suicidal about not being able to live as the gender we know ourselves to be; they require us to demonstrate to them that we're willing to conform to their stereotypes about the presentation and behaviours involved with being a 'woman'.

  • More generally, cisnormative society is constantly seeking any 'flaws' in how trans women live as women, to thus 'prove' that we're 'really' not women. A cis woman who prefers to wear pants, or who enjoys watching the footy, is nowadays only criticised by the more conservative conservatives, and doesn't seriously3 have her womanhood fundamentally questioned. This is not the case for an equivalent trans woman. So there is immense pressure on us to adopt 'ultrafeminine' presentations and behaviours.

In this context, defining 'gender' as inherently being about presentation and behaviours further reinforces the notion that trans people must present and behave like stereotypes in order to be accepted as the gender we know ourselves to be. Further, when one then uses this definition to argue for a "gender-free society", it's further reinforcing to trans people that we have no right to experience gender outside of that 'permitted' to us by society.

The argument might then be made: "Oh, but what we need to do is expand the definition of 'gender' so that it's not so limited in terms of presentation and behaviours!" There are at least two issues with this:

  • Assuming that one can expand the definition of 'gender' in such a way seems to me to imply that the essence of gender is in fact not about presentations and behaviours. So why include presentations and behaviours in the definition of gender in the first place? Why not distinguish 'gender' from "sociocultural expectations regarding presentation and behaviours for a given gender"?

  • In any case, who gets to decide which presentations and behaviours will be included in the expanded definition? If no-one or anyone does, surely that means that any presentations and behaviours can be included, which then renders presentation and behaviour irrelevant to the notion of 'gender' itself?

Here's something to consider. The word 'gay' - in the sense of 'homosexual' - has particular associations for many people: they often think of a guy who is flamboyant / camp. And though there are many people who realise that this is a stereotype – that although there are indeed some gay men like that, not all gay men are – it's still a common, pervasive stereotype in Western society. So should we then say we need to start working towards a "sexual-orientation-free society", simply because many people insist on linking sexual orientation with certain presentations and behaviours? Should we in fact define 'sexual orientation' as inherently involving particular sets of presentations and behaviours? Should we then state that a person is "not really 'gay'" unless they exhibit flamboyant, camp behaviours? If your answers to these questions are "no", why do your answers change to "yes" when discussing gender rather than sexual orientation?

i have to fight for my gender to be recognised every day. Every day i am involved with situations where people will regard me as "really just a guy" for one or more of many reasons: because i have a cock (and want to keep it)4, because i enjoy studying maths, because i top, because i have a goatee, because i watch porn .... the list goes on. And in the face of all that, i declare: "i am a woman. Whether or not you feel my presentation and behaviours fit your idea of the gender 'woman' is irrelevant. i am a woman. And don't try to tell me that i have to abandon this gender identity i have had to fight for just so that we can work towards your idea of a 'gender-free' utopia."

What i want is a society free of nonconsensual gendering. i refuse to demand that people not feel a sense of gender, or to claim that people wouldn't feel a sense of gender in some theoretical utopia. i want a society which doesn't assume people's gender based on presentation and/or behaviours – just as i want a society which doesn't assume someone's sexual orientation/preferences simply by looking at them – and which respects a person's sense of gender, or lack thereof. i will not support any theories or notions of gender which fly in the face of my experiences and struggles as a trans woman.

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1. And, i believe, genderqueer people too. (i myself identify as 'transgenderqueer' - i am both a trans woman and genderqueer.) But for the purpose of this essay, i'm going to focus on the impact on trans people.

2. A contraction of the phrase 'radical feminists'. A brief summary of my perspective on "radical feminism" can be found in this old blog post.

3. As distinct from jokes about "being one of the boys" etc.

4. i explore the particular form my body dysmorphia takes in more detail in this post.
This is a placeholder post for links to research relating to women's mathematical ability:
Whilst chatting with Dee recently about her latest Gay Express column, the issue of definitions for 'sex' and 'gender' arose.

i often see what seem to be well-meaning attempts to define 'sex' as "biological" and 'gender' as "socially constructed". i find this to be highly problematic.

