The Moral Bankruptcy of Gender Critical Definitions of Man & Woman


This post will rely on a single individual as an example of so-called “gender critical” thought: Holms. Holms writes frequently on FtB, and has been engaging in a long back-and-forth with myself and many others over on Mano Singham’s blog recently. (This conversation is happening on the same blog post where Mano suggested the value of discussions of horizontal hostility.) I have been growing steadily more uncomfortable with the exchange because it long ago veered away from any discussion that might illuminate how and why horizontal and intra-community hostility develop within a particular group. While Mano has made no move to shut the conversation down or even to express any specific discomfort over the thread, I think it is respectful to a blog owner to have the conversations suggested by a post, and to start your own thread somewhere else if you want to have a different conversation. Thus this post.

The phenomenon I want to discuss begins with a discussion of Holms’ definitions of “man” and “woman”:

I have actually said that ‘man = adult male human’ and ‘woman = adult female human’ are the current meanings as determined by common use.

I have objected to the idea that these are the current meanings. Obviously there are multiple definitions of “man” and “woman” or we wouldn’t be discussing our definitional conflicts. Holms’ seems oblivious to this simple truth. But after articulating that other definitions do exist, I express my most  important objection to Holms’ definition, which I feel represents the definitions used and advocated by many so-called “gender critical” people quite well. Though I’ve also expressed this objection in other places, this is how I phrased that objection in the relevant comment of mine in that thread:

Using woman as a synonym for “vagina haver” just gives people an excuse to investigate women’s genitals. I refuse to participate in that.

Holms then responds this way:

But the alternative is to use ‘woman’ to mean ‘person who matches / willingly embraces female cultural expectations’ or perhaps ‘person who considers themselves to be a woman’. The former I reject on the grounds that it necessarily requires and maintains cultural expectations placed on the sexes, the latter on the grounds that it is self referential and thus meaningless.

So Holms apparently accepts that there are ethical problems with using sex to define womanhood. There is no contesting this argument against the morality of defining womanhood on the basis of sex. Rather, Holms attacks the alternatives. The apparent argument is that if the alternatives are worse, we are forced to accept the least bad option.

So what are the weaknesses of the only other options Holms sees? The first objection to the first option is also a moral/ethical objection:

it necessarily requires and maintains cultural expectations placed on the sexes

The second to the second is not moral, but rather a intellectual objection to a categorization system that is not sufficiently logical and meaningful:

it is self referential and thus meaningless

To put it bluntly, this would seem to be a feature rather than a bug. Currently we can objectively confirm that gender roles exist, as undesirable as they are. At the moment then, autonomously placing oneself inside or outside one or more gender roles is not meaningless. People know what those roles are, and can make coherent sense of another person articulating that they fall within or without a particular role.

However, it is true that as more and more people abandon the confinement of gender roles, the meanings of those statements of belonging become less stable and less coherent. In a distant future with these meanings destabilized, “I am not non-binary” can just as easily mean that one is binary in the sense of combining the features of two genders at once, that one is binary in the sense of fitting well within the traditional binary system (and thus fits well within the confines of only the category of “man” or only the category of “woman”), or even that one is not non-binary because one sees oneself as participating in a world that already has more than two standard genders, and thus to say one is not non-binary might be an affirmation that one is non-trinary (or a similar word for a more complex gender system with even more established roles).

A coherent system of sexism, at least as we have known it, becomes less and less possible over time in this case. Eventually, with no ability to classify genders at all, gender categories truly become meaningless, and there can be no sexism at all. In other words, Holms is wrong about the meaninglessness of gender categories right now – they would mean something even if we (meaning those of us in the anti-sexism camp) were to embrace individual autonomy. Additionally, to the extent that Holms could ever be right, this would be a good thing and not a bad thing.

There is, of course, an additional benefit: it is the nature of oppression to remove self-determination. As a community of anti-oppression activists embedded in a larger society engaged in oppression, embracing self-determination is the position directly counter to the nature of the oppression we face. No strategy is perfect, of course. There are people who are scared of making decisions, people who, psychologically, feel that if they made a choice to articulate their membership in the category “woman” that that would somehow make it more acceptable for men to beat them, rape them, or otherwise oppress them. But this last method has by far the most liberators potential, and is the only one not plagued by horrible moral problems. Nonetheless, Holms explicitly rejects it.

What response does Holms then make to this world in which no definition of “woman” or “man” is acceptable to someone who takes Holms’ position? Well, this…

[T]he occasions where it is necessary to ascertain someone’s sex are rare: medical checkups, competitive leagues for sport, that sort of thing. Otherwise, there is no need for an ‘investigation’ as to the contents of someone’s pants before referring to them as a woman or man. If you meet someone, a cursory glance is almost always accurate — a surmise on incomplete data is not a bad start. In those instances where the person says otherwise, I’m not particularly wedded to the idea of calling someone what I believe them to be over their protest, even if I privately think of them as man/woman.

This is, frankly, both stupefying and immoral. Read this bit again:

If you meet someone, a cursory glance is almost always accurate — a surmise on incomplete data is not a bad start.

But a cursory glance used to categorize people is an appeal to stereotypes: it can be nothing else. So when Holms high-mindedly argues that the line we must not cross is not protecting genital privacy, but forbidding use of stereotypes (“The former I reject on the grounds that it necessarily requires and maintains cultural expectations placed on the sexes”), this is merely the prelude to articulating that in practice we must define who is a man and who is a woman based on nothing more than stereotypes. If Holms has a genuine moral objection to “requiring and maintaining cultural expectations placed on the sexes”, then Holms is immoral by Holms’ own code – and unrepentantly so! If Holms never had a moral objection to using steretotypes to determine womanhood or manhood, then Holms is arguing dishonestly.

The best possible interpretation of Holms statements is that Holms’ stereotypes are better than your stereotypes, and Holms’ uses them with more skill, therefore Holms’ stereotyping carries no moral hazard. But Holms has never argued that these definitions are intended to be personal and idiosyncratic, with others using their own definitions. In fact relying on idiosyncratic definitions dependent on the quality of the stereotype and the skill of the stereotyper would result in a unique definition for every unique speaker of english. In short, this brings about the logical incoherence Holms fears would come from self-determined membership while reinforcing the legitimacy of stereotyping. The definitions change from person to person, but not a single soul gains control over one’s own self. Instead, every single person gains a tiny tyranny over whether others they perceive are men or women or some other gender for exactly as long as they perceive them.

Weirdly, there is some level of exception to this, but it is not a rule:

I’m not particularly wedded to the idea of calling someone what I believe them to be over their protest, even if I privately think of them as man/woman.

Note here that there is no real concession to self-determination. While Holms is not particularly wedded to overriding others assertions that they know themselves better than Holms knows them, there is no rule that this must be or even should be generalized. In this model, whether or not your assertions (that you know yourself better than an unfamiliar observer knows you) will be accepted is a favor to be granted or withheld at the discretion of the stranger. For decades we have been fighting the feminist fight to allow women to determine for ourselves our own stories. We have fought at the level of names, keeping our own rather than having society force upon us the name of a man. We have fought at the level of titles, insisting that words like chairman invisibilize the contributions of women. We have fought to give control over the culturally accepted story of what typical experiences of abortion might be back to the women (and a few others) who have actually experienced abortion. But Holms is here now, and ready to say that no one gets to define their gendered experiences themselves. One is only legitimately gendered by someone else, the outside observer. That outside observer might deign to accept your statement, if they’re not “wedded” to their stereotypes. But let’s not forget that this is a choice the observer is empowered to make. How feminist! How liberated!

It is, frankly, disheartening to see people (that – from all appearances – actually do care about ending sexism) fighting for what they consider immoral, what they consider “meaningless” and what our history tells us is the exact opposite of ends toward which women feminists have worked for decades.

And yet, it is not actually surprising. We know, objectively, that no one defines “woman” and “man” strictly according to sex. There is no english speaker in the world who has ever refrained entirely from using those words to describe specific people unless and until they have investigated the genitals of the object of their language. A similar categorical statement can be made truthfully should “female” be defined by chromosomes instead. Like Holms, nearly every english speaker around the world identifies women and men via stereotypes, not biological sex. Like Holms, many of them might articulate that they define women by biological sex. But merely because people say a thing does not make it true. The majority of people making this mistake at least have the excuse of ignorance. But those who, like Holms, embrace such a definition as part of a “gender critical” rejection fo stereotypes as inherently unethical and then continue to rely on stereotypes because rejecting self-determination is more important, those persons have indeed taken a position that is thoroughly, obviously morally bankrupt.

Comments

  1. says

    Gender hypo-critical is more like it.

