The year is 1720. The place is England.

A bestiary is being compiled. Dragons, unicorns, griffins; all are there. But why not add another creature even more fantastical than a griffin?

Someone proposes the following:

"Let us imagine something akin to a beaver. But this beaver has the bill and webbed feet of a duck. What makes it dangerous, however, is its poisonous hind foot, with the sting of a scorpion."

The idea is met with amusement. "Indeed, no-one has ever reported such a creature! The very idea is as nonsensical as that of a griffin. But it is novel. It shall be included."

The bestiary is finalised. The new monster is discussed. "There is no evidence whatsoever for such a creature. It is contrary to reason that such a creature could even exist. Those who imagine otherwise have succumbed to an irrationality that merely serves to demonstrate the smallness of their intellects."

How ignorant people can be!
Based on a series of tweets of mine beginning here.

Many people seem unaware of how the concept "gender is a social construct" - which many feminists believe to be axiomatic or unassailable dogma - has been used against trans people. Apart from the fact that it's a rather arrogantly totalising assertion1 - it's not, for example, typically paired with the phrase ".... which might have biological roots" - it has been, and still is, used to argue that trans people are at best psychologically confused, and at worst are furthering oppressive social relations based on gender.

For example: radfems use the bare concept "gender is a social construct" to argue that trans women only think we're women because of societal expectations around gender; basically, we're men who merely want to wear dresses, but the social construction of gender means that we feel we can only do that if we're women. We therefore claim we must be women2. Thus, radfems argue, those of us who think we're trans women need to accept we're really just men who don't fit social constructions of gender. i've witnessed this argument coming not only from radfems, but from people from other strands of feminism as well.

Another thing i've encountered from feminists is the argument that, since gender is a social construct, which has a hierarchy attached to it in which men are 'greater' than women, then, as it's socially constructed, it can, and indeed, should, be 'abolished' - a notion i've addressed here3.

i feel that, analogously to how radfem ideologies about sex work are quite prevalent in mainstream feminism, radfem ideas about 'transness', which are rooted in unsophisticated versions of the "gender is a social construct" meme, have "leaked out" of the radfem sphere into mainstream feminism, where they negatively affect how trans people, and trans women in particular, are treated.

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1. Which i find particularly interesting given that i have only rarely witnessed the same assertion being made about sexual orientation, i.e. i rarely see people who claim that "gender is a social construct" also claiming that "sexual orientation is a social construct". To me, there's at least as much reason to declare sexual orientation a social construct as there is gender.

2.. To be fair, there are a number of trans women who, whether under pressure from gatekeepers or otherwise, do indeed make such arguments (e.g. "I like sewing, that proves I'm really a woman!"). i'm not one of them.

3. And again, despite sexual orientation most definitely having a hierarchy attached to it, in which heterosexuals are 'greater' than non-heterosexuals, and homosexuals in particular, i've not often witnessed calls for sexual orientation to be 'abolished'.

The Centre for a Stateless Society yesterday published an article of mine: "Statism as Disempowerment".
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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2013-07-31 18:42
There's a video clip currently doing the rounds called "Porn Sex vs Real Sex: The Differences Explained With Food". When i first watched it, i felt uneasy, but couldn't put my finger on why. i've now thought about it some more, and can identify a few issues:

  • It doesn't define what 'porn' is. This is a highly complex issue, to be sure, but it has significant implications in this specific context. To wit: It seems to be using 'porn' as shorthand for "professionally produced audiovisual sexually explicit material specifically aimed at heterosexual demographics". But:

    • There are increasing amounts of sexually explicit material that aren't professionally produced, e.g. the material often described as 'amateur' or 'homemade';

    • There are increasing amounts of written sexually explicit material; and

    • There are increasing amounts of non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered sexually explicit material available, both amateur and professional.

    This video clip essentially erases all this, and discusses 'porn' as a homogeneous entity.

  • It's cisnormative, implying that 'womanhood' and/or 'femaleness' necessarily involves having a cunt. How might this feel to trans women who don't have a cunt (and who might not be able to get surgery to construct one1), or to trans men who have a cunt and wish they didn't?

  • It's heteronormative, implying that there there is "too much" same-gender sexual interaction in porn, compared to such interaction in the general population. What message is conveyed to same-gender attracted people by reinforcing that we're in a minority; that same-gender sexual behaviour isn't statistically 'average'; that "too much" such behaviour is depicted in porn?

The whole thing reminds me of the "real women have curves" slogan. Although the intent of the slogan is to try to counter the representations of 'desirable' women's bodies in the media - which often involve pre-publication processing to make the depicted women look thinner than they actually are - in order to counter negative impacts on womens' body image, it fundamentally still involves body-policing. That is: it involves making an assertion about which body shapes should be respected and which aren't.

When i was at uni, i knew a couple of women, biological sisters, who were both ardent feminists and who were also both stick-thin - not due to ongoing dieting or regular exercise, but just because that's how their bodies were. They noted with frustration how they got subjected to comments like "You need a sammich!", quite rightly noting that such attitudes, even if favourable to women who "have curves", still involved making assertions about what a woman 'should' look like.

Similarly, the very title "Porn Sex vs Real Sex" is making assertions about what constitutes 'real' sex (not to mention assertions about what constitutes 'porn') via the use of statistics, an approach that is fundamentally hostile to acceptance (let alone celebration of) human sexual diversity. If two people film themselves engaged in consensual urine play, and then post it online, is it 'porn' that doesn't depict 'real sex' because it's something that most people don't do? And this issue arises for any consensual sexual activity that is a statistical outlier.

It seems to me that, rather than making claims about what constitutes 'real' sex - which can very easily dovetail into societal ideas about what's 'normal' - in opposition to the diversity of human sexuality, a different approach could be taken. We could, for example, be saying:
Porn shows lots of different things. Human sexuality comes in many different forms. But just because it's in porn, doesn't mean you're obliged to do it yourself! Neither does it mean you can cajole or force someone else into doing something they don't want to do just because 'It's done in porn!' Sexual interaction should involve people together negotiating sexual activity to engage in, based on respect for boundaries and the informed consent of all involved.

Think of porn like a recipe book: Not everyone is going to like every recipe in every recipe book, and people shouldn't be forced to eat the result of a recipe just because it appears in a cookbook. :-)
Surely this would be a better approach than using statistics to make some sexual activities more 'normal' and 'real' than others?

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1. e.g. someone such as myself.

So you've just referred to 'gender', perhaps in the phrase "gender is a social construct". Do you mean:

  1. 'sense of gender', i.e. the "gut feeling" one has about one's gender, or lack thereof?

