Friday, April 22, 2016

John Stoltenberg's and Cristan Williams' The Conversations Project: Some Final Thoughts

graphic is from here
Note: When I heard Prince died earlier on Thursday, what I recalled was how much Andrea Dworkin loved his work.

The message in the above graphic was never anything 
The Conversations Project endeavored to do. 
Yet they insisted they were a radical feminist group.

I may be writing more about this, but just wanted to update you that after four months of very engaged involvement, I've been purged without notice from The Conversations Project Facebook group started by John Stoltenberg and Cristan Williams, although John was largely absent.

Here are a few concluding thoughts:

1. The group was steadfastly anti-radical feminist, but couched this as
anti-T--F, as if those radical feminists who are against the liberalism and male supremacy in trans politics should and can be separated out from those who are or were not.

2. There was consistent refusal to admit that they were misusing and misunderstanding the early work of Andrea Dworkin while ignoring all of Dworkin's later work (like, at least 11/12ths of what Andrea wrote). The only passages of hers they ever referred to (a lot) were Dworkin's most liberal points in Woman Hating about multisexuality and androgyny. They refused to acknowledge Andrea's mid-70s discussion of androgyny was something that wasn't specific to her, and something that was of political interest during that decade, but never thereafter. (As was the case for so many white feminists in that period: Kate Millett, Shulamith Firestone, and Marge Piercy, for example.) They refused to consider why Andrea later rejected the last section of Woman Hating as politically and intellectually problematic. They clung to a few early ideas because dealing with anything else--such as pornography, prostitution, male privilege, male power, white and male supremacy, the process of subordinating female bodies such as through intercourse, battery, and rape--would have implicated some of their own politics as more overtly pro-patriarchal and white supremacist. The only snippets of Catharine MacKinnon's work they paid any attention to were from a grossly overly-steered interview Cristan did with Catharine. As if that's what MacKinnon's thirty plus years of radical feminist activism should be reduced to.

3. There were less than five pro-radical/pro-feminist people in the group. One person, a white trans woman, left the group only after about a week being there due to the incessant liberalism, anti-radicalism, and anti-feminism. Now there are no radical feminists in the group, although one member, Margo, a white Lesbian feminist, has consistently advocated for feminist values and sisterly approaches to dealing with the Turf War, and I respect her very much for that. And one man has been consistently affirmative of radical feminist perspectives on gender and sex. When Margo posted things that called for respect and regard for all feminists, few to no members "liked" her comments. Cristan and John never "liked" them.

4. The group was so white (how white was it?) that the only posts made about women of color, or even more generally, people of color, were exploitive: John and one other member, early on, posted links to Navajo understandings of gender, not because he ever discussed or linked to how to end white colonialist-patriarchal genocide, but, disturbingly, just because such ideas might be useful to or of interest to whites.

5. The white members of the group (the great majority) refused to center women of color (trans or not). They refused to center an examination of how their race, sex, and class privileges shaped their views, their values, and their agendas. Doing so was considered "off topic". Supporting white, class privileged trans women was always "on topic". No one white and trans in the group ever made it a point to name how they had white privilege. Let alone male privilege.

6. They always positioned some radical feminists as THE enemy. They did not critique or focus on white men (as a structurally positioned enemy class). When white men were critiqued, it was without the same disdain and derision as they demonstrated for some white radical and lesbian feminists. (I call that blatant misogyny and anti-feminism.) They never, ever considered what anti-trans feminists were arguing against or for. It was always only viewed as "hatred" and "wanting us dead". As if white and male privilege and power--including theirs--doesn't result in the deaths of women across many differences.

7. The group was never committed, even vaguely, to an anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, or anti-colonialist agenda. Never. Ever. Ever. In this sense and others, the group was willfully and determinedly liberal yet being called liberal was an insult, for reasons which remain unclear. If it is so blatantly what you are and is all you want to be, own it and be proud of it, for god's sake. I conclude they valued the term "radical" because it allowed them to discuss the rare liberal points of Dworkin's and MacKinnon's as if those were radical. When I linked to useful ways to understand historical radicalism (as an actual political stance against institutionalised oppression), they rejected or ignored them. There was nothing about their perspective that was radical. Nothing. And their name revealed this from the start: no group that is seriously radical (that I've ever been aware of) makes a point of stuffing the term into their title twice.

8. The group never considered what it is that causes the mass deaths of marginalised women of color. It was beyond their vision, their call to action, to do so. All they could come up with is transphobia. As if.

