Saturday, March 22, 2008

-points silently-

So, y'all may have noticed there's been a certain theme this past week or so. And, I was getting ready to post more about some other stuff, and I will, but I guess I feel more or less obligated to note that there's been this one other post, which is, apparently, truly special, along with much of the comments thread.

And I find that for whatever reason, I just can't do it this time. Not sure why, but "computer says no." Took one look at the topic title and others' comment highlights and the cast of characters and Cannot Do. Not tonight, Josephine.

But as a matter of public...service, or something, here you go, at "The Size Of A Cow," by one Polly Styrene* (which is not -at all- reminiscent of a drag queen's moniker, please note):

"The trans activist privilege checklist"

comments currently at 112 and counting.

So, if this sounds like the sort of thing you'd like to read and even engage with, and if you would like to tackle such scintillating insights** as, from someone complaining about the label "cisgendered"*** applied to her (straight, too, p.s., this one, and white) female self,

So referring to someone as 'coloured' (sorry) has no
bearing on how a person might interact with their reality and doesn't
contradict or cancel out how they define themselves? You're coming
from a terribly priviliged stance if you believe that how you refer to
me has no bearing on who I actually am.

you now know where to find it.

Alternately, you could go directly to the point by point rebuttal.

* dear Polly: yes, you've got me. I am only saying all this, all these words on behalf of transfolk, to appear "edgy and cool." Not because oh I don't know I might actually fucking mean what I'm saying; that, unlike some people, I'm actually capable of going "gee, as a queer woman, I don't like this sort of treatment; maybe I shouldn't turn around and do it to anyone else, particularly these people who are basically assigned by the Patriarchy to the same boat I'm in, only on an even lower level; maybe it'd be better to form alliances instead of playing 'kick the dog' and then wondering why o why no one else wants to support me and my Specialness." And certainly fuck knows it's not like we're talking about actual real people, you know, like people who might be my friends and loved ones. No. I wish to be "edgy and cool;"--look! here comes the Edgy And Cool Patriarchal Cookie-Giving Brigade right now. It just doesn't get better than this!!! stupid hateful fuckstain.

**ETA In fact this is incorrect; the above quote is -not- to repeat -not- to be found at the above-linked thread ("Trans Activist Privilege Checklist") at Polly Styrene's, but rather here.
The management regrets the error.

*** right, right, I remember, Wiki is suspect too because the owner once looked at pr0n or something and it's much too hard to click on a link and fucking read something anyway, let me spell it out for you, moron:

"cis" is equivalent to "straight" or "white." Mkay? As in: white woman, straight woman, cis woman. It doesn't mean you're "no longer female." It means you're not transgendered. That's it. That's all.

I know that's terribly fucking insulting. And of course it's tantamount to (sweet baby Spaghetti Monster preserve us) the term "colored," white lady. Jesus fuck. Look, drop us all a postcard when you finally break on through to China, will you? Try not to say anything stupid and offensive as shit when you get there, at least not enough to make them throw you back through the hole at 500 miles an hour, at least not for the first five minutes, if you can manage it.


on further edit: this post by trinity is a much more thoughtful and in-depth examination of why this kind of feminist might object to the term "cisgendered" as applied to herself, and why it's still wrongheaded.

Nick Kiddle also has a more patient explanation of How Things Are.


Alon Levy said...

For a second there, I thought it was the straightforward equivalent of the white and male privilege checklists: I have the privileges of being born in the same sex and gender, of not having to beg the government for an ID with the right gender, and so on.

belledame222 said...

No, this is the bizarro world response to that very thing. Apparently it's VERY OFFENSIVE that someone would dare to insinuate that trans women have it worse than...uh, "females." You know, the REAL ones.

Purtek said...

Before even taking the time to read the thing, let alone any of the 112 comments or the rebuttal, I'd just like to note just how much this is a marvelous exercise in missing the point based entirely on the title.