  2. 'gender identity', i.e. the label(s) used to describe to others one's sense of gender / lack of gender?

  3. 'sociocultural gender roles', i.e. the roles that society tends to assign to people who publicly present as 'female', 'male', or other (non-)genders?

  4. ETA 2013.07.09: 'gender expression', i.e. the way that one 'does' gender behaviourally, visually etc. [Thanks to jessie-c for noting this.]

To me, as two-gendered transgenderqueer woman, it is critical that discussions about gender make at least these distinctions. Because in my experience, when these distinctions aren't made, discourse can quite quickly end up in places that have negative real-world impacts on trans and genderqueer people.

(Related: my blog post "So you've just said 'gender is fluid'".)

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2013-07-07 18:17
Nowadays i don't actively identify as 'queer'. If someone calls me 'queer', i'm usually fine with it; but otherwise, i tend to avoid using it to describe myself.

My first encounters with the word 'queer' in a positive sense were of people seeking to reclaim it as an umbrella term for all non-heterosexual identities1,2. This seemed to me to be a potentially useful approach to alliance-building - emphasising commonalities rather than differences, all the better to challenge het-supremacy - and so i happily started applying it to myself, alongside 'bisexual'.

Of late, however, i've come to the conclusion that 'queer' is becoming so broad as to be effectively useless.

Firstly, i recently learned that in New Zealand, 'queer' doesn't just refer to non-heterosexuality, but non-cisgender genders as well. In this usage, one could be heterosexual but transgender, and thus 'queer'. This differs from the usages i've encountered here in Australia, where 'queer' on its own - i.e. outside of constructs like 'genderqueer' - is taken to be a statement about sexual orientation/preference, not gender. That is: in an Australian context, if i labelled myself 'queer', i would expect people to understand that to mean i'm non-heterosexual in some way, without any implication about my gender. If i were to do so in a Kiwi context, however, it could mean i'm "heterosexual but non-cis" or "non-heterosexual but cis". To me, there's enough of an issue with people believing that 'trans' is a sexual identity3 as it is without a term that actively tries to elide the distinctions between sexual orientation/preference and gender.

Secondly, as i note in this tweet, "[a] difficulty with umbrella terms is that they often evolve to become synonymous with the group under the umbrella with the most #privilege." In my experience, a number of people use 'queer' as a synonym for 'homosexual'. So i've witnessed situations in which women gripe about a guy coming on to them "even though I've said I'm queer" - a usage of 'queer' which conflicts with the (in my experience, common) usage of 'queer' to mean 'non-heterosexual', i.e. to mean not only lesbians and gay men, but those who are bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual etc. as well.

Thirdly, though, and most critically, people seem to increasingly be using 'queer' to mean something along the lines of "differing from at least one societal norm". In this usage, one can, for example, be 'queer' by virtue of being disabled, even though one might be heterosexual and cisgender.

"But by that logic," i've said, "everyone is queer."
"Yes!" has been the happy reply, "Exactly!"

i assume what's being attempted here is a demonstration that, because we're all queer in some sense, society simply needs to stop being unpleasant to certain people on the basis that they differ from the (statistical or asserted) norm; instead, society should simply start happily proclaiming "Viva la difference!"

Uh huh.

i feel systematic privilege, discrimination and oppression can't be ended merely by presenting a sufficiently succinct and clever argument. To believe otherwise is to assume that it occurs primarily due to innocent ignorance, and that there is little to no material benefit for anyone involved. To me, this is manifestly not the case.

Moreover, by collapsing into a single term the wide variety of forms that privilege, discrimination and oppression can take, it becomes more difficult to witness the fact that one can be benefiting from one system of power differentials whilst at the same time being hindered and/or harmed by another. For example, having disabilities - CFS, major depression, fibromyalgia, OCD - doesn't give me some right to downplay my thin privilege on the basis that "Hey, i suffer from discrimination too!" And this is without taking into consideration the "umbrella term effect" i described above.

Still, this is the direction a number of people are taking the word 'queer' - to in practice make it synonymous with 'human'. In which case, calling myself 'queer' doesn't convey much information to anyone other than those who thought i was some form of AI.

i interact with people from multiple continents and nations on a daily basis. The variation in intended meanings of the word 'queer' now feels to me to be too great for me to want to actively use it to describe myself. No label is perfect, of course; but i feel there are many more precise labels to apply to myself than 'queer'.

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1. ETA, 2013.07.29: Cf. this piece on the word 'queer', by Yasmin Nair; i have been heavily influenced by the early-90s usages of the word 'queer' she describes therein.

2. i recently read an exchange where someone attempted to 'educate' someone else that the word 'queer' was offensive, apparently unaware that there are many thousands - if not millions! - of people who publicly proudly use the word to describe themselves.

3. So that, for example, i have on several occasions encountered forms where i have to specify whether i'm 'heterosexual', 'homosexual', 'bisexual' or 'transsexual'. :-/

i frequently observe people express concern that they're worried about getting language related to trans and genderqueer identities right. They don't want to offend or upset the person they're talking to, but they're not confident that they won't.

i certainly agree that language usage in this area can be particularly tricky. One significant reason for this is that trans and genderqueer people ourselves are usually having to work out appropriate language usages on the fly, because Western cultures, and certainly English languages in particular, haven't provided us with words and phrases to accurately describe our experiences. On the contrary: both Western culture and the English language have actively worked against us, imposing language on us that doesn't come from within our own communities, and which pathologises us.

Additionally, we can't, of course, completely control how people understand the language we create, and/or how it gets used in general. Terminology that had initially seemed good can turn out in practice to be problematic. Thus, for example, terminology like 'MtF' tends to be discouraged nowadays, and use of terminology like 'trans woman' is encouraged instead; this is because it became apparent that 'MtF' was (a) encouraging the idea that trans women are "really" men, and (b) keeping trans women in a state of "permanent transition", such that they would never be regarded as simply 'women'. Another example is the phrase 'trans woman' itself; many people don't like it being written as 'transwoman' (i.e. with no space between 'trans' and 'woman') because doing so encourages 'third-gendering', in which a trans woman isn't seen as an actual woman, but as a third gender that is 'really' neither woman nor man - a 'transwoman'1. So for a number of trans people, phrases like 'transperson' can feel like an invalidation of their sense of gender.