9. It became crystal clear to me that Cristan, and more surprisingly John, did not understood the traditional political meaning of "radical" when it comes to radical feminism. Again, John was largely absent as an active member, although he read a lot of the comments. But what became distressingly clear was that he could not articulate what Andrea's radical feminism meant or was. He was and is only concerned with prioritising the points of view of white and/or male-privileged people, over and against lesbian feminists. He refuses to see that Andrea never divorced "woman" (the patriarchal construction) from what actually happens, oppressively, violatingly, demeaningly, to almost all female people from birth to death. Instead, he believes that what Andrea said about "multisexuality" in 1974, or this, from 1975, "it is not true that there are two sexes that are discrete and opposite, which are polar...", were in fact radical things to say. They were radical things to read--for him, a white man. What the group seemed to mean by 'radical' was post-modernly complex or intellectually ground-breaking. 'Radical', for him, only addressed acts of speech or ideas in writing, not political campaigns or efforts at social change. (For some discussion about Andrea's later abandonment of such 'radical ideas', please see the notes in a book called Without Apology: Andrea Dworkin's Art and Politics, by Cindy Jenefsky.) I repeatedly pointed out, if these are such 'essential' points of Andrea's, why do they never again appear in her work, over the next twenty years? Crickets chirped. This was a stubbornly anti-activist group. The only allegedly radical action John engaged in was addressing young people to a liberal idea of multisexuality. Campaigns to end violence against women? Nope. Talking to college students about being colors in a color wheel: that's where it's at for John.

10. Also, members had no interest in supporting or working towards a truce between some white radical lesbian feminists and some white liberal trans activists. Only Margo, and the trans woman who left in disgust, did explicitly welcome this as a goal. The rest were intent on demonising some feminists (not just some of their views, but their personhood), while ignoring how their own political perspective was misogynistic, racist, and anti-trans.

The Conversations Project: The Radical Inclusivity of Radical Feminism should be titled:
"John and Cristan's Project: Ignoring Radical Feminism".

Sad. And predictable. There's this old expression, 'When someone shows you who they are, believe them.' Yup. Everything I first experienced in that group in January proved to remain the case in April. Lesson learned.


lauren said...

HI Julian,

I haven't read you in a couple of years, so I'm amazed that you're still here, as so many great radfem blogs have died.

It's brave of you to expose a star in the feminist theory world, and your critique of the group is very interesting. I'm curious about how you all exchanged ideas, and did you submit any of your work?

I was a big Prince fan in Minneapolis in the 1980s, in college and working for a record label and as a DJ. He was like nothing we had ever seen or heard, especially live. But a few years later I was shocked that I didn't see how misogynistic his lyrics were, and his videos. And to me, he hasn't done anything interesting in 25 years - which is a damn long time! I think folks are mourning in general (we have a lot mourn right now) and transferring it on to the unexpected death of a star.

Julian Real said...

Hi Lauren!! I am happy to "see" you again here! I was away for a while, and have come back. (Personal/family stuff.) I so appreciate your comment(s)--as they each had somewhat different remarks in them, I posted both versions. If you want to condense them into one, I'll post that instead, but it's totally fine with me this way. :)

I am still sad about how much John has gone off in a liberal, pro-whiteliberalqueer direction, although some feminists who have known him a very long time believe he was never radical. So, maybe I read too much into his early work. :P I think you might be especially interested to read Nikki Craft's account of dealing with him, re: Andrea's writings, if you haven't seen that as yet. Here is a link, if you have access to Facebook, but maybe this will open even if you do not. Let me know if you cannot access this, Lauren. I'll find a way to get it to you. Link: Altering Andrea: How John Stoltenberg Performs Editorial Surgery on Dworkin’s Sexual Politics, by Nikki Craft, March 2016". That is part of a series of related posts by Nikki. Let me know if you'd like to see the others.

As for Prince, it is curious what is and isn't being said about him since his passing. I found that when Bowie died, there were stories of a rape or two. I have to think at some point soon news will surface. I sense it is more complicated with him because of the ways he also supported female musicians throughout his career, who, as far as I've heard in media, hold his memory with great respect and gratitude for doing so. And: his lyrics, of course, shouldn't be beyond critique!

The story that comes most immediately to my mind is Sinead O'Connor's about him when she recorded his song, "Nothing Compares 2 U". I haven't found that yet. Due to your comment, I just did a search to see if she's made any public statements since he died. This is all I could find, which is quite something! (And I'd never heard this before now! So thank you!) Link: Sinead O'Connor talks about punch up with Prince.

lauren said...

Hi Julian!

I thought my first comment didn't get to you and it's poorly written, so please delete it if you can.

I will read Nikki Craft's piece. I didn't even know who she was until I started reading your blog.

When you were in this group, was it mostly writing on facebook?

I know the online world can be so open but also really cruel. In a way that people are less likely to be (or show) in person, talking to someone else.

I would so much like to be in a group where people meet in person. I really feel old when I realize how much easier this would have been even 20 years ago. But I find some solace that there's feminism in almost every woman I meet if you listen deeply. They just might not call it feminism.

I read about Sinead O'Connor and Bowies's stuff on Feminist Current.

I'm trying to start over in Northern California and sometimes do the 2 hour drive to Berkeley and Oakland. I went this past Saturday for a book fair, and got to hear Diana Block and Kate Raphael talk about feminist fiction. Starhawk gave the last presentation. She has such a great way of reaching all kinds of people and including them. I got a strong feeling listening to her that it will be a big loss when she's gone.

lauren said...

I just read the link and I feel really sick.

You never know - until you do.

Julian Real said...

