Thursday, June 26, 2008

Quote of the day, 6/26/08

Honestly, I don’t buy either the nature or nurture arguments with regards to gender. I think it’s a combination of effects, and I agree with the line about gender being a “performance” — which I don’t think is the same thing as belittling the importance of gender in the lives of many people or saying that any one gender identity is more or less legitimate than the other. There are a huge range of gender identities, from feminine women and masculine men to feminine men and masculine women, transgender people, genderqueer or gender non-conformative people who alternate gender expressions. For example, I was born female, and since I adapted so easily to that identity I believe that I was also born with a feminine gender. But I think that the ways in which I enact femininity — i.e. the way I cross my legs, or the fact that I shave them, or the way that I often apologize for things that aren’t my fault — were most likely taught to me in a subconscious way and probably don’t have much to do with my vagina or estrogen production at all.

I do agree though that people who take the most strict “gender is a construction” stance are those who tend to be transphobic, or vice versa. Personally, I take the same stance with regards to trans-ness as I take towards sexual orientation: I think that it’s mostly biological, but don’t really give a shit whether it’s biological, social conditioning or a choice. People have the right to express their gender(s) and sexuality however they want, regardless of the reason, and the whole “reason” conversation, I think, distracts from that extremely important fact.

--Cara at the Curvature (read the OP while you're at it)

...actually, minor quibble, I think probably the "most strict 'gender is a construction stance'" is really just...not. I think when you see this from transphobic feminists these days, it's an expression of the contortionist attempt to fuse actual radical feminisms that do/did actually mean the whole "gender is a construction" business (which tend -not- to be at odds with queer theory or ffs the existence of transgendered people) with cultural feminism, which is essentially...essentialist. (I've posted about this before).

But you know, just: if one is THAT invested in the idea of Class Woman and woman-only spaces and so forth, one is pretty much by definition -not- trying to "do away with gender." And no, the whole "nonono, Class Woman is about SEX, that's TOTALLY DIFFERENT from 'gender'" doesn't wash. At all.

a) it's projection on the parts of the feminists in question onto (a lot of) trans people to assume that the -trans people- are the ones who are so hopelessly fixated on genitalia, as Cara notes in her OP

b) hi, speaking of "examination:" exactly how much "gendered" shit that actually has nothing to do with your genitalia or reproductive organs do you take for granted?

Start with the pronouns you use for yourself and expect others to use when talking about you. Then, move onto the amount of tsuris you -don't- get specifically about the "M" or "F" on your government-issued ID when you try to get a job, move to another country, get married, get on a motherfucking plane, get a driver's license, or, well, just a whole shitload of things. Oh, yeah, and of course you have the right to use the "correct" bathroom, don't you? Or any public bathroom at all, really.

Guess what, folks: -none- of that is about "sex." That is about "gender." Presentation, pronouns (you know, in some languages the "genderedness" of possessive pronouns, i.e. "his" or "her" in English, is related to the -object- ("sa plume"), -not- the possessor, so this is hardly a universal), and the everfucking -importance- people place on all of this shit to make sure that everyone either fits into column A, column B, or, well, the outlands. Where we can "pity" "them" (ta awfully so, mAndrea, you hoser), but certainly no more than that.

Yeah, that's radical "deconstruction of 'gender,'" all right. Clap, clap.

And, you know, of course, even if you -did- have The Most Radical Radness Of All, this idea that you're entitled to therefore make or contribute to making other peoples' already difficult lives even more difficult on account of they haven't justified their existence to your stringent ideological demands sufficiently? Or for that matter, even, when the chips are down, write them off as "we eagerly accept and even solicit your emotional and financial contributions to Our Struggle, Which Is Of Course Universal; but as for your -particular- problems, so sorry, not our table?" What part of "fuck off" did you not understand?

On the "personal is political" note, as opposed to "just" being an ally note: this goes out to, well, Certain Of The Same Women Who Should Be Safely Fringey Enough To Just Ignore, But Nonetheless:

You know, even if my less-than-clear-eyed queer pervy lusts and relationships did turn out to be more in line with patriarchal standards than your ever so pure political lesbian and/or separatist and/or wymyn fyrst whatever it is...well, I do think you're full of shit about this, don't get me wrong (this is a separate post); but also? Really not my -first- concern here, how fucking -transgressive- I am against the Evil Empire as compared to you or anyone else, mirror mirror on the wall. I don't live my life in order to conform to -or- rebel against an ideal ideology; my ideology evolves and adapts around actual needs and lives, not the other way around.

Now, you may feel differently, and you know, that's your prerogative; but kindly keep me the hell out of it. And yeah, spouting off ignorantly, and derisively, but Importantly (o rational objective observer that you are!) about things that matters to me and mine? qualifies as -not- "leaving me out of it." You talk a lot of stupid, hateful crap about people; being actual people and not -objects-, they respond, often angrily. This is how it works. Welcome to reality.

Further, I for one reserve the right to be as sweary, mean, and "irrational" as I want to be when you pull this kind of crap, same as I would with any other reactionary, smug, ignorant bigot using someone else's personal shit as a trampoline for hir own sorry, selfish (yeah, you read that right) agenda.

Finally, I keep coming back to this: if transgenderism is an "ideology," then so is homosexuality. As a cis queer person who's heard the latter argument as well as the former invoked by right wingers -way- too often, this shit hits way too close to home. And I want to know, from feminists, lesbians included: exactly how it is that you justify "being transgendered is an ideology/sickness/perversion/trend" when these are EXACTLY the arguments, but EXACTLY, used by homophobes*.

