|this wonderful photograph of Audre Lorde, Radical/Lesbian/Feminist is from here|
Quotes by U.S. radical feminists about radical feminism, and antifeminism [source: here].
As outsiders, we need each other for support and connection and all the other necessities of living on the borders. But in order to come together we must recognize each other. Yet I feel that since you have so completely un-recognized me, perhaps I have been in error concerning you and no longer recognize you. [...]
Within the community of women, racism is a reality force in my life as it is in yours. The white women with hoods on in Ohio handing out KKK literature on the street may not like what you have to say, but they will shoot me on sight. (If you and I were to walk into a classroom of women in Dismal Gulch, Alabama, where the only thing they knew about each of us was that we were both Lesbian/Radical/Feminist, you would see exactly what I mean.) -- Audre Lorde, An Open Letter to Mary Daly, Sister Outsider, 1984
Feminism is the political theory and practice to free all women; women of color, working class women, poor women, physically challenged women, lesbians, old women, as well as white economically privileged heterosexual women. Anything less than this is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement. -- Barbara Smith, This Bridge Called My Back, 1981
It is a commitment to eradicating the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels - sex, race, and class, to name a few - and a commitment to reorganizing U.S. society so that the self-development of people can take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires. -- bell hooks, Aint’ I a Woman, 1981
Feminism is a much-hated political philosophy. This is true all along the male-defined, recognizable political spectrum from far Right to far Left. Feminism is hated because women are hated. Antifeminism is a direct expression of misogyny: it is the political defense of woman hating. This is because feminism is the liberation movement of women. Antifeminism, in any of its political colorations, holds that the social and sexual condition of women essentially (one way or another) embodies the nature of women, that the way women are treated in sex and in society is congruent with what women are, that the fundamental relationship between men and women — in sex, in reproduction, in social hierarchy — is both necessary and inevitable. Antifeminism defends the conviction that the male abuse of women, especially in sex, has an implicit logic, one that no program of social justice can or should eliminate; that because the male use of women originates in the distinct and opposite natures of each which converge in what is called “sex,” women are not abused when used as women — but merely used for what they are by men as men. -- Andrea Dworkin, Right-wing Women (1983)What follows is part of a larger series of analytic posts and investigations here at A.R.P., inquiring into the connections and collaborations among liberal pro-pimp patriarchs who are notoriously anti-radical and anti-feminist, and pro-transgender activists and bloggers who also support legalising sex work.
This is, in part, an open letter to Divinity, the blog host of Medusa's Arrow. From here on I'll call you Divinity. I hope that's okay. I welcome your responses, Divinity.
This is also a blog post for the general reader, although it isn't really for patriarchal het men so much. I likely will only welcome commentary from progressive to radical queer folks, trans and non-trans activists working on social justice issues, radical feminists, and other radical social justice theorists. To anyone new here: please read my comment policy, which is linked to from the top right corner of this blog.
To read related posts, please click *here* where you'll find an introduction to the issues discussed below, where preliminary connection among pro-CRAP activists is established, and where the video may be views, the text of which is transcribed and analyses below.
I invite you to also click *here*, for a post in which the liberally used term "pro-sex" gets discussed. The point of these posts is to hold pro-misogyny, pro-racism, pro-patriarchal activists accountable for their anti-feminist, anti-radical activities, including systematically misrepresenting radical feminism as one thing: "transphobic" and portraying pro-transgender, pro-procurement activists as non-oppressive and in any way liberatory, in intention or effect, by effort or outcome, for female human beings as a class.
Below I'll offer commentary among the remarks made by Divinity. One of the key points is that her public alliance with someone called Iamcuriousblue establishes her as someone who is willing to join forces with a man who is a virulent pro-pimping CRAP-protecting anti-feminist misogynist. He is a typical "sex-liberal" who seeks to degrade and distort radical feminism and radical feminists as "the enemy". My question is, structurally and systemically speaking, to whom are they powerful enough to constitute being an enemy? Don't enemies have to have social capital? Institutional power? This would be a radical understanding of "the enemy".
Men, structurally speaking, and through unceasing sexual and gender-specific violence, are "the enemy" of women and girls. Men prey on women and girls from birth to death, often being the cause of their deaths. Men do not intervene en masse against men who do this violence. There is a boys club of mutual protectionism and covert or overt support. Women have been fighting this male supremacist class of people for centuries, and male supremacist violence not only persists, it has been intensifying and escalating across many regions, globally.
A few women, relative to the neoConservative and neoLiberal masses of class- and race-dominant women and men, maintain a decidedly militant and radical feminist stance against this violence and subordination. Their militancy is in language only. Unlike the militancy of men, who do things like rape, pimp, traffick, and enslave women and girls to demonstrate their hatred and desire to control and possess women and girls. Radical feminists engage in no such acts against any group of women. Radical feminists write sometimes. And one or two try to impact social policy and shift consciousness out of patriarchy-denying into awareness that we all, collectively need to work on ending corporate racist atrocious patriarchy, whenever and wherever it takes a stand on women's necks and girls' bodies and spirits.
To identify this group, radical feminists, as "the enemy" is to cast your lot, wittingly or not, with CRAP-producing and protecting patriarchs, including with men who are batterers, incest perpetrators, serial rapists, corporate pimps, sadist pornographers, traffickers, and slavers. Women, structurally speaking, have no position of structural power from which to exercise privileges and exact punishments or against a class of gendered people unless those people are other women more marginalised by race, class, ethnicity, region, or by being oppressive as adults, to children. But within the hierarchy that is the gender binary, women are not atop it. Ever. And to pretend that women--or some women, a few women, a very few white radical lesbians feminist women, are "the problem" population who needs to be verbally and systematically "taken down" is to misidentify who holds the dangerous power in this society. It has never been a few white radical lesbian feminists, nor any radical feminists of any color or ethnicity.