Lauren, "You never know, until you do." Ain't that the truth!! Sad truth. :(

Here's a link to more about my dear, long-time (30+ year) friend, Nikki Craft. She brought on-going creativity and hilarity to Radical Feminism. For decades. See: The Nikki Wiki. After her political herstory was being trashed by anti-feminists, I once said, "What if you had your own Wiki! The NIKKI Wiki!" (I mean, really: meant to be!) It has given her a great deal of peace, knowing it cannot be tampered with.

Sorry I missed the question earlier. The group was a "closed" Facebook group. With members admitted and contents not public. So most of the conversations were not public. But it was initially intended to flow from a series of exchanges between Cristan W. and John S. that are entirely public. It is called "The Conversations Project" located at Cristan's website: She has another "anti-TERF" website too. I refuse to use the term, but did so here in case you'd never seen it before. "Trans-exclusive Radical Feminist/Feminism" is what it stands for. Nikki borrowed from that to come up with this: A NOTE FROM THE TURF WAR ZONE:
. Mostly the members ignored their conversation posts which came out of a months-long convo the two of them had, before embarking on this bigger project. If you check the posts here over the last three months, there are other posts about their project. See Feb. 19th and 21st, if interested in more of this mess. :P

Julian Real said...

How cool you got to see/hear Starhawk, Lauren!

Speaking of how old we are... ;)

Some of what I read in Dreaming the Dark back in 1982 or '83, in this early edition, is still with me strongly. Among others: power-over vs. power-within (and power with), the roots of anti-dark myths in Europe being part of an overall effort to conquer darker-skinned people, and how, while we cannot do everything, we can make our work picking up the garbage that we find in our path. A few seemingly small but key things for me.

I'm wishing you all the best (stability, joy, meaningful connections) in your new location in Northern California!! I so agree that groups in which people can see/meet in person are becoming a lost art!

lauren said...

The great thing Starhawk does is get folks visualizing what they want to create.
You can walk out of the room with those images, and even doing something small in your world is a lot better than dropping out. This is what's often missing in the more intellectual left analysis. Things are so overwhelming, and it feels impossible.

Do you know that she spent years doing ritual with protesters at WTO protests around the world?
And she still does work trades and scholarships for her workshops.

Julian Real said...

I didn't know she did that, Lauren! Cool! I think is so important for activists to find ways to be creative, and to also be financially supported. Nikki spent decades doing radical activist work full time, and was paid for none of it except for a rare donation. So, finding ways to fund radical activism is key, along with envisioning and practicing different ways of being, I think. No one I know who does radical work is paid. And people expect activists to do the work for nothing, sadly.

bert said...

Hi Julian,
I know this is an old post of yours, but have to comment. Years ago, I can't remember when, I came across your blog post "About Me: I view political activism as spiritual work" etc.

Was blown away by it, and asked if I could quote it on my own (now defunct) blog. You replied, we engaged. Life moved on.

Years later and I've recently become embroiled in the trans/women's rights "turf wars" on social media. (I wrote a post on Medium: )
The discourse on this topic on social media is so vitriolic, it's been really depressing. Am disheartened by people abusing, denouncing, blocking, refusing to engage, refusing to listen. I don't hold fixed opinions, am keen to understand and learn, and open to argument, but nobody will discuss - nobody will listen.
The abuse and harassment, even advocating physical violence towards women and feminists, and the gaslighting of women - coming not just from the usual MRA or rightwing suspects but also, with real gusto, from the Left, it's really shocking. Extraordinary.

If it was just social media that would be bad enough, but in the UK leftwing politics - Corbyn's Labour (for whom I had such high hopes) and almost the entire left/liberal and even alternative-left media are no-platforming any kind of critical debate on trans activism, no matter how sensitive and respectful. Every outlet had a trans woman spokesperson. Nowhere gives a voice to feminist non-trans women to talk about their concerns.
"Trans women are women" is the mantra, and even seeking clarification on what that means is enough to get you denounced as a transphobe, doxxed, harassed, abused, threatened - even physically assaulted.
(Sorry, my comment is too long! - Will finish in part 2)

bert said...

Part 2 (sorry its so log)

Clearly, definitely, trans people are oppressed. I support trans rights as I do the rights of all oppressed human beings. But somehow trans activism seems to have been hijacked by a misogynistic agenda that attacks feminism instead of challenging patriarchal oppression.

To cut a long story short, last night I finished reading Andrea Dworkin's "Woman Hating", and was very shocked by the final chapter on androgyny, and her analysis of the categories of male and female as social constructs. In the light of Dworkin's work against male supremacy and male violence, and her advocacy for the rights of women and girls, I couldn't believe she really meant to suggest that female isn't a "real" category, that female bodies are irrelevant to women's oppression - in fact - the preceding chapters, particularly the one on Chinese foot binding, specifically relate to the systematic torture and mutilation of Female BODIES.