...*Who, by the way, are also inevitably Terribly Offended by being called -homophobes-, because they're not -afraid- and they're not -bad people- and they're discriminated against TOO, at least as much, even, and some of their best friends are, and they don't actually nail anyone to a fence and leave them there to die horribly over a period of days (COOKIE PLEASE) and how dare we label them something they don't believe they are, o irony irony.


GallingGalla said...

THANK YOU so much for this, and for your comments at the CoF (ren ev's and Lisa's and Trin's also).

I commented there as well, asking that I not be linked in any future editions of CoF.

belledame222 said...

Yeah, I saw that. I--well, I really hope Natalie is willing to engage this a bit more seriously. I'm waiting on her next move, but already I'm...well, as I said over there, "still troubled." A bit politic, but on the whole she/the Carnival's had a good track record in general afaik, I hosted it once, so...but yeah, ultimately, I think a) that's totally your prerogative b) I'ma have to see how I feel about it, depending on the next responses or lack thereof.

queen emily said...


And the continual repetition of "destroying gender/gender's not real/it's a performance" with "trannies reify gender! blahblah" is really irritating.

It's this bizarre, un-reflexive trickling down of various bits of theory (radical feminism, French feminism, queer theory), without having to do any of that hard thinking business to make those wildly disparate ideas work together. And shock horror, it results in an incoherent mess fueled mostly by ugly hate.

I don't have much more to say, because I've dejad this vu about 20 times online and cannot be arsed with yet another round.

Drakyn said...

Belle, you are awesome.

belledame222 said...

(de nada/thx)

wait, where does French feminism come into this? besides oh mAndy being pretty clearly "abject?" then again what I know about French feminism could fill a donut hole, really. somehow I doubt de Beauvoir would approve, anyway; or I like to think so.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post, Belledame.

Kristen said...


"So far, -one- person said she no longer wishes to be associated with the CoF at all, a trans woman. I’m not jumping on that bandwagon at the moment precisely because of Natalie’s track record, but you know what, it’s her prerogative to do so, GG’s, and it’s not my place to tell her to cut the nice cis lady some slack, she’s trying really hard. It’s just…not."

This comment of yours from the Carnival is just well...such a perfect response to this issue and to similar things (ahem...Amanda-gate for example) that I just had to point it out.

Fantastic way to put it.

Renegade Evolution said...

well said, and Cara kicked some serious ass there.

PhysioProf said...

don’t really give a shit whether it’s biological, social conditioning or a choice. People have the right to express their gender(s) and sexuality however they want, regardless of the reason, and the whole “reason” conversation, I think, distracts from that extremely important fact.

I am so totally on board with this, and for exactly this reason have never had much interest in whether homosexuality is "biological" or whatthefuckever, or whether supposed racial differences in "IQ" (which is a fucking absurd meaningless measure to begin with) are "biological" or whateverthefuck.

Who gives a flying fuck about any of that shit? People deserve to be treated with equal dignity because they are people. Period.

belledame222 said...

I mean, it might be an -interesting- question in a pure research/introspection kind of way in a politically neutral setting, sure.

But at -minimum- I ain't gonna talk about this shit with people whose agenda is using the results to "prove" that they have the right to pass or maintain discriminatory policies and laws, ostracize who they want to ostracize, pathologize who they want to pathologize, and just generally be hateful fucks making other people who never did a damn thing to -them-, miserable.

I've had interesting if not conclusive (imagine, we might not all agree) discussions about nature/nurture and sexuality with actual evolved people who actually know what the fuck they're talking about and are capable of listening to and respecting other people who don't exactly resemble them; fuckwits like mAndrea are emphatically NOT invited.

belledame222 said...

(jesus, could those sentences BE any more run-on? oy)

Matthew said...

Still waiting for the outrage at Hillary’s insistence that a man pay her way.
She and that pathetic Geraldine Ferraro have set the women’s movement back forty years.
So much for the Clintonista so-called support for women’s equality.

belledame222 said...

um, what? dude: a) wrong topic b) yeah, I've expressed exasperation at Clinton/the whole process before, but in case you didn't notice, the primaries are now over and Obama won. why are you using this post to beat the dead horse? p.s. actually, that's a rhetorical question: what I mean to say is: please don't. Much appreciated. Thanks.

queen emily said...

Oh, I was particularly thinking of the reduction of de Beauvoir to one sentence.

Also, the notion of "feminine" writing outside of male discourse, sheer pure feminine presence etc, is very French and pretty much in the rad-fem bloodstream now. And being anti phallogocentric or whatever, language and rationality as male or whatever.

None of which is valueless, but like the odd snippets of queer theory/post-structuralism is fairly well unassimilated into what is basically a humanist, essentialist radical feminist ideology.

As I recall Heart had links up to Cixous and Irigaray on one of her blogs as radical feminists, which is really quite strange, but eh.

antiprincess said...

And I want to know, from feminists, lesbians included: exactly how it is that you justify "being transgendered is an ideology/sickness/perversion/trend" when these are EXACTLY the arguments, but EXACTLY, used by homophobes*.

can't get more clear-eyed than that. well phrased.

BeccaTheCyborg said...

Excellent post. Hit the nail right on the head.

I am a little amazed how much certain people use the exact same language as the ultra-right homophobes and convince themselves that they're anything appraoching progressive.