Monday, August 31, 2009

Ongoing Echoes from the Women of the Long House

This important and fascinating post (title above) by Kai Chang over at his blog Zuky may be accessed by clicking here.

(Once I figure out how to "share this" post from Kai's blog to mine, I'll have the whole post up here at A.R.P. The day of me possessing that knowledge, clearly, has not yet arrived.)

The Pissing Link: Hunting and Small Penis Size

Do antifeminist men actually have a sense of humor? We're about to find out. They are so fond--or is that contemptuous? with patriarchs it's so hard to know--of saying "Feminists have no sense of humor" but when the humor is on the antifeminist men, do they laugh (out loud), or just consider it more of the supposedly rampant (but as yet unauthenticated) "man-hating"?

From here:

March 29, 2005

New Research Finds Long-Suspected Link Between Hunting and Small Penis Size

Diminutive male genitalia disorder (DMGD) has, until this month, been considered only a theory in the scientific world, but now the long-suspected link between hunting and unusually small penis size has been established as scientific fact by the Diminutive Male Genitalia Disorder Research Organization (DMGDRO). The DMGDRO has conducted an extensive two-year study on men with diminutive male genitalia disorder.

Lead by Mike Streams and Brian Upchurch, who began their collaboration on human sexuality research while undergraduate students at Johns Hopkins University, DMGDRO is a team of New Orleans, Louisiana-based scientists interested in the study of male sexual disorders and dysfunction. Having identified the genetic disorder linking small male reproductive organs and the ability to derive pleasurable sensations from killing in a controlled environment without fear of personal harm (as differentiated from war or fighting back in an attack by a human being), also known as “controlled victim” aggression manifestation, Streams and Upchurch believe that there may be ways to combat men's feelings of inadequacy and curb some of the destructive behaviors that such men engage in as coping mechanisms.

“It's really quite interesting,” Dr. Streams says. “Like much folklore, it appears that, certainly in this case, there is a foundation in fact. This is the first time that research has been conducted on men who hunt, and it shows quite definitively that the link between what we are calling ‘the thrill of the kill' and a smaller-than-average penis is statistically significant."

Initial tests conducted on mice and rabbits proved inconclusive, but subsequent human test subjects showed what Dr. Upchurch calls “staggering results.” The subjects ranged from having a slight abnormality in penis size to a “pubis innyus” or inverted male pubic region. As data were gathered, the numbers revealed a discrepancy so great that it seemed to suggest a genetic mutation. By tracing what has been identified as the “DMGD gene,” an abnormality was discovered on the 21 st chromosome. Further investigation proved that this abnormality is consistently linked to two traits: abnormally small reproductive organs and “controlled victim” aggression manifestation. Drs. Streams and Upchurch and their colleagues theorize that an extreme case of DMGD may have been to blame in the 2004 Sawyer County, Wisconsin, incident in which a hunter went on a rampage, shooting at a group of other hunters and killing six of them.

Reaction from participants has been positive, and subjects described the results as liberating and a relief to finally be able to label their problem as a legitimate medical disorder.

Dr. Upchurch reports, “The first step in the treatment of a disorder is to understand its origins. We are pleased to have crossed that important threshold.”

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What Men "Using Porn" Actually Is and Does

This post is a partial response to finishing the book, Love and Pornography, by Victoria and Garry Prater.

My primary frustration, my anger, at Garry is that at no point does he seek out an understanding of his behavior as political, as privileged, and as loaded up with male supremacist entitlements. To see oneself, as a man, only as a person who was hurt as a child, who was parentified at an early age, loaded up with responsibilities no child should be burdened with, who carries deep sexual shame that warps one’s sense of self, is to miss other key components of what any man is, and what sex has increasingly become due to men's patriarchal practices.

I don’t wish to minimize any of the ways Garry was hurt as child, and was manipulated by a society that condones just about every horrible act imaginable. But for all the ways men go on and on about how much will and power women apparently have who are in pornography, it is curious, to say the least, that men’s male supremacist agency and power seems never to register or mark the radar screen when it comes to men analysizing and intervening in each other’s behavior that hurts women.

Garry, in the book which is a partial chronicle of a portion of his life with Victoria, gets to be loved as a hurt, vulnerable man-child. He repeatedly and convincingly argues an entitlement-invisibilising case for continuing to use pornography while living with her, knowing full well it is not comfortable in the least for her to live with that arrangement. She is not alone in being a woman who wishes to live her life with a man but without pornography. But one gets the feeling she’d have to live alone, without him, if she weren’t accepting of his terms and definitions of what he is actually doing that disturbs her so much. He never owns the degrees to which he is being a male supremacist. This self-serving ignorance doesn’t make him a bad man. It makes him a typical one.

The West, particularly and especially the United States, has been about as fucked up about sex as any nation to date. It has both Puritanical influences, fusing shame with sex at every turn, while mandating a European-rooted patriarchal form of men’s sexual subordination of women, through marriage and intercourse, as natural and healthy regardless of whether such institutions and practices do, in fact, benefit women. What we know is this: they definitely benefit men.

Patriarchal men commit atrocities such as marital rape, child molestation, and incest, and experience those acts as “sexual”. What the White Right and the White Left have in common is a desire and support for the production of patriarchal sexxxuality, for sex acts that both bolster and foster the social degradation of women as a class, and the abuse and murder of many individual women, seen as utterly dispensable by men. In this view, women in prostitution are not really human beings, and any woman who is assumed to be one isn’t either. Add to this the misogynistic, racist pornographic myth that all women, deep down, are really whores, and you can begin to understand how sex crimes become commonplace and normal in patriarchal societies.

In a so-called post-sexual revolutionary era, where many have left their traditional houses of religious worship to worship patriarchal capitalism’s products instead (with mall as monastery), we have reached an era where many men feel free to talk about things like their masturbatory habits and various uses and abuses of women as “fun activities” that are, irrefutably, “harmless”. For the use and abuse of women to be harmless, women cannot be human. It is that simple. Either harm hurts or it doesn’t. Either use and abuse humiliates and degrades or it doesn’t. For men acculturated to seeing incested and pimped women as merely “images of naked women” and their masturbatory or other uses of those women as recreational relaxation, means they have become terribly dehumanised, to the point of being a danger to women’s freedom and political status as human. This dehumanization includes disregard and callousness to the suffering and harm that constitutes and defines a society that produces pimps, violently subordinates women sexually, massively reproduces and markets such images of this degradation and violation. In short, men who “use porn” participate actively in the process of manufacturing contempt for women as a gendered class. This is men’s contempt for women, and men’s callousness to the harm done to women, including to the women in the lives of men who “use porn”. Unless images sought out on- or off-line are animations or otherwise completely technologically created—never involving an actual woman or girl, each picture or video of a woman is socially encrypted with information about that woman, her history, what happened to her, choices she made with varying levels of agency, and choices made for her by pimps, pornographers, prostituters, and procurers, often enough male members of her own family of origin or her boyfriend or husband and the men they know. If men did not coerce and manipulate girls and women, on both the institutional and individual levels, pornography, prostitution, incest, and rape could not exist as systematic practices and industries earning billions of dollars annually.

What men are actually doing and seeing when they seek out and find pornographic images or videos of women, unclothed or not, tells us a lot about what men are capable of doing to women who are not in pornography. To be clear: I am not saying (nor do I believe) all men who enjoy looking at pornography are rapists and incest perpetrators. I am saying that men who routinely and habitually use pornography are increasingly unwilling and unable to even know what sexualised harm to girls and women looks like. And, let’s be honest, many of the images many men seek out are of girls and women who are obviously being coerced into doing what some men want them to do. There are various and sundry rationalisations for continuing this “just looking” behavior. First of all, let’s be clear that men are not “just looking” when seeking out and finding and enjoying pornographic images of women. They are being male supremacists. They are practicing woman-hating. They are making some women around them uncomfortable, at least. They are reinforcing a key tenet of male supremacy: the right of men to have unquestioned access to women’s bodies.

Liberal and conservative, progressive and radical men “innocently” use images of pimped women in order to achieve a particular version of ourselves—either as empowered or shameful, depending on our upbringing and current sexual value system. We may obtain dissociated or non-dissociated sexual states of arousal and obsessively sought-after orgasms after a stressful day at work, or, increasingly, during that stressful day at work if our work provides us with a computer hooked up to the Internet.

I find no shame in men (and women) wanting to reduce stress. I find nothing shameful about men (and women) wanting relief from the oppressive realities of capitalist work life. But when one’s strategies for stress reduction and release from oppressive capitalist conditions require the rape of women, that’s one of many places that I think any humanitarian ought to draw the line of unacceptability. Men of some conscience, men who claim to care about women, or at least one woman, are able to shift their arguments from “What I’m doing doesn’t harm anyone” to “I won’t support gross exploitation and rape in order to get this feeling I’m after.”

At issue, centrally, is not “How can men become more humane?” much as that question needs to be asked and answered in action. The central issue is “What do men have to do to end the sexual subordination, exploitation, and violation of women?” While these endeavors are not an either/or enterprise, to privilege the first over the second is to maintain men’s focus on “what’s good for us”, a social and political preoccupation that has led us to where we are today.

