Category: feminism

Catharine A. MacKinnon on Trans Women

Posted by – May 28, 2015

I’ve always been a fan of hers even when I disagree with her. But this? Made me joyful. She was asked how her views have changed over the years:

Certain things that I have had an inkling about have grown over time, for example, concerning transgender people. I always thought I don’t care how someone becomes a woman or a man; it does not matter to me. It is just part of their specificity, their uniqueness, like everyone else’s. Anybody who identifies as a woman, wants to be a woman, is going around being a woman, as far as I’m concerned, is a woman. Many transwomen are more feminist than a lot of born women who don’t much want to be women (for understandable reasons), who don’t really identify with women, some of whom are completely anti-feminist. The fact that they’re biologically female does not improve things.

To me, women is a political group. I never had much occasion to say that, or work with it, until the last few years when there has been a lot of discussion about whether transwomen are women. I discovered I more or less have always had a view on it, developed through transwomen I know, and have met, including prostituted ones, who are some of the strongest feminists in opposition to prostitution I’ve ever encountered. They are a big improvement on the born women who defend pimps and johns, I can tell you that. Many transwomen just go around being women, who knew, and suddenly, we are supposed to care that they are using the women’s bathroom. There they are in the next stall with the door shut, and we’re supposed to feel threatened. I don’t. I don’t care. By now, I aggressively don’t care.

Simone de Beauvoir said one is not born, one becomes a woman. Now we’re supposed to care how, as if being a woman suddenly became a turf to be defended. I have become more impassioned and emphatic as I have become more informed, and with the push-back from colleagues who take a very different view. Unfortunately some people have apparently physically defended their transition, also. This kind of change develops your views is a further in response to a sharpening of developments in the world. But the law Andrea Dworkin and I wrote gives “transsexuals” rights explicitly; that was 1983. We were thinking about it; we just didn’t know as much as it is possible to know now.

I have a hard time believing someone who is so language-aware used the term “turf” unintentionally there. And she’s right about the Minnesota Ordinance; I was just teaching it again and was surprised that trans people are mentioned and included specifically. Here’s another interview with MacKinnon with TransAdvocate where she reiterates these points.

By now, I aggressively don’t care. And this from a feminist – nay, maybe *the* feminist – who takes women’s experience of patriarchal violence and women’s fear of violence about as seriously as a person can.

Mark Ruffalo Brings the Feminism

Posted by – May 27, 2015

We’ve all seen them – the videos by young women proclaiming they are not feminists. Most of us just roll are eyes, but Mark Ruffalo decided to respond. And wow, does he.

“My response to the “I am not a feminist” internet phenomenon….

First of all, it’s clear you don’t know what feminism is. But I’m not going to explain it to you. You can google it. To quote an old friend, “I’m not the feminist babysitter.”

But here is what I think you should know.

You’re insulting every woman who was forcibly restrained in a jail cell with a feeding tube down her throat for your right to vote, less than 100 years ago.

You’re degrading every woman who has accessed a rape crisis center, which wouldn’t exist without the feminist movement.

You’re undermining every woman who fought to make marital rape a crime (it was legal until 1993).

You’re spitting on the legacy of every woman who fought for women to be allowed to own property (1848). For the abolition of slavery and the rise of the labor union. For the right to divorce. For women to be allowed to have access to birth control (Comstock laws). For middle and upper class women to be allowed to work outside the home (poor women have always worked outside the home). To make domestic violence a crime in the US (It is very much legal in many parts of the world). To make workplace sexual harassment a crime.

In short, you know not what you speak of. You reap the rewards of these women’s sacrifices every day of your life. When you grin with your cutsey sign about how you’re not a feminist, you ignorantly spit on the sacred struggle of the past 200 years. You bite the hand that has fed you freedom, safety, and a voice.

In short, kiss my ass, you ignorant little jerks.”

It’s the cutesy sign bit that really nails it, no?

Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted by – May 17, 2015

In case the MRA guys calling for a boycott of the movie isn’t a good enough reason for you, I saw it last night and loved it. Maybe it will come as a surprise that I tend to like fast movies with a lot of explosions – but I do. It’s beyond that, though: the art of it is occasionally striking, the attention to detail is intense, and there were actually a couple of scenes that made me tear up. The world building strikes me as pretty damn complete, too.

& Of course Theron is unbelievable, but so is Hardy as Mad Max. Really, the dude grunts better, in character, than any other action hero I’ve ever seen. Not that that’s a high bar, but still.

Mostly it’s a dystopian vision of a movie – strong female characters, interesting commentary on patriarchal violence, and environmentalism.

Also, the MRA guys hate it. As a (male) friend of mine wrote, “I mean, I just kinda wanna give them each a cookie and pinch their cheeks, and tell them that they’re big, strong men and their mommies really did love them, and that it’s gonna be okay.”

But if you don’t believe me, go check out The Mary Sue review.

This Mother’s Day Weekend

Posted by – May 9, 2015

I came across this beautiful letter by Amy Young – “An Open Letter to Pastors (A Non-Mom Speaks About Mother’s Day)” and was really blown away.

She felt shamed in her church when mothers were asked to stand and she wasn’t one. I’ve seen similar posts all over my Facebook newsfeed – from those who survived toxic mothers to those who couldn’t have children or whose children have died or run away or who are lost to addiction.

The thing is, there’s a lot of mothering out there to do, and a lot to be had, and I think this gets at some of the million ways women have to contend with this category, this supposed birthright, this expectation.

I’ve never felt ‘less than’ as a non-mom — for me, it’s a victory that I withstood the pressure, having watched so many female friends who didn’t want children decide to have them — and I’d want to assert, out loud again, that not having children is not even a little terrible. I’m happy to have an identity that is not dependent on having given birth or even to mothering a child. I don’t feel my capacity for love or pain or selflessness is less. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on an essential experience of woman-ness, either; we are all women in different ways, and while being a mother may be what some women want more than any other thing, I think it’s hard to judge what you want in a culture that tells us, from birth, that we should want children or we are somehow deficient.

I’m not deficient. I’m a person who chose not to have children, and I’m very, very glad I did.

So here’s Amy Young’s list, which she wrote to “address the wide continuum of mothering”:


To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Tina Fey is a Miracle

Posted by – May 8, 2015

I know she’s a comedian & all, but this still took guts:

& Honestly, to hell with Spanx.

Me & My Ball #michfest

Posted by – April 23, 2015

Lisa Vogel announced yesterday that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, now in its 40th year, will depart the stage this year; the 40th will be the last.

An event that has empowered so many women, one of the last amazing coming-to-consciouness feminist events, is shutting down because they can’t just take the one tiny leap of admitting trans women openly and willingly.

Trans women will no doubt be blamed for the end of this event, when really, as Autumn Sandeen put it, “…trans womyn have attended MichFest for many years — trans womyn who identify themselves as womyn-born-womyn. She doesn’t have to change the change the womyn-born-womyn intention, she just needs to say ‘Trans womyn who identify as womyn-born-womyn are welcome at MichFest.’”

But they couldn’t, and didn’t: If me and my ball don’t pitch, me and my ball don’t play.

Heartbreaking that after all these years and all this dialogue, their answer was to give up and shut the doors.

NYC

Posted by – April 8, 2015

We’re off to NYC for a few days to participate in kinship ritual (my nephew’s getting married) & will be back in WI Monday night.

In the meantime, check out this interview with none other than Catharane A. MacKinnon on trans inclusion, wherein she states, “Simone de Beauvoir said one is not born, one becomes a woman. Now we’re supposed to care how, as if being a woman suddenly became a turf to be defended.” Great stuff.

Then too there’s this trailer for a new documentary about non-binary gender traditions.

Superhero

Posted by – April 2, 2015

Emma Holten’s Consent

Posted by – January 6, 2015

Here’s a smart piece about consent and revenge porn, in which a woman who was a victim of it decided to get new photos taken & publish them herself in order to establish her own agency & autonomy.

