Complicity Vs. Cause In Trans-Misogyny And Violence

There’s some things I’ve been trying to be better at lately. One of them is not saying “rad-fem” as a pejorative. One is not saying things that imply or suggest that “radical feminism” is interchangeable or necessarily consistent with trans-exclusionist radical feminism, or suggest that transphobia, cissexism and shitty opinions about sex work are somehow an inherent and necessary quality of radical feminism (to be honest with myself, my own feminism is pretty damn radical, even if I reject a significant number of the assumptions usually taken by those who self-describe as radical feminists). And another is trying not to worry too much about the transphobic fringes of feminism, and not participating in the self-perpetuating cycle of anxieties in our community surrounding “the rad-fems!”. They’re just not the big, terribly powerful, dangerous bogeymen we frequently imagine them to be.

TERFs certainly can be dangerous, in certain situations. But it’s extremely important to look at what the tools and weapons they use in order to cause harm actually are. On their own, they don’t wield nearly the influence the constant freak-outs on the part of trans activists would suggest about them, and they simply don’t deserve the degree of fear and anxiety we lend them. Consider the heavily controversial “Rad-Fem 2012” conference in London (conceived partly as promotion for Sheila Jeffries’ latest work from Rutledge University Press, “The Industrial Vagina”; the title of which, btw, is a denigration of sex workers’ bodies as “industrial” and not their own, not the bodies of trans women). Months of anxiety and debate led up to the event, which ultimately turned out to be no more than a dozen or less women gathering near a tube station and going to grab coffee for a pointless little chin-wag about the evil trans women and evil sex workers “reinforcing the [blank]”. Although partly it was the efforts of trans activists that kept the conference from becoming anything more substantial, it’s nonetheless the case that the worry that the trans community expressed in the months leading up to the “conference” vastly eclipsed the actual subject of that anxiety in scale, influence, reach and the energy expended upon it. [Read more…]

I’m Not Your Candy Darling, You’re Not My Maury Povitch

“Exploitation Cinema”… it’s all in the name, isn’t it? One of those rare instances in which bigotry and kyrarchy brazenly names itself. And we, collectively, brazenly accept it as a legitimate aspect of our cultural discourse regardless.

How, exactly, is it that white male hipsters can go around describing themselves as fans of “exploitation film” and get a pat on the back for their “good taste”? Where the racism and misogyny of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino is accepted as “genius” so long as it remains filtered through “contextual” qualifiers of “retro-aesthetics”, “irony” and its allegedly “empowering” nature for whosoever is the target of the exploitation? [Read more…]

Sophistry And Semantics

Of the various reservations people express about transgender discourse and trans-feminism, or the justifications they provide as to their resistance to such conversations, one that I find notably frustrating is the idea that it’s primarily just sophistry, jockeying for relative intellectual status and empty debate over semantics and terminology.

I understand where that perception comes from. Admittedly, a great deal of the discussion in trans-feminism centers on terminologies and narratives, the means by which we articulate our identities and stories, and which identities and stories are given the greatest degree of visibility and “legitimacy”. But this isn’t empty debate of semantics. It’s very meaningful debate of terminology, voice, representation and narrative.

There’s frequently an element hypocrisy to it as well: the same people being so dismissive of trans-feminist discussion of the problems inherent to terms like “passing”, “en femme” or “post-transition” would likely be infuriated if someone were to describe their pronoun preference and gender identification as “mere semantics”, after all. Is there a difference there? Even a difference of degree of importance? And who are any of us to externally say which terminologies are “legitimate” for someone to discuss or prefer or reject, and which issues are to be dismissed as “mere semantics”? [Read more…]