Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Some Truth about Woman-hating: A Perspective. On trans realities, pro-feminist politics, and the necessity of digging out the root problem

image is from here

When does a lie morph into a truth? When privileged people call the lie a truth. One example: How did it come to pass that so many misogynist men think Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon both said "all heterosexual sex is rape"? (Neither activist ever has.) It happened because the voices that called out the lie as a lie didn't have weight against the voices perpetuating  the lie (men, and the women who defend men's right to be misogynistic). For the history, see *here*. The lie exists for a specific  reason--to denigrate and marginalise the perspectives of two white radical feminists who speak truth to male power. Here's another example:

There was a conversation in a facebook group prior to me being invited into it. There, a person named Elyse wrote whatever is copied and pasted below in quotation marks, some of which appears to me to misrepresent what my political positions are on various topics related to trans existence. I am responding. My responses, here, are in bold. Better to clear this up now, before some anti-radical/anti-feminist queer folks (or non-queer folks) get hold of it and promote it as an example of Julian's transphobia. (Cough.) What I am making a case for, here, is choosing language to describe how oppressed that is gender-based is rooted in the patriarchally protected violence sometimes called "woman-hating" and "male dominance" by some of us.

Elyse wrote: "Kit, with all due respect (and you know I have a great deal of respect for you), it is not your place or anyone else's to assign a gender identity to your friend or any other human being."

I do support non-trans women naming male privileged people where and when they are present, especially if their male privilege is demonstrated by denying they have any.

"Transpeople can be trans without having had surgery ...- their actual genitalia is irrelevant."

Elyse, I'm in that category. I'm trans/intergender.

"Frankly, I am shocked that both you and 'Julian' have implied (or said outright, in Julian's case) that discrimination and oppression against transpeople is invalid and is not a serious problem."

Please quote where I say that. I don't believe I've ever made that statement on my blog or anywhere else and I really don't appreciate you misrepresenting what I've said or written. My work is available to be copied and pasted, so please quote the part where I say there's no such thing as discrimination against trans people. I know there is discrimination against trans people. And, just curious, why did you put my name in quotes? I realise there are two Julians here: hey Julian/Juline!!

"I'm also confused by the assertion that people who are concerned about the oppression of transpeople are not concerned with misogyny and sexism in general. In my experience, this is not the case at all."

Again, Elyse, I welcome you to quote me directly rather than summarising points. If you're only speaking to something Kit said, please make that clear.

"The truth is, male people pretty much give up their male privilege the moment they start 'acting like a woman' or presenting themselves as female. In many male circles, this is considered far worse than just being born female in the first place, and makes the transperson an easy target for persecution."

The trans people I know disagree with that statement. For one thing, male privilege is not just based on what we look like.
Nothing demonstrates male privilege more in gay circles than gay men thinking they have a right to dress in a form of drag and call that "looking and acting like a woman". It's misogyny and it's male privilege, even if some men in "women's" drag never dress like men. The same with trans folks raised with male privilege. The same with folks raised not-poor. The class privilege doesn't go away just because someone becomes poor who was raised middle class, for example. I do get that anyone who "appears to be a woman" will likely be treated the way women are mistreated. Do you honestly think males who choose to appear to be women are treated worse by men than are women who have never, ever been male?
Appearing to be a woman, if you're male, doesn't amount to giving up all male privileges. Some of those privileges are embedded behaviorally, and in attitudes, and in practices used to put down women, more than they are handed over socially and then taken away by non-trans men. And no trans person I know is so callous as to claim that the rape of a trans person is "considered far worse" than the rape of a non-trans woman. And I'd like to know who, exactly, is going around "in many circles" making such a grossly misogynist claim. What "circles" are you talking about, exactly?
And your "pretty much" statement needs to be called out for what it is: misogynistic as hell.  Any woman raised as a girl has never had the male privileges that M2F trans people who choose to appear as women still retain to various degrees. Also, most people who are trans are not visibly transgender. Do you get that? Who are you speaking for and about, anyway? How do you come to the conclusions you state, that most transgender people (many of whom are neither M2F or F2M and who are not identifiable as "transgender" or "transsexual") are "an easy target for persecution" when girls and women, readily identified as such by men, from birth to death, are always targeted for persecution?
"Perhaps this is just because I'm a younger, 3rd/4th-wave feminist who has a lot of experience with trans issues (and a number of people in her social sphere who are trans and genderqueer), but although I agree with certain things he says (the quote about liberalism is great), I had to stop reading the post about halfway through because I found it so absurd and offensive."