Firstly, it would be more accurate to say that 'sex' is a social construct based on biology. There are several biological factors that can influence the development of what are often referred to as "sexual characteristics": not only genetics (including chromosomes), but also epigenetics, exposure to internally-produced and externally-produced hormones, and environmental substances more generally. Out of all this, it's common to select the 'X' and 'Y' chromosomes as indicators of 'sex'. Even then, however, there can be issues, because not everyone is either 'XX' or 'XY'. For example, some people are 'XXY'1. In some countries, having two XX chromosomes makes one 'female'; in other countries, having a Y chromosome makes one 'male'. So the same person could be classed as either 'female' or 'male' depending on what country they're in.

Thus, the privileging not only two particular chromosomes, but specific configurations of those chromosomes, over other biological factors is why i refer to 'sex' as "a social construct based on biology".

Secondly, as a dual-gendered trans woman, i can assure you that 'gender' is even trickier to define. Part of the problem is that people frequently conflate the concept of 'gender' with the concept of '[expected] gender roles'. So some (C)AFAB people say "Well, i'm not a 'girly girl', into frilly pink dresses and playing with dolls, so i must be transgendered!" No, it means they don't fit the expected gender roles for their assigned gender (i.e. 'female'). Similarly, many people assume that when i say i'm dual-gendered, i mean i've 'embraced'2 my "feminine, doll-loving side" together with my "masculine, truck-loving side". Again, no: i'm a woman and a man simultaneously, all the time, regardless of what i'm doing; and enjoying "chick-flicks" is part of me being a 'man', and enjoying programming is part of me being a 'woman'.

Why, then, do i call myself a 'woman', if it's not on the basis of identifying that category as being the one that gets to stick pictures of unicorns and rainbows on exercise books? It's because on some level, my mind fundamentally identifies with people labelled as being of 'female' gender as being "like me". It also fundamentally identifies with people labelled as being of 'male' gender as being "like me" (though to a noticeably lesser extent than 'female' people are). So the question then becomes: Well, how did this sense of identification come about?

In short: i don't know. i strongly suspect it's a mixture of biology, and physical environment, and social environment, and cultural environment, and political environment, and the influence of these four environments on the development of my biology, in which my mind is (i believe) based.

And 'gender'? i would call it something like "a psychosocial construct based on some combination of biology, physical environment, society, culture and politics". Still problematic, i'm sure, but at least more accurately reflective of what Western society has only recently started to learn: that sex and gender are a lot more complicated than we typically like to imagine.

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1. This particular combination is known as Klinefelter's syndrome. People are also born XYY, XX-male, XY-female, amongst other things. For more information, visit the Wikipedia entry on 'Intersex'.

2. For some reason some form of the word 'embrace' seems to be obligatory in this context.

i've recently been prompted to again think about the dynamics of, as it were 'allyship'.

When someone seeks to be an ally of a particular (not necessarily strictly numeric) minority, that person is faced with the issue of which strand of politics within that minority community they should pay the most attention to. And in my experience, what can often happen is that the person in question ends up siding with those in the community who spew the most venom.

One example is my experiences of men who have described themselves as "pro-feminist", who more often than not seem to ally themselves with what i consider to be the more problematic strands of 'radical' feminism: those strands which are transphobic and whorephobic. i know there are many women who, like myself, have had the fun of - either literally or figuratively - being shouted down by a cisgendered man when we put forward political positions that don't fit 'radical' feminist orthodoxy. In other words, women getting lectured by a cis male on what consititutes women's liberation and 'real' feminism!

These unpleasant experiences have encouraged me to ponder the political development of allies. i can't help but wonder if the sort of political choices described above stem from the fact that allies, by virtue of not being part of the minority they wish to be an ally of, aren't in a position from which they can easily determine the 'correct' political choice. Thus, in order to be a "good ally", they seek to abandon all positions which can be claimed to be a manifestation of (again, not necessarily strictly numeric) majority privilege; and they therefore ally themselves with those strands that place a strong emphasis on ideological purity - and which, consequently, regularly engage in witch-hunts.