She doesn’t advise it for everyone, but she does say some smart things about the nature of sexualization and objectification. Such as:

Then, suddenly, I noticed that this dynamic – sexualisation against her will – was everywhere. Take ‘creepshots’, a global phenomenon which entails photographing women without their knowledge or consent, in order to share them in a sexual context online. On similar sites, people link to Facebook pages asking if anyone can hack or find more pictures of the girl. Here, again, women are used as objects whose lack of consent, of participation, provides the reason and allure of their sexualisation.

This dynamic is a commonplace online and is a concrete manifestation of a larger discourse around the female body, the notion that it is erotic to sexualise someone who is unaware. We all know the tropes: the sexy teacher/student/nurse/waiter/bartender/doctor. All jobs, if staffed by women, can be sexualised. What is sexy is not the job, not even the woman, but the fact that while the woman is just doing her job you are secretly sexualising her. She has become public property by simply being?

Do go read the whole thing. She is straightforward, pro sex, and thoughtful. It won’t solve the problem, but it feels empowered — dignity in the face of a shitty, sexist world.

HB in Pittsburgh

Posted by – October 26, 2014

Here’s a live podcast/radio show I did with Lynn Cullen while in Pittsburgh on Friday. She had just read the NYT article on trans people in women’s colleges, so I was explaining some of the language, for starters. But I found her description at YouTube cool, too:

Helen Boyd, author of “My Husband Betty” and gender studies lecturer extraordinaire for Lawrence University joins Lynn to discuss gender and trans issues. What began as a search for community has lend her to a path as a trans ally. Hopefully the world will follow her example.

Mind you, I hadn’t actually read the article before this, so I was only going on the snippets she read me.

Still Radical

Posted by – October 9, 2014

“She is forced to evolve her own life pattern, often living much of her life alone, learning usually much earlier than her “straight” (heterosexual) sisters about the essential aloneness of life (which the myth of marriage obscures) and about the reality of illusions. To the extent that she cannot expel the heavy socialization that goes with being female, she can never truly find peace with herself. For she is caught somewhere between accepting society’s view of her – in which case she cannot accept herself – and coming to understand what this sexist society has done to her and why it is functional and necessary for it to do so.”

– from “The Woman-Identified Woman” by Radicalesbians

Forget the transphobia of a tiny percentage of radfems for a moment, and read that beautiful piece again, or maybe for the first time. Is this not, in some ways, the essential truth of living in the world as trans, too?

Feminist Porn & Scaly Llamas

Posted by – August 25, 2014

No really, stick with me. A former student sent me this short interview with Tristan Taormino about feminist porn and was surprised to hear that 1 in 3 porn viewers are women. Surprised, because that’s an amazingly high percentage, & surprising, because as a feminist who has always been pro porn, that seems like a significant shift in the sexual/cultural landscape. But you can’t underestimate ease of access and privacy, and I suspect that being able to view porn on a home computer or mobile device makes it easy enough that women – who might otherwise not want to go to the kinds of places you have traditionally been able to see or buy porn – has made a huge change in things, much as VCRs did back in the day.

As a result: feminist porn, where labor is treated fairly (yes, labor – sex work IS work) and where maybe we need to rewrite the story.

Almost simultaneously, a friend sent me this link to female spec fic writer Kameron Hurley talking about what it’s like to write female characters, and especially why she writes female characters who are soldiers and warriors. And while I think her initial example – of those scaly llamas – confuses the subject a bit, she’s basically saying that we see writers write women as the women who have always been written and that those of us who are women even participate in this because This Is How Women Are Written. If you write them any other way, there will be objections, right? We must believe it is exceptional and rare for women to be in power, or violent, because that is not the story about women that has been told time and time again.

This interview and this blog post intersect in a cool way, no? If you always present women (and men, for that matter) as the same kind of sexual beings they have always been in porn, you get the same porn. But what happens when women are portrayed as dominant, as multiply orgasmic, as physically strong? What happens when men care for or love deeply the women they have sex with, and that is apparent in porn? What if men are shown to forego or postpone their own desire in order to make sure the woman is satisfied? What happens?

Well, you can watch feminist porn and see for yourself that llamas aren’t scaly. That’s what happens. Maybe, in fact, we’ll get around to seeing human sexuality &desire on screen that’s far more what we know sex to be.