Which passages were you offended by, Elyse?
"'Non-academic transpeople' may not know how to define or label the oppression they experience, but that doesn't mean it's not there."

Are you assuming I don't know people who are trans? I'm in a trans group. I have known trans people for years. And the trans people I know know other trans people who do lots of street-level social justice work, social service work, and anti-bigotry work. And the word from all of us is this: these terms some academics and uber-privileged bloggers are using only exist in those elite places. They have no meaning outside of those places. That's an observation. There's a trans person I know of who translates letters from one language to another for trans folks in prison, many of whom are raped there. He's never heard of the term "cisgender" in his life. So that tells me that some of these terms are elitist and not coming from the ground-level/front-line activists. That's my point. I welcome your response.
My perspective, to be clear, is this: transsexuality and transgender people exist. If they are identified as such, or mistaken for being gay or lesbian, or mistaken for being a woman who isn't lesbian, you can bet there will be plenty of het non-trans men at the ready to harass and assault them/us. This doesn't mean that what happens to non-trans women is less or more grievous and unjust than what happens to trans people when what happens is discrimination, harassment, and rape. In fact, the only population of people I know who, for four decades, have taken prison rape seriously as a crime against humanity are radical feminists. Not queer people. Not "progressive" men. Not "radical" men. And the liberal men I know joke about it all the damn time. And the conservative men, and many conservative women too, are all for the expansion of a prison industrial complex which allows police forces and the criminal justice system to routinely and systematically arrest and jail Black, Brown, Indigenous women and men, poor women and men, trans and non-trans people in systems of prostitution, and trans people, the structurally most vulnerable and disenfranchised of whom are poor and of color. And female.
What women experience that is oppressive and dehumanising ought not be seen as being better off than what trans people of any gender experience by way of marginalisation, discrimination, and violence. To do so is fucked up, imo. And misogynistic too. Being raised as a girl and then as a woman isn't a structural location "above" trans people. Trans people experience much of what we do because of misogyny--the misogyny that targets girls and women all the time. So too do gay men experience forms of that misogyny. So too do lesbian women. Misogyny is the root of all of it. So creating new categories of misogyny only obfuscates the issue and makes the political project seem far more complex than it is: uproot and end misogyny and male supremacy. Where there is white supremacy and racism, end that too, because that's also misogyny, and it's also inhumane. Where genocide is happening, challenge the perpetrators and end that too, because it is also gynocide, and it is inhumane. After that, let's meet and discuss what gender means and who is more oppressed.
Oppressed people suffer more than their oppressors, structurally and systemically speaking. The pimps, slavers, rapists, batterers, and corporate CEOs don't suffer more than prostitutes, slaves, the raped, the battered, and workers who aren't paid a living wage. That's my experience and that's my truth. I came to that conclusion based on watching class-privileged whites and men register objections about their conditions while completely ignoring the conditions of girls and women of color locally, regionally, and worldwide.
Elyse, what girls and women of all colors endure at the hands of men is unspeakably cruel and sadistically callous. The stories I carry in my heart would chill ice. I will not pretend, in any way, that what white women, Asian women, Brown women, Indigenous women, and Black women experience is "less horrific" than anything else on Earth that is horrid and inhumane. What men do to girls and women across the globe is, for me, an atrocity incomparable in scope and depth; it is the most vile, disgusting, far-too-tolerated, well-protected mass crime known to man-unkind that is not only centuries old, but old as recorded history. To try and minimise that monumental on-going atrocity by making some case that some people with some male privileges are hurt worse only tells me you must be in denial about, or simply do not know, what many millions of girls and women around the world experience that is so horrific that most people who don't experience it directly can't even believe it happens--regularly, daily, normally, unremarkably. Even the perpetrators don't understand the effect, the harm, the horror. It happens, every minute of every day, to females who are girls and women. Please stop trying to make it seem as if some people with some male privileges are treated worse than that.
I have received a response, from a man named Norman. I don't know Norman. What I find true about him is his responses seem to lack reactivity. I suspect this is because he is distant enough from experiencing misogyny against his body and overall being that he is not so triggered as many of us are when we encounter it. Nonetheless, I appreciate his way of engaging and say so below. What follows is from the facebook discussion.
  • Norman Lewis ‎"Please quote where I say that."