Myself, my support for a particular strand of political thought tends to be inversely related to the propensity of that strand to engage in witch-hunts. When that strand seems to me to spend more time on witch-hunts than anything else, it becomes something i want to avoid supporting.
[personal profile] cheshire recently brought my attention to the concept of 'consensual gender'. i like this concept. Overwhelmingly, in Western societies, gender is forced upon us: not only in the sense that heteronormative paradigms expect us to accept it as a primary categorisation of the world and its attributes, but also in the sense that we are assigned a gender before we are able to actively consent to the label, assumptions and expectations that are attached to us thereby. Further, challenging the label - or indeed, the entire labelling process - is Not Allowed, because in heteronormative understandings, gender == sex == one's primary sexual characteristics (which come in only two forms). Claiming that one's gender is not in fact the one claimed to correspond to one's primary sexual characteristics clearly demonstrates that one has lost touch with True Reality and needs to be forced back there. "Gender Identity Disorder" is not a physiological disorder, where something is wrong with our bodies; it's a psychiatric disorder, where something is wrong with our minds. Attempts must be made to examine the minds of trans people in detail and discover whether our minds can be 'fixed' before consideration will be given to the possibility of changing our bodies. "Our bodies"? No, our bodies are not ours. They belong to cisgendered society, to cisgendered psychology: our bodies, their choice. It has to be that way, because people who have lost touch with reality as we trans people have are not capable of making the right choices, are not capable of giving consent.

This isn't right. This isn't ethical. Our bodies, our choice. Gender should be consensual.
i've recently started hanging out on #aussiechix on, the IRC channel of AussieChix. It's been wonderful - civil and intelligent conversations about a variety of topics, and IT-related discussion in which assumptions aren't made about e.g. all the discussion participants being male, or that it's fine to continually associate being uninterested in or unknowledgable about IT with being female.

Earlier today someone on the channel pointed me to "On Being a No-name Blogger Using Her Real Name", an awesome (and long) piece that's basically about Internetting While Female: the rubbishy attitudes and behaviours we have to put up with, and how, when we express our dissatisfaction with this state of affairs, we're told That's Just How It Is, Deal With It and It's All Our Fault Anyway. Highly recommended reading.
Reading the sarcastically-titled "Save the sexually violent males" made me again ponder the issue of the extent to which we regard people in general, and men in particular, as responsible for their actions. In particular, it made me consider those feminists who claim that porn 'causes' men to behave badly whilst also claiming to defend the right of women to not have to avoid dressing 'provocatively' in order to avoid being sexually assaulted.

My feeling is that such feminists can't have it both ways. If porn needs to be banned because it incites men to treat women as sexual objects they can use and abuse, this must be because men have little to no control over their behaviour once they've interacted with porn. This in turn implies that we should ban anything that might, like porn, 'provoke' men into behaving inappropriately. Why shouldn't that include banning women from dressing 'provocatively'? Particularly given that any women who dresses in a 'sexy' manner is only doing it because she's internalised patriarchal values and is regarding herself as a sexual object whose primary purpose is pleasing men? :-P

No, as i've said before, i think that we shouldn't be giving men yet more reasons to not be held accountable for their behaviour, or to avoid thinking about their privileges and behaviours based on those privileges. Feminists typically don't think it's acceptable for men to defend their sexual assault of a woman based on how she's dressed; why should it be acceptable for them to use the "porn made me do it" defence?

Porn doesn't exist in a vacuum; most people have patriarchal culture instilled into them for at least a decade before they encounter porn. Given this, i don't think it's useful to spend more time lambasting the negatives of porn (which are legion) to the detriment of lambasting the general patriarchal beliefs and values to which people are exposed during most of our waking lives. After all, the latter form the crucial foundational context within which many people interact with porn. To me, the sexist perspectives often found in porn are a symptom of patriarchal society, not the cause. i don't feel that sexually explicit material is, and must always be, inevitably sexist, because that implies that sexuality is a purely male domain - and that, to me, is indefensibly essentialist twaddle.
Recently i got involved in an online discussion regarding feminism and humanism. In declaring myself to be a feminist, i wrote that:
[To me, 'feminism'] means things like "Women have a right to control their own bodies" (i.e. i'm pro-choice), "Women are not chattels" (i.e. should not be treated as though we're property to be used at our owner's whim) and "Women should not be overlooked for a particular job because of stereotypes about what women are or are not supposed to do, rather than what the specific female applicant in question is actually able to do".
To which someone responded with:
Since I presume you have the same opinion about the rights of men, I do not see why such positions are more "feminist" than "humanist".
i then wrote a few comments about the problems with humanism, and why i think feminism as a strand of thought - related to, but distinct from, humanism - is thus necessary.