Finally, as much as it pains to say it, it's been my experience that many trans and genderqueer people totalise/universalise their experiences, together with the language related to it. This gets reflected in things like:

  • "You're 'cis[gendered]' if your genitals match the gender you were designated at birth", which incorrectly endorses the idea that gender is about one's genitals2, i.e. that having a cunt is what makes one a woman, and/or that having a cock is what makes one a man. The reality is, for many trans and/or genderqueer people, this is not the case. For example: i am happy having a cock, and don't see it as part of a putative "male/masculine side", but instead experience it as simply another part of being a woman3 (women's bodies are diverse, after all).

  • the phrase "gender reassignment surgery", which has the underlying implication that e.g. having a penectomy or orchiectomy inherently causes a change in one's gender. That might well be the case for some people; but for many others, it's simply modifying their body to better fit the gender they already know themselves to be. Consequently, a number of trans people use the phrase "gender confirmation surgery", to indicate that surgery is confirming their gender to themselves; but unfortunately, many non-trans people assume that it's about the trans person confirming their gender to society in general, i.e. 'proving' to society in general that they're 'serious' about their gender4.

It's also reflected in the idea that one isn't really trans unless one's life and experiences fits what i and others call "the standard trans narrative", or some variant thereof.

Fundamentally, however, trans and/or genderqueer people are people - and that, of course, means we're a diverse bunch. Although we might share a number of similarities, we also differ not only in our life experiences, but in our responses to those life experiences, and in how we think our life experiences as trans/genderqueer people might/can be improved. To me, this has several implications:

  • Those of us who are trans and/or genderqueer can only expect people who aren't trans/genderqueer to always get language right if there is a single, universal, eternally 'correct' language for all our lives and experiences and circumstances. i hope the preceding has demonstrated that this isn't the case, and indeed, can't be without erasing various trans/genderqueer people's lives, experiences and circumstances.

  • Given that it's not possible to "just know" whether or not a particular person is or isn't trans/genderqueer based solely on appearance, we generally need to move away from assuming/guessing the appropriate gender-related language for anyone, just as we need to be moving away from assuming/guessing whether or not someone is heterosexual / homosexual / bisexual / pansexual etc.

  • Those who aren't trans/genderqueer need to accept that trans/genderqueer people are typically in a difficult situation with respect to language; that it's something we're typically forced to wrestle with continually and that we don't have the luxury of avoiding; and that our diversity means that we are "trying on" a diversity of approaches to deal with this. Consequently, those who aren't trans/genderqueer need to accept that different trans/genderqueer people will have different thoughts and feelings about the applicability of various language usages to their own situations. Just because genderqueer person A is okay with, or advocates, language usage B, doesn't mean that trans person C will necessarily be okay with it also. (And i wish i didn't have to say this, but apparently i do: non-trans/non-genderqueer person D shouldn't demand that C accept language usage B on the basis that A does - at least if D wants to show respect to trans/genderqueer people in general, rather than a select few of D's own choosing.) This means, of course, keeping different language usages in mind when conversing with different people. Doing so might seem to some like a burden; but keep in mind the burdens faced by trans/genderqueer people in cisnormative/cissexist society, which regularly inflicts physical violence on trans/genderqueer people for not meeting cisnormative/cissexist expectations. Anyway, it's not like humans don't already typically keep individual-specific information in mind during conversations: not only information such as other people's names, but also things such as their social/biological connections with others, life experiences which have made them particularly sensitive about certain topics (e.g. death), and their personal beliefs (spiritual, ideological etc.). Using / avoiding specific language when talking to particular trans/genderqueer people is simply a new context for such behaviours.

So: trans/genderqueer people are individuals, and each of us has distinct personal experiences and preferences regarding language. Thus, one should minimise assumptions about appropriate language to use in discussions with a given trans/genderqueer person or group of people. But occasional mistakes (as distinct from ongoing disrespect) are probably inevitable; trans/genderqueer people need to remember that there's no 'obviously' universally eternally correct language that can be used. Non-trans/non-genderqueer people should try to accept corrections gracefully, rather than getting defensive and prioritising their own feelings/concerns/worries ("But I'm not a bad person!") over the feelings of trans and/or genderqueer people, who have to live, every day, with the associations and consequences of language used to describe us.

ETA, 2013.04.15: If you'd like a general introduction to trans-related language, I suggest Erin's Trans Glossary. But, further to what I've written above, this glossary should only be considered a starting point; I encourage non-trans/non-genderqueer people to explore the plethora of online writings by trans and genderqueer people about language issues, and not expect individual trans/genderqueer people to essentially function as private tutors on this (large) topic. Simply trying to survive in cisnormative / cissexist society can be draining enough without being forced to take on such a role!

ETA, 2013.05.17: A discussion with @redlightvoices on Twitter made me wish to note another relevant issue: people who are native speakers of English - whether trans/genderqueer or not - need to make allowances for NESB/ESL people. A good example is the Spanish word 'travesti'; a literal translation to English would be 'transvestite', but it has developed a more complex set of connotations in a number of Spanish-speaking regions. A Spanish speaker for whom English is a second language might thus try using the English word 'transvestite' in contexts where they want to convey the concepts they associate with 'travesti', not knowing that 'transvestite' does not necessarily convey those same concepts. Assuming the Spanish speaker is intending to be disrespectful would thus be both inappropriate and Anglocentric.

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1. Of course, some trans people do identify as a 'third [or fourth, or fifth etc.] gender'. And there are people such as myself, who identify not as a third gender, but as both woman and man simultaneously, all the time. But the point is, that's not the case for all trans people.

2. A better definition, in my opinion, would be "You're 'cis[gendered]' if your sense of your gender completely matches the gender you were designated at birth." Note i use "your sense of your gender" and not "gender identity". One might change the gender identity label(s) one uses for oneself without one's underlying sense of gender having changed; this blog post discusses this issue. Also note my use of the word "completely", which acknowledges that one might partially relate to the gender one was designated at birth (as is the case for me).

3. Nonetheless, i do experience body dysmorphia around not having a cunt.

4. The notion that one must 'prove' one's 'seriousness' about one's gender via bodily modification is problematic for several reasons. One of those reasons is that it's classist: the surgical procedures involved are often expensive, and in Australia at least, a shortage of suitable surgeons means that some Australian trans people have to fly to e.g. Thailand or the United States for surgery, which further adds to the cost. And all this is on top of trans people having much higher unemployment rates than average due to anti-trans discrimination.

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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Nb. This is a work of satire.

i am concerned about the intellectual health of fatphobes.

