And I feel just awful about it.
Oh, this is not how I meant to draw attention to the original post (the above-linked) or at all, possibly. Basically, the original post is kind of wonderful, a genuine example of feminist "self-examination" that led the author to some new conclusions. Specifically, on her attitude toward transwomen. An excerpt, just so this isn't a total mockfest, because I don't want to let the really valuable part of this get lost:
Less than two years ago my “opinion” of transfolk was one of extreme othering, of downright transphobia - I didn’t hate transpeople but I knew nothing about them and deemed from my place of ignorance that they were weird, freakish, incomprehensible.
Then I met, or rather came across, a transwoman named Alison...
...I didn’t want a man in a dress in the Women’s Dome. Yet out of that discomfort, out of that politeness, came a process in which I began to question for myself what it means to be a woman, what it means to be trans. I began to question my own bigotry - and it was not an easy journey...
I found that transgenderism / transsexualism is not the weird fetish of disturbed freaks, but a genuine - and very difficult - lived reality. I looked at some of the statistics for mental health and suicide rates among transpeople - both those who transition and those who do not. I read the blogs of transfolk, mainly transwomen - some who are out in real life, some who are not. I looked into medical evidence about the causes of transgenderism and found that there is no certainty about the true cause - whether it is physical / biological or whether it is mental / emotional / social or whether the individual cause varies from person to person. Sometimes intersex biology is relevant, sometimes not. From all this I learned that gender identity is a real phenomenon, even if we do not all consciously experience it; and I learned that gender dysphoria (where gender identify does not match biological sex attributes) is a real phenomenon, even if few of us are unfortunate enough to experience it.
What I found is that the definition of class Woman is not a simple matter, and I am not the person who can define what a woman is.
Radical feminists - especially those who are separatists or who advocate (as I do) the need for woman-only space - often struggle with this. We often act as though we know exactly what a woman is, and that a transwoman is not a woman. Even if we recognise that the question is not straightforward, we still struggle with the inclusion of transwomen in women-only spaces.
...I understand that this is hard. We want to protect those among us who have been hurt, who are still hurting. The question is not whether we want to protect women who are asking for safety. The question is whether we can actually achieve that by the exclusion of transwomen, and whether it is even acceptable to offer such protection when it comes at the expense of transwomen, by perpetuating the poorly analysed othering of transwomen, by ignoring the hurts and the violence that transwomen experience precisely because of their (desire to have) membership of class Woman. I don’t think so.
much more, go read.
So, so far, so good, and it is good. I was hesitant over whether to say anything because, well, one, as a cisgendered woman it's not exactly my place to say "thanks," I didn't think, and a number of transwomen, many of them friends, were/are already doing just that, which was nice to see. And, two, well, while I don't think I've had any run-ins with the author, Maia, I am aware that my stamp of approval is sort of the kiss of death among people she's friends and allies with, and I honestly don't/didn't want to get in the way of that, especially if it would mean interrupting what looks to be a rather delicate process.
But then so I'm reading along and immediately run into a comment by possibly my most favoritest male radical feminist ("ally," excuse me) ever, the ever-charming Rich, and, well, all my nascent good intentions promptly go out the window.
You might consider how offensive all of what you wrote is to male allies who don’t transition.
Tell me why I — as someone who rejects masculinity, patriarchy, fatherhood, patriarchal sexuality, and even using patriarchal medicine and law to transition and gain access to womanhood — should be excluded from spaces that you’re willing to share with males who often have willingly done the exact opposite, up until (and often after) the point where they transitioned?
What makes them “better” than me? True, I’m not a “woman” like they are, but I’ve never been (and refuse to be) the “men” that they also are, have been, and often will always be (can they take back rapes they’ve comitted? Or even the times they “just” used patriarchy as their pimp in obtaining “consent?”).
Get that? It is offensive to accept transwomen as women, because Rich, a non-transitioning male-born man, is not invited to the wimmins' slumber party.