What follows is the result of editing those comments together (primarily for flow):

Discussion on humanism and feminism )
Let's see how much media coverage this study gets:
Dutch researchers have confirmed what fat smokers have waited years to hear - that healthy people are actually a greater burden on the state, because they live longer and oblige the taxpayer to deal with the cost of "lingering diseases of old age like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s".

That's according to the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and Environment, which found that while "a person of normal weight costs on average £210,000 over their lifetime", a smoker clocks up just £165,000 and the obese run up an average £187,000 bill.

[ Cross-posted to [ profile] transfats and [ profile] fat_feminist. ]


2008-02-02 18:03
Reading a plot synopsis for the film Juno, i was concerned that it might turn out to have an underlying anti-choice message (although the Australian trailer for it almost out-vagues the teasers for Cloverfield: it's not readily apparent, to me at least, that it's a movie about teen pregnancy). i haven't yet seen it myself, but i found a couple of interesting reviews on the Reproductive Rights Reality Check Web site from pro-choicers who have:
  • "Juno Misses Chance to Address Abortion Honestly"
    Indirect in its underlying condemnation of abortion on request, the film is a far more costly blow against abortion rights than anything the anti-abortion crowd could possibly hope for or ever produce - and they are big gainers (at no cost to them) from its sappy popularity.
  • "Suburban Legend"
    According to conservative blogger Jill Stanek, I'm supposed to hate this movie, and I certainly don't . . . "Juno" is a movie not for anti-choicers. It's a film for the people who love the many imperfect ways families take shape and people grow up.
In a recent blog entry, Rodney Croome wrote:
Gay liberationists, older-style feminists, and baby-boomers still suffering the scars of their parents' loveless VJ-Day marriages, are deeply suspicious of the institution of marriage. It was their ideological demon, as it is now the religious right's ideological angel. Altman is emblematic of these groups. He vents his and their hostility to marriage as a curse from the past crippling the future.

Together, all this political expediency and ideology will coalesce into a concerted campaign, both within and without Labor circles, to diminish and dismiss same-sex marriage.
i'm not a baby boomer, so presumably i'm both a "gay liberationist" and an "older-style feminist", because i'm not at all enamoured of the institution of marriage; and i'm guessing, from the tone of Croome's comments, that this makes me some kind of out-of-touch 'old fogey', that criticising the institution of marriage is a ludicrous relic from a bygone era.

i disagree. Although Croome has frequently commented that the introduction of 'no-fault' divorce laws has in theory made marriage less of a ball-and-chain than it used to be (particularly for women), i think he focuses too much on the legal aspects of the institution of marriage and nowhere near enough on the social aspects of that institution.

Someone recently posted the 1971 essay "I Want a Wife" to the [ profile] womens_studies community, and i feel that many aspects of it would still resonate with many married women today; that marriage is still, socially speaking, a very gendered institution. It's been so for thousands of years, and i doubt that it could change substantially within a mere few decades. i've often seen people in same-sex relationships refer to the homemaker of the couple as the 'wife' (in a manner ranging from joking, to "Ha ha only serious", to completely serious). Conversely, even when people use the term 'wife' to simply mean "the woman to whom I'm married", to many people it still implies 'homemaker', 'primary carer' etc. Furthermore, even if legally a woman could simply ask for, and get, a divorce, it's not necessarily the case that such a move would be socially acceptable: there's still a lot of pressure on women in particular to maintain the marriage "for the good of the kids", "to not embarrass and/or reflect badly on the family", "to not disrespect the husband" etc., even if she's in a DV situation. i thus suspect that in a number of instances, it may well be easier for a woman to leave a non-marriage relationship than a marriage relationship.

Then, too, let's not forget that property rights are still a fundamental component of marriage, even if the property rights in question don't necessarily involve regarding one person as a chattel. Indeed, property rights are openly being cited as a reason (albeit amongst others) for the recognition of same-sex relationships, whether in the form of civil unions or marriage. Furthermore, legally speaking, marriage is still solely about sexual and romantic monogamy - being married to two people, 'bigamy', is against the law - which typically (but of course, not always) involves asserting rights over another person's body ("If you want to have sex with someone else, I forbid it")1.

