Interesting data…for what it doesn’t say » « The problem with Jordan Peterson is his archaic, ill-informed essentialist world view Let’s smoke out some more TERFs Uh-oh. New ContraPoints. ‘Ware the comment thread. Honestly, I learn so much from every ContraPoints video. Share this:PrintEmailShare on TumblrTweet Interesting data…for what it doesn’t say » « The problem with Jordan Peterson is his archaic, ill-informed essentialist world view
John Morales says
She certainly does rather good videos. Cogent, entertaining, engaging.
Watched it to the end.
(I did like the parentheticals)
Can’t say I learnt much that is new, though, because every point she made has also been made right here on this blog. But it is nice to see the concordance and thus confirm I have the gist of it.
You used to be a feminist. WTF happened to you?
John Morales says
JScarry, nothing happened. Same PZ, but a bit older and wiser. Never was he TERFish.
Clearly, you imagine this post is antithetical to feminism.
(What happened to you for that to occur should concern you more)
Great American Satan says
more terfs! my block list hungers…
I particularly liked the point about how TERFs are using an oppressive system against trans people while claiming to be abolishing it. I had thought that if you were actually sincere in wanting to abolish a system which pushes people into gender roles, you would naturally be a staunch ally of trans people, so until now I didn’t get why TERFs would claim to be abolishing gender. Likewise, if you sincerely wanted to abolish borders, you would support the rights of immigrants. TERFs aren’t actually trying to abolish gender completely, they only want to abolish it when it denies the identity of trans people.
And also, there needs to be a transphobia version of Lewis’ Law. I remember JScarry making similar transphobic comments on other trans-related posts.
PZ Myers says
First TERF, right there in the second comment. That didn’t take long.
Robert Westbrook says
When she identified the sentiment from some TERFs as akin to objections to “stolen valor” I had to pause and marvel at her ability to come up with the perfect analogy.
@7, I’ve noticed, those most offended by “stolen valor” are those who never had flesh in the game, who never served. Those with the largest number of BS decorations entirely fail to be even irritated. Ask a Medal of Honor awardee if they are angry over “stolen valor”, the majority don’t give a damn.
I have a full 8 decorations, that, when I was still in uniform, I didn’t wear. Some, for doing my damned job, some just for being around when something happened, somewhere else and some, well, I didn’t want to wear more decorations than my commander and “show him up”, as I have nothing to prove. I just had a longer career and well, was good at ducking or neutralizing a threat.
A threat being defined as shooting at us. Not some poor sap just being present under unfortunate conditions.
In real life, I respect all who I meet with the respect due to another person. Disrespect has to be hard earned, fucking up is, well, what imperfect beings do. “I fucked up” got me out of serious trouble more times than I can count and thankfully, it was observed by multiple superiors, “He may make a mistake, he never repeats that mistake, just makes new mistakes in areas outside of his knowledge base or experience base”.
Oddly, those who say that “respect must be earned” proclaim themselves Christians. Odd, as the examples of their Christ showed the same respect to royalty, as to the adulteress that was to be stoned.
As for TERF types and whatever other extreme type, I am reminded of a saying, “Far right, far left, either way, wait around a bit and meet both coming around the other side”.
I’m also reminded of an interaction with an older coworker, upon his seeing a new member of our team, a young man, who wore a bra, identified as a male and the elder coworker asking me what I thought.
“Don’t know, don’t care, the kid knows his shit, that’s enough for me”.
The kid identified as male, works for me, identify as female, works for me. The kid knew his shit, technically, nearly as well as I do and knew things in specific fields I didn’t, I knew generalist things, as I always was a generalist in IT thing. We each learned things from each other.
Outside of work, that’s your time, it’s my time, so, drink a trailer full of booze, chain smoke a tobacco plant into wealth greater than OPEC, sleep with an elephant or toy tank, don’t care.
Be a guest and piss on my lawn’s foliage and shit in my garden (actually happened with one guest), I care. Do so in your own lawn and garden, don’t care. Just don’t expect me to do so.
The rest, well, life’s too damned short to actually extend the small amount of fuck that I manage to retain, to give.
When I give a fuck, when someone is being attacked under unfair conditions, a group attacking an individual, being a biggie. Went through that myself, it sucked, so then, it’s “Hulk smash?! Bah! BULK CRUSH”.
I use leverage to its maximal, but also my modest body mass to greatest effect.
So, be part of that group, find a cane snaking between legs, collapsing a knee, artfully, to cause your own weight causing injury. Your own attack turning into the energy I needed to amplify it against you.
Or my sudden collapse, at just the wrong moment, to land upon a sensitive area, with a joint.
Preferred is live and let live.
Or, if adversarial enough for some hostility, you learn the hard way that I already had tied your shoe laces together, around an immovable object.*
As for a few points, insufficient data for proper analysis. Zero experience with those, so would welcome personal input in person. Dietary requirements would be asked for, as it’d be dinner at the individual’s place.
Nobody comes into our home/room, courtesy of a bedbug infestation, which I have a strain of fungus to address the bastards.
Relocation sucks. Said, nearly a year on, I actually paid for research on a specific strain.
*Yeah, I’ve done that while training, upon finding sleeping sentries.
After, I removed my blank firing adapter, which turned an M16 into a puff sounding weapon, barely audible beyond 25 meters or so, into a noisemaker from hell. The sentry awoke and predictably, slammed into the tree nearby, Kevlar helmet square on.
After Gulf War I, I was notified, upon unit return to home station, by one of the tree helmet kissers, no less, that our realistic training literally saved their lives.
Which was my goal to begin with.
My training was, get infiltrated, wake up to your GP microscopic (aka, linked shelter halves with one’s battle buddy) getting a CS grenade tossed into your shelter. With a bill for equipment destroyed by the tear gas grenade, which acts quite a lot like a flame source, as it is.
Long and short, CS and CN, I ignore, it only irritates me.
Erlend Meyer says
Breakfast. Coffe. ContraPoint. Could this day start out any better?
Robert Westbrook says
Also, Horseshoe Theory is not really a thing.
Westbrook@11 re: wzard1@8:
Yep. Horseshoe theory is a useful fiction. What matters for human rights is authoritarianism. Left-wing authoritarians use the same tools of abuse as right-wing authoritarians because the deference to power is more important to them than the underlying moral principles. But the idea that all far-left people are authoritarian is wrong.
Just one example: there was an Italian political party that called itself Estrema Sinistra Storica (trans. Historical Extreme Left). Its main tenets were “complete separation of church and state, decentralization toward municipal governments, the United States of Europe according to Carlo Cattaneo’s beliefs, progressive taxation, an independent judiciary, free and compulsory education for children, universal suffrage, women’s and workers’ rights while opposing capital punishment as well as any kind of protectionism, nationalism, imperialism and colonialism.” The idea that this far left group had anything in common with Stalin or Mao is preposterous.
You used to be a humanist. WTF happened to you?
Hj Hornbeck says
If I had to guess, Ophelia Benson happened.
He became a better one.
I totally agree with her about “menstruator”, because shit that is clumsy and silly. Menstruating people is perfectly fine.
As for “abolishing gender”, yes, I’d like for masculinity and femininity to go die in a fire. That doesn’t mean like Natalie suggests that I’d like to abolish eye-shadow (you can wipe that from my dead clouded eyes) and lumberjack shirts, I’d like them to be no longer considered masculine or feminine.
Now, we’re a long way from that and until that day trans people are free to use cultural signifiers for being male or female just like everybody else. Transphobes don’t seem to be able to agree on whether make-up is “appropriating womanhood” or “oppressing women” anyway, so their opinion counts less than mine on astrophysics.
Another thing is this “being able to spot a trans woman”, which has so far led to butch cis women being harassed and kicked out of restrooms offline and me receiving a ton of abuse online (usually on Twitter) because they always think I’m trans for the very scientific reasons of having my pronouns in my bio and the avatar of a tortoise. Don’t ask me how that works. Oh, and not being a transphobe.
Matt G says
Great, yet another TERF war.
TERFs are misnamed. There is nothing feminist about declaring that some women are worth less than others and do not deserve protection.
Kip T.W. says
Great, yet another TERF war.
And astroTERFing isn’t an option until we have much better rocket tech.
dianne @16: That’s why I prefer FART.
@18: What does FART stand for? Feminism avoiding radical transphobe? Feminism annihalating random trolls? Fast acting rabid trumpettes?
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
While it’s certainly anti-feminist in philosophy to believe that it’s acceptable to do this, it’s certainly a grand feminist tradition to do exactly this.