I do believe this is the mythic desire for a "cookie" which has been so bandied about. Although, judging by past encounters, I imagine the argument would be that in fact the only cookie that matters is the Patriarchal cookie; the radfem cookie is not a cookie, women -have- no cookie to offer, especially to men. Um, probably. (Also, if it's anything like the vegan, organic delicacies offered my the former womens' bookstore collective downtown, it's rather hard to digest).
But, if that's the case, what the fuck is this dude's problem, you ask?
I suspect the real answer to that one begins with "How long do you have?" But, anyway! It gets better!
most transfolk agree that transitioning itself is “privileged” (so post-ops are privileged over pre-ops) as it protects non-conforming people from abuse. If that’s true, pro-radical feminist males who don’t transition are less privileged than those who fit into the much neater and publicized trans category (especially the pro BDSM and pornstitution stances that often comes with trans rhetoric). Thus, I don’t feel out of place saying that many transwomen are MY oppressor, as they help to turn the wheel of gender that grinds me down.
I don’t think my perspective on this is a needed one. I don’t think females should, necessarily, give two shits about what I have to say...
(And yet, we note: he's still talking).
OTOH, I think my perspective complicates the message you’re trying to send about inclusivity, which, I suppose, is why so many transwomen seem to want events that exclude people like me! That’s not very nice.
Mkay. Putting aside for the moment any hints of some murky past and/or interior experience, assuming that Rich is just basically this guy, you know? who really digs radfem theory and hates his own male privilege and lives to serve the Revolution, or whatever it is. Ah, yes, the Revolution.
Meanwhile, though, you're confused, Twinkie, let me clear you up:
1) If it's a women-only gathering, and you aren't a woman, by your own definition as well as anyone else's, you don't belong there.
2) If it's a transfolk-only gathering, and you aren't, by your own lights, transitioning, trans-identified or even remotely trans-sympathetic, guess what! You don't belong there.
3) and this is the really key point: Even if you fit all the demographic requirements, Rich? no woman, no -person- in hir right everloving mind would include you in anything if it were at all possible to avoid it, because oh my GOD you are an unsocialized, hateful asshole. Whiny, nasty, humorless, deeply clueless, self-centered to the point of solipsism, pretentious, contemptuous, entitled AND self-loathing which is always a really lovely combination, and just generally really dull and awful.
And yet, apparently, you've managed to carve yourself a little niche on the fringes of the fringiest radfem, even -separatist- communities. I admit I haven't monitored the situation closely enough to ascertain exactly how this works. It would appear to my jaundiced eye, however, that among certain small and esoteric circles, self-loathing is a hot commodity; and hairshirts, while astonishingly unattractive and irritating to most of the population, are the fashion item of choice. Particularly if it's worn by a male. A male who, as you remind us so insistently, has given up so very, very much:
(responding to this post,)
Rich, your whole argument - one that merits consideration - is overshadowed by the overbearing and aggressive tone you adopt.
Could you please re-state your thesis in a less violent way?
You’re showing a profound lack of respect for me right there. My identity is non-violent. My internal identity is that of a feminist ally and you have no right to question that. Your identity is no more real and no more existentially provable than mine. You’re the one uttering hate speech there, the one being phobic.
...then, to all the ladiez in the house:
There’s no way I can prove without a shadow of a doubt that I’m not a rapist to you. I’m not asking for your unconditional trust, or even conditional trust, any trust. Beware of males, whether they identify as men, women, or anyone else, who do otherwise, who expect you to value their identities over your own safety. Being pro-feminist and an ally means giving things up, not asking for more things.
Thanks for the advice, d00d, really, but you know who/what girlie me is most leery of? Creepity creepsticks like you. You, just you, and people like you, male AND otherwise, fuck knows there are plenty of wimmin-born-wimmin who're just as creepy... You: using transwomen as your own personal projection screen and punching bag, gratuitously bringing up rape when absolutely no one else has (really), befouling yet another small sliver of light on the Internets with your toxic, self-serving spewage.
