Gender Workshop: I used to be okay with a “witch hunt” or two

Gender Workshop, as ever, is brought to you by your friendly, neighborhood Crip Dyke.

There’s been much talk over the last few years about witch hunts. Targeting Dawkins. Targeting Shermer. Targeting Hunt. Targeting anyone who happens to sit near Adria Richards. And though I think it is far from a witch hunt to be criticized by a lot of people, even by a lot of people at once, because your comments or behaviors merited criticism, for a long time I merely rolled my eyes at the inevitable, defensive backlash: “Witch hunt!”

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Gender Workshop: Age of Ultra Sexism? Edition

Gender Workshop, as ever, is brought to you by your friendly, neighborhood Crip Dyke

So I have now seen Avengers, Age of Ultron, and oh, androgyne! will this post contain spoilers!

Though I’ve only just seen the movie days ago, it’s been weeks since I became aware that there were quite a number of significant debates focussed on sexism and Age of Ultron. Any number of articles could be referenced, but I’m going to draw exclusively from io9’s Meredith Woerner and Katharine Trendacosta and Salon’s Marcotte, because they take on a particularly interesting and revealing moment in Age of Ultron, but seem to miss enough that there’s room for me to add.

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Gender Workshop: Justice Foreshortened is Justice Only in the Eyes of Jerkwads Edition

Online Gender Workshop, as ever, is brought to you by your friendly, neighborhood Crip Dyke.

Recently prolific news aggregator Lynna brought to my attention a legal case concerning someone guilty of sexual assault out of the Land of Silver that, shall we say, fails to glister overmuch. Unlike the attractive sparkle of a rich acanthite vein (which, it should be noted, was never found in Argentina: a premature naming by aspiring and greedy colonizers), this case burns with the unflickering monochromaticity of a neon sign reading, “ALL THE TRIGGER WARNINGS”.

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Online Gender Workshop: Be Confused, Be Very Confused Edition

Online Gender Workshop, as ever, is brought to you by your friendly, neighborhood Veronica Quaife Crip Dyke.

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they were slogging through the twists and turns of translating “transsexual” into the language of a hypothetical world where sex == gender. As expected, there were some difficulties. Some of these difficulties arise from confusion at the statement, “just what does it mean to say that sex == gender”? While frustrating for those honestly attempting to answer the question, the confusion, I judge, is fair given that actual advocates for using sex in place of gender or gender in place of sex rarely show much of the totality of what they intend to convey by conflating the two.

There are, of course, languages where there is only one term for both sex and gender. Those folks will have had some leg up on the work. Nonetheless, the confusing world of communicating across others’ assumptions that sex == gender does not end at the creation of a definition, not even at the creation of a satisfying one. While the discussion about the implications of those definitions will continue in the original thread, here we will take things just a step further.

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Online Gender Workshop: Put Your Definitions Where Your Genitals Are Edition

Online Gender Workshop, as ever, is brought to you by your friendly, neighborhood Crip Dyke

There have been quite a few thoughts expressed, here and elsewhere, about the appropriate uses of transsexual, transgender, trans, and trans*. The separation of sex and gender, while ostensibly default in a number of academic fields and feminist and trans philosophies or movements, is not something challenged only by right wing advocates of trans* oppressive policies. Many non-trans* feminists and many trans* liberation advocates openly oppose the use of these terms as separate. Some of that spills over onto debates about terms such as transgender.

I’d like to attempt to further explain why I believe it is so necessary to separate gender and sex in the first place, and thus at least some of the major reasons why I care about the particular uses of those trans*-community specific terms.

But I won’t.

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Online Gender Workshop: Teaching Gender Attribution for Skeptics and Scientists

Online Gender Workshop, as ever, is brought to you by your friendly, neighborhood Crip Dyke.

In a recent thread, Okidemia posed a question that many parents have these days: When and how should I teach my child/ren about trans* folk?

Okidemia framed it this way:

…kids have not been told about transpeople yet, because we don’t know any. Thus an important educationnal question:
at what age would you* speak about it to kids? (certainly, you* should begin before they meet psychologically transgendering acquaintances –as opposed to biologically transitioning which certainly happens later in life.

One of the reasons this question seems so confounding is that, like many confounding questions, it is the wrong question. [Read more…]

Gender Workshop: How to think like you’re not

Redundant posts are redundant

Except when they aren’t.

Here your gender-workshop-taskmistress Crip Dyke encourages you to revisit the douchegabbery of the Minnesota Child Protection League. PZ did an excellent job of illuminating just that in “Two steps forward, one step back” in December of last year, and the discussion on that thread when it was current included a great many useful comments.

