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.

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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!

Feminist Femmes

During this past week’s transeruption on I Blame the Patriarchy, Twisty enumerated a few items from the Savage Death Island’s Constitution after her defense of transwomen’s access to women only spaces.  The first items she listed is this:

Femininity, the practice of femininity, and the fetishization of femininity degrades all women, regardless of the gender assignment of the practitioner or fetishizer.

While I appreciate the offer of transinclusion, I can’t help but feel that this is a dig at transwomen.  I think there’s a good deal of cissexism in Twisty’s take on the issue and she has a few blind-spots.

In the comments of this blog a comrade, irateandri, expressed the following:

I was initially a little concerned over what you were saying because I see so many expectations pushed onto transwomen. Be more feminine or you won’t pass and your identity as a woman will be further called into question; be less feminine or you’re just reinforcing Patriarchy. Be less masculine or you’re making women feel unsafe, be more masculine or you’re merely performing a pathetic caricature of femininity. There is no safe way to be a woman if you are trans, it is always poisoned by cissupremacy.

One of the factors that excludes many transwomen (at the very least, the ones who are feminine) from feminism is the rejection of femininity.  With all of the cissexist expectations put on her, how can a transwoman feel safe with people who insist that her gender expression is a contrived tool of her oppressor.

It takes a lot of cisprivilege to lecture transwomen on the ways they navigate society’s gender expectations.  At it’s heart, the rejection of femininity is a male-centred way of thinking.  The assumption that femininity is for attracting men.

I’ve heard it expressed by ciswomen that they have to moderate the way they express their gender because every random man on the street will assume her presentation is just for him rather than an expression of her own agency.  One woman who enjoys all sorts of femmie things; makeup, dresses, glitter, feels she can’t were low cut tops, not because she doesn’t like her cleavage, but because she doesn’t want every man on the street drooling down it.

To borrow a phrase from Julia Serano, let’s put the feminine back in feminism.   I’ll leave you with a few quotes of her’s from a 2007 Bitch Magazine interview,

I’m not attracted to men. [But] sometimes I like getting dressed up, but I know that when I do, men on the street will comment more, people are going to perceive me as dressing that way in order to gain attention. And that sucks, because that’s not what my motive is. But the other option is to repress my femininity or repress my desire to dress up when I feel the desire to do so. And that’s what I did most of my life as a male. And that sucks, too.

—-

In feminism and in the queer community, there’s a strong anti-feminine attitude. If you look at the gay male community, masculinity is praised, femininity is suspect. If you look at the lesbian community, masculinity is praised, femininity is suspect. We have to get that out of our heads. Whenever I hear a feminist argue that women are subordinating themselves to men when they dress up, to me it sounds like a slightly toned-down version of “women who dress provocatively are asking for it.” It’s the same argument.

Reinventing the Wheel

In our organizations, we need to have a systematic way of figuring out what are the basic acceptable norms of behavior, and having a response to patriarchy that isn’t a one-size-fit-all response.

-Diary of a disparaged CNA

Years ago, my local anarchist scene had a community wide meeting on abuse and rape within the movement.  A good portion of the male leadership had been called out for abusive behavior that, in a few cases, involved sexual assault and rape.  There were accountability processes happening, there was disillusionment in said processes, there was anger, pain, a wide gamut of raw emotions.  Tensions ran very high, a number of people had to leave, some in tears.  It was a difficult meeting to have.

One thing that really stuck with me in that meeting was something one of the older members said.  She’d been around longer than most people in the room.  She said, “We keep reinventing the wheel on this shit.”  Every generation of activists seems to get blind-sided when someone gets raped.

I can remember my response when I first heard about it happening in my community.  I was shocked.  Aren’t we supposed to be better than that?  I’d taken it for granted that radicals were above that shit.  It lead to a lot of reflections in the way that I, personally, had perpetuated patriarchy.

There have been some attempts to develop models for community accountability, but they usually seem to be one-size-fits-all.  As the disparage CNA puts it:

With patriarchal behavior, there is a range of it. Some require more intense and sometimes, even violent responses. Others can be transformed. Often times,  patriarchal BEHAVIOR within the class, is also product of the contradictions of capitalism.

So, while we can’t assume one size fits all, we also need to stop reinventing the wheel.  Obviously the end goal is destroying patriarchy, but how can we do that if we don’t feel safe among comrades?

More on Transwomen and Male Privilege

The following is a comment in response to “Cisfeminism, Transwomen and Male Privilege” on a feminist forum:

I feel like it’s important to qualify that there is a big difference between attempting to exercise male privilege, what Bornstein calls male behavior, and actually having male privilege extended to you by others. when I came out by just telling people I identify as a woman, people generally still extended male privilege my direction, but when I came out by actually presenting that way — being “full time” — nobody extended male privilege to me any more.

I agree that there’s a distinction between how you act and how others treat you.  I’m sure I am extended more male privilege by others than many transwomen, esspecially those who live in stealth, because I’m genderqueer and my transition doesn’t involve any medical changes.  I’d be very cautious with this line of thinking though.  There seems to be two big problems with it that allow it to be used to reinforce  both male supremacy and cissexism.

It would be too simplistic to ignore that male privilege is also extended based on your behavior, not just your appearance.  A transwoman who shows learned male behavior will have people deferring to her privilege regardless of her appearance.  This reinforces male supremacy by taking accountability off of the individual flexing their privilege and putting it on everyone else.

That dynamic is especially problematic in women’s only spaces.   A ciswoman is put in the paradoxical position of having to call out male privilege in a supposedly safe space while not being cissexist.  If accountability is pushed from the woman not checking her privilege to the others in the space then the appearance of cissexism is impossible to avoid.

Let’s also consider the implicit cissexism in the thinking that male privilege extended from others is a factor in determining access to women’s spaces.  Earlier I wrote that I likely am extended more male privilege than many transwomen.  However, transwomen who do not use hormones, hair removal or facial surgery will also be extended more male privilege, this is a consequence of cissexism.

Do we really want to open the door for others to be able to determine womanhood or maleness based on our appearance, or how feminine we are.  Is a transwoman who can’t afford SRS, hormones and fashionable clothes any less of a woman?  Should her access to women’s spaces be determined by how feminine she feels like presenting that day?  No, the only factor that should go into a transwoman’s inclusion in a safe space is how well she does at checking her privilege at the door.

Jhasmin Player

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