One rationale for the men who accept that at least some women in pornography were coerced or forced to be there is that “The images on the Internet have already been made; the harm—if there is any—has been done; men looking at images days, months, or years after the images were taken doesn’t cause the girl or woman any [additional] pain.” For me, this is about as callous a response as you could conjure to a political condition that is nothing short of an atrocity.

But, lest we forget, it is common in a society in which every aspect of civilisation as we know it perpetuates genocide, gynocide, and ecocide to want to deny harm is happening when and where it is. Misogynist men are not alone in appropriating this level of callous disregard as we purchase goods produced by enslaved children, for example, hoping against all reason that maybe this garment was made by well-paid adults whose living conditions approximate the buyer’s. (Think again.) I do not find the kind of dissociative lack of awareness about what’s happening in the real world that men employ to continue to “use pornography” any more or less egregious and heinous than the kind of dissociative lack of awareness of so-called First World people involved in going about our days using many things that couldn’t exist if ecocide, non-sexual slavery, various forms of racism, and genocide weren’t happening endemically. If we shop, apply chemicals to our bodies and lawns, go on trips such as cruises, and own property, we are participatory agents of genocide and human slavery, inhumanity to animals, and the killing of the planet. It is difficult to be too self-righteous when my typing on a computer necessitates all of the above. But as someone committed to exposing and challenging misogyny, I do focus here on men who use pornography and call it a harmless activity, or, even more self-centeredly, “behavior which is only hurting me”.

This is one reason why many women I know are deeply distressed when they find out their male partners are “addicted to pornography”. They report to me their male partner’s self-absorption, lack of concern about the woman’s feelings and needs, lack of interest in examining the issue more deeply, and their fears that these men act out this capacity for dissociation (or not) and objectification against women and girls in other, more social, ways. In Love and Pornography, for example, Garry, who does actually care about his partner’s feelings, speaks about his practice of objectifying “pretty young” women in public settings including when his life partner, Victoria, is out with him. We do know at least a few things about men who sexually objectify women being pimped and mass marketed to men, women who—with or without meaningful levels of agency and free choice—are tangled up in various positions across the Web. And one of the things we know about such men is that they also objectify women who are not on the Internet and devalue women who do not look like the Web-tangled women.

Garry honestly assesses that he has been given permission, all his life, to look at these images, even while feeling shame for doing so because his parents taught him sexual feelings are shameful. Lost in this battle for sexual enjoyment without shame is any concern or awareness of patriarchal atrocities to girls and women.

A terribly inadequate analogy might be that when a Jewish man was young living in a kosher and orthodox home, his parents told him eating pig meat is a sin against God. But as he grew and entered other people’s non-kosher homes, the smell of sizzling bacon was irresistible, and sometimes, when at Gentile homes, he’d eat it enjoying every bite and chew. He’d then feel great guilt and shame, as he made his way back home, making sure his breath didn’t smell of pig meat. Let’s say this man lives in the U.S. And so the pig meat he sneakily eats is, for one thing, not kosher, and for another, mass produced in an industrialised commercial “farm” where animals are treated with great cruelty and callousness. Were he to actually witness and register the cruelty, the harm to these animals, the pain they endure so he and others can occasionally chew cooked corporate pig meat, he might decide “it’s just not worth it. I can live without eating pig meat if eating it requires animals to be so horrendously mistreated and so callously slaughtered. (I’m not sure there’s a non-callous way to mass slaughter pigs, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

If Garry, or any man, was the man being sexually violated at home by daddy, and once he left home was taken in and seasoned by a pimp and later passed along to several pornographers, he might actually relate to the woman whose image he stares at only to get a sexual fix and a somewhat empowered sense of himself. But there’s no guarantee of that. Those who are sexually violated when young are still quite capable of dissociation and objectification. I’m one example of that. As a teen and as an adult, I used to objectify men often, habitually; sometimes teen males, sometimes males in their twenties and thirties. I’m still capable of doing so. I just choose not to because I have made sure the feeling one has when being peered at in a violating way, in a consumptive if not also predatory way, in a voyeuristic and entitled way, in which the other person’s humanity is forgotten temporarily in order for objectification to occur, is not forgotten. That’s one of the two things that keeps me from visually violating other men. The other reason is that I’ve made commitments to women in my life, feminist women, to not participate in male supremacist sexual practices—objectifying and fetishising men being two of those practices. So due to a system of accountability and honesty, and a practice of identification with those I might wish to turn into sexual things, I can make the choice to not engage in behaviors which harm others, no matter how many men reassure me there’s no harm in it.

I gave up looking at pornography years ago, and have since occasionally, but not in the last years, looked at online videos of young men masturbating. I preferred to see videos where it seemed to be the case that the man was alone, and wasn’t being filmed by someone, which intensified the possibility he was being coerced or manipulated into performing for the camera man. But once I realised that my watching him was sanctioning him turning himself into a sex-thing for me or anyone else to watch, with no regard for his humanity, the appeal of seeking out and looking at such videos left me. I can still long to see them in some dissociated or depressed states, but fulfilling that longing isn’t more important to me than living my values, which I blab about so much online. I could stop blogging, end my friendships with feminist women, dismantle the systems of accountability that result from those friendships, and go on my merry masculinist way seeking out opportunities to look at those videos and also objectify young men in the non-cyber world. But, what kind of life is that? I’ve lived that life, and it’s sad and empty. It’s boring, and it’s heartless. But more importantly, it requires others to be or feel violated. If the humanity of other people is precisely as precious as my own, sexually objectifying other people, particularly but not only without their permission, is unequivocally unethical and harmful.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Own Political Struggle with Transgenderism

[the image above is a pro-transgender feminist symbol from here, and I have added that networking site,, to my important webpages to me list on the right side of this blog]

[Revised on 27 August 2009, adding bits about John and Julian Lennon, and clarifying a few point.]

There was another post made here a couple of weeks or so ago that a good friend noted was potentially transphobic, or, at least, not very welcoming of trans visitors to this blog. I agreed with her and pulled the post. I revised it so much it became something else. What follows is that something else. (I sometimes use the word "they" or "them" as synonymous with "she/he/neither" and "her/him/neither", respectively.)

I haven't dealt much with trans politics here, and I'd like to explain why, and what my own conclusions are about my politics, and my understandings of gender based on certain feminist writings, campaigns, and analyses as they meet up with my own experiences.

First, though, I'll remind the returning reader, or let the new-comers know, that had I been born at a time such that I'd be in my early twenties now, instead of, well, older, I'd likely be trans-identified. That is because in the community in which I live, radical feminism as a political movement is practically non-existent, while queer politics and, even more so, dominant gender politics are very popular. Of course only dominant gender politics is socially valued generally. No matter how much of a queer presence there is in a city or town, it remains unsafe for all queer people to be out, due to a combination of racism, homophobia, and misogyny.

In a conversation with one of the most diligently anti-racist white people I know, we discussed our own experiences of growing up as it pertained to gender identity and "fitting in" as a gendered person. Neither of us really felt like the gender we were assigned and raised to be, but were aware there was apparently only one other option. (Not all societies are like this, of course. But the ones I have been part of are.) Both of us, to varying degrees and in different ways, identified somewhat with the gender we were seen as not being.

For me, I was very girl- and woman-centered in my ways of being in the world from an early age. Woman and girl did not mean "other" in my mind, heart, and spirit; boys and men did seem, at least at times, both foreign and scary; this was especially true for me when it came to dealing with non-Jewish white heterosexual men. For the transperson I was speaking with, also Jewish and queer, they grew up to feel quite a bit of alienation from the gender assigned to them at birth, and, for a time at least, began requesting to be referred to in the pronouns of the non-assigned gender. In this person's case, they did not take hormones or pursue surgery to "be" another gender. They understood, and perhaps still understand, their gender to be fluid, flexible, and simply beyond what the dominant white society has said "exists".

When in my early twenties, I read Andrea Dworkin's book Woman Hating, and related strongly to all she said about dual gender: that woman and man, while real is not true. It was also the first book I read that actively and compassionately supported transgendered people as an oppressed group inside the patriarchal dual gender system.

My questions, concerns, and experiences led me more into radical feminism. And it, in its many forms and colors, was flourishing at the time. There I found out much more than I had been able to articulate about society, power, gender, and race. Woman and man were not just positioned as opposites, polar opposites, but also "in opposition" with men being greatly opposed to womanhood, in various ways, all the while needing womanhood in order to be alive and survive. With race also always present as a political reality, gender was deeply raced and race was deeply gendered. This has become clearer to me over the years, but it was no mystery why African American and white Jewish women were seen as "too masculine", stereotyped as they were as being the heads of households, "the ones who wear the pants* in the family", whether or not a husband or boyfriend lived there as well. (*Trousers, for those in the UK.)

Many theories have surfaced, mostly white supremacist psychological ones, to explain why men hate women so much: why rape by men against women is rampant, why men beating the shit out of women they say they love is commonplace, why poverty and famine overwhelmingly has the face of children and women of color.