Being an "activist" of any kind, for anything, whether it's a popular political position or not, isn't a locus for privilege. Privilege happens because of some feature of self. Sex. Racial identity. Sexuality. Gender identity. Etc. Activism happens because you have political opinions. No matter how seriously you take your opinions they are not a constant and fundamental part of your being, your way of interacting with the world. I take my feminism very seriously, and even in a defined feminist space, I would never say that someone could claim that we're exercising "feminist privilege", nor would I say that people at a Conservative Party convention are exercising "Conservative privilege".

The bizarro world seems to think that not only is it "silencing" to say "we think you're wrong, based on our experiences or the experiences of other people we've talked to", but also that their beliefs are akin to identity. I don't quite know how to articulate why they're...not (maybe when I get through some of the rebuttals, I'll find someone already has, in which case, sorry for the babble, but...)

**the only possible locus of privilege that comes to mind that might be considered "opinion" driven is religion, because yahuh is there Christian privilege on this here continent, but I do think it's different from this bullshit "activist privilege" I need to spend some brain power unpacking part of this, methinks.

Purtek said...

OK, having read the list now, I am reminded that *of course* when she says "trans activist" she means "transperson" (should have figured, sorry)...and yet, many of the points are really not about "privilege" in the sense that the word is used on the checklists, but are really objections to arguments and/or argument strategies, which, in the end, is really about the "activism" anyway, so...

(Also, I needed to click the "email me followups" button, cause otherwise I'll lose the thread, so I had to comment again anyway.)

belledame222 said...

Well, in theory she means more or less "those noisy transpeople who won't shut up about their place in feminism/the lesbian community and stop painfully reminding us of their existence, as opposed to the 'good ones.'"

Whatever her criteria; but somewhere in there she mentioned she had seven (count 'em) transgendered friends/acquaintances, all of whom presumably are totally down with her asshattery on this as opposed to just resigning themselves to being a "some of my best friends are ..." because, well, she -tries- and she has -qualities-, or something.

which in turn is of course nothing Polly herself would -possibly- be familiar with as a butch dyke, the friends who kind of really aren't in certain ways but hey they're always so nice and friendly and supportive as long as you stay off -those- subjects and agree to their terms and...

belledame222 said...

he bizarro world seems to think that not only is it "silencing" to say "we think you're wrong, based on our experiences or the experiences of other people we've talked to", but also that their beliefs are akin to identity. I don't quite know how to articulate why they're...not

*nod* This was actually maybe going to be yet another post: "one of these things is not like the other."

my thoughts: this is something that comes a lot wrt, say, fundamentalist Christianity and Teh Gay. Often it tends to get framed in a way that -belief- is not the same as -sexuality-; the latter is an immutable part of one's being, the former...more mutable.

Personally, I think it's even simpler than that, and there's no need to go into whether or not one's political beliefs or religion aren't -important- or central or whatever.

The difference is:

you take gay marriage. You may -believe- gay people shouldn't get married and that their doing so will ruin Society; whether or not your -beliefs- carry the day, -your- marriage is not actually in question, straight person, paranoiac rants about the Gay Agenda notwithstanding. Even if the gay people happen to believe that your marriage in fact is destroying society (for example). one of these things is not like the other.

you take transitioning. You may -believe- it's not valid and counter to the RE; thing is, Catherine Crouch paranoia notwithstanding, in this country, no one is being forced to transition. You don't get to "question" someone else's -life- according to your -beliefs- when the stakes are so different: whatever happens with the trans person's gender identity or body, no one's forcing -you- to undergo a sex change. One of these things is not like the other.

Alon Levy said...

Privilege happens because of some feature of self.

I'm not so sure. There's such a thing as Christian privilege in the US, Jewish privilege in Israel, Hindu privilege in India, Muslim privilege in Saudi Arabia, Buddhist privilege in Thailand.

There's also privilege based on language. This is obvious and natural in countries with a majority language, like the US or France, or when language knowledge is essential, as with English among Indian programmers, but sometimes the government or a social elite creates it in order to attack a linguistic minority. In Singapore the government enforces Mandarin on the Chinese population, which in turn uses it to exclude the Malay and Indian minorities.

Purtek said...

re: religion--I did actually make that note in my comment, and I haven't quite wrapped my head around *why* there's something slightly different there. belle gets at part of it when she talks about what's at stake if you give it up, but again, I'm not really up for unpacking all of that right now.