Given all the above, is it any wonder that i find it difficult to simply regard marriage - as Croome perhaps does - as nothing more than, or primarily, a formal statement of love and commitment? Given all the above baggage, i would rather not be associated with the institution of marriage, even though i would love to have a commitment ceremony with both my partners (although i do feel that love and commitment are far better demonstrated by daily deeds and words than by a commitment ceremony).

As i've noted before, i don't think the state has any business recognising, and therefore privileging, certain consensual adult relationships and not others. (Particularly when it means a six-month marriage is valued more than the unmarried-yet-deeply-committed relationship i've had for several years with both my current partners.) By the same token, however, if the state is going to do so, i want the relationships it recognises to be as broad as possible; and so i support the right to not only same-sex civil unions, but same-sex marriage too. And i will respect people's descriptions of the consensual relationships they have, regardless of whether or not that description is approved by the state.

1. To me, that's not true monogamy; that's forced monogamy. i can't understand the people who claim they're "naturally monogamous" yet need to enforce rules about the sexual and romantic lives of their partners. Surely if both partners in the relationship are "naturally monogamous", they would not be interested in anyone else but their partner, and the enforcement of such rules would be unnecessary. True monogamy makes me go "Awww!"; forced monogamy makes me go :-/.
In case anyone was under the illusion that our society's current obsession with the 'obesity epidemic' is primarily about people's health rather than body image1, the overall lack of coverage of this study by the media2 should contribute towards dispelling that illusion:
The association between waist circumference and mortality persisted after further adjustment for smoking, baseline health status, and BMI (P = .02) but not after additional adjustment for fitness (P = .86). Fitness predicted mortality risk after further adjustment for smoking, baseline health, and either BMI, waist circumference, or percent body fat (P < .001 for trend). . . . In this study population, fitness was a significant mortality predictor in older adults, independent of overall or abdominal adiposity.
'Adiposity' was assessed by body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and percent body fat.

In other words, this study suggests that being fit might increase your health even if you're 'overweight'. But of course, because we're ultimately less concerned about people's health and more concerned about whether people fit current standards of 'beauty', we wouldn't want to talk about any research which prioritises the former over the latter, would we? :-P

1. i find it outrageous that it's acceptable to comment on a person's size / weight "for health reasons, and the resulting costs to society" in a way that it's not acceptable to comment on, say, a person's consumption of alcohol, even though alcohol consumption has huge social and financial impacts on our society.

2. One exception being the NY Post's article "Fit fatties healthier than thin couch potatoes".



2007-11-18 11:24
Reading through this thread on the Perth Indymedia site, a couple of things moved me to rant here.

The slogan "Don't be a feminist sell out - Don't support the sex industry!" is problematic, for a start. But i'll come back to that.

It's this response to this this comment that has me outraged. Specifically, the sentence which defends the above slogan by stating that: "Your 'feminist' analysis silences Women who are harmed and abused by being prostituted, trafficked or sexually abused by men who purchase sex and pimps whp [sic] profit from it."

Perhaps someone, in the comments to this post, can enlighten me as to exactly how Natasha's perspective, as written in her post, silences women who have been harmed by the sex industry? The three possibilities i see in this regard are:
  • Natasha's statement that [t]here were many unsubstantiated lies including that 70% of women in prostitution are abused and the other 30% have experienced psychologically [sic] stress.

    It wouldn't at all surprise me if those figures were in fact accurate. However, although it may be reasonable for Natasha to ask for the figures to be substantiated, i can understand how the fact that she herself doesn't produce any data countering them, but simply calls them "lies", may indeed come across as implying that she feels that claims of harm and abuse are overstated. Nonetheless, i can't see how that can be considered to be the entirety of her analysis, particularly in light of the fact that elsewhere in her post she implicitly acknowledges that women who do sex work face at least some problems when she notes that she has engaged in collective action to improve the working conditions of such women. And i can't see any comments from Natasha which could help us to determine the areas in such improvements were sought; which thus means we can't draw any conclusions as to whether she has or has not sought to help harmed / abused women.

