Somebody let the TERFs off their leash, and they started braying about how the world is going to collapse if we stop erecting onerous administrative barriers between trans people and accurate ID.
October 9th, 2015:
Julia Serano on Twitter:
Imagine a world where the virulently misogynist words of Phyllis Schlafly were held up by feminists as representative of the opinions of all women. Imagine a world where the discrimination-denialist positions of Christina Hoff Sommers were held up as the pinnacle of women’s advocacy by feminists. Imagine a world where hundreds of feminists surfaced from the crevices of the internet to hail me as some kind of valiant free speech defender after campaigning for women to be banned from public life because one time, this woman threw hot coffee at me and no, I don’t have an independent link for you to verify that but I promise I’m trustworthy *pinky swear* smiley-face emoji :)
I don’t live in this world because it is, sadly, limited to cis feminists. A feminist publication called Athena Talks, whose mission is “to help young women mature, [to help] budding professionals become leaders and [to help] leaders become advocates for equality,” decided that all of the above absurdities were suddenly worthy of their editorial attention, strictly because it was re-purposed for animus against trans women.
To be clear, I don’t consider it a bad thing that my feminist works are usually held up to a higher standard. If I were to deploy the venom-spitting baffelgab passing for “reasonable dialogue” in the start of this post, I would be rightly shredded as a derivative thinker and deemed an asshole with an axe to grind. Instead I want to draw attention to cis feminism’s problem with shoddy double standards: If the topic is trans women, y’all start giving the “deer in headlights” look as if you’ve never encountered a logical fallacy before. (#NotAllCisFeminists, of course, but enough of you).
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the latest candy-glossed hate piece to make waves in feminist discourse: “I am not a ‘cis’ Woman, I am a Woman and that Matters.”
Content Notice for trans-antagonism, in case it wasn’t already obvious from the title.
The author opens thusly:
Last Friday, Silentbob pointed out that TigTog, a radical feminist whose work I’ve occasionally encountered on teh interwebs, sometimes comments on FTB. From there I figured I could check out her blog, and I found a few excellent posts I’ll signal boost over the next couple weeks.
The first is a curious double standard which I wrote about on Friday, albeit with a different pair of power groups. TigTog writes about the double standard between criticisms from men (which are viewed as a dialogue and contribution to free speech) and criticisms from women (which are viewed as terrible censorship) despite the fact that the content of the criticisms isn’t overly different, based on a kerfluffle that started all the way back in 2013.
This time it’s women objecting to sexist content in the professional magazine for the Science Fiction Writers Of America who are causing Deep Rifts™. Pointing out that discussing female editors and writers in terms of how good they look in a bathing suit is a blatantly disrespectful trivialision of the work these women do and would never happen in a discussion of male editorsand writers and is therefore sexist and a double standard: that sort of talk is, according to the two men who did that, a call for censorship and suppression of their free speech. As for complaining in the SWFA forum about a male columnist recommending women take Barbie as a role model to “maintain our quiet dignity as a woman should”? Well, that was just making the forum “the arena for difference”.
Hey, whatever happened to all that free speech crowd’s support for their beloved aphorism: “the only remedy for bad speech is more speech”?
Oh yeah – the ideal of more and more and more speech being an axiomatic good only applies when it’s men who are expressing contrary opinions to others. When women express our contrary opinions to men, we’re trying to silence them entirely. Because we’re just that evil and divisive.
It’s double standards all the way down. (And before anybody in the atheoskeptosphere starts Vaculating along the lines of “what about your double standards?” with respect to women identifying “what-Vacula-calls-disagreement” as an intimidatory silencing campaign, if only all the Vaculators were doing was “disagreeing” then you might have a point, but that isn’t what’s happening and you know it. Refusing to engage with vexatious “you’re not allowed to ignore me” types is not a refusal to defend one’s ideas generally: it’s simply being aware that DARVO is the game being played and refusing to play it.)
Read more about this here.
Of course, the exact same power dynamic is sometimes re-created by TERFs who insist that any response to their material constitutes a grave moral failing, while issuing their poisonous diktats is seen as morally righteous.
Cis women occupy a unique position within the discourse between sex essentialist/trans-exclusionary radical feminists and trans feminists. As we’re about to see below, TERFs sometimes employ a subtle technique of rhetorical manipulation that disarms any trans critics long before we’ve even spoken. Since cis women in these sex essentialist constructs lack the various boogeymen and spectres that TERFs raise as evidence of trans women’s “male essence,” they’re able to more directly interface with the material without having to first waste time on specious accusations of “aggression” or “violence.” This is why I made a post eons ago briefly thanking M. A. Melby for her work–she not only acknowledges this unique position but actively uses it to expose the intellectual fraud of sex essentialist feminists.