In 1851 Sojourner Truth gave a speech later titled (or at least remembered for the line), “Ain’t I a woman?” Why did she have to give that speech? Because despite organized US feminism being born out of the abolitionist movement, there was a long jump from “ending slavery” to “Black women are every bit the equals of white women” and feminists of the time were falling quite short.
This isn’t exactly a surprise. Even if the feminists of the time were far out in front of the rest of US society in uprooting racial prejudice and the dehumanization of Black people, the rest of US society supported a constitution which made it legal to own Black human beings the way that you own hand-me-down furniture today. For Freud’s sake, segregation, the KKK, lynchings, poll taxes, forced sterilization, and so much more show that opposing slavery wasn’t all that was needed to achieve equal valuation of Black and white women in practice.
So feminists of the time were, as a group, less racist than the rest of US society, but wholly Freuding Freud, that still left a whole lot of racism in our feminism. Even today we talk about intersectionality, but what we don’t talk about is that intersectional feminism was made necessary because we weren’t doing a good enough job valuing the experiences, bodies & lives of women of color as were were for white women.
When was this long-ago time when a Black law professor had to create this concept?
And did feminism magically transform instantaneously after the publication of Crenshaw’s initial publication of her intersectionality metaphor/model? Nope. Not least because she was a law professor writing for an audience of legal professionals. What about when she first wrote a new paper based on workshops that she had given that deliberately brought the model out of a statutory context and articulated how it could be used by and useful to the broader feminist movement? Was there an instant end to racism within feminism on that date in 1991? Of course not.
So when we say that no feminist may value some women more than others, we are speaking philosophically. As a practical matter, feminist women can and do value some women more than others all the time and have done so since the very beginning of anything that could be called feminist.
I worry, then, when we say that anti-trans feminists “aren’t feminist”. Is this privileging some women over others? Once we say that no woman who has valued different women differently can be said to be a feminist, the historical – and present! – ranks of feminists rapidly fall. Are we prepared to say that Emma Goldman was not a feminist? Simone de Beauvoir? Bella Abzug?
Are there any activists who might remain feminists under this analysis?
When TERF is correctly applied to people who embrace important tenets and priorities of feminism while still endorsing the oppression of trans* persons, we can see clear parallels to historical icons of feminism who gave us many of our tenets and priorities while still endorsing eugenics or racism or classism or slut shaming. This makes me more inclined to believe that the appropriate analysis here is that TERFs are feminists who do feminism really, really badly in at least some areas.
This is not to say that others have not used similar rhetoric when opposing oppression within feminism. There certainly have been those who have said that one cannot be both racist and feminist. Pat Parker and Audre Lorde both made statements with this substance. Yet Lorde at least, and possibly Parker as well, easily granted that there had been such things as racist feminist during feminist history. The statements, when made, were more about demanding contemporaneous reform than setting boundaries around who is and isn’t feminist.
So I get very nervous when I see such rhetoric. Just as racism and classism have been endemic within feminism since its origins, so too has trans* oppression. It has been less noticed because the invisibility of trans* populations has meant trans* oppression received less attention in the writings handed down to us from our feminist forebears. This isn’t to suggest that trans* oppression was less widespread or less virulent in 1920 or 1950 or 1970. Rather, it’s to suggest that agreement with the rectitude of trans* oppression was so widespread, so deeply ingrained, that no writer felt the need to take the time to justify trans* oppression. Its virulence had entirely wiped out any immune system response that might have thrown it off.
I also further worry that when people learn some feminism and then use it toward the end of maintaining or furthering the oppression of trans* people that we will treat this as someone else’s problem, not a feminist one. But the problem that reaches its apotheosis in those accurately described as TERFs is present throughout feminist communities to various degrees. Katha Pollit is a respected intersectional feminist, and yet she is guilty of the same types of mistakes as the TERFs. Is Pollit no longer a member of our community? Why or why not? Where is the bright line?
I do not back away from the neutral description represented by the TERF acronym. But “trans* exclusionary” is not binary. There are degrees of trans* exclusionary activism and thought. Pollit’s trans* exclusionary writing is neither the most malignant nor the most benign. When, then, does the TERF description apply? And how should the existence of trans* exclusive feminisms and feminists inform our actions?
These are complicated questions, for sure. But I’m of the opinion that simply denying the label feminist to those who exhibit trans* exclusionary actions or communication is a counterproductive reaction. I’ve argued elsewhere that the proper thing to do when determining who is and isn’t feminist is to come up with a single definition of feminist (which probably relies on your definition of feminism) and then apply that neutrally to everyone. If your definition excludes Sojourner Truth for accepting the religious bigotry or heterosexism or trans* oppression of her day, then I would argue that it’s probably a bad definition but we can at least say that the question of whether that particular and specific definition mandates the inclusion or exclusion of Truth is a neutral question that might be answerable somewhat objectively.
Without such a particular and specific definition, I worry – some reading this comment might say I worry excessively – that a general boot from the feminist club will fail to reduce oppression.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
It stands for
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
Wait, wait! My bad:
Also: Kip T.W. your rocket-tech comment made me laugh, so thanks for that.
CD You’re making very good points and I agree with all of them. Yet I still rarely use the TERF acronym because I think that it’s mostly imprecise. You are right that there are transphobic strands of feminism. Most of us had this sad moment when somebody who is a kick ass feminist otherwise also turns out to be transphobic or trans antagonistic (looking at you, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). Yet few of them are actually what I would call a radical feminist. Many of them are garden variety feminists. So unless somebody actually shows some radical feminist thoughts, I don’t like to use “TERF”. It’s impossible to distinguish TERFs or TEFs from Alt Righters just by their position on trans people, so I’d need to know more about those people first.
I admit that this is the first Contrapoints video I have watched.
It is very good.
I quite like the Contrapoints videos, they are one of the few that I don’t run on 1.5x or 2x speed.
I think I first became aware of her videos after somebody linked to one about the various nazi/fascist/altright symbols (pepe, ok sign, etc)
I wasn’t expecting another video from her so soon after her last one, but I’m glad PZ posted it.
She is witty, has a twisted sense of humor*, and makes me think about things that I probably wouldn’t have ever thought about on my own.
*-the steamy scene with Daddy Peterson in the tub was priceless
https://youtu.be/4LqZdkkBDas at 9:08 …I forgot how to time stamp links on a smartphone
Gregory Greenwood says
An interesting, well put together video that makes a lot of strong points. Contrapoints has done it again.
For myself, I find TERFS objectionable not only for the direct harm their bigotry causes to transpeople, but also because feminism in the broadest sense is perhaps the single most important political movement in existence (the stakes don’t get much higher than trying to force society to recognise the full personhood of roughly half the population), and the TERFs are seeking to subvert it to justify their discriminatory mindset. They are providing endless ammunition for the cleverer sort of anti-feminist (I am reliably informed that such a beast exists, if only in relative terms) who can point to the rampant transphobia amongst TERFs and then attempt to use that to cast the more functional expressions of feminism as ideologies of hatred.
Of course, such anti-feminists couldn’t care less about championing the rights of transpeople, they are simply employing a wedge strategy to try to undermine the effectiveness of the feminist movement in effecting social change, and the last thing we need is fanatical ‘gender critical’ bigots making that process easy for them.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden @ 22;
I love it. How long do you think it will be before the FARTs start ranting that this is a form of ‘hate speech’ too? Since creating a mocking, humorous mnemonic for a group that espouses a bigoted ideology is just so much worse than deliberately misgendering people and skating dangerously close to outright eliminationist rhetoric, dontchaknow…
Ah, the bizarre notion womanhood constitutes more than just a feeling. How very radical!
@CD 26: I agree that feminism has some nasty history and some nasty present. However, as far as I know, there is currently no branch of feminism that holds as a central tenant that white women are more important than black women because they are white. That’s the bright line for me. Feminists who casually talk about women needing access to abortion and OB care without acknowledging that transmen may need abortions or who say “yeah, person with a penis in my bathroom sounds awkward” without thinking it through, those I file under “needs education”. It’s the people who say, as a major part of their “feminism” that women should be defined by their genitalia and that genitalia (or even worse, chromosomes) are the only thing that matters in terms of whether someone is a woman, them I consider closer in ideology to fundamentalists then to feminists.
As Crip Dyke has pointed out, to say that TERFs, or other transphobic feminists, are not feminist is an example of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy.
The term “TERF” was AFAIK invented by tigtog, an Australian radical feminist, to describe people in (online?) radical feminist discussion groups who were obsessed with the supposed threat that trans women represented. If someone calls themselves “radical feminist” and espouses beliefs that can reasonably be called “radical” and “feminist,” it is reasonable to call them radical feminists, even if you think some of their beliefs are incompatible with the One True (Radical) Feminism.