And the creepiest part is in fact not your maleness (yes, we know, you'd cut it off and out without anaesthetic if only you thought it would help, but you know it won't, silent emo tear) but the way in which you position yourself as one of the Hundred Neediest Cases...because you, by your own definition, "g[ave] things up."
Well, as a male-identified Patriarchal Submissive (tm), I have to say I've always admired that one dude, Orwell. Specifically, now, this insight comes to mind:
...there are two morals, one explicit, the other implied [in King Lear].
...First of all...there is the vulgar, common-sense moral drawn by the Fool: "Don't relinquish power, don't give away your lands. But there is also another moral....It is: "Give away your lands if you want to, but don't expect to gain happiness by doing so. Probably you won't gain happiness. If you live for others, you must live for others, and not as a roundabout way of getting an advantage for yourself."
...Tolstoy was not a saint, but he tried very hard to make himself into a saint, and the standards he applied to literature were other-worldly ones. It is important to realize that the difference between a saint and an ordinary human being is a difference of kind and not of degree. That is, the one is not to be regarded as an imperfect form of the other. The saint, at any rate Tolstoy's kind of saint, is not trying to work an improvement in earthly life: he is trying to bring it to an end and put something different in its place...
[Tolstoy] was not a vulgar hypocrite, as some people have declared him to be, and he would probably have imposed even greater sacrifices on himself than he did, if he had not been interfered with at every step...But on the other hand, it is dangerous to take such men as Tolstoy at their disciples' [or own] valuation. There is always the possibility--the probability, indeed--that they have done no more than exchange one form of egoism for another. Tolstoy renounced wealth, fame and privilege; he abjured violence in all its forms and was ready to suffer for doing so; but it is not so easy to believe that he abjured the principle of coercion, or at least the desire to coerce others.
There are families in which the father will say to his child, "You'll get a thick ear if you do that again," while the mother, her eyes brimming over with tears, will take the child in her arms and murmur lovingly, "Now, darling, is it kind to Mummy to do that?" And who would maintain that the second method is less tyrannous than the first?...
There are people who are convinced of the wickedness of both armies and of police forces, but who are nevertheless much more intolerant and inquisitorial in outlook than the normal person who believes that it is necessary to use violence in certain circumstances. They will not say to somebody else, "Do this, that, and the other or you will go to prison," but they will, if they can, get inside his brain and dictate his thoughts for him in the minutest particulars...
For if you have embraced a creed...from which you yourself cannot expect to draw any material advantage--surely that proves that you are in the right? And the more you are in the right, the more natural that everyone else should be bullied into thinking likewise.
--Orwell, Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool
This is all a bit high-flying, I realize, and distressingly free of gender-related anything, except for the example of mom-n-pop's respective power styles in the traditional nuclear family. Back to you, then:
15 March 2008 at 3:20 pm
“Could you please re-state your thesis in a less violent way?”
I consider *your* post an act of rape. Please don’t speak to me.
“Rich, comparing a post to rape is dehumanizing to those who’ve actually been raped.”
No shit. I was pointing out the utter ridiculousness of what was said to me.
It’s also dehumanizing to have someone try to “man you” in order to un-man themselves. I’ve never had a female lesbian separatist tell me that my speech is “too violent.” And yet, in order to push me around, control me, in order to divide hirself from me, in order to prove that I’m not “one of the good feminist folk,” a trans advocate can call my speech violent (and thus my entire identity violent), in order to make hirself look safe by way of comparison.
Zoe = Sugar and Spice
Rich = Ewww
I’m sorry, but that was another case of someone in the trans camp aping the superficial kind of essentialism that they like to try to pin on radical feminists.
Thanks for encouraging that kind of behavior Maia.
It's a work of art, really. One scarcely knows where to begin.
So, instead, I'm going to just jump ahead to this:
No one actually cares what you did or didn't give up, Rich. No one, that is, except maybe some of the female lesbian separatists of whom you speak.