Here I document a specific strain of rhetoric which has the intention to demonize the transgender critic regardless of their actual behaviour. My hope is that cis women step up to the plate when they see it deployed, because they undermine its fundamental strategy simply by voicing a criticism while being neither transgender or a man. We’re looking at a recent piece by Julian Vigo, but the rhetoric used here is likely to make an appearance again.
All emphasis seen in the quotations are added by me unless marked otherwise. Typos are from the original material. Lastly, I use “trans feminist” to refer to a specific tradition of trans-inclusive feminism, not as “a feminist who is also transgender,” though they often overlap.
Content Notice for trans-antagonism and sexual assault.
It’s not exactly difficult for those who experience misogyny to paint that experience as rather harrowing. There are countless disparities between men and women in virtually every metric you can think of from violent victimization to wage earnings to health outcomes. If one is invested in evidence as their basis for beliefs, it is virtually inescapable to conclude anything except that women as a demographic are treated unfairly in a myriad of ways (not that people don’t try). Despite the ceaseless statistical evidence, Vigo opts to use a personal narrative instead:
Dr. Cary Costello has a piece up about the interactions between intersex folks, sex essentialist/trans exclusionary feminists, and gender variance.
It’s a nice piece because it demonstrates the impact of sex & gender assignment and how this procedure is generally undisturbed upon the discovery of intersex developmental biology–the intersex individual is often still given a binary sex assignment, and this generally remains true across the world. If the medical establishment ever pulls its head out of its ass and stops doing this to intersex newborns, trans feminism (including my own) will have to account for persons who are assigned intersex at birth or risk being obsolete, in addition to the very notions of “cis” and “trans” not mapping neatly onto intersex experiences.
A trans writer by the name of Aoife coins the term “GATE”–gender abolitionist, trans embodied–to describe those trans folk who subscribe to sex essentialist theories which posits that they themselves do not exist/are mentally ill fetishists/mistaken about themselves in one way or another. These hypocrites reap the benefits hard won by trans advocacy whilst campaigning to see those gains reversed, hence a dichotomy characterized by the phrase “male in the tweets, female in the streets.” I noticed this dichotomy thrust upon any trans woman (and gendercrits usually obsess over trans women specifically) any time we encounter a gendercrit in the wild. Our life is expected to sit still for a picture over which the TERF can pen in a bunch of lines, meanwhile we carry on minding our business as they frantically wave their picture around insisting we stay in place. Rani interviews an ex-“gender critical” trans person and discusses how attempts for GATEs to organize are often short lived.
The gender abolitionist position arose vigorously from 1970s feminist analysis (particularly lesbian feminists), who argued power and sexism were embodied predicaments, in which “gender” shoves people into social locations based on patriarchal expectations. They don’t “criticize” gender as a kind of conversational interrogation – they want to abolish gender, which will inevitably require some kind of massive overthrow of the social order. In such a political analysis, trans women or “transwomen” are universally male, and whatever enactment of “femininity”, the “feminine”, or the replication of the true female form through patriarchal pharmacology are direct appropriations of the female as sexed universal. In short, trans women have absolutely nothing to offer actual women in terms of feminist revolt, and in fact distort and derail the cause.
That would make being a gender abolitionist/trans embodied individual (GATE) in a wickedly impossible predicament. What exactly are they proposing to accomplish?
Other than a few hit pieces or some twitter conflict? Nothing. This, to my mind, is why there was no New Narratives 2. What more could be said from a dissipating middle ground of quicksand that GATEs tread, sinking further with every ideological stretch they make? The short-lived and totally ineffectual project Gender Apostates likewise collapsed. The SETs saw it as a lead-balloon intervention, of males in dresses diluting true radical feminism. Of men in makeup more likely to occlude feminist analysis than augment it. And, as the record shows, Gender Apostates failed to find a committed group of cis women, of trans-masculine, or destransitioned trans folk: the very groups who claim to be erased from the conversation that gender critical seeks to bring into the conversation. Even sympathetic, big-name “moderate” media writers were rarely directly supportive of the project – why risk the radical base of their audience by co-authoring with ladyfacers? Michelle Goldberg’s article on gendercrit, far from forwarding conversation, just led to more confusion: “Wait, they have F-passports, go around presenting as women with female names, but say they’re male?” This was by far the most common response I read to Goldberg’s interviews.
In short, the gendercrit movement’s moment strolled in circles with an uncertain inertia, and no direction to turn. r/gendercrit is little more than an insult forum with tautologies: “trans women take selfies; some narcissists take selfies therefore, all trans women are narcissists.” Same with tumblr. Twitter. Facebook. The voices of “gender abolition” in social media are largely hectoring brays of targeted insults and denigration, all on the anonymous.