They spend all their time consuming ObesityEpidemic™-flavoured junk science. They're clearly lazy, not bothering to put in any effort to do any research that might actually challenge their poor intellectual health. It's not like there aren't many opportunities to improve this health if they really wanted to; not only are there lots of Health At Every Size and Fat Acceptance activists around, but they could make use of the Internet and World Wide Web to find information that would improve their intellectual fitness.

But no, that would be too much work. They would rather just take the lazy option, and consume the fatphobia of the mainstream media, and its violent propaganda about the 'need' for a WarOnObesity™. Apparently it's too much effort for them to turn off the television and visit a local library to read some critical commentary about the highly processed information they're being provided with - information that's so highly processed, it's often almost devoid of intellectual nutritional value.

And the burden they thus place on society! Because of this intellectual laziness, the mental health of society's fat people is regularly damaged as they are harrassed, discriminated against, marginalised, and treated as less-than-human. And more generally, intellectually lazy people are simply not prepared for the challenges of today's society. Our society needs people capable of rigorous intellectual debate - not people who can't be bothered to be active in seeking out a diversity of information, who just want to take the path of least effort, who are content being spoon-fed junk science.

The worst thing, though, is when parents don't do anything about the poor intellectual health of their children, and let them - sometimes encourage them! - to become fatphobes. It's irresponsible enough when people assume their own minds aren't public property, and thus let their intellectual health deteriorate, despite the impact doing so has on everyone else. But how much more irresponsible is it for one's children to go in that direction! They don't know any better; they need responsible adults around them who impress upon them the need for intellectual fitness, and who are willing to themselves engage in regular strenuous intellectual activity with those in their care.

It's common sense, really. If you take in so much garbage, you're going to need to do lots of work to process it, to burn it off. If you don't want to do that work, just stop consuming such junk science in the first place. It's that simple, that easy. If fatphobes had any moral fortitude, they'd get the bit between the teeth and do what needs to be done. Unfortunately, however, they don't care about anyone - least of all themselves, and their own intellectual health.


Want to know about the junk science behind the "obesity epidemic"? Check out Big Liberty's excellent "Truth Behind Fat: References" page.

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So you've just said "gender is fluid". Do you mean:

  1. Every person's sense of gender is fluid?

  2. Every person's gender identity is fluid?

  3. Every person's gender expression is fluid?

  4. Some people's sense of gender is fluid?

  5. Some people's gender identity is fluid?

  6. Some people's gender expression is fluid?

  7. Sociocultural ideas re. sense of gender are fluid?

  8. Sociocultural ideas re. gender identity are fluid?

  9. Sociocultural ideas re. gender expression are fluid?

To me, discussing the (possibly relative) truth / falsity of the statement "gender is fluid" requires that one specify which of the above statements one is intending to convey.

(i've previously written more generally about the concept of 'fluidity' in the context of gender and sexuality.)

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It seems to me that, broadly speaking, there are two main approaches to 'flirting'.

The first - which i'll call "type 1" - is flirting-as-an-end. In this approach, it's assumed that the flirter isn't actually interested in sexual and/or romantic interaction with the flirtee. Also, in my experience, there's typically an enjoyment of ongoing ambiguity about what is actually being suggested by the flirter.

The second - which i'll call "type 2" - is flirting-with-intent. In this approach, it's assumed that the flirter is trying to "sound out" the possibility of sexual and/or romantic interaction with the flirtee, possibly in an ongoing way. Ambiguities are expected to be gradually resolved, in the direction of either "yes, there's mutual interest", or "no, the feeling isn't mutual", as the process continues.

If both the flirter and the flirtee are both coming from the same perspective about flirting, there's probably not an issue. Type 1s have some fun, and type 2s are able to get involved in sexual and/or romantic interactions, or move on.

When type 1s flirt with type 2s, however, problems can arise. Say a 1 starts flirting with a 2. The 1 is assuming that the 2 "knows" that it's just a bit of fun. The 2 is assuming that the 1 is perhaps actually interested in them. So the 2 might then respond in a way inviting a more direct expression of interest from the 1. But the 1 isn't going to be any more direct, because for them, such a removal of ambiguity removes the point of flirting. Unless the 2 simply asks directly, "Are you sexually and/or romantically interested in me?", the exchange could go on for a while, with the 1 continuing to have fun, but the 2 wondering "Am I simply being toyed with here? What's this person playing at? Are they enjoying stringing me along?" And if the 2 in question is someone that's been prank-flirted1 with in the past, they're more likely to feel hurt when they discover that the 1 was "just having a bit of fun". Such hurt might not have been the 1's intent, but the hurt could be inflicted nonetheless.

i'm not sure there's any resolution to this problem, or at least no easy one; the only suggestion i have is for both types to be aware of the existence of the other type, and keep that in mind when initiating and/or responding to flirting.

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1. As i've blogged about previously, "prank-flirting" is where person A flirts with person B with the explicit intent of mocking them. "Hey, I'm interested in you! HAHAHA no of course I'm not - who would be attracted to you, your dork / nerd / geek??" i myself have been prank-flirted with on a number of occasions.


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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Earlier today i had a Twitter conversation about the looks of trans people in porn; and i felt it raised some issues i feel are better discussed in a blog post than within the confines of the Twitter 140-character limit. :-)

My initial tweets were:

i must say i often feel intimidated by the looks of the people in 'shemale' #porn .... #trans #lgbt

.... but then, i'm intimidated by the looks of most people in #queer #porn, too. #trans #lgbt

i guess every type of #porn has a 'blessed' look associated with it ....

.... where by "'blessed'", i mean looks which are repeatedly publicly endorsed by various members of relevant communities as being "suitably attractive"; not using that exact phrase, but by comments like "Woah, how hot is this person!", "This person is just so fuckable!", "Seeing this person makes me so horny!", and so on.

In response, @amiewee asked "How intimidated?" To which i replied:

Well, i guess i feel i'm rather 'unattractive' in comparison.

i mean, i know professional porn has to cater to what its target
demographic deems 'attractive', [+]

so in that sense i see it as an issue with wider societal notions of 'attractiveness' rather than something specific to porn.