I researched further and came across your blog, again (after all these years!), and your (several) posts (and Margo's) on John S and his Project.
I absolutely agree with pretty much every point you make.
I'm extremely concerned about the way a skewed, twisted version of identity politics is being embraced by neolib and neocon interests, and enthusiastically pushed by mainstream media and politics.
It seems to be functioning as a means of persuading well meaning lefties to support and participate in misogynistic attacks on women and in particular on feminists.
The same "female-denying" agenda is also already informing policy and law in education, medicine, health, prisons, equal opportunities and other areas, and impacting on the rights of female people for example on women-only shortlists, in women's sports and IN women's refuges.
Furthermore, there are signs that the same interests are pushing the notion of "childhood as a social construct" as a first step towards rehabilitating paedophilia as "loving" and "natural", casting paedophiles (as Foucault did) as unfairly demonised, denying what to me seems clearly to be the crucial marker of abuse in sexual relations (and I'm sure Dworkin agreed) - the imbalance of power.
Where such an extreme imbalance exists, sexual relations are always, intrinsically, abusive.

Feedback on anything I've said will be very welcome.
Glad to find you still active on your blog Julian, and hoping to hear more from you. Am trying to write something on this topic and if and when it's finished I'll post a link.
Love and solidarity.

Julian Real said...

Hello again. I may come to regret this first response, but there's no such thing as too long a comment! haha I thank you for sharing what you have. Please do post a link to your next work.

As for Dworkin and Woman Hating, below I'll post a link to something else on the subject which I hope speaks to some of your concerns. If this is one of the posts you also recently read or if it does not address your concerns, please let me know. Love and solidarity to you as well.

Is John Wrong? On Andrea Dworkin, Sex Difference, and Gender Dominance (Friday, February 19, 2016)

bert said...

Hi again and thanks for the response, so nice to hear from you!
I'm taking you at your word and posting another long message split into 2 parts, sorry! I won't do this often as too busy, but wanted to share what I know.
Yes, I read that piece already, plus several really illuminating (shocking re John Money etc) Nikki Craft pieces, and a variety of other stuff. You may be interested in some of the following  (maybe you've seen some of it already).
1/ Guardian - Catherine Bennett on the violent misogyny of (some of) the trans activist lobby and the silencing of debate:
2/ Recently a group of transsexual women wrote a letter to the Guardian in which they pledged support to women, condemned the abuse and attacks on women by trans activists, and asked for debate on the proposed revision of the gender recognition act in the UK. They have since been deluged with online abuse and branded "terfs" and "transphobes":
Nb: it's interesting that the Guardian has finally published a couple of "trans critical" (by which I mean trans activist critical) articles -a complete break from the last 5 or so years of relentlessly pushing the trans activist agenda.
3/  I came across a really good article on cultural appropriation of blackness recently which I think is very pertinent to cultural appropriation of femaleness:
4/ This from the Morning Star - the UK's ONLY leftie media which is speaking out about the misogyny of trans activism:
5/ Also I really like Derrick Jensen, thought I'd mention him, I assume you follow what's been happening to him (targeted by trans activists). He's done lots of stuff of course, but this (with Susan Cox) was interesting on postmodern identity/Queer theory/politics, Foucault and paedophile advocacy:

(continued below)

bert said...

part 2 (continued)

6/ I haven't found any articles on this yet, but two UK doctors with big media platforms are pushing trans activism and now beginning, I think, to lay the ground work for the "normalising" of paedophilia. They are Dr. Adrian Harrop and Dr. Christian Jessen. They're all over UK tv, mainstream and social media.
I'm very upset by John S betrayal of Andrea Dworkin's principles and message. How awful that her life partner could do that to her legacy. I'm also really distressed by the sly, covert gaslighting approach being used by so many left/liberal voices to push misogyny, female erasure and paedophilia in the name of trans activism.
My huge disappointment with Corbyn's Labour over their total refusal to engage with trans critical debate is compounded by the total capitulation of Corbyn supporting alternative media platform - another group I had high hopes for and was actually a paid subscriber to (I have withdrawn my support). See their Shon Faye trans activist platform:
(They have NO non-trans platform for women's issues).
They also promote Owen Jones, who is virulently pro-trans activist, has written articles for the Guardian condemning criticism of trans activists, and has attacked Julie Bindel etc.
Any attempt to engage on the topic is ignored. Trans activists with high media profiles block any of us who criticise them. They block us en masse, guided by the "terfblocker" websites. Individuals will engage on Medium and Twitter, but it's hard to debate with supporters of trans activism as they almost all shout "terf" and "transphobe" at everything I say.
I have to go, but will chat again if that's OK, it feels good to be in contact with the supportive voice of a person (you!) for whom I have enormous respect.
Warm wishes.

Julian Real said...

With the caveat/confession that I have looked at some but not all of the links you provided, I will offer some preliminary responses.

It comes as no surprise to me that any Western liberal and neoliberal political stance and action is anti-radical and anti-feminist, as well as pro-colonialist and white supremacist. That includes most if not all white Queer Theory. I know some Black and Brown radical and feminist Queer theorists who are primarily activists, not writers. They are not academics. Their perspectives are grounded in their lives, not in response to white academics who put forth theory that is removed from the lives of the multiply marginalised. I'm sure you've seen plenty of that--the views that will make it into textbooks for students to read, not for activists to be empowered by. Necessarily, their lived experiences, diverse as they are, are usually quite different than white trans and queer lives and politics. I have some hunches about why there is often such a divide between white and Black perspectives on the subject. But that's not for this discussion. I'd rather post about it and have the conversation there.