Also, transphobia is actually a logical consequence of some (non-radical) strands of feminism, particularly the ones that put “womanhood” on a pedestal as some sort of sacred ideal, to be protected from male pollution. The practice of spelling woman (or women) as “womyn” comes out of that tradition — they were offended by the presence of the sequence of letters “man” or “men” in the words “woman” and “women.” Transgender people, by their very existence, blur the boundary between (sacred) “womanhood” and (profance) maleness and thus are threats to their idea of “womanhood.”
tl;dr: historically, some schools of feminism have been just as gender essentialist (and thus naturally transphobic) as the most sexist defenders of Teh Patriarchy.
@30: tl;dr: historically, some schools of feminism have been just as gender essentialist (and thus naturally transphobic) as the most sexist defenders of Teh Patriarchy.
I would argue not just historically, but also currently. Ophelia Benson is considered a feminist leader. She is as gender essentialist as any fundie. Furthermore, if this version of “feminism” is pushing the same agenda as the patriarchy, how are they not the patriarchy? After all, Debi Pearl claims to be in favor of helping women discover their true nature and happiness too. Is she also a feminist?
Hj Hornbeck says
Crip Dyke @20:
I have no problem accepting feminists of yore as being simultaneously transphobic and feminist. But things change, new evidence and information arises. Astronomy used to be astrology, until those scientists dropped some bad assumptions and looked more carefully at what was in front of them; yet we don’t consider modern astrologers to be astronomers, even if they once were.
Feminism is about the study of, and activism against, sexism in all its forms. At one point, “sexism” didn’t include gender identity because the concept hadn’t been widely discussed (despite the long existence of transgender people). Now most people agree that transphobia is a form of sexism, so you can no longer be a transphobic feminist. Ergo I can kick Germaine Greer out of the feminist “club” while still including Emma Goldman. There’s no contradiction there, because words can have different meanings at different times.
And if we can’t agree that transphobia and feminism are no longer incompatible, then we’re stating that they currently are. That someone who’s been misgendering someone for months because they don’t behave as a proper woman should is just as deserving of being called a feminist as Susan Stryker.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
Your argument, especially here:
is the most potent rebuttal to my argument, and I do think about it. It gives me pause. If I weren’t afraid of people dismissing the idea that feminism has, in fact, led people to their transphobic place (and it has), then I might be arguing the side of the case that you present here.
Even if the philosophy of feminism is unchanging (and it isn’t), the application of a static philosophy to new facts yields new results as surely as f(x) yields a new output when the value of the input (“x”) changes. If someone is purportedly applying the philosophy of feminism to those new facts, but they’re getting a dramatically different result than the majority of those persons around them who are ostensibly engaged in the same operation, we have good reason to think that they aren’t actually applying that philosophy.
But of course, they can also be simply denying the new facts and applying essentially the same feminist philosophy as 40 years ago to the same facts of 40 years ago and getting the same results. This is more science-denial than anti-feminism. And, unfortunately, though it’s a minority strain there has been some science denial in feminism for probably as long as there have been humans in feminism, because 1) ain’t none of us perfect, and 2) the stakes in the fight against sexism are quite high, and high stakes leads to an elevated risk of motivated reasoning. It doesn’t guarantee self-deception, but for some people it allows self-deception.
I sure as hell don’t like it, but denying facts rather than denying feminism is very much a possibility when examining the thinking (or its evidence in writing and speech) of any given (potential) TERF.
I don’t mean to defend those people here so much as I wish to make sure that we have an adequate understanding of who they are, how they’re motivated, and what they argue. I want to be as effective as possible in fighting them, and I worry that if we misunderstand them we won’t be sufficiently effective.
Everyone should also take what I say with a grain of salt. I was someone who had to invent the word “transfeminism” because it didn’t exist among the people with whom I was talking in the early-mid 1990s when I first wanted to talk about it. Now, I am absolutely sure that I’m not the only person to do that. It’s not like the word didn’t exist anywhere then I spontaneously used it on worldwide TV and every single use can be traced back to me: I’m not saying anything like that. What I’m saying is that when I became a feminist activist EVERY FUCKING FEMINIST was a trans-exclusionary feminist. At least where I lived.
I could never have made any of the progress that I did in moving my local feminist conversations forward if I hadn’t been sympathetic to cissexist feminists and willing to slowly help them along.
Now, maybe I’m overly solicitous because I developed a style and saw it work 25 years ago. Maybe today that’s the wrong approach and the facts on the ground have changed more than I credit. I don’t know. I sometimes wonder, but I don’t know. As much of a hard-ass as I can be on Pharyngula when certain types of wankers come round, I do tend to be very generous with my time to people who are saying fucked up shit when I have the sense that they might not say that shit if they had someone walk them through what’s wrong with what they’re saying.
Maybe they don’t deserve it. Maybe it doesn’t matter if they’re maintaining a feminist philosophy consistent with that used 40 years ago and are more deniers of fact than deniers of feminism and the need to fight sexism. Maybe I should kick them out of the feminist club. Maybe that’s the right tactic with this group in this context in this time.
I guess I’m just engaging in my reflexive balancing. As I said, I want to be effective and I find understanding bigots better makes us better at fighting bigotry. I worry that we’re not understanding them. But maybe we are. Maybe everyone is making more informed choices around whether or not TERFs are properly labeled “feminist” than I’m aware.
I don’t know. It’s a hard thing.
Anyway, I’m glad you said what you said, because even though I didn’t make your case, I have thought about that perspective sometimes, and I do think it’s important for us to consider.
I’m with CD here. Yes TERFs hold horrible beliefs that clash with the foundations of their feminist ideals. But trying to claim that they are not really feminist is a bad argument logically and a terrible technique for persuasive purposes. I saw this “you’re not a feminist!” canard used liberally in feminist circles in the 90s. It achieved nothing other than making opponents throw the same accusation straight back followed by endless minutiae on what counts as the One True Feminism.
I would rather engage by agreeing on common humanist ground, making clear the available evidence, and letting the TERF or proto-TERF stew in their own dissonance. Will it work? Well, not for everyone. I have little hope Germaine Greer will abandon her horrible othering any time soon. But there are people who will change their minds. Also I think the most hardboiled of TERFs are losing their hold on the microphone anyway. Most progressive voices I know are unapologetically in favour of trans rights.
Refusing to police your own, being satisfied with airily dismissing any shithead in your midst as Feminist in Name Only provides no substantive benefit to the receiving end of this shithead’s transphobia. It serves only to protect self-styled allies from their responsibility to clean their own house and be vocal about it. It is the White Moderate school of inaction: do nothing and endorse no (unacceptably late) reckoning.
As a theoretical example, say Labour decides they are inclusive and that’s that. One possible consequence of that proclamation is that inter-party complaints of anti-semitism can now readily be dismissed as false because they represent objections to behavior that has become Officially Impossible. “Anti-Semite” is a vile slur upon a fellow party member, who must be rallied around by their comrades. The bar is now raised for what the party will accept as objectionable, and only the most egregious and unambiguous violations will merit censure or other consequences. Suggestions they “get their house in order” elicit non-sequiturs about how many black people are present.
It is utterly impossible to find an ideology completely devoid of evil shitheads. You do the most marginalized among you, and in the world at large, great harm to pretend these people with whom you share so much in common with otherwise don’t exist, aren’t functioning as missing stairs. And sometimes that behavior is very much grounded in interpretation of your common philosophy. Behaving like feminism can’t fail, only be failed is tantamount to pretending you practice a pure art without flaws. You don’t, and it’s egotistical in the extreme to pretend otherwise. We don’t need to protect feminism’s Good Name. That’s a lost cause because feminism is dangerous and threatens the status quo. Be full-throated in its defense, but acknowledge it needs constantly to evolve, and for the love of lard, don’t whitewash it or its history.
That doesn’t mean you need to entertain or play Debate Club with TERFs, but it does mean you need to recognize how a movement’s language and underpinnings can be used in all the wrong and dangerous ways. This phenomenon is not remotely limited to feminism, of course.
TERF is useful like Atheism+, when it served its purpose, was. It acknowledges a real schism, implies a commitment to continuously do better. That recognition and that promise can be heartening to the people who are hurting the most.