    I think this could be construed in that light:

    "I'd also like to note that terms like cis-sexism, trans-misogyny, and cisgender privilege are constructions of Academic writers and elitist bloggers."

    Although I admit that I could be reading it incorrectly.

    5 hours ago

  • Norman Lewis ‎"I do get that anyone who "appears to be a woman" will likely be treated the way women are mistreated. But that doesn't amount to giving up all male privileges. Some of them are behavioral more than they are handed over socially."

    Well said.

    5 hours ago 

  • Norman Lewis If words like cissexism and cisgender have no meaning outside of academic elite, then what words *are* used to construct the framework that relates all of the individual acts of violence and discrimination against trans people? This might be where the confusion lies; your blog post seemed to dismiss the only words some of us have heard of that delineate the social structures that descriminate/oppress trans people, without seeming to replace them with alternatives.
    5 hours ago

  • Julian Real ‎@Norman - First, I truly appreciate the care and thoughtfulness of your replies. I wish more people online showed this level of respectful engagement. Second, I fill out my response in my blog post, so please check that out and feel free to comment there. I welcome your contributions to my blog! Third, the quote posted above in your first comment to me is not stating that I believe trans people who are visible socially as "not what women are supposed to look like, and not what men are supposed to look like"--according to oppressor-dudes, don't experience discrimination. It is a critique of elitist language that is liberal, not radical: that attends to branches of a problem and not the root. Similarly, I don't think an important term is "anti-radical feminism" or "anti-radical profeminism". I don't think it is critical that the term "heterosexism" exists. More next comment.
    about a minute ago · 

  • Julian Real No one in my family has ever heard the term and would have little to no idea what such a term means. What's important that they understand is the way they make me feel like being a gay male is less human or less "natural" than their delusions about what being "straight" is. And what heterosexuality is for: for men to control and dominate women intimately. And how when one female member of my family says "Does this hairstyle make me look d*key?", it is grossly misogynistic, not just to lesbians but to *herself* as well. She is expressing self-hatred that is projected outward on some "other" group of women she believes she is not part of. The point is that lesbians and she are women, and men hate and subordinate women as a class. I think what the English-language terms describe that are at issue here, that are used by some race-, class-privileged people, are manifestations of misogyny--colloquially, in English: woman-hating. The systematised, institutionalised disrespect of women by men in the form of social/sexual subordination, and the denigration and degradation of all experiences considered "womanly, feminine, effeminate, girly" is the issue here.
    about a minute ago

  • Julian Real Catharine A. MacKinnon once wrote that most women who do radical feminist activism don't and won't ever call themselves radical feminists. They also won't even identify something some academics and privileged activists call "heteronormativity" or "heteropatriarchy". I hear you stating that there is a need for terms that specifically describe discrimination against trans people. I'm calling it this: disrespect and contempt for women directed against trans people if they are identified as trans; if you want a short-hand way of saying that, you are, of course, entitled to create and use one, or perpetuate the use of those terms that some region-, education-, race-, class-, and in some cases also gender-privileged people have already created. We--trans people--are discriminated against because patriarchal men want oppressive order; want gender to be a political hierarchy primarily; want women to be women and men to be men, as patriarchal men define and ruthlessly enforce those terms-in-reality. I'm calling it "male domination" directed at trans people. In this way, we keep the focus on the core issue, and stop pretending that the group "women" are "the oppressor" in the gender war that is men's against women and all people "womanly, feminine, effeminate, and girly". Trans people who present socially as men, when visibly targetable as "not men", are oppressed by men because they aren't seen as men. Those trans people socially perceived as women by men are oppressed by men because that group of trans people are perceived to be women. That's a truth I claim as socially honest and radically relevant.
    about a minute ago
 To be continued.

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