    When my “cursory glance” leaves me uncertain about someone who is genderqueer, agender or any other, my response is, treat them like a human being with dignity and respect until I know. And then when I do know their pronouns, preferences, etc., keep doing that. It’s not difficult (except for apologizing when I screw up). This past year I’ve met a lot more such people and it’s great.

    The gender hypocritical, on the other hand, are looking for reasons to dehumanize anyone who can’t be pigeonholed or imprisoned into their narrow (minded) view. They want square pegs and round pegs that can only fit one type of hole each, when in reality is gender is amorphous and can fit into any hole of any size.

    I have never heard a good argument for their obsession with something that doesn’t affect them in the least. Contrary to TERF and transphobic propaganda, transgender women aren’t interested in TERFs – not even the trans lesbians. Who would want to get involved with someone who “thinks” like that?

    I’m not asexual, but I find I get a lot more enjoyment out of my squishes and friendships than from sex. But even that is enough to make TERFs and transphobes flip out.

  2. avalus says

    Ever since the OBenson thread over at Phrayngula, I can’t see Holms as anyone other than a TERFy troll. The language barrier might dampen my understanding, but ever since february, Holms seems to say the same thing in every comment over and over again. I admire all your stamina and writing skills in putting him down again and agan. All this made me aware of some of my own biases I did not even know I had.
    So thank you!

  3. says

    Then you get people making mistakes even by their own thinking and starting to assault people. I’m sure we have all seen reports by women who look “mannish” getting accosted when using the women’s bathroom.

  4. says

    There is also the distinct but non-universal issue of sadism. I can’t say if Holms shares this behavior (though he certainly seems to enjoy being abusive to those pointing out his bad behavior), but a thing I have seen from time to time is the sheer glee expressed by TERFs when they get to hurt a trans woman by telling her her life is a perverted lie.

    This is at this point, in honesty, really getting to me. This is admittedly not on topic, so apologies for that and I beg a brief indulgence: it hurts a lot. Time and again gleeful or self-righteous TERFs, the endless parade of them on Twitter especially but the periodic dribble of them here as well, dance around using poor science and poor arguments to explain, over and over again, that our lives, my life, is a lie, that I and everyone like me is by definition a predator unworthy of equal rights or even very basic respect. I can’t tell what proportion of them does it because they enjoy the pain they cause, and what proportion does it because they assume our description of ourselves is somehow inherently in bad faith, but… it is constant, and this drumbeat (that Holms joyously participates in; that inherently elides all oppressions trans women ever face) takes a massive toll. It hammers transphobia into us until we are no longer sure of ourselves, until we are convinced we are freaks unworthy of any affection, until some few of us even turn on the community and become quislings to assuage the sense of uncertainty and guilt they pound into us.

    So back on topic, I put it to you: Given the empirical evidence regarding transition outcomes, societal treatment, and mental health results regarding trans people, and the other empirical evidence that time and again proves that accepting trans identities never causes problems in the lives of cis people (barring their ick feelings)… I say making these arguments AT ALL is immoral.

    It is a choice to hurt people, made on the basis of deliberately ignoring the overwhelming evidence that doing so does not serve a greater good.

  5. says

    @abbeycadabra:

    I say making these arguments AT ALL is immoral

    I think I understand and agree: you’re saying that making the TERF/gender critical arguments is immoral, right?

    Because one of the things I’m struggling with right now is the morality of actually responding to Holms and others. There’s a certain amount that is necessary to counter bad information for the lurkers. But when does that need cease and when does the next response become more a more powerful implicit validation that Holms et al. have a reasonable argument than content of that the response holds power to refute any idea of their reasonableness?

    I question whether or not I may be acting immorally myself.

  6. says

    @Crip Dyke

    Yes. Making the TERF arguments is immoral is what I mean.

    Opposing an immoral behavior that hurts people, which is what you have been doing, is not and I think CANNOT be immoral. Whether the way you happen to be doing it is also good TACTICS… I couldn’t say. I wind up spending all my spoons for this sort of thing on Twitter where they never stop coming. It’s hard to know what could possibly actually work. But no, you are definitely not acting immorally.

  7. consciousness razor says

    Crip Dyke, #5:

    There’s a certain amount that is necessary to counter bad information for the lurkers. But when does that need cease and when does the next response become more a more powerful implicit validation that Holms et al. have a reasonable argument than content of that the response holds power to refute any idea of their reasonableness?

    I look at it this way…. That need does not cease. There are new people born every day, so there will always be someone with something to learn. Whether you personally need to say anything is up to you and your circumstances, of course. If you have something to say which seems good/constructive and isn’t obviously harmful, then it’s probably okay. You may get it wrong sometimes, but if you do your best to honestly ask the question, we shouldn’t expect a whole lot more than that from anybody.
    I’m not sure I understand the point of your question above. If the response is effectively (maybe not explicitly) saying “that isn’t reasonable, and here’s why…” then there is no apparent or implicit validation of their arguments. Right?
    The arguments are already out there if you’re responding to them, so you could be wondering about making them more visible or spreading them around more than they would’ve been otherwise. Is this just about choosing to acknowledge that such things are being argued somewhere? I don’t know what to say about that in general, because that’s too complicated for me. But if you’re going to do so, then explaining why it’s not reasonable is certainly better than merely citing/quoting them and saying nothing about their reasonableness or unreasonableness (which is often what we get from journalists, it ought to be said).
    I mean, you could point at a group of Nazis, or you could point at them and tell people how awful they are. (That is, people who didn’t already know it well enough … literal Nazis are widely known and aren’t an ideal example, but whatever.) The second option is definitely the better of the two, and of course the Nazis don’t just disappear if you fail to point at them. Maybe a few of these ignorant people you were trying to inform won’t buy your arguments that the Nazis are awful, so worst case scenario is that they join the Nazis: not good. But what they do is not really under your control, except to the extent that you might be able to offer better or more convincing arguments (or say nothing, always an option). And if things go according to plan, there probably won’t be many people like this anyway, while a lot more will be aware of the problem and may do something good about it.

  8. says

    @CR:

    I’m thinking of my behavior on that Mano Singham thread, where after refuting some point or other for the 44th time, I then engaged with Holms’ 45th wrong point.

    Yeah, I think it has to be opposed in every thread it appears, but I wonder if going on and on in those threads, with so many back-and-forth exchanges, doesn’t implicitly legitimize wrongheaded and even immoral arguments.

    After reading both you and Abbeycadabra, though, I think abbeycadabra probably has it right:

    Opposing an immoral behavior that hurts people … CANNOT be immoral. Whether the way you happen to be doing it is also good TACTICS… I couldn’t say.

    The question is almost certainly better framed as a tactical one than an ethical one.

  9. says

    I have actually said that ‘man = adult male human’ and ‘woman = adult female human’ are the current meanings as determined by common use.

    That’s a circular definition. Words “adult” and “human” might have clearer definitions, but how the hell do you define “male” or “female.” For example, I’d say that a trans woman is female.

    But the alternative is to use ‘woman’ to mean ‘person who matches / willingly embraces female cultural expectations’ or perhaps ‘person who considers themselves to be a woman’. The former I reject on the grounds that it necessarily requires and maintains cultural expectations placed on the sexes, the latter on the grounds that it is self referential and thus meaningless.

    When human beings are grouped in any way, the only non bigoted version for how to define some group is “a person who considers themselves to belong to said group.” For example, how do you define a “soccer fan”? The only non bigoted definition would be “a person who calls themselves a soccer fan.” Let’s imagine some arrogant and elitist self-proclaimed soccer fans wanted to exclude some other people they dislike from soccer fandom, then they would come up with some different definition that required a “true soccer fan” to conform to a list of criteria. This would be bigotry and discrimination. The only reasonable and inclusive definition for “a soccer fan” is “whoever calls themselves such.” The same goes also for words like “man” and “woman.” A woman is a person who considers themselves to be a woman. If instead you chose a list of other criteria, your definition would end up being bigoted and discriminatory. You cannot define a woman as “a person who has a vagina, XX chromosomes, little testosterone in her body, breasts, uses female pronouns, uses make-up, has long hair, removes body hair from her legs, wears skirts or dresses, loves pink, enjoys cooking, is submissive to her husband, is a stay-at-home mother, never attended a university.”

    Once you start listing characteristics, whatever they may be, your definition is bound to become bigoted and discriminatory. Even if you pick just one criterion, like having XX chromosomes, you are bound to unfairly exclude some intersex women who have XY chromosomes but who are otherwise women and follow all the other potential criteria for what defines “a woman.”