I’ve learned so very much from Natalie Wynn. It’s funny, actually, because years ago, she was apparently part of the atheism movement on youtube (“New” atheism), and yet at that point, though I was paying attention to many popular atheists, I’d never heard of her. But I guess she honed her skills arguing with fundies and accommodationists, and has become just DEVASTATINGLY effective in her activism. There are so many things that make her almost unique on LeftTube: the way she presents herself (her sardonic tone and self-deprecating nature), the characters she comes up with (which aren’t just stand-ins for transphobes or other types of bigots – sometimes they are people on her “side” who are maybe acting in ways that are counterproductive to common goals), her willingness to reach across the political spectrum and actually interact with people who don’t see her as “her” at all…but I think her choice to actually take our opponents’ arguments seriously, and offer good faith rebuttals to them is the most valuable lesson other leftists can learn from her. The root of all of this bigotry is NOT RATIONAL…but as long as people believe that it is (or can remain willfully ignorant so they can keep pretending they’re being rational), the arguments they use to convince others (and themselves) of their pristine rationality are dangerous (since most people don’t have the knowledge base or experience to actually realize when they’re being bamboozled by bullshit).
Transphobia (I don’t like the term, because phobia invokes FEAR…and I don’t think we’re dealing with fear here, at least not overtly) has the same origin as homophobia: disgust. High sensitivity to disgust is common in conservative circles, but that doesn’t mean it is ONLY a problem amongst the reactionary right. People everywhere (regardless of their political or philosophical bent), when they are not familiar with a certain behavior, and when that behavior appears to transgress some moral boundary that has been implicitly enforced in that culture and learned by all of its members (learned, but not actually taught in the conventional sense) will often have a negative reaction to those who are crossing that line. Patriarchal ideals are pervasive in the West, and even those who fight against them have to gain a lot of self-awareness before they can truly stop policing the essentialist concepts of masculine and feminine, “natural” and “unnatural”, etc. For example, homosexuality isn’t opposed because it is non-procreative, or “unnatural”. But unless you treat those arguments as if they were offered sincerely, and dismantle them one by one so that bigots are forced to confront the irrational disgust that is the emotional core of their bigotry, you will be hard-pressed to change anyone’s mind.
We are all steeped in ideologies that need to die, parts of a culture that needs to change. And we are all vulnerable to the same disgust reflex that causes Christian fundamentalists to disown their CHILDREN when they learn of their LGBTTQAI* identity. It’s not our fault that we have this characteristic…but awareness of it, followed by a careful assessment of how our beliefs have been affected by this irrational emotional feature common to all humanity, is the only way to change minds (and win arguments).
No, not so, a misreading of history and a circular argument. The concept of gender identity as you’re using it was not an invention of feminism. Feminism, or some feminists, had to actively and intentionally accept, adopt, absorb, and finally change to conform to the concept. To do so, it had to exist independent of it. As CD says above, that was a process we owe to trans activists who had to swallow a whole lot of abuse while doing so, and the abuse from some quarters continues. It erases their efforts, renders the struggle bloodless and victim-free, to pretend their abusers, underminers, and enemies were never really feminists, some with a great deal of clout and influence.
Crip Dyke @33
Speaking only for myself, I’ve done some dismissive finger-pointing, and not just in the distant past, and you know what they say about finger-pointing (“look where the other fingers are pointing.”) Upon sober reflection, when I first heard about trans women in connection with feminism, I had some ideas that were a little like “latsot”‘s from the previous article. I was lucky, in that people were patient with me, and I eventually saw that I was wrong. And in one of the many ironies in my life, I eventually came to see myself as trans. (To paraphrase a T-shirt saying popular a decade or so ago: “10 years ago I couldn’t spel ‘tranzjendur’ and now I are one.”)
So maybe I need to learn to be a little less dismissive of people who rationalize anti-trans tropes.
FWIW, it wasn’t argument or being walked through my errors that changed my thinking. It was spending time in trans support groups and getting to know trans women enough to see past the Jerry Springer-like images of trans people and recognize their humanity. I’m now (6 years later) mostly able to look at even the least “passing” trans woman and see a woman; not even a “transwoman”, but a woman.
And, yeah, this was after I came out to myself as trans. You can be trans and still have transphobic ideas.
(BTW, I still find myself at times thinking of myself as a “man in a dress,” with all the disgust that implies. Internalized transphobia sucks.)
FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says
I wonder how trans understanding breaks down with age. Is it like homosexuality where the younger you go the less bigotry there is?
Anecdotally, my 11 year old daughter goes to a school that has maybe 300 students total from prep to grade 12. One of the grade 12s is transitioning. I had no idea.
When I started explaining to The Small Fry that like sexuality, gender identity is a spectrum she stopped me: “Yeah, like X”
Me: “Wait, what?”
TSF: “She used to called Y, but now she’s X”
Me: “How do you feel about that?”
TSF: “It must be hard for her.”
Me: “Are people being mean to her?”
TSF: “I don’t think so.”
And that was about the extent of it, no weirdness, no judgement, just compassion and a correct use of pronouns.
I’d be surprised if there hasn’t been some backlash, this is a very conservative Catholic town. But if there is hasn’t risen to the level that it’s common knowledge in a tiny school.
While parts were refreshingly honest, much of it is just silly misrepresentation of how feminists who aren’t convinced trans women and women fall in the same category of person feel.
Some gender critical feminists are legitimately disgusted by trans women and are convinced they’re all perverts and rapists and want for them to not exist. Others just don’t believe they fall in the same class as cis women. Why that is differs between individuals.
Videos like this aren’t really clever smackdowns at all because they aren’t accurate representations of the opposition’s thoughts or feelings on the matter. Even portraying GCFs as a unified group is silly.
Yeah! Stop lumping the non-religious homophobes and their opposition to same-sex marriage with the evangelical homophobes and their opposition to same-sex marriage. It’s so unfair to them as they deny LGBT people their rights!
If only these oh-so-generous nice feminists that you say merely “aren’t convinced” that trans women are women would just limit it to their shitty beliefs and not act on it to interfere with trans women trying to live their lives.
I tried to make sense of that but it’s not working.
Trans women and cis women do fall in the same class. The clue is very much in the titles. You are even using the terms as such.
Trans women and cis women are proper subets of the group women.
Wow. How is their hatred legitimate? How are they justified in lumping a whole group of people into the category perverts and how is it legitimate to wish for their extinction? Your language here is very telling.
As for trans women and cis women being in the same class, is this the old canard of “if trans women were cis women they wouldn’t need the qualifier trans”?
I think to me the very simple fact that we are often surprised and hurt by the fact that somebody whose feminist ideas and work we admired turns out to be a transphobe is evidence enough that there are, indeed, people who are both feminists and transphobes. Some of them are even radical feminists (but not all of them are).
And if you go thorough feminist history you can see how certain ideas necessarily had to clash with the concept of trans women also belonging into the category of women.
I think when CD says that there wasn’t even a term to describe the areas of feminism that discuss specific issues of trans feminism that speaks volumes of how much has changed in between. These last years have seen a huge rise in trans awareness and all of us cis people had a lot of thinking to do. Many of us grew up with the idea that it’s the pussy that makes us women, because at a point, that is damn liberating as you can show all of these fucked up gender things the middle finger. Then you become aware of trans women and you have to either incorporate that new information into your model or you simply refuse to change your model and demand that the world change to satisfy their wishes.
What I wished for transphobic feminists to see is what a devastating blow the existence and acceptance of trans people is actually dealing to patriarchy and the gender system, just like, and even more so than the existence of gay people. If two men can be a loving couple and a family, then the idea that men and women have naturally different tasks and abilities flies out of the window. And if you can be born with a penis and still be a woman, then the idea of biological determinism, of separate but equal because of “biology” joins that idea on the trash pile of history.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
@everyone except marinerachel:
Obviously the proper response to such a situation isn’t an internet smackdown with sequins and silly hats. Obviously the proper response is to spend hours and hours discussing whether anti-semite #1 fully accepts the myth that passover matzah is made with the blood of Christian children, like thinks it’s proven so far beyond a reasonable doubt that no new information could change their mind, or if perhaps they’re only 90% certain, are just repeating what they’ve heard, and are willing to listen to new information. You know. Like the good one, anti-semite #2. Anyone who cares about Jews would obviously go through this process for each and every anti-semitic feminist that they meet so as not to accidentally include anti-semite #3 in the same critique as anti-semite #1 when obviously the reasons for driving Jews into the sea vary dramatically from one individual to the next.
Putting out an internet smackdown of anti-semitic feminists in general is just rude and unproductive. Clearly.
The fact that a group is arrested by a common denominator doesn’t mean that they’re unified. Who the hell would call atheists unified? Yet, we still use the label.