What follows is the transcription of spoken words written by Divinity with input and editorial work from her colleague, Iamcuriousblue, the virulent and outspoken anti-radical anti-feminist. What appears in brackets and in bold is my own writing.
If you've been paying attention to the sex industry debates going on within the feminist and sex workers’ rights communities, you've probably heard the argument,
“women go into the sex industry due to lack of choices”[I feel we need to draw back the lens a bit, on this rather narrowly scoped issue. If you've been paying attention to CRAP and older patriarchies, what's been going on for centuries and longer is men's acted upon entitlement, a politically protected one--defending with great force--to sexually use, abuse, and kill women and girls. Men protect their rights to exploit and harm women, in every way imaginable. Some women, across region, era, and sociological differences, have organised against this patriarchal Sky-God-ordained or naturally irrefutable "right of access" to, against, and into women's bodies. This issue doesn't decide to what extent any given woman chooses to be a prostitute, nor does it cast prostitutes as "only victims" any more than it casts soldiers who enlist or workers at sites of employment that are dangerous as "only victims". Victimisation, is not, in fact, the issue: lack of options to always say no to men and not be harmed by men is the issue.
The right of access is not just to the body, but to the minds and hearts of women globally. This right comes with it several others: to force women to accommodate to men's desires and wishes. To force women to do what men wish for women to do, to be what men wish women to be, to behave in exactly the ways men wish and will women to behave. Some women view this feminist objection as an intrusion into their own wishes to meet the needs of men, to provide sexual services to men, to please men, to appease men, to get money from men in return for providing them with orgasms. What women in systems of sexual exploitation and dehumanisation cannot do is survive while telling men "NO!" consistently. What women who say "NO!" to men consistently will find is that they are either poor and starving, or beaten and raped and murdered.
With this frame around the problem, some of us determine that if you cannot say "NO!" always and survive, your consistent or occasional "yes" or non-verbal compliance is something other than willful, free consent. It is something else: coerced consent. Consent to do what men ask or demand, when to not do it is to starve, be homeless, or die, is not the kind of consent radical feminists as well as this radical profeminist find especially meaningful or liberatory. Liberation is the right to refuse always, and the right to live in a world where refusing men's arrogant or entitled advances for access and accommodation are not part of the social scenery. What radical feminists I know seek and endeavor to bring about, is a world in which women have many more choices and that these aren't among them: either women continually or occasionally negotiate saying yes or no to men who want to rent them for sex, or women negotiate non-economic conditions in which women are repeatedly approached by men who are socially/politically positioned above them on a gender hierarchy, or women economically need to allow men access to their bodies, or women suffer for not doing any of the above.
This vision holds female-assigned-at-birth women are an historically specific, socially distinct class of oppressed gendered people who are, as a class, stigmatised from birth to death as "wh*res"; targeted from birth to death as potential rape victims by men and male supremacist social prerogatives; whose reproductive and emotional capacities are understood to be in service to men, for men; and whose political and spiritual energies are assumed to be best spent replicating male supremacist values which denigrate and devalue the class "woman"; and who are systematically and structurally made to submit to men, sexually or otherwise, at least some of the time.
Why can't we live in a world in which women NEVER have to submit to men to survive, and only engage in sex when they want to--when they welcome it by initiating the invitation "to dance", and only have sex when it is enjoyable (alone or with others)? Would that be such a terrible world to live in? How are women who envision and work towards this vision "oppressing women" when the social world women are in now affords them no public or private space that is guaranteed free of men's unwanted and unwelcome sexual attention and predation?]
made in defense of each side’s position.
[Here, in this discussion, "sex workers" and "feminists" are presented as the warring factions in a social environment which invisibilises who despises them all: patriarchs, male supremacists, pimps, and misogynist and anti-feminist/anti-sex worker men. To discuss what is happening among these two groups of women without noting what men do to ALL women is to engage in a form of misogynistic horizontal hostility.]
Those who oppose prostitution use this talking point to prove that prostitution is rarely a choice and should be abolished.
[To me, this is a gross misstatement of feminist position and politics. The point is that if women are not free to say no to men without suffering great harm, the "yes" isn't liberating or "feminist" in any radical sense.]
Even those who claim not to seek abolition
[of male supremacy, not strictly of "procurement"]
speak in support of the Swedish model, conveniently ignoring the fact that the Swedish government itself has admitted the model is about a ban on prostitution.
[What Swedish feminists and feminists in other areas of the world seek is to dismantle all systems of sexist exploitation. That is a respectable goal for any group of feminists. It has integrity. It demonstrates consistency with vision and practice. To throw into the discussion the buzz-word, "ban" is historically coded language expressing a profoundly misogynistic, pro-patriarchal belief: "those radical feminists are oppressors, controllers, dominators, and tyrants (also prudes who are in bed with the right-wing) who are tying to control all expressions of sexuality and commerce related to it." Men, relative to women, are the tyrants, dominators, controllers, and oppressors, and to forget that or take the focus off of it is to serve patriarchal objectives to continue to oppress and subordinate women, sexually and otherwise, by pretending "feminists" not "male supremacists" are the problem population.]
A: We don’t work with harm reduction in Sweden.[To me, this is spurious. For one thing, the entire discussion is not in English; it is, to my ear anyway, in Swedish. Divinity doesn't supply us with the name of the translator, or the source of the translation. So, as I have a friend in Sweden, I've asked him to double-check this translation, to see if Anna Skarhed uses the term "ban" and means it in the way this buzz-word is used to strike terror in the hearts of men who want their access to women 24/7/365 (and in a leap year, 366). As a Jew who has been brought all manner of mistranslations of "The Bible" to my doorstep, I have grown suspicious of any translations that have a political agenda. I'll let you know what I find out. My friend is an anarchist, profeminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist activist. He is conversationally fluent in English, and Swedish is his first language which he speaks fluently.]