    TERFs seem to oppose gender stereotypes. According to them, an AFAB person ought to be free to wear pants, drink beer, work as a firefighter, remain childfree by choice, or be a butch lesbian. Nonetheless, TERFs still keep on enforcing gender stereotypes and promote the discrimination of AFAB people by saying “you can be this unfeminine, but don’t take a single step beyond this line we have drawn.” I happen to be an AFAB person who dared to say: “I completely renounce womanhood and femininity in its entirety, I refuse to follow the female gender role, I prefer male pronouns, I consider myself a guy, I will live as a guy, I am not a woman.” By insisting that I must be a woman, Holms is insulting and abusing me, Holms is subjecting me to gender discrimination. If a feminist truly wanted to end gender discrimination, they should give AFAB people complete freedom to be as stereotypically feminine or masculine as each AFAB person desires to be. If instead some TERF insists that “all AFAB people are ‘women,’ they must use female pronouns, they must have a female gender identity,” then that’s gender discrimination. Plain and simple. Last time I checked, feminists were supposed to oppose gender discrimination. Incidentally, I don’t care whether the person who is trying to enforce female gender identity upon me is a Catholic priest or a self-proclaimed feminist—both of them are abusing me.

    Ironically, TERFs call me a “woman” against my will, because they consider all AFAB people “women.” Simultaneously, TERFs abuse and discriminate me. Sorry but you don’t get to call yourself a “feminist” if you only care about some AFAB people who choose lifestyles that you endorse and you are perfectly happy to abuse all the other AFAB people who choose to live as men. I consider trans men to be men. TERFs consider trans men to be women. They don’t get to simultaneously do all the following: (1) call trans men “women,” (2) call themselves “feminists” and proclaim that they fight for women’s rights, (3) undermine the rights of trans men.

    If you meet someone, a cursory glance is almost always accurate — a surmise on incomplete data is not a bad start. In those instances where the person says otherwise, I’m not particularly wedded to the idea of calling someone what I believe them to be over their protest, even if I privately think of them as man/woman.

    Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you! You don’t get to privately believe whether I am a man or a woman based upon your visual impression of my body. If I tell you that I am a guy, you don’t get to privately think of me in any other way. Fuck you! If other people’s observations about some person are more important than their own words about who they are, do I get to force the identity of an “asshole” upon you? I have made an observation that Holms is an asshole. Even if Holms doesn’t see themselves as an asshole, my observation still must be more important in determining Holms’ true identity. Thus Holms is an asshole, and if Holms protests and insists that he is not an asshole, well that doesn’t matter. What matters here are the observations of an outside observer rather than how Holms personally self-identifies.

  10. says

    abbeycadabra @#4

    It hammers transphobia into us until we are no longer sure of ourselves, until we are convinced we are freaks unworthy of any affection

    My own response to transphobia has been different—it instilled in me anger and hatred towards the transphobes. To a lesser extent, it also instilled in me some hatred towards the humanity as a whole. I mean, there are so many transphobes out there that occasionally I get the feeling that majority of the society sees me as sick. For me it takes conscious effort to periodically remind myself that not all the people out there are assholes, that there exist nice and kind people who care about me. Overall, I never questioned whether I am a freak or unworthy of affection. Instead I questioned whether the society I live in consists mostly of assholes whom I should despise.

  11. says

    @#10 Andreas

    I am, essentially and nerdishly, Hufflepuff, so I find it a great deal easier to be motivated to fight for someone else than for myself. I envy you your ability to maintain a core certainty of your value in the face of these onslaughts. That sort of thing was largely crushed out of me long before I even knew I was trans. For me it takes a conscious effort to remember they are full of shit and my life ISN’T a threat to vulnerable people. Right now, on an emotional level, I am losing that battle – and this is something Ophelia’s gang and bigots like them want, for us to be driven out of society so they don’t have to be squicked out any more.

  12. consciousness razor says

    Yeah, I think it has to be opposed in every thread it appears, but I wonder if going on and on in those threads, with so many back-and-forth exchanges, doesn’t implicitly legitimize wrongheaded and even immoral arguments.

    But I don’t get that, like I said before. If you’re clearly expressing why it’s not legitimate, you’re delegitimizing it. You can express that as many times as you want. If somebody reads and comprehends the text, they shouldn’t come away with the thought that your contribution was doing anything else.

    The question is almost certainly better framed as a tactical one than an ethical one.

    Well, I don’t care much about “framing,” but I respectfully disagree. You’re genuinely worried about it because such actions may have effects which are morally undesirable or unacceptable. If it helps to think of this as a game with a set of strategies and tactics, we should still remember that those are the stakes, because we’re not going for nickels and dimes, fortune and glory, or whatever else.

  13. Hj Hornbeck says

    consciousness razor @12:

    If you’re clearly expressing why it’s not legitimate, you’re delegitimizing it. You can express that as many times as you want. If somebody reads and comprehends the text, they shouldn’t come away with the thought that your contribution was doing anything else.

    Crip Dyke hinted at why this isn’t the case:

    I’m thinking of my behavior on that Mano Singham thread, where after refuting some point or other for the 44th time, I then engaged with Holms’ 45th wrong point.

    It’s rare for bigots to have one or two major arguments; instead, they tend to cycle through dozens of them, swapping a new one in as another seems to be threatened. I’ve called it the “treadmill of lies,” and it helps explain why long discussions tend to strengthen bigotry rather than extinguish it. Refutations take longer than assertions, so by shotgunning a lot of bullshit out there you can cherry-pick a point someone never countered and declare “aha, nobody could refute this!” It’s also tough to keep track of how many of these arguments have been knocked down, so you can easily forget all your arguments have evaporated and again falsely claim victory.

    Bigotry also involves a false weighting. TERFs spend all their time worrying about a small problem (violence caused by transgender people) and ignore or downplay a larger one (violence caused by lesbians). By spending so much time discussing the former instead of the latter, you wind up reinforcing their false weightings rather than refuting them.

    It’s funny, whenever my name comes up at Butterflies and Wheels, one person almost always dismisses me because I don’t allow comments on my blog. If someone wants to respond to something I’ve said they either have to take the time and effort to type up a blog post, which means spending a long time going in depth on one of my arguments, or rant and rave to each other in their safe spaces. Neither path allows them to deploy the “treadmill of lies” to reinforce their beliefs, and that makes them frosty.

  14. Zeckenschwarm says

    The question is almost certainly better framed as a tactical one than an ethical one.

    I would say that as long as your goals are ethically good (this necessarily includes “avoiding collateral damage”), the tactically right thing to do and the ethically right thing to do are the same. Which leaves you with two questions: How ethical are my goals? What is the best strategy to reach them?

  15. colinday says

    And yet, it is not actually surprising. We know, objectively, that no one defines “woman” and “man” strictly according to sex. There is no english speaker in the world who has ever refrained entirely from using those words to describe specific people unless and until they have investigated the genitals of the object of their language. A similar categorical statement can be made truthfully should “female” be defined by chromosomes instead. Like Holms, nearly every english speaker around the world identifies women and men via stereotypes, not biological sex. Like Holms, many of them might articulate that they define women by biological sex.

    And if I discover that someone I believed to be a woman was a man, I would change my beliefs about that person, not my concept “woman”.

  16. John Morales says

    [sorta apology, sorta explanation, OT]

    I was part of that discussion, and I am not unaware that I was treating the existence of trans* people as a rhetorical tool to address Holms’ thinking. So, asshole move by me, but then, that’s what I do. That’s part of why I stopped there, CD, that and that it was evidently a futile endeavour. FWTW.

    Nothing personal.

  17. says

    … but question Colin’s, because he somehow managed tor read everything here and STILL post what amounts to an opinion that trans people are deceptive.

  18. dangerousbeans says

    I think there is another way of defining genders based on what i see from the progressive cis people around me; women are people accepted as women by the women around them.

    TERFs are authoritarians, their goal in defining genders (and sexualities) is to use them to control others

  19. sonofrojblake says

    @Andreas Avester, 9:
    With you all the way. Right up to…

    You don’t get to privately believe…

    Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you. Fuck all Thought Police.

    Police actions. Police statements. But private beliefs?? You are the stereotype lefty the right caricature us as,when most of us don’t deserve it. Stop it.

  20. colinday says

    @abbeycadabra
    #18

    But Holms is here now, and ready to say that no one gets to define their gendered experiences themselves.

    Which gets to a fundamental issue: how are one’s experiences gendered, and is that relevant to one’s sex?

  21. colinday says

    Sorry, the quoted part is from the original post, not @abbeycadabra’s comment. The question remains: are transwomen women?

  22. says

    The question remains: are transwomen women?

    No. The question doesn’t. That question is almost infantile in its stupidity, because your answer is in the definition “women”. And it doesn’t matter what that definition actually is… because whatever it is will be incorporated in both places.

    One could theoretically ask, “Which trans* people are trans* women?” but your formulation is fucking idiocy and leads to complete incoherence.