I have serious disagreements with Rob Peach's arguments on race in his article, "The Fine Line Between “Identity” and “Identification”: Debating Appropriation in the Case of Dolezal" and therefore don't find it a meaningful piece to apply to a discussion of gender or sex. I also know of no Black feminists/womanists who would take the perspective of Kareem Abdul-Jabar on race seriously enough to center him in an article, unless it was about him.

I generally find parallels being drawn between race and sex by white people problematic. Why? Because they tend to completely invisibilise women of color. I find very few examples of Black feminists drawing such parallels, perhaps for that reason, but likely for many others; or to the extent some women of color do so, their own lives do not tend to be removed from the analysis.

I think there are some if not many features of white supremacy that mimic male supremacy, but believe that is the case primarily because men are in charge of both. I think white/Western and male supremacy are mutually reinforcing such that opposing one but not the other perpetuates patriarchy and/or colonialism--each of which harm women and girls profoundly.

Re: Derrick Jensen. I have benefitted from reading some of his work. And I disagree with some of what he says and does, finding it way too white-centered/privileged, among other problems. But most people have some critique of other activists and theorists, I find. Some are scathing; some respectful. While I think stating a disagreement is utterly unremarkable and necessary I also feel this (comments section) is not the place to explicate that.

Acknowledging your mention of preliminary findings that may not yet be published, can you link me to anything that spells out those doctors' views on child rape/exploitation? I don't need "proof" in order to believe they are dangerous in various ways, but stating possibilities doesn't make a strong case and if there is evidence I'd be interested to read it.

Just an aside: I don't like the term 'pedophilia' because it means "[adult] love of children", even though most folks understand what it refers to. Any term about violence that ends in "philia" is too removed from the issue for me: the rape and/or sexual exploitation of children by grown men. I also don't think it's a fetish; I think it's a predictable if horrific outcome of a patriarchal/anti-child society, much the way men's battery and rape of women is. One that must be systematically opposed and eradicated. I also don't support perspectives on child rape that ignore the rape of women, or which pretend the victims are all male. I doubt there is any disagreement between us on this.

With apologies for typos and grammatical errors.

And I see no need for you to apologise for your voice! :)

bert said...

Thanks Julian, I really appreciate your taking the time to read and reply to my long comments!
I take on all your points.
Re "paedophilia". You are quite right, "love of children" is absolutely the last term anyone should use for child sexual abuse. Will avoid from now on.

Re the two doctors, these are links to relevant Twitter screenshots:
Sorry that's all I have for now.

Re cultural appropriation/black identity, you are right, I know, to tell me to leave blackness out of it when making points not about blackness. I'm frustrated by the Left's acknowledgment (at least superficially) of the legitimacy of everyone else's rights except the rights of (female born) women and girls (
Pointing out the parallels with the Dolezal case seemed like a way of highlighting that, in a way that people claiming Leftie credentials can't argue with. Sorry again if that is an ignorant thing to say.
I am open to criticism, advice and information. I want to be fair and to understand and educate myself.

If you'd rather move this conversation elsewhere, or curtail it, please say so. I don't mind. I just want to engage, share, learn and support people who are aware and working for a better world for all of us.

Julian Real said...

First, I don't wish to curtail the conversation as long as you are interested in being part of it! haha

Ironically, something was sent to me by someone who is not following this blog, that sooooo applies to this: a series of tweets. I'll copy and paste them into a comment. Soon.

I meant to add: as I know so little about UK politics, I've been leaving that whole area of discussion alone, but suffice it to say, I hear you on the deep frustrations and disappointments in dominant political spheres.

Now, in direct response to your last comment:

I'd argue that rather than leaving out Blackness, the point is to be aware of what is white [supremacist] about any given perspective and course of action. And to be mindful of how such a view impacts Black and Brown people. That is to say, no perspective is unraced. They're either white-centering and Black/Brown-invisibilising, pro-white, or anti-white supremacy. And white-centering = pro-white = pro-white supremacy.

Re: "I'm frustrated by the Left's acknowledgment (at least superficially) of the legitimacy of everyone else's rights except the rights of (female born) women and girls"

"[A]t least superficially" indeed! haha (and, not really funny). The Left, as a group discussed in media, rarely includes radical women of color who are acting within Leftist movements. In the Americas, many Leftists are not white. Is the Left in the UK virtually all white?

The quoted statement has white supremacy embedded into to it, as I read it. How? If everyone else's rights are legitimate in the agendas and actions of the [white supremacist] Left, does that mean women of color's rights are acknowledged "only" as people of color? Such a reality doesn't exist: women of color are never only of color or only women. And if focusing on women of color as women under patriarchy, what WOC experience is not the same as what white women experience, even if there is overlap. In the US, at least, Black, Brown, and Indigenous people's struggles are never centralised by the white Left in or out of dominant media representations of the Left, including the struggles of WOC specifically--female-born or otherwise. Within LGBTQ activism here, the fact that a grossly disproportionate number of murders of trans women are of trans WOC doesn't stop white LGBTQ organisations from historically counting their deaths as only "anti-trans", racistly. And in many ways, the rights of white female-born women and girls are acknowledged and supported by the Left here. If white, women's rights is a real thing here. Under threat, of course. Always under threat. But the rights of women of color? Not so much. One example: the right to abortion. The white Left fully supports that right. But Black and Brown women here have endured a history that includes not only lack of access to abortion services and deaths to women by poorly administered abortions, but also the trauma and systematic practice of forced sterilisation. This issue has never been taken up by white radicals whether on the Left or beyond the Left.

bert said...