One theory was that men resented how dependent they had been on a woman when little, which of course presumed either no man around or not enough of a man-parent presence. It also presumed that one's early dependence on a mother should, for some strange reason, manifest as misogyny later in life. My problem with the theory was that it was based in misogyny; it didn't explain misogyny. Why children grow up to hate women is not because women take care of them. Actually, to the degree women are able to do this well, they tend to be loved by their children. (I know: what a strange theory!) It's the absent or neglectful parent who tends to be hated and shunned, and that parent is disproportionately a man. John Lennon, to take one famous family example, hated his father for abandoning him and his mother, Julia, who died when he was a teenager; John loved his mother deeply and wrote a beautiful song about her. Julian Lennon has hated (and forgiven) his father, John, for abandoning him and his mother, Cynthia. We can hope that if Julian becomes a parent, he'll be a far more present and attentive parent than his dad was with him.

I was raised by a few people; all were family members. Those who cared for me I cared about strongly; those who didn't care for me well I had mixed feelings for, including hatred, at times. To all the Men's Rights Psycho-babblists out there: I wasn't raised by any feminist women. In fact, no woman over my age in my family of origin would identify as a feminist or womanist. Their own political views ran along and off a spectrum called conservative to liberal. The same was true for the men: conservative to liberal, in the meanings whites tend to apply to those terms. The only "woefully inadequate" parent I had was one of the women. I hated her at times for being so callous and self-absorbed. I also felt great compassion for her, for, against many odds, she struggled mightily and successfully to stay in this world.

I loved my father; he was a good role model for me in terms of how to be a person, not "a man". Many of the women were good role models for me as well, and I loved them too. They were individual people, not just "the wife of" or "the mother of". None of them would have ever considered going by the prefix "Ms." And none of them ever bought one issue of Ms. magazine or any other that went against the status quo's standards for what women are supposed to be.

The first "Ms."'s I met were teachers in high school. One was married to a man and one was not. I found this very cool. I tend to dislike double standards and different levels of social-political status being based on completely irrelevant and impersonal facts about someone. For example, a man's name did not change dramatically when he married a woman, but hers did, both at the beginning and the end: Miss to Mrs., Maiden name to Married name, even to the point of (gag) becoming "Mrs. John Smith". Whose interests are served by coming up with THAT custom? Invisibilising women's identities, or eclipsing them with men's lives, was imagined (by men) to be a good thing when I was growing up, but it never seemed like a good thing to me or to this person I was having the conversation with. Back to white music for a moment: how many people know the name of the person who was instrumental in getting Beach Boy Brian Wilson back into his creative self so he could complete the legendary unfinished album smile? Answer: Melanie Ledbetter, the woman he was wed to in 1995.

Along with the eclipsing of identity, being a woman raised as a girl also brought with it the vulnerability to men's violence, particularly and especially violence that men made into or about sex.

What's a person in a heterosexual world to do who doesn't want to be "the eclipsed" and "the beaten-up one" and also doesn't want to be the eclipser and the batterer?

The feminism I came to know well was committed to exposing the degrees to which gender and race was fused to power imbalances, structural, systemic power imbalances. The radical feminism I came to trust helped me see just how bound masculinity was to being anti-feminine and pro-whiteman, and how much femininity was bound to worshipping masculinity while not emulating it. Some of its founders and more prominent activists were Flo Kennedy, Alice Walker, Andrea Dworkin, Audre Lorde, Catharine MacKinnon, and bell hooks.

For me, gender was primarily a socially constructed hierarchy. It wasn't "natural" or "how things are just because". I, for one, didn't comply with its demands for conformity nor obey its mandate to hold masculinity as inherently more valuable and honorable than femininity. I also knew there were human qualities that were neither and there were people who were neither.

The trans person and I were two of those people, but had been assigned a gender at birth, and visually appeared enough like that supposedly true gender to "pass" as it.

Most of my learning about transgenderism was not very sophisticated or filled with wisdom. Not surpisingly, it also was not introduced to me by trans people. This meant I had a skewed to messed up view of what transgenderism was or is. What I've learned from my conversation partner, and other trans people, was that it isn't one thing, but it isn't everything either. It's a cluster of experiences that meet or clash with social expectations, just as being gay is.

As I understand transgenderism now, it is the lived experience of not belonging to oneself or the status quo in a profoundly significant way. It is the sense of something being really off about one's experience of self, and what the world tells you you are, with regard to gender.

Now of course this is true for many people, especially women raised as girls. As noted, some of the women in my family figured out how to work around the expectations and demands, to create social space where they could be more or less themselves, to the degree any oppressed people can be themselves.

But I have come to see that there is a difference, a genuine, felt difference between women raised as girls who feel like they don't belong to patriarchy, or don't wish to satisfy the ridiculous demands of heteropatriarchy, and socially named girls and boys who are transgendered. The matter of intersexuality has still not "come out of the closet" as far as I can tell. And that's due entirely to the oppressive gender system which says "you are either this, or you are that, and you can't be anything else." Trans people, gender variant people, and intersex people are living proof that hierarchical gender dualism is a political idea, not a natural truth.

Where things got confusing for me was when media started portraying transgendered people as "people who want to be the other sex". Studies showed lots of African American girls knew white girls were valued more, and much has been written about how oppressed people try and assimilate into the oppressor class. I, for one, didn't want to be "the other sex"; I wanted the falsehood of that two-gender hierarchy exposed at the roots, challenged through organised radical activism, so that the violence that inheres in it could end, and people could be freer to be themselves.

When I mistakenly learned that transgendered folks want to be the other sex, this notion too reinforced rather than challenged the basic premise of their being only two sexes. The transgender people I know want to be themselves, whether that fits one of two gender categories or not.

Feminism encouraged women to love their bodies however they were shaped, however big or small, however tall or short. ALL women's bodies are beautiful was a message I got from feminism in the 1980s. Let no man or men tell women which ones are beautiful and which are not. And fuck the focus on beauty anyway.

White men, throughout history, could be fat or thin, ugly or attractive, big or small, and still be categorised as "men"; they could still have social status, standing, position, privilege, and prestige. They could be a CEO or principal or dean at a school. Men of varying sizes and shapes, and with many different physical features could be and were president of the U.S. Almost all of them white. But they had to be men. When and if socially and politically powerful and influential people are women, they are seen as being masculinised by wanting to do what only white men have given other white men permission to do. To simply run for president means Hillary Clinton is, somehow, more man-like than if she were perfectly content being an apolitical, soft-spoken First Lady. And God forbid if Michelle Obama says anything deemed "out of line": this both masculinises her and effeminises her husband. Never in the social world does a man "being more like a woman" mean he has a superior status, greater privileges, and a more dominant social position.

Since I am not transgender, the internal personal project (and external political battle) of striving to make my physical, social, sexual, and psychic selves find some form of harmony or unity is not my primary struggle. I cannot make my sexuality fit with society's. That's true. I cannot find representation of myself in media. That's true. My politics, my values, my core beliefs about justice and the world are not reflected back to me by the status quo or the visible social order. My politics, values, and core beliefs, instead, are stigmatised as worthless, stupid, insane, ridiculous, and man-hating, just because I don't worship the heterosexual cock over everything else.

I know some transgendered folks for whom the struggle mentioned above is not their central concern either. But society-at-large will make that the most significant aspect of their being, if it is disclosed. Similarly, in a conservative to liberal society, me being gay and pro-radical feminist makes me seem and feel like an outcast, a heretic, albeit sometimes a "tolerated" heretical outcast. (And in racist heteropatriarchal societies, there are far worse things to be, according to white masculinist men, such as a trans or non-trans woman of any color, or a trans or non-trans man of color.)

Radically pulling up and throwing out the oppressive, anti-woman two-gender hierarchy of the dominant West was a key project of the feminism I came to value and trust. No "trim, trim here" "trim, trim there" approach was sufficient. Getting those roots exposed and torn apart was necessary. As with Kansas's Dorothy needing to kill the Witch of the East in order to get her broomstick and have her wishes fulfilled, so too must patriarchy die for women to be free. "Ding dong, the Dickdom is dead" is a song I look forward to singing. Mulching is a good thing. ("Compost CRAP" is a bumper sticker I've been wanting to mass produce for a long time.)

And media was portraying trangendered people (often called transsexuals) as wanting to be part of that hierarchical two-gender system; as spending lots of money to be part of that system--going "so far" as to have ones breasts and genitals surgically removed or altered. In this, those few transgendered people who do try surgical approaches to finding that harmony of being are both like and not like non-trans women and men who do the same thing, to feel more like the gender they supposedly are. If a man gets his penis enlarged, it is because he has heard the patriarchal rumor that big dicks are more valued than small ones. That this is true symbolically far more than it is physically is not mentioned by the pornographised media. If women raised as girls get their breasts enlarged, it is because they know they will either feel more feminine with the implants, be more attractive to others, often men, and be paid more to do certain kinds of work (often by pimps). These are somewhat different motivations for physically altering oneself surgically than those of most of the transgendered people I know. For example, an MtF trans person is likely to lose family members, status, work, and privileges, not gain them. And s/he is not likely to be accepted as "a woman" by masculinist men. An FtM trans person is not really ever going to be accepted as "a man" by masculinist non-trans men.