I won't even ask what it is that you supposedly gave up, although you give hints of the things you consider privileges that some transfolk have, or had, and you apparently do not: power and influence in the real world; families with themselves as fathers; acceptance into women-only gatherings.
Worst of all, they demand that people accept them for who they are, to live in a way that would make them happy, and oh my god it looks like sometimes some of them might actually be dangerously close to getting it.
Clearly, This Must Be Stopped.
Because, say-hey! It looks like giving up your lands didn't really work, did it? You don't get any respect, dammit. Not that you're ENTITLED to any such thing, of course. But the least people can do is RECOGNIZE your SACRIFICE and not give a drop of that precious commodity to anyone else, least of all the terrible, terrible transfolk.
Because, if you can't be happy, they sure as shit can't be happy.
And it's this dog-in-the-manger, poisonous impulse of yours, Rich, that I find most inimical here. I don't give a shit about your tortuous rationalizations for your philosophies, whether you're "not not a man" and some "not not a woman" thinks you're the bees knees for making yourself so very, very miserable. I don't care about what an epic failure you clearly are, or whose fault it supposedly is. I do care that you use even your fringey, minging influence to try to hurt people who really don't need any more pain, thanks.
And, I suppose, I'm rather morbidly fascinated by the spectacle of it all.
You know the best part, Rich? The very best part? Here you are, a man, being attacked by a woman, a woman-born-woman, yet. Oh, yes, this is an attack. Absolutely. I think you're loathsome. But more important, it is, according to the radical lesbian female separatists you're so devoted to, or it damn well should be, my prerogative to be as nasty as I want to be to you, O Phallused Privileged Untrustworthy Potential Rapist One. Hell, I -can't- oppress you; I can't abuse you; I can't silence you; I have no power, isn't that so?
And I'm sure that if/when you do go running to whine and clutch and cower behind the sensible flowing skirts of your matrons, sorry, allies, they'll have a few choice words to the effect that there's no need to take me and mine seriously, after all I may have been born with girlbits, but I'm one of THEM. You know, THEM. Hardly a woman at all, really. Certainly no feminist. Clearly this is all in service of my pr0ntastic pimps who have their big manly hands up my ass even as I type. Poor little Rich boy. There there, dear. Don't worry: we still think you fight the fight of the righteous. You are right, oh yes you are, at least about this, today.
But sadly: that's as good as it's gonna get, isn't it?
You still can't get into the Sooper Seekrit Inner Circles: that's how it should be. You'll never be fully trusted: you don't deserve it, you just said so yourself. You'll never be fully accepted: you're not worthy, inherently so. And fuck knows a man can never hope to find romantic fulfillment and attachment with a radical feminist and/or lesbian sep....
Oh, right. Never mind.
The thing is, though, Rich: see, me, that other kind of feminist, person, human, for an example:
I don't lay that shit on my friends and allies. I don't require that people give things up, particularly if those things are really no skin off my ass. I don't demand that make themselves miserable, particularly people I care about. I want them to be happy. I want me to be happy, too. What's the fucking point, otherwise?
I don't tell people they can never, ever be good enough unless they contort themselves into some Procrustean bed (and probably not even then, but keep trying!) I don't require that people be born with any particular bits or wear stars on their bellies, dress in any particular way, fuck (consensually) in any particular way, spout my dogma, dance to my tune. And I don't want to be a part of any revolution or utopia or community or movement or whatever the fuck it is that does.
If it were up to me, the Utopia thing, the how to make a better world by individual choices and self-examination, personal-is-political, let's-make-a-safe-space-through-delineating-borders-of-our-communities bit, anyway? All I'd say is: just don't be an asshole all the time.
By which relatively modest standard, Rich, I am afraid you fail.
And yet, you would think, of all the other apparent impositions which you or whomever put between yourself and success or happiness, people like you, the Malvolios, the sad bastards of this world, that that one ought to be the easiest to rectify.
And yet, and yet.