Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and come to the conclusion that I probably won’t be posting here again anytime soon.  I thought I could build a bridge between trans-activists and feminists but now I realize that male socialized trans-activists are so far off the deep end in their self-involvement that there is probably no reconciliation to be had.  They’ll never see how their male privilege precludes them from inclusion in women’s spaces.  I probably spilled more words here conceding ground to these people than anything else.

I’ll keep to reading rad fem writings and working on my own socialized bullshit and leave the transplainin’ to someone else.  Shout out to Plastic Girl for being the only transperson I’ve seen who’s been unafraid to buck the Trans Party Line.

…if one were to develop a feminist history centering Native women, feminist history in this country would start in 1492 with the resistance to patriarchal colonization. The insistence on a first, second, and third wave approach toward understanding feminism therefore keeps white feminism at the center of our analysis and organizing practice.

-Andrea Smith,

Without Bureaucracy, Beyond Inclusion: Re-centering Feminism (2006)

A great read, I’d point out, though, that the feminist movement referred to in this quote started in Hispañola, the fight came to North America in 1607.

Gender Revolution in Practice and Theory.

When she theorised about androgynous communities, Dworkin was pointing the way to dismantle patriarchy.  For her, the patriarchy is so tied up in creating and enforcing the differences between women and men so it can then privilege men over women, that the destruction of patriarchy is necessitated by the destruction of the polemic genders.

She offered support for the idea of humans as androgynous beings in our natural state, suggested that we once were androgynous in previous, more egalitarian cultures.  Somewhere along the way it became advantageous for men to draw distinctions between themselves and women, positioning themselves as a new, dominant class.  The creation and enforcement of a gender classification was for the purpose of domination.

The strict classification of gender ignored all of the variety found in the way different interplays of hormones affect people’s biology and behavior.  Instead of each person expressing their own unique hormonal balance, these variations were pathologized as imbalances and corrected with therapy and surgery, all for the purpose of maintaining the binary and thus male hegemony.  Intersex and transpeople had to be erased in order to maintain the illusion of distinct classes.  Goddesses and androgynous deities were demonized to make room for the One True Male God.

I accept her thesis as a viable and practical way forward.  Unfortunately the feminist practice around this theory is incredibly lacking.  The ways femininity as construct has been applied has lead to an entrenchment of transphobia and masculinity (also a construct) within feminist circles.  Feminist practice often resembles more of a reactionary defense of the cissupremacist status quo than a genuine determination to destroy the gender binary.  It manifests in a judgement of those who practice certain aspects of gender and sex rather than the underlying patriarchy behind the practices.

Queer theorists have been developing ways for us to move forward, and, as it is in its infancy, there are many limitations and wrong turns.  However, there is great value in what’s being developed in spite of its limitations.  I’d like to explore this and look at what’s valuable and what should be left behind or rejected.

Julia Serano has emerged as a controversial figure in this.  I’m not going to respond to the people who have been attempting to debunk her, those attempts so overtly belittle and misgender her that I have no desire to wade into those cesspools of transphobia.  No, I’d like to criticise where she’s lacking on established theory and highlight where she brings new, valuable insights into how we classify gender.

Serano’s take on femininity is one of the more controversial aspects, I think it’s also where she’s the most theoretically sloppy.  Her perspective seems more of a response to cissexist feminist practice without a full understanding of feminist theory.  In talking about femininity Serano often conflates it with women, for example, when she says that the rejection of femininity by feminists is misogynistic.  It may be poor practice, but it is not hostility to women.

Her take on feminism seems to lack an overall understanding of power dynamics and how it charges every relationship.  Her feminism is of the reactionary equalism variety, it’s not focused on ending the patriarchy but on viewing everyone as equal without considering the grip male domination has on all aspects of life.

While I reject Serano’s feminism, I find great value in her deconstruction of gender.  I still see limitations in the theory but I think it offers avenues to move forward.  The first notable aspect is her take on the essentialist vs. constructionist debate.  Serano explores the ways hormones affect behavior in a way that makes both camps nervous and she comes to the conclusion that neither is entirely correct.

She offers her experience with the way testosterone blockers dramatically change the way she experiences emotions and sexuality.  She describes the absence of testosterone as a fog lifting off of her emotions, allowing her to experience the full range of ups and downs.  I’ve heard transmen express that when they begin taking testosterone the opposite happens and they suddenly have to learn to manage their anger in new ways to avoid becoming monsters.

The gender essentialists would say this shows that men are naturally more aggressive and angry and that rape and abuse are natural expressions of maleness.  Social constructionists would disregard it as anecdotal and insist that male aggression is entirely socialised.  Serano recognises that testosterone makes it harder for people (regardless of gender) to process their emotions and that society warps that real effect into a essential maleness that both encourages men to be aggressive and gives them an easy excuse to not manage their anger while simultaneously punishing women for expressing their anger.  Her theory is that the different effects of hormones are used to justify the divisions between male and female.  I think it’s important to recognise this insight and realise that hormonal balances are unique to each individual, making the range of expression and biology just as unique.