Hi Julian, great that you're happy to keep talking!
I'm not sure if I'm clear on everything you're saying. I think I'll comment on each issue, rather than trying to reply to all the points at once.

So firstly, when I refer to the Left's acknowledgement - at least superficially - of everyone's rights except females, I don't imply that the Left *prioritises* the rights of, for example, black or brown people. Very clearly, that is not the case.
I think I'm talking more about the language of the Left, what it is and is not considered acceptable to say.
Few "Lefties" (pardon the term) accept that it's ok for white people to say that because they "feel" black, therefore they actually are black, and that disagreeing with this is hate speech.
In contrast, the new Left orthodoxy unquestioningly accepts that males who "feel like" females therefore are females, and anyone who disagrees is a hateful transphobe bigot. On this basis, UK Labour's women-only shortlists, created to increase female political representation, have been opened up to males - trans women - and anyone who objects is branded transphobic.
I've also had several Leftie men tell me that the dispute over the inclusion of males in the category "woman" is meaningless and petty and just distracts from the "real" issues. These same men wouldn't think of dismissing disputes over black identity in the same way.
I do recognise that black and brown people continue to face far greater oppression than whites, of either sex. I don't mean to in any way imply to the contrary, and hope that is not how what I'm saying comes across. But I think it is valid to flag up the hypocrisy and double standards of the *rhetoric* of the Left when it comes to females as a class, as opposed to black or brown people as a class.

bert said...

I don't think I understand what you mean here:
"The quoted statement has white supremacy embedded into to it, as I read it."
Do you mean that my comment is white supremacist? Please can you further explain if so, or clarify either way?

I am not suggesting that everyone's rights except females are legitimate in the agendas and actions of the Left.
Or that black and brown people are at the top, or anywhere near the top, of the Left's agenda.
Or that black women get a fair deal from the Left.
On the contrary, the actions and agenda of the Left clearly continue to marginalise and de-prioritise race issues, and as usual, it's black and brown women that get the least support of all.

I am saying that the Left will "talk the talk" (say the right words, be supportive at least superficially) about the rights of nearly all oppressed and marginalised groups - but not females.

The Left does not claim black identity is a "feeling", and insist that anyone fighting for black rights must include white people who feel black. But they say exactly that about women - that it's a feeling, and that women's rights must include males (trans women).
Furthermore, in practice, the Left are clearly prioritising males who "feel" like women, over actual women.
Without any consultation with women's groups, and with a good deal of criticism of women for (unsuccessfully) attempting to make themselves heard, the Labour Party has made policy changes that reflect this, and pledged further revisions eg of the Equal Opportunities Act. And the Left media, barring the Morning Star, has been almost entirely complicit - even the radical/alternative media is 100% pro-trans activism.

bert said...

Just to give a bit of background to where I'm coming from -
I work/childcare full time, am not rich, live in an isolated rural area and don't drive - so in practical terms I'm quite isolated and my opportunities to politically engage are limited.
I try to contribute, to help, by blogging sometimes, writing posts eg on Medium, and I have a very active Twitter presence.
It's not a lot, but I do what I can, because I believe passionately in human rights, social justice, an end to capitalism and patriarchy, an end to environmental destruction - the possibility of a beautiful, healthy, fair and equal world!

My knowledge of actual people involved in the UK Left is based on online reading/debate.
But I can confirm that of course there are black and brown women (and men) active on the Left in the UK, though few in positions of power/prestige (Corbyn's Labour has been better than predecessors on this).
And of course, despite this, black and brown issues continue to be marginalised, and black and brown people, particularly women, continue to face unacceptable discrimination within the Left - as everywhere.
I am sure this is much the same in the UK as in the US.

In a small, personal way, I've written, blogged and campaigned on a variety of issues. My past campaigning has focussed on domestic abuse, child sex abuse, anti-immigrant racism and Theresa May's Hostile Environment campaign.
Currently I'm focussing on the attacks on women (particularly targeting radical feminists) by the trans activist narrative which denies the reality of woman as a female sex category.

I had high hopes until recently for the new UK leftwing movement led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. These were dashed by Corbyn's public declaration that "trans women are women", the exposure of entrenched blindness to women's sex-based rights and, worse, outright misogyny, within the new movement, Labour's refusal to debate or consult with women's groups, and changes in policy & practice that undermine women's rights.

Julian Real said...

Great questions and issues.