A basic premise of 'queer porn' is that it's about diversity - showing a wide range of people, regardless of their size / gender / ethnicity / shape / sexuality / ability / looks etc. But in my experience, even though the queer porn i've seen does show a range of body sizes and shapes, and a range of queer sexualities, i've felt it often has a certain aesthetic about it which i find difficult to describe, but which i tried to describe to @amiewee as being rooted in looks i think of as 'trendy'/'alternative': piercings / tattoos / brightly coloured hair done in certain styles. And i further feel that there often doesn't seem to be that many trans / genderqueer women i can identify with.

i know of a number of trans women who feel we as a group are underrepresented in queer porn; there's been discussions about the issue in groups on FetLife, for example. i admit, i initially thought that the issue might be with attitudes/biases from queer porn producers/creators. But two things have changed my mind in this regard:

  • i tried creating a Tumblr, 'AmateurTransSex', seeking submissions from a variety of trans people - but certainly from trans women - showing them having sex, to show the diversity of trans people's bodies, and how one can't automatically assume the gender and/or sexuality of people in pictures of sex acts. i announced the project in relevant groups on FetLife, and prominent people within the queer porn community helped to promote it on Twitter.

    The response? Near-silence. Even after further attempts to promote the project.

  • A similar Tumblr project is the TransQueersXXX Tumblr. When it became apparent that TransQueersXXX was having more success than my own Tumblr along these lines, i 'officially' ended my AmateurTransSex Tumblr project and directed any interested people to TransQueersXXX. But although TransQueersXXX is getting a fair number of submissions in general, they often seem to be struggling with a lack of submissions from trans women, despite, to their credit, regularly putting out calls for such submissions.

So the overall impression i've been getting is one of enthusiasm from queer porn creators for supporting getting more trans women into porn, and other people making active efforts to try to display more representations of trans women being sexual - but an apparent lack of willingness on the part of trans women to put themselves forward. Which in turn has made me ask: Why might this be the case?

Some thoughts that i've had in this regard are:

  • i would wager that when the average-person-in-the-street thinks of trans women in porn, they think of the 'shemale' genre. i know quite a few trans women, and hardly any of them look like 'shemale' actors; they often don't completely 'pass' as cis women1, which i feel many 'shemale' actors do2. And i suspect many, if not most, trans women are very aware of the extent to which they don't 'pass', and thus feel they are therefore 'unsuitable' for appearing in such porn.

  • More broadly, representations of trans women in the mainstream media in general - are very limited at best; and when we are represented, we're often presented as "eww, it's an ugly man in a dress, gross!" So we don't often receive societal messages suggesting that we're an attractive group of people overall, or even that we can be attractive; only when we 'pass' sufficiently well does the possibility of us being 'attractive' begin to be assessed. In this context, it's hardly surprising that many trans women might not feel particularly comfortable putting themselves on display, to be mocked and labelled ugly by people on the Internet - particularly when we often get that going about our daily lives in any case.

  • More specifically, however, the experience of myself and, from what i've read, a number of other trans women is that queer communities often seem to have an aesthetics which lauds AFAB3 people in a way that AMAB people aren't - which often seems to not be apparent to people who aren't trans women, just as straight people often don't notice the lack of non-heterosexual people/relationships in the mainstream media. Enthusiasm for 'androgyny' often seems to accompany pictures of trans guys / AFAB genderqueers4; in my experience, it rarely accompanies pictures of trans women or AMAB genderqueers. So again, the overall metamessage that this can send to trans women is: "You're unlikely to be someone who is attractive".

  • Despite the constant message that it's self-confidence that makes people attractive, we live in a world where pictures of dark-skinned people get modified so that their skin appears lighter, regardless of how self-confident those people might be - because 'whiteness' is an aesthetic that is highly valued, not only in Western countries, but in countries such as India. In this context, the metamessage that gets sent is: "Even if you do think you look okay, others won't necessarily think so unless we change how you appear in pictures."

Thus, even when queer porn creators actively seek trans women, there are factors working against trans women responding to their call. And this creates a catch-22, because this reduces the representations of trans women in queer porn, which then reinforces trans women's notions that we're not attractive enough for it.

To me this is yet another example of how we need to start critiquing standards of 'attractiveness'; there's an interesting post on the Radical TransFeminist blog on this issue called "Significant Othering: Attraction Down the Privilege Gradient". [NB. The author of that post has expressed concerns about my use of the post in this context.] Still, that's a long-term task; what can we do in the meantime?

Clearly more of us trans women need to either be putting our hands up to appear in queer porn, or start making more of it ourselves. It seems to me both things are happening: i'm a fan of Tobi Hill-Meyer (@Tobitastic) and Maya Mayhem (@Maya_Mayhem), and there are other trans women whose work i've not yet seen, such as Drew Deveaux (@DrewDeveaux). i would suggest that trans women can work to increase their profile and visibility, and if finances permit, pay for porn featuring them. (i myself had a subscription to QueerPorn.TV which i unfortunately recently had to cancel due to financial constraints.) Further, whilst acknowledging that we regularly receive many messages that we're inherently unattractive, we can, as an act of political resistance, try to put such messages into their broader sociopolitical context, and work on reevaluating societal notions of who is and isn't considered 'attractive'. And i say this as someone who certainly does not think she's attractive enough for any porn, including queer porn; i don't feel i have 'trendy'/'alternative' looks (despite my body piercings :-P).

If we can work on rejecting notions of the extent to which we're 'attractive', it increases the possibility that we would feel comfortable making our own porn. Of course this is not an option for many trans women, for various reasons, including:

  • overall body dysphoria;

  • not wanting to provide 'evidence' (e.g. still having a cock) that one is "not a real woman";

  • not wanting to 'out' oneself as having been AMAB / that one is trans;

  • having other life / community / activist / personal commitments which take up the bulk of one's time/resources;

  • more generally, social sanctions - which include such things as losing employment, when unemployment is already very high amongst trans women - for appearing in porn in general.

But even if there are at least some of us who do have the option to consider appearing in professional or amateur queer porn, and even if only some who do consider it end up actually choosing to do so, i would feel that's progress which might well help many other trans women feel better about themselves and their bodies.

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1. i note here that i feel there are significant issues involved in the 'passing' concept; but i feel those issues are relatively tangental to the issues i want to discuss here.

2. Hence the term 'trap' often used by cis men to describe trans women; "It looks like this person is a woman; but the pants come off, and Woah! there's a cock. So this person isn't really a woman - the whole thing was a trap!" i find it terribly offensive, particularly when it's used by "tranny chasers" who think it's a term of endearment. :-P

3. ETA, 2013.04.13: Nowadays i would write 'D[F|M]AB', "Designated [Female|Male] At Birth", out of respect for concerns expressed by intersex activists about inappropriate usages of the word 'Assigned' in the context of sex/gender. However, i don't believe in rewriting my old blog posts to pretend that i didn't write things i now find problematic (or indeed, simply wrong).

4. Cf. this old post of mine on 'androgyny', which explains why i tend not to identify as 'androgynous', even though, as a two-gendered transgenderqueer, it should technically apply to me. To my satisfaction, in more recent times i've seen increasing numbers of people making similar critiques.