Gender abolitionism wants a world without gender, and therefore transgender people, in it. That’s the political objective: no more trans.
Thus, is “gender abolitionism” an ethically accountable system, rejecting yet possessed of compassion for transgender people . . . perhaps in a “love the sinner, hate the sin” sense? Varies by the individual, of course. (And whatever is most politically opportunistic at any given time.) Sure, there are gender abolitionists (GA) who are great mates with GATEs. Some distantly sympathize with trans women. What I notive about the ‘sympathy’, however, is an admixture of pity and intrigue for the ramifications of our existence. Is it ‘compassionate’ to assess all trans woman as emotionally traumatized by-products of masculinist gender agendas, hapless puppets to gender therapists and victims of Father Knows Best medicine?
Because the compassion fades right f’ing quickly before the abolitionist strategic design for the future. Abolitionists, by ideological default, must condemn transition as a reckless, untested aberration for the confused and selfish; and so SRS is always mutilation. And, predictably, the attacks go straight for trans health care, since treatment for the “defect” of gender dysphoria is a clumsy, misogynist intervention at the individual level. Collectively, trans health care equals the phallo-pharmaceutical destruction of womankind.
So — being ‘compassionate’ in a clinical sense, sure — yet being selective in who gets that compassion, on what terms . . . pronoun cherry-picking, appointing “right-thinking” trans women, sticking to the same researchers and eliding over a very broad scholarly conversation about sex and gender in society . . . it’s not compassionate to be telling a young trans woman preparing for her SRS that she’s about to become a Living-Wound of permanent defilement. That seems like a pretty shitty kind of bully, really. Not what they say – what they do.
Let me rethink of it this way . . . what I mostly saw as “compassion” was pathos; and as for the cudgel? We’ve all been hit by the cudgel. Blame, punishment, condemnation … anytime, any place, any reason. I’m not denying poignant individual friendships exist between individual GA feminists and trans women. Nor would I deny the outright tokenism and exploitation of the “TERF pet”. It happens.
Kind interactions can often slide into confrontations, with peer pressure and group think ensuring the GATE doesn’t step out of line. Because in their view the most compassionate thing to tell a GATE is to destransition! Thus, at a certain point, ‘compassion’ or ‘cudgel’ are not readily distinguishable amidst a political vanguard possessed of an extreme gender-scepticism. The trans person, attempting to hold gender abolitionist views, is a glaring paradox. How does one experientially benefit daily from the civic and social accommodations that trans activism has won for us, yet denounce or discredit the principles and civil rights issues that led to these accommodations?
Read more here.
Edit June 6, 2017: Corrected a typo involving the speaker’s name.
Speaking of TERFs at crisis resources behaving badly: Vancouver Rape Relief, a sexual assault and domestic violence resource which has secured legal precedent to exclude trans women from its life-saving services, has cried bully after a union organization announced it will be only associating with trans-inclusive groups:
Siobhan — then you agree that cis women have a right to their own spaces, that trans women have privileges from having been brought up as boys, and that cis women have a right to talk about how their female bodies shape their experiences of oppression?
This is an extremely common tactic I see deployed in criticisms of my work. I don’t know if the people using it realize just how loaded some of those word choices are, and I wanted to pause a moment to unpack that.
For starters, a lot depends on what exactly we mean by the word “spaces.” Are we talking about a Sunday scrap-booking club or a crisis shelter? The differences between the two touch many areas–legal, practical, ethical, just to name a few. A private interest group needs absolutely no justification for setting its boundaries. In addition, no self-respecting trans person wants to curry favour with people who treat them like they’re untouchables. But when trans women (and it’s usually trans women who are the subjects of exclusion) talk about accessing “female” spaces, we’re not typically signing up to be the subjects of mockery at a poncy tea party. We’re usually talking about accessing the same life-or-death safeguards as cis women, those precarious flotation devices tossed overboard in a desperate bid to keep the drowning above water.
The problem is when a service that typically falls under “public accommodations” is treated as if it were legally and morally equivalent to a private interest group. The standard sleight-of-hand for the trans-exclusionary type is to drop a byline about “supporting trans resources” but unsurprisingly, not a single “womyn-born-womyn” radfem cent ever actually goes to trans-specific startups for that exact purpose. If a particular jurisdiction has few or no resources to help trans women in crisis, I feel fully justified in interrogating the motives of trans-exclusion from the existing services. It is, after all, directly and immediately contributing to the catastrophic civil and health outcomes of trans people.