I've not much time now, but will respond properly when I have the chance. I will say that in the US, I don't hear many trans people saying, "I feel like a female." Some [trans women] may say they wish for their bodies to more closely resemble female bodies. But generally it is said, among some transgender people, "I feel like a woman [or man]", that is, the gender terms, not the sex terms. In a younger generation here I am as likely to hear, "I don't feel like a woman [born female] or man [born male]." Or, "While I don't feel like a woman [born female], I also don't feel like a man." These few people I know, describe wanting to feel more authentic, understanding that this is likely to be true for most anyone in various degrees. And some understand that the dominant society is anti-authenticity. I also think the "I feel" does not accurately reflect what trans people I know, both transgender and transsexual, state or mean. What they tend to state--here again, the people I know--is that there was extreme distress and depression, suicidal depression, in childhood and intensifying in adolescence. As I listen to the few trans folks I know well, this is not exactly the same as a feeling in the sense that "I feel good today", or "I feel my Jewish heritage more strongly since visiting my aunts and uncles." I think the way this gets cast by some folks, feminist or not, is trivialising of experience and frequently cynical and dismissive. This is not to say that everyone has to agree on another's experience. End of part 1! haha

Julian Real said...

I think debating or discussing this only on the level of terminology, language, and discourse is leaving out the most important dimensions of the realities. That said, I understand how it is [always?] the case that language choices reflect ideologies and practices, either pro-hegemonic/supremacist or not.

I choose to engage with radicals on this and most other subjects. "Radicals" to me does not equal "the Left". And so that's why debating--if that's part of this--what the Left does or doesn't do, says or doesn't say, isn't as important to me as what people who behave radically do in other forms of action. Lots of "Leftists" are elitist assholes, for example. Lots are racist as hell, misogynist as hell--misogynoirist as hell. The whole spectrum of "Left to Right" is, for me, part of a Western white male supremacist ideology. That is not to dismiss anyone or everyone who IDs that way or who seriously engages with traditionally Leftist projects and goals. It is to say radical friends of mine have known enough asshole white men on the Left to give up on them leading humanity to anywhere humane. And many white women and Black women broke ranks with "the Left" in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

What radicals I know do is form coalitions with other marginalised, silenced, subordinated, and oppressed people. The reason for doing this is both simple and complex. One reason is because their lives, collectively, depend on it. This is what I've seen: if you don't have white, economic, or male privileges, you can't necessarily afford to let language choices divide you. In my experience, people with white and male privilege and access to resources are not very good at working collectively if that means across race. To the extent they/we think they/we are, this is usually assumed; perhaps you've heard this too, but it is not common for POC to not feel safe, physically, emotionally, and in so many other ways, to say what their experience is and what the believe the agendas ought to be--primarily because none of the whites/men have shown signs of truly giving a shit. I mean that they're/we're not very good at learning how to be humane across many differences in structural location, whether trans or non-trans. And are not very good at giving up the mic on stage, or giving up the stage to those we oppress.

Julian Real said...

Here's a difference: being Indigenous. Here's another: being Jewish. In each case, various amounts of biological and/or cultural heritage are demanded or requested in order to determine whether someone "is" or "is not" either ethnicity. Whether I'm Jewish depends on who you ask. Orthodox Jews may have one answer. Secular Jews or feminist Jews may have another. Some ethnic and racial groups are put in the position of having to "prove" to someone else that they are or are not who they say they are--including how they feel. The whole matter of who is Indigenous can be a deeply painful one to delve into given how whites have ripped apart families, children from adults, in order to raise the godless children as good white Christian children should be raised. The same with delving into Black Americans' heritage.

The parallel drawn in this thread about race and sex doesn't really pan out as helpful, in my view. Why? Because the history of Blackness is as political as it is fictional and very historically specific across the globe. It means different things in different places. In Australia, I believe "Black" does not mean people of sub-Saharan African descent. It refers to Aboriginal people. In the US, "Colored" used to mean "Black/African American". But in So. Africa it means, as I perhaps ignorantly understand it, "Brown" or mixed race--with one part of the mix being white.

That parallel is also usually if not always racist when raised by whites, in my experience. Because it is practically the only time Black people tend to be on the radar--a blip at that. Please let me know of any white Leftist groups in the UK who have POC as all the key leaders. Whites' work, in my experience, does not center Black people's experience, struggles, and theories. So just as white [supremacist] trans people exploit the fact that Black trans women are disproportionately murdered, so too is it exploitative to 'use' "I'm white but I feel Black" as an example of what white liberals or Leftists would never find acceptable; what is unacceptable to such liberals and Leftists is having POC in leadership, including of theory, agenda, and action. Let me know if there are groups with a majority of whites that are accountable to POC, and with POC in leadership--not merely being accepted into white-led movements or given at seat or two at the table. For all I know they exist in the UK. Here, not really.

Julian Real said...

Re: "I am saying that the Left will "talk the talk" (say the right words, be supportive at least superficially) about the rights of nearly all oppressed and marginalised groups - but not females."