This is a placeholder post for links to research relating to women's mathematical ability:
In recent years, my ongoing experience of 'progressive communities is that issues around gender, sexuality and race seem to get acknowledged in a way that issues around class seem not to be.1 And i can't help but wonder if much of this is due to many progressive communities being dominated - either in terms of numbers or influence - by middle-class2 people.

i should preface what i'm about to say by noting that i myself come from a middle-class background. Both my parents were professionals. i wouldn't say we were particularly well-off - at least by Western standards - but neither did i ever want for food or shelter. So i had access to resources when growing up that many less privileged people don't. My enthusiasm for reading was supported through the purchase of books and access to the wide variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction, in my parents' libraries; my interest in computing was supported through the purchase of a IBM-compatible PC; my learning in general was supplemented. My family background also resulted in me developing a "general Australian" accent, rather than a "broad Australian" accent; the latter is often read as implying that one is not particularly intellectual. All of these things, together with extra-class privileges such as being Anglo, contributed to my success at school, at university, and in finding work. So my comments here are written from the perspective of someone trying to be conscious of hir class privilege.

For decades, 'class analysis' was damaged by the often simplistic reductionist perspectives of strands of Marxism such as Stalinism. The 'New Left' movements of the 60s helped to address this; rather than dismissing any non-class systems of oppression as ultimately unimportant, they were increasingly treated as objects worthy of change in their own right. Further, the late 60s saw the rise of postmodernism and its important critiques of 'grand narratives', particularly those based in modernism, such as Marxism. The eventual collapse of the "actually existing socialism/communism" in the Eastern Bloc further marginalised class-analysis perspectives, as people like Fukuyama declared "the end of history".

However, the needed correction to reductionist political analysis has, i feel, become an overcorrection: class analysis has become at best ignored, and at worst dismissed as irrelevant. In turn, 'progressive' politics, lacking in class analyses, has become dominated by middle-class voices whose class privilege - not only in terms of economic capital, but in terms of social and cultural capital as well - allows them to both speak and be heard.

Some common - and, i feel, problematic - perspectives that i think are probably linked to middle-class privilege include:

  • The (at best naïve) belief that Western states are an essentially neutral institutions that just need "the right government".

  • Western 'democratic' governments care about people who have at least middle-class levels of access to resources. They care about home owners, those who have investment properties, and those who have shares beyond those that exist in their (in Australia, compulsory) superannuation funds.

    To these people, governments can seem relatively (or potentially) responsive to their needs, because, due to the above, they are indeed responsive, at least relatively speaking. But that overlooks the fact that governments aren't particularly responsive to people who don't have those sort of resources: those who can only afford to rent housing, those who are homeless, those who have to use public transport because they can't afford to run a car, and so on. Governments only care about meeting the needs of this latter group to the extent that society would be substantially destabilised were they to do otherwise; they generally do the minimum amount necessary to prevent such a destabilisation from occurring.

    Related to this is an emphasis on - and sometimes an apparent obsession with - electoral politics. i've often noted with wry amusement that a number of people who look down upon those who enjoy television soap operas and/or 'reality tv' nevertheless seem to follow the sayings and doings of parliamentarians with a similar fervour. "Did you hear what Julia said?" "Oh I know! And then Tony's response, well, that was even worse!"3.

  • Hostility towards unions.

  • Middle-class people often have, or have had, access to resources that have allowed them to spend time in education to develop skills for which a premium is paid in the employment marketplace, and which they can bring to the table when looking for work.

    People that don't have these skills, or who at best have 'commodity' skills - such as those required for entry-level construction work - don't have this bargaining power. The strength-in-numbers that unions provide is a significant way in which many people can improve their bargaining power to ensure that they receive a living wage.

    One of the grounds on which i've observed 'progressives' to attack unions is that they are, in some sense, corrupt organisations. And it is true that, in Australia - and, i believe in most Western countries - many, if not most, unions are dominated by careerists and opportunists for whom union activity is not so much about improving working conditions for union members as about being a stepping stone on their path of personal advancement, often into electoral politics (cf. Martin Ferguson). i feel this not inherent to unionism, however; i consider it to be connected to unions believing that the state is a neutral institution which can be filled with 'worker-friendly' politicians. "Don't let a Coalition government get power, that will be so much worse for workers than a Labor government!" "Striking is a last resort that we use to help get the ALP back in to power!"

    More concerning to me, however, is when 'progressives' argue that people working in 'essential industries' - e.g. power supply - should not be allowed to take any industrial action which significantly affects the ability of those industries to provide their goods and services. i find this appalling. If one is not allowed to withdraw one's labor power, one is effectively a slave. And countering with "if you don't want to work under such conditions, find work elsewhere" significantly ignores the probability that for many people, practical employment options are quite limited, which further suggests privilege-made blinkers.

  • Hostility towards the "uneducated unwashed masses".

  • Here in Australia, this often manifests as derisory attitudes towards 'bogans', who are regarded as inherently lacking in intelligence and/or 'progressive' attitudes (such as "If you don't vote ALP, you're letting the reactionaries win", or "You should be forced to work to provide power to my computer" :-P ). And not only that: actively reproducing such stereotypes is itself somehow regarded as a demonstration of "progressive street cred".

    Ironically, dismissing the "uneducated unwashed masses" as unsophisticated is, to me, a highly unsophisticated approach, which i can only (charitably) assume comes from regarding the 'lower' classes as a homogeneous mass in the same way that Anglo racists feel that "all Asians look the same". It assumes that 'education' - where 'education' is defined as "credential-producing education" - is there for anyone who wants it, and that anyone who isn't 'educated' is therefore simply willfully ignorant and/or stupid. And it also arrogantly dismisses ways of being intelligent and/or analytical which don't involve e.g. the tertiary education system.

  • An overoptimistic belief in the possibilities of technology alone producing political change.

  • A number of 'progressive' people seem to have the belief that the development of new technology can automatically and inherently bring about positive social and political changes, as though if and how technology gets deployed isn't strongly influenced by social and political issues.

    In response to second-wave feminists who have decried the apparent lack of gender activism among younger generations, some feminists have essentially said "Hey, grandma, we're doing stuff - it's just that we're doing it online". But Internet access is strongly mediated by various forms of privilege - class privilege not least amongst them - and such attitudes don't do much to dispel the oft-justified notion that feminism is a white middle-class pursuit. And not only 'net access: although it's true that one can get second-hand hardware for free and install FOSS on it, this overlooks the fact that doing so often tends to require middle-class privileges.