I also find value in her model of gender and sexuality.  She breaks it down into three separate spectra.  The use of spectra is a limitation in seeing gender in post-patriarchy terms, but I think it is valuable to describe gender within the terms of the status quo.  The spectra are as follows:

Sexuality (attracted to)

men<———->women

Innate Gender (your identification)

man<———–>woman

Gender Expression

masculine<————->feminine

The limitations are apparent in the use of the binary to describe the spectra.  In a post-patriarchy world where the gender binary is gone, this model would make no sense.  The valuable part is that it allows each individual to plot their own unique positions on each aspect of their identity.  It disregards the connection between sexuality and gender that most people hold and frees one to the world of possible androgynous genders.

Too Often Overlooked

Adult privilege is one that anti-oppression activists overlook too often.  Here’s a great check-list unpacking it:

The Adult Privilege Check-list

Sex Pos Movement? On Self Liberation and Social Liberation

Last night at work I had this wild fluttering feeling rushing up my chest.  It was a mild one, it’s the kind of feeling I get when I’m falling in love (something I try to do as often as possible.)  When I’m in love I can stand right there in the dish hole and have an orgasm just thinking about the subject of my affection, not the sticky ejaculate kind that people with penises usually associate with orgasms, but the ones that shoot electricity out of your fingertips and ears.  The kind that only people with cunts, or who know the joys of prostate play are able to achieve.

I thought it interesting because I’m not currently falling in love, but it made me realise that this winter I’ve been neglecting my anus, that changed this week and therefore dish washing orgasmic rushes ensued.

I should back-up.  Back to two summers ago, when I was a very confused man, or was still trying to be a man, anyway.  I’d been reading lots of queer theory, I was very interested in it because I had this unshakable feeling that I wasn’t a man, really.  The feeling manifested in the occasional (any occasion I could find) cross-dressing from early adolescence on.

My only concept of transpeople was the mainstream myths, transwomen who hate their body, live in stealth and are attracted to men.  None of that was me, so I was confused.  When I read Whipping Girl by Julia Serano it clicked, I now had a framework to explore my gender and sexuality.

I was now thinking about my gender in a way that made sense but what really got my transition going was sex.  That fall I had an encounter with a queer woman who was in town visiting a mutual friend.  It was the first time I had sex and didn’t have to play the role of the dominant lover.  In the past I’d fallen into that role out of default because of my male body but this was so different.  I didn’t play the sub, it was truly equal, we made love like equals, following each other’s leads and expressing our desires and comfort levels freely.  I felt so liberated.  It was healing, for both of us as she later revealed in correspondence.  She’ll always have a special place in my heart for that long distance love affair.

I’m telling this story because I want to make it clear just how deeply I understand the feeling among sex positive people that they are a part of a movement for social liberation.  They’re not though.  The sex positive movement, like anything dealing with sex, is so poisoned by patriarchy and capitalism that it can only be a reactionary movement.

At the next burlesque show look around at the creepers in the audience, they’re not interested in “strong female sexuality”, they want to see a peep show, these strong women are objects to them.  Take a look at the people profiting from the show, they don’t want social liberation, they want to make a buck off of women’s bodies.  If the show has any subversive content, look at how the audience converses right through it only to hoop and holler at the next pretty young thang to get out there and shake it.

Making your own porn may be fun, it may be a source of personal liberation, but it does nothing to liberate the thousands of women who are subjected to the institutionalised rape of the porn industry.  Tying your D.I.Y. porn into a broader movement opens markets to the people who are profiting from the porn institution, making more opportunities to rape under the guise of liberation.

I understand the self liberation that sexuality can bring, I think it’s wonderful.  It was a turning point in my life.  I’ll not let that personal liberation be co-opted by a reactionary movement just because I might believe it’s contributing to a social movement.  It’s not, that liberation is a selfish one and that’s okay.  It’s like that vegan bike punk who thinks they’re making a dent in our toxic culture with their lifestyle, they’re not.  Riding a bike frees you from the tyranny of car culture, but only you.

“We Don’t Need Another Wave”

To borrow my title from Melody Berger.  She’s right, the focus on waves only highlights differences among feminists when the core concerns have always been the same.  Trends and tendencies come in and out of the forefront, internal hypocracies keep coming up to be addressed and re-addressed.  The mistrust between radical and liberal feminists is a constant. What has really changed?  Femininity, sex and porn, racism, classism, the disagreements and alienations are all still there, our revolution’s camps can’t be neatly described with waves

As the revolution pushes forward, new contradictions will come to light and we’ll have to address those, too.  However, the core mission remains and as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, we still hold the bigotry and chauvinism of previous feminist generations.  This has been painfully highlighted for me recently, when I discovered the wonderful world of transphobic radfem blogs, while my group of blogger comrades had a falling out over trans-exclusion.