  • Supporting decriminalisation = silencing of women who have been harmed / abused by the sex industry.

    The experience of decriminalisation here in Victoria has shown that it's not necessarily as beneficial to women who do sex work as it's often made out to be. As pointed out in the Indymedia thread, it seems that it has helped to normalise the notion that men have a right to use women's bodies for sex. The impression that i've got is that many, if not most, men don't think that they're paying for services, but instead think that they're paying to lease the 'property rights' to a woman's body for a particular period of time. So when the state decriminalises sex work, those men don't necessarily see it as anything else other than as a validation that their behaviours and attitudes are okay. (As an aside, i feel that people have a right to seek sexual pleasure with others, but not a blanket right to receive it from others; if the latter were a right, it implies that one person's desires trump other people's right to control their own bodies.)

    Nonetheless, to claim that proponents of decriminalisation are seeking to silence and/or ignore women who have been harmed / abused through sex work is disingenuous at best. Many, if not most, of the pro-decriminalisation positions i've read have included the argument that decriminalising sex work will allow women to speak up about the physical and/or psychological harm inflicted upon them without fear of facing criminal proceedings, and will also thus allow health services better opportunities to help such women. Perhaps some proponents of decriminalisation are indeed seeking to silence the negative experiences of women who do sex work, but i feel it's unreasonable to tar all such proponents with such a brush.

  • Women who have positive experiences of sex work and who talk in public about that fact, are thereby silencing women who have experienced harm / abuse as a result of sex work.

    There are people, such as brothel owner / operators, who have a significant financial interest in talking up positive experiences of sex work and playing down negative experiences, in order to allay people's concerns. So positive experiences, which might represent a minority of all experiences, might well end up getting more publicity than negative experiences, and thus, those negative experiences will effectively be silenced.

    The problem for me is that, whilst the above might be true, it implies that some women shouldn't talk about their experiences for political reasons, i.e. that certain experiences don't fit certain political agendas. i strongly disagree with this. i want to hear as much of the diversity of women's experiences as possible, regardless of whether or not some of those experiences don't fit with my personal political agendas, because i feel that political positions that can't or won't deal with such experiences are (a) disrespectful, and (b) inadequate, given that they're apparently unable to deal with the diversity of reality.

Which leads me back to the slogan "Don't be a feminist sell out - Don't support the sex industry!" i fail to see how ad hominem attacks, such as publicly labelling feminists who support decriminalisation as "sell outs", is productive. The fact is, there are many different feminisms, and i can't agree with anyone who claims that their feminism, even one that i may substantially agree with, is The One True Feminism. i'm not a fan of liberal feminism, or individualist feminism; yet i can understand how they regard themselves as forms of feminism, and would rather publicly engage in critiques of their politics than ad hom attacks on their proponents (whatever i may privately think of those proponents). i realise that there's a special place reserved in the human psyche for people perceived to be traitors to one's group, which assigns such people a lower circle of Hell than the open enemies of one's group. Nonetheless, i think it's really important to avoid assimilationist-like positions where the victims of institutionalised inequalities blame other such victims for the problems they face, instead of concentrating their ire where it belongs - on the societal structures which perpetuate inequality, and their apologists.
i don't post about feminist stuff as much as i used to. A major part of that is that i've been involved with feminism since the age of 14 (and i'm now 33)1. i've participated in so many actions, discussions and debates with so many people about so many women's / trans / gender issues that i've lost count. And basically, i'm currently in a state of burnout around this stuff - i get really tired of having the same arguments again and again and again without any reward in the form of deeper / more sophisticated understandings of the issues on the part of all people involved (including myself).

Terminology, sadly, plays a large factor in this. i call myself 'pro-porn', and other people call themselves 'anti-porn'. But those terms are loaded with assumed meanings. The 'anti-porn' crowd usually assume that i think that porn doesn't need to be, or shouldn't be, criticised on issues of class, race, gender, ability, ethnicity etc; that i have no problem with women being exploited by the sex industry; that i'm fine with violence against women. Yet none of that is the case. Conversely, i have all too often assumed that the 'anti-porn' crowd all want to ban anything that they deem to be 'porn' rather than 'erotica' (oh how i loathe that supposed distinction, and particulary its stench of classism), and that they all want to reduce women's sexual expression to the One True Path as described by She Who Knows What Woman Are Really Like, Sheila Jeffreys. Yet i have had discussions with 'anti-porn' feminists in which we managed to discover that our assumptions about each other were incorrect, and that we basically held the same position, but just came at it from different angles and ended up giving our position different labels.