The issue that I've heard a lot of discussion about is this: do feminist non-trans women accept transgendered MtF people as women? (In fact, I hear that question infintitely more than the one about whether masculinist non-trans men accept MtF or FtM trans people as human beings.)

From what I can tell non-trans feminists are not unified on this matter. As a pro-feminist man raised as a boy, I have to wrestle with where I stand on the matter of transgenderism as it relates to the struggle of all women to be free of men, of all women to be women defined not by patriarchy, but by themselves.

All of us who participate in the practice of making ourselves into more heteropatriarchally acceptable gendered people ought to be aware of why we do so, if we have the time and energy to spend trying to figure that out. Most people, feminist and anti-feminist, trans and non-trans, mainstream or outcast, do participate actively in maintaining the dual gender system in some ways, as I see it. Just as people of all races participate in white supremacy. But only some benefit materially and socially from this participation. And some of us become very ill or are killed in the process of trying to be part of it.

Lesbians, gay men, trans people, and "out" radical feminists are among the populations of people whose ways of being and belief systems make them particular targets for men's misogynistic violence.

The reason I focus so much energy doing and promoting anti-misogyny work, rather than on pro-trans and pro-gay work, is partly because I'm not trans; I'm also not in solidarity with the woman-hating values and practices of many of my gay brothers; I find a heterosexist politic centered around appeasing and pleasing the heterosexual cock abhorrent, and despise the fact that heterosexual white men's values rule the world currently. I despise it because it harms so many people, non-human beings, and the Earth with such callousness and force. But I also focus on supporting radical feminism because I see misogyny and male supremacy as core underlying reasons that transphobia and homophobia exist. Oh, and I love and respect women raised as girls, as individuals and as a particular class of oppressed people, perhaps more than any other group of people, principally because of how courageously and creatively they figure out how to survive in a world that hates them so much, while still managing, somehow, not to be like virulently masculinist men.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Honoring Janis Joplin, who, at Woodstock forty years ago, reminded us to "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)"

[if a stupid ad pops up at the bottom of the video, just click it away at the top left of it]
"Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got." -- Janis Joplin [quote from here]

The '60s changed as fast as it took to buy a tab of acid. Janis Joplin, the first white female rock star, sang songs that celebrated the achievements of African-American blues singers like Big Mama Thornton, Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin. Joplin was big, loud, ingested drugs and had too many blokes around her to survive, just like some of her heroines. [passage from here]

Rock on, Janis.

It Was Forty Years Ago Today: Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, on a Monday morning

Just below is Jimi's own take on the U.S. National Anthem, including the atrocities this country committed, in his amazing rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner":

The good news is that among other amazing blues, soul, folk, and rock artists, Jimi Hendrix was chosen to be the closing act at [the original] Woodstock in Bethel, NY forty years ago. The not-so-good news is that it was forty years ago TODAY.

As the poster above indicates, the festival allegedly ran from Friday, August 15th through Sunday, August 17th: a two and a half day affair. The bad news is that due to scheduling delays beginning on Friday, and due to longer sets, Hendrix didn't make it onto the stage until AFTER Woodstock was virtually over: although I suppose we can coin a phrase: "Woodstock ain't over 'til Hendrix plays guitar".

Rather than playing for a live audience of about 450- to 500,000, he played to a significantly less large audience of around 40,000. (Note in the video that there is no massive sea of people, but rather a decent lake of people near the stage.) Apparently, though, Jimi took it all in stride. And history records his performance as great, regardless of how many fantastically muddy people already were making their way home, far away from Yasgur's Farm.

My source for this info is a new documentary called "Woodstock: Now and Then".

Blatant Antifeminism (Woman-hating) in White Male-Dominated Political Zones

[image of Cath Elliott is from here]

From the

The recent vitriolic attacks on Harriet Harman and Hillary Clinton have a clear message: women cannot be trusted to run the show

The following link was sent to me by Christina: thanks again!!

A portion of Cath Elliott's article,
The 2009 summer of hate
, follows., Saturday 15 August 2009 12.00 BST

For anyone who thought the backlash against feminism was predicated on nothing more than the fevered imaginings of bitter, man-hating old harridans, the past few weeks must have been quite an eye-opener. From the mainstream media's desperate attempts to convince its audience that feminists don't even exist, to calls for Harriet Harman and Hillary Clinton to shut the fuck up and stop being uppity, the attack on both feminism and feminists this summer has been relentless.

While the Victorians may have thought children should be seen and not heard, it's clear that many in our so-called modern and progressive 21st-century western society would much prefer it if women would slink off to the nursery, or better still the attic, to be called on to speak only when they're prepared to toe the line. The existence in our national parliaments of female politicians may be held up by some as evidence that the last great bastions of male privilege have been breached and gender equality accomplished. But let any one of those stateswomen talk out of turn and she'll be slapped back down again faster than you can say "female window dressing".

This antipathy to women in public office is nothing new of course: Susan Faludi and others have been documenting it since the late 1980s and early 90s. And, experienced public figures as they are, I'm sure both Harman and Clinton are now used to finding themselves on the receiving end of misogynists' ire. So the recent onslaught won't have held any great surprises for them, or indeed for any feminist who's been around for a while: well, apart from the levels of vitriol now being employed, and the ramping up of the hateful rhetoric such successful women are now expected to endure. Rod Liddle's pathetic hissy fit and Dana Milbank's sketch about Obama's beer summit, where he suggested Clinton should drink "Mad Bitch" beer, have been the tip of the iceberg in a summer that has seen both women subjected to the most execrable abuse.

Laurie Penny has expressed the endearingly naive view that Harman should simply take some tips from the younger generation about her presentation and oratory style to avoid invoking the wrath of white men everywhere. But the only lesson to be learned from the demonisation of the most powerful woman in British politics is that no matter how she tries to tell it and no matter what the message is, an outspoken feminist-identified woman will be shot down in flames before the words have left her mouth. Harman could have been talking about the indisputable cuteness of small fluffy kittens and someone, somewhere (although probably at the Daily Mail), would have found a reason to tear her apart.

For the rest, and for the above paragraphs with links in tact, go here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"The Hitlerizing of Obama", or What's Wrong With This Picture?: Notes on the truth about genocide

If Obama is like Hitler, does that mean the foolish image of the U.S. president with a Hilter-like moustache is being eagerly pinned up on the bedroom and meeting room walls of White Nationalists inside and outside the U.S.? Is Barack Obama now the #1 choice for guest speaker at Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi rallies?

The image below is another in a series, trying to make the same point: that the two men are, somehow, really one.

[image with obviously Photoshopped elements, is from here]

The beginning part of the title of this blogpost was liberally borrowed by me from a webpage at which is linked to at the end of this post.

Barack Obama, the liberally anti-racist U.S.-born President of his country, is now being compared to the infamous former chancellor and head of state of the National Socialist German Workers Party (aka: The Nazi Party). You might have heard of him: his name was Adolph Hitler and he ruled Germany mercilessly from 1933 to 1945, ECD (in the Era of Christian Domination).

President Obama is being compared to Hitler and his henchmen in large part for currently speaking out loud, with seriousness, about wanting a public option for the non-rich people in the U.S. without any health insurance, who are therefore unlikely to have access to the dominant culture's health care system. Gosh, his agenda sure sounds like that European fascist's uber-fanatical rhetoric to me. (NOT.) There is an awful, while lethally ignored, connection between any U.S. president and the on-going genocide against American Indians. And even with a new "Genocide Awareness Day" (August 5), we non-Native USers "don't get it". Like a horse and carriage once were tied together, so too is genocidal atrocity against the Indigenous people of Turtle Island bound up with the historical presidency of these "colored-blood"-thirsty United States.

I have no reason to think that President Obama will do anything especially good for American Indians, although maybe with that public health care option, a few more people will actually have some dominant-modeled access, or, well, insurance, for what is termed "health-care". I'd probably argue seven days of any week that it is better to have dominant-cultural health care coverage--and full access to it--rather than none. But in the next breath I'd also point out that the U.S.'s CRAP (I haven't used that term in a while: Corporate Racist Atrocious Patriarchy) is the following: atrociously anti-holistic, culturally biased, corporate-controlled, utterly racist, classist, heterosexist, and misogynistic, and grossly insensitive to children and adults who survive sexual violence.

It is also, quite specifically, a profoundly and irredeemably drug-pushing pharmacological industry. Yes, many of those drugs do extend life and sometimes also the quality of it. Many of my relatives would not have lived so long so well without them. And that in no ways makes the case that "this is the best we can do". It also doesn't make the case that this is the best humanity has ever done, all incessant cheerleading for "medical breakthroughs" aside.

The "health-care system" with its inhumane insurance wing is a part of U.S.'s CRAP; it is what contributes to the genocide of American Indians; it is not a remedy for that genocide. White conservative to liberal society is likely to pay no nevermind to the fact that A GENOCIDE IS HAPPENING HERE, and every U.S. president has contributed mightily to it, including the current one.