    As i noted above, my own middle-class background enabled me to develop a certain level of literacy, and an idiolect, which in turn enabled me to relatively easily obtain skilled work, which in turn enabled me to purchase (good quality, but expensive) O'Reilly and Associates books, which in turn enabled me to develop skills in programming and system administration, which in turn has allowed me to set up several FOSS-based LANs for my extended family on the cheap, using second-hand hardware provided to me gratis by people whose workplace was planning to throw them on the garbage heap.

    As with formal education, it's not true that technology is accessible to anyone who wants or needs it.

  • Overestimating the extent to which government services are available and accessible.

  • As someone who has presented to government agencies looking very dishevelled and the worse for wear due to CFS, i can tell you that one gets treated very differently by bureaucracies depending on how one looks when one presents oneself at government offices.

    People see advertisements on television saying "Help is available!" for mental health problems. So they assume that anyone who isn't getting help for mental health problem must merely be indolent / lazy / slack etc. Anyone that has actually tried accessing those services, however, knows the very different reality; the mental health system in Victoria is a shambles, and i know a number of people who have been continually bounced from one service to another in their quest for help.

    So there are many people who "fall through the [many] cracks"; and if you're one of those people, and still actively want counselling and support, you'll find that accessing private mental health services doesn't come cheap. Even when one can, in Australia at least, claim back most of the expense via Medicare, one still needs to have the cash to spend it in the first place - something that's not necessarily the case for those whose mental health issues prevent them from earning a living income.

The middle-classes can have a strong interest in defending the status quo, and diminishing or ridiculing class-based analyses, since they can be threatened by the possibility of losing their privileges and being "cast down" into the pit of the lowly masses. They can also have an interest in promoting and buttressing the mythos around middle-class values, beliefs and aspirations (such as "You can achieve anything if you're just willing to work hard enough"). So the middle-classes don't occupy some unique position which 'transcends' society, politics and culture, and which leaves them able to 'objectively' assess how society should work, "based purely on merit". On the contrary, they are as deeply influenced by their sociopolitical position (and its attendant social and cultural capital), and the class-based privileges and "invisible knapsack"4 that usually accompany it.5

i think it's well past time for class issues, and recognition of class privilege, to become a more significant part of 'progressive' discussion and debates.

1. By "acknowledged" i certainly don't mean "always acknowledged upon and resolved appropriately"; that's all too far from being the case. Rather, i mean "at least acknowledged in a theoretical sense, if not practically". Issues of disability, which frequently end up connecting with class issues, are also less acknowledged than i think appropriate; but i'd like to focus primarily on class here.

2. An important issue is "what constitutes 'middle-class'?" Although e.g. one Marxist perspective might be "the petit-bourgeoisie; that is, small business owners", i'll here be using 'middle-class' in the lay sense i most commonly encounter. This sense contrasts "the middle class" with both "blue-collar workers" (i.e. those whose work primarily involves physical labour, such as construction workers, farm laborers, assembly-line workers etc.) and with "the upper classes" (i.e. those with many millions of dollars of assets, on the boards of corporations, those from "old money", etc.).

3. Rogers Waters, ex of Pink Floyd, has referred to "the soap opera state", e.g. on his Radio KAOS album.

4. A reference to Peggy McIntosh's influential essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack [PDF]".

5. Thanks to Flavia Dzodan for raising these issues in a private email.
This is a 'reference' post in which i'll post stuff to support the idea that the role of the police, the military and the law in Western 'democracies' is ultimately to support corporate/state interests, i.e. that their work in supporting the average person-in-the-street is ancillary to this. It's currently very rough! i decided to create it based on the following Twitter conversation of 2011.10.26 (AEST):

flexibeast: Reminder: Ultimately the job of the policy and military is to protect state/corporate interests, not the average person-in-the-street.

flexibeast: Yes, of course the police and military help the average person-in-the-street during accidents, disasters etc., but when the chips are down ....

flexibeast: & even if many police/military people didn't sign on to primarily protect state/corporate interests, they'll be asked to do so in a crisis.

masterslaves: Where did you come up with that statement?

flexibeast: Er. Through years of observations and concrete experience?

masterslaves: It seeps [sic] a rather sweeping statement lacking concrete evidence, but then I guess it is just your opinion, correct?

flexibeast: Sure, supposedly, in theory, their job is to "protect and serve" everyone, but history shows the reality is otherwise.

flexibeast: *laugh* "lacking concrete evidence"? a) This is Twitter. b) Look at the history of social justice movements, unions etc.

masterslaves: Twitter has little to do with how an opinion is being presented. And comparative history would probably end up making a point

masterslaves: for both sides of the story. Police is an institution of the democratic principle so of course they are not neutral

flexibeast: Yes, of course it's my opinion. But it's much better supported by events than the "police/military are neutral" theory.

flexibeast: i'm trying to summarise an evidence-based opinion in < 140 characters per tweet! There's not much room for citations.

flexibeast: If they're an institution of "the democratic principle", why do corporates get away with things the average person doesn't?

masterslaves: No people with money and connections have good lawyers which again comes down to a flawed judicial system.

flexibeast: Why are they brought into [sic] bust unions?

masterslaves: Every police force I know enforces the law. The judicial process is probably not perfect as such you will most

masterslaves: likely find the fault there. Ad [sic] as much as I despise what happened in those cities they were enforcing bylaws of those cities.

flexibeast: Why do they come in and drag off peaceful protestors as they just have in Melbourne, Sydney and other cities?

masterslaves: I do not agree with it, at all, but that is their job, period.

flexibeast: Why does the military overthrow "democratically elected" governments, such as Allende's in 1973?

flexibeast: The law is enforced selectively. People with money and power get away with things that unprivileged people don't.

flexibeast: So their job of enforcing democratic principles involves dragging away peaceful protestors?? How does that work?

masterslaves: I DO NOT like those types of enforcement, but instead of moaning about the police (not saying YOU do)

masterslaves: , go and pass a bill, defeat a bylaw etc. It is possible I did it, took 3 fucking years, but it happened.

flexibeast: The Allende government was overthrown by its /own/ military (albeit with US backing). So much for "protecting democracy".

masterslaves: They enforce the law, if the bylaw says you cannot gather there and you have been warned x times,

masterslaves: what do you think they are supposed to do?

flexibeast: The protestors in Melbourne and Sydney were taken by surprise. There are so many laws they can be selectively enforced.