Q: Why not?
A: Because that’s not the way Sweden looks upon this. We look upon it, that this
is a ban on prostitution: that there should be no prostitution. And what we work
with is to try and make people who do this not do it any more. [emphasis mine]
– Anna Skarhed, Swedish Chancellor of Justice, Press Conference, July 2, 2010
Then there are those who seek decriminalization, because only under
a system where sex work is treated as a legitimate form of work can
harm reduction measures -proven effective- be implemented to their
fullest possible effectiveness.
[There are also many other radical feminist positions on this issue. Mine, for example, is to support decriminalising being a prostitute or sex worker, and to criminalise anyone who pimps and procures. This would include any U.S. person who travels to another country to procure sex for money from girls, boys, and adults; I view such procurement and pimping, as well as trafficking, as a human rights violation that exists to keep as a individual class-based right and a social practice, the patriarchal control of and accomplishment of sexual access to women who cannot always say no and not be harmed by doing so.]
So what does it mean to me to say,
“women go into the sex industry due to lack ofThis means many things, really. It means that we live in a highly unbalanced global economy
[read: white supremacist, rapist, and ecocidal, profiting the Global North and West, exploiting and destroying the Global South and East, committing genocide against Indigenous people globally, making women poor relative to men]
where countries that have, have enough to waste
[and dominate, and impose codes of conduct enforced in various ways--economic, sexually, and militarily]
and countries that don't are home to thousands – tens of thousands, and more –
[many, many millions]
who do what they can
[well, many die and are killed],
because the ideologies and ambitions of those who claim to know what is best for them will not feed them.
[Those ideologies are not radical feminist, to be clear. Those ideologies and ambitions are men's, male supremacists', white supremacists', global capitalists' in the hundreds of thousands--in the millions--and the percent of all of those people with such ideologies or ambitions who are radical feminists may be .000001 % So why are we even discussing that tiny, infinitesimally small fraction of ideologues-with-ambitions as if they are radical feminists who want to "ban" prostitution? Whose interests are served by this distortion of the role of radical feminists in setting public policy, state policy, and international policy? My answer: patriarchs. Male supremacists. Pimps. Men who want 24/7/365 access to women to do whatever the men pay the women to do, or decide they want to do whether or not the women get paid.]
Many of these people turn to sex work rather than starvation,
[because men will only pay women for what the men call "sex"--the "sex" that relatively wealthy men demand poor women and girls (and boys, and adults who are non-transgender and transgender) perform on non-trans het men disproportionately, because the men are selfish, self-centered, entitled, privileged, and willfully callous and sometimes interpersonally very cruel.]
[people who currently oppose economic, sexual, or any other form of slavery]
who believe that sex work contributes to the oppression of women
[Note: this population of people includes many women who have experienced, as girls or as women, "sex work", prostitution, sexual exploitation, incest, rape, battery, and men's economic and social and sexual dominance and control, callousness and cruelty, as well as everyday systematic derision, degradation, and dehumanisation. The view being put forth here is that women who have lived through any or all of that cannot make insightful, politically informed and wise decisions about how to organise and fight against the racist, patriarchal, capitalist systems that harmed them.]
collective look down their noses at them and offer them little practical support.
[This is another anti-feminist, misogynistic buzz-phrase. "Look down their noses"--as if these radical lesbian feminists, about to be named, are in positions of grand superiority over sex workers; as if these radical lesbian feminists were not also prostitutes and harmed and exploited by men in many ways systemically and systematically. As if pimps, procurers, and men generally don't look down their noses, and blow their noses, and ejaculate, and punch, beat up, and rape and murder women who are sex workers.
Procurement within a system that is male supremacist and female subordinating, is one of several manifestations/man-infestations of male supremacy, and I find it difficult to imagine how one could argue otherwise but if Divinity has an argument for how that isn't intrinsically male supremacist, socially, on the class level, if not always on the individual level, I'd be very interested to hear it.]
This video is about ONE subgroup of those people.
[Transgender sex workers.]
A subgroup that is one of the most stigmatized, feared, hated, and misunderstood in just about every society in the world.
[Isn't this a classic example of doing what some feminist and anti-feminist bloggers call "oppression olympics"? Are we really supposed to understand and believe that six to twelve year-old non-trans girls in poor countries as LESS HATED and MORE UNDERSTOOD and LESS STIGMATISED than trans adults doing sex work in wealthier countries? To me, that'd be an astoundingly Western racist, elitist, and callous thing to be implying. Not as callous as how Western wealthy white men treat six to twelve year old girls in poor countries, however. Because they are committed degrading acts against actual people, while Divinity is making a statement in a video on YouTube, and those things are not equal--to be clear. Not by a long-shot. More on this point later.
So the woman who has been repeatedly raped by pimps and procurers, gang-raped, left for dead, survived, was drug-addicted, went back, picked up more tricks, and made the choice to stay in prostitution for months longer because she didn't have any other options, felt too much like shit to approach anyone to do anything else, felt her worth was to be found her service to men sexually because that's the only time men paid attention to her as if she might actually be kind of human--is Divinity saying that non-trans woman is less hated and more understood in any meaningfully humanitarian way than the trans person who is treated similarly? Is Divinity saying that blogger rmott was considered by men who abused her to be more human and less stigmatised than trans people in prostitution?]
The people who walk on both sides of the gender binary that is the accepted standard in most societies.
[A radical feminist and my radically profeminist view is that there aren't two sides to the gender binary as it is constructed in Western patriarchal societies. There is a top position and a bottom position. There's no parity, no equality, and no justice there. There's male domination of all people determined to be not-man-enough or determined to be too female. The accepted standard is male supremacist and female subordinating. And transgender people exist in practically every location along that hierarchy. And race, class, ethnicity, region, age, and ability are other factors that determine social position, level of status, recognition of oneself as a human being, etc.