As for language, I can't see how language is in any way a matter of opinion and/or choice. One's first language is pretty much a feature one is born into, and *of course* there is often privilege attached to language (especially as it is wrapped up in race/class etc). But I don't see how that's akin to a political position or a religion.

Anonymous said...

I love how the early comments are exactly "hate the sin love the sinner" type stuff.

So, this is the "rad"fem equivalent of sending the cavalry on the uppity plebes. :p

*goes to die a little inside knowing that the straw trannies in the faraway post might actually convince some self-hating trans ppl :(*

Lisa Harney said...

Assuming my rebuttal is still in that thread, hopefully they serve as an anodyne for any trans people who might take her post seriously. :(

Mandos said...

"cis" is equivalent to "straight" or "white." Mkay? As in: white woman, straight woman, cis woman.

I believe that this is the source of the objection. "Straight" and "white" are agreed as markers of privilege. If you're invested in the notion that there is no further oppression than that one suffers as a woman, then the idea of "cis woman" in relation to an oppressed group of "trans women" will necessarily be rage-inducing, because it suggests that the basic premise---of born women's oppression being more deeply profound than all others---is not correct, and that other oppressions also take place on the same level.

Alon Levy said...

How is that different from including race in the definition, Mandos?

Mandos said...

It's different because it's agreed by them that white qua white is more privileged than coloured. And that straight qua straight is more privileged than gay. They agree to this, because they agree (sometimes quite enthusiastically) race and sexual orientation can be taken as orthogonal to biological sex.

With the cis/trans labelling problem, "cis" to them is not a character that's orthogonal to biological sex. It directly means "born a biological woman." If biological women is a characteristic that implies the highest level of oppression, and that all oppressions, while perhaps distinct, are predicated on sexism---which is the basis of their ideology after all---then "cis" is a term that implies that "biological woman" has a status equivalent to *some other status.*

That is, the oppression of women is divisible into further oppressions that do not contain characteristics that cut across sex (like race). It's hard enough for some of them to agree that black women can be oppressed in specific ways by white women qua white woman (as opposed to just whites in general). How can it be possible to accept that born women can have privilege by being born women?

That's the root of the "cis" issue.

Mandos said...

Note that they have no objection to the term "trans". It clearly highlights that transwomen are trans-gressing onto women's space. It allows them to inspect transwomen for behaviours that indicate that they are men colonizing the Final Frontier, the most vulnerable position, womanhood.

("Gender, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Gender Dysphoria...")

There are women (natives of Femaleness). And then there are transwomen (at best, immigrants). "Cis", especially when breathed in the same sentence as "white" or "straight", suggests that women born women are not the rightful native population of Femaleness.

SunflowerP said...

How interesting. Every single one of those points correlates closely with behaviors I've noticed being engaged in by adherents of that branch of radfeminism that... well, likes to define who is a Real Feminist(tm). None are "privilege" in the institutional sense; they're of the "stuff-somewhat-like-privilege" that has to do with not sitting down and shutting up. (I guess I mean empowerment, basically, which can function like privilege in many ways, IMO.)

So in other words, she's objecting to transwomen horning in on the rightful privilege of Real Radfems.

This is strangely familiar. Monstrous Regiments, anyone?


Alon Levy said...

I can buy race, but how can sexual orientation be orthogonal to biological sex? The whole idea of sexual orientation is based on which sex you're attracted to. It's like saying miscegeneation is orthogonal to race.

A better explanation than yours is that sexual orientation gets a free pass because women who are attracted to women are expressing solidarity with womankind, while women who were born male are disrupting it. Race is neutral here, which is why radical feminists ignore it, only talking about it in order to emphasize its subordination to gender. The same benign neglect applies to gay men to some extent, though sometimes radical feminists treat them better because of the shared homosexuality.

a very public sociologist said...

I find it really twisted that so much time and energy is spent trying to score oppression points. FFS, where do these people get off? Perhaps they ought to go out and try and change the world instead of making themselves feel less insecure by slagging off other oppressed people on the internet.