Then there's the term 'radical feminism'. The Wikipedia artice on radical feminism begins with:
Radical Feminism is a "current" within feminism that focuses on patriarchy as a system of power that organizes society into a complex of relationships producing a "male supremacy" that oppresses women. Radical feminism seeks to challenge and to overthrow patriarchy by opposing standard gender roles and male oppression of women, and calls for a radical reordering of society.
In that sense, i see myself as part of the radical feminist current. And yet radical feminism segued into currents which have been highly hostile to sex work (and often to the women who do it2) and to trans people (well, perhaps more to trans women in particular), both stances i strongly disagree with3.

A close friend of mine has a number of years' experience both doing sex work and talking to other women who do / have done sex work, as part of her work for a community organisation. She and i are both frustrated by the dichtomisation that all too often controls debates over sex work. On the one hand, there are organisations in Australia that claim that the vast majority women in the sex industry are there on the basis of a completely voluntary, duress-free choice on their part, and that things like the trafficking of women into sex work (as shown by court cases in which people have been convicted of such trafficking) are merely an aberration. On the other hand, we have feminists who claim that no women are in the sex industry due to their own choice, that it is always a choice made under duress, and that the working conditions of women in sex work inevitably involve beatings, torture, etc.

Of course, the reality is much more complex - the above two positions really represent only two extreme points on the edges of the multi-dimensional space that is sex work. Women's reasons for entering the sex industry, and their experiences once there, are diverse. And the issue of the extent to which women enter the industry as a voluntary, duress-free, choice is a complex one.

A good example of this can be found in at least some discussions in the [ profile] kissmyass_cosmo community. There, some people claim that they just happen to like what's currently fashionable, and that they're not being influenced by the fashion industry at all; whilst other people respond with something along the lines of "Yeah, right, you just happen to like what's currently fashionable - an amazing co-incidence. :-P"

Amongst the latter crowd, there seems to be an air of "anti-fashion": "anti-fashion" not in sense that fashion shouldn't dictate people's lives and sense of self-worth (a belief which i share), but the notion that unless a woman is doing the opposite of what the fashion industry is saying is currently 'fashionable', then she's obviously merely a slave to fashion. i can't see the logic in this, myself: it seems to me that this sort of attitude would still mean that one is controlled by the fashion industry, in that when the fashion is to jump left, one has to jump right; and when the fashion changes to jumping right, one then has to jump left.

Having said that, the argument made by some women that they just happen to like to wear the same clothes etc. as are currently fashionable, that they are totally independent of influence from the fashion industry, seems to me to be highly unlikely. We are all influenced by social, cultural, economic, political and marketing pressures in some way or another. i don't think it's unreasonable to consider the possibility that maybe women are raised to be very sensitive to fashion cues, such that they subconsciously, and with lesser or greater subtlety, alter their preferences to be more in line with what's currently "in".

So i think it's important for people to consider the ways in which their personal beliefs and/or preferences might be being shaped to suit the needs or objectives of other individuals or groups. At the same time, however, given that historically women have had 'choices' imposed upon them, i think that it's very important that any analysis and/or critique of women's choices avoid sliding down the slippery slope to the point of assuming that if a woman engages in something we don't agree with, that she's "obviously" acting at the behest of internalised patriarchy, that she didn't "really" make the choice of her own accord (implying that if she "truly" had free choice, she wouldn't have made that choice). Because once we move away from the realm of obvious physical coercion and into the realm of possible coercion due to "social, cultural, economic, political and marketing pressures", the extent to which we our choices can be said to be truly our own is not clear-cut. Given this, i think it's better to err on the side of caution, and respect women as autonomous human beings who should be allowed to make their own decisions, rather than having explicit decisions made for them with the aim of countering implicit coercion which might or might not exist in specific cases.