This leads me to realise that the Left and/or Labour party there is far from radical, far from revolutionary, and as is the case with most groups who are neither, will cater to the powers that be, maneuvering to appear good and moral according to the time they live in. If the claim is that the Left will [only] talk the talk but not walk it, that's not a bar that should be set for anything. So what if they superficially support people of color (who must be all men)? This reminds me of someone I have known for over a decade who has told me that US Southern white racism is less difficult to contend with than that in the North. Why? Because in the South you know who you're dealing with. In the North you get a lot of shite like "We're not racist. You must HATE it in the South!" Let's face it: the [white and male supremacist] Left in your country, according to your view, is not much more than a bunch of bullshit artists posing as revolutionaries. Same here.

Julian Real said...

Re: "I don't think I understand what you mean here:
"The quoted statement has white supremacy embedded into to it, as I read it."
Do you mean that my comment is white supremacist? Please can you further explain if so, or clarify either way?"

Thank you for asking me to clarify!! I appreciate the opportunity.

The quoted statement is this: Re: "I'm frustrated by the Left's acknowledgment (at least superficially) of the legitimacy of everyone else's rights except the rights of (female born) women and girls"

To my eyes, that can only mean women and girls are either white or unraced. In either case, Black and Brown women cannot be placed in the sentence ["everyone else's rights except the rights of (female born) women and girls"] and have it make sense. Does that help? And, for me, learned from bell hooks among others, US racism/Western racism = white [male] supremacy. To say there's racism embedded in a statement is to say that there's unowned or unacknowledged white privilege or power in or between the words. Only white people can believe and benefit from pretending there's racism in the West that is not white supremacist. "White people are white supremacist" is a structural reality, beyond personality, intention, and words.

Julian Real said...

Thank you for sharing a bit with me about your life circumstances. I find it almost always helpful--and in this case helpful! :)

And, for whatever it is worth, thank you for all the work you do, including child care. You certainly come across as a deeply caring and passionate person, about world and national issues and more personal/immediate ones. Most everyone I know who works on the issues you do are exhausted and too often left in despair. So I hope you have sources of restoration and care directed towards you! And I hear you on the matter of isolation, and trying to get one's words out there.

I am in awe of you figuring out how to utilise Twitter! :D

Re: My knowledge of actual people involved in the UK Left is based on online reading/debate.

Mine too! haha

Re: But I can confirm that of course there are black and brown women (and men) active on the Left in the UK, though few in positions of power/prestige (Corbyn's Labour has been better than predecessors on this).
And of course, despite this, black and brown issues continue to be marginalised, and black and brown people, particularly women, continue to face unacceptable discrimination within the Left - as everywhere.
I am sure this is much the same in the UK as in the US.

Yes, and I apologise for addressing this above with questions when you answered it already.

I want to own that in several ways I've avoided the core of what you're raising and I will reflect on why that may be. I guess, given my friendship circle, I've seen how harmful some statements and actions have been among two groups, neither of whom are in any way dominant. I've heard each group make the case that the other is dominant in some way and, well, each are dominant relative to so many people I know. What I truly believe is that radical feminism/radical lesbian feminism, even if primarily white, is marginalised almost out of existence--or at least there are so many people who wish it would just go away. I have met white trans people, people who ID as trans women, who I find utterly male supremacist in their actions, and who claim they are feminists, and worse, "radical feminists". As you may have read in other posts!

The thing I keep going back to is how much this is a sometimes fierce (not a negative term) debate and fight for power and legitimacy. I can see both sides, but then there's the third side--among more, I'm sure! That side is how radical/revolutionary Black women and queer people (female born) approach this and how differently it dealt with. I think there's something "white" going on, even while I can understand this from several perspectives.

Julian Real said...

So, I'm interested to know how you came to land on this issue. And I think you know I have many, many critiques of the white trans movement. Many. But I'd never call the white trans movement "the trans movement" or "the attempt to coopt women by pretending to be women". Why? Because it puts whiteness in a privileged location. "Trans" can mean transsexual and transgender, and from the perspective of the deeply feminist transsexual women I know, basically, transgender is an entirely different movement than theirs. You can see some of this perspective in the words of Margo Shulter. But I know more revolutionary trans women who have grave concerns about popular so-called trans activism. The fact that some white [female born] feminists do not distinguish between and among those different groups concerns me.

Now, a question for both of us, I suppose: What led you to this issue? What led me was the increasingly tense exchanges I saw among people I know who I structurally oppress. People who I strive to be an ally to, to be respectful of and to listen to. I saw that anyone who existed in between the two 'camps' as it has been described by some feminists I know, was rudely rejected by each. And--a big and--I saw how each group showed no obvious regard for POC. I wish that weren't true. And of course there are POC in both camps. But the core theories and positions are very white, from the perspective of folks I know who are not white. And sometimes flat out bigoted. As Andrea Dworkin and Audre Lorde are two primary role models, and as each spoke against this level of engagement, I feel to honor them I will speak out against any form of bigotry. I recognise, too, that even bigotry doesn't exist on a level playing field. White straight men's bigotry can kill. White lesbian feminists' bigotry--not so much. As this blog aims to center women of color, I am not comfortable ignoring whiteness wherever it may be, but also know I am privileged and structurally oppressive to both camps. And I hope I always frame points of disagreement among oppressed groups as conflicts that exist within and under white male supremacy, never above or beyond it.

Julian Real said...

I guess I found the time to respond fully!! hahaha