Multiple points of view were addressed. What do you think was missing? If you’re going to complain that something was overlooked, be specific. Frankly, it sounds to me like something got your goat. Maybe it would be more productive to discuss that.
Curses, spellchecker. You win again.
” are legitimately disgusted ”
It’s one thing to be disgusted by somebody’s behaviors and beliefs.
If someone is disgusted by another’s mere existence, then that someone is likely some variety of bigot
This Medium post does a pretty good job identifying specific points the ContraPoints video could have addressed more thoughtfully.
I love the ContraPoints series in general, but, given that Natalie was a serious philosophy student, I would have liked to see more engagement with serious philosophers, and less with anonymous commenters on reddit.
@crebit: Are most anti trans people motivated by serious philosophy? If not, addressing the more common arguments instead seems reasonable.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
And what’s with all the costumes? Serious philosophy students don’t wear headdresses like a common theater major! I would have liked to see more bald, naked people lying about the ruins of a Greek amphitheater and way fewer sequins.
Or maybe, just maybe, there’s a bit of entitlement here. Why should your preferences be anything other than your preferences? Why should we take them as actual criticisms of the ContraPoints video on offer? You might say that you actually did offer up your perspective as mere preferences (“I would have liked…”) and not as criticisms. But that’s entirely relevant since your comment also describes an article in praiseworthy language (“does a pretty could job”) that relentlessly dresses up the author’s preferences as criticisms.
And now that we’re there, let me be clear. That Medium post is terrible and full of incredible entitlement. Assume for a moment that you consider TERFism reasonable. It would be easily possible to write all the arguments of the Medium post without framing it as, “these are arguments Natalie should have made”. You want a different argument to be made? No problem: you’re making it right there in the Medium article. So why does Natalie have any responsibility to make your case for you?
The article constantly presents the idea that the ContraPoints video is somehow deficient because it only made the points that ContraPoints wanted to make and not the points the Medium author wants to make. It’s completely fucked, and the level of entitlement is pretty ridiculous.
Now let me be clear, if Natalie says, “the majority of gender critical feminists believe X” and you have data showing that the proportion which believes X is nowhere near half, then saying, “Natalie should have said X” is a valid criticism. You’re not saying that Natalie needs to make someone else’s argument. You’re saying that Natalie misstated a fact. “Should have said” in that case functions as a sweetener. It’s a socially acceptable way of offering up the bitter medicine of correcting factual errors with a spoonful of sugar so that the criticism might be more easily internalized, thus preventing future errors. It’s a concession to human psychology rather than an entitlement to use another’s voice to make your own argument.
However, a preference that Natalie take examples from your favorite authors instead of from random Reddit comments isn’t an example of a factual error unless you show that the persons who made those comments are somehow erroneously misrepresented or are used to factually misstate something about your favorite authors. Neglecting the writing of the authors and choosing reddit comments to characterize those authors’ writings would indeed be wrong. But using the reddit comments to illustrate how common it is to find certain statements and feelings among gender critical feminists and/or TERFs isn’t wrong. The majority of statements of gender critical feminists and/or TERFs don’t appear in published volumes. This is most decidedly not an example of misrepresentation. Rather, this is an example of an author who simply wishes some other content creator wouldn’t engage with certain material.
That’s not a correction. That’s an entitlement to use others’ voices in service of your own argument. And it’s brazenly awful.
As for your own statement:
I noted that the ContraPoints video also didn’t mention that global warming is a vastly more consequential threat to humanity than gender critical feminists or TERFs. The video also neglected EnlightenmentLiberal’s point of view that immediate nuclearization of national electrical grids worldwide is necessary to adequately combat the worst effects of global warning. The video didn’t even mention that China has recently announced its intention to build 6-8 fission-electric power plants per year between 2021 and 2030. What the fuck is with that? Clearly the ContraPoints video was deficient. :eyeroll:
If your problem with someone else’s creative work is that they didn’t do enough to make your argument for you, you’re not being a fair critic. You’re being a jerk.
Why not think of whether its reasonable for you to think you’re communicating a neutral preference when the context of your link to the Medium article is one of entitlement to use others for one’s own ends. You may have truly intended this as a statement of neutral preference, but you make it hard to accept it as merely that after your praise for the Medium piece.
I agree that the Medium article is terrible. The author says “we’re not disgusted by anything, we’re opposed to male people claiming to literally be female (or women), and in particular, to the attempt by trans activists to erase sex and replace sex-based rights with the utterly amorphous concept of gender identity.”
But unfortunately, that’s a cop out, and it begs the question (in the proper use of the term) – the author starts with the assumption that trans women are “male people” and bases her arguments around the supposed fact that one’s assigned gender is immutable (and thus that men are entering women’s spaces as trans people, which is a bad, bad thing)…without ever showing (or even attempting to show) that this is true. So Natalie is correct – people like this author are denying her very identity.
Ultimately this all boils down to which side produces more suffering. How do other women suffer because Natalie identifies as a woman? I see this as completely analogous to the question: how do straight couples suffer because a gay couple gets married? We were constantly told by the fundamentalists that only THEY get to define what marriage means, and that if they lost this right, madness would ensue. People would be marrying their dogs, or their house plants. Well guess what? TERFs are the fundies in this scenario. They want to be the ones who decide what being a woman means. So this is about control. And why do they need to control what womanhood is? Because they have been conditioned by society since birth that the way things are is the right way for things to be, that the way things are is NATURAL (whatever that means) and that people fighting for change are profoundly UNNATURAL. Ironically, when it comes to fighting against things that affect them, like reproductive rights, they can easily see how the way things are is harming people…they can see that even if something is natural, that doesn’t make it GOOD…but when it comes to other people’s rights, they are quick to change their tune.
Finally, note that I’m super impressed with Natalie for actually being able to argue coherently against someone who doesn’t recognize her right to exist as a her (in the same sense that other women are hers). I think she’s right – these bad arguments need to be taken seriously and countered, one by one. And the fact that she can do this knowing that the consequences of being unconvincing is more people hating her for who she is…it’s incredible.
@52: The author says “we’re not disgusted by anything, we’re opposed to male people claiming to literally be female (or women), and in particular, to the attempt by trans activists to erase sex and replace sex-based rights with the utterly amorphous concept of gender identity.”
Calling women “females” is a typical Incel move. The politics of hate make for strange…bedfellows? Also, yes, gender is a social construct. So is sex. Biology is like that.
Gregory Greenwood says
marinerachel @ 40;
At the risk of adding to a (frankly wholly justified) dogpile…
Some homophobes are legitimately disgusted by LGBTQIA people and are convinced they’re all perverts and rapists and want for them to not exist. Others just don’t believe they fall in the same class as straight people. Why that is differs between individuals.
Some White supremacists are legitimately disgusted by Black people and are convinced they’re all perverts and rapists and want for them to not exist. Others just don’t believe they fall in the same class as White people. Why that is differs between individuals.
Some neo-Nazis are legitimately disgusted by Jewish people and are convinced they’re all perverts and rapists and want for them to not exist. Others just don’t believe they fall in the same class as Aryans. Why that is differs between individuals.
Some ethno-nationalists are legitimately disgusted by migrants and are convinced they’re all perverts and rapists and want for them to not exist. Others just don’t believe they fall in the same class as people born as citizens of that country. Why that is differs between individuals.
Are you comfortable with all of those statements? If not, then why is the blind, bigoted hatred and eliminationist rhetoric of transphobes more acceptable to you than that of other extremist bigots?
Gregory Greenwood says
dianne @ 53;
It wouldn’t be the first time that the TERFs have aligned themselves with transphobes who are also cis-misogynistic. They have even gotten into bed with aggressively Patriarchal Evangelicals before.
Also, I know this is a serious thread about a serious topic, so I almost feel bad about the little chuckle I got out of your wordplay here, but then again it is pretty much always a good time to mock Incels.
Gregory Greenwood says
Me @ 55;
And just to clarify, what I enjoy mocking about Incels is not their lack of sexual congress per se (there is nothing wrong with beings sexually inactive, by choice or circumstance), but rather the fact that they think they are entitled to other people’s bodies and are furious when reality refuses to oblige their delusions, along with their universal tendency to lack the self awareness to consider that the reason why no woman wants anything to do with them might not be because of some evil feminine conspiracy against them, or because women are all secretly sexually manipulative temptresses, but maybe, just maybe, might have something to do with their creepy attitude toward women, unfounded sense of entitlement, and deep seated misogyny.