With that noted, President Obama wanting to offer something else, something possibly more accessible and less expensive than private health care insurance for the struggling uninsured citizens of this country doesn't, in the least, come under the category of pushing for a fascistic totalitarian regime--one marked by anti-Semitism, anti-intellectualism, homophobia, misogyny, and hideously grotesque expressions of racism including very, very dirty ethnic cleansing programs. This is to say, what Hitler preached and practiced, with a lot of help from a lot of Germans and other Europeans, and not a few white Gentile folks in the U.S., is not reflected or hinted at in Pres. Obama's public health insurance plan, however mischaracterised it is by the foolish while dangerous White Right.

We can safely assume this: amping up various genocides against African American people, Latin@s, U.S. Jews, Arab Americans, and Asian Americans is not on his "to do" list either under or beyond his plan for health insurance reform. We can, if we care to examine our past, note that white men inside the borders of the U.S. and beyond, have carried out systematic, and sometimes genocidal, assaults against every ethnic group mentioned above.

Three issues need to be separated out here--well, at least three!

One is to highlight the (non-existent) ways Pres. Obama's push for health care and insurance reform echoes the shrieks of Adolph Hitler calling for the extermination of all Jews, and many other groups as well. (Consider that done.)

The second is to identify what's really going on when a policy-blocking campaign kicks into high geer, funded by the White Publicly Heterosexual Male Supremacist Right, trying to link a moderate to liberal President Barack Obama with the fascistically Right-wing Mass Murdering Sociopathic Chancellor Adolph Hitler.

The third matter, and for me the most important one, is the U.S. government's involvement in genocide, here, on stolen "U.S." soil.

Let's remind ourselves of a few things.

In the U.S. and in other white male supremacist countries, oppressed people, without systemic power, without the means to commit genocide, are often targeted and systematically called "Nazis" by those who are structurally (at least) positioned to commit genocide. Whites and men, in particular, are structurally positioned to commit genocide and gynocide, and have an unrelentingly determined history of doing so. This is to say, white men have organised, led, and committed genocide and gynocide in these United States, while no other raced or gendered political group has.

We can note that with perverse regularity various white men historically and currently call radical feminists "feminazis". Lesbian and gay people, and our seemingly unified agenda--according to the All-Too-Often Closeted White Male Right, have been blamed for bringing down the pillars and foundation of U.S. civilisation, causing an end to "America" as we know it. (That "America" as we know it needs to br brought down is obviously a point they don't accept.) And people of color, from American Indians to African Americans to Asians and Arabs (and Muslims) across the globe, have been and often continue to be indentified by white people as "the" perpetrators of race-extermination. When they speak of this what they mean is that those groups oppressed by white men globally are the most dangerous people on Earth, the most genocidal, and that they seek the eradication of various groups of white people, if not all of us. This is but one portion of the post where the reading audience is invited to yell out loud: "What's wrong with this picture?"

We can also note that while a white man in Colorado, that state's governor, Bill Ritter, speaks out on "Genocide Awareness Day" he does so by focusing primarily about the problems in Darfur; he somehow neglects to mention his and all white USers own unabating complicity in the genocide against American Indians.

If a white USer, especially one with political clout, such as it is, decides to announce the formation of a new holiday, Genocide Awareness Day, and he neglects to mention he is part of an all-too-proud pseudo-ethnic political group (whites) who practice genocide through various actions and inactions, daily, we have to ask (get ready to yell again): What's wrong with this picture?

As for the other matters in need of interrogation identified earlier in this post, please click on the following two links for more on the Obama-Hitler comparison and what is so fucked up about it.

and also that page here, for Tim Wise's cool piece of sanity called Sick Heil!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Harriet Harman: Can a feminist politician get respect... and become the Prime Minister of the UK?

[image of Harriet Harman was found here]

This is an excerpt from the second link below:
Harman has attracted this deluge of ridicule and vitriol because she was deemed to have used her time in charge to promote a "bonkers" feminist agenda. Really? It's worth taking a moment or two to consider what she has done to deserve this. One piece of man-hating madness, in the eyes of her detractors, is that she wants a review of the rape laws to improve conviction rates. But that doesn't seem bonkers at all when you consider that of all the rapes reported from 2007 to 2008, only 6.5% resulted in a conviction, compared with 34% of criminal cases overall, and that the government estimates that as many as 95% of rapes are never reported to the police in the first place.

Cases of women falsely alleging rape appear in the newspapers – and such behaviour is appalling – but the far greater problem is the culture of disbelief faced by genuine victims. A report two years ago found that many police officers dealing with rape victims had "very little training" and that women experienced delays, insensitive questioning and judgmental or disbelieving attitudes. Unsurprisingly, between half and two-thirds of cases did not proceed, with most deciding to withdraw their complaints. These findings emanate from two notorious feminist hotbeds, Her Majesty's Chief Inspectorate and Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.

What follows was sent to me by a colleague and friend, Christina, also working diligently to publicise and challenge white hetero male supremacy. I am so glad to know her!

Thanks, Christina, for keeping me aware of so much that I miss in the media and elsewhere.

Christina's writing follows:
In the UK we have Harriet Harman who has some great ideas of getting white men out of power. Unfortunately she is surrounded by white males who challenge all her ideas and prevent these ideas from becoming law.

Not to mention how the British media which is completely controlled by straight white males goes out of its way to make her look like an idiot and that all her pro female ideas are ludicrous. And of course white males are the real victims.

See this link to the Daily Mail as an example of how the white male media are pulling her apart:

The UK is one of the most sexist and racist countries in the world and it will stay that way until the hetero white males are removed from power and only then can laws that are pro female and pro other groups start been past.

In addition to exposing white cocks for what they are (especially MRAs, Fathers Rights, Hollywood, etc.), we should also be encouraging fellow feminists’ to send e-mails of support to people like Harriet Harman showing her that there are a lot of people out there who fully support her.

Lets not forget that the MRAs and Fathers Rights groups target her in a big way and often get their supporters to send her e-mails telling her how stupid she is. Well, she should also be receiving e-mails from feminists telling her how much they support her.

I am sure you have Harriet Harman equivalents in the US who could also do with a bit of support.


* * *

And soon afterwards I got this from Christina:

Hi Julian,

I am extremely happy to say that I finally managed to find an article (obviously written by a woman) that is pro Harriet Harman.
See link:

I have never battled so much to find an article like this. (But you just have to google her name to find articles that slam her.)

I think it would be great if she became Prime Minister of the UK.

* * *

To Christina: I agree!!!!

More on Genderism, in response to a comment

[the above image is from here]

A visitor identified as xjm stopped by with a question regarding an older post (Genderism: a definition) that relates, in some ways, to a recent post on what makes someone a white man. What follows is, I hope, a satisfactory answer to xjm.

xjm wrote:

I stumbled on this post looking for a word to mean "discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sex, sexuality, and/or sexual orientation" that was somewhat broader and more meaningful than "sexism" or "male chauvinism" or "homophobia" (all three of which, to my mind, are linked). "Genderism" was the best I could come up with...

It's an interesting post. I like a lot of your ideas; however, as a linguistics student, I have to pick at one thing. You say: "In some societies, for example, there are as many as eleven genders." What's your source for this? Are you sure you're not confusing linguistic gender with social gender?

In Ojibwe, for example, there are two linguistic genders: animate (people, animals, some plants) and inanimate (most plants, lifeless objects, etc.) I also remember briefly studying another language (I think from the southwest or perhaps California) that had some number of genders based on the shape of an object: whether it was round, long, flat, etc.

Clearly, these linguistic categories have little to do with human gender categories; the reason the word "gender" is used is that the categories function analogously to the 2-3 gender-based language genders that European languages typically have (he, she, it).

Now, this is a separate issue from social gender categories; I have read, as you probably have, that many non-Western cultures have traditional roles for people whose gender identities we today would put somewhere under the "LBGTQ" header.

I'll post my reply here, rather than at the old blogpost's page:

Hi xjm,

Thanks for your comment and questions. First, unless you are Ojibwe, I'd caution you about drawing conclusions based on what whites, disproportionately but not entirely men, have reported about the Ojibwe languages, identified by some Westerners as having multiple dialects and various regionalised writing systems. And I ought to similarly caution myself, given my statement to which you are replying!

There are many ways to approach questions like those you ask. One is to say that all understandings of gender, whether or not such a terms is not meant as a synonym only for "category", are linguistic, in societies that rely on what Westerners call "linguistics". But I hear you asking something more particular and let me know if I'm off the mark completely. I hear you asking: "Are all categorisations of things by gender referring to "gender" as in "woman and man", or in ways that use "gender" to be more or less synonymous with "genus" or "type" (and not, strictly speaking, "sex")?

As you note, there are many ways to classify and categorise animate "beings" and inanimate "things", including people in terms of their supposed gender. (That white male supremacist societies tend towards perceiving "beings" as the opposite of "non-beings", the animate as completely distinct from the inanimate is a problem best dealt with another time!)

From Wikipedia:
Some languages have gender-like noun classifications unrelated to gender identity.

Particularly common are languages with animate and inanimate categories. The term "grammatical genders" is also used by extension in this case, although many authors prefer "noun classes" when none of the inflections in a language relate to sexuality. Note however that the word "gender" derives from Latin genus (also the root of genre) originally meant "kind", so it does not necessarily have a sexual meaning. For further information, see Animacy. [I put that one portion in bold]

Wiki continues:
Some Slavic languages, including Russian and Czech, make grammatical distinctions between animate and inanimate nouns (in Czech only in the masculine gender; in Russian only in masculine singular, but in the plural in all genders). Another example is Polish, which can be said to distinguish five genders: personal masculine (referring to male humans), animate non-personal masculine, inanimate masculine, feminine, and neuter.