Serano Clarifies: That New Yorker Article

Posted by – August 5, 2014

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.

That New Yorker Article

Posted by – August 2, 2014

I’m still on the road so this won’t be complete, but it’s sad to see such a biased article on the divisions between trans identity and feminist politics, especially by a major magazine that could have done worlds better.

My main complaints?

  • few and buried quotes by trans people
  • nothing from trans inclusive (cis) feminists
  • fairly useless bits from Blanchard
  • in general, poor framing of the definitional debate involved.

I’ll write more at length at a later date.

#ToHellwiththeNFL

Posted by – July 26, 2014

4th.

Posted by – July 4, 2014

hijabi superheroes (2)Happy 4th of July to one & all!

(For more about this Captain America, check io9’s post about the artist and the drawings.)

Shakespeare Rewrite

Posted by – July 1, 2014

Some are born great

Some achieve greatness

And some have greatness given to them through systemic inequality

— from dearnonacepeople.tumblr.com, via buzzfeed, and h/t to Bri

Hobby Lobbied

Posted by – June 30, 2014

There’s a part of me that wishes we could all go back to bed and pretend it’s Sunday night so that there would still be a chance these awful rulings wouldn’t have been handed down by the Supreme Court today, but they were.

The first is that labor unions can’t collect dues automatically from the workers they represent in negotiations with the management. It will decimate labor unions and workers’ rights.

The second is that corporations don’t have to cover contraception. The fear is that this will allow corporations to decide what kind of healthcare they have to insure. What’s happened is this: we are not talking about an individual being able to choose based on religious exemptions. We’re talking about a corporation being able to. As Justice Ginsberg put it:

In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Theoretically, then, a corporation could not provide pre natal care, trans health care, etc. If the company is owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, they could deny all access to modern medicine because that’s their religious beliefs. Also, “contraception” isn’t just the pill; it’s also the shot (Depo-Provera), the ring (Nuvaring), contraceptive implants (IUD), diaphragms, cervical caps and permanent contraceptive methods, like tubal ligation. I haven’t read yet if it includes vasectomies, but it should (and I’m guessing doesn’t, because patriarchy).

The fear is a slippery slope where religious exemptions are claimed in order to deny LGBTQ+ people employment or marriage benefits. Why should they have to cover my wife’s health insurance if they believe my marriage is immoral and against their religious beliefs?

Here are some of Justice Ginsberg’s best quotes in her dissent, some of the major issues, and a brief synopsis of her grounds for it.

The good news, if there is any good news, is that most corporations will continue to cover contraception because financially, speaking, birth control is way easier to pay for than pregnancy.

Choice.

Posted by – June 5, 2014

I’m teaching Amartya Sen’s “More Than 100 Million Women are Missing” tomorrow, mostly to bring out issues about choice, which we, as Western feminists, tend to think is almost always a good thing, supporting body autonomy.

But in patriarchy, if girls are so devalued, and a woman chooses to abort a female fetus, is that feminist, or not?

I love questions that have no easy answers.

There is a 2011 follow-up to Sen’s article called “160 Million and Counting” that we’ll be reading as well. The UN estimates are as high as 200 million.

This is the kind of tension in feminism that makes it impossible to express a glib, bumper sticker opinion, one in which an individual woman’s choice is an expression of a deeply misogynistic culture. Trust Women? Maybe not.

So what do we do? Keep women from choosing which fetuses to keep? Because – well, you see the problem there.

It’s one of the cases where the individualized ideas of “freedom” fly in the face of feminism. No one can support gendercide, and yet the women making these decisions are making a sound, pragmatic decision for the welfare of their own families.

Triggery (But Funny?)

Posted by – May 28, 2014

I found it kind of stunning, either way. Pretty much the truth of it, as disturbing as it is.

It reminds me of that Margaret Atwood quote that’s circulating a lot- here’s a paraphrase: when men are asked why they’re afraid of women, they say women may laugh at them, but when women are asked why they’re afraid of women, they say men may kill them.