flexibeast: So the question then becomes, assuming there is an applicable law - and there probably is - why this time and not others?

flexibeast: Why is it that when people gather to celebrate a sporting victory, the law isn't enforced, but during a protest, it is?

flexibeast: Of course it's possible. But not everyone has the resources to sustain such a campaign (which might not be successful).

masterslaves: All it takes is time and hard work. I had no resources. I just had resolve and passion.

flexibeast: And what sort of 'democracy' is it when nonviolent protests are cracked down upon?

flexibeast: Is "freedom of assembly", /particularly/ anti-government assembly, a fundamental part of 'democracy' or not?

masterslaves: NO idea how that is handled in US law. But in Canada you cannot assemble where a bylaw says you cannot assemble there.

flexibeast: i've been involved in activism for two decades now, i know what's involved.

flexibeast: i have resolve, i have passion - and i also have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and people to support and take care of.

flexibeast: But i'm still involved in all sorts of activism for social and political change, using a variety of methods.

flexibeast: And it's based on my decades of activism experience, and studying history, that i have the opinions i do.

flexibeast: Well, i'm not in the US myself; i'm in Melbourne, Australia.

flexibeast: Sure. But you still haven't answered why sometimes such bylaws get enforced, and other times don't.

masterslaves: Because that is not for me to answer. The decision is made by the Chief of Police I would guess? I am not a mind reader.

flexibeast: Plus, there are such things as unjust laws, that actively deny basic human rights on paper and in practice.

flexibeast: So it /just happens/ that bylaws get used against political protest but not against e.g. sports celebrations? Coincidence?

masterslaves: Your sports celebrations last longer than a week? Come on, be realistic when it comes to the application of the time period.

flexibeast: i feel we have to ask such questions, because if not, injustice in how the law gets applied just goes unchecked.

flexibeast: Heh, sometimes such celebrations do, yes. (Australians can be rather sports-obsessed.) But, [more]

flexibeast: i have /personally witnessed/ brief political protests get broken up by police in ways that non-political protests don't.

flexibeast: But the underlying issue is, laws aren't ends-in-themselves; they're intended to serve a purpose.

flexibeast: So we need to ask, What underlying purpose is served by enforcing laws at some times and not others?

flexibeast: Are people who make decisions re. enforcing the laws omniscient beings who are always right and don't have their own agendas?

flexibeast: There is /voluminous/ evidence out there demonstrating social differentials in access to, and persecution by, the law.

flexibeast: i should really get on with other work that i need to do .... thank you for engaging with me. :-)

masterslaves: anytime!


Thoughts / questions / notes

  • "Crackdowns Show What the State is Made Of"

  • 'Missing white girl syndrome': Compare resources devoted to finding 'pretty' cis white girls versus anyone else.

  • Why have anti-choice protestors not been 'moved on' from their permanent protest outside the abortion clinic in East Melbourne?

  • Why do people camping out for iDevices or concert tickets not get 'moved on'?

  • [Twitter, 2011.10.27] Steffi5461: Remember when the tea party had rallies where they openly carried guns. Remember when they were tear gassed? Oh, me either. #occupyoakland

The average conversation between the unprivileged (U) and the privileged (P):

U: *notes existence of issue*
P: *denies issue exists at all*
U: *counters P's denial, noting knowledge from experience*
P: *claims U can't be objective*
U: *notes issues with P's position being the 'objective' one*
P: *attempts to explain away U's experiences*
U: *angrily takes issue with P's attempt to invalidate U's experiences*
P: *notes that U would have more success if U didn't get so angry*


[Suggestions re. further details for this script welcomed.]
Several times recently i've encountered commentary in which anarchists1 are accused of being self-centred jerks who are unconcerned with others' welfare and/or wellbeing. More specifically, i've read it argued that whilst anarchists may go on about how we could have a society where people are supported by something other than the state, anarchists don't put their money where their mouths are, and rather than providing practical support to other people now, have a "Somebody Else's Problem" attitude towards doing so.

Well, i'm an anarchist. Moreover, my anarchist politics are partially rooted in those of individualist anarchists such as e.g. Benjamin Tucker. And as we all know, individualism can only ever be egotistical and uncaring, right?2

i am a homemaker for two households. i do (at a minimum) several hours worth of volunteer work per week for an organisation supporting the SGD communities. i regularly provide at least a few hours' worth of emotional support each week to close friends. And i do all this as someone in semi-remission from CFS.

If we're going to engage in political caricatures, it could equally be said that leftist statists' position is: "People should be looked after, but I personally don't want to do it, so how about confiscating part of people's income under threat of physical retribution, and then using that money to pay someone else to do it?"

i recently wrote a comment in which i said:

It depends on what you mean by 'anarchist'.

i now identify as an anarchist, having for many years identified as a Marxist. i do so because i've come to distinguish what i call "political anarchism" from what i call (with a nod to Diane Vera's writings on theistic Satanism) "brat brigade anarchism".

"Brat brigade anarchism" is basically "You're not the boss of me now / I should be free to do whatever the fuck I want". There's no real serious political analysis involved. And this is the 'anarchism' that the mass media likes to promote as all anarchism 'really' is.

In contrast, political anarchism is simply the position that there should not be an institution - "the state" - that claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical violence within a particular graphical [sic - should be 'geographical'] area, which one cannot consent to not be a part of. Beyond that, political anarchists take many different positions; but i feel it's a straw man to assert that political anarchists think that everyone would simply be nice to each other and not try to harm one another. Instead, anarchists tend to argue for things like community self-defence organisations which people voluntarily join, and which are directly accountable to the communities they serve, rather than current Western systems in which policing is often done to less privileged community [sic] rather than for them.

i can assure you that i have only begun to take on anarchist political positions after decades of political activism and thinking about the tendencies i've observed in human behaviour. :-)

i would suggest that analysing anarchist politics on the basis of the loudest and most obnoxious anarchists is like trying to analyse Christian theology via the Westboro Baptist Church. Just as there are literally millions of self-identified Christians quietly working every day against social and economic injustice, rather than devoting their time and resources to spreading hateful propaganda, i'm sure there are anarchists apart from myself also working to build grassroots community organisations for the purposes of mutual aid. Beware the possibility of biased samples.

1 And 'libertarians' too, although i've noticed a failure to distinguish between right-libertarianism - which is often what people associate with 'libertarians' - and left-libertarians, which is a distinction that needs to be made.

2. Although 'defences' of individualist anarchism such as this don't do much to reduce that perception. i found the linked-to piece started off promisingly, but then descended into such a morass of fail that i gave up on it.


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