I want, however, not to merely rehash criticisms of MCPL (criticisms well-deserved and well-made the first time around) but to use that example to talk a bit about what “centering” and “marginalized” really mean. In the post on the need for transfeminist critiques of other feminisms, I focussed on Katha Pollit and identified places where, quite frankly, I think she employed some bad thinking to construct some bad feminism. I suggested that marginalization had something to do with this bad thinking on Pollit’s part. Here you can learn more about exactly what marginalization has to do with it …and the extent of my criticism of Pollit, rather than merely Pollit’s column.

I didn’t pick Pollit because her work is low hanging fruit. She has written excellently on many topics. She clearly has the writing chops to be clear about the distinctions between political theorizing and political rhetoric. Yet the only reasonable inference is that she was, in fact, talking about rhetoric when she was using the phrase “political analysis”. She also has the analytical skills to make the distinction between gendered terms like the French pronouns ils and elles, and gender neutral words like people. Yet here, too, she fell down.

So what is the problem with this Katha Pollit person anyway? The problem is the same as one in our community: the inability to think like you’re not.  [Read more…]

Gender Workshop: Lecturing at Others Edition

For your perusal, a new Gender Workshop post by Crip Dyke. Herein we discuss how feminists, in particular Katha Pollit, can fail to recognize feminism when it comes in the form of transfeminism. The readers themselves will have to judge the applicability of the title. For more active exercises in the workshop series, this here is a link back.

CaitieCat, a regular commenter here, recently brought to my attention this article, which discusses trans* persons’ reproductive rights in the context of feminist reproductive rights activism.

Along the way, it mentions a recent Katha Pollit piece in the Nation. Together, these pieces have created a good opportunity to explore transfeminism’s role in current feminisms.

Transfeminism, as I have defined it in my teaching, is the integration of feminism into trans* advocacy simultaneously and in coordination with the integration of trans* advocacy into feminism. It is of necessity something that is often labeled “intersectional feminism” (though we’ll critique that in another post). Here I won’t go much further into what transfeminism is. Rather, we’ll take a look at how current feminism demonstrates the need for a strong transfeminist response. [Read more…]

September Online Gender Workshop: Gender Attributions in Practice

After a long hiatus, I am attempting to rejuvenate the online gender workshop just in time for the US/Canadian school year.

In the past, we’ve focused on questions and reports back. Last time, we looked at some definitions. The initial exercises needed to be done in a state of gender naiveté. But more in depth exploration can only be done in the context of a common language and common intent. These are never naively assumed; they must be consciously adopted.

Now that we have these, let’s look at some aspects of gender in particular. Most educational focus is on gender identity and gender identification. But I find it more helpful to start with gender attribution. All of us attribute gender to others very frequently, but the process of attributing gender to ourselves is typically limited to childhood. Long before adulthood, cis* folks’ genders are assumptions living in the background of cis* lives. So let’s start by examining an activity with which we all have more practice and more familiarity: telling other people what there genders are. [Un/]Fortunately for you, I have a piece of creative writing that contains a number of good examples of gender attribution: how it happens, when it happens, and what it looks like. As a bonus which will help us segue into future discussions, it also touches on what it feels like when we are conscious of others’ efforts to attribute gender to us. This piece is called Stares. [Read more…]

July Online Gender Workshop: An exercise in the utility of definitions

When last we left our intrepid workshoppers, one month ago, we had had a rollicking discussion of definitions of gender, sex, and related terms.

One of the things that came out of that discussion is that when we are each pressed to define exactly what each of us as individuals mean by each person’s specific, personal use of terms like “gender” and “sex” and “transsexual” we not only consistently come up with different definitions, but we also routinely fail to come up with terms that actually cover everything we want to say.

In looking at people overtly performing gender, many of us struggled to find a way to express exactly what we wished to communicate using the terms we had just defined. Worse, in something little discussed as of yet, those people who are assumed to be the best and most skilled of us frequently declined to use gendered pronouns for some performers, but not others.

Why is this the case? If declining to assume an appropriate pronoun for Conchita Wurst is respectful, why not decline to assume an appropriate pronoun for Julie Andrews or Shirley Temple? One of the things we should, in fact, be discussing is the coercive nature of many gendered interactions. Did Shirley Temple choose the clothing or choreography for that scene? Did Temple have more agency in creating a gender (or a gendered image) than Conchita Wurst? At age 3 and 4? Given the legacy nature of Temple’s income and ability to work, what are the implications for Temple’s gender agency at age 40? And if Shirley Temple can’t be assumed to have had a free gender hand, why are we willing to trust an application of a gendered pronoun for Temple more than we trust an application of a gendered pronoun to Wurst?

To help solve some of these problems, it is necessary to have a common language. As revealed in previous exercises, we do not currently have that. We have idiosyncratic usage as created and modified by our successes and failures in conceptualizing and communicating sex and gender concepts. That simply isn’t enough when the times get rough.

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