* * *

So, xjm, when you say "linguistic gender" I assume you mean one of the "noun classes" or "genus categories"--which can refer to human sexual categories, or not, such as by distinguishing what are perceived to be "Animate" things from "Inanimate" things. But we have to keep in mind that linguistics and social human reality are not terribly distinct or separate, are they?

To work toward answering your question, I'm saying that there have been or are societies that are not well-known among dominant male supremacist Western "educated people", in part because we Westerners, particularly our men, have destroyed them, or are currently trying to do so. Those societies that use verbal language may have spoken categories for human gender that are not "visible" to us Westerners. We might compare this to the way that an English-speaking child who is only taught there is yellow, red, and blue will not readily discern yellow-orange, rose, magenta, or indigo as "separate" or "distinct" colors from yellow, red, and blue. This is where and how linguistics creates perception; and perception is a foundation for what is understood to be "real", depending on one's understanding of "the real" of course. (Western-educated non-Lacanian traditionalists, as well as Lacanians will have a field day with that statement.)

Another preliminary question is: Are we going to accept that each non-Western culture's perspectives and worldviews and their accompanying realities are equally "valid" as those in the West? (And what a problematic term valid is!)

I am saying that if a society, an ethnic group, a people, such as the commonly (mis)used example of the Inuit, allegedly* have several terms for snow and the dominant U.S. has one or two, does that mean that there are only one or two forms of snow? If, among my society, ethnic group, and people, a white woman carpenter has many terms for "nails", that probably means that when the non-carpenter that I am walks into a hardware store, all I see are a "bunch of different kinds of nails", whereas she sees those same objects as having particular names, uses, and designs--and calling them all "nails" isn't especially useful or accurate to her.

We are struck, immediately, with the assumptions that white folks and men place on their "subjects" who are more often than not more objectified and "studied as other" than subjectified and empathically. White men, especially tend not to see "otherness" in ourselves, however "other" we are. At best, it seems, we might come to the conclusion that "others" are "fundamentally like me", keeping "me" the standard of what constitutes otherness. Whiteness and manhood, for example, are in the business--literally and otherwise--of making everything not white and not a man into a less valued, less esteemed being or thing (in the eyes, minds, and oppressive behavior of white men).

So, what constitutes a term and a category in the white male supremacist West, may not constitute a separate "term" in another place. If, then, an Indigenous (or non-white, non-Indigenous) society has eleven terms for gender, I doubt a white Westerner who did not grow up among that society will even be able to figure out how to think properly, meaning here, in accordance with the ways of seeing and being in another society.

*From this site:

[B]ecause the example is so widely known and because it has been written about by both linguists and anthropologists, it seems worthwhile to add a perspective informed by Eskimo [sic] linguistics.

Martin's article does a fine job of tracking the snow example through its many incarnations, showing how it has been misrepresented and misused. She points out that Eskimo is not a single language, as it seems to be presented by those who have discussed the snow example. She further stresses that the polysynthetic morphology of Eskimo languages renders a discussion of "words" as such almost pointless, since the number of words in these languages is practically infinite due to highly productive patterns of suffixation. It is therefore necessary to establish what would be considered a word in the languages in question, and apparently it must also be decided what is to be considered a "snow term," since Martin and some others see this as part of the issue.

It's this sort of sloppy anthropological, linguistic, and sociological work that has resulted in really inane Western (usually Euro-centric or Anglo-centric) masculinist conclusions, such as "if my people hunt, and those that hunt are the men, and our men dominate our women, then if I examine another society, and find that there are hunters and non-hunters, that means the non-hunters are subservient to the hunters." Uh, not so fast.

One person told someone I know that "in my culture we have eleven genders". The person receiving the information didn't then go on to interrogate the statement or its speaker. So I'm not sure what it means to say "eleven genders" exactly, but I do know white society has more than two, but forces, coerces, threatens, and harasses everyone to identify or look like one or "the other".

I'll perhaps very foolishly assume that the person sharing this information about eleven genders means that they see eleven genders in his society, can discern each as distinct from the others, or perhaps sees the eleven as variations and permutations, made distinct by features or qualities we in the West do not recognise as "categories". If this assumption is close to being accurate, does that mean the dominant U.S. and U.K. way of seeing gender is wrong?

I'd argue the answer to that question is not "yes, it is wrong" so much as it is not "the whole truth" and that "truths" are relative to so much. So here we are in the so-called post-modern perspective of cultural relativism; not that non-Westerners didn't have such ways of seeing and comprehending reality way before Europeans came on the scene.

That there are differing and equally valid perspectives is not something many anti-relativistic dominants are comfortable acknowledging. Dominant "modernist" Western peoples tend to want to demand that their perceptions are "THE truth" or are, if being condescendingly generous, "more accurate" than other ways of perceiving. White people do think we're white, after all, even though this is a made up racial concept that has only existed for a limited period of time in some places. Men do think we're men often enough to cause atrocious problems for those we identify as women/not-men. (As Dworkin noted thirty-five years ago in her book Woman Hating, there are things that are real but not true.

That the idea that "so-called male and female anatomical differences" means that there are only two human genders is both spurious and political to the core.

But, as you note, a Latin language such as Italian gives a term like "window" a so-called feminine spelling--lunestra--whereas "door" is portello, a so-called "masculine" term. Clearly the window is not more female than the door, and vice versa. Or is it?

But the point, a political one as well as a cultural and linguistic one is that these determinations are simultaneously arbitrary and deeply intentional with political consequences. And linguistics is embedded or encoded with a politic, whether that's conscious to the speaker of it or not. Derrida's work attempted to reveal that.

Gendering the world, whether one of its human-spoken languages, or its people, particularly into only two groups, as is done in the West, means that we don't see a lot about humanity; once gender is so hierarchically and dualistically politicised and organised--oppressively, and structured into society this way, we get all kinds of stigmas and statuses attached to these only-two particular genders.

My response, for now, is that a culture with eleven genders is just that, but the eleven genders may not be understood the way white folks think of "gender". I'd have to learn a whole lot more about how that society's language is structured, how their perceptions and belief systems differ from my society's. That white male supremacist societies tend to have two genders serves our systems of male supremacy well; understanding humanity in terms of "two genders" is a fundamental part of what constructs and maintains male supremacy, linguistically, socially, culturally, and politically, as well as economically, religiously, philosophically, AND biologically. Because we only name two genders, we can only identify human beings as one or another sex.

Western gender dualism/male supremacy/sexism/misogyny is built on a rather shaky premise. Curiously, or outrageously, the earlier version of the premise in Western civilisation was that there was one sex in two forms: each was male. There were non-inverted males who were deemed superior to inverted males. (Guess which group decided that?!) As you may know, the term "invert" is also a term meaning "homosexual" in the English-speaking West. (It's even used in a Beatles song, one of George's actually, titled "While My Guitar Gently Weeps": I don't know why you were inverted. No one alerted you.) We are again reminded of how interlocked misogyny is with homophobia, sexism with heterosexism.

Are we going to maintain an illusion, a terribly sloppily if politically expedient Western/Cartesian imposed idea, that all people are either "males" or "females"? For the hard-core Western scientists reading this, we might say that this is obviously not empirically true--there are intersex people, after all! Why are we insistent on this misperception being stone-carved truth? For whose benefit? Certainly not for the benefit of intersex people who are more often than not, in the U.S., genitally butchered and sexually disabled at birth or a bit later in life in order to make them "appear" male or female.

I once knew someone who was neither male or female, neither woman nor man nor transgendered, who had (and has) no visible or "tucked away" ("inverted") genitalia. In a society such as ours, white supremacist patriarchal science has to scurry to figure out "what's wrong" with this person, or "what went wrong" in utero.

So we English-speaking Westerners forcibly cram reality into a tiny frame, a dualistic and hierarchical one. With that task done, certain oppressive forms of power, entitlements, and privileges can be distributed among elites; those determined by "the superiors" get to behave as if they are superior by treating those who are not determined to be so esteemed as servants in various degrading and soul-crushing ways.

Language, culture, and political reality are not separable, is one point I'm trying to make. Each is part of the other, and informs and reinforces the other, which is why, according to Western terminology and perception, this non-sexed person I just mentioned, when on a popular TV talk show, was met with questions from host and audience such as "don't you want to know what sex you were meant to be?" (By having their chromosomes checked, for example).

The person's answer was, more or less: "No. I know who I am already."

