I had the introduction to a diary that continued my analysis of Susan Sontag's essay, Notes on Camp, all written, and then, on my way to the main library in downtown Los Angeles (I have a new project: seven, and possibly eight, articles for the forthcoming SAGE Encyclopedia on Advertising and Society on topics like Banks and Advertising and the Marlboro Man), I opened my kindle, tapped on the latest issue (August 4) of the New Yorker, and found an article by Michelle Goldberg, "What Is a Woman?" about the dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism, one that I had no idea existed. As I read on, I became more and more annoyed by radical feminism. So you'll know where this is going, the issue of gender identity rankles radical feminists because, and I don't think I'm simplifying here, no matter where a transgender woman is in her transition, even if it is complete, she still carries the male sense of privilege and entitlement with her.
Now, admittedly, I should be cautious here because I am about to be snarky about a group of people and I remember what happened to my status here when I was snarky about the science of bisexuality (the reason why the great majority of my diaries since the end of March have been, if not for a community diary like Top Comments or IAN, on "safe" issues like, well, Camp). But there's some stuff here that feels like what was being put out by groups like the "ex-gay" movement, and that's the material which I think deserves to have a bright light shone upon it.
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A couple of caveats at the beginning. I noticed when I was doing some research for this that there has already been pushback from the trans-woman perspective, and that's the side I'm taking in this discussion. I'm pretty sure you know that in comments I've suggested that we think of our demands as a five word phrase: sexual orientation and gender identity, and that we stop using one without the other when we're discussing politics. I'm also going to do my best to tell you what time it is instead of telling you how to make a watch, which is REALLY tempting with some of the underlying concepts involved here.
Anyhow, here's how the problem is presented. It's an old dispute, and it began in 1973 over the scheduled performance of a trans-woman at a Lesbian conference. The net of it is that you have to be BORN a woman to BE a woman. Never mind anything Jdith Butler says about all gender being performative:
In this view, gender is less an identity than a caste position. Anyone born a man retains male privilege in society; even if he chooses to live as a woman and accept a correspondingly subordinate social position; the fact that he has a choice means that he can never understand what being a woman is really like. By extension, when trans women demand to be accepted as women they are simply exercising another form of male entitlement.Naturally, that spurred what I think is a justified reaction:
All this enrages trans women and their allies, who point to the discrimination that trans people endure; although radical feminism is far from achieving all its goals, women have won far more formal equality than trans people have. In most states, it's legal to fire someone for being transgender, and transgender people can't serve in the military. A recent survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found overwhelming levels of anti-trans violence and persecution. Forty-one per cent of respondents said that they had attempted suicide.Exactly. So what form does this radical feminist "objection" take? Let me introduce you to Sheila Jeffreys, a professor in Political Science at the University of Melbourne in Australia. According to Goldberg, she considers gender-reassignment surgery a form of genital mutilation, she insists on calling trans-women "He" and trans-men "She", and she says that men "demote" themselves to womanhood
for reasons of sexual fetishism . . . . She substantiates her argument with the highly controversial theories of Ray Blanchard, a retired professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and the related work of J. Michael Bailey, a psychology professor at Northwestern University. Contrary to widespread belief, Blanchard says, the majority of trans women in the West start off not as effeminate gay men but as straight or bisexual men, and they are initially motivated by erotic compulsion rather than by any conceived female identity. "The core is, it's really exciting for guys to imagine themselves with female breasts, or female breasts and a vulva," he told me. To describe the syndrome, Blanchard coined the term "autogynephilia," meaning sexual arousal at the thought of oneself as female.So this has confounded some radical feminists because they won't accept the idea that they have to be trans-inclusive. It's becoming a society which forgets that being born female has consequences, they say. I was waiting for one of the radical feminists to say that trans-people were trying to adopt the feminine or masculine lifestyle, in the manner of, say, Matt Barber. HELL, no.