  23. sonofrojblake says

    “your formulation is fucking idiocy and leads to complete incoherence”

    And yet Ophelia Benson was hounded out of FtB for refusing to answer with a simple “yes”. What has changed?

  24. sonofrojblake says

    (and yes I know there was a lot more to it than that, but that was the critical event)

  25. says

    abbeycadabra @#11

    For me it takes a conscious effort to remember they are full of shit and my life ISN’T a threat to vulnerable people. Right now, on an emotional level, I am losing that battle

    Your life has value, you are worthy of love. By merely being alive, you aren’t hurting anybody. You have a right of autonomy over your own body, and you get to choose how you want to express your gender identity. I don’t know whether me reminding this helps, but I’m sending you a hug anyway.

    Personally, I defend myself from discrimination either by ignoring it or by turning it into a joke that doesn’t need to be taken seriously. I also rationalize everything in order to convince myself that I do not have to feel upset about whatever event. (For example, I have pretty much rationalized myself out of being capable to feel ashamed, I wrote about that in detail here— https://andreasavester.com/why-the-society-wants-you-to-feel-ashamed/ ) Obviously, that is just an emotional self-defense mechanism that I have developed over the years. Ignoring things is easy. For example, I’m not particularly well educated about the intricacies of TERF opinions simply because I ignore them and don’t read their blogs. Laughing about things is what I do when I cannot just ignore some problem. For example, last time when yet another surgeon kicked me out of their office and refused me the hysterectomy I had requested, I was laughing upon exiting his office: “I got refused again, how amusing, I wonder whether I can set a world record for being kicked out of doctor’s offices more often than anybody else, well, let’s just schedule another appointment with a different doctor and see how it goes.” When I cannot ignore some negative experience, I change how I look at it and turn it into something that I don’t have to take seriously.

    Overall, various forms of discrimination is something I try not to think about in my everyday life, because, if I allowed myself to care about all this crap, then that would be a recipe for a depression. I try to remain cheerful by attempting to convince myself that I don’t have to care about all the usual trans issues that I commonly experience, that these things are trivial and not important enough to be worth worrying about. I just won’t allow transphobes to make me miserably and unhappy. They might succeed in discriminating me, they might direct some insults my way, but they don’t really have that much power over me, because it’s up to me whether I allow any other person to take away my joy of being alive or not. Therefore, I prefer to not worry about my gender problems and instead focus on the things that I enjoy in my life.

  26. says

    sonofrojblake@#22

    Fuck all Thought Police.

    Police actions. Police statements. But private beliefs?? You are the stereotype lefty the right caricature us as,when most of us don’t deserve it. Stop it.

    Just to check. According to your logic, is it okay to think of some person as a “nigger” as long as you are polite enough not not to loudly say the n-word? Alternatively, is it okay to think of all women as inferior to men as long as you don’t loudly express your misogynistic opinions? Is it okay to desire to murder all Jews as long as you don’t actually start setting up a gas chamber for them? Are you opposed to every imaginable instance of what you labelled “thought police” or are you simply defending transphobia?

  27. says

    @Andreas:

    It’s possible that it’s not “okay” to desire to murder all Jews, but also not “okay” to police thought: for various reasons, including the fact that telepathy doesn’t exist.

    Remember, you didn’t say, “It’s not okay if you believe X”

    You said, “You don’t get to believe X”.

    But what is that statement (since it’s impossible to prevent a thought from popping into someone’s head without either inducing a permanent coma, inflicting extensive brain damage, and/or outright killing them) except a statement that believing something is a punishable offense?

    I think that creates injustice, and the response to injustice shouldn’t be more injustice.

  28. says

    Crip Dyke @#32

    If I say “I’m a guy,” and somebody else reacts to this by thinking “no, your body looks like that of a woman, you actually are a woman,” then they are ignoring my own assertions about myself and my own identity. They deny my autonomy and they they try to enforce upon me a feminine gender identity that I loathe. In order to do so and conclude that I’m actually a woman, they must be concluding that I’m sick and delusional. How else can somebody reconcile my statement “I’m a guy” with their own opinion that “actually Andreas is a woman”? They must be imagining that I’m crazy, delusional, mentally ill and so on.

    If some person disrespects my claims about my own identity and chooses to instead consider me crazy, well, I don’t like the attitude. If I say “I’m a guy,” and somebody responds, “Sure, whatever you say” while simultaneously thinking, “Andreas is clearly mentally ill, I must play along and accommodate her infantile wish too pretend to live as a man or else she’ll become hysterical,” then I still see that as a problem due to the fact that I’m being disrespected and patronized. I don’t think that a person who thinks like this should pat themselves on the back for simply not being overtly hostile to me.

    For obvious reasons (I cannot read minds), I don’t go around policing other people’s thoughts.

    Nonetheless, I think that being a bigot is a bad thing even if said person doesn’t act upon their bigoted beliefs. When it comes to practical considerations, the fact that people cannot read minds isn’t really that a big deal when it comes to hidden bigoted beliefs. Majority of bigots show their true colors sooner or later anyway, at some point their friendly facade cracks and they say or so something that clearly displays the bigotry that they have tried to hide from the rest of the world.

    Remember, you didn’t say, “It’s not okay if you believe X”
    You said, “You don’t get to believe X”.

    What’s the difference between these two statements? They seem pretty much the same to me? Are there some connotations I’m missing?

  29. says

    Is my desire to be respected really too much to ask? Am I now supposed to be happy about somebody merely accommodating what they consider a foolish desire to live as something that I’m not? Here’s the thing—I don’t think that I’m crazy. I think that I should have a right to choose to live as a guy, be seen as a guy, and be respected. By thinking of me as female, other people are disrespecting me. Majority of human population do not experience this kind of disrespect. Am I really such an unworthy, sick, and twisted creature that I must settle for others merely accommodating my folly instead of, gasp, actually respecting me? Am I supposed to be happy about somebody simply playing along and pretending to be polite to me when in reality they are looking down on me? Am I supposed to accept patronizing as inevitable?

  30. John Morales says

    Andreas, yes, connotations.

    “It’s not okay if you believe X” → Believing X is bad
    “You don’t get to believe X” → You must not/can not believe X

    The latter may be seen as “policing”, unlike the former.

  31. Jazzlet says

    @abbycadabra (and anyone else feeling personally ground down by this utter crap)
    I don’t know what you would find suppportive, but please know that as well as the bigots there are people like me who don’t know how best to support you over the net, but want to partly because you are a human being in pain. But also because I value your contributions on FtB, I value your thoughts, I value you. I hope that helps a bit, but I don’t need any response from you. Have lots of hugs, hot/iced chocolate, a good book to take you out of yourself, schnozle bumps from my timid bitch and a ball to play with from my boisterous dog, whatever will help.

  32. Hj Hornbeck says

    sonofrojblake @27:

    “your formulation is fucking idiocy and leads to complete incoherence”

    And yet Ophelia Benson was hounded out of FtB for refusing to answer with a simple “yes”. What has changed?

    I’d like to frame this comment, as it so perfectly illustrates what I’m talking about. Those two sentences have nothing to do with one another. If we ignore the bit about Ophelia Benson, though, our silence can be interpreted as an endorsement of, or at least an inability to counter, the accusation. If we switch to talking about Ophelia Benson’s tendency to manufacture narratives, we’re switching to an argument transphobes are more comfortable talking about. Even if they feel their views on Benson’s treatment have been debunked, they’ve succeeded in preventing us from talking about a more important topic. It’s a less extreme version of throwing a dead cat on the table.

  33. sonofrojblake says

    @Andreas Avester, 31:

    Just to check. According to your logic, is it okay to think of some person as a “nigger” …

    Yes.

    is it okay to think of all women as inferior to men

    Yes.

    Is it okay to desire to murder all Jews

    Yes.

    You’ll note I’m ignoring, in each case, the bullshit false dichotomies your proffered.

    Are you opposed to every imaginable instance of what you labelled “thought police” or are you simply defending transphobia?

    What I’m defending is the right of any individual to their private thoughts. It’s hilarious that I’m having to do so on FtB, don’t you think?

    @AA, 33:

    If I say “I’m a guy,” and somebody else reacts to this by thinking “no, your body looks like that of a woman, you actually are a woman,” then they are ignoring my own assertions about myself and my own identity

    Yup. You get to tell them what you think. You might, if you’re lucky, get to tell them what to do. But on no planet I want to live on do you get to tell them what to think. Is that so hard to understand?

    They deny my autonomy and they they try to enforce upon me a feminine gender identity that I loathe

    By THINKING??? You must encounter some powerful transphobic Jedi.