For more, see this cached website's description of Toby's appearance on TV:

Now imagine after some tests that
there are no internal or external sex organs whatsoever. No
ovaries, no testes, no uterus, no vagina, no penis, no
glands that produce estrogen or testosterone, no semen, no
eggs, no anything. Is this possible? Surprisingly yes. It
is very possible and in fact probably more so that one
thinks. Though rarely publicized, there are people in this
world that are physically indistinguishable as males or
females. Sally Jesse Raphael recently had one of these
androgynous human beings on her popular morning talk show.
This person, known as Toby, is neither male nor female and
prefers to live life in the androgynous state. Toby is the
only known human being in the world like this. Medically
feasible, yes; but is the androgynous person socially
acceptable in our everyday lifestyle? Since Toby was born,
Toby hasn't been able to live a normal life. Throughout
childhood, Toby was constantly pressured to make a decision
to either become a full fledged male or female. Doctors,
teachers, friends and family all thought that Toby would be
much happier if Toby could be classified as either a man or
a woman. But Toby didn't think so. Toby made a decision to stay androgynous and it has caused some very interesting
results. Everywhere Toby goes identity comes into question. Is Toby male or female? Toby is neither. But that's not possible. Yet it is. Think about what you do everyday and how much of it relies on gender and then think about Toby. What public restroom do you go in? What kind of clothes do you wear? What store do you buy them in? What colors do you buy? What letter is after the word sex on your drivers license? How does Toby answer these questions? That's not the point. The point is why does Toby have to answer these questions? Because this is what we have determined to be socially correct. There are two sexes, male and female and you must be one or the other.

[The portion in bold was made so by me.]

I welcome a response.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What is "A White Man" anyway?

[image is from here]

A relatively young white man who appreciates many of the postings on this blog asked me to define what I mean by "a white man".

I'll attempt to do so here.

First, the term "a white man" or "white men" is not ever used here as a biological term. It is not a description of something that occurs in nature as we popularly speak of the nature vs. environment distinction. White men are not the population of grown up people who don't a clitoris when born, for example; nor are they those people who have relatively little melanin in their pale skin. A white man is not a natural occurrence, in other words. A white man is a social-political phenomenon, in person. He is one among a group of people positioned at the top of two social/political/economic hierarchies: the one frequently called the gender hierarchy and the one called the racial hierarchy.

In the gender hierarchy of the white male supremacist West, there are two acknowledged genders: woman and man, with woman historically and transculturally, if not universally, being seen and treated as lesser than man; as inferior to, as in service to, as subordinate to man, naturally or by [a white man's vision of] God's design.

In the racial hierarchy of the white male supremacist West, there are several races, but two are identified most often as being "in opposition" historically and transculturally, if not universally: a race called "white people" and a race called "Black people". Now, we can note immediately that "Blackness" globally doesn't always mean "of African descent". For example, the Indigenous people of Australia are termed "Black". Also, in the U.S. alone, people of sub-Saharan African descent, particularly and especially the descendants of Africans captured and forcibly transported in the Maafa, intentionally to be used/abused as slaves for whites in the U.S., have been termed various things over the decades, some obviously and overtly pejorative, but some that were not pejorative at the time they were most commonly used among and by African Americans. Some of these terms have come and gone with the passage of time and social-political conditions and consciousness. One example is "Colored people" still noted in the civil rights group's named: NAACP. We see this term in Ntozake Shange's play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow Is Enuf. Colored was also used by whites in the U.S. to describe American Indians and people from the First Nations in Canada. We can also note that in the U.K. and in South Africa, the racialised term "Coloured" doesn't mean African American. It refers instead to people of "mixed race". Here we must again remind ourselves there are more than two races, so "mixed race" need not refer only to people whose lineage goes back to sub-Saharan Africa (and, for example, Europe); the online edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica defines "Coloured" this way:

Coloured [people]:
a person of mixed European (“white”) and African (“black”) or Asian ancestry, as officially defined by the South African government from 1950 to 1991.

So we can note that not only nationally and regionally, but also temporally and culturally, these terms do not have fixed meanings; their meanings can and do change over time.

"Whiteness" itself has a history, a social-political one, not a natural one. It is the designation given to those who are positioned above and against people of color. Who is white has varied over time. In this country, for example, I am white. But in Nazi Germany, as an Ashkenazic Jew, I would not have been seen as white; I would have been seen, treated, and likely killed for being "not white" and "impure due to not being Aryan-white".

For much more on the history and unnaturalness of whiteness, please read Tim Wise's writings.

What "woman" means (in various languages) has historically been politically decided by men in various patriarchal cultures. How women define "woman" has significantly more variation, moving beyond the confines and shackles of men's violently enforced parameters for what women can do, and, "are". And women who move beyond men's shallow confines are punished socially, including by being stigmatised, stereotyped, and stoned to death, by stones or fists.

"Man" too is a relative term, historically (his-story being written by men) nonsensically meaning "humankind" or "all of humanity". This is false. If limited to the terms "woman" and "man" in English, if we're going to equate one of those two genders with humankind we ought to use the term "woman" as the synonym, not man. After all, there are more women than men on the Earth. Also, the gender-oppressed are more humane than the gender-oppressors, contrary to what members of the oppressor classes project onto the oppressed with nauseating and insulting regularity.

"Men" and "Whites" mean, specifically, those two groups of humans who oppress "women" and "people of color" respectively. White men, of course, are positioned socially to oppress women of all colors, as well as men of color and all children and animals and the Earth. We white men are not only positioned to do so, but we actively do so, in many ways that we, collectively, take little to no responsibility for. This is important to note: our position is a critical component in how we behave towards other people. Systems of accountability for "decent treatment" for example, are, in white and man-dominated societies, set up to allow white men to get away with murder, rape, battery, incest, child molestation, pollution, global warming, the extinction of thousands of species of non-human animals, sexual slavery, genocide, gynocide, and more.

The young white men mentioned above does not actively oppress women in his life interpersonally (any more), for the most part. But he is still positioned to be able to do so interpersonally; and should he use misogynistic language to or around a woman or women, he would be committing an act of gendered oppression. Regardless of how non-oppressive he is interpersonally, around women he knows or sees, he, and I, and all men, are oppressive to women systemically, structurally, and institutionally. We are cogs in white male supremacy's machinery, whether we like it or not. (And most do like it, tragically for the rest of humanity.)

In liberal societies, it is mistakenly believed that "oppression works both ways" or that women can be just as sexist against men too. Or that people of color can be racist against whites. This is structurally impossible and utter nonsense. It is interpersonally possible that any person can be harmful to any other person, regardless of race or gender, or other factors. But given that the societies white men rule are founded on several institutions that require various structures of support and maintenance, there is never an opportunity, a social reality, inside which women can oppress men--of the same economic class, race, and sexuality. Likewise, no person or people of color can oppress whites. Society isn't set up to make that an option. As noted, individuals may carry very stereotypical ideas about what it means to be white, Black, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, lesbian, transgendered, gay, rich, or poor, but these "ideas" are not manifesting oppressively, institutionally against whites--of the same gender, economic class, and sexuality.

A far too common response I hear from white men when I speak of this subject is: "What about Oprah? She has way more social power than I do. She owns media. She's a multi-millionaire." Unless I'm speaking to Rupert Murdoch, or any number of other men far more wealthy and powerful than Oprah Winfrey, I respond by saying "please compare people within the same stratas of society. For example, while Oprah may have more power, in many regards, than a poor, homeless white man, that poor, homeless white man can still call Oprah Winfrey derogatory terms for both women and Blacks. That homeless white man still has the means to sexually harass her too, and worse. But more to the point, let's compare the homeless white man to a homeless woman of color and see who comes out ahead, in terms of status, social visibility, stigma, and likelihood of dying of major diseases. (Answer: not the white man.) And if we compare Oprah Winfrey to Rupert Murdoch, he has far more influence over what we know and do than does Oprah. And ol' Rupert and even more visibly famous white men, aren't likely to be refused service and treated rudely by in a chic French shop due to his race and gender, even if he allegedly arrives fifteen minutes after they close.

But when we speak of "position" we are referring specifically to how a society is structured, who most benefits from that structure, who gains status and privileges and entitlements, and who loses them, or is never given them to begin with. We are speaking of what forms of agency and power individuals and groups have within systems that either promote their welfare and well-being or discriminate against them.

This is when many white men who are liberals will chime in that "if I was one-eighth Native American I could go to college for free! You don't call that "reverse discrimination"?!

No. And here's why. The very few laws and policies that exist to try and remedy social inequalities and injustices that have happened only due to the over-valuing and privileging and empowerment of whites and men over time, by white men in charge of social institutions, have not, as yet, produced a society that shows any signs of lessening its white male supremacist power any time soon. While tokenistic efforts appear from time to time to give the appearance that white men want equality among the genders and races, what is never achieved is that actual equality. What is never accomplished, even with that free college tuition for American Indians in white men's institutions of "higher" learning, is the transformation of those academic institutions such that white men's views and values are seen as no better or worse than those of any other political/cultural group. You can get a free pass in, but once in you'd better learn how to "think and behave like a white man" in order to succeed. A wise white lesbian woman I once knew studied theology at Yale for her Ph.D. almost didn't make it through to get the degree because of all the white (and heterosexual and Christian) male supremacist bullshit (beliefs, rules, standards of conduct, notions of "knowledge", etc.). And of course the white men who professed there never understood what was severely ignorant and oppressive about their values and ideas.