A friend of mine who is a gender non-conforming cis gender woman is not seen because she is poor, a woman, and Black. Is Divinity going to tell me, or her, that her invisibility is LESS SEVERE than a Black transgender people? My friend would say she has cis gender privilege. But that doesn't render her human to the general population. It is also the case that SOME transgender people are also not seen as human. But the distinguishing feature isn't whether or not they are transgender. It is the degree to which they pass as gender-conforming, and the degree to which they have other privileges which afford them some human status. I think that's a really callous and irresponsible way to discuss oppression, actually. And I am asking Divinity3372 to please stop publicly putting forth the idea that somehow what trans people experience is worse, categorically, than what non-trans people experience.
For one thing, that grossly stereotypes all transgender people--and I am among that population--as "visibly transgender". We aren't all visibly transgender, some--most--transgender people have cisgender privileges most if not all of their lives. Most transgender people will never have access to or be able to afford any medical treatments that might allow them greater internal/external wholeness and emotional/spiritual consonence. My cis gender privileges as a non-cis gender intergender male keep me "more statused" than all the butch women I know who are not intergender or otherwise transgender. For another thing, femme-inised women, regardless of how "femme" they are, are stigmatised in male supremacist/rapist/procurement-protecting societies as wh*res. And they are targeted for rape from day one through one's last day because they are stigmatised as "female" and therefore "existing to take care of men". To have that experience from day one is a particularly abusive social condition to live with.
I was targeted for wrath, for emotional, physical, and sexual violence by boys and men throughout my childhood and adolescence, but not from day one. I had many years before turning eighteen where I wasn't targeted in those ways; and my body was never "marked" as existing to be treated like a wh*re in the ways ANY non-trans girl's body is. And I've been intergender my whole life, I assure you, even when I didn't have a name for it. I've been identified since early childhood as "gay" too, by boys who found lots of terrible things to call me because of that. And my non-gay, non-trans female family members were targeted for incest by a male family member precisely because he thought their female forms meant he could and should have sexually abusive access to them. He never abused their brother.
So that's a rather significant politically subordinating, invisibilising, degrading, humiliating, traumatising, stigmatising, hateful, fearful, terrifying, and invalidating way to go through the early years of one's life, which, as we know, shape the rest of one's life. I am very thankful I had periods of relief from being targeted as an abuse-taker for males who wanted to dole out abuse on other males. I'm thankful I was never socially female, even while I felt more kinship with girls than with boys when young, and experienced boys as "other" than me and girls as "not other" than me.]
If I had to choose which group of people I thought was the most consistently discriminated against globally, I would have to say it would be transgendered people. [See everything I just wrote above. I accept this as Divinity's view. She's certainly entitled to it. I just think it is a terribly racist, misogynistic, and profoundly divisive thing to say, in our collective struggle to be seen and treated as whole, full human beings. I think it is intended to make a case that "they have it worse" and "are oppressed by white radical lesbian feminists. I'll amplify this point later on.]
There are some countries where they are making progress like New Zealand, where the first transgendered member of any Parliament ever was elected in 2005.
[This is but one way of determining "how feared, hated, and stigmatised" someone is. There are many. No Black woman has been president in the U.S. Will a liberal trans person be elected to federal office before a non-trans radical lesbian feminist? I'd say "with no doubt". But we'll see. My point is that I believe, with evidence to back up my claims, that radical lesbian feminists--identified as such--are more feared and hated by men than many transgender people are. I can list the websites that demonstrate this. While transgender people are mistreated, abused, and stereotyped and stigmatised in pornography, radical lesbian feminists are only abused and berated, denigrated and hated, in it. There is no recognition of them even having something called "a reasonable human sexuality" or "a rational mind".]
But this is unquestionably an exception to the rule and trans people still have a long way to go to find equality in the world.
[I agree. That's an understatement. And I have no conceivable idea what it will take for transgender/intergender people to find peace in this world. As Andrea Dworkin noted in Woman Hating, to be transsexual--the term of choice then for some ways of experiencing being "transgender"--is to be in a primary state of emergency. Andrea Dworkin, to anyone's view, was a radical feminist, and she was a lesbian too. She is one key foundational figures in white U.S. radical lesbian feminism. She was not, according to anyone's claims I've seen who know her work or who knew her personally, "a transphobe". For the record. And, non-trans women too, often and generally live in a condition of danger, of threat, and of emergency. As do Black people in the U.S. as do poor people in the U.S. A lot of us do. I'm not about to "rank" that, however and conclude that what transgender people experience, across the board, is "more dehumanising" or "more stigmatising" than what someone else experiences who is not trans but who is invisibilised and stereotyped down to their bones, and deeper.]
Trans people are called deranged and dangerous.
[I agree with you. And so too are non-trans women. And so too are gay men. And so too are lesbians. And so too are poor dark-skinned people. And so too are dark-skinned Muslims from the Middle East. But it is not likely that a white, pale, U.S., English-speaking blond transgender person who mostly passes as one of the two recognised, validated genders, is not going to be targeted for a pat-down, a full-body scan, a strip-search, and other forms of physical-emotional-spiritual ravaging at an airport the way a non-trans "stereotypically" Pakistani- or Iraqi-appearing person will. And non-trans dark-skinned Black men and women in the U.S. are historically treated in some specifically dehumanising ways going back generations. The abuses of carrying legacies of violence against one's ethnic group is a kind of experience most LGBTIA people who are white do not have. Again, the point isn't to rank all of this. It is to say that what transgender people experience, by way of being hurt and humiliated, is not unique to transgender people: many non-trans people are treated as if they were gender-non-conforming "freaks", and many transgender people pass as "a man" or "a woman" and don't get chronically socially mistreated or feared because they are being transgender. This equation of "being transgender" with "being visibly transgender" is, well, trans-bigoted.]