I’ve been defensive as a radfem, I’ve defended our transphobia as a relic of the past, or at least a waning legacy of the second wave.  You can imagine my shock to see that it’s a trend that is alive and well, and not just at Michigyn.  I hope it’s a waning trend, certainly there are no prominent authors publishing books like, The Transsexual Empire.

These overtly tranphobic blogs might be dismissed as a fringe current that long ago lost the attention of the movement.  I could buy that without deluding myself, more troubling however, is the popular blogs that have a cissexist undercurrent to them that goes chronically unchecked.  Take, for example, Twisty’s so called “Laurence Fishburne” test on the subject of feminity.  Imagine a man, like Laurence Fishburne, or one with a similar gravitas, doing something, if he’d look ridiculous doing it then it’s a feminine practice.

I happen to think Laurence Fishburne would look great doing all sorts of feminine things.  The transphobes following her blog would think it ridiculous, but they’d think I look ridiculous every time I walk down the street.  Here’s a picture of a big macho muscle man, one with a Fishburnesque gravitas:

I think he looks great, transphobes may disagree, cissexist might lecture him that his bucking of the gender binary degrades women.  Yes his chest and feet are bound, that’s problematic, but does he look ridiculous?  I don’t think so.

So, let’s remember, the legacy of Daly and Ramond are with us, it can’t be put into waves.  Even at the time there were people questioning it, and today it persists.

So, to borrow from Berger once again: “We don’t need another wave.  We need a movement.”

Stuck in the Binary

What is androgyny?  Dworkin said it’s a multiplicity of genders, where human interactions and expressions are not constrained by the polemic genders, or as queer theorists put it, the gender binary.  It’s a compelling theory, one that speaks to me and my personal struggle as a genderqueer person.

How do we practice androgyny?  Some of the more orthodox followers of Dworkin practice it by rejecting femininity, not just the aspects that are designed to enforce submission, but all of it.  They don’t have much practical rejection of masculinity, in most of these circles androgyny is imagined as women who are masculine.

In queer circles androgynous practice is a little more varied, there are soft butches, sissies, studs, queens.  The possibilities are much broader and the performance of femininity is incorporated as an aesthetic rather than subjugation, though it can be practised in ways that reinforce sexism.

In the mainstream imagination we have pictures of androgyny that include people like Ziggy Stardust, Ellen Degenerase, Boy George.

All of these models of androgyny have one thing in common, they incorporate some aspect(s) of the gender binary.  Is there any way to perform completely outside of the binary?  As long as it is in existence, it will inform our imagination of what androgyny can be.  The only way to destroy it is take all aspects of it and rearrange, bend, fuck and confuse it out of existence until what we wear and how we act is no longer considered masculine or feminine but just us.

Reclamation

I’m a queer as fuck tranny dyke.  While that label comes nowhere close to the nuances that make up my person, it’s about the simplest breakdown I can make.  I can only make sense of my gender and sexuality through the language of my oppressors.  I can only make sense of myself through reclamation.

I accept that femininity is oppressive, I accept that masculinity is oppressive…

However,

When I wear pink, or tight booty pants whose crotches are less than accommodating, or fairy wings, or cute shoes and scarves, when I cry, that’s not an attempt to buy into the classification that says I’m feminine.  It’s a big old FUCK YOU to the gender binary and all of those who would make me perform it.

I’ll not have lectures from cisfeminists who want to dictate the way I navigate the binary.  We’re all trying to survive the patriarchy and find our true selves burried under all of this toxic oppression.  That’s my struggle, I do it through reclamation.

Welcome Savage Death Island Ambassadors.

I hope we can have a dialog, because the intersections of queer theory and feminism are very difficult to navigate, especially the radical varieties.  We should be natural allies and yet we have many differences to work out, mostly blindspots in our theories and praxis.  A quick note to all of the SDIslanders who are sending me hate mail, I’m just going to delete it, to those of you who are here to talk about theory and praxis, welcome.

Twisty does a great job of breaking down the theory around the oppressiveness of femininity. She’s way more up on this stuff than me so that’s to be expected, and it’s all solid theory, so thanks for the learning, I know you don’t like to talk about basic blamer stuff on your blog.

I’m still a little tripped up on how it’s applied.  My comrade makes a great break-down over here, and I’d like to let their words and our dialog there speak for themself, I’d urge any advanced blamers who are interested to offer their perspective.

One of the points of my post, the one Twisty was responding to, was to talk about cissexism in feminism.  So, while I appreciate the schooling, Twisty, I’d also like to talk about where you have cisprivileged blind-spots.  If you’re interested in specifics I can talk about it with you.  I don’t see a need for a public call out.

So, advanced blamers, I appreciate the chance to have this dialog on the destruction of gender, I hope we can get to the bottom of the rift.

Best Comment Policy EVAR!

Over at angrymarxists.  Good work ragingvlad!

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.