What about Obama being president, liberal white men ask? Doesn't that mean that we no longer live in a white male dominated country? First, the U.S. remains white male dominated. Second, he is still operating in an overwhelmingly and predominantly white male supremacist culture (the U.S. government of Washington, D.C.), and is limited in what he can do for women and people of color because of that. Add to that the fact that many of his values and policies are also shaped by that culture, represent that culture, and are culturally imperialistic and murderous globally in ways that most benefit white men and least benefit women of color. And then there's the question of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Here we have a perfect example of how a woman of color's statement is turned against her, particularly when she's identifying something structurally and socially true.

In recent months, Justice Sotomayor was verbally and in print raked through the coals for making what to me seemed like a rather unremarkable statement:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge in the U.S. court system] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life[.]"

When I first heard this comment I thought: "Duh." White men are not positioned to know or care much about most of humanity, are notoriously self-serving in their/our policies and practices, and, given that we are positioned over and against others in the race and gender hierarchies, tend to know very little about what it means to be oppressed by white men, unless we are marginalised or oppressed by white men for other reasons: such as poor white men being oppressed by rich ones, gay white men by straight ones, disabled white men by non-disabled ones, and so on. Even then, though, such awareness of one's oppression as poor, gay, or disabled does not tend to make those oppressed (and oppressive) white men empathically connected to the experiences of people of color--women and men, and white women, generally.

This lack of empathy that comes from not having walked in the shoes of the gender-oppressed and race-oppressed, or ridden in their wheelchairs, means that we white men have to go out of our way, off our privileged path, beyond our myopic world views and values to gain insight and understanding, let alone empathy, for those we structurally oppress.

In my experience, white men do not go out of our way often enough or far enough; most don't go out of our way at all. We tend to want to preserve our social-political-economic position (and the power and privileges that come with it) nationally in the U.S. and U.K., for example. We want the experience of ourselves as "the norm". We hate feeling like "the other"--even while we are, especially in the U.S., which ethically belongs to no white man. We, the trespassers, the invaders, the conquerors, also want and do preserve our social, economic, and political structures globally, through policies and practices we white men created in order to hoard and abuse the world's so-called resources, including by identifying and treating all those people who are not men and not white as "resources" for white men.

As is now well-known by white men who grossly sexually exploit people worldwide, white men globe-trot specifically and intentionally to appropriate other cultures' people and artifacts, to rape boys, girls, transgendered people, and women, to purchase and enslave human beings who are not white or men, to set up shop--literally, where people of color, disproportionately children and women, do the atrociously repetitive, laborious, and dangerous work that white men, even poor white U.S. men, do not generally have to do because the globalised economy is structured by the white men-led and controlled World Bank, multinational corporations, and the International Monetary Fund, not to mention the white men-controlled religious institutions. the various Christian church leaders who preach what they have no intention of practicing, unless they are preaching about evil-doing. Question: how many white men in the Christian Churches have to be discovered and reported to be rapers of nuns and other female church-members and abusers of female and male children before we stop listening to their racist, misogynist, misopedic "God-inspired" preachings? I am waiting for the answer.

Because white men tend to live lives in great ignorance of the experiences and knowledge of the majority of human beings on the Earth, we tend to have a very myopic understanding of what humanity is, how humanity thinks, responds, and acts in many parts of the world. To use a metaphor, we are positioned on a mountaintop above the clouds; we cannot see what is happening below us. We think all is well--more or less, as we sit perched atop our white man's mountains (made by slaves who are not white, fed and nurtured--kept alive--by white women). We don't consider that our piss flows downward below the cloud line which is our sole vista (if we choose). We don't particularly care who has to endure its stench and volume. When asked to peek below the cloud line, should we do so and notice beings below, we tend to remark cynically, without any regard for the humanity of those we harm, "They can climb up here and be with us. And if they don't that's their own damn fault!" Never mind that these mountains have peaks, not plateaus, and only have room for the few, never the many. Never mind that the white man not only doesn't care to offer a hand up, but shits all over the people below. Never mind that life below would be just fine thank you, if only white men would stop pissing and shitting all over it.

And so our seemingly gracious efforts to equalise inequalities that are structured into society, by offering the free tuition to an American Indian student, for example, doesn't factor in what she has lived through to even get that far: the amount of stench of white men's shit she's inhaled, the miles of wading neck deep in white men's piss. Nor do white men's rather self-serving efforts to "help the less fortunate" measure what kind of social climate she's forced to assimilate into in order to succeed in white men's colleges, teaching white men's ideas and ways of doing things. She may be admitted, but she won't see herself reflected in the canon of great reading materials and examples of great people in history.

This is how it comes to be that the father of this young white man, who is also white and far more self-unaware of his white, heterosexual, and male supremacist privileges and entitlements than is his son, could say to me not long ago that Feodor Dostoevsky expressed the human condition (experience) in his writings in a way that is superior to any other writer. This Christian white man not only said it, but he believed it. Are there actually places that try and demonstrate that Christian white men are the best writers? Yes.

When I immediately asked him, "How does he represent women in his novels", this Christian heterosexual white man who is around fifty-years-old said, honestly, "He doesn't do so well with women characters; they tend to be far more two-dimensional than his male characters." (We can note that Mr. Dostoevsky never did turn out a brilliant book called The Sisters Karamazov.) I then noted that given that most of the world's human population is female, he might want to reconsider how much of humanity Dostoevsky allegedly spoke for.

I would argue that any and every white man speaks to and through his own experiences primarily, and to those of the people he knows best empathically and socially. Given the hierarchies mentioned above, those people in his social circles tend not to be people of color, unless they are his house cleaners, the carers of his children, or his gardeners. This, combined with a significantly limited capacity for empathy for anyone other than white people and/or men, means that his life experiences generate and sustain little to no empathy or understanding for those he hires for help and for every other human being who is not his race or his gender. To him, they are not of equal status and worth, no matter his proclamations to the contrary. And so the majority of the world's population remains "other" to him; he sees them primarily through the tiny, distorted lens his position allows; and to the degree he sees them at all, he mistakenly regards them as lesser in quality, intelligence, and character. No white man writer I know, not Dostoevsky, not Tolstoy, not Hemingway, not Shakespeare, describes "the" human experience or condition. He may describe "a" human experience.

White men's philosophies and politics are so limited in their understanding of the self, the world, and Spirit, that they can scarcely get out of their own way to see what is before them. And how many women of color do you think made the list of "Great Philosophers"? Check here for the answer. What political demographic do you suppose has defined "philosophy" and "greatness"? Answer: "educated" white men. So rather than ask Aboriginal elders how they and their ancestors have managed to live sustainably on the Earth for thousands of years, we look to two white Australian men for the answers to this very important question. It's not that Bill Morrison and Scott Pitman have nothing useful to say; it's that we look to them as holders of great truth and ideas, and as saviors of us all, because they are white men. When whites do go to people of color, especially Indigenous people, for counsel, advice, guidance, and wisdom, it is almost always to exploit them, and enhance white men's quality of life while--knowledgeably or not--continuing our genocide against them, culturally and physically. And when white men go unwelcomed into non-industrialised cultures, we historically assume and believe the holders of knowledge are the men, not the women, and certainly not those who are neither.

The universalising and normalising of white men's perspectives, feelings, ideas, experiences, and behavior is one of the key ways that white men maintain oppressive control over everyone else. Extra status is given to those white men who behave in especially white and manly ways.

So, all of the U.S.'s presidents prior to Barack Obama, being white Christian publicly heterosexual men who were oppressive to women and people of color, including being rapists of slaves and genocidalists, are generally regarded in U.S. society as "heroes" and "great men". Needless to say, I don't agree. If speaking only about U.S. Americans, I think Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Lozen, and Andrea Dworkin were far greater people than any U.S. president, including Barack Obama.

That we reward and honor white men, and many men who are not white, with medals and accolades for going outside the U.S. and murdering people of color, and raping both white women and women of color, as well as murdering them, tells us a great deal about the dominant white man's value system.

When I say "the dominant white man" I am often accused of grossly stereotyping white men. I would argue that white men far more powerful and influential that I'd ever want to be do this all by themselves. White men keep each other in line, in check. White men physically beat the shit out of each other for acting in ways that are not white or manly enough. White men use the term "man" all the time; never bothering to say "some white men, but certainly not all". Scour the history books and newspapers over the last hundred or so years: who uses the term "man" the most to improperly categorise and identify all people as one kind of people? Answer: "educated" white men.

White men's legacy on this Earth speaks for itself. There's nothing at all I, or any profeminist or feminist, can say or do to make that history be different than it is. The books have been written, the atrocities have occurred and still occur: the so-called great victories of white men over everything else have been recorded. I just happen to think what we white guys have done isn't all that great, particularly when we consider the cost to most of humanity, and the rest of the Earth's beings, to achieve it.

I'm not going to diss the Beatles' music. I think some white guys are really funny. I love Fred Astaire and James Dean. Believe it or not, some of the people I consider to be my closest friends and chosen family are white men. But, on the whole, what we white guys have done to this place is not a pretty story and it's about time we owned up to the fact that we did it and we have the power to undo it. We own so much of the world; why is it so hard for us to take responsibility for and radically change the destructive things we do?

I welcome responsible, respectful comments or questions if anyone reading this is still confused about what it means to be a white man.