    If I say “I’m a guy,” and somebody responds, “Sure, whatever you say” while simultaneously thinking, “Andreas is clearly mentally ill, I must play along and accommodate her infantile wish too pretend to live as a man or else she’ll become hysterical,” then I still see that as a problem due to the fact that I’m being disrespected and patronized

    Unfortunately the James Randi foundation is no longer offering the million dollar prize, otherwise your functioning telepathy would be a prime candidate.

    I think that being a bigot is a bad thing even if said person doesn’t act upon their bigoted beliefs

    That’s where we part company. I don’t judge people on their private thoughts in the same way that I don’t teleport to work in the morning or operate my computer by telekinesis. I judge people the only way I can – on their actions and statements. Based on your statements I judge you to have a really nasty authoritarian streak, and I’m really glad your telepathy doesn’t really work, because I’d hate to live in a world where your fantasies of policing thought were possible.

    Whoops, I didn’t realize that I had been using the phrase “don’t get to” incorrectly

    Wah wah wah I don’t speaka da English too good. Even by the standards I now expect of you, that is a piss-weak excuse.

    @HJ Hornbeck, 38:
    You’ve disingenuously omitted some context. So – the context:
    colinday, 24: “the question remains, are transwomen women?”. (The question posed by, IIRC, abbeycadabra to O Benson, which O Benson refused to answer with a straight “yes”, which led to all the things, which led to her leaving FtB very shortly after and descending into full-on TERF ranting ever since).
    CripDyke, 25: “That question is almost infantile in its stupidity… your formulation is fucking idiocy and leads to complete incoherence.”

    I was only observing that when OB attacked the validity of the question in somewhat similar terms, the response was to pile on and persecute the TERF. Now the question is posed again, in exactly the same words, and instead of a simple “Yeah, DUH!”, there was the response at 25. I wondered what had changed. “Context”, I guess. I certainly hold no brief for transphobes like OB and my answer to the question is “Yeah, duh.”, for what it’s worth.

  34. says

    @24 colinday

    Yes, and furthermore you are a giant asshole for introducing the question in this context.

    ——————————

    @27 sonofrojblake

    Are you imagining nobody in this blog has seen your transphobia and bad faith behavior in the others? This is just more of the same. Besides, since you are splitting those hairs, that ISN’T the question I asked Ophelia. Or did you forget the people who were there for that are still here?

    ——————————

    @30 Andreas Avester

    Your life has value, you are worthy of love. By merely being alive, you aren’t hurting anybody. You have a right of autonomy over your own body, and you get to choose how you want to express your gender identity. I don’t know whether me reminding this helps, but I’m sending you a hug anyway.

    Thank you. It does help – because the main grinding down effect has not been the onslaught of trans hatred so much as the dearth of the REVERSE, like there’s not much of anywhere to go for poisitive messages. Thus, any time I see someone care and make that effort, yes, it helps. 🙂

    ——————————

    @37 Jazzlet

    It helps a great deal, thank you. <3

  35. invivoMark says

    @sonofrojblake 39,

    It seems like you’re arguing that a person’s beliefs have zero possibility of influencing their behavior, even subconsciously. And I’d take it further: I guess you must also support hiring discrimination, housing discrimination, economic discrimination, etc. – all things that are pretty much unavoidable if those in power harbors prejudices, as they can be the result of subconscious biases as much as active thoughts.

    If you think it’s okay not to question your biases, then I don’t think it’s okay to think like you do. And I don’t need to be psychic to know that.

    ——

    @abbeycadabra 40 (et al., where applicable)

    I’d like to second what Andreas wrote. I can only imagine what it’s like to have your identity questioned. You’re fighting the good fight, and the world is better for having you in it.

  36. sonofrojblake says

    @abbeycadabra, 40: “Are you imagining nobody in this blog has seen your transphobia […] in the others? ”

    One example (or as many as you like) that I can disavow and/or sincerely apologise for, please. I’m on your side here.

    ” that ISN’T the question I asked Ophelia.”

    Then please remind me what was, because my imperfect memory has it in literally those exact words. Where did I err?

    “did you forget the people who were there for that are still here?”

    Since I named you as the person who originally posed the question, that seems a strange thing to ask me.

    @invivoMark, 42:

    It seems like you’re arguing that a person’s beliefs have zero possibility of influencing their behavior

    Nope. I’m arguing that you’re justified in judging their behaviour, and that until that behaviour justifies judgement their beliefs are none of your damn business. This is not a complicated concept.

  37. invivoMark says

    @sonofrojblake,

    No, you’re arguing that it’s okay to not question your own beliefs. You were right – that IS a very hilarious thing to be arguing on a SKEPTIC blog website. Just not for the reasons you probably imagined.

  38. Jazzlet says

    sonofrojblake @#44
    No what you are doing is diverting the conversation, typical and exactly the kind of behaviour that makes people come to the conculsion you are not supportive of trans*women, if you want to be taken seriously as a supporter just stop it.

  39. Hj Hornbeck says

    sonofrojblake @39:

    I was only observing that when OB attacked the validity of the question in somewhat similar terms, the response was to pile on and persecute the TERF. Now the question is posed again, in exactly the same words, and instead of a simple “Yeah, DUH!”, there was the response at 25. I wondered what had changed.

    You did. Crip Dyke has unambiguously said that transgender women are women in this thread, see comment #26:

    Questions just as stupid as “Are trans* women women?” Are two-door cars cars?

    You, however, have become so desperate to find evidence of hypocrisy that you’ve automatically stripped away context and assumed the worst of people. Congratulations, you’re a bigot.

    While we’re well off-topic, I’d also like to thank abbeycadabra. You played a vital role during L’Affair Benson, and have been arguing extensively on this topic at a time when I was clueless about it. The main reason why I keep banging on about TERFs and transphobes on my blog is to lift some of your burden and make your life better.

  40. says

    sonofrojblake @#39

    What I’m defending is the right of any individual to their private thoughts. It’s hilarious that I’m having to do so on FtB, don’t you think?

    Wow, I had no clue that private thoughts are something that needs to be defended. Are you a science fiction fan who cannot distinguish imaginary worlds where telepathy exists from the actual world we live in? Let me remind you that telepathy doesn’t exist, thus nobody can possibly invade some person’s private thoughts. Thus thoughts are something that doesn’t need defending. We don’t live in a science fiction book where people must pass laws against mind reading and defend themselves from telepaths.

    If you assumed that I’m proposing for some bizarre oppressive political regime that hires telepaths to read people’s minds, rest assured that I don’t believe in supernatural powers like telepathy. Even in Orwell’s 1984 the thought police wasn’t trying to figure out how to read minds, instead they were observing people and punishing them for their actions that arose as a result of having anti-party thoughts, opinions, and sentiments.

    What you are defending here isn’t people’s freedom from mind readers, instead you are a bigot trying to defend bigotry. It’s impossible for bigoted thoughts and opinions not to be a problem, because people’s thoughts are what determine their actions. If some person believes that I’m not who I claim to be, they are bound to discriminate me, either consciously or unconsciously, but sooner or later it will happen.

    You get to tell them what you think. You might, if you’re lucky, get to tell them what to do. But on no planet I want to live on do you get to tell them what to think.

    With this very statement right now you are trying to tell me what I should be thinking. You aren’t just informing of what you yourself think, you aren’t just telling me what you want me to do, instead you are trying to convince me about what I should be thinking. You are trying to make me change my mind and convince me that instead of “some thoughts are bad” I should be thinking “all thought are perfectly fine.” How comes it is okay for you to tell others what to think, but it’s not okay when some other person tells you what to think?

    I judge people the only way I can – on their actions and statements.

    Is it possible for some person’s thoughts not to influence their actions? Is it possible for a person with bigoted beliefs to never ever commit even a single discriminatory action during their entire lifetime? If that was the case, I wouldn’t see bigoted beliefs as such a big a problem. Unfortunately, people with bigoted beliefs also commit discriminatory acts. Thus their bigoted beliefs that caused some discriminatory actions are a problem, because the act of thinking bigoted thoughts usually results in harm being done to other human beings who get discriminated by whatever actions that stemmed from the pre-existing bigoted thoughts.

    I’d hate to live in a world where your fantasies of policing thought were possible.

    Who said I’m fantasizing about reading minds? Right now I’m assuming that you are intentionally misinterpreting my words. I know very well that mind reading cannot be done. My point was that having bigoted thoughts is a bad thing. Just because I cannot directly detect bigoted thoughts doesn’t change the fact that they are bad to have. It’s perfectly possible to argue that something is bad even if others cannot detect or directly observe said thing. Sure, I can never directly know whether person A is holding any bigoted opinions, but nonetheless, I can still argue that bigoted opinions in general are a bad thing for people to have. My opinion is that every person should be free to decide for themselves what their gender is and the rest of the society should respect each person’s stated identity. I can argue that some person’s desire to claim the right to oppose another person’s stated identity is a bad desire that stems from bigotry. If some person thinks “Andreas is a woman,” then this thought is a bigoted thought. I don’t need to be able to read some person’s mind in order to be able to argue that bigoted thoughts are bad in general.

