Or Andy Lewis or mariamaclachlan or Maria MacLachlan (if those latter two are different people).
Sometimes I despair of getting this world right. I walk a pretty thin line in refusing to condemn self-defense specifically while abhorring violence generally. If we eliminated all violence except that which occurred when someone legitimately thought they were acting in self-defense we would still have far too much violence.
Existentialist radical feminists, the main feminist group from whom the categorical statements about defining women in ways that forever exclude the possibility of trans* self-determination regularly flow, do indeed spread a bunch of bullshit. gmcard, for instance, says that the definition of women has been “people without penises” since time immemorial. This is, decidedly, not true.
If you want to get nit-picky, the word “woman” with its current pronunciation has only been around for a few hundred years. Good luck with tracing a word with the same spelling back much farther, since english has only been a written language for a couple hundred years more than that. There is literally no possible way that the word “woman” as-is could possibly have been around for more than 1500 years, and indeed multiple sources list wiffmann or wiffmonn as the etymological root that didn’t begin transforming into our current word woman until after the Norman conquest in the 11th century. Please note that monuments, memorials, and even written history go back well before this.
Of course, you could say that gmcard obviously wasn’t saying what gmcard’s words actually mean. Perhaps gmcard was saying that there has always been a category of persons defined by the lack of a penis, and that category has been stable over time and has always been identifiable with a single word in the applicable local language and that in modern english that word is woman?
But no. There is a boatload of evidence that shows this simply isn’t so. There is a complex history of castration and penectomy not placing a person in the category woman but rather in special categories – so called third genders – as well as persons with penises considered by their local societies to belong to the category named with the only word that might otherwise be analogous to our word woman. There is also significant history showing an ability to cross categories into the group named analogously to our word man for certain persons with bodies that did not have penises and were very likely if not certainly biologically female and fertile. These possibilities did not exist in all times and places, but they crop up repeatedly throughout history, much farther back than any modern trans* movement.
So gmcard and persons like gmcard are either lying about history or are arrogantly ignorant of the facts about how humans have categorized each other over time. Moreover, although part of what motivates them is probably a genuine desire to help non-trans women, they participate in a movement that clearly is willing to sacrifice the health, the sanity, and sometimes the life of any inconvenient trans* person.
This is terrible.
This must be opposed.
And yet, I can’t remain sanguine about the endorsement of violence in response to such a movement. They seem contemptuous of any expression of concern for the harm they might do to trans* persons, and yet others who would, like me, oppose this movement are expressing contempt for any concern towards harm done to persons in that movement. Is this who we are? Are we no better? For what reason do we oppose such a movement if not its indifference to human harms?
I’m a pollyanna, I get it. And I’ve written elsewhere about how I don’t think I can entirely separate the way depression causes me to devalue myself from my willingness to non-violently stand before the violent, accepting the blows which fall in order to demonstrate the fundamental moral bankruptcy of my opponents. Not everyone can do that. Not everyone can march on the Dharasana Salt Works.
But we must somehow articulate why we oppose people. Obviously gmcard is simply wrong about facts, but there are tons of people wrong about facts every day. We don’t simply oppose an Andy Lewis because of a factual error. Something more is going on here. I thought we were defining ourselves in opposition to the unsympathetic tribalism that renders ERFs indifferent to the harms they cause trans* folks or Westboro Baptists indifferent to the harm they cause non-Christians, women and queers or Nazis indifferent to the harm they cause, well, everyone.
It has disturbed me how easily some have embraced the phrase “Punch a Nazi”. It disturbs me more to see folks apparently indifferent to the idea of harm done to the Maria MacLachlans of the world. I can’t know if Maria MacLachlan was intending to use the footage she was taking in a way that would harm any particular person. I can’t “know” whether the assault on MacLachlan was indeed self-defense – though the court verdict gives me good reason to believe not.
But here’s the thing, even if it was self-defense, or even if the person(s) who assaulted MacLachlan honestly believed this was an instance of self-defense, we don’t have to be unsympathetic to the harm done to MacLachlan, and in the absence of such sympathy, I’m honestly uncertain as to whether folks are committed to ending the tribalism and out-group fear that makes shitty movements possible.
I think each of us needs to seriously question why they oppose movements like neo-Nazism, Christian Dominionism, or TERF. What are the essential qualities that make these movements worthy of opposition? And once you’ve determined that, you cannot continue to maintain a coherent ethical framework unless you oppose those qualities within yourself.
In Islam there is sometimes a distinction between the “big” or “more important” jihad and the “small” or less important jihad. The latter, when the distinction is made, refers to the physical confrontations with those who would seek to hurt muslims or suppress Islam. The former, the big jihad, is the internal confrontation between each person and that person’s own harmful impulses or harmful habits of thought.
The question for today is this: if you defeat everyone that you currently perceive to be your enemy, will the world be rid of the evils that caused you to oppose them? If not, then perhaps it’s time to open a new front in your struggle.