If they appear in movies or in media at all it's usually to mock them or create an extra-disturbing villain in a movie about serial killers.
[Again, I generally agree. But it is the same with most oppressed groups and political groups who don't own major media. This isn't specific or unique to being visibly transgender. At all. For a while I remember I couldn't find a mainstream major release film that didn't either mock or make gay men of any color into fools or monsters. And mostly the gay men in the movies were and remain white.]
They are portrayed as over the top, extra dramatic, and of lesser intelligence
[Those descriptors apply aptly to this category of human beings too: "women experiencing PMS".]
then any “normal” human being who has the good sense to at least know what gender they are.
[Many non-trans people carry enormous levels of gender-insecurity. The most gender-insecure people I know are het men who are not transgender. I find that transgender people--feminist or not, and most lesbian feminists--trans or not--tend to have much more strong a sense of their own genderedness, even if that isn't stable or understood as "natural" by society.]
Is it any wonder that so many transgendered citizens turn to sex work to make a living while still being true to who they really are? How feasible is it that you might walk into a bank one day and find a transgendered teller taking your money or that the nurse checking your blood pressure might tell you that “his” name is Lisa?
[I'd argue it's about as likely as I am to find a bank teller or nurse who is out as a butch radical lesbian non-trans feminist who refuses to wear skirts and blouses and dresses because that would mean dishonoring who she is. And, again, equating "being transgender" with "being visibly targetable-as-transgender", are not the same thing at all and I wish you'd stop equating them in the way you speak, stereotypically, about transgender people and our lack of privilege. Our levels of privilege shift dramatically for many reasons--due to time, age, class, opportunities to obtain certain medical procedures, and on and on. There's no one social presentation of "being transgender". Most of the people I know who are trans generally pass and are not stigmatised daily "as being transgender". Most radical lesbian feminists who are also butch, do not pass, and are stigmatised daily as "other" and "dangerous".]
Often any “normal” job a transgendered sister would find would be low paying, or hire them only under the condition that they come to work dressed in a way that in and of itself feels highly oppressive to them, as if they are going through life half way.
[The same exact thing can be said of non-trans radical lesbian feminists who are butch.]
Sometimes they turn to sex work just to earn extra money to save up for a gender reassignment surgery that almost no insurance company will pay for, just so they can be who they are, just like you and me.
[Yes. I get that some trans-appearing transgender people may be more economically vulnerable and may have to turn to sex work because non-trans het men will fetishize any category of person they can put in a category. And they'll produce pornography of that group, as they see that group. And they'll rape that group for being members of that group. And all of that isn't an argument against any radical feminist interventions against patriarchal and pornographic atrocities--disproportionately and overwhelmingly negatively impacting non-trans f-a-a-b women as a class of human beings who number the multi-millions. And about this: "Like you and me"? Doesn't that assume "you and me" are not transgender. Rather invisibilising of those of us who are trans and intergender, isn't it?]
LGBT rights organizations sometimes acknowledge the “T” at the end only as a footnote,
[Or that it came last as a socially visible identity. We might note that intergender hasn't yet made the alphabet list, nor has intersex. Nor has asexual. Nor has Two Spirit and gender-non-conforming and same-gender-loving. So there are plenty of problems with the alphabet list. And, yes: many LGBT groups disregard the concerns and needs of out transgender people. And, also, increasingly in the last fifteen years, many LGBT groups, particularly on college campuses, are disregarding, stigmatising, and dissing lesbians if they are radical feminists and are making more space for trans people to feel safe.]
and many of the prominent radical abolitionist feminist leaders do their best to keep them out, sometimes not even attempting to hide their disdain.
[Many radical abolitionist leaders are not in LGBTIA groups, first of all. None I know are. I'm not. I steer clear of queer spaces that don't welcome or recognise or respect me as intergender and pro-radical feminist. So most of these activists I know of aren't in any position to keep trans people out. What I am noticing, however, is that organisations and populations with out gay males and transgender people in them, if those gay males and transgender people are anti-feminist and anti-radical, will silence and shut down any radical lesbian feminist conversation about practically anything as being "anti-sex" and "puritanical" and "oppressive". That's been going on steadily now for years. Do you see that as a social problem in queer community, or is it only a problem if the person being rejected is out as transgender?]
In “Transgender Activism: A Lesbian Feminist Perspective”, Sheila Jeffreys argues that, “transgenderism might more reasonably be seen as a violation of human rights and should certainly not be uncritically accepted as a socially transformative force equivalent to gay liberation.”
[I'd argue gay male liberation ought not be seen as socially transformative in the way that radical lesbian feminism is as since the late 1970s the white-dominated, class-privileged "gay liberation" movement has been a pro-patriarchal, grossly anti-feminist and anti-lesbian effort. And I'd argue that we in the queer community make it a point to interrogate ourselves and each other. And we always have. Always. We've always interrogated "what do you mean when you say you're gay??" Or lesbian, or bi, or anything else. Why should there be a code of silence around being trans in our community? Why the call for protected status? What other group in our community has had the privilege to declare, "If you question me about what I am, that makes you a bigot!" I'm seeing an awful lot of that on the web and off the web, lately.]
She said that, “Transsexualism opposes feminism by maintaining and reinforcing false and constructed notions of correct femininity and masculinity.” And like many other radical abolitionist feminists she calls sexual reassignment surgery “self-mutilation”, not unlike piercings, tattoos, branding, and many of the other practices of sadomasochism.