Mari Brighe (a lesbian cis-woman) at autostraddle.com, you may have the penultimate word:
As for Michelle Goldbergâs essay, if what she pitched to the staff of the The New Yorker was an investigation of both sides of the trans activists and radical feminist conflict, I think itâs fair to say that she failed miserably. In any case, the editorial staff of The New Yorker should be ashamed for allowing it print.Well, maybe not ashamed; I wouldn't (and you wouldn't) have known about this otherwise. Here we have a group of feminists who still want to keep anyone they define as a man out of womyn's-only space. I'll admit that there are spaces for gay men that I'm glad don't admit women, but I don't think they should necessarily bar trans-men (so I'm not being a hypocrite here).
I guess people will believe whatever they want to believe. I'm sorry that a very few radical feminists have found themselves lying in the same bed with people they'd call bigots, but that's the only conclusion I can come to here.
And now for the stuff that makes this Top Comments:
TOP COMMENTS, July 30, 2014: Thanks to tonight's Top Comments contributors! Let us hear from YOU when you find that proficient comment.
I'm submitting poco's comment. with a link to a newscaster in tears, in Timeaus's diary about the White House condemnation of an attack on a UN Shelter in Gaza because (and read cai's comment too) it's all too easy for "adult" "reasoned" discussion to preclude showing or even feeling real, human reactions to the deaths of children.From Puddytat:
Nearly splattered the monitor with soda when I read zadatz's description of how hard it is to unsubscribe from a mailing list, and brillig's funny reply to it. Swallow whatever you have in your mouth first.From your diarist, Dave in Northridge:
mconvente makes an excellent point about how California under a Democratic administration disproves St. Ronnie's famous statement about the government in Puddytat's equally excellent diary about the travails of Governor google-eyed homunculus's reelection campaign.TOP MOJO, July 29, 2014 (excluding Tip Jars and first comments):
Â Â 1) It isn't rocket surgery. by SantaFeMarie â 246For an explanation of How Top Mojo Works, see mik's FAQing Top Mojo
Â Â 2) I call them Ammosexuals. by Walt starr â 153
Â Â 3) FWIW, someone was saying persuasively that by Timaeus â 147
Â Â 4) This is not news, not an accident by Sandino â 147
Â Â 5) Obstruction by Demi Moaned â 130
Â Â 6) He isn't the only NRA murderer. Harlon Carter is by Just Bob â 124
Â Â 7) What is wrong with... by thoreau32 â 120
Â Â 8) Then you'd definitely appreciate this: by Tamar â 117
Â Â 9) GOP states have enacted many Sharia laws by MartyM â 117
10) What a scary story. by onionjim â 114
11) It's a good thing he wasn't carrying toothpaste. by raboof â 107
12) The most morally depraved people are always... by The Termite â 104
13) Peace and blessings by gchaucer2 â 98
14) Thousands, maybe many thousands, will die of by Timaeus â 95
15) You mean an MD/PhD can be a complete wacko? by DrTerwilliker â 94
16) And the Republican House members say the poor a... by Done4nau â 92
17) Serious matter by MarEng â 91
18) Well, he was legal until he took it off his back. by CwV â 91
19) Trust me, employees and colleagues by cassandracarolina â 90
20) You wanna talk about heroes? by minorityusa â 87
21) Technically a gun by NMDad â 86
22) and their ex-president's son... by Glen The Plumber â 85
23) Blowhard at the coffee shop a few days ago by indycam â 84
24) Please stop doing this by IQof20 â 84
25) but it's LEGAL in Arizona and his Riiiiight! by MartyM â 79
26) Did Starbucks ask him to say "Grande?" by Yoshimi â 78
27) Let me get this straight... by DaveinBremerton â 76
28) Or had a cast on their foot. by Damnit Janet â 74
29) Ben Carson. Nuff said. by zenbassoon â 73
30) no water. no sanitation. How long before by bkamr â 73
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