    People talk about ethical principles all the time. It’s possible to say “arrogance is bad,” “patronizing attitudes are bad,” or “love is good” even though without mind reading it is impossible to measure whether another person feels love or arrogance or thinks of another person in a patronizing manner. Just because these states of mind cannot be directly measured in another person doesn’t stop people from making moral claims about said things being good or bad. Similarly, I can argue that bigoted thoughts and opinions are bad in general. I can say that I, in general, dislike being patronized or disrespected even when I cannot read a mind and detect said thoughts in person A. I can say that I, in general, dislike being considered a woman even if I cannot read minds and tell who exactly is thinking “Andreas is a delusional and crazy woman.” If some to me unknown people are having this opinion, I can argue against them having said opinion as such even without knowing who exactly is holding this opinion.

    Wah wah wah I don’t speaka da English too good. Even by the standards I now expect of you, that is a piss-weak excuse.

    I never sought an excuse. Unless you are looking for ways how to purposefully misinterpret my words, it should make no difference whether I said “you don’t get to think about me as a woman,” or “you shouldn’t think about me as a woman.” Either way, none of these statements can be interpreted as me asking for some new oppressive police state that reads every citizen’s mind. I shall remind you that mind reading doesn’t exist, thus I couldn’t have possibly asked for it to be instigated.

    I judge you to have a really nasty authoritarian streak

    Transphobes are the ones with a really nasty authoritarian streak. They are the ones trying to police other people’s gender identities. A gender identity is a component of how some person thinks about themselves. By trying to convince me that I’m actually a woman, a transphobe is exhibiting impressive amounts of an authoritarian desire to police my thoughts and my gender identity. By denying our autonomy and right of self-determination, they are trying to undermine our views of ourselves, our self-esteem, our mental health, our happiness.

    You are the one attempting to erode our minds, destroy our self-image, police our identities and our thoughts. By arguing that “it’s okay for other people to thing about Andreas as a woman,” you are attempting to undermine my conviction that I am the only person who gets to decide about what my gender is. I have a thick skin and I tend to respond to transphobes by directing my hatred outwards—I don’t doubt or hate myself, instead I despite the transphobes. Unlike me, many other gender nonconforming people are much easier to hurt. To quote another person’s words from this comment thread: “It hammers transphobia into us until we are no longer sure of ourselves, until we are convinced we are freaks unworthy of any affection, until some few of us even turn on the community and become quislings to assuage the sense of uncertainty and guilt they pound into us.”

    No trans person has ever hurt you, nobody is eroding your self-image, nobody is hammering your thoughts until you start doubting yourself. Nobody is actually policing your mind. Nobody is taking away from you your your identity, your rights of self-determination. Nonetheless, you are the one whining about how the evil Andreas is trying to police your thoughts. Sorry, but you don’t get to claim to be the victim here.

  41. says

    I’m going to speak in support of the criticism of belief.

    Beliefs are in part what determine thoughts and actions. Bigoted beliefs will at some point affect thought and action. If one sees bigoted actions such as speech it’s reasonable to believe that action was informed by a belief that may influence a future action.

    It’s why anyone who does bigotry is a bigot, that means everyone. You, me, everyone. We’re all working on it to different manifestations and degrees.

    For example a person who thinks it is reasonable to bring up an irrelevant example of a trans person doing something wrong while referencing a current community issue involving trans people. Group suspicion for individual crimes, prejudice and discrimination. How many other groups has this problem affected? I’m sure you’ve all seen the political versions too, Ds and Rs who let bigoted group suspicion affect them.

    Beliefs should be critisized.

  42. says

    @abbeycadabra 11
    I’m sorry the conflict is wearing you down. Seeing that from you and others is what gets me pushing myself. I wouldn’t have been able to see just how full of shit society is without people like you.

  43. John Morales says

    Didn’t want to post this too soon, and it’s not so much about the morality, but re the OP:

    End of the day, words denote concepts, and for some, ‘man’ and ‘woman’ have eternal, fixed meanings. I think the fundamental concept at hand is that, to some people, sex ⇔ gender. Simple as that, thus the definition in the OP.

    (They also hold that they are not being dogmatic, but rather upholding the natural order of things)

  44. John Morales says

    abbeycadabra, FWIW, you and I have met fleetingly over the many years.

    (Clearly, you are a survivor)

  45. says

    I only now figured out the attempt to derail this discussion that was happening in front of my eyes.

    The original question was about whether it is okay for another person to assign me a gender identity that differs from what I claimed to be. In my opinion, a decent human being should have a duty to respect other people’s identities and preferences, they should think about me in accordance with my stated preferences. Each person should be free to decide who they are, and everybody else should just accept their claims.

    This question got derailed with some science fiction inspired mind reading and thought policing bullshit and the so called sanctity of freedom of though. That’s all bullshit, because in the real world mind reading and subsequent thought policing is impossible due to telepathy not existing.

    Under normal circumstances, a trans-friendly person would just accept my claims about who I am without making a fuss. Sure, occasionally somebody accidentally uses the wrong pronouns or whatever, but as long as people are kind and try to accommodate my preferences, I’m happy and I have no reason to complain. Only a transphobe would fight for their so called freedom to think about me as a woman. This is a blatant attempt to get away with transphobic attitudes, we aren’t dealing with some noble hero fighting for freedom of though.

    More importantly, by derailing the discussion, a transphobe is pretending to be the victim. The discussion shifts from the fact that a transphobe disrespects my right of self-determination and undermines my ability to decide who I am or how I want to live. It’s no longer about how questioning the reality of our lived experiences harms members of the trans community. Instead it is the trans people who are now getting accused of authoritarianism. All those evil trans people are trying to police transphobes’ thoughts, and that’s bad. By merely demanding respect, I am abusing somebody who doesn’t want to respect me. I am infringing their supposedly sacred freedom of thought. And that’s a diversion. The discussion gets shifted from an actual problem to some science fiction inspired nonsense about something that cannot possible become an actual problem in the real world. Never mind that in general it’s the transhobes who always try to prevent us from thinking about our identities in accordance with our preferences. One of the main reasons why trans people are dissatisfied with how we are treated by other people is because of attempts to police our thoughts about ourselves, our identities, and our ability to express ourselves as we prefer.

  46. says

    for some, ‘man’ and ‘woman’ have eternal, fixed meanings…to some people, biological sex ⇔ gender

    I suppose I could explain my preferred definitions. I am fine with statements like:
    “Andreas has XX chromosomes,”
    “Andreas was born with a uterus and a vagina,”
    “Andreas still has a uterus” [this statement is still true only due to transphobic surgeons routinely kicking me out of their offices].
    All of those are factual statement about the anatomy of my body. I’m not delusional, and I can accept the existence of facts.

    Nonetheless, I strongly dislike it when somebody says, “Andreas is a woman” or “Andreas is female.”

    Firstly, it is impossible to equate “a woman” with a list of anatomical facts about some person. Some women have XY chromosomes, some are infertile, some never utilize their female reproductive system or sex organs due to being childfree by choice or asexual or whatever other reason, some women lose their breasts or uteruses due to cancer or other illnesses, some women never grow breasts, some women have never menstruated. There’s an immense anatomical variation even among people who are female assigned at birth.

    Secondly, there’s a huge amount of cultural expectations attached to the word “woman.” Even in more liberal countries where women aren’t forbidden from leaving their home there are still some expectations about how a woman ought to live. She is supposed to use female pronouns, she is supposed to consider herself a woman, she is supposed to have a gender identity. And this is the bare minimum that exists in a textbook progressive society. In many less than ideally progressive societies women are expected to wear female clothes, use make-up, remove hair from their legs, be emotional, love children, and so on.

    Thus it is ridiculous to treat the word “woman” as if it only described some anatomical facts about a person. The society doesn’t see womanhood as just having a collection of body parts and organs.

    It’s odd to see a self-proclaimed feminist equating biological sex with gender. The latter is a social construct. Demanding that every person who is AFAB must also live in accordance with female gender stereotypes is just, well, gender discrimination.

  47. says

    (I tried to post this yesterday, but it didn’t show up – I don’t know if it will now. … testing?)
    (The discussion has moved on quite a bit and Andreas has explained things better than I could, so … *shrug*)
    ~

    I think the problem with this “don’t thought police me” is – that the person that just stated that they would *privately* continue to have a (bigoted) view just stated this *publicly*.

    Which … is sort of a contradiction? If someone has a private belief and doesn’t say so, it’s impossible to play thought-police, because you never know about it, so what are they afraid of?