["Many other radical abolitionist feminists"? How many other? Four others? Ten? Thirty? One hundred? How many people out there, trans and non-trans, men and women, oversimplify, decontextualise, stereotype, and stigmatise (white-only) radical lesbian feminism--kind of like how you are doing here? I'd say hundreds of thousands, and quite probably millions. More people bash radical lesbian feminism, in fact, than there are radical lesbian feminists!
Like you, Sheila is certainly entitled to her point of view on the pervasiveness and harm of surgical procedures to "make someone into a gender". The radical feminists, lesbian or not, who I have known over the last thirty years have held a generally critical stance towards the psychiatric and dominant medical establishment as deeply, profitably invested in maintaining an oppressive gender binary that is only a hierarchy that benefits men and robs women of life and humanity, replacing or stuffing body parts with dangerous chemicals. This is a legitimate area of regard, concern, and activism. Many (I don't know how many, admittedly) intersex activists join with radical feminists in opposing surgical interventions to "make someone into a gender". I understand, quite deeply, that these surgeries are not sought for all the reasons some non-trans people think they are, and that the decision to undergo such surgeries is extremely stressful, difficult, often agonising, and sometimes brings great complications into one's life. Sometimes some of the surgeries also bring some relief, much the way some surgeries on non-trans women sometimes bring an experience of relief. Jeffreys' radical feminist position, as I understand it, is that we ought to be asking deeper questions about "what's going on" and not give carte blanche to pro-WHM supremacist, CRAP-educated surgeons--who have never had women's health interests as a top priority when cutting into their bodies to perform cosmetic gender-affirming surgery.
Sheila has written many books and most of what she's written isn't on this subject. So to demonise her, extracting from her brilliant life work only a few passages that some trans people love to hate her for, is well, spurious, misogynistic, and anti-feminist. It's a lot like gay men only picking out a few "male-bashing" statements by lesbian feminists and claiming that those comments represent all of any given author/activist's viewpoints on humanity and liberation. What you quote her as saying is one viewpoint among many conflicting viewpoints in queer community and in lesbian feminist community. And in radical feminist community. Oh, wait: there is no radical feminist community any more. It's been destroyed by heteropatriarchs and queer activists. Never mind.
Sheila Jeffreys is not the spokesperson for radical lesbian feminism. She's a white privileged woman. She's from a white-majority country. She's got race and class and professional privilege. Most radical feminists in the world do not have those privileges and I notice you don't seek out their views on this subject. Why is that? Why do you draw on the views of a few to make it seem like the whole group feels the same way? Isn't that called stereotyping? Isn't that called being bigoted? Isn't that misogynistic and anti-feminist?]
In “The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male”, Janice Raymond put it plainly when she said:
“All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, and appropriating this body for themselves. [...] Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive. The transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist feeds off woman’s true energy source, i.e., her woman-identified self. It is he who recognizes that if female spirit, mind, creativity and sexuality exist anywhere in a powerful way it is here, among lesbian-feminists. I contend that the problem with transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence.”I support radical theorising about gender and gendered surgeries. Part of what every social theorist does is speculate about motivation. And lots of theories are biased, bigoted, and inaccurate. It's almost the nature of theory-making. Not to be bigoted, but to not be accurate. Theory is about comprehending reality through various lenses, not describing it Absolutely. Anti-feminists and anti-radicals theorise this way all the damn time, assuming, for example, that white radical lesbian feminists are man-haters (wrong; woman-lovers: yes), haven't experienced good lovin' from the right man (barf), or, more bluntly, that they should all be raped and killed ASAP. These people your colleague likes so much: the pimps, the pornographers--those misogynistic, racist fellas who despise women and show it from every conceivable angle... who does he think is more socially dangerous to transgender people? Pimps, pornographers, and rapists, or radical feminists? How many people do you know who think "radical" means "terrorist"?
I don't agree with Jan Raymond's assumptions about why transgender people who can afford to, have surgeries. I don't agree with a lot that most people think and write, with a few notable exceptions: Audre Lorde, Andrea Dworkin, and James Baldwin.
But let's not forget: that is one book, a few passages of which are making the rounds on anti-radical, feminist-bashing blogs and other websites and discussion boards. Compare that one book's "social capital" to the social capital of the billions of dollars worth of trans-hate and bigotry, woman-hate and bigotry, racist hate and bigotry, heterosexist hate and bigotry, that pimps with cameras and a production company dump into society. Which do you see as more socially dangerous? Why are you so intent on noting what two--soon to be three-white radical lesbian feminist-identified women wrote, while ignoring what billionaire pimps are doing, to women's bodies, to children's bodies--not with the content of a small stack of books, either. I see this particular focus as anti-radical and anti-feminist, misogynistic, pro-patriarchal, and also racist for several reason--some of which I'll get to in this post.
And Radical feminist philosopher, academic, and theologian Mary Daly made
“Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent not only in religious myth, but in its offspring, phallocratic technology. The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophiliac invasion/elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example of male surgical siring which invades the female world with substitutes.”It's curious to me how you never seen to pick up on what's valuable about those bits of analysis--about the way men DO vampirically suck the life out of women. About the way patriarchal societies do violate women's boundaries in all manner of ways. About how men do kill women's spirits, also their bodies. About how men are obsessed with death, with corpses--go see who writes all those episodes of CSI. It's quite horrifying to me. So rather than respectfully engage with very important white radical lesbian feminist theories, about ALL of their ideas--even all of their ideas in one chapter of one book--you seek and accomplish this stereotyping and derision of ALL radical lesbian feminists, but doing this selective quoting to only make one point--the point you want to make that ignores all the other extremely important political anti-patriarchal points that Jeffreys, Raymond, and Daly have made. Especially Jeffreys and Daly. Their contributions to feminist theory and history are enormous and invaluable. But you never acknowledge that. Why?]