John Morales says
Meanwhile, in MSM news, a sympathetic article:
I think it’s a bit disingenuous to complain that Natalie is primarily responding to TERF Reddit, when the medium article you link apparently thinks it’s valid to complain about examples on Facebook and Twitter that probably have even less currency than TERF Reddit.
Also, like, Natalie Wynn is an entertainer on Youtube. I mean, she does great work within the constraints that she has, but it’s not really the appropriate place to even expect a response to “academic” TERF philosophy? Show me a person who demands academic-level sophistication from a youtube video, and I’ll show you a person who is not willing or doesn’t know how to do their own academic research.
Enabling womens’ economic autonomy is causing a transitioning of culture, and of humans in general (slowly). Certain rightoids like to pretend they understand anything about evolution, but apparently some of them didn’t get the memo about female sexual selection and about having any redeeming qualities to offer, while stupidly confusing the notion of “alpha male” with being an asshole.
I remember running across an alt-right Youtuber who bemoaned the perceived cultural loss of “masculinity”. Various animal species were used as examples of what “males” should be like as they are in nature – lions, deer, pheasants, etc. Of course these are all polygamous species, and we know that polygamy in species is typically associated with a greater degree of sexual dimorphism. He conveniently left out examples of more monogamous species, which are less dimorphic — often to the point where male and female are virtually, physically indistinguishable from each other (i.e. many bird species). Therefore, we can say that the various physical manifestations of the sexes are the result of natural selection.
As humans move away from the formerly polygamous, more warfaring lifestyles of their ancestors* and towards a more monogamous one that is not so reliant on mens’ physical strength and aggression and does not always select for stereotypical traits, we should expect a greater diversity of traits and behaviors. Touching on the original topic of the thread, my radical idea is that perhaps we shouldn’t even consider the idea of “trans” – but rather a spectrum of behavior variants that can be manifested by either sex. The fact that there are enough self-described “transgenders” to make that issue a political force presents something of a conundrum, in that it’s self-evident that there are a significant number of individuals who don’t conform to traditional gender stereotypes. So maybe we should view the human species as in a slow transition. Or at least audit preconceived notions about gender stereotypes.
This idea would be absolutely, totally and completely antithetical to the right-wing mindset. In fact, the alt-right is probably aware of it, which is why some of the more en-siloed ones are apologists for rape and pillaging and returning to the bad ol’ days of the Neolithic Era. …And little wonder certain religions are popular among right-wing authoritarian types, which grant them entitlements on the basis of birthright.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
What’s worse is that the example that she chose to illustrate that trans activists want to control your private speech about sexed body parts is that one friend asked another friend – privately – not to talk about cervical cancer because she finds it triggering to be reminded that she doesn’t have a cervix. Now, set aside that the Medium article might have it wrong and it might be that the triggered friend was upset not by any mention of cervixes but by the particular manner in which the other friend talked about cervixes (we don’t know, it could be either), but also the triggered friend wasn’t asking that the friend with cervical cancer never mention her cervix with anyone. She merely asked her friend with cancer not to talk with her personally.
This is perfectly analogous with one person who had a friend murdered asking another person not to talk with her about the domestic violence she’s experiencing from a partner. The murder of a friend and the direct experience of DV are not the same, but we can understand how the first person might say to the other person, “Gosh, y’know I just can’t be your support person on this. If you have to describe violence, can you please do that with people other than me?” We also understand how this is not attempting to control the second person or deprive them of the ability to talk about their experiences, even violent ones, even explicitly. We understand that this is one person setting a personal boundary about what conversations they are willing to have.
So she wants to rebut the assertion of trans* advocates and activists that some language is better than other language for addressing an unbounded population of unknown gender, they have no desire to control how individuals describe themselves. How does she do that? She asserts that one friend asked another friend to get support from people other than that first friend. It’s dishonest in the extreme.
I’m pretty sure what marinerachel meant by ‘legitimately’ in this context was ‘actually’. As in, “Some gender critical feminists [actually are] disgusted by trans women and are convinced they’re all perverts and rapists and want for them to not exist.” This was then to be contrasted with their next statement, “Others just don’t believe they fall in the same class as cis women. Why that is differs between individuals.”
So the first statement was intended to set up an acknowledgement of a class of ‘people who are critical of trans people’ who are motivated by petty bigotry, rather than to say that people who have those feelings had a justified, ‘legitimate’ reason. However, the purpose of doing so was to contrast them with a second class of ‘people who are critical of trans people’ who they think are not motivated by petty bigotry.
I’ll grant that there are people motivated by other concerns(though these need not be to the exclusion of motivations of the ‘petty bigotry’ class), such as people who may be concerned that trans people are reinforcing traditional gender roles that they want to escape from. Instead of looking at a person who falls into the standard distribution of traits of one of the two sexes who embraces cultural elements that fit a gender role traditionally assigned to someone falling into the other sex as offering flexibility of choice, they see it as stifling, because they still share the gender identity they see having its gender role being reinforced. They see a trans person seeking to be acknowledged as a member of their group, but doing so while embracing the traditional cultural elements that they’re seeking freedom from.
Most people have seen the biological sex and the gender identity and the gender role as being one and the same. A trans person who has imprinted with a gender identity that doesn’t match the one traditionally conflated with their biological sex is a clear example that they are not the same. But for someone who imprints with a gender identity that is traditionally conflated with their sex, but who objects to that identity restricting them with a particular gender role, then other people, trans or cis, who embrace elements of the gender role they want to separate themselves from are seen as a problem for them.
So people with that sort of concern might feel that they need to exclude people they see as reinforcing something they’re opposed to, and seek to find a way to delineate a group membership criteria that excludes the cultural elements and are left with a biological essentialism as what they see as remaining to draw a border around. Most people aren’t aware of the complications, such as androgyn insensitivity, that prevent this from being clear-cut the way they would like it to be, and often would like to exclude those complications from consideration to make their task simpler.
The surface-level arguments don’t necessarily communicate the actual concerns. A family member of mine argued that artificial diamonds are not ‘real’ diamonds, no matter what their chemical composition and structure, or even if they could not by any means be distinguished from ‘real’ diamonds, even in principle. It took awhile to eventually work out that their actual concern was that they wanted diamonds to be ‘valuable’, and that the possibility of cheaply making diamonds threatened that value, thus them attempting to draw a boundary that included the history of how the diamond was produced, because that’s what was left for them to maintain what they were really concerned about.
If we had some means to completely alter the biological sex of a person such that we left their memories and personality and so on intact, but otherwise rendered them indistinguishable in any biological test that could be performed from someone who was that sex ‘naturally’, then you would probably see many of the people making biological essentialism arguments move towards documenting the history of how someone became their sex, and lived social experience of growing up as that sex as the method for establishing the membership in the set.
Of course, when you go down that road, the exceptions between who has experienced what are much more salient for most people than complications of hormone receptors, and they would have to address those complications as well.
I’m curious as to what marinerachel is actually concerned about that informs how they draw up category boundaries that they find to make distinctions that are relevant in decision-making.
Hj Hornbeck says
The definition of “feminism” is secondary to the goal of understanding and combating sexism. While I still prefer my definition, I would happily set my preferences aside if I thought they got in the way of important work. Nonetheless, there’s value in starting the debate: I get to point out the sexism inherent in the transphobe/TERF position, and since they have no counter I get to point out they’re not refuting my points and instead relying on misinformation and emotional appeals. If my arguments fall on deaf ears, that tells me something valuable about my audience and/or my ability to persuade.
Crip Dyke @33:
It is. For me, the definition of who’s a feminist and who isn’t is more about politics. I do care about the topic, but I try to keep that care in perspective.
The timing suggests you were one of the first, though, if not the first. Were you involved with the transfeminist movement?
Hj Hornbeck says
My apologies if it seemed like I was erasing transgender activists. The name-drop of Susan Stryker was intentional, she’s cataloged some of that activist history. I’d also recommend reading about what transphobic feminists did to Sandy Stone, some of which involved guns. Modern feminists owe a huge debt to the activism of transgender people, and have done little to honor, let alone repay, that debt. Personally, I know I don’t know enough about their work.
The Facebook and Twitter example is particularly terrible since she didn’t even link to anything. For all we know it’s 100% fake, or it started with a real thing someone said but it’s been wildly misrepresented, or it was real but intended as some sort of parody or joke.
Given how easily falsehoods spread on social media, how easy it is to fake screenshots, and documented examples of parodies being I would bet money on at least one of those things being true.
For the parody thing, see, for example, Politifact’s analysis of this parody quote by Ocasio-Cortez and this parody quote by Trump.
