I have been accused, in the past, of being a ‘handmaiden’ to trans politics (really) or of being biased.
What I am a handmaiden to is representing both sides of an argument with respect; discovering where and when someone is theorizing a person’s sexuality as if their humanity were not important, and in underlining any attempt to fetishize, pathologize, or other the complaints made by people when they are being presented in belittling, dehumanizing ways.
That’s what I didn’t like about that New Yorker article. It took a lot of ideas – ideas that aren’t wholly without merit, I might add – and presented them as if the people who object to them are just a bunch of angry nutjobs.
Julia Serano wrote an open letter about the article, in which she said:
But what really bothers me is that your mainstream readers (most of whom have little-to-no prior knowledge about radical feminism or transgender activism) will most likely not see through the article’s journalistic-ish veneer, and will assume that it represents an “objective” and “unbiased” presentation of the situation. And they will assume that transgender activists are mean people and completely out of control, because they have not been offered any evidence to suggest otherwise. And the insinuations that Goldberg makes throughout her article — that trans people act irrationally, are sexually deviant, and potentially dangerous — will seem to have “truthiness” to your readers, because the media has been propagating these very stereotypes of us for almost half a century. And when your readers do eventually meet a real-life trans person, perhaps they will misgender them, or dismiss them as a “pervert,” and justify those acts by referencing a New Yorker article they once read.
As I’ve said before and as I will say many times again, people do not even realize the depth of their own transphobic views. They don’t realize that these definitional framings of gender are both false and so, so, so not objective. I have had arguments with myself and other deeply felt and thought feminists over the years and examined all of these ideas, such as Blanchard’s, to the point of pain.
What I have realized, ultimately, is that I dislike the radfem take on women not because it’s radical, or because it dehumanizes trans women (although those help). It’s that it fails to take it’s own standpoint into the analysis, fails to realize that the definition of gender as a class of oppression – one I don’t disagree with – is highly, highly subjective.
That is, I don’t like their stuff because it’s cracking bad theory. Anyway.
As ever, more to come.