– from: Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism
This transphobic streak still persists today in the radical faction of feminism
[which radical faction of feminism? Womanism? Does Alice Walker demonstrate this streak? Can you quote where she does? How about Audre Lorde's radical feminism? How about Patricia Hill Collins, Malalai Joya, the women of RAWA, Ruchira Gupta, Vandana Shiva? How about Barbara Smith? Cheryl Clarke? June Jordan? Pearl Cleage? How about Chrystos? Beth Brant? How about Andrea Smith? Gloria Anzaldua? Sapphire? Andrea Dworkin? Catharine A. MacKinnon? bell hooks? Yanar Mohammed? Nawal El Saadawi? Chandra Talpede Mohanty? Gayatri Spivak? Which "radical feminism" are you talking about, Divinity? The bits and pieces you wish to pick out to make a point that couldn't possibly be made if you quoted more than three white radical lesbian feminists who have published on this subject--but who, in the cases of Jeffreys and Daly, have published mostly NOT on this subject? You're being quite stereotyping in a statement like that. That's a deeply anti-radical and anti-feminist and pro-heteropatriarchal thing to do, in my opinion.]
and shows itself in some women’s festivals,
[All two? Or just the one? Do you mean the ones where cis gender women have been violated by people with penises in spaces set up to be places, once a year maybe, for a few days only, where NO PENISES ARE WELCOMED OR ALLOWED? Do you mean the ones where people who have more male privileges than the f-a-a-b women there have ever had DEMAND ACCESS and that cis gender WOMEN ACCOMMODATE them? Do you mean the ones where some transgender activists behave exactly like entitled male supremacists?]
in heated comments,
[Again, how does this even remotely compared to the harm to trans people and to non-trans women that pimps and pornographers and other male supremacists generally do?]
and the absolute REFUSAL to recognize and embrace our transgendered sisters and their issues as part of the women's movement.
[The REFUSAL, as I've experienced it, Divinity, is appropriate when it comes to cis gender women claiming the right to gather in spaces where no one with male privileges--ever--gets to hang out, sometimes literally. As an intergender male, I'm personally and politically outraged that anyone who is not a cis gender woman would try and FORCE any woman to "accommodate me". It's blatant disregard for the safety so many f-a-a-b women wish to have, and cannot have, because people with male privileges--past or present--deem themselves worthy of entry. It's rapist behavior, in my view. And it's way past time for trans activists to LEAVE NON-TRANS WOMEN ALONE in spaces designed and created by and for non-trans women and girls. From what I've read, and from the women I've spoken with, what builds sisterhood is owning your male entitlement privileges, not pretending you never had them. And, for the record, I'd support transgender-identified people meeting and celebrating too--without any non-trans people present, if that's what the trans people wanted to feel safe and to let down their guard in a cis gender-dominated world. And I'd say anyone who is cis gender who DEMANDED ENTRY was out of line.]
So, with few employment choices and even fewer organizations that will speak strongly on behalf of their issues, many transgendered women turn to sex work.
[There's one other rather obvious reason why anyone chooses sex work: because there are selfish, entitled sexist/misogynistic/racist/classist men who want to purchase and rent human beings for sex. Without them, there'd be no sex work.]
There they find company in their fellow outcasts – the whores of the world.
[I object to you calling any woman a "wh*re". No woman, no person, is a wh*re, in my view as someone who was treated more or less like one for a few years. But it's your prerogative to do so. I think it is as "progressive" and "liberatory" as declaring some Black people to be "the n word". That's not liberation; that's more accommodation.]
And in return they give back just as much as they receive.
[Many people in systems of prostitution are struggling to survive day to day, and don't have anything at all to give back, except by rote, to the men who demand more and more and more from them. Many are children, who cannot give much back because they've had so much taken from them. Many are trafficked and terrified, or enslaved and isolated. So they're not giving much back, nor should they be expected to. This portrait you paint of radical lesbian feminists--as if none of them ever were prostitutes--and of prostitutes, who all have hearts of gold, and are somehow not traumatised by being fourteen and having to fuck and suck 20 to 30 men a day for the next seven years, is a bit unbelievable and highly selective as a portrait, to me. One that I'm sure pimps appreciate you putting forth--you blame only radical feminist lesbians for transmisogyny while you ignore the misogynistic anti-trans men and other anti-feminists who profit and gain great pleasure from it. What kind of ethic or politic is that?]
They not only play leading roles in the advocacy for the rights of sex workers, but help keep them safe while on the job as well. A cisgendered, female, former street sex worker told me once that she would always work the areas where the transgendered women worked. She said that pimps were less likely to try and harass her there because the trans women were less likely to take their ill treatment and had a tendency to protect their cisgendered associates.
[Yes. Many radical feminists do this work. It's amazing work. Ruchira Gupta and the women and girls of Apne Aap do it. So does Somaly Mam and the women and girls of her Foundation do this work too. That you seem to think that no one who escapes "sex work" is radical feminist is rather shocking to me. And that you think those radical feminists don't assist trans people escaping is also astounding.
How can you make such claims about women across the planet--including radicals, including feminists? Are you really meaning to state that if someone is a radical feminist, and they are working to help people escape prostitution, trafficking, sexual slavery, that they kick the trans folks back into the brothels or the arms of their pimps? Is that the portrait you wish to paint? And, if people state that they have escaped prostitution, doesn't that indicate that it isn't just "work"? People quit their jobs. They don't "escape" them.]
This is just one example of how the radical faction of the women's movement has left some women behind. [It's a really pro-patriarchal, misogynistic, racist, biased, and tremendously flawed argument you've presented here, in my opinion.]
They can easily pass judgment on some for not recognizing the significance of the collective,
[Are you talking about anti-feminists? Pimps? Pornographers? Men? Liberals? Whites? Rich folk? People advocating for legalising prostitution in the Global North while being oblivious or utterly uncaring about how such a course of legal action impacts girls in the Global South? Because what you just stated applies very well to all those groups.]
but when that collective does not recognize you, what are you to do?