It’s funny how transphobes get all the benefit of the doubt. We must not even read the words they write, we muits read other, different, “nicer” words…
Yeah, just like “race realists” don’t consider themselves racist either.
Trans people are about 0.5% of the general population. Even if we put it at 1%, there’s 99 cis women for every trans woman and the overwhelming majority of those cis women consciously or unconsciously follows many aspects of the traditional gender role of women. Yet, apart from the twice a year “you are a bad feminist for wearing make up” article, I don’t see our gender expression nearly as policed. Apart from the fact that trans women also get yelled at for not being feminine enough.
It’s also entirely possible that this person, if real, is just a terrible person and a horrible friend whom the lady needs to cut out of her life.
Yet there’s no reason why one trans woman being a bad friend should inform your opinion about all trans women unless you#re already invested in a certain transphobic narrative.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
While the few early-activists that existed were focussing on stranger-danger and access to medical care, I was in a horribly abusive relationship. Raped. Attacked with knives. Never hospitalized, never injured too badly, but hit in the face with a tote-bag full of text books so hard that my neck has literally never been the same. During one honeymoon period in that relationship I actually told my abuser that I wasn’t trans, but that I wondered if it was possible to get trans-related health care without being transsexual. I knew for a fact I wasn’t transsexual because I didn’t like sequins or makeup. Duh. But of course being interested in the medical care was enough. I was punished. I was raped again. I shut up.
The first romantic relationship in which I was involved after that one, at the beginning of the 90s, was with a wonderful hippie-child. Literally. She was the child of a hippie mom, with a stereotypically hippie-child name. She also was just out of an abusive relationship. I supported her through accessing resources even though she felt guilty because she thought the resources were supposed to be for people who were still trapped in abusive relationships, not for those who had successfully escaped but were still feeling the effects.
As we spent time together, she lost that guilt. As she was setting aside her guilt and realizing that she deserved that help, she started telling me that I deserved that help. Obviously I couldn’t go to a women’s shelter or a women’s program for help, but I should go somewhere, she insisted. I called a place near where I lived that was a counseling center that specialized in helping men. “Men” was even in the name. I described being in an abusive relationship as a teen/young adult and being abused separately as a child earlier in my life. They told me that they had no programs for survivors of abusive relationships, but that they had programs for abusers and that they would welcome me into one of those groups and maybe I could get insight into my abusive relationship from talking to someone on the other side.
Though I hadn’t particularly been thinking I deserved help, when that happened I was sure I didn’t deserve that. My partner & I talked about hormones and healthcare to address my body issues, body issues that definitely weren’t related to transsexuality, of course to the point of making an economic plan for how we could save money and how much we might need to save and how soon we could save it. At the same time, I read relentlessly on the subject of DV and talked with my partner about that as well. She was getting the peer-counseling. I was reading all the books. Together we synthesized some early, primitive understandings.
I started speaking with friends of hers from queer women’s community, some of whom worked at the local women’s shelter. We talked about a bunch of things. I said it wasn’t good to always equate men with abusers and that it wasn’t gender that made a person dangerous, but rather behavior, with gender only making certain bad behaviors statistically more likely. It wasn’t a great perspective. It had holes. It had problems. But to an anti-violence movement that was founded on listening to the individual stories of women that society refused to help, listening to the individual stories of someone who seemed to be a man seemed reasonable. Although some refused to listen, it wasn’t because I hadn’t any academically rigorous data on the prevalence and severity of DV targeting victims who weren’t women.
Something very strange happened. Even though I was far from an expert on anything, I had a lot of practice talking about these issues with my partner and had a basic understanding of the operating perspectives of the anti-DV movement. It wasn’t deep or anything, but it was far better than most of the general public, women or not. This was enough to make communication between me and anti-sexual violence & anti-domestic violence workers at least somewhat fruitful.
But I cared desperately about this. That call to the men’s counsellors haunted me. I didn’t want anyone else to experience that. So I wanted to be even better at talking about this. I wanted to be more skilled, more knowledgeable, more persuasive. When people were convinced that I was right that there was a problem with lack of resources (there were shelters in the city for homeless men, but not men homeless from domestic violence where they could get support around issues like how to maintain safety & change jobs while being stalked), they’d ask me what the solutions should be. I was stumped.
So, back to the books. I was reading feminism like mad. And, of course, that had a dramatic impact on how I saw myself as (potentially) trans. I realized that while I didn’t look at non-trans* women as less validly women when they wore makeup or when they eschewed it, I had been looking at trans* women as less validly women and less validly trans* if they didn’t engage in stereotypical femininity. While there were a few folks in trans* communities that spoke that way (e.g. if you weren’t obsessed with wearing feminine clothing & makeup at age 4 you weren’t really an MtF trans* person), it became clear that trans* people in the community believed that because that’s what the medical providers told them, and that’s the narrative that they had to rehearse in order to get treatment.
So now I’m embedded in this series of informal feminist anti-violence conversations as well as this process of realizing how larger social forces control the genders and gender expressions at the individual level. Feminism seemed key to healing my psyche and my body. I couldn’t get enough. Even before I came out as trans*, I had enough awareness of trans* issues to stop advocating for “men” survivors of violence and started advocating that people should have access to feminist anti-violence tools “regardless of gender”.
And there it was: I wanted feminism to be accessible to, useful to, and beneficial to everyone. And I knew that not only could it be, it already was, even if it wasn’t yet everything that it could be. But the other trans* advocates I knew weren’t as steeped in feminism. The feminists that I knew still wanted to practice a feminism exclusive of trans* people. And in the early 90s everything trans people were doing got “trans-” slapped on the front because we were in the middle of transsexual vs. transgender intracommunity wars similar in scope and injury to the intrafeminist sex wars of the 80s. Calling important community events “trans-” was the only way to signal that it was open to both transgender and transsexual folks and (usually) other supportive people. (Where a “transsexual gathering” implied that one had to be transsexual to join the activity, a “trans gathering” carried with it a more open connotation of community that allowed partners and certain supportive others to feel welcome.)
Then as I came out – mousy, not ready to speak publicly – my now-ex partner and still my BFF pushed me into going to a Lesbian Avengers meeting, and wow was that meeting of direct action activists a revelation! As I was speaking to them in late 93/early 94 they asked me if I was doing any trans* activism.
To my shame I can’t remember perfectly and it may have been embarrassment over (potentially) being associated with certain not-very-likable segments of the trans* advocacy community as much as anything else that made me tell them that, yes, I was doing trans* activism in various ways and at various times, but a lot of what I was doing was private conversations that weren’t so much trans* advocacy, but “transfeminism”.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was true. There were activists talking about stranger danger. There were activists talking about removing gatekeeping attitudes and outright barriers to trans* medical care. But there weren’t activists talking about domestic violence targeting trans people. There weren’t activists connecting the access-to-care conversation to feminist insights on compulsory gender and how the so-called “gender clinics” (I’m not making up the name, they really were called that) were the worst form of Handmaid’s Tale, Orwellian, gender-control institutions. While feminists had moved on from the days of being institutionalized for gender non-conformity, trans* people were literally having doctors not only force them to wear makeup, but to control what brand and color of makeup they could wear. I wasn’t a genius or anything, but I could see that if feminists had already fought the medicalization of gender expression it would be silly to ignore all the great work that had already been accomplished when trans* communities fought medicalization of our own gender expressions.
So I became a bridge between local feminist activists and both local and national trans* activists. And although I found some people who were more feminism-informed than others, it was clear that there had as yet been no real embrace of feminism. There was no sense that trans* advocacy was another feminist struggle in the sense that access to abortion is a feminist struggle without being all of or defining to feminism itself.
I didn’t use “transfeminism” or “transfeminist” in writing until later – probably 1996 or so – but that period from 1994 – 1996 was amazingly productive. FtM folks had largely felt that they had to leave feminism behind. Those who had worked in shelters or other feminist institutions were forced out. Sexism, obviously still strong even today, makes it harder for men to have productive friendships than it would be otherwise, and it makes it especially difficult for certain feminist collaborations to take place. A man in the room, it was often felt, undercut the sense of power and accomplishment (“we did this ourselves”) that feminist women might otherwise feel. Even when FtM men weren’t kicked out, they were pushed out by these dynamics. And though there further activism was clearly informed by feminism, many seemed reluctant to call it feminism or to refer too much or too often to feminist sources when making the case that they should be accepted as men without discrimination. The reasons for that should be obvious.
FtM men were also invisibilized even more dramatically than MtF folk whose perspectives were ignored even when our existence was highlighted (often for the most horrible of reasons, to be targeted as the enemy within). FtM men were not even generally known to exist. FtM people who weren’t men were, if it was possible, even less visible. And therefore the activism, accomplishments, and feminism (to whatever extent it existed) of these people were also invisible.