    If you say it out loud though – then you can and should be criticized for that belief.
    What someone is actually saying is that they (for example) don’t be openly transphobic when a trans person is around, but otherwise may continue so.

    Because they don’t change their minds, I can assume that they would also talk about it with someone who agrees with them. Which is exactly how we end up with men being openly sexist only when they believe they won’t get called out on it.

    Or my mother using the n-word and justifying it with “I won’t say it when there’s other people around, don’t worry.” Sure, that’s better than actually throwing it around publicly, but it is *still* bad. And you never know, she might slip up and be blatantly racist when she doesn’t realize that other people can hear her. Which does hurt *even more* if you appeared to be friendly and non-racist before.

  48. voyager says

    @abbeycadabra
    I have a lot to learn about trans issues and your willingness to share your own struggles and insights is valuable to me.
    Thanks. I’m sorry that the world as it is makes life difficult for you.
    I also value your wit and sense of humour. Your input always adds to the conversation.

  49. says

    Andreas Avester@#9:
    That’s a circular definition

    All words are circularly defined if you make the circle big enough. [I know you know this becomes “linguistic nihilism”]

    Part of this issue is that language is a sloppy tool. On the other hand, that does not excuse when people deliberately sloppy it up.

  50. StevoR says

    PS. Also some strobing. Confronting and powerful and arguably deliberately edited tomake it even harder towatch than it is but still.

    @21. WMDKitty — Survivor : Yes. I noticed. Expect and petty sure others did too. Have not read full thread here properly yet to confirm,sorry.

  51. says

    Their definitions of “man” and “woman” remind me of Plato’s definition of human beings as “featherless bipeds”. I guess when Diogenes showed up with a plucked chicken, what the Academy should have done was accuse him of thought-policing, political correctness gone mad, and started a sticker campaign to uphold their FREEZE PEACH… 🙄

  52. says

    Marcus Ranum @#57

    All words are circularly defined if you make the circle big enough.

    Sure, human languages are an imperfect tool for communication.

    However, this time the problem isn’t that humans cannot understand what somebody else means; instead we are dealing with word definitions being intentionally manipulated and skewed for the purpose of justifying bigotry.

    Society: “The word ‘woman’ means ‘a person with a vagina.’”
    Me: “Okay then, that makes me a woman.”
    Society: “Women match and willingly embrace female cultural expectations, they use female pronouns, they have female gender identities, they make babies, they are emotional, they are bad with mathematics, they prioritize relationships over careers, they love pink, they wear dresses, they use make-up, they wear high heel shoes, they…”
    Me (angrily): “Wait, what? No, in that case I’m not a woman.”
    Society: “But you were born with a vagina, that means you must be a woman.”

    I have gotten the impression that attempts to force womanhood upon me are simply a bait-and-switch scheme. First people will present me such a definition for the word “woman” that I am forced to agree that I am, indeed, a woman. Next they will start telling me how a woman ought to behave and how she must live and if I fail to be feminine enough, then there’s something wrong with me.

    Alternatively, consider women-only spaces. This is another example of bait-and-switch—in buildings with one-gender-only spaces when it comes to deciding who goes where, people are sorted according to junk between their legs. Nonetheless, women who enjoy and actively seek female-only spaces do so because they want to spend time with others who are at least to some extent feminine. I routinely get shoveled into female spaces (against my will) because I happen to have certain body parts. Unfortunately, once I am inside one of those damn places, I am expected to behave as a lady and be feminine. Last time I spent a night in a hostel where I was ordered to go to a women’s room, I ended up stuck in a conversation about make-up. I hated being there. Amusingly, women didn’t want me there either, because I was ruining their pleasant conversation with my overflowing grumpiness (women who like using make-up usually aren’t happy to hear me talking about what a waste of time and money make-up really is). The obvious solution would be for TERFs to stop forcing me into women-only spaces, because nobody wants me to be there. Besides, I feel pretty uncomfortable in women’s rooms, I feel as an imposter who doesn’t belong there.

  53. says

    Smoley hokes, this conversation got lively.

    As of yesterday, I’m now describing transphobes and TERFs as cisgender supremacists. Their extreme rightwing ideology and exclusionist bigotry comes from the same attitudes and thinking as racists. They willingly associate with them, too, so it’s even more apt.

  54. says

    Intransitive@62: They certainly count as supremacists in my book. Back when I was on Twitter, someone I followed posted a screencap of a discussion thread on a GenderCrit subreddit where the geniuses were debating with the utmost gravitas whether cis women (you know, the people they insist are the only Real Women™, and in the defence of whose interests they claim to be acting) who’d had hysterectomies or ovarectomies still counted as women. Their conclusion was, “no, not really, but we should probably let them be, like, associate or honorary members of Teh Real Women Club™ or something”. I mean, this, apart from inducing levels of eye-rolling that might require medical attention, this is pure supremacist thinking– not to mention a rejection of centuries of feminist activism for women to be seen as more than ambulatory incubators…

  55. says

    @StevoR 58
    That video has come to mind many times since I saw it in that thread. Always when seeing people who react to unexpected sex/gender deviation with fear, disgust and anger. Utterly irrational negative feelings they let control them.
    The irrational expression of those feelings is my target, so in this last conflict I focused on the people expressing their negative feelings and pressed them for the objective basis of those feelings.

    No one has actually had a rational basis for their fears yet, and there’s an enormous resistance to parallel criticism of baseless criticism of trans women. They overreacted just like the people in the video, but at the loss of ability to be the sole critics.

  56. colinday says

    A coherent system of sexism, at least as we have known it, becomes less and less possible over time in this case. Eventually, with no ability to classify genders at all, gender categories truly become meaningless, and there can be no sexism at all.

    No. Gender/gender categories are a consequence of sexism, not its cause. Even in a genderless society, women could still be denied reproductive rights.

    Also

    @Crip Dyke
    #26

    Is Fox News actually news? Were the Federalists (early US faction/party) actually federalists, as opposed to being more nationalist than their opponents? Perhaps I should just stop using the term “transwomen”.

  57. says

    @colinday 65
    That’s not how I see it, but I am a cis male, someone society has sorted out as male, with the condition in question and I’ll happily add a trans perspective to compare/contrast mine.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15487603/
    “Testing the prenatal hormone hypothesis of tic-related disorders: gender identity and gender role behavior.”
    “…a tic disorder in females was associated with more gender dysphoria, increased masculine play preferences, and a more typically “masculine” pattern of performance on two sex-typed spatial tasks.”

    I don’t agree with everything that the paper and it’s theoretical framework presents, but I do believe that a lot of what we think of as gender involves the “instinctual settings” that one is born with. These are settings that society tries to control with respect to who gets to use them.

    I’m advantaged when it comes to expressing these things, and a person society sorts as female is not. I can’t speak to the exact experience of gender dysphoria, but I tend to believe that the category is real, and the damage comes from preventing people from living consistent with their nature.

  58. dangerousbeans says

    No. Gender/gender categories are a consequence of sexism, not its cause. Even in a genderless society, women could still be denied reproductive rights.

    “even in a genderless society, [gender category]”

    @Andreas Avester 61
    yes. people, especially transphobes, play fast and loose with their definitions of genders and gender to try and force us back into the ones assigned to us at birth. but those assignments aren’t actually reflected in society. i’m assigned male at birth, but i don’t fit with men in general and have 25 years experience proving this.
    the definitions of gender these people argue for are not the definitions they actually use, and this contradiction come out really quickly when you start talking to them (see above)

  59. John Morales says

    Andreas above, [since it’s sorta quiet again]

    Under normal circumstances, a trans-friendly person would just accept my claims about who I am without making a fuss.

    Too high a standard; let’s just say a trans-accepting person, like me.

    (Friendliness is nice, but not necessary)

    [personal]

    In passing, when I first encountered you, I thought you thought like me. Now, I think much the same, but your circumstances are so very different that it’s moot. Obs, your gender is irrelevant.

    FWIW, I enjoy reading your comments much as I do CD’s — a bit verbose, but cogent and to the point. Nice.

    (Also, I became embarrassed when you noted the initial letter was ‘i’, not ‘l’)

  60. says

    @50 Brony
    @52 John Morales
    @56 voyager

    Thank you. I think I may have presented an overly harsh image of how I’m feeling, but all of this (and the ones before) have been uplifting and very appreciated. It’s a weird thing, actually – by the nature of the content here on FtB and my usual lurking inclinations, I usually only weigh in on threads where something directly relevant to me and bad is happening. Which means I look WAY angrier and more shrivelled here than I am IRL. It weirds me out sometimes.

    But thank you. The only other thing I would ask is that you spread that love. To our host, for example, who is largely carrying the trans banner here since Zinnia and Natalie are long gone and Tris posts only rarely.