[When the queer collective won't recognise me as intergender or as pro-radical feminist, I just withdraw from them, for the most part. And when the radical lesbian feminist women I know are spurned and scorned by queer activists, by some anti-feminist trans activists, by male supremacist trans and non-trans activists, by anti-lesbian bigots, they usually stand up to the bullying and harassment. And more power to them.]
Herein lies the nature of the conflict between feminists with the power to influence policy
[as opposed to the corporate billionaire pimps and politicians who do influence and draft policy? As opposed to the people who occupy positions of authority, who actually decide whether a law passes or not? As opposed to all the men who rule all the countries all over the globe, who hate radicals, lesbians, and feminists?]
and those who fight to be heard.
[Like radical lesbian feminists at a campus that embraces and respects "Queer Identities" and privileges those over "Radical Feminist Identities", including by funding Queer Studies, but not a Radical Feminist Women's Studies program? It's all very liberal out there, in most spaces. Liberal or conservative. Radicals can't get a word in edgewise, in all media. I do see queer activists and trans activists who are anti-radical and anti-feminist on television. So who holds the power again? You're saying it's a few radical lesbian feminists who "influence" policy? What about the anti-trans, anti-feminist men who make policy and who enforce the laws? What about the pimps who pay off police chiefs and politicians, so they can keep pimping girls and women? Where's your outrage about what they do? How powerful are all those men, together, and why isn't your attention and argumentation directed at them?]
Sex work is a hub of intersectionality that radical feminists would sooner silence
[Silence by theorising about it? By discussing it--by bringing more speech to the subject, not less? By protesting the abuses pimps perpetrate usually without any accountability--and with no structural accountability to Sheila Jeffreys, Jan Raymond, or Mary Daly? And, again, do you mean those three white ones and a few others? Because you aren't seeming to notice that "radical feminists" include all the women mentioned earlier, of all colors and ethnicities, from all locations, from various eras--far too many more to list, in part because most aren't know to us. They're doing their work helping girls and women survive patriarchal atrocities globally, as well as racist and classist ones. But this sort of gross, racist stereotyping that you're doing, that mostly men do--I'm imagining that it must make all their work to assist themselves and other people out of harm's way and to hold accountable those pricks who harm them all, I would imagine it would make them feel very invalidated and invisible. Very silenced. Very stigmatised. Very left behind in your accounting of who is a radical feminist.
then risk the unique issues facing the women within it distracting the focus of that collective. A collective guided by a small group of the most privileged among us.
[If you think that radical lesbian feminists are among the most privileged among us, then I've got a whole lot of pro-pimp patriarchs to introduce you to. Actually, you know one of them: he's a valued colleague of yours named Iamcuriousblue. He's got more way more privileges than Mary Daly does. She is dead, after all. He gets to speak against her, while she can't speak back to him.]
In Audre Lorde's “An Open Letter to Mary Daly”, she summed it up nicely when she said this:
“This dismissal stands as a real block to communication between us. This block makes it far easier to turn away from you completely then to attempt to understand the thinking behind your choices. Should the next step be war between us, or separation?”Also, I want to thank Iamcuriousblue for helping me find some cool links and proof reading my writing. [emphasis by enlarging the text size is mine, Julian's]
Have you read my work, and the work of other Black women, for what it could give you? Or did you hunt through only to find what would legitimize your chapter on African genital mutilation in the eyes of other Black women? And if so, then why not use our words to legitimize or illustrate the other places where we connect in our being and becoming? If, on the other hand, it was not Black women you were attempting to reach, in what way did our words illustrate your point for white women?
Mary, I ask that you be aware of how this serves the destructive forces of racism and separation between women -- the assumption that the herstory and myth of white women is the legitimate and sole herstory and myth of all women to call upon for power and background, and that nonwhite women and our herstories are noteworthy only as decorations, or examples of female victimization. I ask that you be aware of the effect that this dismissal has upon the community of Black women and other women of Color, and how it devalues your own words. This dismissal does not essentially differ from the specialized devaluations that make Black women prey, for instance, to the murders even now happening in your own city. When radical lesbian feminist theory dismisses us, it encourages its own demise.
This dismissal stands as a real block to communication between us. This block makes it far easier to turn away from you completely than to attempt to understand the thinking behind your choices. Should the next step be war between us, or separation? Assimilation within a solely western european herstory is not acceptable.
Mary, I ask that you re-member what is dark and ancient and divine within yourself that aids your speaking. As outsiders, we need each other for support and connection and all the other necessities of living on the borders. But in order to come together we must recognize each other. Yet I feel that since you have so completely un-recognized me, perhaps I have been in error concerning you and no longer recognize you.
I feel you do celebrate differences between white women as a creative force toward change, rather than a reason for misunderstanding and separation. But you fail to recognize that, as women, those differences expose all women to various forms and degrees of patriarchal oppression, some of which we share and some of which we do not. For instance, surely you know that for nonwhite women in this country, there is an 80 percent fatality rate from breast cancer; three times the number of unnecessary eventrations, hysterectomies and sterilizations as for white women; three times as many chances of being rape, murdered, or assaulted as exist for white women. These are statistical facts, not coincidences nor paranoid fantasies.
Within the community of women, racism is a reality force in my life as it is in yours. The white women with hoods on in Ohio handing out KKK literature on the street may not like what you have to say, but they will shoot me on sight. (If you and I were to walk into a classroom of women in Dismal Gulch, Alabama, where the only thing they knew about each of us was that we were both Lesbian/Radical/Feminist, you would see exactly what I mean.)" -- Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider, "An Open Letter to Mary Daly", pages 69 -70. The whole letter appears on pages 66 to 71.)