So a feminist trans* movement was a new thing. Even as certain ideas caught on, feminist communities and trans* activist communities were largely separate. Tragically this was even true for people who existed in both: too often they had to cease being part of one temporarily to participate in the activities of the other.
But I couldn’t leave either behind. It was all or nothing. When I read feminism, I had been particularly attracted to the stories of the outsiders-within-feminism. Pat Parker. Mitsue Yamada. Tillie Black Bear. Audre Lorde. mary hope lee. Dorothy Roberts. Suzanne Pharr. I was determined not to be the type of feminist who left anyone behind. As i came across information about intersexuality, I included that information in my analysis and my activism. The more I learned about racism, the more I included that in my analysis and activism. And within trans* communities I was one of the few who determined that there should be larger communities with real FtM/MtF/ItT friendship and collaboration. There weren’t very many areas of the country where FtM, MtF, and intersex folks were all working closely together, having brunch together, inspiring each other. I wasn’t going to be part of that. I was going to be part of something better. Something more inclusive. A movement which decades later could be embarrassed by its failures, but not by its efforts.
With nothing better to name it, for me transfeminism came to mean this movement as well.
Was I always good at doing what I wanted? No. My own limitations dictated my many mistakes and failures.
Did I truly invent anything? No. Everything that I helped to create was a simple combination of ingredients already present in the society around me, and even where I did combine them in novel ways it was inevitable that people who care about trans* folks would eventually care about making sure trans* folks had access to anti-DV services and FtM/MtF dialog and things like free food for anyone – trans or not – who was hungry, but in an environment where trans* folks were welcome and the food was mostly prepared by another trans* person.
But to the extent that there can be said to be a period before transfeminism, a period with widespread transfeminism, and a period in which transfeminism was new, under-appreaciated, frequently misunderstood, and rapidly spreading, can I accurately be said to have been one of the early adopters? Yeah. I can.
I would even like to be proud of that, but I don’t think I could have done anything else.
Crip Dyke @66
Thanks for sharing that
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
Although i don’t focus on this reason when attempting to persuade people that it’s probably not a good idea to insist that cissexist feminists aren’t really feminists, it is implicit in my arguments and always in my mind.
But even this is more complicated than one might think. Yes, with retrospect I can resent this or that. Yes, I have faced threats that were both serious and credible. In fact, the entire reason that i go by “Crip Dyke” so exclusively online is that a group of friends had an intervention with me in the 90s and told me that I had to take the threats more seriously, given how serious the wording was with the combination of a few minor incidents of actual violence towards me and the existence of even more serious attacks against other trans* persons elsewhere. They made me promise that even if I didn’t care what happened to myself that for the sake of people who cared about me I would take certain steps – including an online alias – to make it a little harder for people to track me down.
So, yeah. I certainly can say that I had abusers and stalkers and harassers. Even if there’s no one I know to have identified as feminist who used violence against me because of my activism, I faced some pretty bad shit for it.
But in addition to making it more difficult to see what it might have actually been like for trans* activists trying to work with feminists in the 90s, in addition to that invisibilization of the difficulty and danger of my work, it also renders invisible the work of trans* exclusive feminists who got better. Even if I got harassing letters and phone calls (and I did). Even if feminists wrote news articles(!) about how evil I was, as some did. Was it a whole lot easier for the cis* feminists who were early adopters of transfeminism? If they were saying completely awful shit – and they were – about me behind my back, but also thinking about what I said and why I said it and the arguments I used to support my ideas, what was it like for those cis-feminists who actually had something to lose by coming out in support of me or trans* rights more generally or transfeminism as a movement?
Arguing a simple, “trans* oppression is not feminist” is counterproductive in a number of ways. Maybe it’s politically useful now. Maybe it’s necessary now for feminism to advance. But if you were earning your living working in a shelter in 1993 and heard me talk about my experiences with domestic violence, were you not yet feminist? What would it have been like if someone had told their co-workers, some of them working in the anti-DV movement for a decade or more, “You aren’t feminists?”
Calling TERFs (actual TERFs now, respecting Giliell’s point that the term is sometimes used carelessly to mean any cissexist person, not only cissexist radical feminists) not feminist is confusing to me. If they read the same types of philosophy, the same types of arguments about trans* people in 2015 that these other women read in 1995, was their arrival of the 2019 TERFs at their cissexist position less feminist than the 1999 shelter workers I spoke with and trained?
I think it may be useful. There are even some senses in which I think it’s true. But to the extent that it’s true, it must usually be made ahistorical. And in an area where history has been moving so fast, and where there’s so much living memory of an entirely different social context for being trans*, “ahistorical” ultimately means “conflicting with personal experience”.
Of course, sometimes we use words aspiringly. If my personal experience gets in the way of using the phrase “TERFs are not feminist” in service of building a world in which no feminists are cissexist, and if using the phrase that way is actually useful in creating that world, I don’t think I’d want my personal experience to stand in the way.
Rob Grigjanis says
CD @66: Wow. Now and then I wonder why I hang around here. This is why. Thanks for that.
When I grow up, I want to be like you.
Giliell, I’ve seen usage of ‘legitimate’ to mean ‘actually’ commonly enough, and that was what I took them to mean, particularly in the context of their next statement. Basically, I think they made it as a rhetorical device from which they meant to use the contrast to imply that there are good reasons to not consider trans women as ‘women’, though without actually bothering to explain what those reasons are.
It’s not that I don’t think their post should be criticized, just that if they’re not being criticized for what they actually meant, it’s not productive. Based on previous experience in such discussions, I suspect it probably won’t be productive anyway, but it’s better not to bring down the chances any lower than they already are. The ‘race realist’ comparison is apt, and I think in most cases that whatever arguments someone might bring up on a topic like this are unlikely to be either good or their true primary motivation.
The example I provided of a possible concern was intended to be illustrative of what might actually be motivating a person to draw their classifications a certain way that isn’t simple bigotry, but I don’t think the example concern has any more merit than concerns about the value of diamonds providing a good reason to consider artificial diamonds as ‘fake’. Nor do I think that it’s likely to be anyone’s primary concern.
I would like marinerachel to explain their real concerns that underlie how they’re delineating classifications, so we can potentially address points relevant to them, since they came here to comment on the topic. I’d rather not have any future posts they might make derail into a dispute over something I don’t think they meant, which definitely won’t go anywhere useful. After the first two paragraphs, the rest was primarily intended for marinerachel. I structured the rest non-confrontationally to give them an example of a possible framework for examining the topic, as well as make them aware of some of the difficulties with possible responses, and then encourage them to hopefully explain what their concerns are in a clear way that can then be addressed.
On makeup: A good friend of mine (with whom I was once married) moved to San Francisco in 1969 to be a hippie, and was occasionally criticized for wearing makeup. To which she replied, “I’m doing my own thing.” Which shut everyone up, since that was the proudest hippie boast, man.
On social education: As a straight man, I never had a problem with gay people, literally never, even while it was still illegal in Britain, I don’t know why (just lucky, I guess; I was friends with some out criminals) but I never came to grips with my latent transphobia till I worked with a trans person. I was ashamed to discover it, and still am in retrospect, but you know what? It melted away quite fast. I respect people with the guts to be out in risky circumstances, and I also think they (you) are doing good work, just by fucking being there.
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
Intersex to Trans.
Some intersex folk also understand themselves as trans. I don’t think it’s common anymore, but many of the folk I worked with in the late 90s/early 00s who were both intersex and trans would use ItT to communicate the complexity and social incomprehensibility of their narratives. We generally don’t allow people to start their lives with an understanding of themselves as intersex. But for some of those folks, there is a resentment at being forced into one box or the other, and the forcing was more central to how they understood themselves than which box served as their prison. I know that writers like Ravel Kaldera & Quo-Li Driscoll and some others used it. When I first was able to have conversations with the two of them and other folk who were both trans* & intersex it became immediately clear that simply using MtF or FtM to describe the experiences of intersex people assigned masculine gender and coming to openly identify with something more feminine, or vice versa, was entirely insufficient (and even misleading). Again, I don’t know if that’s stuck. I haven’t seen it used in a while & I haven’t spoken to Quo-Li since 2008 or so, and Raven a couple years before that. But during the period I’m talking about, understanding and incorporating ItT became an important part of how I was constantly trying to expand my analysis, better my work, and include more people. So it’s relevant in this historical context.
WMDKitty -- Survivor says
Oh, cool! Thanks!