    … wow, I’ve been here a LONG time…

  61. says

    @62 Intransitive

    You asked me, quite reasonably, for examples when I accused colinday of transphobia on your blog.

    Allow me to present as platinum-iridium proof his #65 in this very thread.

  62. says

    I have to say #65’s “Your entire life experience is a deliberate Orwellian corruption of language.” is a blazingly hot take, especially in a thread about the moral bankruptcy and possible sadism of this kind of behavior.

  63. says

    John Morales @#68

    Too high a standard; let’s just say a trans-accepting person

    I agree, acceptance is sufficient. That being said, “trans-friendly” is already a commonly used phrase with an established meaning. There are benefits to using already established phrases rather than coining your own, hence that’s what I used.

    abbeycadabra @#69

    It’s a weird thing, actually – by the nature of the content here on FtB and my usual lurking inclinations, I usually only weigh in on threads where something directly relevant to me and bad is happening. Which means I look WAY angrier and more shrivelled here than I am IRL. It weirds me out sometimes.

    That’s how online discussions work. When I read something that I already agree with, there’s usually not much to say. I might type, “This was an interesting blog post, thanks for publishing it,” but that’s about it. Occasionally I can type: “I would like to further add that…” and add some extra ideas about the topic that’s being discussed. But ultimately, most of the time, I just don’t type that much when I agree with somebody. It’s when I disagree with somebody that I can easily get very argumentative. Thus somebody might get an impression that I routinely disagree with some bloggers or commenters when in reality most of the time I have no objections with what gets said in some blog.

  64. John Morales says

    Andreas,

    That being said, “trans-friendly” is already a commonly used phrase with an established meaning.

    Sorta. One needs to be somewhat familiar with the issues at hand to be aware of that, the obvious fall-back otherwise is the more literal interpretation.

    In this particular space, it works well, and I was being pedantic, since readers will know to what you refer. But that’s not a general thing.

    (Also, look at how someone got so exercised over a different idiomatic phrasing, by falling back to the more literal interpretation. Though I’d’ve thought they would be familiar with SJW-speak, to be honest)

  65. StevoR says

    @4. abbeycadabra (July 29, 2019 at 2:26 pm) : A very belated response sorry but you have my respect, my sympathies and, if you want them from me, virtual (((hugs))) too.

  66. GerrardOfTitanServer - formerly EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Crip Dyke in OP
    If I may. I totally understand and appreciate the apparent contradiction I Holms’ position that you identified – saying the perpetuation of gender stereotypes is bad, but he implicitly relies on the use of certain gender stereotypes to do initial assessments of who is a man vs woman, and arguably he seems to be encouraging the use of at least certain gender stereotypes.

    However, I don’t understand your other objection. To try to repeat back to you what I understood you to say, you said that no one can really define “man” vs “woman” as “penis haver” vs “vagina haver” because no one checks genitals as part of their internal deliberations in everyday life of who is a woman or man. This doesn’t make any sense to me. It makes perfect sense to me that you can define some property according to some specific definition in an academic sense, but rely on secondary characteristics in practical situations as correlated proxies for the properties of the precise academic definition. In other words, I don’t see anything logically inconsistent for for someone to say: “I define ‘woman’ as ‘vagina haver’ and ‘man’ as ‘penis haver’, and I know that certain other easily observable characteristics, eg gender stereotypes, are good enough proxies for having a vagina or a penis, and therefore observations of certain secondary characteristics allows me to reliably and justifiably conclude that the observed person actually has a penis or vagina, as appropriate. Of course, I might make mistaken inferences with this method, but it’s accurate enough to be useful and workable in practice.”

    PS: Again, I see the inherent problem here that this stance inherently perpetuates certain gender stereotypes. I also understand and really sympathize and agree with your assessment that Holms’ position seems to be worse on the metric of respecting self determination. This really resonates with me because one of my highest values is the right of self determination.

  67. John Morales says

    Gerrard:

    In other words, I don’t see anything logically inconsistent for for someone to say: “I define ‘woman’ as ‘vagina haver’ and ‘man’ as ‘penis haver’

    No. But by that stance, surely one must examine said genitals to be sure.

    (Awkward!)

    In real life, surely you don’t check people’s genitals before making a determination.

  68. says

    GerrardOfTitanServer @#75

    I know that certain other easily observable characteristics, eg gender stereotypes, are good enough proxies for having a vagina or a penis, and therefore observations of certain secondary characteristics allows me to reliably and justifiably conclude that the observed person actually has a penis or vagina, as appropriate

    Reliably? Are you kidding me? A lot of trans people, especially those who are undergoing hormone replacement therapy, can visually pass for the gender they identify with. Simultaneously, a significant portion of trans people either do not get a genital surgery at all or at least they spend several years living as the gender they identify with before getting the genital surgery. In other words, that very feminine and sexy woman you saw on the street today might as well be a trans woman with a penis, and you would have no clue whatsoever.

    By the way, since you defined a man as a “penis haver,” how do you call cis men who lose their penises due to accidents, injury or illness? Do they stop being men after losing a penis? Also, where exactly do you draw a line between having a micropenis versus not having a penis? How long penis does a man needs to have before you will call him male? I assume you know that trans men who take testosterone experience clitoromegaly. Does a big clitoris qualifies as a penis for you? And how do you call intersex people?

    This really resonates with me because one of my highest values is the right of self determination.

    Sorry, but you sound like a hypocrite. You claim to value self-determination when it suits you, but simultaneously you totally ignore the trans people’s right of self-determination. If you cared about self-determination, you’d agree that a man is “a person who calls himself a man” and a woman is “a person who calls herself a woman.” Instead of actually bothering to listen to other people and asking how they identify, you are trying to determine somebody’s gender by observing the visual appearance of their bodies. Nobody who cares about self-determination would say that men are “people with penises” and women are “people with vaginas.”

    Of course, I might make mistaken inferences with this method, but it’s accurate enough to be useful and workable in practice.

    Here’s a better method that’s more useful and workable in practice: ask other people how they see themselves. You shouldn’t be assigning genders to strangers you encounter. Instead they should be deciding for themselves who they want to be.

  69. StevoR says

    @ Andreas Avester #48, 54, 55 : Seconded. Spot on & very well writ. Thankyou.

    @64. Brony, Social Justice Cenobite : Apologies if it has distressed you. That powerful clip just echoes with me too, so memorable & painful & true.

    @ Intransitive : “cisgender supremacists.”

    Excellent spot on term and description, I hope it catches on,

    PS. & FWIW Tactically & ethically I believe there is value in postive comments, in saying I agree and I appreciate and second X. Not an expert but something I will do.

  70. GerrardOfTitanServer - formerly EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I did not say that I define “man” and “woman” that way. I was asking about a perceived weakness of Crip Dyke’s argument. I was not advancing Holms’ argument.

  71. John Morales says

    I was asking about a perceived weakness of Crip Dyke’s argument.

    At the time, you wrote: “However, I don’t understand your other objection.”

    To try to repeat back to you [CD] what I understood you to say, you said that no one can really define “man” vs “woman” as “penis haver” vs “vagina haver” because no one checks genitals as part of their internal deliberations in everyday life of who is a woman or man.

    Let’s recapitulate the relevant section, in the context of the OP:
    * I have objected to the idea that these are the current meanings. Obviously there are multiple definitions of “man” and “woman” or we wouldn’t be discussing our definitional conflicts
    [“the only current meanings” would have been stronger]
    * So Holms apparently accepts that there are ethical problems with using sex to define womanhood. There is no contesting this argument against the morality of defining womanhood on the basis of sex. Rather, Holms attacks the alternatives. The apparent argument is that if the alternatives are worse, we are forced to accept the least bad option.

    (What’s the specific weakness? I don’t see it)

  72. GerrardOfTitanServer - formerly EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To John Morales
    I thought Cryp Dyke said that it’s logically impossible or a practical impossibility to define “man” and “woman” in terms of genitals, and I just don’t see it, especially in the context of oppressive cultural gender roles determined by which assigned-sex-at-birth. I see how it’s bad, and I see how it contradicts what else Holms has said, but I don’t see how it by itself is logically impossible or a practical impossibility.

  73. John Morales says

    Gerrard, given the OP’s title, I make the consideration to be neither logical nor practical, but rather moral. Their consilience is a bonus.

    Anyway, that’s not how I read it. More like including, but not limited to. You know, definite vs. indefinite article. Social, not biological usage. That sort of thing.

    … especially in the context of oppressive cultural gender roles determined by which assigned-sex-at-birth.

    Not gender roles. Gender identity. You’re conflating.

  74. GerrardOfTitanServer - formerly EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Not gender roles. Gender identity. You’re conflating.

    Sorry about that. I honestly don’t know what mistake I committed. I’ll do some reading on the differences.

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