Sadly, though, i've too often found that people seem to want to eschew recognition of the complexities of these issues for a "Women's choices are their own, and shouldn't be analysed or critiqued" / "Women's choices are not their own choices at all, but are those of patriarchy, except when i agree with those choices" sort of dichotomy (of which i guess the "pro-porn" / "anti-porn" dichotomy may be a subset). And i really don't have the energetic resources to continually challenge these dichotomies and the assumptions that they usually seem to entail, with the hope that (a) i can convince other people to move away from these dichotomies and assumptions, so that (b) we can all deepen our understanding of the issues. Plus, of course, that's on top of having to deal with all the crap about me not being a 'real' woman, that i'm a fifth column for patriarchy in the women's movement, that i can't be a feminist etc.

Thus, i've absented myself of late from contributing to feminist groups and discussions. i'm hoping that will change some time in the future, when i have more internal resources; but that time is not now.

1. Which is why i'm interested in such perspectives as that of [ profile] winterkoninkje, who recently posted a thought-provoking entry titled "I am not a feminist".

2. For example, a friend told me about a woman seeking to volunteer with an organisation that works with women who do sex work, but who (iirc) wasn't sure that it was appropriate for women who have done (or still do) sex work to themselves be volunteers. :-/

3. [ profile] cheshire_bitten recently posted about this issue hirself.

So now we know: Women are only 80% as valuable as human embryos.

Someone over on [ profile] debunkingmale has brought up the old "Men should not call themselves feminist, only pro-feminist" thing. i've written about this topic many times all over the Web, but not, apparently, in the form of a post to my own journal. So here is that post, which i'll update with further points as they come to mind.

The issues i have with the "Men shouldn't call themselves feminists" notion include:
  • All too often it's based on dichotomous ideas of sex and gender. What about people such as myself, who identify as male and female - can i call myself 'feminist'? i've often found that those pushing the "no 'feminist' men" idea tend to be transphobic, or at the very least have very simplistic ideas about trans people's lives and experiences; so they may dismiss this point as irrelevant, or only relevant in that they feel it serves as yet another example of men trying to colonise womanhood. Which brings me to an important point:

  • If only women can call themselves feminist, we have to ask what constitutes 'womanhood'. Having a womb? But then those who have had a hysterectomy don't qualify. Having breasts? But some women have smaller breasts than some men. Having a cunt? Personally, i balk at reducing a woman to her genitalia. Having exactly two X chromosomes? But then intersex people who have been raised female don't qualify. What about having been raised as a female, or having lived as a female? In the case of the former, does that mean that an FTM transsexual can call himself a 'feminist'? In the case of the latter, exactly what experiences are required over what period before a person can qualify as a 'woman'? Does one have to experience oppression primarily through one's gender before qualifying? And so on.

  • The argument that someone made in the debunking male thread that men's definitions of feminism may not match women's definitions of feminism is specious, since feminism consists of a wide variety of beliefs, a number of which involve claims that other feminist beliefs are patriarchal. For example, some anti-BDSM feminists feel that BDSM is one form of the "eroticisation of women's oppression", whilst pro-BDSM feminists often feel that dictating the form women's sexuality 'should' take is classic patriarchal behaviour.

  • i tend to feel that how men identify in this regard is far less important than their concrete actions. Although i'm aware that other women (e.g. [ profile] porcineflight) have different experiences in this regard, i've all too often witnessed so-called 'pro-feminist' men act in ways i feel are highly disrespectful to women and their feelings and experiences - for example, this incident, Stan Goff's comments about women and sex work (as per this critique) and a Web-based attack on me in which it was implied that [ profile] naked_wrat must really merely be a sockpuppet of mine, since no real woman would enjoy and defend at least some types of porn. :-P Further, it strikes me as odd (at the very least) that a cis woman could declare herself a 'feminist', argue against abortion even in cases of rape, and still be able to call herself 'feminist', whereas a cis man who publicly argued for pro-choice positions and who, in his own behaviour and in his activism, worked towards ending violence against women, can nevertheless only call himself 'pro-feminist'.

Personally, i'll take the man who identifies as a feminist and walks the talk over the man who identifies as 'pro-feminist' but who behaves as a condescending prick anyday.

Edited to add: This thread covers a number of issues relevant to this topic.


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